Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

J-Drama: Mid-Summer Report

Posted in J-Drama by bourdaghs on the July 21st, 2010

After an extended period of healthy abstinence, we’re sliding back into our sinful ways. That is to say, we’ve been watching several Japanese television series this summer.

Jin: This scored high ratings when it was broadcast in Japan on TBS back at the beginning of this year. Our local neighborhood pusher (TV Japan) is only now getting around to airing it, but we’re enjoying the show despite the delay. An oddball melange of samurai drama, science fiction, and romantic comedy, it also contains a clever parody of the current NHK Taiga Drama, Ryomaden (see below). A doctor from contemporary Tokyo whose girlfriend is in a coma finds himself inexplicably transported back to the Japan of the 1860s, where his use of modern medical knowledge starts monkeying with the course of history. Can he save his girlfriend? Can he get return to the present? Will he become a historical bigamist, with a wife in each era? Stay tuned….

Ryomaden: Every January when NHK rolls out its new year-long Taiga historical drama series, I browse an episode or two but then fall by the wayside. I’ve stuck it out a bit longer this year, though, with this retelling of the life of the super-patriot Sakamoto Ryoma from the 1850s and 60s. Fukuyama Masaharu plays the lead role as something of a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Errol Flynn. The real joy here is Kagawa Toruyuki’s wonderfully overacted performance as Iwasaki Yataro, Ryoma’s hometown rival and the future founder of the Mitsubishi empire. We’ll see if I manage to persevere through December and Ryoma’s untimely demise.

Gegege no nyobo: It’s been ages since NHK has enjoyed a hit with its morning serial drama, but this spring I started hearing rumors that the current title, based on the life of the wife of Mizuki Shigeru (the manga artist who created the classic Gegege Kitaro series) was a notch above the usual. We picked up on it a few weeks ago–more than halfway through the run. I have the feeling we missed the best parts (the years of courtship and early struggles), but it’s a mostly painless show, and it’s entertaining to see NHK portray what our old Tokyo neighborhood around Chofu-shi looked like back in the 1960s.

We’ve also started taping episodes of Magerarenai Onna, the NTV comedy from earlier this year. I’ll leave you today with an amusing teaser from that one.

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