Original vs Remake: Signal

The first episode of Signal (the Japanese remake of the Korean drama) is out which means it is time for another Original vs. Remake where I compare and contrast the two versions to see who tells the story better. Let me help you decide whether it is worth watching the newer version or if you should just settle in for a rewatch of the original.

The Script:

I am actually pleased that the Jdrama is following the script of the original very closely.  Most of the dialogue has remained intact and the events follow suit.  This is important, at least in my opinion, because half of the reason this show is so amazing is the complex and well-done script.  I did notice that they condensed some of the events to make the story move faster.  I expected this since the Jdrama is only 10 episodes compared to the longer Korean runtime.   I anticipate they will remove one or two of the mysteries that are solved and it will be interesting to see if this affects the impact of the show in the long run.

The actors

Those of you who watched the Kdrama know that the story equally revolves around three characters.  So I am going to do a quick compare/contrast of the actors’ portrayal.  Keep in mind that I am at the beginning of the Japanese drama so this is a first impression comparison.

Sakaguchi Kentaro vs Lee Jee Hoon

Surprisingly, I liked Sakaguchi Kentaro‘s portrayal of the rookie profiler with a chip on his shoulder better.  Before I start getting hate mail, I want to clarify that this is just comparing the two performances on the first episode.  I mentioned,  in my Signal recaps that  Lee Jee Hoon was a tad over the top intense in those first few episodes.  There was no ebb and flow of the intensity which lessened the impact.  Sakaguchi Kentaro played a more evenly emotional character which I appreciated.  Lee Jee Hoon did ease up after a few episodes so I suspect that I would put them on equal footing by the end of the day.

Kichise Michiko vs Kim Hye Soo

I am calling it a tie in this category.  Both women are strong, competent, and obviously bad ass.  I can’t find a flaw in either portrayal.

Kitamura Kazuki vs Jo Jing Woong

This the biggest difference between the two versions.  Don’t get me wrong, Kitamura Kazuki isn’t bad as the older cop, but he just doesn’t have that “it” factor that Jo Jing Woong had in his portrayal. Jo Jing Woong’s quiet strength and determination is what really made the plot work.  And while I didn’t dislike Kitamura Kazuki, he just didn’t have the same feel.  Maybe that will change with time but so far I am all aboard the JJW train in this category.

The Cinematography

While the script was one half of the reason this drama is such a masterpiece, the directing is the other half.  The directing of the Korean version was nothing short of perfection.  The shifts between the past and present just using different filters and camera techniques were seamless.  And the ability to create fear and suspense just by casting a shift in the lighting or a glimpse of a figure in the background was brilliantly done.  I think this is where the two versions differentiate. The new Jdrama is totally fine.  It even copies a lot of the camera angles of the Kdrama.  But the lack of the little things makes it a softer version.  It will still be a great story and I think that theright characters will all be similar to the original but the lack of directing will be what sets the two apart with the Korean version being the better of the two.

Final Thoughts

There you have it.  Whichever version you watch you will be in for a very wonderful dramatic journey.  It is a great story that needs to be told.  But if you are choosing just one version to watch, go with the kdrama.  That extra focus on creating the right mood with the camera angles and filters will give you a better all-around experience.

Til next time,


Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

8 thoughts on “Original vs Remake: Signal

    • Since I doubt you’ve actually watched it… The actors in this Japanese version (and many other Japanese actors) are good. Wouldn’t say these are the most excellent actors out there, but I take issue with your (wrong) generalisation.

  1. Hey, just wanted to thank you for this article. I wrote a paper about both the original series and the Japanese remake for university and stumbled upon this article which had some nice information in it. Even though I didn’t directly reference your post I could still use the information in it well. So thank you very much!

    • See? Dramas are educational! I love that you were able to fit dramas into your University course requirements. It is always a fabulous thing when work and dramathons overlap!

  2. How do you write a good review and make constructive comparison when you have only started watching the japanese version of the drama. Based on the J version alone I have no intention to waste my time again on the original. Most of the actors are hamming it up like B grade performers, it made me cringe. The script is so poor and plot is so lame. Don’t waste your time if you’ve not watched any of the versions.

    • “Most of the actors are hamming it up like B grade performers, it made me cringe.”

      Think Asian television series aren’t for you then

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