2008 Spring Drama Review
The spring preview comes just barely in time for the start of the season. As usual, this time of year brings a horde of young actors and actresses to the screen, along with plenty of comedy and tales of youth. However, those looking for more serious fare still have some options, including a new Takuya Kimura series. Here's the full list:
TBS, Monday 8:00pm, continuing
The long-running jidaigeki series "Mitokomon" enters the second half of its 38th season. As always, Kotaro Satomi takes the lead as the legendary Mitokomon, who travels across Japan upholding justice.
Other Cast: Ryuji Harada, Masashi Goda, Kaoru Yumi, Tento Matsui, Maju Ozawa, Takashi Naito
Official Site: http://http://www.tbs.co.jp/mito/
Fuji TV, Monday 9:00pm, premieres May 12
Fuji TV's Monday night drama will star the ever-popular Takuya Kimura. He plays an elementary school teacher with no interest in politics whatsoever who, due to some circumstances, gets becomes the Prime Minister of Japan. Eri Fukatsu co-stars as Kimura's secretary, an ambitious woman aiming to reform the country. The script is being handled by Yasushi Fukuda, who has written for popular dramas such as "HERO" and "Galileo." Kensaku Sawada ("Saiyuki," "Hero Special") is directing. The show also features a theme song by pop star Madonna.
Other Cast: Akira Terao, Rosa Kato, Hiroshi Abe
Official Site: http://http://wwwz.fujitv.co.jp/change/
Zettai Kareshi (絶対彼氏)
Fuji TV, Tuesday 9:00pm, premieres April 15
This drama is based on Yuu Watase's shojo manga "Zettai Kareshi" (also known as "Absolute Boyfriend"), starring Mocomichi Hayami and Saki Aibu. In this version, Aibu plays a temp OL in search of a boyfriend, and she ends up in possession of a "robot" (Hayami) who is programmed to be the perfect boyfriend. However, this creates a love triangle with a distinguished young man at Aibu's company (Hiro Mizushima) who has feelings for her.
Other Cast: Shunsuke Nakamura, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Miki Maya
Official Site: http://http://wwwz.fujitv.co.jp/ZK/
Muri na Renai (無理な恋愛)
Fuji TV, Tuesday 10:00pm, premieres April 8
This story of "impossible love" features Masaaki Sakai and Yui Natsukawa. Sakai plays Shogo, a divorced man with one daughter. In his younger days, he was briefly in a band but it quickly broke up, and he took on a job at a record company. Now 60 years old, he falls in love with a struggling actress named Kaede (Natsukawa) who is close to being half his age.
Other Cast: Hiroshi Kamayatsu, Mari Natsuki, Toshinori Omi, Sayaka Aoki, Sawa Suzuki, Kei Tanaka, Tutorial
Official Site: http://http://www.ktv.co.jp/muri/
NTV, Tuesday 10:00pm, premieres April 22
This is an adaptation of Shota Kikuchi's "Osen" manga series. Yu Aoi plays Sen Handa, the young "okami" (proprietress) of a long-standing restaurant in one of the lower parts of Tokyo. Though she is normally airheaded and loves to drink, she has an impressive mastery of a wide range of skills, from cooking to ceramics to calligraphy. While the drama follows various events surrounding the restaurant, one of the series' highlights is its illustration of Japanese food and culture.
Other Cast: Hiroki Uchi
Official Site: http://http://www.ntv.co.jp/osen/
Keitai Sousakan 7 (ケータイ捜査官７)
TV Tokyo, Wednesday 7:00pm, premieres April 2
An unusual project by TV Tokyo and Production I.G., "Keitai Sousakan 7" features Takashi Miike as the overall director of this 51-episode series, working with many other prominent filmmakers such as Mamoru Oshii, Shusuke Kaneko, Manabu Aso, and Kazuya Konaka. Actor Masataka Kubota stars as a high school student who joins a team of investigators fighting against an Internet-based crime syndicate. Working with them are the Phone Bravers, a series of transforming cell phone robots.
Other Cast: Yuko Ito, Kanji Tsuda, Mickey Curtis, Nao Nagasawa, Satoshi Matsuda, Yoko Mitsuya, Natsuki Okamoto
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/anime/k-tai7/
Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Gakari 3 (警視庁捜査一課9係)
TV Asahi, Wednesday 9:00pm, premieres April 16
The police drama "Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Gakari" returns for a third season, once again starring Tsunehiko Watase and Yoshihiko Inohara.
Other Cast: Michiko Hada, Noriko Nakagoshi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Hiromasa Taguchi, Kanji Tsuda
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/9gakari/
NTV, Wednesday 10:00pm, premieres April 16
"Hokaben" is based on a manga series originally written by novelist/lawyer Hiroyuki Nakajima. Aya Ueto stars as Akari Domoto, an idealistic lawyer who joins a large law office, but ends up in a lowly department headed by Kazuki Kitamura. NEWS' Shigeaki Kato co-stars as an elite attorney who becomes her love interest.
Other Cast: Naho Toda, Megumi Nakayama, Ryo, Kazuko Kato, Ren Osugi
Official Site: http://http://www.ntv.co.jp/hokaben/
Shukan Maki Yoko (週刊 真木よう子)
TV Tokyo, Wednesday 1:20am, premieres April 2
"Shukan Maki Yoko" is an omnibus drama produced in collaboration with Shinchosha's "Gekkan Series" of celebrity mooks (magazine-books). Yoko Maki will play a total of 12 different roles, such as a wife, a cabaret club hostess, and a high schooler, with each week being an individual story with separate casts and staff. Directors and writers include Nobuhiro Yamashita, Yuki Yanada, Satoshi Miki, and Noboru Iguchi.
Other Cast: Kai Ato, Sadao Abe, Noboru Iguchi, Tetsuhiro Ikeda, Kenichi Endo, Hiromi Nagasaku, Yoichi Nukumizu
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/makiyoko/
New Investigator Mariko 4 (新・科捜研の女)
TV Asahi, Thursday 8:00pm, premieres April 17
“Shin Kasouken no Onna” (previously translated into English as "New Investigator Mariko") returns with a new season one year later. With the belief of “Science doesn’t lie,” a group of forensic investigators make an attempt to solve criminal cases. Yasuko Sawaguchi once again plays the lead role of forensic researcher Mariko Sasaki.
Other Cast: Takashi Naito, Satoru Saito, Masayuki Izumi, Takehiko Ono, Takako Kato
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/kasouken/
NHK, Thursday 8:00pm, premieres April 3
This drama is based on Atsuko Asano's popular novel series of the same name, which was turned into a movie in March 2007. The story revolves around two junior high students who form a talented pitcher-catcher duo, also known as the "battery" in baseball terms. 13-year-old Yuma Nakayama, a member of Kansai Johnny's Jr., will make his acting debut as the pitcher Takumi Harada, while Sho Takada (Johnny’s Jr.) will portray the catcher, Gou Nagakura. Another member of Johnny’s Jr., Shintaro Morimoto, will play Takumi’s younger brother Seiha.
Other Cast: Yuki Saito, Keisuke Horibe, Karen Miyazaki, Junior Chihara, Renji Ishibashi
Official Site: http://http://www.nhk.or.jp/battery/
Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari (渡る世間は鬼ばかり)
TBS, Thursday 9:00pm, premieres April 3
The family drama "Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari" enters its 9th season this spring. Ken Utsui currently stars as Daikichi Okakura, the owner of a prestigious Japanese restaurant. Returning as his five daughters are Tomoko Fujita, Mami Nomura, Yoshiko Nakada, Pinko Izumi, and Aiko Nagayama. Like always, the series focuses on the lives of Okakura and his daughters' families.
Official Site: http://www.tbs.co.jp/oni/
Shichinin no Onna Bengoshi (7人の女弁護士)
TV Asahi, Thursday 9:00pm, premieres April 10
This is the second season of the revived "Shichinin no Onna Bengoshi" drama series. Yumiko Shaku once again plays the central character of a group of seven female lawyers, composed of returning cast members Yoko Nogiwa and Sachie Hara, along with several new faces.
Other Cast: Chizuru Azuma, Tomoko Nakajima, Rieko Miura, Saori Takizawa, Masaru Nagai
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/7nin/
Last Friends (ラスト・フレンズ)
Fuji TV, Thursday 10:00pm, premieres April 10
Today’s generation of young people are faced with a variety of social issues. In this drama full of today’s popular young actors and actresses, the characters will confront these issues head on. The drama stars Masami Nagasawa as Michiru, a beauty parlor assistant who suffers from domestic violence at the hands of her boyfriend (Ryo Nishikido. Juri Ueno plays Nagasawa's classmate Ruka, a successful motocross racer who carries an unmentionable burden in her heart. Attracted to her is Takeru (Eita), a hair and make-up artist who has a fear of sex due to a past trauma. The lives of the three characters become intertwined when they begin living together in a share house.
Other Cast: Asami Mizukawa, Shigenori Yamazaki, Aki Nishihara, Rea Ranka, Sayaka Hirano, Mitsuko Baisho
Official Site: http://http://wwwz.fujitv.co.jp/lastfriends/
Mitsumei: Kangetsu Kasumi Kiri! (密命 寒月霞斬り！)
TV Tokyo, Friday 8:00pm, premieres April 18
Based on the "Mitsumei" novel series by best-selling author Yasuhide Saeki, TV Tokyo's jidaigeki drama features actor Takaaki Enoki. He plays Kanasugi Sozaburo, a samurai in the Kyushu countryside. After accepting a secret mission from his daimyo, he leaves his clan and travels alone to Edo to accomplish his task.
Other Cast: Yumi Adachi, Minori Terada, Goro Ibuki, Kenjiro Nashimoto, Maho Toyota, Go Kato
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/mitsumei/
TV Asahi, Friday 9:00pm, premieres April 18
Actress Satomi Ishihara stars in her first mystery drama with "Puzzle." She takes on the role of Misako Ayukawa, an unqualified English teacher who happens to have a brilliant mind for solving puzzles. Along with 3 of her students (played by Yusuke Yamamoto, Ryo Kimura, and Kento Nagayama), she tackles various cases occurring around her school.
Other Cast: Sansei Shiomi, Sayuri Iwata, Aki Asakura, Chiaki Sato
Official Site: http://puzzle.asahi.co.jp/
Around 40 (Around40~注文の多いオンナたち)
TBS, Friday 10:00pm, premieres April 11
This drama stars actress Yuki Amami as a single psychiatrist close to turning 40. The central focus of the series is the "arafo" ("around 40") generation of women, particularly dealing with marriage, childbirth, and work. The show depicts the joys and sufferings of these women in a comical way. "Around 40" will also see the drama debut of AKIRA from EXILE, who has been cast as Amami’s younger brother.
Other Cast: Naohito Fujiki, Nene Otsuka, Michitaka Tsutsui, Yuki Matsushita
Official Site: http://http://www.tbs.co.jp/around40/
Kimi Hannin Janai yo ne? (キミ犯人じゃないよね？)
TV Asahi, Friday 11:15pm, premieres April 11
This mystery/comedy series features Shihori Kanjiya as Sakura Morita, a peculiar "freeter" (freelance part-timer) who dreams of becoming a mystery novel writer. While switching between various jobs, she also becomes an assistant to Officer Utagawa (Jun Kaname), a detective who discovers her excellent memory and reasoning skills. On the other hand, Utagawa (who has just joined the police ranks through his father's connections) is fairly inept and has a tendency to fall in love with female suspects.
Other Cast: Ikkei Watanabe, Nana Ogawa
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/kimihan/
Hisho no Kagami (秘書のカガミ)
TV Tokyo, Friday 12:12am, premieres April 11
Megumi Yasu will play the leading role of the temp secretary Yu Kagami in this drama adaptation of Kei Horito's manga "Hisho no Kagami," also known as "The Model of Secretary." Even though she is hopeless when it comes to finding a boyfriend, her true strength lies in her sense of justice and her pride as a woman. She faces off against various problems around her, such as the sexual harassment caused by her male co-workers and the incompetence of her company's president.
Other Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Zen Kajihara
Official Site: http://http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/hisyo/
NHK, Saturday 7:30pm, premieres April 12
This period drama focuses on two handsome men ("otokomae") who join the police ranks (yoriki). With the help of the magistrate, they work to fight crime in their city. Seiji Fukushi and Takumi Saito star as the two "otokomae," while Kyohei Shibata plays their superior.
Other Cast: Tsurutaro Kataoka, Waka Inoue, Narumi Konno.
ROOKIES (ROOKIES ルーキーズ)
TBS, Saturday 8:00pm, premieres April 19
An adaptation of Masanori Morita's shonen manga "ROOKIES," this drama revolves around an enthusiastic high school teacher named Koichi Kawato (Ryuta Sato). He arrives at a school whose baseball team has been suspended due to a scandal. Most of the regular members and staff have abandoned the team, leaving only a group of bad students with no goals. Kawato makes it his mission to use baseball to reform those students and give them a direction in life.
Other Cast: Hayato Ichihara, Keisuke Koide, Yu Shirota, Akiyoshi Nakao, Sousuke Takaoka, Eri Murakawa
Official Site: http://http://www.tbs.co.jp/rookies08/
Gokusen 3 (ごくせん)
NTV, Saturday 9:00pm, premieres April 19
Yukie Nakama is back as Kumiko Yamaguchi in this third series based on Kozueko Morimoto's comical "Gokusen" manga. Affectionately known as "Yankumi," Yamaguchi is an idealistic teacher who also happens to be the next-in-line as the head of a yakuza family. This time, the main group of male students is played by Yuya Takaki (Hey! Say! JUMP!), Haruma Miura, Hideo Ishiguro, Shohei Miura, and Junta Nakama and Akito Kiriyama (both from B.A.D.).
Other Cast: Ken Utsui, Katsuhisa Namase, Kotaro Koizumi, Aya Hirayama
Official Site: http://http://www.ntv.co.jp/gokusen/
Top Sales (トップセールス)
NHK, Saturday 9:00pm, premieres April 12
The first of NHK's Saturday dramas this spring is the 8-episode series "Top Sales," set in 1974. It stars actress Yui Natsukawa as an employee of a successful company who changes jobs to become a car salesperson.
Other Cast: Kippei Shiina, Keizo Kanie, Daijiro Harada, Hikari Ishida.
Fuji TV, Saturday 11:10pm, premieres May 3
This drama is based on a popular manga called "81diver" by Yokusaru Shibata. The story deals with a talented young shogi player named Kentaro Sugata (Junpei Mizobata) who earns his money by playing against amateurs in wagered games. One day, he is defeated by a mysterious young woman (Riisa Naka) who also works part-time as a maid in Akihabara. Under her guidance, he begins walking the path to becoming a shogi pro.
NHK, Sunday 8:00pm, continuing
NHK's 47th taiga drama continues, with popular young actress Aoi Miyazaki playing the role of Atsuhime (also known as Tenshoin), the wife of historical figure Tokugawa Iesada. The source material for the series is Tomiko Miyao's novel "Tenshoin Atsuhime."
Other Cast: Maki Horikita, Shota Matsuda, Masato Sakai, Kinya Kitaoji, Toru Emori, Masao Kusakari, Hiroshi Tamaki
Official Site: http://http://www.nhk.or.jp/taiga/
Ryokiteki na Kanojo (猟奇的な彼女)
TBS, Sunday 9:00pm, premieres April 20
Based on the hit 2001 Korean romantic comedy film “My Sassy Girl,” SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and actress Lena Tanaka play the lead roles. In this version, Kusanagi plays Saburo Masaki, a marine biology professor recently dumped by his girlfriend. At the train station, he sees an aspiring writer named Riko Takami (Tanaka) who seems as if she is about to fall onto the tracks. He saves her, but her personality is unexpectedly very different from her cute appearance.
Other Cast: Nao Matsushita, Emi Suzuki, Yoshie Ichige, Nahomi Matsushima, Shosuke Tanihara, Takaya Kamikawa
Official Site: http://http://www.tbs.co.jp/ryokiteki/
WOWOW, Sunday 10:00pm, premieres April 6
"Pandora" is the first full drama series to run as part of WOWOW's "Drama W" project. Scripted by popular screenwriter Yumiko Inoue, this suspense series revolves around Dr. Hideki Suzuki (Hiroshi Mikami), who has spent the last 18 years researching a cure for cancer. But when he finally finds one, it only seems to lead to trouble...
Other Cast: Toshiro Yanagiba, Manami Konishi, Koji Yamamoto, Mitsuki Tanimura
Official Site: httphttp://://www.wowow.co.jp/dramaw/pandora/
NHK, Monday-Saturday 8:15am, premieres March 31
The spring-summer "Asadora" is about a young woman named Hitomi (Nana Eikura) who moves from Hokkaido to Tokyo to pursue dancing. She ends up living with her grandfather (Toshiyuki Nishida) and helps raise the three foster children that he has taken in.
Other Cast: Naoko Iijima, MAKIDAI, Gin Maeda, Reo Yoshitake, Ei Morisako, Sakuya Nakamura
Official Site: http://http://www3.nhk.or.jp/asadora/
Mama no Kamisama (ママの神様)
TBS, Weekdays 1:30pm, premieres May 5
This is Noriko Aota's first starring role in a drama series. Adapted from a short novel by Yuzuki Muroi, the story casts Aota as a single mother, raising three children from three different marriages.
Other Cast: Yorie Yamashita, Michiko Shimizu, Naomi Akimoto
Official Site: http://hicbc.com/tv/drama30/mamanokamisama
Hanagoromo Yumegoromo (花衣夢衣)
Fuji TV, Weekdays 1:30pm, premieres March 31
The live-action version of Mutsumi Tsukumo's manga "Hanagoromo Yumegoromo" revolves around identical twins Maho and Mio. One day, Maho goes out as a substitute for Mio, but is attacked by a man. She ends up getting pregnant, and the abortion results in her losing her womb. Maho later moves to Kanagawa to study kaga-yuzen. She receives a marriage proposal from a man named Masashi, but refuses due to her infertility, leading Masashi to marry Mio instead.
Other Cast: Ai Ozaki, Yui Ozaki, Makiko Yoshida, Mayuko Yoshida, Hidekazu Mashima, Midori Hagio
Official Site: http://tokai-tv.com/hanagoromo/
N/I/SS/J, I'm on 30/64 of the long drama! ♥