** This is going to be a very long post as I will cover all seasons and pick my favorite dramas, actors, actresses, supporting cast and original soundtrack.
To make things more systematic, I’ll first list down dramas I watched, finished, dropped for each season and then pick out my overall favorites of 2015. Be aware though that this is based solely on my own impressions and to be honest, being biased is a given since I actually have to enjoy what I’m watching right? So, I won’t refute that preferences will be present but that’s the point. We all have our own cups of teas and that’s what this post is about, to start a discussion, so don’t be shy and share your opinions too!
Total dramas watched: 9
Zeni no Sensou
Mondai no Aru Restaurant
Garasu no Ashi
Kageri Yuku Natsu
Tenshi no Knife
Dramas I’d like to watch when I have time:
Zannen na Otto
Without a doubt, Mondai no Aru Restaurant is the top of Winter list for me. The first episode was kinda messy and I’m slightly skeptical with the many characters to the point of wondering whether I could really keep up with the rather chaotic pilot. But ep2 onwards, things begin to calm down and they began focusing on each of the characters. Then, there’s just no turning back. It’s really addictive and before I knew it, I was waiting for every episode each week and though I felt the final 2 episodes were a bit of a lackluster as they brought back one of the characters from the pilot (who I didn’t really care about already), it was still a very, very satisfying ending and there’s hope (no matter how tiny it is!) for a Season 2. I’ll leave some of my thoughts for later because obviously, this will make its return in my Top Picks of 2015 later. Besides Mondai, I also enjoyed Ouroboros. Despite the hate it gets regarding the loopholes and such, I still chased it till the end and what an ending. I can live with it, given how dark and depressing the show is. Most of all, I liked that they gathered some of my favorites together in a show – Ikuta Toma, Oguri Shun and Ueno Juri (how can I ignore this awesome trio?!) Plus the fact that crime/mystery is one of my favorite genres too so this automatically falls under the Must Watch category and I did enjoy it, just look at the elaborate recaps I did for this show.
As for the shows I dropped, let’s see…Date and Ryuusei Wagon. I enjoyed Date, I really did to be honest and I was close to finishing it, I think another 2-3 more episodes but I just couldn’t recall why I never continued watching. Was it the excessive talking or merely because I just lost interest somehow on the two leads? I haven’t the faintest idea why I dropped it. So it wasn’t because I hated it or anything, I probably just lost interest somehow but I’m well aware that this show is one of the favorites for many this year and I can understand why. It’s quirky, fun and a rare species you don’t usually come across in Jdramaland. Even I have to admit the two leads, Anne and Hirose Hasegawa did amazing job. Ryuusei Wagon wasn’t memorable for me. I love Nshijima Hidetoshi and teaming him up with Kagawa Teruyuki is supposed to make this great for me but I just lost interest halfway with the plot. It didn’t feel like it has direction and a lost ship in the middle of the sea. The time-traveling should add more fun but somehow, that isn’t even enough to keep me invested. It is refreshing of course to see Nishijima in a more ordinary role and not the usual stoic and dark cop character he’s mostly known for (Double Face/MOZU). I’m not sure whether I want to revisit the show though.
Total dramas watched: 11
Total dropped: 3
Lunch no Akko-chan
Ishitachi no Renai Jijou
Tenshi to Akuma
Yami no Bansosha
Tenno no Ryoriban
Tatakau! Shoten Girl
Kokoro ga Pokitto ne
Dramas I’d like to watch when I have time:
The standouts for me personally in Spring are none other than Mother Game and Tenno no Ryoriban. Both shows are special to me. Mother Game is that one drama where I never knew I would like, which wasn’t even in my To Watch list and a random show I tried for the sake of trying. It went on to take me by surprise and before I knew it, I was addicted like mad. I also became a fan of Kimura Fumino because of this drama so it really did leave a huge impression on me. So here’s my bias and I won’t even hide it lol. Mother Game may not appeal to everyone because I think it’s more relatable for mothers and people with families. It’s not really up my alley (which was the reason I didn’t give it a consideration in the first place), but once I gave it a shot, I knew I was sold when I began chasing it nonstop. The kids are adorable (some real young talents there especially the kid who acted as Haruto, Ayumu Yokoyama).
Tenno no Ryoriban is on another level of awesomeness. It’s been a while since I watched a period Japanese drama and that may factor in why I love this show so much too. The ambiance and mannerisms of the folks back in the days, the ways their minds work, how they perceive things and it sure was a real tear-jerker. I think there’s a high chance of me winning a bet if I challenge someone to watch the whole show without shedding a single tear. I laughed and cried both in joy and sadness together with the cast. The whole production is magnificent and it shows. TBS did an amazing job with the plot (not sure how much of it is true though it’s based on the life of the Emperor’s Cook) but Takeru Sato definitely convinced me he can actually act. Honorable mention for Haru Kuroki and Ryohei Suzuki as well (shall elaborate further in Top Picks).
Now, moving on, I have to mention Yami no Bansosha by WOWOW because this is a MUST WATCH for anyone who loves mystery/suspense and what makes this different is because they mixed manga into the plot. An eye-opener on the terms and techniques used in the manga world so I find it very intriguing. The chemistry between Nao Matsushita and Arata Furuta is one of my favorites too this year. I mentioned it before and I shall do it again, I really don’t mind watching them bicker with each other whole day. I haven’t watched every single WOWOW drama this year but it’s safe to say, this is one of the standouts and since it’s subbed (we all know how rarely WOWOW dramas get subbed), I don’t find any reason not to give it a shot.
Total dramas watched: 18
Total dropped: 4
Ishi no Mayu
Tantei no Tantei
37.5 no Namida
Omotesando Koukou Gasshoubu!
Enka – Gold Rush
Shi no Zouki
Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san
Napoleon no Mura
Red Cross (SP)
Meitantei Catherine (SP)
Unfair 2015 (SP)
Kinkyu Torishirabeshitsu (SP)
Hanasaki Mai ga Damattenai 2
Summer 2015 is probably one of the busiest. I think this is the first time I actually watched so many dramas in a season. The season also marked my debut as I dabbled with subbing. That being said, Ishi no Mayu is that one drama which pushed me to take that one step forward which I never really thought I’d ever do. I’ve been relying on subtitles from fellow subbers in my 10 years+ of watching Jdramas and it brings me joy to be able to give back to the community this time. It’s far from perfect, I admit. However, I’m really glad to receive lots of support and encouragement. I guess it’s one of those ‘self-satisfaction’ moments where I really want to share a good show with others and the only impediment is the availability of subtitles. So really, one of the biggest reasons of taking that step forward to sub Ishi no Mayu was because I just want more people to watch it xD
My first experience with subbing aside, the standouts from this season are Omotesando Koukou Gasshoubu!, Tantei no Tantei and to a lesser extent, Shi no Zouki. Omotesando was a pleasant surprise and it truly is a very heartwarming but also packed with so much fun/comedy to keep me entertained throughout the series. True, it may be cliché with some bullying in the beginning but then again, what’s a high school without one? The cast is young but they’re great, I see lots of potentials, namely the lead who is really a fresh face to me as I’ve never watched her in anything before. Kyoko Yoshine, Aoi Morikawa and Arata Horii will be under my radar from now on. This season is also good for those who wants to watch food-related shows because I enjoyed Ramen Daisuki and Shimeishi too.
As for the shows I dropped, I actually finished Koinaka, but only because I skipped to the final episode (so I put it in the dropped category) and the pairing went as I predicted so not much surprise there. Nothing against the show really other than the fact that it’s predictable and a plot that has been rehashed. It’s just unfortunately not the kind of drama I would spend my time watching and as the year goes by, I realize I’m becoming more and more fastidious with the dramas I choose.
Total dramas watched: 12
Total dropped: 3
Okitegami Kyoko no Biboroku
Kekkonshiki no Zenjitsu ni
Gisou no Fuufu
Mutsu Mieru Me
Okashi no Ie
5-ji Kara 9-ji Made
Dramas I’d like to watch when I have time:
Things slowed down a tad in Autumn. Since I was working on two dramas simultaneously, I find myself having lesser time for blogging (hence, the fewer reviews/recaps this season). Still, I managed to cram 9 dramas and finished them. Along the way, I dropped 3 other shows. It’s pretty easy for me to choose standouts from this season which I’d say, the most competitive season of 2015 because most of the shows are good and above average. Personally, I really liked Kounodori, Shitamachi Rocket, Siren, Gisou no Fuufu and Okitegami. Starting from the obvious, Kounodori reminded me of Tenno no Ryoriban because of simply one thing. Both shows made me cry like a baby. By comparison, Tenno no Ryoriban did more damage in dehydrating me but Kounodori shall make one weep no less. So anyways, my only advice before you watch these, prepare a box of tissue and if you’re not comfortable crying in front of anyone else, watch it alone like I did. Shitamachi Rocket is already one of the highest rating dramas this year. Abe Hiroshi’s return to dramas is not only great but he also proves that a veteran like him is capable of drawing in ratings which is a given since he’s splendid and the overall plot is great. The only gripe I have with Shitamachi though is the very ‘in-your-face preaching’ that tends to become more excessive towards the end that I was slightly turned off. It’s full of idealistic talk too but compared to Hanzawa Naoki, this has less overacting. Nevertheless, it’s one of those shows that reminded me of the importance of having a dream and make my spirits lifted. It’s moving to watch men and women chasing after their dreams with passion and see how their hard work pays off at the end of the day.
Initially, Gisou no Fuufu didn’t kick off well for me, took about 2 episodes before I realized the gem hidden in this show. It’s like slice-of-life with eccentric characters and a really good one too. It’s got so much comedy that I laughed out loud, literally in every single episode. This is a really good comedy if you need to lighten up.
PERSONAL TOP PICKS OF 2015
It’s always hard to choose which are the best especially when this year’s been a good year for Jdramas and it pains me to put them in order like this but it has to be done. Regardless of genre, my Top 5 of 2015 are:
- Tenno no Ryoriban
3. Mother Game
4. Mondai no Aru Restaurant
5. Shitamachi Rocket
Siren, Omotesando Koukou Gasshoubu!, Ishi no Mayu, Tantei no Tantei, Gisou no Fuufu and Yami no Bansosha.
Considering the grand scheme of things and overall production scale, including cast performances, I ended up with Tenno no Ryoriban being the top. I’m not really exaggerating when I say this is one of those dramas that you just have to watch in order to understand why it’s so beloved by many and why it grabbed so many awards. The plot is not only engaging but the cast performance is superb as well. No room for mediocre acting here. Takeru Satoh surprised me here because other than his Rurouni Kenshin movies, I’m not really familiar with his work. I’m glad he managed to pull through in this drama and while it may not propel him to stardom like Kenshin did, I’m glad this particular cook role gave him more variety to work with and a different challenge which I’m sure will help him in the future. I also have to mention Haru Kuroki who did a wonderful job as his wife as well as Ryohei Suzuki who went the extra mile to lose that weight for his role. Such dedication shall not be ignored.
Kounodori is another heart-warming drama that just pulls at your heartstrings without even trying hard. With shows like these, one thing I fear most is excessive preaching and idealistic talks, but thankfully, this show doesn’t have that. Yes, they still give advice but they don’t push you in a corner and force you to accept them like how some shows do which tires me off very easily. I like how they depict different cases in pregnancies, tackle various issues and stay on the realistic side while balancing between giving hope and accepting the harsh truth that no matter how much you try, things can’t be better or be undone. I learn a lot of medical terms from this show too and it’s one of my favorite features. At times, it feels like watching a documentary as they explain in layman’s terms for us viewers and fulfilling because I feel like I actually gained some valuable knowledge by the end of the day. As for the cast, I don’t think I’ve seen Ayano Go in such a gentle, calm and wise role before. He truly struck me as a real obstetrician, the mannerism, the tone of his voice as he communicates with patients, to be honest, I’ve never met an obstetrician before (not married and pregnant yet lol) so I wouldn’t know but as I watch this show, I find myself hoping to get an obstetrician just like him. There’s a sense of tranquility in his voice that I just fell in love with lol.
Mayu Matsuoka, yet in another loveable role besides Mondai no Aru Restaurant. Yo Yoshida also shines in this and like Ayano Go, the way she soothes her patients during deliveries are perfect. There’s just no character that I despise in Kounodori, even though I felt slightly sour about Gen Hoshino’s character at first, but after he opens up more and cracked the historic smile, he’s climbing up the list. Overall, a show worth watching.
Mother Game, oh how much I love you. This is my personal bias to be honest but I really enjoyed it for what it is. It’s not just merely rich vs poor but tackles more issues revolving mothers from different society backgrounds each with their own struggles. It helps a lot that the main character played by Kimura Fumino is such a lovable character and her kid played by such an adorable talented Ayumu Yokoyama. I like how balanced the screentime is between the five characters too, sure, Kiko being the lead does have the most focus but each and every family gets the developments they deserve and plenty of room for growth. You can literally watch them progress over the episodes and it gives a sense of satisfaction towards the end as a viewer. How cliché is this though? I’m not going to lie, it is sort of cliché, we have a single mother from a middle class (or perhaps, slightly lower?) dealing with other rich ones, there’s bound to be friction and difference in values, not to mention that bullying in the first episode towards the lead is really very shallow. But luckily, that fades away very quickly as we delve into each of the character’s lives and from there onwards, things get more fleshed out.
Personally, I really like Midori’s arc and how she dealt with her cheating husband, Kiko’s inner guilt for not being able to give Haruto the best, and Yuki’s desperation to give just the very best for her daughter and lost her way in between. There are some very relatable real-life situations in this show and even though I’m not a mother, I still like the portrayal of these different families. The problems presented gives a lot of room for discussion and reflection. Well, every mother should at least give this a try XD
I do not really understand things like examinations, but is it something that should have a child brought to tears? For the sake of your companions, to go as far as you have, do you have to match up with them? I will say this clearly, if that’s the case, from here on, I have no reason or intention of matching up with you all. Because I’m working hard for Haruto’s sake. If Haruto’s not smiling, there is no meaning in working hard.
Mondai no Aru Restaurant is easily one of my favorites of the year. Sakamoto Yuji delivers another memorable show and this has his trademark all over. He has a real knack for character study and fleshing them out as the story progresses with such depth and meaning. Two main reasons why I love this drama: Firstly, the characters. They get the focus they deserves (I’m referring to the main ones in Tamako’s team) and progresses throughout the show. Each of them has their own issues and inner demons to fight with and Sakamoto Yuji is not shy to introduce them at their lowest points. Secondly, the issue he tackles. Social stigma has never been presented in this manner before and I applaud him for approaching it in this rather bold way. You can call this a feminist show and yet, I see no harm in that. Some of the things being presented in this drama is real and ongoing as we speak and that’s another reason why we need more shows like these. There are lots of references too in the script and some are quite cheeky and genius for example, that shade on Doaremon’s Shizuka and Sailormoon.
Some of these scenes are stuffs I can never forget for the rest of my life. The only disappointing part though from this show is the lack of impact by the supposed lead herself, Yoko Maki. She seems to be overshadowed by her other counterparts namely Mayu Matsuoka, Nikaido Fumi, Takahata Mitsuki and I have to mention that Yasuda Ken did a fantastic job as the cross-dressing male friend. This is not a show for you to just pass time with, despite the comedy, it has a lot of depth and when you truly appreciate this dialogue heavy drama, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it like I did. And here I am, still hoping for a Season 2 no matter how unlikely it is.
I want to do good work.
I want to feel excited.
To be held breathless by the thrill,
I want to encounter a moment like that.
Life probably isn’t about status or prestige.
I think life is decided by how deeply that person’s soul was moved.
Right now, my soul is deeply moved.
Shitamachi Rocket, as mentioned before, is easily one of the highest rated dramas of 2015. It’s reminiscent of hit-drama Hanzawa Naoki with less overacting. I still like both shows, nonetheless. I think there’s something people like (or at least the Japanese audience) about underdogs or underprivileged being cornered by the big guns or in this case, major corporations and them having to crawl their way up. It brings some sort of satisfaction and boost as well. I for one am reminded once again of my own dream and what I truly want to do in my life upon watching this, though I have yet to come to a conclusion, the fact that this show made me ask the question to myself is proof why others are fond of it too. I’ve not watched the previous WOWOW adaptation so I can’t compare. I’ve mentioned the only gripe I have about this show which is the excessive preaching towards the end which I wished they’d tone down a bit but nevertheless, if you’re up for something inspiring an moving, then this is a good one.
I wondered what kind of job makes every single full-grown adults cry.
You’re probably wondering why even though my favorite genre is mystery/crime dramas, I don’t have them in my Top 5. Well, simple. I choose based on which dramas truly moved my soul the most in many ways lol. Which in this case, these 5 made it to the top.
Now if I were to pick my favorite crime dramas of the year, they’re easy.
Favorite Crime Dramas of the Year:
Ishi no Mayu
Yami no Bansosha
Tantei no Tantei
I think from the lists above, you can see very little love for rom-com shows. It takes a lot for me to invest time on romantic comedies, for one, since it’s not really my cup of tea, I tend to be very picky when it comes to rom-com or any love stories at all. The cast has to include people I like and the plot actually has to be good. So I have little patience when it comes to these shows and I usually drop them when they don’t meet my expectations which happened to 9ji Kara 5ji Made.
Favorite Male Character of the Year
Tokuzo Akiyama (Tenno no Ryoriban)
This is a really tight competition with Tsukuda Kohei from Shitamachi Rocket. But considering how we get to see the development of Tokuzo from his childhood all the way till the old age, spanning so many years going through so much, I decided to pick him.
Favorite Female Character of the Year
Kiko Kamahara (Mother Game)
There’s quite a number of strong female characters in other dramas but in the end, I still picked Kiko from Mother Game because she’s instantly loveable and an overall very well-written character imo.
Favorite Lead Actor of the Year
Abe Hiroshi (Shitamachi Rocket)
Oh man, this is tough! You have strong competitors like Abe Hiroshi, Takeru Sato, Ayano Go, Ikuta Toma, even Oguri Shun to some extent for his works in Ouroboros as well as Sakai Masato but since I have yet to watch Dr. Rintaro , I can’t consider him in this list at the moment. Despite the fact that Shitamachi Rocket’s success may be due to different factors, Abe Hiroshi is definitely one of the biggest reasons so I’ll have to hand it over to him. But I really did enjoy Takeru Sato and Ayano Go too in their respective dramas and these younger generations really put up some tough fight.
Favorite Lead Actress of the Year
Kimura Fumino (Mother Game, Ishi no mayu, Siren)
I don’t think this even needs to be mentioned anymore lol Have you seen how many posts I did on Kimura Fumino? I still sometimes wonder what it is that made me drawn towards her but it definitely began with Mother Game. Though her subsequent dramas (for example Siren) didn’t pose much challenge for her, I find the constant image changes (hairstyles) refreshing but I still like her Mother Game character image best.
Favorite Supporting Actor of the Year
(Mondai no Aru Restaurant, Shitamachi Rocket)
This is quite easy for me because there are really only two supporting actors that truly grabbed my attention. One being Yasuda Ken (Shitamachi Rocket and Mondai no Aru Restaurant) and another is Suzuki Ryohei for his work in Tenno no Ryoriban + Kekkonshiki no Zenjitsu ni. I appreciate the effort Suzuki Ryohei put in losing that weight for Tenno and he was fantastically heart-wrenching to watch there, the tears I shed for his character ;_; but all things considered, I’m truly moved by Yasuda Ken’s ability to switch roles so smoothly. I mean, compare his cross-dressing role to the diligent engineer and I already found the winner for this category.
Favorite Supporting Actress of the Year
Mayu Matsuoka (Mondai no Aru Restaurant, Kounodori)
I have quite a few for this category and I’m having a hard time choosing between Mayu Matsuoka, Nikaido Fumi, Takahata Mitsuki and Yoshida Yo but considering Mayu Matsuoka’s roles in both dramas managed to impress me (she starred in She too but I have yet to watch that), more so in Mondai than Kounodori (though she’s equally pleasant there).
Favorite Newcomer of the Year
Kyoko Yoshine (Omotesando Koukou Gasshoubu!)
Ah this is quite an easy one. I realize she may not be entirely new to the industry but she’s a fresh face for me personally.
Favorite Child Actor of the Year
Ayumu Yokoyama (Mother Game)
Look no further, this right here is a gifted child actor and I hope to see more of him in the future.
Favorite Couple with Best Chemistry of the Year
Tori Matsuzaka and Kimura Fumino (Siren)
One just has to watch the show to witness the chemistry between these two XD
Favorite Villain of the Year
Tachibana Kara (Siren)
Basically created this category just for Tachibana Kara from Siren lolz. But seriously, she’s a conniving, calculative, formidable psychopath and deserves recognition. That said, Nanao did an amazing job portraying her.
Favorite Original Soundtracks of the Year
For this category, I’ll just name my favorites and OSTs worth paying attention to.
Tenno no Ryoriban
Omotesando Koukou Gasshoubu!
Ishi no Mayu
Kekkonshiki no Zenjitsu ni (main theme – wait)
Feel free to share your favorites of the year too!