This was truly the year of Japanese dramas and my continual love for them. Ending of 2014 into 2015 began my love and adoration for the Japanese Asadora dramas (Mon-Sat dramas where each episode is around 15 minutes and the dramas are generally 150+ episodes). From Massan to Mare, and then my forage backwards to watch the previous ones, my new love for the Asadora dramas continues; however, the drama offerings for 2015 were just more enticing for me when it came to the Japanese dramas. Unlike the 18 Korean dramas that I watch (plus 12 web dramas), the total Japanese dramas that I completed this year was 37! 37! More and more dramas are being made available from sites like Viki and DramaFever than ever before. Even Netflix has entered the arena with the new original drama, Atelier which I cannot wait to watch. Drama tested, Nelly approved! Don’t believe me, check out her blog for reviews of some of these dramas (marked with **)
So, a lot of people will be surprised by my picks. The subject matter range from medical to action; historical to fantasy. One thing is for certain, this was the year of tough and rough women! Two of these dramas feature female characters that I’ve never witnessed in a drama before. One woman you could be proud of and another that could scare the bejesus out of you! I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the dramas you’ve never heard of; however, take it from me, each and every one of these dramas are truly the best that I saw and I will continue to recommend them into the future.
Sato Takeru as Atsuzo Akiyama
Kuroki Haru as Toshiko Takahama
Kiritani Kenta as Shintaro Matsui
Emoto Tasuku as Tatsuyoshi Yamagami
Takaoka Saki as Ume Morita
See rest of cast list here
It all started with a Pork cutlet. Tenno no Ryoriban represents the best of the best. As Atsuzo Akiyama, the power of his performance as well as the story was Sato Takeru’s time to shine. His performance was stellar! As a man bent on being the best chef in the world, there wasn’t anything that Akiyama wasn’t willing to do. If it meant leaving his family; he did it; if it meant studying in a foreign country; he did it. This was a drama based on a true life person. A man who not only excelled as a chef in Paris at one of the most prestigious hotel restaurants,The Grand Hotel Ritz but later became the Emperor’s Chef at a mere 26 years old! The portrayal of Atsuzo Akiyama as he went from a immature young man with no purpose in life to a man that not only fed an emperor but thousands during The Great Kanto Earthquake. This drama did an excellent job of showing you the life of this great man and his family.
Kuroki Haru as the wife, Toshiko Takahama, did an excellent job as the young wife that was willing to sacrifice her life, love, and marriage to ensure that Akiyama fulfilled his dreams. These two together had great chemistry and easily showed us the love, affection, and respect that they had for each other when they were together. I was so impressed with Haru’s acting in this and I fell in love with her character even more when you realize the extent of her sacrifices. The drama goes from Akiyama at 16 and his marriage to Toshiko to the end of his work life as the Emperor’s cook. The writer and director did an OUTSTANDING job of putting this drama together. The costuming was accurate and the historical facts presented to us mirrored what I read. This drama made you want to learn more and succeeded in not only entertaining me but also expanding my knowledge of this period in Japanese history. This truly was my highest rated drama for 2015: 10/10
Kusanagi Tsuyoshi as Shiraishi Tomio
Watabe Atsuro as Akamatsu Daisuke
Oshima Yuko as Konno Mio
Kimura Fumino as Aoike Kozue
Takada Sho as Sakurada Shinichi
Shinkawa Yua as Madoka Akane
Shiga Kotaro as Shiraishi Takao
See rest of cast list here
This drama explores the world of money-lending from the other prospective; the view from the lender himself. From shady deals to unethical ways of collecting the money, this drama didn’t shy away from showing you this dark side. Kusanagi Tsuyoshi as Shiraishi Tomio went from taking responsibility for his father’s debt to becoming a debt collector himself in his pursuit to get revenge on those responsible for his father’s debt situation and subsequent suicide. There is no doubt that Tomio was a good son. As the drama continues, you get to see as he investigates what happened to his father and the business that he loved. At the same time, the truly unscrupulous dealing that Akamatsu Daisuke (played by Watabe Atsuro) used to scam his father as well as learning who was really behind it all.
As you can expect from a drama with both Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Watabe Atsuro, nothing less than a tremendously well put together and acted drama. These two together as money-lenders gave performances that really did open your eyes to the business. All of the supporting actors from Oshima Yuko as Konno Mio, the naive but sweet woman that Tomio strong arms to assist him to Kimura Fumino as Aoike Kozue, the ex-fiancee to Tomio that he abandons because of his situation but as the story unravels, you find out just how much her family and the corporation that is run by her and the grandmother, Aoike Sawako (played by Judy Ong) were involved. You can never go wrong with Kusanagi Tsuyoshi. You are listening to someone who has watched every single drama, special and movie of the Specialist series. I excitedly waited every week for this drama to be subbed and from beginning to end, this drama delivered the excitement. This drama was my second highest rated drama for 2015: 9.5/10
Sakai Masato as Hino Rintaro
Aoi Yu as Yumeno
Kichise Michiko as Mizushima Yuriko
Uchida Yuki as Kiryuu Kaoru
Takanashi Rin as Kawakami Yoko
Takahashi Issei as Fukuhara Daisaku
Matobu Sei as Yabe Machiko
See rest of cast list here
As the synposis tells you, Dr. Rintaro was a brilliant psychologist. Not only was he respected by many in his occupation, within the higher education community but also was well published and followed in many respected medical journals. Hino Rintaro was loved by his patients and was successful with some of the most difficult cases. In spite of all of this fame and recognition, when love was the word, Dr. Rintaro was a true fish out of water. When he first meets Yumeno, it was a chance meeting as she brushed past him; however later when he meets the same woman, he finds out she is a highly sought-after geisha and the woman that he met and this one are totally different. Yumeno represents his toughest case for two reasons: trying to diagnose her illness and trying to remain separate from her as their doctor/patient relationship slowly changes as his feelings for her also change.
As you can expect, the drama really did blur the lines between patient and doctor. As you watch, many questions come to mind about the unethical relationship that Dr. Rintaro and Yumeno had. I couldn’t help question whether their relationship was only doctor/patient or whether the drama used their relationship to totally demolish that thin line. As Yumeno’s story unfolded, you couldn’t help recognize just how twisted a upbringing that she had and that the two distinct characteristics were present and who they were. It was awhile before you realized that even Yumeno realized that she was two people. At the same time, the drama brought forth Dr. Rintaro’s life and showed you the reason he was in the profession that he was in. Overall, this was a very interesting drama that truly showed you both sides of the psychological profession: doctor and patient. While some might not find this as interesting, medical dramas are my forte and second drama genre love. It is rare that we get to see medical dramas that feature the psychiatry of the treatment as well as the doctors themselves. You can expect nothing less than the best from Sakai Masato. He is an outstanding actor and definitely one of my favorites. This drama was also one of my top rated ones: 9.5/10
Kitagawa Keiko as Sasaki Rena
Kawaguchi Haruna as Minemori Kotoha
Miura Takahiro as Kubozuka Yuma
Dean Fujioka as Kirishima Sota
Ito Masayuki as Doi Shuzo
Rokkaku Shinji as Saeki Yuji
Takayama Yuko as Ine Ryoko
See rest of cast list here
I hadn’t seen Kitagawa Keiko in a drama since Buzzer Beat. When you read the synopsis for this drama, it entices us crime and detective watchers into the drama; however, you are not prepared for what happens in not only the first but subsequent episodes. Rena is not your every day private detective! Au contraire! It is her mission in life to not only expose the unethical practice of other private detectives but also to undercover the one detective in her life that she holds responsible for the death of her sister by a dangerous stalker when they were in high school. The memory of that time when her younger sister was stabbed to death and the stalker committed suicide has haunted Rena since. Her every day life surrounds her mission to discover who that private detective was and reap justice against them because of what they did so callously!
This drama represented one of the first dramas that I’d seen which showed such a strong female character. Sure, we have seen other stories featuring women as police detectives fighting crime; however, you will be shocked (and maybe dismayed) by the sheer brutality of this drama. As I watched this one, thoughts of Mozu kept coming to my head! Never in my drama watching have I witness a women be subjected as well as mete out her own abuse. Sadly, this is not a drama that a lot of people can watch. This drama even had me winching. This drama also featured one of the toughest torture scenes I’ve seen a woman subjected to in ages!
Acting? Kitagawa Keiko was off the chains! There is no question that she prepared mentally and physically for this role. There was a lot of action that took place; whether it was fight scenes, running, or handling a weapon, I really hope to see more of Kitagawa Keiko in action roles in the future. She did very well. Once again, this drama is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’. I’ve seen many complain about the brutality meted against our star as well as other characters within the drama. However, I was happy to see a female in this type of lead as well as one as the antagonist in the end. Not only was Rena smart but her arch-nemesis was also smart so it was a fight to the finish. I enjoyed this TREMENDOUS! What a way to end the Summer J-Drama season for 2015. My rating for this drama was 9/10
Ishihara Satomi as Sakuraba Junko
Yamashita Tomohisa as Hoshikawa Takane
Tanaka Kei as Kiyomiya Makoto
Furukawa Yuki as Mishima Satoshi
Takanashi Rin as Yamabuchi Momoe
Saeko as Mouri Masako
Yoshimoto Miyu as Ashigaka Kaori
Nagatsuma Reo as Hachiya Renji
See rest of the cast here
Have Yamapi, must watch! That is truly my motto as I have watched just about everything that I have found with him since first seeing him in Nobuta Wo Produce as Akira. It was that old drama of his that made me realize that I can (and did) watch High School dramas! 5-ji Kara 9-ji Made (or From Five to Nine) represents one of the few romance/comedy dramas that I watched this year. What a concept for a story! A monk falling in love with an everyday girl! Yes, and Takane fell hard!
Based on a popular manga, the drama brought us a story of a different kind. Sure, it was the typical boy meets girl story; however, what a boy we had in Takane.
Talk about fan service on steroids? Ladies? Was it every other episode that blessed us with a Hoshikawa Takane suffering in silence under the pelting water for our enjoyment? I really lost count. Although these scenes really didn’t add a lot to the story, I will be the first to say that I enjoyed every single one of them!
The chemistry between these two, Ishihara Satomi and Yamashita Tomohisa was great to watch. It is not very often that we are given an opportunity to see two actors work so well together. All of their near-miss kisses had us all wanting for more and more! I think after every interruption, we all were yelling ‘C’mon!!” Enough with the teasing!! But, one thing for sure, the teasing, acting and the overall story line worked well. The wonderful and dreamy ending was the best! I loved it! It brought the drama to a wonderful end and as the last of the credit rolled, I truly started to miss it!! This was definitely one of the few romance/comedy dramas that I enjoyed and would recommend to all. The rating for this gem: 9/10
I never would have believe that this post would turn out to be the longest one ever written by me. For this reason, I’m cutting it in half to make it easier to read. Stay tune for “Part Deux”!