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Japanese live-action TV for snobs/discerning people?

#1
I know there's already a thread for TV recommendations (http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?tid=11801). But I'm looking for something a little different. I'd like recommendations from people who consider themselves snobs when it comes to TV.

I guess I'm kind of spoiled by the current "golden age" of US cable drama, stuff like The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc. I haven't managed to find anything that comes anywhere close to the writing, acting and production values of those shows from Japan.

Admittedly those shows do set a high bar, but even the UK manages to produce some high quality shows (albeit usually with fewer episodes), with a population and economy half the size of Japan's. I pretty much avoid American network TV as it tends to be formulaic and dumbed down, but even shows like House where every episode is basically the same seems better than most of the Japanese shows I've tried. Just checked out Rich Man, Poor Woman after someone recommended it to me and it was so bad I couldn't even make it through the first episode.

Looking at the other thread, someone posted a link to http://www.jdorama.com/topdramas.htm, and GTO (1998) is the #1 rated show. While I did enjoy GTO more than most other J-Dramas, frankly, the dialog was pretty bad, the acting wasn't great and the production values were about on the same level as the kids' TV shows I used to watch in the 90s. It was really only Takashi Sorimachi's portrayal of Onizuka that saved it.

When it comes to anime there are some great, insightful, well written shows. I just watched a live-action movie, そして父になる, which was a well directed, beautifully written and had excellent, naturalistic, subtle acting. There have to be some Japanese live-action TV shows that capture that level of quality, right?

Admittedly this has turned into a bit of a rant, but I'm genuinely looking for suggestions. I'm not necessarily looking for big budget shows (although if it isn't obvious the sets are made out of cardboard it would be a plus), but I'd love to see something intelligently written with quality acting, not the kind of overacting you'd expect from a daytime soap in the US. So come on TV snobs, please hit me with your suggestions.
Edited: 2014-06-23, 11:07 pm
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#2
riskyshift Wrote:I guess I'm kind of spoiled by the current "golden age" of US cable drama, stuff like The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc.
You are missing Person of Interest, which is network rather than cable drama, but it's at least at the level of Breaking Bad, if not superior.

The basic premise of the series is that eccentric millionaire (Harold Finch, played by Michael Emerson) created a machine for the US government, that watches everyone, all the time, with the intention of preventing terrorist attacks. Against all expectations, The Machine also predicts murders that are not related to terrorism, which the government considers "irrelevant". Finch recruits a former CIA agent (John Reese, played by Jim Caviezel) and together they secretly prevent murders before they happen.

Seriously. The acting is superb (and not just Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel, but all the cast do a great job), the writing is pure genius (the series starts as a procedural, but then the story goes more and more complex, and when you think it couldn't possibly get better, the writers surprise you once an again), the music is not just great, but used in a way that turns some scenes into music videos that you just won't forget, and the photography is just beautiful.

It seems Person of Interest isn't as known as it should, and I have no idea why. If anyone here hasn't watched it, give it a try.

Oh, and BTW, there are Japanese subtitles available online, at least for the 1st season, in case anyone's interested.

Person of Interest: 1st season intro

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Edited: 2014-06-24, 12:52 am
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#3
I personally think the NHK taiga dramas are the best quality in Japan.
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#4
Sebastian Wrote:
riskyshift Wrote:I guess I'm kind of spoiled by the current "golden age" of US cable drama, stuff like The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc.
You are missing Person of Interest, which is network rather than cable drama, but it's at least at the level of Breaking Bad, if not superior.
...
Oh, and BTW, there are Japanese subtitles available online, at least for the 1st season, in case anyone's interested.
In my experience when a good show does exist on network TV it usually gets meddled with by idiotic TV execs (e.g. Twin Peaks) and it gets crappy quickly or it gets cancelled (e.g. Twin Peaks again, Arrested Development) after a couple of seasons. Anyway, I'm mostly hoping to watch shows with Japanese audio to improve my listening skills. I'm trying to avoid starting any new English-language shows because I'd rather spend the time watching a new anime in Japanese (or hopefully even a J-Drama if I can find a good one to watch).

Womacks23 Wrote:I personally think the NHK taiga dramas are the best quality in Japan.
Do you have any particular recommendations?
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#5
竜馬伝 is pretty good.

http://www9.nhk.or.jp/taiga/
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#6
Generally, I avoid the ones with horrifyingly hammy acting unless it has real comical value (see Hana Yori Dango - hilarious) but judging on the US dramas you like I'll recommend one on my plan to watch list:

カラマーゾフの兄弟
‘Karamazov no Kyodai’ is a psychological suspense drama based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s last novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov’.

Set in present-day Japan, three brothers are being suspected of having killed their father, Kurosawa Bunzo. Before his death, Bunzo ordered his three sons back home in order to have an important family council. The police is convinced that the three brothers must have been tormented by their greedy father and that this family council must have been the reason for the murder. However, the second son Isao declares that the origin of the murder could be the Kurosawa family itself.

The whole truth is gradually coming to light as the three brothers are being driven into a corner. Aside from exploring the psychology of the three brothers, the whole story is also set within the context of a political chaos and a disparate society, similar to Dostoyevsky’s original.

My drama list: http://mydramalist.com/5977-karamazov-no-kyodai

A few scenes to sample: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xx1z3w_...shortfilms

Downloads: http://doramax264.com/17614/karamazov-no...rama-2013/

Japanese subs: Couldn't find any...
English subs: http://www.d-addicts.com/forum/viewtopic_127061.htm
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#7
Also, try Ikebukuro West Gate Park (its on youtube). Stick with it for at least two episodes if you can before you judge it. Really good quality drama I think.
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#8
you won't find anything on japanese tv that could compare to 'the wire' or 'deadwood' in terms of writing and directing quality.
also, snobs don't watch tv, they watch movies. you should just stick to films, because japanese tv sucks.

riskyshift Wrote:When it comes to anime there are some great, insightful, well written shows. I just watched a live-action movie, そして父になる, which was a well directed, beautifully written and had excellent, naturalistic, subtle acting. There have to be some Japanese live-action TV shows that capture that level of quality, right?
the guy who did そして父になる, hirokazu kore-eda, directed tv drama called going my home, so you could check that out.

more, kiyoshi kurosawa, also a famous director in japan, did five-part mini-series penance.
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#9
umetani666 Wrote:you won't find anything on japanese tv that could compare to 'the wire' or 'deadwood' in terms of writing and directing quality.
also, snobs don't watch tv, they watch movies. you should just stick to films, because japanese tv sucks.
This is completely not true. OP it depends what kind you're looking for, but I could give you a list of high quality stuff.
Edited: 2014-06-24, 6:38 am
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#10
ryuudou Wrote:
umetani666 Wrote:you won't find anything on japanese tv that could compare to 'the wire' or 'deadwood' in terms of writing and directing quality.
also, snobs don't watch tv, they watch movies. you should just stick to films, because japanese tv sucks.
This is completely not true. OP it depends what kind you're looking for, but I could give you a list of high quality stuff.
I'd like a list then. The few dramas I watched were like 90's soap operas. Cheap, boring, and terribly acted.

If you could recommend some tv shows that can compare to what is currently on air on HBO and AMC, then I'm game. Something with a storyline would be nice, none of that high school / hospital episodic sh*t.
Edited: 2014-06-24, 6:52 am
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#11
Just look for the dubs online, all the shows except Breaking Bad are available in Japanese.
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#12
Oh that's a good idea, never thought of that... thanks !
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#13
I second the カラマーゾフの兄弟 recommendation, but even that is often contrived and nowhere near what the premise would've allowed it to be. In general, you won't find good Japanese dramas. Watch カラマーゾフの兄弟 just to get an idea of what the best you could hope for is.

The anime series, on the other hand, are often very interesting. They are of course a different medium than live action, with different kinds of limitations, so there's no way to directly compare anime to American cable shows. But they can be just as creative, and with plots and ideas that are just as interesting.
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#14
Stansfield123 Wrote:The anime series, on the other hand, are often very interesting. They are of course a different medium than live action, with different kinds of limitations, so there's no way to directly compare anime to American cable shows. But they can be just as creative, and with plots and ideas that are just as interesting.
This. Tons of great stuff. Anime and manga seems to be where Japanese pop culture shines the most these days.
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#15
ryuudou Wrote:
umetani666 Wrote:you won't find anything on japanese tv that could compare to 'the wire' or 'deadwood' in terms of writing and directing quality.
also, snobs don't watch tv, they watch movies. you should just stick to films, because japanese tv sucks.
This is completely not true. OP it depends what kind you're looking for, but I could give you a list of high quality stuff.
I've love to see a list, I don't particularly care about genre or anything. I know there isn't likely to be anything like the US shows I listed, because no one else in the world is really making TV quite like that right now, but I just want something that isn't so bad that I can't maintain my suspension of disbelief.

Linval Wrote:
Stansfield123 Wrote:The anime series, on the other hand, are often very interesting. They are of course a different medium than live action, with different kinds of limitations, so there's no way to directly compare anime to American cable shows. But they can be just as creative, and with plots and ideas that are just as interesting.
This. Tons of great stuff. Anime and manga seems to be where Japanese pop culture shines the most these days.
Yeah, I already watch quite a lot of anime. I just don't get why the quality of (some) anime doesn't translate over to J-dramas. Just a cost thing?
Edited: 2014-06-24, 12:04 pm
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#16
Some people might consider me a snob but I enjoyed Saikou no Rikon and Amachan. Neither of them are hard boiled dramas with lives in danger. They're both more of a comedy but I consider them both well written and well worth a watch.

Regarding the production value of Japanese TV, I have heard from people involved in advertising that there isn't nearly as much money in the Japan TV market as there in the US. Also, I don't know that there is much of a foreign market for Japanese TV. I know that there is some interest for certain shows in China, Taiwan, and Korea, but my overall impression is that there isn't very much money in Japanese TV overall compared to the US, unfortunately.
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#17
http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?p...#pid114588

I don't really watch much TV, but when I quickly Googled the a few of the shows you liked to see what they were about, the common thing about them seemed to be serious, dark themes. You might want to check out the thread above then.

Unfortunately I haven't checked any of the ones in that thread out myself yet, but some are on my to watch list. I'm pretty much in the same boat as the OP. I would love to watch a drama like Ghost in the Shell, Psycho-Pass, Fate/Zero, Kino no Tabi, etc but dramas seem to go for more of a wacky comedy style...
Edited: 2014-06-24, 2:08 pm
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#18
A kind-of suggestion in the final paragraph.
riskyshift Wrote:Yeah, I already watch quite a lot of anime. I just don't get why the quality of (some) anime doesn't translate over to J-dramas. Just a cost thing?
Probably cost and consumer interest. While plenty of non-geeks watch anime, the majority of the consumers (and the people who will buy the merchandise) are fans of the medium or completely obsessed (after watching anime as long as I have, you realize it's all one big marketing scheme and go back to games, manga, and books). Live-action dramas and film don't seem to have as big of a following in Japan, unless they are Western; there's also less money from merchandise, since the majority of viewers aren't going to be the kind to buy extra crap, since they aren't also the kind to stay up until two in the morning to watch an episode.
Basically, it's not as profitable, so they won't spend a lot of money on it, since no one really cares.

And, real quick, I have to point out something:
riskyshift Wrote:I guess I'm kind of spoiled by the current "golden age" of US cable drama, stuff like [...] Game of Thrones [...]
You had me until that: if you think Game of Thrones is top quality... It's irrelevant to the topic, so I'll just say that the entire thing (the show, that is) is written to make money and nothing more. And yes, I did form my opinion through my own experiences.

As for things you'll like (finally getting here), I can't recommend anything live-action. I've yet to find a live-action drama that I like or could watch enough of to form an opinion. Saying that, I was trying to watch 'Trick', but couldn't find much in the way of *ahem* 'previews' with which to form an opinion on the writing, but the camera work and acting probably aren't up to your standards, judging from what I've seen; it might be worth looking at, though.
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#19
EDIT: These aren't live-action shows.

I'm a 19/yo male studying EE. I don't find Japanese dramas worse than American nor British shows. Just different. Maybe I've gotten accustomed after watching many hundred hours of J-drama.

Here's a few of the many i enjoyed:

http://mydramalist.com/568-summer-snow
http://mydramalist.com/2662-soredemo-ikite-yuku
http://mydramalist.com/7125-hanzawa-naoki
http://mydramalist.com/98-my-boss-my-hero
http://mydramalist.com/145-jin
http://mydramalist.com/418-engine
http://mydramalist.com/6068-kazoku-game
http://mydramalist.com/32-nodame-cantabile

I find that the writing for Japanese dramas is often quite good. The market definitely isn't as big as in the US. I think you should search for some dramas with a story that u might find interesting Smile
Edited: 2014-06-24, 2:29 pm
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#20
sholum Wrote:if you think Game of Thrones is top quality... It's irrelevant to the topic, so I'll just say that the entire thing (the show, that is) is written to make money and nothing more.
Making money does not preclude quality. Anyone who thinks otherwise is unlikely to make anything regardles of quality.
Edited: 2014-06-24, 3:04 pm
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#21
sholum Wrote:
riskyshift Wrote:I guess I'm kind of spoiled by the current "golden age" of US cable drama, stuff like [...] Game of Thrones [...]
You had me until that: if you think Game of Thrones is top quality... It's irrelevant to the topic, so I'll just say that the entire thing (the show, that is) is written to make money and nothing more. And yes, I did form my opinion through my own experiences.
I do have some problems with Game of Thrones, especially the dialog sometimes (and frankly seeing a crowd of brown people pouring adoration on this young blond white woman who just freed them for slavery was a incredibly cringeworthy! Talk about a white saviour complex), but most of the acting and direction is good, if you ignore Peter Dinklage's accent which seems to waver between England and posh Scottish and some of the weaker child actors. It is undoubtedly one of the highest quality dramas in production even with its problems. I actually don't think Breaking Bad was as good as some people think either, but including my criticism of the current crop of US dramas wasn't really relevant to my post about looking for Japanese content.
Edited: 2014-06-24, 4:08 pm
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#22
American (and some British) shows are very popular in Japan too, which may discourage Japanese drama writers from trying to match them.

The NHK dramas are very high production quality (at least the recent ones) but the quality of story tends to vary. Also they are one of the hardest forms of Japanese entertainment to understand because of the large number of historical people and unfamiliar situations, and the pseudo-archaic/dialectical speaking style that is always used in them.

But if you're looking for something at the level of Breaking Bad you probably won't find it (of course, very few American shows are even the equal of Breaking Bad.)
Edited: 2014-06-24, 4:14 pm
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#23
riskyshift Wrote:Yeah, I already watch quite a lot of anime. I just don't get why the quality of (some) anime doesn't translate over to J-dramas. Just a cost thing?
Same issue you pointed out with American network TV, I suppose. Same issue big budget American movies have, and why they almost always suck: far less creative freedom for the people who make them. The TV dramas have to always either be procedurals or have soapy, cliched storylines (both on US networks and in Japan), and the movies are all either superheroes/happy ending and/or some predictable political message. The comedies, with small exceptions, even worse.

Manga authors (most anime are just manga adapted for TV) and anime creators on the other hand are pretty much free to do whatever they want.

Btw., you should really check out Hannibal, on NBC. I swear, it's almost like NBC decided to out-cable the cable networks on this one, and just let the creators loose. It looks like nothing on network TV, or even cable. Plus, it's only two short (13 episode) seasons.
Edited: 2014-06-24, 5:00 pm
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#24
The Long Goodbye (with Asano Tadanobu as Philip Marlowe)
坂の上の雲 (most expensive Japanese TV drama)
風林火山 (my favorite NHK Taiga drama)

And I second Penance/贖罪 by Kurosawa Kyoshi. And if you like the drama, check out his movies (i.e. Cure). He's one of my favorite current movie directors.

Or maybe you should just watch Japanese movies. They make some of the best movies in the world and have a rich and long cinematic history.

You mentioned そして父になる. As you seem to enjoy that one, I'm sure you would enjoy most of his other movies. Or movies by Ozu. Or Yamada Yoji. Or Nobuhiro Yamashita.
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#25
riskyshift Wrote:In my experience when a good show does exist on network TV it usually gets meddled with by idiotic TV execs (e.g. Twin Peaks) and it gets crappy quickly or it gets cancelled (e.g. Twin Peaks again, Arrested Development) after a couple of seasons.
Person of Interest is different. It breaks the mold and it was renewed for a 4th season (starting on September) after an astounding finale for it's 3rd season.

It will blow your mind if you give it the chance.

Quote:Anyway, I'm mostly hoping to watch shows with Japanese audio to improve my listening skills.
Guess what?

There's a japanese dub version available on Niconico Douga. Here you can watch the first episode:

パーソン・オブ・インタレスト (犯罪予知ユニット)
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