This winter season fare was a big departure from the type of dramas that I usually watch. Considering the Fall season 2015 which consisted of murder/mayhem and the like, to come into the winter season and find that the dramas I liked are dominated by romance and comedy is really unprecedented for me. I am loving the fact that I am find more and more J-Dramas than before, thanks to Facebook groups that are in the know; however, there seems to be a lot more dramas being subtitled simply because of popular actors, manga/anime based stories or idol actors coming to the small screen. Whatever the reason, I feel we watchers definitely benefited this season. Of the 11 (yes, 11) Winter Season 2016 dramas that I watch, these 4 are my top picks. Those that know me will be surprised (or not). here goes….
Title: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai (Please Love The Useless Me)
Genre: Romance Comedy
Fukada Kyoko as Shibata Michiko
Dean Fujioka as Kurosawa Ayumu
Miura Shohei as Mogami Daichi
Nonami Maho as Ikushima Akira
Suzuki Takayuki as Teri
Ishiguro Hideo as Tama
See the rest of the cast here
Michiko is single and jobless since her employer went bankrupt. She likes to eat meat most of all, but can only afford cabbage, as she struggles to get a new job and her savings dry up from spending money on a younger men. With no boyfriend, no job and no money, Michiko is hopeless. She only has her passion for eating meat. One day when she tries to steal cat food from a stray cat, she comes across with her former boss, Ayumu. After taking Michiko to his cafe, “Himawari,” (Sunflower) Ayumu suggests her to work there. While Michiko is delighted to have a job again, she is also worried about working under Ayumu who was strict and abusive at their former office. At “Himawari”, however, she starts to discover a different side to Ayumu… — TBS
I went into this drama for 2 reasons: Dean Fujioka and Fukada Kyoko. I have had a ‘drama’ thing for Dean since the drama, Just You and anytime I see his name, it is a must-see watch for me. I loved his character Ayumu. He was just so unassuming and a friend to Michiko when she needed one; a disciplinarian when she needed one, but slowly realizing just how much he really liked her. Their interactions were really fun from the beginning. I liked the fact that this was a sappy love story; it took awhile for both to realize their true feelings but as the audience, we recognized it faster than these two did. Fukada Kyoko, I’ve loved since the drama, Kamisama Mou Sukoshi Dake. As this drama followed Second Love (with my sweetheart Kame), I was really excited to see her once again play a clueless 30-something virgin who experiences love for the first time. While Second Love was definitely more serious, this drama definitely took us down the comedic side of love. The English title is quite perfect in describing her character; however, you cannot help but love Michiko through and through. I highly recommend this drama and as I rarely watch Romance Comedy, this should be a must-see for you! Very good!
Title: MARS (Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru)
Genre: Romance, School
Fujigaya Taisuke as Kashino Rei
Kubota Masataka as Kirishima Makio
Iitoyo Marie as Aso Kira
Yamazaki Hirona as Sugihara Harumi
Inaba Yu as Kida Tatsuya
Fukuhara Haruka as Sakurazawa Shiori
See the rest of the cast here
The story revolves around Kira and Rei, two high school students. Kira is an extremely introverted artist, and Rei is an outgoing playboy with a frightening violent side. The two start a friendship and eventually a romance after Rei sees a drawing that Kira drew on the back of a map she gave him. However, both Kira and Rei are hiding troubled pasts, and through their relationship they confront their past demons. Makio, a student at Kira and Rei’s school, has a connection to Rei’s violent past. He enters Kira and Rei’s lives to try to force Rei to return to the person he used to be. — MyDramaList
There is two things that you have to divorce yourself from when watching this drama: the manga and the Taiwanese version from 2004. Both of these are excellent. I admit that it was because of the T-version drama that I read the manga online. Both had similarities but neither were the same; however, in the content of excellent entertainment, they both excelled. What I liked about the J-version of Mars is the fact that a lot of the story line paralleled the manga and also tried to insert some of the same from the T-version drama. In reading a lot of the comments about this drama, the problem seemed to be that people couldn’t separate the 3 from each other. The biggest problem with remakes is that they are not the original; however, what some remakes good at doing is giving you a different take on the story that you may be familiar with. This is why I liked Mars a lot.
Like its predecessor, I was just as in involved with characters as before. Some characters that stood out in the previous dramas and manga, continued to stand out here. Rei’s character continued to be tortured by his past and Fujigaya Taisuke did a decent job in portraying him. I admit he took a couple of episodes to get used to (Sorry Vic Zhou will forever rule this character); but there were nuances to his Rei that I liked. Iitoyo Marie as Kira also took a few episodes to get used to but I felt her portrayal of the character that we knew really was the same. One difference I felt that Kira became stronger much faster in this adaptation and I liked that. However, the two characters that I loved and thought were just as strong in all things I’d seen were definitely Kirishima and Harumi!
The sadistic nature that we saw as dormant until the last couple of episodes became super clear in the end and Harumi as the girl with her unrequited love interest in Rei was just as amazing in making me hate her in the beginning to loving her character immensely. Like everyone else that watched this, we are waiting with baited breath for the movie this summer as the true sadistic nature of Kirishima becomes clear to all as well the dark secret of Kira comes to the forefront. Yes, nothing can ever compare to the T-version of Mars; however, I still liked this A LOT!! I look forward to the movie!!
Title: Kaito Yamaneko (Yamaneko the Phantom Thief)
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Comedy
Kamenashi Kazuya as Yamaneko
Narimiya Hiroki as Katsumura Hideo
Hirose Suzu as Takasugi Mao
Nanao as Kirishima Sakura
Kitamura Yukiya as Todo Kenichiro
See rest of cast here
What is justice? Is it about being kind? Or is it about winning? A certain man claims that “Justice is about robbing.” Yamaneko is notoriously elusive, but wherever he shows up, enormous amounts of money gets stolen. Evidence of the audacious crime is left scattered all over the place. In every episode, Yamaneko the hero thiefthrows a splash of “rotten justice” in your face. Pretentiously calling himself a “genius thief,” Yamaneko is arrogant and acts like he’s the king of the world. Everything he does is bold and daring, but he remains elusive. There is indeed no match for Yamaneko. He goes by one creed alone—“I will steal but I won’t deprive.” Why does he steal? Just what is he all about? — NTV
If you watch nothing else on my list, you must simply watch the comedic stylings of Kame in action!! Yes, Kame is awesome in comedic roles! I discovered that in the drama One Pound Gospel and it really hit home in Tokyo Bandwagon just how funny he can be. But this drama really took it to a new level. I never laughed so much watching his antics as Yamaneko! I’m sure Kame had a ball as the character because he was constantly doing something so silly! From goofing with his intended victims, playing tricks on his compatriots to driving the police crazy with his “Catch me if you can” attitude. This drama was just sheer genius because you never knew what to expect next. Unlike most, I was so glad that romance was NOT in this drama. The focus remained on the story as the intrigue continued to weave its web throughout to the point that you were confused who were the good guys (we were never right) to trying to guess who the bad guys were (I was fooled, my drama partner in crime, Nelly got it right). But I loved how the story line just kept us guessing. Even though there was a shade of seriousness in the background, so many times just how was lost as something funny would happen.
I just loved watching Kame and Narimiya Hiroki together! Since the drama, Bloody Monday, I have absolutely LOVED Hiroki! He is such a consummate actor that is very good in immersing himself into the role. This was actually a slight departure from most of his dramas that I’ve seen. I really haven’t had the privilege to watch him in a lot of comedies; I love him! Don’t be fooled by his clueless persona! He definitely fooled me until the end. But his portrayal of Katsumura Hideo was spot-on! As usual, Hiroki on the scene just makes the drama that much more worth watching. All in all, you cannot go wrong with spending the time to watch this drama. The story is engaging, the comedy is funny and the characters are memorable! Season 2? Go for it!
Rating: 10/10, the best for the season!
Title: Sumika Sumire
Kiritani Mirei as Kisaragi Sumire
Matsuzaka Keiko as Kisaragi Sumi
Oikawa Mitsuhiro as Rei
Machida Keita as Mashiro Yusei
Mizusawa Erena as Kosaka Arisa
Takeuchi Ryoma as Tsujii Kento
See rest cast here
Kisaragi Sumi is a 20-year-old university student. But do not be surprised that she is a 65-year-old inside. Under pressure to help out with the family business from a young age, she could not have a youth. Even afterwards, she devoted her entire life to taking care of first her grandmother and then her father and mother. Sumi finds herself turning 65 without ever having had a boyfriend. She takes a little pride in having lived with integrity. But after her mother passes away, she has the sudden thought of regaining her youth once more and making a fresh start in life… A miracle happens to her. One day when Sumi wakes up, she has the appearance of a 20-year-old! Despite being bewildered by this unbelievable reality, she introduces herself as Sumire and gets another try at youth. — Jdrama Weblog
You ever watch a drama that is so far removed from your normal fare? You ever watch a drama whereby the characters are so sugary sweet (or kawaii as they say) that you cannot help but purse your lips from the ultimate sweetness? Okay, maybe it is just me but Sumika Sumire is definitely a rarity for me. I simply ADORED this drama! I loved the characters! I loved the story! I loved the romance! Wait, there was even a time jump which I loved as well! Okay, the basis of the story is really in the synopsis. A 65 year old woman gets to relive her youth that she missed because of family obligations. This woman truly never had a life until she met Rei, the mysterious figure who resided in a screen in the guise of a black cat that her parents had in their house for many years. Sumi’s character is so humble and unassuming. When at school, she doesn’t want to make waves. When interacting with the other college kids, she is like a fish out of water. But it is through these interactions that Sumi gets to live (and love) for the very first time.
This was a really great story and an even better romance as we got to watch Sumi the younger and Yusei fall so completely for each other that Sumi feels guilty about it as she knows her situation and the fact that she isn’t what she seems. In addition, isn’t it great when a story incorporates a time jump that just makes the story flow better? Yes, a rarity and that truly happens in this. I felt that the time apart made the romance that much stronger between the two as Sumi comes to grip with her circumstances and Yusei realizes that no matter, Sumi is the one he truly loves.
Okay, if you need another reason, how about Oikawa Mitsuhiro as Rei, the demon cat in guyliner? Was he rocking that look or what? Always in black but always there for Sumi. Rei is there so much, you start to wonder whether his feelings run deeper than he is letting on; but, his feelings for Sumi are those of a caretaker. He is truly there for her and guides her. Oikawa Mitsuhiro does an outstanding job! I have nothing but love for this drama; my rare romance! This will definitely take high honors for romance in a J-Drama for me. Well worth watching!! What a season we had!!
Rating: 9/10, the best romance for the season!
I really thought it would be hard picking the best for the season because I watched so many; it was. But I cannot leave the Winter Season 2016 behind without mentioning two others that you might want to take a gander at!
Oh, any drama to see my handsome devil Takumi Saito is a drama worth watching. And then throw Kubota Masataka as his sidekick? What else can I say?
Rating: 8/10, for all the pretty!
A story that single-handedly drove me nuts! Made me question my sanity! But reminded me why science can be good as well as evil, this drama did! Talk about the dark side of human kind. Your heart cannot walk away unscathed after watching this one.
Rating: 8/10, for all the darkness!
So, I’m curious, what were your favorites for the season? Let me know in the comments. I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything!