Japanese Dramas Winter 2011 SchoolSchool dramas are a standard in Asian dramas and this season, Japan brings us three of them! While some of the school-themed shows can be completely unrelatable and off-the-wall wacky, some actually do take the time to address the real issues that are currently exist in Japan’s education system by showcasing the dynamic between educators, students, and the families involved. But, then again, some just exist to bank on the high ratings because of the pretty idols that star in them.

Without further ado, I present to you this season’s school dramas. Let's bring on the pretty!

[caption id="attachment_48883" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Karina and her army of pretty, sparkly people - ready to take on school issues, yay!"]Misaki Number One[/caption]

Misaki Number 1!! (NTV)

Starring: Karina, Taisuke Fujigaya, Hiromitsu Kitayama, Aya Oomasa, Kei Tanaka Upon first glance, I thought that this was a blatant rip-off of the Gokusen formula (which, is more or less, a rip off of the Great Teacher Onizuka formula). However, as I coasted through the first few episodes, I realized that it wasn’t just a rip-off of the show’s formula, but rather the entire show itself. Karina’s Misaki Tennoji seems to carry the exact same mannerisms as Yukie Nakama’s Kumiko Yamaguchi’s, such as with the ‘fighting!’ mantra before entering the classroom or the fact that both characters mistakenly refer to their taboo pasts (Misaki was a former hostess) in front of their co-workers. Or even, during the ending credits of each episode, were both teachers in each series leads their students into the sunset on a grassy field. I can go on and on with the similarities. However, despite being a copycat, Misaki Number 1!! still fails to capture the same spirit of Gokusen. I know that these stories are based off their respective manga titles, but a television production should still be able to carry its own sense of charm. Karina’s Misaki is strikingly similar to her portryal of Kinue Amano in Real Clothes. The two Johnny’s (Fujigaya and Kitayama of the recently debuted Kis-My-Ft2) don’t bring anything new to the pretty boy delinquent roles. I say, if you’re a fan of pretty faces and school dramas, you’d probably like it. Maybe even a hardcore Kis-My-Ft2 fangirl. If you’re looking for something refreshing, it’s not here. On a final note, I find the ending theme song, “Nanika Hitotsu” pretty catchy. It REALLY does make me want to run down a grassy field toward the sunset. Probably not in a school uniform though. [caption id="attachment_48873" align="aligncenter" width="472" caption=""You mean, I have to watch over these little bra--I mean, lovely children?""]SCHOOL!![/caption]

SCHOOL!! (Fuji TV)

Starring: Yosuke Eguchi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Kii Kitano, Takashi Tsukamoto What? ANOTHER SCHOOL DRAMA? UNCREATIVELY TITLED SCHOOL!! ??!! Before you make any further thoughts – I found SCHOOL!! to be a perfectly much more refreshing school drama than Misaki Number 1!! this season (I’m not sure what’s with all the extra exclamation points in both drama titles, though). Yes, it may be an episodic drama where newly hired Principal Seiichiro Naruse (Eguchi) attempts to solve the problems of the students (and staff) at his former elementary school, one by one (or at least the ones that’s able to catch his attention within this season), but the characters aren’t entirely recycled and have interesting stories to tell. While it is not a drama emotionally driven on plot, it still sells on other points – more particularly, a developing cast of characters. I’m pleased with this particular cast: Eguchi is cast well as the moodmaking construction worker turned principal since he does exceptionally well in these roles (as witnessed in dramas like Hitotsu Yane no Shita and Namida o Fuite). The always brooding Nishijima plays opposite as the moodkilling lead teacher Iori Kirihara, who of course, has a past that will likely be revealed in some plot twist (or not). Young actress Kitano seems to have the perfect voice as the whiny minion/assistant teacher, but I’m hoping to see them also develop her character in future episodes. Of course, I can’t forget the elementary school students! I’m personally a sucker for dramas with kids. I mean, aren’t obnoxious elementary school students much more interesting than obnoxious high students students? Aside from that, this drama will probably win over the audience with school issues that are relatable to the audience. It may not be the best school drama to come in years, but still worth a watch. [caption id="attachment_48876" align="aligncenter" width="486" caption="Smile now - shit's going to hit the fan soon. "]Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta[/caption]

Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta (Fuji TV)

Starring: Haruma Miura, Erika Toda, Emi Takei, Mariko Shinoda, Yuki Uchida This season’s Getsu9 drama (and also winner of the longest drama title for Winter) is led by two rising young stars: Haruma Miura and Erika Toda. It’s currently being billed as the taboo student-teacher drama of the season, where Miura’s character, Shuji Kashiwagi, realizes he had slept with one of his homeroom students, Hikari Seaki (Emi Takei) on the night before the first day of school. May I also mention he’s engaged to Natsumi Uemura (Toda), another teacher at the school? Both teachers are hailed as the most popular teachers on campus – and seemingly enough, everyone on campus is very involved with their lives.  Even their wedding planner/Natsumi’s best friend, Sayaka (played by AKB48 idol Mariko Shinoda) had a thing with Shuji in the past. While it’s set up as a drama full of sobfests and tension-filled staredowns, I’m still waiting on a huge emotional connection that Getsu9 dramas always seem to promise in the past. I recognize both Miura and Toda for their developing talent, but it’s still hard for me to imagine them in these mature educator roles because well, frankly, they still do look like teenagers. Perhaps it will take a couple more episodes to win me over. However, I am loving Takei’s turnaround from shy student to Fatal Attraction vixen in the first episode. If I was Shuji Kashiwagi and she was giving me those stares, I’d stop dead in my tracks too. I previously liked her in last year’s Olympic dreams drama GOLD. Seventeen-year-old Takei is going to become a bigger star by the end of this year, I’m pretty sure of it. The drama also previously announced they would be using songs from American pop singer Pink – and boy, I’m not sure about the appropriateness of some of the songs. While I loved hearing "Fuckin' Perfect" as an anthem for Hikari, some of the other songs didn't fit as well. Everytime I see Takei’s face on the screen, the chorus from “Stupid Girl” blasts from my speakers. Now, I guess I’m supposed to not like Takei’s character because she’s getting in the way of the ~perfect~ relationship both Shuji and Natsumi have. But I think she’s the best character on the show! Quit telling me she’s stupid, Pink. She’s not! In the second episode, “Dear Mr. President” was playing between a settlement between two female best friends in Kashiwagi’s class – uh, NO? Why should I be thinking of Dubya during this scene?!?! I wonder if they’ll play “So What” in the future – when Natsumi kicks Shuji to the curb, haha. The drama may have some shortcomings for now, but I’m expecting it will pick up in future episodes. Highly looking forward to it. Continue to Part 2, Detective J-Dramas! Continue to Part 3, First Impressions of Jdramas 2011!