Japanese television dramas or ドラマ (do-ra-ma) are a staple of Japanese television culture and is beginning to spread internationally. They are typically run over three month periods running on weekday evenings around 9:00-11:00 PM. Each drama falls under one of the four Japanese television seasons: winter (January-March), spring (April-June), summer (July-September), and fall (October-December). However, a drama maybe be aired in a certain month but meant for a different season. Interestingly enough, for Japanese drama fans out there, you may be able to find your favorite drama being filmed on your next trip to Japan. Unlike America, most Japanese drama episodes are filmed just 2-3 weeks before being aired.
The key to success of many dramas was the “drama formula.” This formula that was developed in the early 1980s is considered the foundation in which many trendy dramas were built upon. Screenwriters were inspired by American movies like St. Elmo’s Fire which depicted a group of friends facing struggles in real-life situations. This turned the drama industry on its head as Japanese dramas began to focus more on everyday life in Japan. This was the beginnings of the drama paradigm began to shift once again in 1990s as plots began to contain more intricacies and changed with the times. Screenwriters also gambled on tough issues, like modern family life, substance abuse, and teenage violence. In modern day, it was been tweaked even further to fit television viewers’ changing tastes. These trendy dramas mainly based on this formula are typically used by younger actors/actresses as a springboard to bigger name projects. These young entertainers often accrue a few years of experience doing smaller dramas, playing niche characters. However, if his/her popularity starts to gain momentum, they often move onto bigger projects.
Personally, I love watching dramas in my free time. Many of the ones I do end up falling in love with do not fit the typical trendy drama mold. However, that is what makes Japanese dramas so fascinating: their versatility. The dramas I will be recommending are not conventionally “formula-fitting” dramas in Japan, but they are the ones that stood out to me the most.
Tantei no Tantei
Detective versus Detective
Summary: “Rena Sasaki (Keiko Kitagawa) is a beautiful woman with excellent memory and intelligence. She becomes a private detective and risks her life to chase down evil private detectives, because her younger sister was murdered by a stalker. The person that provided information to the stalker on her sister’s location was a private detective” (Asianwiki.com).
Recommendation: Strong female protagonists are hard to come by, but Rena is one that takes the cake. If she is not investigating cases, then she is fighting bad guys with her usual stoic expression and amazing combat skills. If you like action and thrillers, I would highly recommend this. In addition, the character development is engrossing and helps you connect with all the characters on some level. With every twist and turn, I promise that the last thing you would call this drama is “boring.”
Title: Mr. Brain
Summary: “Takuya Kimura plays Ryusuke Tsukumo, a neurological scientist studying human nature at the Metropolitan Police Agency’s National Research Institute of Police Science. He tackles fundamental questions about human nature and overturns a few commonly-held beliefs along the way in a gripping mystery drama packed with plenty of emotional punch. Ryusuke Tsukumo gets arrested himself for allegedly setting off an explosion. During his interrogation, he answers the questions using his keen sense of intellect and knack for deductive reasoning and turns the questions back on his interrogators, setting up inferences that point to a more likely suspect…” (Asianwiki).
Recommendation: My favorite part about this drama are the crimes themselves. Whether it being the intricately planned crimes themselves or the raw intent behind them, the screenwriters did an excellent job creating the air of mystery and writing an exciting thriller. Each episode or two comes with a new mystery to solve, so you never become bored and you may even try to solve the crimes yourself. The heavy undertones is also well balanced out by its lighthearted humor as well as the small, blossoming “something” between the protagonists.