I haven't been uploading much here, but that doesn't mean I haven't been drawing or taking photos! A lot of it goes on my Tumblr
these days because I find the uploading process more relaxed over there. For one, I don't need to title anything. That's kind of nice.
If you want to follow me for art, I'd recommend following me on Instagram. I try to keep my posts there visually nice, or at least interesting. My Tumblr is a personal blog, which is the Tumblr term meaning "a right mess" and "absolutely full of entertainment-related material". The title of this journal post may be an indication of what kind of entertainment-related material I post about.
As for dramas, I've found that despite the fact that I've watched a fair number of Japanese dramas and tend to enjoy them I have trouble talking about them online. This is partly due to my disinterest in romance dramas, partly due to my bad taste, and also partly due to my being a die-hard fan of a weird and infamously terrible actor. And largely due to me generally avoiding online communities where non-Japanese people discuss Japanese pop culture, as they've made me very uncomfortable in the past and often still do now. I have a low tolerance for anything resembling "weeaboo" behavior or the equally racist backlash that sometimes occurs, but that's a topic for another day.
In any case, the former three points suggest that the absolute last thing I should ever do is make drama recommendations. Which is exactly what I'm going to do right now.
Here are 11 Japanese dramas I'd recommend, in no particular order:
1. Monsters (TBS, 2012)
Following the standard Buddy Detective Procedural format, Monsters stars Katori Shingo as the quirky-but-strangely-successful Hiratsuka Heihachi, and Yamashita "Yamapi" Tomohisa as his eager assistant Saionji Kosuke. Hiratsuka is manipulative and condescending, but always eerily polite. He is despised by the rest of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, so when Saionji is transferred to the department, he is immediately directed to act as Hiratsuka's assistant to discover what dark and unsavory methods the detective employs to solve so many crimes. As it turns out, Hiratsuka Heihachi simply uses his power of being a pain in the neck to push his suspects to confession.
The mysteries may not be the most believable, but each episode presents an intense and intriguing murder case that is wonderfully contrasted by the cartoonish regular characters. Yamashita's Saionji is someone you want to root for, and Katori's crocodile smiles will haunt you for days. I've heard it's well-loved among Yamapi fans, and as a Shingo fan, it's my absolute favorite drama.
2. Saiyuuki / Monkey / Journey to the West (FujiTV, 2006)
Because there can never be too many adaptations of Journey to the West.
Based on the famous Chinese legend, this 11-episode drama follows one priest's pilgrimage to India to retrieve sutras and achieve enlightenment. He is protected by three disciples seeking to atone for their past sins: a river demon, a pig demon, and the monkey king.
This one has Katori Shingo as the monkey king Son Goku, which is oddly fitting as he has been compared to monkeys since the 90s. Also, I like Fukatsu Eri (who plays the priest Sanzo Hoshi/Tripitaka). It's full of action, comedy, and lovable characters, and is enjoyable for audiences of all ages. That is, unless they don't understand Japanese, in which case the audience should at least be old enough to read subtitles. Older viewers may remember a similar Japanese drama adaptation from the 70s and 80s under the same titles, and may be happy to know that leader actor Sakai Masaato has a cameo in this version.
(Top image is from the 2007 movie)
3. Nekozamurai (BS Fuji, 2013/2015)
Yes, the title means "Cat Samurai". Yes, it's about samurai and cats.
Madarame Kyutaro (Kitamura Kazuki) is a grumpy out-of-work samurai with a bad case of RBF struggling to get by. He takes on a job to assassinate a cat, but he ends up taking it home instead. The first season follows Kyutaro's hardships as a unemployed sword master and cat owner. The fact that he has to hide the cat from those sent to find the cat-napper AND from his landlord only adds to his problems. The second season is mostly the ridiculous daily adventures of Madarame Kyutaro and his cat. The drama is hilarious and the cat is adorable, making it an all-around fun watch.
4. Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-Mae Hashutsujo / Kochikame (TBS 2009)
The infamous live-action TV drama adaptation of the long-running comic series, the title of which roughly translated to "Here is the Police Station in Front of Katsushika Ward's Kameari Park". The titular police station is operated by the rough, middle-aged, childish, and money-driven Ryotsu Kankichi, or Ryo-san (Katori Shingo); the beautiful and strong heiress Akimoto Catherine Reiko (Karina); and the wealthy police officer/corporate CEO/tall person Nakagawa Keiichi (Hayami Mokomichi).
I'm not even going to claim this drama is good, just that it's an experience. Again, as a Shingo fan it's a riot; according to him, he was given nearly free reign over his performance, so he kept pushing the limit and no one ever stopped him. The drama is full of bright colors and features a guest cast with big names like Takeshi Kitano and Kimura Takuya in every episode.
5. Ninkyo Helper (FujiTV 2009)
It's yakuza helping out in an elderly care home. It's less funny than it sounds, trust me.
Tsubasa Hikoichi (Kusanagi Tsuyoshi) is a tough, no-nonsense head of a local yakuza loan shark business. After the death of their boss, he and several of his peers are assigned to work in an elderly care home in enemy territory. They face not only inter-gang conflicts, but also the struggles of operating a small facility and the emotional toll of learning to empathize with the residents.
It's not a feel-good drama and you will feel bad, but Kusanagi is great in it. When isn't he though.
(Top image is from the 2012 movie)
6. Suteki na SenTAXI (FujiTV 2014)
Edawakare (Takenouchi Yutaka) is a taxi driver with a very special car. His vehicle can go back in time to any turning point in the passenger's life and allow them to change their situation... provided that they're willing to pay for it.
This is one of the most fun and light-hearted dramas I've seen. There are a few serious moments, but every episode is full of comedy and always ends on a positive note. While it involves time travel, there's just enough sci-fi to keep sci-fi fans interested, but not enough to be off-putting to those who don't enjoy the genre. The lack of fantasy elements is even one of the many running jokes throughout the series. It's worth noting that the title is a pun on sentakushi
, or choices, and Edawakare's name literally translates to "branch split". You know you're in for a good drama when it's full of wordplay.
7. Tomei Ningen / The Invisible Man (NTV 1996)
Newspaper photographer Hasegawa Hanzo (Katori Shingo) accidentally acquires medicine that turns him invisible. He uses his newfound ability to solve crimes, stop crimes, and help his unknowing journalist partner Sasamori Asuka (Fukatsu Eri). Unfortunately, the medicine's effects wear off after an hour and Hanzo can't wear a watch while he's invisible...
I haven't encountered any English subtitles for this one, but seeing a 19-year-old Katori Shingo running around buck-naked is truly something special. The drama is a collection of absurd elements and convoluted plots, and it gets surprisingly dark as the series goes on.
Honestly, it's an odd one, and I'm tempted to translate it so more people can experience this fantastic drama.
8. Ataru (TBS 2012)
Detective Ebina Maiko (Kuriyama Chiaki) is rarely satisfied with leaving cases as "accidents" and wants to investigate further, but aside from her superior, Sawa Shunichi (Kitamura Kazuki), her team tends to dismiss her. She is forced to carry out the extended investigations alone until she meets a savant who introduces himself as "Chokozai" (Nakai Masahiro). Although he cannot always communicate with those around him, he begins to solve Ebina's cases. It's then up to Ebina and Sawa to interpret Chokozai's clues and catch the culprit.
Ataru is a nice one. Kuriyama's and Kitamura's characters are both acted out playfully. Nakai plays the compassionate Chokozai so well that you forget that he's an unruly and intense TV host/comedian/boy band leader/awful singer. There are also these recurring background characters who seem to have a storyline of their own:
Be sure to stock up on croquettes if you watch it because they come up a lot.
9. Mr. Brain (TBS 2009)
If you're noticing that most of these dramas star SMAP members, that's because I primarily hear about dramas through SMAPxSMAP, which is focused on SMAP. This one stars Kimura Takuya as the enthusiastic and quirky scientist Tsukumo Ryusuke and Ayase Haruka as his assistant Yuri Kazune. Tsukumo uses his psychology and neurology to solve a number of mysteries while Yuri does her best to put up with him and the pet gerbil he keeps in his pocket.
This drama has a few things going for it, namely KimuTaku playing an unusually enthusiastic character, Ayase Haruka in general, and the fact that it features a canonically aromantic and asexual main character. That's cool. I'd like to see more of that.
10. Bara no Nai Hanaya / The Flower Shop Without Roses (FujiTV 2008)
I know I said I'm not into romance dramas, but this one is mostly about father-daughter relationships with a mild romance between a man and a woman. Shiomi Eiji (guess who! It's Katori Shingo) is a thoughtful single father who runs a flower shop with his young daughter Shizuku (Yagi Yuki). Their quiet lifestyle is turned upside down on a rainy day when Eiji invites a cold Shirato Mio (Takeuchi Yuko) into the shop. It quickly becomes apparent that each character has secrets and hidden motives, and the forces that be gradually work toward tearing the small family apart.
I really liked this drama. It's is full of soft lighting and warm colors and the Shiomi family is absolutely precious and did nothing to deserve any of the misfortune thrown upon them. This is the drama that makes me laugh nervously when I see Tumblr posts ironically saying things like "I wish Goku was my dad," because I think we'd all like to have Shiomi Eiji as our dad.
Katori Shingo and Yagi Yuki appeared together in a series of adorable commercials for Ajinomoto afterwards:
11. Issenchoen no Minoshirokin / The One Quadrillion Yen Ransom (Fuji TV 2015)
In the only drama special (TV movie) on this list, political activist Naoto (ahahaha... Katori Shingo) kidnaps Shinoda Mayu (Honda Miyu). She is the granddaughter of a former deputy prime minister who was investigated for his handling of the national budget, but his charges had been dropped. The ransom for Mayu is none other than 1085 trillion yen, the same as Japan's national debt.
The drama mainly follows the detectives working to rescue Mayu (played by Naka Riisa and Sugimoto Tetta) as they reveal Naoto's motives. It's quite the tear-jerker. I liked it so much that I translated the whole dang thing myself so that more folks could watch it and be sad with me. You're welcome.
Now, I have a list of things to watch, but it's getting shorter as I run out of Shingo dramas. If you have seen some dramas you've liked or you think I would like (hint: comedic procedurals are my favorites) recommendations would be more than welcome!
Additionally, if you've seen any of these dramas and want to talk about them, my inbox on DeviantART and Tumblr are always open c: