A Look at 2013: J-drama Edition

Drama ReviewsEnd of the Year ReviewsJapanese Dramas

This year in jdramas.


The must-watch




Watch this if…

  • You are a fan of Mitsushima Hikari or enjoyed Soredemo, Ikite Yuku
  • You are a fan of Sakamoto Yuji’s works
  • You enjoy really heavy and raw dramas
  • You like the human genre

My watching status: Completed
Favorite OST songs:
Haha no Omoi (Mother’s Feelings), Shiori

If I had to describe Woman in one word, it would be catharsis.  Woman is basically about family, loss and reconciliation.  It tells the story of a single mother named Koharu (Mitsushima Hikari) who is raising her 2 children while also struggling with her health and finances.   Koharu learns to let go of things that happened in her past and how she reconciles with her family.   Each episode is very heavy and dark but once I finish watching one episode, it’s like I have this weight lifted off my chest or something.  O_O  It has very slow build-up but it never feels draggy because each episode is just so INTENSE that I’m always left speechless by them.  And every now and then the drama will suddenly unleash a powerful scene that just leaves me going O____O  …….WOW.  Most of these scenes are with Mitsushima Hikari and Tanaka Yuko..and let’s just say that all of their scenes are so wonderfully acted and impacting.  It’s hard to describe their scenes because they always get me right in the gut.  And although Woman is more of a heavy story, I’d say that it is more hopeful and uplifting than say, Soredemo or Mother.  It has its share of despair and resentment but it ultimately will leave me with the feeling of renewal.  I think this is part of why I actually enjoyed Woman more than Soredemo.  O_O  All in all, I must declare Woman as my #1 must-watch drama of this entire year. Don’t underestimate it, because it will suck you in.



Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi

Watch this if…

  • You want to see BROMANCE, bromance, and more bromance between Gyoten (Matsuda Ryuhei) and Tada (Eita).
  • You are a fan of Eita & Matsuda Ryuhei (WHO WOULDN’T BE?)
  • You like quirky, eccentric dramas
  • You are ok with the bromance not being EVERYTHING in the drama.

My watching status: Completed
Favorite OST songs:
Don’t Know What’s Normal (Matomo ga Wakaranai)

Much like Woman, Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi went by rather quietly but it left a lasting impression on me.  It is not necessary to watch the movie before the drama because I didn’t, and it was still easy for me to get right into the story.  Mahoro is a very laid-back, simple story of two guys–Gyoten and Tada–who do various odd-jobs around their city.  I love the ‘lazy’ feel that Mahoro has.   Heh that might sound weird but yeah, Mahoro has this lazy atmosphere which is also quite reflective of Gyoten & Tada’s way of life.

Anyways, the first thing you may notice in Mahoro is the BROMANCE.  Yes, it is awesome!!  And not just because it is Eita & Matsuda Ryuhei together!  😛  The thing I love about the bromance is that it is not forced into the drama.  It is not there just for some obligatory swoony bromance.  Instead Tada & Gyoten feel very natural when they are together and it goes unsaid that they have a really deep companionship & bond.  Also the main selling point of the drama is NOT just that there is always eye candy with Eita & Matsuda Ryuhei on the screen.  Instead the characters of Tada & Gyoten are very ordinary yet charming at the same time.  Oh, and I LOVE GYOTEN!  He is one of my favorite characters of the year, haha!

As for the stories about the odd-jobs (each episode is a different story), I think some were better than others.  For the most part, the stories are all kinda strange..which is what gives Mahoro this sort of off-the-wall feel.  I guess the main word to describe the odd-job stories would be eccentric.  They are not what you would normally expect.  Some of the stories are just amusing, while others are more stark & show us the unexpected sides of people.  So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that watching Mahoro JUST for the bromance or the casting is not enough.  The bromance is great but that is not all there is to the drama.  Of course that doesn’t stop me from spazzing over Tada & Gyoten though. 😛  Oh and guess what, there is also another Mahoro movie coming out in 2014!!!!!!  MY GYOTEN & TADA STILL LIVE ON!!!!!!!  o/o/o/o/o/o/o/o/



Saikou no Rikon

Watch this if…

  • You enjoy quirky rom-coms
  • You are a fan of Ayano Go, Eita, Ono Machiko & Maki Yoko
  • You like quirky humor
  • You are a fan of Sakamoto Yuji

My watching status: Completed
Favorite OST songs:
Yin Yang (Ending Theme Song), Divorce Rhapsody

My reviews for Saikou no Rikon were rather brief so I don’t think I fully did the drama justice. >__<  I ended up watching the last episodes without subs (and I think the lack of subs also contributed to the smaller amount of SNR fans) but let me just say that SNR is totally worth it.  There are plenty of serious scenes…but when I remember the drama, all I can think of is how much Saikou no Rikon made me laugh.  I love its quirky humor, omg!

The main characters in the OT4 are all stark opposites of each other which is what makes them so much fun to watch.  The casting is rock solid with Eita as Hamaski, an annoying OCD guy whom most people hated but I ended up loving…and Ono Machiko as Yuka, Hamasaki’s wife who is bubbly and happy go lucky.  Alongside these two are Ayano Go as Ryo who is like this adorable yet frustrating teddy bear playboy & Maki Yoko as Akari, an aloof cool woman who is increasingly discontented with her marriage.  All these four together results in a lot of funny, awkward and intense moments. HUHUHU I’m trying not to give spoilers but let’s just say, it was a fun ride watching them sorting things out in their relationships.  Also I totally love the unconventional bromance between Hamasaki & Ryo (Omg I can still remember some of their scenes together, they crack me up!!); when the two of them are together they are so awkwardly funny!!

But the humor is not the best part of SNR.  The main reason I enjoyed this drama is that it goes beyond the romance & funny scenes and actually makes an effort to flesh out the characters.  Each character gets substantial development & growth, and none of them feels like a 2D cut-out of the stereotypical rom-com characters.  It is not your usual fairytale rom-com, but rather it shows how 4 very ordinary people fall in and out of love.   Oh, and I highly recommend that you watch the ending MV because it is the best one of the year for sure!!  There is also a SP scheduled to air in winter 2014!  😀



xxxHOLiC (Live Action)

Watch this if…

  • You are ok with the live action having differences from the original manga/anime
  • You want to see a really good live action work wonders on a limited budget!
  • You are a fan of Sometani Shota (if you’re not you shall become one!)
  • You like darker themed dramas
  • You want to see a lot of eye candy (pretty costumes!)

My watching status: Completed
Favorite OST songs:
Aitai (Opening Theme Song)

There is an endless supply of live action jdramas but none of them have blown me away as much as xxxHOLiC has.  If there is one word to describe xxxHOLiC, it would be EPIC.  Everything about it–the acting, the cinematography, the atmosphere–drew me into the story and made me forget that I was even watching a live action.  And yes, even those who have no background in the original manga/anime (read: ME) can enjoy this drama!!  Leave it to WOWOW to deliver us a solid and well-executed adapatation!

xxxHOLiC tells a rather sober and dark story of a young student named Watanuki (SOMETANI! SHOTA!) who is connected to the spirit world.  He gets involved with a mysterious woman named Yuko, who runs a shop that grants people their wishes in exchange for an equivalent ‘price’.  I know it sounds all whimsical but it’s actually a very stark and at times, freaky story. O_O  It is not a horror genre though so don’t worry..even me who wimps out on scary stuff and won’t even touch a horror movie survived! 😛


Anyways one great strength of the drama is the casting.  It is such a relief that they decided to cast more experienced actors (vs. an idol cast) that could do their roles justice!  Some people were iffy on the casting of Anne as Yuko but in hindsight, I think she fits the part of the mysterious sexy Yuko.  I also became a big fan of Sometani Shota after this because he is amazing as Watanuki, especially in all of his ANGSTY scenes.  😛  Another thing that stands out from the drama is the gorgeous costuming and cinematography.  Just look at the GIF’s above and you’ll see what I mean.  Yuko definitely has the best outfits ever!!!  *drools*

Of course my views of the live action may differ from those who are big fans of the original manga/anime, as I had no set expectations going into the drama.  Although the drama makes some changes from the original, I think it’s refreshing to see a live action that has the creative freedom to make its own interpretations.  xxxHOLiC is not a carbon copy of the original which is what makes it fun to watch.  Granted, there are a few parts where it falters but as a whole the drama does a wonderful job of creating the mystique of xxxHOLiC.


The obsessive spazzy fluff



Itazura na Kiss

Watch this if…

  • You are a fan of ISWAK
  • You like shoujo manga
  • You want to watch a fluffy cute innocent drama
  • You would like to enter the crazy fandom of INK!

My watching status: Completed

We all need fluff in our lives, and I think Itazura na Kiss definitely fits the bill!  I was not wildly obsessed with INK like some of the other crazy fans but INK is definitely a very fun spazzy drama.  My experience with INK is one of warm fuzzies and nostalgia, as it reminded me of my fond memories of ISWAK while still giving me a fresh take on the story.  Kotoko, despite her sometimes wishy washy moments and stalkery tendencies, is probably the best version of the heroine because she feels the most real to me.  I could actually root for her because the drama shows not only her love troubles but also her soul-searching and difficulties growing up.   And as we all know, Furukawa Yuki is also quite swoony as Naoki and has great chemistry with Miki Honoka!!!  I’m sure that this drama converted a lot of viewers into raving Yuki fangirls, AHAHAHA.  The side cast is also great, particularly for the second-lead Kin & the awesome mother-of-all-shippers, Mama Irie!  Enough said!!  😛



Last Cinderella

Watch this if…

  • You are a fan of Miura Haruma, Shinohara Ryoko & Fujiki Naohito
  • You like idol dramas
  • You are willing to suffer through the entire drama while rooting for the 2nd lead

My watching status: Completed
Favorite OST Songs: I Can’t Rely on You, 23:59

All I have to do is mention “Last Cinderella” and I’m sure I will instantly get a lot of facepalming and groans from those who watched this drama.  It is frustrating and sucky but OH SO ADDICTIVE!!!!  Even when I was aware that the drama was flopping I was still incredibly addicted to it!  I cannot really recommend Last Cinderella to anyone (SPARE YOURSELF THE SUFFERING..) but I don’t regret watching it.  It got to the point where it was so bad that it was actually fun to watch it…if that makes any sense. O_O””

The plot is nothing really new, it’s just the typical rom-com with a love square–the PERFECT SECOND LEAD who should’ve ended up with the girl, the crazy jealous antagonist who tries to break up the OTP, the playboy who has to seduce the heroine but ends up falling for her, and the heroine who is in her 30’s, single, and basically a himono-onna.  I still love Shinohara Ryoko but I admit that her character, Sakura, only becomes more wishy washy and frustrating as the drama progressed.  Fujiki Naohito’s character of Rintaro is total LOVE and I was doomed to stay on his ship no matter what.  T___T  Actually I think half of the LC fans were bitter second lead shippers AHAHAHA. (me included)  As for Miura Haruma, he tries really hard to be the mature playboy Hiroto but he kinda misses the mark.  He still feels like that kid from Bloody Monday, not some sexy playboy.  Well all I can say is that Last Cinderella tried but I felt it could’ve done way more with its great cast. T_T”


The above-average

This is kinda an all-encompassing section meant for jdramas that I consider above average & watched a good amount of.  Most of these I watched part of but ended up dropping along the way for some reason.




Hard Nut!

Watch this if…

  • You want to gaze at Kora Kengo..IN A SUIT!!!
  • You like a short creative detective series
  • You enjoy an odd pairing
  • You are ok with having math equations/theorems thrown at you in every single episode

My Watching status: Completed
Favorite OST songs: Answer, and this random epic instrumental track that I don’t know the name of LOL

I actually did not watch any fall 2013 jdramas this season aside from Hard Nut! I was pretty much desperate for a current jdrama to watch and so started Hard Nut! per alua’s suggestion.  ALUA WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME!?!?  Now I’m a big Kora Kengo fan and I just watched Hard Nut just to gaze at him, AHAHAHA.  Hard Nut is a very short detective series about a math prodigy, Kurumi (Hashimoto Ai) who ends up teaming up with detective Tomoda (Kora Kengo) to solve mysteries…………BY USING MATH!!  YES EVERYONE, math haunts me everywhere!! ARGH!!  But I admit I was secretly proud of myself when I knew some of the concepts, hehe.  😛

Actually the odd pairing of Kurumi and Tomoda is really cute because the two of them are just so adorable and dorky, AHAHA.  I wasn’t all that interested in the mysteries themselves and mainly watched the parts with Kurumi & Tomoda, heh.  I think a lot of people were busy shipping these two together but I couldn’t feel any romantic vibes between them.  I think it is better that they stay platonic.   I also wish that there had been more character development for Kurumi & Tomoda…the entire drama hints at their pasts but it only reveals part of their backstories in the very last episode! T_T”  I think it calls for a 2nd season…  *wink wink*


Dai Ni Gakusho (Second Movement)

Watch this if…

  • You like those kind of sisterhood stories about 2 best friends in adulthood
  • You like a VERY slow paced drama about reconciliation & friendship

My Watching Status: Watched 3/4 of the way

Second Movement is about 2 best friends who lost touch but reunite several years later.  They are thick as thieves but also have a lot of unresolved conflicts from their past. I quite enjoyed what I watched of Second Movement even though I didn’t finish the drama.   Each episode goes at a snails pace, but I continued watching because most episodes end with a cliffhanger or a big reveal that just made me want to watch more.  The most compelling part of the drama is, of course, the best friends’ hidden past and how they learn to let go of their resentment.  Unfortunately I ended up dropping the drama after the besties finally had their big fight.  I felt like that was the real climax of the story and that anything else after that was just dragging out the story unnecessarily.  I wouldn’t say this is a must-watch as I probably would not be able to rewatch it again…the story is just too long-winded. T_T


DOCTORS Season 2

Watch this if…

  • You like medical dramas
  • You are a fan of Sawamura Ikki
  • You watched DOCTORS Season 1
  • You’re ok with the 2nd season not really doing anything new

My watching status: Watched episode 1, may resume later

I know I know, I only watched one episode but I’m still putting it in the above-average category.  Why? Well I loved the first season of DOCTORS.  I was excited for season 2 but was kinda disappointed when I realized that episode 1 is pretty much a rehash of the first season.  Been there, done that.  I wanted something new and different from DOCTORS but alas.. >_<  The thing is that DOCTORS Season 2 (at least from what I saw so far) is not a bad jdrama.  It is still way ahead of other cliched medical jdramas *cough* CODE BLUE *cough cough*.  It’s just that the first season set such a high standard that it is hard for season 2 to improve or to offer something new to the table.  Of course, Sawamura Ikki is still amazing as Dr. Sagara but at this point, I feel like DOCTORS Season 2 has lost its must-watch factor.


Shotenin Michiru no Mi no Uebanashi
(The Life Story of Bookstore Clerk Michiru)

Watch this if…

  • You are a fan of Toda Erika & Kora Kengo
  • You like suspense

My watching status: Watched halfway

In comparison to Toda Erika’s summer drama, Summer Nude, Shotenin was largely overlooked.  The heroine, Michiru (Toda Erika), is a small-town girl in a rural area that suddenly wins the lottery.  Of course she keeps it a secret from everyone and instead travels to the big city to chase after her lover. (whom she is having an affair with)   There are some elements of suspense and all of the characters, including Michiru, have a darker side to them.  It also offers a bit of a twist on the whole ordinary-girl-wins-lottery because Michiru does not suddenly start living the high life or anything like that.  Instead it’s more about how her life does not suddenly get better just because she wins the lottery.  I think Shotenin is an ambitious drama since it tried to do something different…but the pacing is way too slow for me.  I know I say that A LOT of dramas are slow but Shotenin is REALLY slow.  O_O  Another problem is that it was hard for me to really empathize with the characters.  None of them are cliched but at the same time they are not that interesting. (IMO)

And this is kinda a funny tidbit but actually while watching Hard Nut, I thought to myself that I had DEFINITELY seen Kora Kengo in another drama but I couldn’t remember which one.  While writing up this review I was suddenly reminded of Shotenin and realized that this is where I saw Kora Kengo, LOLOLOL.


The mediocre & the bad




Miss Pilot

Watch this if…

  • You like airport dramas
  • You are a fan of Horikita Maki
  • You like the underdog dramas/dramas where a group of aspiring young people train to become something
  • You’re ok with some cliched airport drama stories

My Watching Status: Watched eps 1-3, dropped by ep4
Favorite OST songs: Every Hero (Ending Theme Song)

I usually love airport dramas and the whole aspirational-young-people-reach-for-the-stars story but something about Miss Pilot was just not cutting it.  Horikita Maki is great as the heroine, Haru, who is very happy go lucky and cute.  But her supporting cast is mainly made up of Johnny actors who can’t really act and most of her fellow pilot trainees seem like stereotypical characters.  Furthermore even though the drama makes a big effort to show the details of pilot training (i.e. it’s not all simulations/animations, it actually shows lots of planes, plane mechanics, etc.)..it also seems to paint the airlines & trainees in an overly positive light.  Sure, it’s meant to be inspirational and all, but I think it goes to far when it implies that the airlines will ALWAYS place the customer & safety first and that training to be a pilot is like the biggest undertaking ever.


Danda Rin

Watch this if…

  • You like the manga or dramas where the main character is an unbending symbol of justice
  • You’re a fan of Takeuchi Yuko or Matsuzaka Tori

My watching status: Didn’t get past episode 1

DON’T SHANK ME, DANDA RIN FANS!!!  I want to like Danda Rin, I really do.   I even considered putting it in the above-average section since I know that the general consensus is that it is an above-average drama.  But for some reason, I just could not get into Danda-rin.  I feel like its sense of humor was not getting to me or something because whenever the ‘funny’ parts came up..I didn’t laugh.  T___T   I wasn’t even amused by Danda-rin’s special ‘growling’ that was supposed to be funny.  It’s not you Danda Rin, it’s me.  >__<


Sharehouse no Koibito

Watch this if…

  • You like quirky rom-coms
  • You like Oizumi Yo-style humor
  • You enjoy an odd OT3

My watching status: Watched the first few episodes

Checked out this drama for Oizumi Yo & the quirky synopsis.  All of the main characters are kinda eccentric which makes the OT3 more interesting.  I also like the concept of the ‘sharehouse,’ in which a few lonely people find companionship by living together.  By the way random fact, I’ve even heard that sharehouses are actually popular with young adults in Japan.  (although I don’t think they quite look like the one in the drama, HEH)  So the whole sharehouse thing is not just something out of a manga they actually have them in real life.  😉   Anyways even though the OT3 is cute and funny and I like the sharehouse concept…something about Sharehouse no Koibito fell flat for me.  Not sure if it’s the pacing or the writing but I wasn’t very invested in the characters and I couldn’t really root for them.  >_<


Goen Hunter

Watch this if…

  • You are a fan of Mizuki Alisa
  • You are ok with the marriage-hunt type of dramas

My watching status: Skimmed through the drama

This is a very short drama at 3 episodes long.  Obviously I checked it out for Mizuki Alisa (omg I love the promo poster!), otherwise I wouldn’t even touch this drama.  There are just way too many marriage-hunting dramas these days. >__< Anyways Goen Hunter attempts to put a more realistic spin on the marriage-hunt process by showing that the main goal is not to find the perfect partner or the one true love.  Rather, the main characters must compromise and lower their expectations to find a suitable match.  I think the concept is good (at least better than the ones where the heroine is always harping on not having the perfect man) but the execution is average.


Dokushin Kizoku

Watch this if…

  • You are a diehard fan of Kitagawa Keiko
  • You want to see eye candy
  • …DON’T……

My watching status: Dropped after episode 1

Thankfully I kept my expectations very low for Dokushin Kizoku because it turns out to be another flop.  I couldn’t empathize with any of the characters and the entire episode 1 just felt like a lot of eye candy thrown left and right.  The lead bachelor made me laugh in some parts but let’s face it, he’s not the kind of guy I’d want to watch for 11 episodes.  O_O””  The bromance is obligatory & forced; it’s pretty much just the two lead guys being all cool-looking as they walk around in their suits.  The story itself is just full of WTF’s…the two guys must get a script draft from a famous writer…but the author flakes out on them so instead…….they make Kitagawa Keiko into a ghostwriter?  Where in the world did this come from?!?!?


Summer Nude

Watch this if…

  • You like idol dramas
  • You are a diehard Yamapi fan
  • You want to see Yamapi paired up with Karina or Toda Erika
  • ….DON’T.

My watching status: Couldn’t even finish episode 1

Summer Nude = beach + Yamapi + Toda Erika + Karina.  Yes, not even for Toda Erika could I finish episode 1. My main problem with Summer Nude is that I could not see past the actors.  It might sound weird but I kept on seeing the actors and not their characters.  It just felt like I was watching for Yamapi, Karina, and Toda Erika and not for the story.



Watch this if…

  • You like the ‘femme fatale’ theme
  • you want to see Nakama Yukie in a role other than Yankumi

My watching status: Skimmed the first few episodes, then dropped.

I was curious about Saki because it stars Nakama Yukie!  She plays the role of Saki, a drop-dead gorgeous woman who targets men and ruins their lives.  Hmm I think this drama was aiming for the suspenseful vibe but instead I felt very underwhelmed.  Didn’t really feel much from the story as it is mainly just Saki looking all pretty and mysterious & twisting men around her finger the whole time.


To-watch / Probably should’ve watched..but didn’t

I have a lot of dramas from 2013 that I either wish I could watch or probably should’ve watched.  Most of them I wasn’t able to watch either out of time constraints or lack of subs.  If anyone watched any of these, please let me know how they went!




I heard that this is a hit drama of 2013!  The thing that intimidates about me is that it’s……….156 EPISODES LONG.  OMG……I HAVEN’T EVEN WATCHED A DRAMA HALF OF THAT LENGTH…….anyways I might do strategic-watching of this drama because there is also ~Matsuda Ryuhei~ in some parts.  😛  (Thanks to the person who recommended this to me!)  Maybe I will get around to watching Amachan…someday…


Meoto Zenzai

Hmm I think I actually didn’t watch any period jdramas this year!  Well Meoto Zenzai is a jdrama that I really want to watch but cannot because I don’t think I could understand any of the period-speak without subs. >_< I would really like to see Ono Machiko in a period drama!!  Also this drama is short so it is not too much of a commitment.


Yae no Sakura

I was surprised that Ayase Haruka’s Yae no Sakura went by without much buzz this year!  Well the reason why I didn’t watch Yae no Sakura is…again..the length.  T__T  Actually now that I think about it, 50 episodes is not too bad but I’m also not a big fan of the taiga genre so…yeah.. =_=   If anyone finished Yae please let me know how it is.  Also I cannot resist but say that Sakamoto Ryuichi composed part of the soundtrack for Yae no Sakura! (Not sure if he composed the entire OST or just part of it)  That is just EPIC!!! Below is the main theme song (first one; the second half of it is the Double Face theme song, EPIC as well!) and the long live performance. (second one; goes ’til about 6:00 but you should still listen to the rest of it 😛 )



Mmmk so Tonbi, I heard it was good but just never really got into the mood to watch it.  I totally admit it, I’m mainly interested in Sato Takeru, AHAHAHA.  I’m not sure I will ever get around to watching Tonbi though.  T_T


Furueru Ushi & LINK

I’m mainly interested in these two dramas because they are by WOWOW.  They seem like they are mysterious and dark stories with some potential.  For LINK, I watched the very first part of episode 1 and I really enjoyed the beginning. But the meaning is lost on me as there are no subs.  T_T I’m not sure they would be as good as Amachan or Meoto Zenzai, hence their lower spot on this list. 😉




*stretches*  This list turned out to be way longer than I expected.  T__T  Well even though I have complained a lot about the sucky jdramas this year, this list actually made me realize that 2013 brought us some very memorable dramas.  I think the best season was definitely the winter season because I got to watch xxxHOLiC, Mahoro, AND Saikou all at the same time!  Nothing could really beat that after that awesome lineup, haha!  I am satisfied with some of the gems that I had the privilege to watch this year although I’m also disappointed in some dramas that did not live up to their full potential.  If there were any jdramas I didn’t mention, please tell me in the comments!  😉

Of course I am looking forward to another great year of jdramas in 2014!  Check out the upcoming winter jdramas list, I can’t wait!  Also if you want to accompany this post with some reminiscent music from this year’s jdrama soundtracks, you can check out my 2013 OST series:

And for a more personal & drama-blogging related 2013 post, you can check out this one:

Anyways thanks so much to everyone who stuck with me this year, and especially to those who supported & encouraged me!  It was a pleasure to talk about jdramas with you all and I hope we can have another great year ahead of us.  I wish you all a wonderful new years!!!!!!!!  😀  And if you be lurking, come on, at least you can emerge from the shadows once on the new year~!  I really do appreciate those who take the time to comment, it keeps me going hehe.  😉


I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
The Pursuit of Happiness: Eps 10-11
The Pursuit of Happiness: Eps 12-13 (Finale)
  • Hey Heisui! Haha congrats on pushing this out before 2014, my list didnt make it lol 😛 I watched one ep of Mahoro some time ago, and it was BIZARRE but adorable (ep 1 was the wrestling story like it was weird) though not that I expected anything less from a jdrama xD I love how weird they go sometimes. I heard Yae No Sakura is REALLY GOOD I’ll check it out once it’s done airing, in need of a good period drama, I realized I haven’t seen any periods this year in any language T_T

    • HI EMSTERZ! HAPPY NEW YEAR! Yeah I wrote wrote wrote as much as I could in 2 days. T__T

      I know right? Mahoro has this really eccentric bizarre vibe to it. Just wait ’til you get to some of the other stories, they get weirder. O_O

      50 episodes, I can do it!! But but I’m not sure I will T_T Maybe I will wait for someone else to take the plunge and see how it goes for them, HAHA. Yae no Sakura looks so epic though! >_<

    • Okay I’m randomly butting in but I saw this and just can’t help it: “aha congrats on pushing this out before 2014, my list didnt make it lol :P”
      –> I’m not even trying – basically just taking my time to chug mine and it’s already 2014 now(!!) :p

  • Thanks for this list! Jdrama is my first love and out of all the Asian dramas I watch it’s still the one that touches me the deepest but with the increasing focus on procedurals and live action it’s getting harder for me to find something I like. I only watched 4 in 2013 [loved Summer Nude & Mahoro (I can’t wait for the new movei!!!!), dropped Take 5 & Shoutenin] and I want to check out more in 2014 so your list is very helpful in narrowing down my choices. =)

    I didn’t notice Kora Kengo till his Hoshi caught my eye in Mahoro and even then I had no idea he was that guy in Shoutenin! Now I’m definitely putting Hard Nut on my to-watch list. Heeh.

    Re Summer Nude. It does get off to a slow start but eventually I was won over by Hanae’s (Toda Erika) character growth and her relationship with Hikaru (Kubota Masataka). Yamapi is just … Yamapi. His character and acting does nothing for me but considering he’s supposed to be the male lead, other characters get a fair bit of screen time too so I was able to ignore him when it doesn’t involve Hanae!

    • Oh you just reminded me of TAKE FIVE. I have to add that to my list heheh. I also dropped Take Five around the 3rd episode or so. I was quite disappointed. >__<

      Omg now that you mention it I guess I also saw Kora Kengo in Mahoro before I saw him in Hard Nut. I don't really remember his character as much as I do for his role in Shotenin though. I guess it's because it was a minor role.

      Surprised to hear that Summer Nude was watchable! But since you watched it for Toda Erika's character..I'm not really surprised LOL. 😛

  • Woman and Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi are still on my to-watch list. (I want to see the MEB movie first.)

    Saikou no Rinkon didn’t quite work for me, particularly the second couple. I don’t understand Maki Yoko’s character taking back Ayano Go – a cheater is always a cheater IMO.

    Loved xxxHolic, Itazura na Kiss (Honoka Miki was a pitch-perfect and oh so endearing Kotoko for me). Loved Hard Nut, which was simple but well done. I felt it was doing its own thing, was well written (I quite liked some of the mysteries) and of course there was the cast. I will always watch anything with Hashimoto Ai, I think she’s brilliant. I thought it was funny some people criticising her performance in Hard Nut (playing an over-the-top character apparently made some people think she can’t act, but they haven’t seen her in the serious movies she’s done.). I also loved Nanba’s character, more intelligent heroines like that would be so very welcome in the drama world. I make no apologies for getting you to watch Kora Kengo 🙂
    I so want a season 2 (I’m hopefully we’ll get it, given how many things were not explored/concluded and how half-ominously the drama ended). I do ship Nanba and Tomoda. I don’t think there is much romance between them (or, rather, it’s mostly one-sided), but there was only one person he felt he needed to call at the end of the final episodes… I don’t think he knew why he did that, but there’s obviously something that connects them. (Plus, how can you not be attracted to that super-brain Nanba?)

    I didn’t get far with Sharehouse no Koibito or Summer Nude either, I did watch Tonbi and thought it was very good. Honestly, I greatly appreciate stories like Tonbi, which feel real, because there are so many dramas that just don’t make sense to me. I don’t mind the quirky, total oddball stories, which are good fun, but then I find there are so many dramas that have a ‘real’ setting but make no sense to me because I just don’t see how people can behave like that in real life (Last Cinderella being an example. And all of those dramas where characters are still hung up on the bf/gf that disappeared/dumped/broke up with them 10 years ago).

    I also watched: Kamo, Kyoto e Iku (quite liked it), Kazoku Game (a few episodes only… still want to go back and watch Kamiki’s scenes only) and Soratobu Kouhoushitsu (loved that one a lot – Ayano was great in that). I’m still hoping we’ll get subs for Nakuna, Hara-chan one day, because the two episodes I saw I loved.

    • I still don’t really get Maki Yoko’s character in Saikou. T__T But surprisingly I liked Ryo. Oh for Hard Nut, I thought that Tomoda called Nanba because she was his only friend in the world. O_O” I need me some more Kora Kengo dramas…maybe I will try some of his previous ones ehehehe. Maybe I should try out Tonbi. I’m kinda uncertain about which dramas to try first >__<

      I don't remember Kamo…I thought Kazoku Game was kinda overexaggerated and I'm sad to say I didn't watch Soratobu. What kind of Ayano fan am I!?!? Oh yeah!! I was surprised that Nakuna wasn't subbed considering it had Nagase in it!!

      • its been subbed. but u have to join the livejournal group of the subbers for downloads.

        also kazoku game was crap. that guy from arashi cant act and was overacting the whole time. was only watching it for nonami suzuka

  • I’ve watched 20 episodes of Yae no Sakura so far, and I love it. It doesn’t feel like the slog that long historical dramas can feel. It feels more grounded. I don’t think I would be so into it if I wasn’t really invested in Yae’s family and their daily lives. But I haven’t fast forwarded through any of it so far 🙂

    • Ok yay!!! I’m glad to hear that you could get invested in all the characters. Does it show a lot of Yae’s childhood or does it fastforward to her adulthood very quickly?

      • Ayase Haruka starts playing Yae somewhere in episode two, but then I did the math and realized Yae is (trying to remember here) something like 11 or 12 at the time. So even though it feels like a time skip because of the change in actresses, I think it was more gradual. I’m introducing a friend to the show now, and I want to pay more attention to the passage of time this time.

        There are so many good actors in this. This is the first time I’ve seen Ayano Gou in anything…

        • Oh I heard Suzukio Rio plays the kid-Yae! Actually I’m glad Ayase Haruka starts playing Yae very early on though..because I don’t really like tons and tons of childhood flashbacks.

  • xxxHOLIC was undoubtedly one of the best adaptations I’ve seen…and I even read the manga 😉

    I, unfortunately, did not watch a lot of Japanese dramas this year. Maybe I’ll blame the synopses. If it doesn’t really sound interesting, I won’t bite even if I like the cast. I did my end of year post, I never do reviews of all the things I watched for some reason, I looked back at all the dramas I FAILED to complete in 2013. The list is rather horribly extensive, but oddly enough I stopped watching nearly 30 kdramas, but less jdramas, but that’s because I watched less this year for some reason…although I blog more jdramas than anything else…

    Anywho, now I need to try to dust off some of your recommended Jdramas of 2013 which was a less than stellar year in drama-land of all types.

    Happy 2014! And may we get some kick butt dramas this year to blog about and gush together over once more.

    • *high five* YAY FOR XXXHOLIC!!!!!!!! 😀 GOOD MEMORIES!

      Well I think you kinda recapped a lot of jdramas this year..even though you didn’t watch a lot of them. O_O Hehe I hope my list has given you some good recommendations. >_< I am so glad that I watched the ones that I put in the must-watch category!

      • lol, after reviewing…I recapped 8 jdramas completely and then never finished about another 8-10…so I guess I watched more than I thought I did.

        I do wonder why I start watching more kdramas than jdramas… *shrugs* I have a goal of watching more Taiwanese/Chinese this year as thanks to your posts, I now have a few I really want to see.

        I would LOVE it if Tiny Times with Ivy Chen finally got an air date. Still waiting to hear about the sequel to BBJX, too, although I’m not really “excited” for that drama.

        • I wonder if there are more airing kdramas than jdramas? Or in general, there are more subbed kdramas available than jdramas? Yeah I want to try to watch more tw-dramas & c-dramas this year. 😀 I hope there will be some good ones! *fingers crossed*

          Wait what Ivy Chen is in Tiny Times? Do you mean the movie or is it the drama version? HUH HUH? I thought Tiny Times (the movie) wasn’t that good. T_T

          • Very true about finding subs for more k than j (or c & tw).

            Ivy Chen will play Yang Mi’s character in the drama version (which I swear was in production before the movies). I didn’t hate the movies…but they could have been a whole lot better than they were.

            • OHHHH. Yeah I’ve heard about the drama version but I don’t think there was ever any air date…not sure if a trailer was released either. Will Ivy’s voice be dubbed? (I think it’s a mainland drama right?) I didn’t really like Yang Mi’s character in the movie. >_> Then again Ivy probably has better crying skills than Yang Mi.

              • Yeah, no airdate that I’ve been able to find, but there are 2 trailers!!!!!!! And one is like 20 or so minutes. You can see them (with some English subs but not full) here: http://www.viki.com/tv/9597c-tiny-time-10

                Oh, Ivy Chen and crying…she is quite good at that…not that she has had a lot of crying scenes in dramas I have scene her in…she is mostly either a very eccentric (nearly crazy) character or she’s…very young and innocent…

                • Ok I shall have to check out the trailers. Yeah because Yang Mi’s character had SO MANY crying scenes. T_T” The problem is that..she wasn’t very good at crying..so I only got annoyed with her character. Hopefully Ivy will portray the character in a better way..

  • Great post! The only 2013 Jdrama I watched till the end was Dokushin Kizoku, but I would rate it as mediocre. I watched the first 3 or 4 episodes of Hard Nut but could not finish the series because there was seriously no chemistry between the main leads and the girl annoyed me a bit. However, I did enjoy gazing at Kora Kengo (but him alone was not reason enough for me to watch the whole drama)… 😀 😀 😀

    I want to try and watch Woman later because I’ve heard many positive thoughts about it from other bloggers It seems like a tear-jerker kind of drama, which is not really my cup of tea but I’ll make this one an exception. 🙂

    • How was the ending of Dokushin? I think the leads in Hard Nut have a kind of platonic-friendship chemistry. I like their funny moments together. Woman is a sad drama but it’s not the kind that tries to be super tragic or anything like that. And despite the sad parts I’d say it has a positive message overall. 🙂

      • The ending of Dokushin was pretty good actually. But it wasn’t really the ending that I had issues with, but rather because the latter half of the series were slow and draggy, almost like a filler until the last episode. By the time it got somewhere, the romantic momentum was already lost. However, I did find the male lead very amusing, with his peculiar behaviours.

        I always turn to Japanese dramas if I need a human-drama that is touches the raw emotions in depth. Woman seems like an explorative drama about family relationships. And I shall trust your words on it. ^_^

        • I also thought the male lead was funny in episode 1 but not so much that I’d want to endure his peculiarities for the entire drama. I also wasn’t into the whole ghost-author part of the story. T_T”

  • no comment on ando lloyd? 😛
    what about kurokouchi? im assuming u dont like dark detective stories. for me, my favorite drama (not the best but favorite)this year was kurokouchi starring nagase tomoya and gouriki ayame. gouriki wasnt even that bad in it. probly cuz she didnt have to act too much in her role.

    the thing i didnt like about doctors 2 was the blatant rewriting of the script by the networks so that they could make a sequel. tv ratings have been down except for doctor or police dramas, so the network told them the writers they wanted to make a 3rd season.

    im assuming u probly didnt like danda rin since it is fantasy and them actually doing something about the crappy working conditions in current japanese working environment is fiction lol.

    • No, no comment for Ando. >_< I do like dark detective stories, they are just hard to find. O__O And what I never even knew Kurokouchi is a dark drama!?!?!? I knew it had Watabe Atsuro in it but once I saw Gouriki's name I never gave it a second glance. T__T I thought it would be one of those typical detective jdramas. Also didn't even know Nagase was in it.

      Hmm well for Danda Rin, I know it's based on a manga and of course Danda Rin is an unrealistic character. So I wasn't expecting realism from it. But yeah, I also felt like it was hard to connect with Danda Rin because she was like this shining pillar of unwavering justice.

      • try watching kurokochi. the summary sounded boring plus it starred gouriki so was about to pass on it but gave it a second look because of nagase. subs are out at daddicts.
        LOTs of people die in the show, every episode someone dies. the main character of the show (nagase) even shoots 2 guys dead in the head in the first episode alone.
        gouriki plays the part of the assistant so acting isnt rly required much on her part and she does sufficient. whats funny is how 2ch actually said she did ok and they HATE her.
        its my favorite jdrama last year. definately give it a try.

        also try watching amachan. the supporting cast is great and the show was easy to breeze through and i dont normally watch asadoras. plus even though its 156 episodes their only really 12 minutes long compared to the hour long dramas.

  • First off, yay to this year-end review! And then… groans, cos you’ve just indirectly added more shows to my already-piling To Watch list haha. Pleasantly surprised to read about xxxHolic – I know nothing about it, but now I’m curious. I’m still soooo on the fence about Ando Lloyd (but my KimuTaku…) but it’s getting in the back burner right now cos my watch order after Heartless City is Woman > Tonbi 2013. So, so curious about Woman and you’ve been pimping it forever! Need to get on the wagon o.o As for Summer Nude, I remember coming across the last five minutes or something of an episode when I was in Tokyo. I thought Yamapi looked like… Yamapi hahaha. Obviously not enough time to make any judgment in that five minutes but I did wonder about picking it up – guess I’ll reconsider after reading your blurb here.

    You didn’t watch that drama which broke the 40% ratings or whatever? Detective etc genre are so not my cuppa so I’m not gonna bother, but I do wonder if it’s really as good as people say/think or it’s overrated.

    Thanks again for the wonderfully insightful Jdrama edition 😀

    • BWAHAHAHA yeah I am ‘pimping’ a lot of dramas. 😛 Especially Woman & xxxholic HEHEHE. Well I’d say you should just try out Ando Lloyd. Some people hated it and some people liked it.

      I’m not sure which drama you’re referring to. :/ There are a lot of detective jdramas heh. I tend not to watch them much since most of them all feel the same. T_T

      • Not sure where to put this ask, so I’m just inserting it here haha.

        Have you watched Future Diary before? Just realized DramaFever has it available (along with Miura Haruma’s latest, damn it now I’ve to watch the latter ASAP!) and I’m wondering if it’s any good?

        It has Okada Masaki haha – not my fave eye candy, but not the worst :p

        • I think I watched a couple random parts of Mirai Nikki back when it was airing. I’m not a big fan of Gouriki Ayame so..yeah I didn’t watch the entire drama. >_>” Not sure if it was good or not.

  • I started watching Hanzawa Naoki out of curiosity after reading about the 40% rating… and ended up marathoning it (it’s pretty entertaining in a madcap slapstick kinda way). imho certainly deserving of the hype! (unlike Kaseifu no Mita which I never could understand why it broke 40%). One of my favourites for 2013!

    I basically watched every show Eita is in, but really fell for Matsuda Ryuhei’s laid-back charm in Mahoro! Not sure if I’m up for Woman, but might just give it a go (I think I only managed to finish Soredemo ikiteyuku just for Eita). Is Eita starring in any dramas for 2014? *rabid fangirl mode on*

    I couldn’t finish watching Summer Nude, can’t quite get into Last Cinderella (love Fujiki Naohito though!), but Itazura na Kiss turned out to be a nice surprise. Watched Dokushin no Kizoku cos I was getting desperate for something decent to watch, and it’s just average-ok (the Yamapi cameo at the end was quite amusing though haha). Maybe I should try Sharehouse no Koibito next?

    Galileo 2 was kinda disappointing for me. I usually quite like Yoshitaka Yuriko but not in this show. I couldn’t remember Kora Kengo in Mahoro at all, but I recently caught the movie A Story of Yonosuke (also with Yoshitaka Yuriko) and he was really good in there! Maybe I should try Hard Nut too!

    I couldn’t get past the first episode of xxxHolic though 🙁 maybe I should try again. I have had the same problem with most live action (honey and clover, ouran host club, Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge etc) only cos I tend to watch the anime beforehand where everything is just more beautifully and artistically done somehow, and I always find that the live action seem to pale in comparison. My bad, really. But in my case, j-anime > jdorama > kdrama.

  • Hi, Thank you for your summary review of J-dramas 2013. For me, there were more watchable dramas in 2013 than in 2012; so I’m quite happy…… Winter 2013 is the season with the most watchable-to-good dramas.

    Anyway, Tonbi is quite good….It’s lighter than Woman and heartwarming. Amachan is 156 episodes, but the episodes are about 12 minutes each without the opening and the story moves pretty fast. if you’re interested, you may try it. It’s a light- fun watch (although for me, It’s still missing something) and the supporting casts are really good.

    If you want to watch another WOWOW drama, maybe you can try Lady Joker, since It’s fully subbed. But, you need to keep your eyes open when you watch it if you don’t want to miss any detail.

    Do you know Carnation? It’s an asadora (2011-2012) with Ono Machiko as the main lead. I don’t know if you can count it as period drama since its setting is in 1924-2006, LOL. It has 151 episodes and I think it’s quite good too.


    • I heard Lady Joker was good too! Maybe I gotta add that to my list! I have heard about Carnation but then I looked at the episode count (LOL) and thought to myself that I’d never be able to watch that many episodes. T__T Are the episodes normal length or are they short like Amachan’s? I really like Ono Machiko though!!

  • This list is super accurate! Woman and Saikou no Rikon were definitely my favourites; the dialogue and acting were both so on point.

  • Please try Amachan. It’s wonderful drama and in top five japanese dramas for me. 156 episodes but only 15 minute for each. ( I skip opening title about 1.10 minute and increased speed play then i can watch them 10 minute each episode. But if you have time not do as me because it will be valuable happy time and you want to have more.)

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