What better way to kick off the new year than drool over the bevy of dramas announced for this month? Answer: none. Oh, and for those wondering, YES, IT’S WATANUKI!
Now that I have your attention, here are my picks for what could turn insanely fun or awfully bad. Because that is the law in DramaLand, and we all experienced it one day, right? So, just like last year, and the year before, and the year even before, 2013 will offer its share of detective dramas, romance, thrillers, melodramas, human dramas, comedies and…uh, the unclassified. We’ll see that some trends are appearing. But now, let’s start the ball rolling, shall we?
『Yae no Sakura – 八重の桜』
Date: Starts on January 6 (NHK)
What’s the deal?: Daughter of the Aizu domain’s official gunnery instructor, Yae (Haruka Ayase) would rather hold a rifle than a needle and gets her brother to teach her. The turmoil of the time placed her at the forefront of the Boshin War, where she helped protecting Aizu wih guns. After the Meiji Restoration, this Japanese Jeanne d’Arc married Niijima Jo and served as a nurse during the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War.
Why should I care?: I know, I know, this has been talked to death but I had to. A female warrior? In a period drama? Come on, it begged me to pick it. I agree that the 50 episodes may be a turn-off, but when such a story is backed-up by a star-studded cast (Mizuhara Kiko! Odagiri Joe! Sorimachi Takashi!), a lush cinematography and an awe-inspiring main theme (Sakamoto Ryuichi!), this drama sure has some convincing arguments. The real Niijima Yae, who saw different key periods in Japanese history (from Edo to Shōwa), makes a fine character, with enough courage and spunk to carry a whole taiga drama. And really, who could say no to a kickass heroine?
『Shotenin Michiru no Mi no Uebanashi – 書店員ミチルの身の上話』
Date: Starts on January 8 (NHK)
What’s the deal?: The titular heroine, Michiru (
Toma Saya Toda Erika), leads a simple life as a bookshop clerk in a provincial town. She cheats on Kutaro (Emoto Tasuku) her boyfriend of one year, with Tomoyasu (Arai Hirofumi), a publishing company salesman coming from Tokyo. But the gears of destiny begins to turn the day her coworker asks her to buy a lottery ticket, which turns out to be a winning one. What to do with ¥200 million? Because she won’t tell a soul about it. But when a series of accident involve those around her, things start to take a bad turn.
Why should I care?: Granted, I put this one on the list mainly because of Toda Erika. But the story itself (adaptated from a novel) looks interesting, with a simple girl thrown in a game bigger than she could handle. Well, she isn’t that simple, what’s with the cheating, the lies, the stealing and whatnot. And this is the kind of character that can turn out riveting: Michiru, whose wish was only “to be a little happier” and who believed that a Prince Charming would take her out of the boonies, is headed in a dangerous direction, to a world full of murders and betrayals that may drive her insane. The show promises to be suspenseful but also to follow the hardships encountered on her way to find her true self. Let’s see if it’ll capitalize on its potential.
『Itsuka Hi no Ataru Basho de – いつか陽のあたる場所で』
Date: Starts on January 8 (NHK)
What’s the deal?: In order to financially support the man she loves, who works as a host, Hako (Ueto Aya) turns to crime. She seduces different men and drugs them to take their money but eventually ends up in jail, where she shares a cell with Ayaka, who killed her husband to protect her son from domestic violence. Linked by a deep bond, they stay together after being released from prison and start over in a district of Tokyo. A past that they can’t disclose. The feeling that they can’t cast it aside.
Why should I care?: Based on a novel, the story of two women with criminal records may not be the best choice for a TV drama adaptation. That’s the comment of author Nonami Asa herself, and I believed that it would be way too heavy and melodramatic for my taste, but after checking the trailer and the available infos, I came to think differently. While the synopsis may sound bleak, the story will certainly offer plenty of hope. The trailer gives off a warm feeling, and made me want to see more of Ayaka, admirably portrayed by Iijima Naoko. Bright and positive, she encourages Hako and gradually opens her heart when she decided to retreat from the world. More than redemption, the themes are friendship, relationships with family, and above all the will to move forward. That’s worth a look.
『Saikou no Rikon – 最高の離婚』
Date: Starts on January 10 (Fuji TV)
What’s the deal?: “Why is it that I have fallen in love once we have separated?” Mr Grumpypants, Hamasaki Kosei (Eita) finds everything (from work to socializing) painful, starting with his wife of two years Yuka (Ono Machiko). With her cheerful and happy-go-lucky attitude, Yuka is his complete opposite, and what was charming in the past became an issue. But even though they just divorced, he still lives with her. And this is when he meets again with his former girlfriend, Akari (Maki Yoko), who just married a womanizer, Uehara Ryo (Ayano Go). Can love bloom again?
Why should I care?: This years starts with a bang for Eita. He’s starring in three dramas, and just for this winter season. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Penned by the writer behind Soredemo Ikite Yuku and Mother, this new piece will definitely be much more lighter. I’m ready to have a good laugh at the expense of Kosei, who looks like quite the clueless fellow. And I’m already rooting for Yuka who, with her impish brightness, totally outshines Miss Broodygirl Akari. All in all, this shapes up to be a good-hearted and lovely romantic comedy about thirtysomethings, and I expect an interesting love triangle, which would be a refreshing breath of air after the angst and gloom provided by DramaLand recently. So long live divorce!
『Nageki no Bijo – 嘆きの美女』
Date: Starts on January 12 (NHK BS Premium)
What’s the deal?: Withdrawing from any social life, and secluding herself in her room, Ikeda Yaiko (Kurosawa Kazuko) spends her days grumbling on the Web to release off the steam caused by her inferiority complex. Yes, she’s an internet troll. A self-professed ugly woman, she stumbles upon a page dedicated to good-looking girls: “Sorrows of Beautiful women”. Though she tries to take it out on them, she’ll end up living with these beauties (Yada Akiko, Nakamura Shizuka, Yokoyama Megumi).
Why should I care?: And here is yet another adaptation (my aren’t we on a roll this season?) which kinda screams “chick flick”. Granted, I do not see the romance yet, but it surely has loads of girly elements to flaunt. It sounds like a funny and enjoyable ride, though, and I confess that my fancy was tickled by the choice of the main protagonist. DramaLand can offer a lot of gorgeous actresses trying to make you believe they’re unattractive, but for once we have a real Plain Jane. Now, I wonder if the show will try to inject a bit of sarcasm and poke at the importance of appearance in the Japanese society. One can only hope.
『Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou – ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』
Date: Starts on January 14 (Fuji TV)
What’s the deal?: Shinokawa Shioriko (Goriki Ayame) is a young and introverted girl, owning the antique bookshop Biblia Koshodo. Very shy towards strangers, she suddenly opens up (snerk) as soon as she hears about old publications. She will solve different mysterious cases related to old books, with the assistance of She’s going to be assisted by Goura Daisuke (AKIRA), a boy who happens to have a bibliophobia (HAHA) and Shida Hajime (Takahashi Katsumi), an old man living under a bridge.
Why should I care?: Well, I’m intrigued by the synopsis. It looks like a common mystery drama (and maybe it’ll be so), but after reading more about it, it seems like the protagonists will rather work on the human aspect behind the puzzle. If it focuses on the people, I may be tempted. This drama is also an adaptation (see a pattern here?), of a popular light novel sold over 3,5 million copies. This will be the first starring role in a prime time drama for Goriki, who is an actress for whom I have an inexplicable soft spot even though I only saw her in one drama. And it wasn’t a good one. Add to that the fact that I love old books and antique shops, so I’m preparing for a nice vintage feel.
『Sharehouse no Koibito – シェアハウスの恋人』
Date: Starts on January 16 (NTV)
What’s the deal?: At 30, Tsuyama Shio (Mizukawa Asami) works as a full-time employee, and has neither a boyfriend nor any friends. She worries about dying alone before having formed a relation and decides to change her life. The solution? Go live in a shared house! A weird twist will have her living under the same roof as a salaryman, Sakurai Yukiya (Tanihara Shosuke) and an alien who landed on Earth because of her, Kawaki Tatsuhei (Oizumi Yo). While she falls in love with Sakurai, he gradually grows attracted to Kawaki. A unique love triangle begins.
Why should I care?: This one looks like a riot. I was about to write this drama off, even though it casts an actress I love (thanks Nodame!), until I read the “alien coming from outer space being hitted on by a salaryman” part. Bwahaha, I’m sold even without a trailer. Talk about impossible (slapstick) love story. I frankly don’t know what to expect, and if the show will bring more than its premise, but if it delivers at least the kind of quirky Japanese comedy I long for, it can count me in.
『Otomesan – おトメさん』
Date: Starts on January 17 (TV Asahi)
What’s the deal?: Traumatized by her mother-in-law, Mizusawa Asako (Kuroki Hitomi) swore she’d be kind to Ririka (Aibu Saki), the wife of her only son, Yuta (Kaku Tomohiro). And yet, she grows suspicious at some of Ririka’s actions, and begins to doubt her identity. Uncovering secrets after secrets, she’s convinced Ririka wants to ruin her family but neither her husband nor her son are on her side. Alone, she decides to stand up against the threat, not knowing what is the terrible truth.
Why should I care?: Good question. This is definitely not the kind of show I’d watch, but the catchphrase “To let this daughter-in-law get her own way and destroy the family I’ve struggled to build over 25 years!” somewhat enticed me. In some thrillers, you see old men running around to avenge their family, and here you have a middle-aged Japanese housewife fighting her fears to protect her household. On a side note, wow Aibu Saki sure loves to play the antagonist. That may turn out completely soap-opera style, but I’d tune in to see how it’ll fare.
『Nakuna, Hara-chan – 泣くな、はらちゃん』
Date: Starts on January 19 (NTV)
What’s the deal?: Echizen (Aso Kumiko), yet another ordinary lady, works at a fish paste factory. Each day brings its share of stress, so Echizen draws a comic-strip about her daily life to blow off some steam and get rid of her frustration. As a result, her main character Hara-chan (Nagase Tomoya) is often drunk and crabby. One day, he suddenly jumps out of the manga and enter our world, where he falls in love with his creator. What is reality and what is fiction?
Why should I care?: Man, that is so promising I’m giddy with excitement. I love Nagase and this role was reportedly tailor made for him. He can be so hilarious and goofy while playing heartfelt characters. I don’t know Aso Kumiko, but her role is appealing: I suppose Echizen has dreams that she couldn’t achieve, and as a woman and an artist, I wonder how she’ll deal with this odd situation. In a way, she’s a female Pygmalion! Judging from the stills, the story may rely on a gallery of personalities that could form a merry mess. Yep, that’s it, I’m sure this will be an other hit.
『xxxHolic – ×××ホリック』
Date: Starts on February 24 (WOWOW)
What’s the deal?: High school student Watanuki Kimihiro (Sometani Shota) has the ability to see spirits and monsters but is actually plagued with them. Coming home one day, he’s once again assailled by evil apparitions but his feet lead him to a strange shop. There he encounters Ichihara Yuko (Anne), the mysterious owner who offers to rid him of the spirits. But the price must be of equal value, so Watanuki has to temporarily work for her in her shop that grant wishes. Thus begins his adventures in a world full of supernatural experiences.
Why should I care?: Are you fucking kidding me? It’s xxxHolic, for Pete’s sake! For the little uninformed lambs, xxxHolic is a manga illustrated by the famous Studio Clamp. I couldn’t believe it when I read the news, and more importantly I couldn’t imagine how they’d create xxxHolic’s universe. Now that the gorgeous stills are out, I’m trying to keep expectations low but IT’S TOO HARD!
Do they intend to cover the entire plot? That would be ludicrous, with only 8 episodes. How will they manage to cram the storyline connected to Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles? Well, that wasn’t the best plotline, so I’ll be satisfied with glimpses. But, the Ho Yay going on between Watanuki and Doumeki? Gah, they just CAN’T pass it over! Erm, okay, enough fangirl ranting.
There’s no trailer to analyze, but I love that in the stills, you can see the care given to details. Yuko is a fashionable characters, and wears different outfits in a day, all showcasing her symbol: butterflies. We can’t judge yet, but the presence of big butterflies on the walls, the pretty smoke or the retro feeling may be an indication of an accurate and faithful reproduction.
I never saw Anne in a drama before, but I quite like the aura she gives off and I think she can both pull off Yuko’s enigmatic and eccentric personality. Yes, I trust the Studio Clamp and the fact that WOWOW is behind the adaptation surely was no accident. Remember Yuko’s favorite phrase? “Nothing in this world is coincidence. Everything is hitsuzen (the inevitable).”
Boy, I WANT this to be perfect. I want it to make me cry rainbow tears over its fabulousness. I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but holy moly it’s xxxHolic! It’s Studio Clamp! It’s WOWOW! How can it fail? Uh oh, is it how you jinx a show? Worry not, Yuko will handle it. More importantly, is it February yet?