Beginner’s Guide to JDrama

The best way to improve your foreign language speaking skills and your understanding of a foreign culture, is by actively listening to and interacting with native speakers. However, many of us don’t have opportunities to interact with Japanese people often. So what’s the next best thing? Watching JDrama, of course. 😀

What is JDrama?

JDrama (or JDorama) is not just used to refer to Japanese television shows in the “drama” genre. It’s an umbrella term for pretty much all Japanese T.V shows. The Japanese T.V industry has lots to offer, from comedy to romance, detective to medical-themed shows. Whatever you usually watch, you can probably find a JDrama in the same genre. I’ll give a few recommendations based on what I’ve watched. But first, a quick comparison:

JDrama vs. Anime

I love a good anime, but if I had to pick between JDrama and anime, I’d definitely be in the JDrama camp. Wait, wait… before Gillian leads all anime-lovers in a protest against me (:D), let me make my case. If you’re looking for (mostly) realistic representations of everyday Japanese life, I’d say watch JDrama. Sure, there are slice-of-life anime which tend to be similar to real life, but I think most of the anime I’ve watched feature outrageous or exaggerated characters for entertainment value. Which is fine, but my primary objective when watching Japanese stuff is to see and mimic how the characters speak.

Of course I’m sure most anime-watchers would use common sense and not go around blindly imitating crazy anime characters. But I’ve found that characters in JDrama ring truer than those in anime (depending, of course, on the genre of the JDrama). What am I saying? Can watching anime help with your speaking and listening skills? Absolutely. I just happen to be of the opinion that watching JDrama will give you a more realistic perception of Japanese people, if that’s what you’re looking for. 🙂

Now to the JDrama recommendations…

My Boss My Hero


I started watching JDrama around the time I started learning Japanese in 2011. The first JDrama I ever watched was My Boss My Hero (stylized asマイ☆ボス マイ☆ヒーロ), a 2006 crime-comedy show which I found absolutely hysterical! I would definitely recommend it for fans of silly, light-hearted comedy. 😀

The premise is simple: 27-year-old Makio Sakaki, also known as “Tornado”, is a yakuza gangster who wants to succeed his father as the head of the gang. However he never finished high school and isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. So his father gives him an ultimatum: graduate high school and become the boss, or fail and lose the position to his younger brother. So Makio goes back to school, disguising himself as a regular high school kid. The result? Hilarious!

Watch My Boss My Hero here.

デート – Detto (Date)


Somehow I fell off the JDrama bandwagon, but got back on earlier this year in a bid to up my listening and casual speaking skills. I was looking for something light-hearted and funny, and a quick Internet search led me to find Detto -Koi to wa Donna Mono Kashira (デート~恋とはどんなものかしら), which I reviewed here.

Here’s a quick recap: 29-year-old economics geek, Todai graduate, super-smart yet socially awkward Yabushita Yoriko is looking to get married before 30.  Taniguchi Takumi is a NEET (or as he refers to himself, “educated idler”) and man-child who still lives at home with his mother and is looking for a woman to leech off of by marrying her. Complete opposites, who meet on a blind date. I found this JDrama really, really funny! The supporting characters were also hilarious. Special props to one of my favourite Japanese actresses Wakui Emi who did a fabulous job as Yoriko’s mother.

The whole thing kept me in stitches for a couple of weeks (I’d watch it in the bus on my commute to and from work!). However I found the ending quite disappointing and annoying, primarily because the people who I thought were supposed to end up together didn’t!!! I’ll move on now before I bombard you with spoilers. 😀

Watch デート here.

残念な夫 – Zannen na Otto  (Disappointing Husband)

zannen na otto

I’d classify this as a marital comedy-drama. (Sounds weird, I know. :D) Haruno Yoichi is a good-looking, successful architect married to interior designer turned stay-at-home wife Chisato. Yoichi was the perfect husband until he and Chisato had their first baby Hana-chan. Suddenly everything changes, and it seems he can do nothing right. Just like that he becomes a disappointing husband.

This JDrama was interesting on several levels. First, it featured several family relations: husband and wife, parents and child, in-laws. These were really interesting to watch. Then of course there was Yoichi’s workplace, showing relations between colleagues, and with clients. It also had some light-hearted moments, such as Yoichi’s obsession with the NBA and basketball, and his attempts to make Hana-chan “elite” by teaching her English (hilarious!). But it also addressed more serious issues.

One I found extremely interesting was working motherhood. In Japan, working after having children can be quite negatively perceived by society. Chisato faced this issue when she decided to go back to work after Hana-chan was born. All in all I quite enjoyed this JDrama and would recommend it. 🙂

Watch 残念な夫 here.

I have a few more JDrama reviews/ recommendations, but this post is getting long. 😀 So I’ll talk about them in my next post. Stay tuned! 🙂

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