JDramas of ’09

*originally posted March 27, 2010*

I didn’t watch a whole lot of Japanese dramas last year, as I found most uninteresting. To me, 2009 was not a good year for Japanese TV. Here are three that I enjoyed.

Akai Ito (赤い糸)

Before starting this drama, I was a bit skeptical. I wondered if I could still enjoy content that dealt with junior high/high school drama. I have to say that I was immediately drawn by Akai Ito’s cinematography. This drama is beautifully filmed, which was surprising as I was constantly reminding myself that this is a drama, not a film (there is a film with the same cast and production crew!). The music is beautiful and the main theme is fitting and gives a feeling of nostalgia. Actually, the whole drama gave me the feeling of nostalgia throughout. Acting is sub-par at best, which was disappointing. Both of the main actors played their parts well, but most of the time they were flat. I guess their flatness could be attributed to the characters personalities themselves, but to me it was very noticeable that they are amateur actors.

The story of Akai Ito is very depressing, dealing with suicide, drug addiction, death, and general teen drama. The romance is sweet, but frustrating. These kids seem to have so many problems to deal with; you’re supposed to cry for them, but sometimes I was at the point where I thought to myself how ridiculous everything was…their lives suck! Side point: I’ve heard that the book is even more depressing, dealing with many more mature problems. But besides an ambiguous ending, I thought the drama was well done and had a certain draw to it. If you don’t want to watch the drama, but are interested, check out the movie. It is basically the drama condensed into movie size.

Shiroi Haru (白い春)

In contrast to Akai Ito, Shiroi Haru had great overall acting, but poor directing. Abe Hiroshi is an outstanding drama actor, my favorite performance in a drama of 2009. The supporting cast was good as well, complementing Abe Hiroshi perfectly. Yoshitaka Yuriko is one of my favorite young actresses (I have to admit, I was first drawn to Shiroi Haru because of her) and she was so charismatic in her role. The story was heartwarming, and so was Ohashi Nozomi (better known as the girl who sings the Ponyo song!), who played a young girl mysteriously drawn to Abe Hiroshi’s character. At times a bit too weepy when it didn’t need to be, the story line remained strong throughout the drama.

Something that irked me about the drama was its sub-par cinematography (which is to be expected in a drama, but there are exceptions). Too many awkwardly angled views of Abe Hiroshi’s face, and some strangely lit shots. I don’t remember the music as being spectacular, but it complemented the drama quite well. This drama deserves to be watched.

Love Shuffle (ラブシャッフル)

Okay, I was pleasantly surprised by this drama. After finishing the first episode (my trial run) I wasn’t too impressed, but I am glad that I continued because Love Shuffle took me on an incredibly entertaining ride. With an ensemble cast of well-known entertainers, Love Shuffle was well-acted, well-executed, and super fun to watch. I especially enjoyed the chemistry between all of the cast members, specifically that between Tamaki Hiroshi and Karina. It also didn’t hurt that Yoshitaka Yuriko was a part of the cast (playing a very different character)! The story line was pretty much all over the place, but I actually enjoyed it. Every episode was fresh and new, exploring the relationships (or lack of) between the various characters.

Sometimes over-the-top, sometimes mellow, and sometimes sad, this drama impressed me. Love Shuffle was not only a fun time, it gave perspective on how chance encounters can shape lives. Imagine, one malfunctioning elevator ride can bring four complete strangers (who live on the same floor!) together and ultimately form tight bonds. Definitely recommended.

Honorable mention:

Konkatsu! ( 婚カツ!) — I don’t fully recommend this drama because it started out brilliantly but died out about halfway through. The first few episodes of Konkatsu! were unique, funny, and interesting. After these, the drama changed course and became mediocre and boring. I almost didn’t finish it. I loved the filming, the random cuts, the unique transitions, and the quirkiness that the drama began with but didn’t end with. Even though Ueto Aya is charming, she couldn’t save Konkatsu! from its failures. It tried romance, but didn’t really follow through. Overall, it was still a uniquely edited and filmed drama but it disappointed me.

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