I was more than two years into my East Asian Drama addiction before turning to face the Rising Sun, and what I found was a very different Dramaland style. Different characters, different stories and different lengths. The Japanese Dramas I watch are all short, 10-12 episodes at most, a blessed relief from the bloat which plagues Korean and Taiwanese Dramas. I am still a rookie J Drama watcher, but so far there have been many more hits than misses. From Nobunaga Concerto to Neko Zamurai, from Otona Joshi to Orange Days, I’ve loved so many of the J Dramas I’ve seen that picking just a few favourites was really hard. But I did, and here they are:
Bara No Nai Hanaya
I think it would be impossible for anyone who likes romantic Dramas to dislike this gem. The romance itself is perfectly bittersweet (with an endlessly rewatchable sweet ending), but the father-daughter relationship was the real stand out. Real, deep affection without any cloying sentimentality. If watching Dramas is all about “the feels”, this is a must-see.
As with many of my other favourites, this Drama polarises people. Many have real issues with the leads and their relationship. I love the portrayal of the lead characters, and their very complicated “romance”. Most importantly, though, it’s really, really, really FUNNY. Quirky, offbeat comedy, with an edge I’ve yet to see in Korean or Taiwanese Dramas. They may not be especially likeable, but they are oddly sympathetic, and between her classic duckface and his intense cinephile snobbery, the Drama was a constant source of laughs, and a genuinely different love story.
If Date was complicated, Juhan Shuttai is the exact opposite. A very simple, very sweet story, done perfectly. Unanimity is rare, but I can’t think of anyone I know of who watched this and disliked it. The story of a young woman building a new career in publishing after injury forced her out of competitive Judo, it is a true-feel good story. The strength of J Dramas I’ve seen is their characterisation and Juhan Shuttai excels in this. The lead is SO sweet, but believably so, and the closest thing the Drama has to a villain is similarly shown to have a VERY relatable reason for being the way he is. Anyone who can watch this without being melted by Bear Cub’s smile and amused by Senpai’s sideye smirk has my sincere sympathy.
This very low-key romance Drama slipped right under the radar of most J Drama viewers I know. It reminds me of the excellent Yeah That’s How It Is in that regard. Both are low on DRAMA, but full of heart. The theme might sound shallow, a 34-year-old woman looking for love, but again the characters make the show, especially the endearing lead. If a Drama that blends slice-of-life and romance sounds like your style, do check this one out