I originally fell in love with Japan and Japanese culture when I was still in Elementary School. I found an anime named Sailor Moon and after seeing one of those colorful, glittery episodes, I was completely hooked. After finishing Sailor Moon, I moved on to other anime, watching more series than I can remember. However, after some years, I grew bored. I could no longer find any good anime series to watch no matter how I tried. This is when I found Japanese TV drama.
I think Japanese dramas are somehow fundamentally different from, for example, American drama series. And I’m not talking about the fact that they’re short (only around 10 episodes per series) – I’m talking about the difference in the storyline, characters and the whole atmosphere.
This difference is something very difficult to explain in words so I’m just going to introduce you 5 amazing Japanese dramas and hope you will try watching them – and by doing that, understand what I tried to explain above.
1 Litre of Tears (2005)
This drama is based on a true story of a girl with an incurable brain disease and is literally a tear-breaker. 15-year-old girl Ikeuchi Aya, acted by Sawajiri Erika, slowly starts losing her ability to do everyday things properly. She can’t walk properly, can’t write properly, can’t even date the boy she has a crush on. It’s a story that makes you re-think the values of life and might help you understand what is really important.
I wouldn’t be over exaggerating if I said that I actually cried a liter while watching this.
Recommended for: those who want to cry (you know, crying is actually good for you). Those who want to feel like their life is actually pretty perfect.
Kekkon dekinai otoko (The man who can’t marry) (2006)
Completely different from the drama introduced above, Kekkon dekinai otoko is a drama that will probably only bring you the tears of laugh – it’s absolutely hilarious. The main character is a 40-year-old architect who doesn’t like people and enjoys living alone. He has enough money to live just as he wants – and what he wants is to live by himself without anyone bothering him. However, due to certain circumstances, he meets a female doctor who just might change his life.
This drama is one of the funniest ones I have ever seen – no wonder it’s already a classic among those who watch Japanese drama. If you like romantic comedies and sarcastic jokes, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this story of “the man who can’t marry”.
Recommended for: those who don’t mind sarcastic and stubborn main characters (or love them like me). Those who like hilarious comedy.
Liar Game (2007)
Another drama of a completely different genre: Liar Game is suspense. It’s about a game called “Liar Game” where the participants have to lie to each other, earn each other’s trust and try to genuinely trust each other. The price of the game is money and if you lose, you’ll end up with a debt. Participants of the game are in more or less willingly. The main character is one of those who definitely aren’t there willingly: Nao is an innocent girl who doesn’t really need money. She’s tricked to participate in the game and since she would never survive by herself, she seeks help from a genius swindler, man named Akiyama Shinichi.
Recommended for: those who like suspense and genius dramas that you will never understand completely. Those who “what just happened?” moments.
A mystery drama with lot of comedy. Main character is a brilliant, almost inhumanly clever neuroscientist with a quirky personality, acted by a very well-known actor Kimora Takuya. He uses psychology to solve the crimes no one else can, making this drama very interesting for those who are interested in psychology – like me. Also, how could a drama with Van Halen’s JUMP as a theme song not be good?
Recommended for: those who feel a bit intimidated by Japan’s drama series and would like to watch something that even remotely resembles those famous American series many of us have seen. Also for those interested in psychology and crime solving dramas.
Buzzer Beat (2009)
You could say this is an ordinary love story and I couldn’t say anything against it. It is. It’s a story about a basketball player, Naoki, and an aspiring violinist, Riko, who just happen to meet and fall in love with each other. It’s a romantic drama which doesn’t try to be anything more than it is. It is, however, a bit melodramatic at times but I personally really loved that. Buzzer Beat also has the best soundtrack ever – you should watch it just for that reason already.
Recommended for: the lovers of romance who don’t mind a bit of melodrama and like love triangles.
I only introduced 5 dramas today for a reason: because I really think you should watch all of them. If there were more, the possibilities of you forgetting one would get higher, wouldn’t they?
Those who are like me and have already watched j-drama for years probably have already seen all of these. Do you have any other series in mind that you would recommend to beginners in the world of Japanese drama? Also, to those who haven’t had a chance to watch any or that many Japanese dramas yet: which of these seems the most interesting to you?