My husband speaks Japanese, and from time to time we tried to find Japanese movies, but never came across much. Four years ago we were introduced to Korean dramas by our daughter-in-law and her mother, and that was amazing because there was so much available. There are companies that provide Asian dramas! Wow! We watched them and enjoyed them but eventually we said, “Aren’t there some Japanese dramas too?”
It turns out that there are, in the same places that offer other Asian dramas. Not as many as Korean ones, and they are slower to get subtitles. But they are out there.
Our Favorite Jdramas
The Hours of My Life
This is a serious drama, engrossing and touching, and the lead actor is amazing. It’s about a young man whose growing muscle weakness drives him to see a doctor, who tells him he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This understanding doctor has a lot to do with his determination to make the most of his life, and his efforts to be cheerful. A young student he tutors, a best friend, a girlfriend, a new job, and parents who brush him aside in favor of a smarter younger brother provide side plots that give the story some lightness and hope. They show how a handicapped person can have a happy life with the love and support of the people around them. Very well done.
My Little Lover
I have told about this one before; a teenage girl is angry that the boy she has been friends with since childhood has grown distant. She makes a wish that she could be small again and the next morning wakes up to find that she is six inches tall. The boy gets doll clothes for her and takes her around in his jacket pocket. A few people catch glimpses of her, and there are some cute scenes with a grandma and with a little girl at a hospital. A very charming show.
The first Japanese drama we watched was Ando Lloyd which is a pun on Android pronounced the Japanese way. It is about a scientist who finds a list of researchers who have been killed – and at the bottom of the list are himself and his fiancee Asahi, the only two still alive. He is hunted down, and an android that looks just like him comes to protect Asahi. Along with her we start to get fond of this guy, as well as the android nurse that shows up. And the noir-style detective that tries to piece things together. There is a convoluted plot about where the androids came from and what is going on. One of the cute things about this show is that the androids are 5-D printed out of drawers.
We Married as a Job
This one is a lot of fun. A young woman is unable to find a permanent job so her father gets her a part time job as a housekeeper for someone he knows from work. She is very organized and loves taking charge of the house. He is very bashful and can hardly interact, but warms up to her because she is so competent and takes care of him when he gets sick. This cozy little set-up is destroyed when her parents move away, so the two of them pretend to get married so she can continue to work for him. Highlights are the two of them negotiating contracts, the co-worker who becomes suspicious, and the little dances they always do during the closing credits.
I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper
A teenage girl picks her way across a messy floor and gets breakfast for her family. Her two younger brothers complain and the littlest sister resists getting up at all. Everything is in disarray and even the plants are wilted. Precisely at 7:00 the doorbell rings heralding Mita, the new housekeeper. She speaks in a monotone, doesn’t smile, and doesn’t respond to sensational remarks about the mother of the family having drowned. Somewhat creeped out, the father visits the employment agency during his lunch break to ask for someone else. He is told she is a wonderful worker, but to be careful because she will do anything he tells her; probably even if it’s to kill someone. When he gets home that night the house is spotlessly clean, a delicious dinner is on the table, and the plants are all healthy. This drama is a cross between Mary Poppins and The Addams Family. (Right down to the carpet bag.) It was so popular that it was remade a couple of years later in Korea.
Other Good Jdramas We Have Seen
This is a long drama about a woman who goes to live in a small Japanese village as a child in the 1930’s and follows her through becoming a teacher, through WWII, and into adult life. It is interesting and educational, showcasing traditional culture. It is pretty odd to see the school staff and students cheering the attack on Pearl Harbor. The characters are really good, but there is an annoying framing story of her telling the story of her life. We started watching this show before it was all subbed and saw the first part, and then had to skip over and watch a part in the middle. Now we are finishing, and it is odd to go back and see how she meets her husband, who we have already seen, and view things out of order.
Clinic On The Sea
A young doctor joins the staff of a hospital boat that travels around the Inland Sea (the sea between the large islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu) visiting all the small islands that don’t have their own clinics. His mother asked him to marry soon because she is ill, so he seems to fall for every girl he meets, trying to find a wife. This makes the people on the boat think he is a ditz until he turns out to be a really good surgeon. This is a light, entertaining show with a lot of beautiful scenery and rural life.
A female ninja is caught in an explosion and time-travels 400 years to the present day. She is pretty much invincible as a fighter, but very confused. A middle-aged woman who is the neighborhood busybody takes her in and becomes her new boss. Each week they tackle some instance of injustice that they hear about, with one as the brain and the other the brawn. The overarching mystery of where the ninja came from is briefly addressed near the end. Based on a video game.
From Five to Nine
At a Buddhist temple during a funeral, a young woman accidentally knocks ashes onto a monk. For some reason he is quite taken with her and proceeds to stalk her, which is creepy. She is a teacher at an English school with a loud gregarious family. He is a candidate to be the head monk at the temple with a very quiet, formal family. Her family takes him to their hearts. His family tries to train her to work in the temple by giving her a lot of menial chores. The fun part is all the people who work at the school with her and the crossing love lines.
I’m Your Destiny
Makoto and Haruko are the same age and their lives have crossed several times over the years, but they never noticed each other. One day a man claiming to be God appears to Makoto and tells him that in thirty years an astroid will destroy the earth unless a certain man is there to develop a system to stop it. This man will be the son of Makoto and Haruko. In case you couldn’t tell, this is a comedy, and from here on, Makoto gets coaching on how to get Haruko interested in him. He is a little inept and a little over the top, and she is a little put off.
Finding Japanese dramas can be difficult and what is available changes all the time. Netflix lets you search for “Japanese tv,” or Japanese drama.” Dramafever has a list of Japanese dramas under the “Browse” menu. If you go to the “TV” menu on Viki you can touch the little mini slide buttons in the upper right corner and set a filter for “Japan.” These places seldom have shows that are currently airing. To find new dramas I read blogs (and readers’ comments) to find what people are enjoying, and then google where to watch.
Learning about Korean dramas has been fun, because there are so many and they are so different. Discovering Japanese dramas has been fun in other ways. I notice how much the two cultures are alike, and yet they have differences. The Japanese seem more reserved and formal. Anyone who has seen a mother in a Korean drama hit her son on the head will recognize this. My husband notices all the new slang in the modern shows. The language in Sunshine was very much the way he remembered it when he was there. Here’s hoping other people find their own reasons for watching Japanese dramas!