First off, don’t let the term “drama” scare you away. When you think television dramas, you think Days of Our Lives, All My Children, and other mind-numbing, shallow plot, who’s-screwing-who daytime crap programs. Asian dramas are not soap operas. Well, some are, there are super sappy romantic shows for certain, but I won’t be talking about those. At least, they won’t be the main focus, since they make me gag. The dramas I’m going to be talking about are almost always going to be comedies and mysteries.
In my past life at 1UP, on the at1UP podcast, I would occasionally mention some of the dramas I had watched and loved, like Trick. I was always tempted to talk about more, but I understand asking people to watch a foreign language television drama is pretty daunting. Hopefully highlighting some of my favorite shows and why I enjoyed taking the time to watch them will inspire others to check them out too.
After watching one, you might find yourself really loving the main actor or actress, and wanting to see what else they have been in. Then you might decide to try out those shows, which leads you to find more actors you enjoyed watching, and so on and so forth. That’s exactly what happened to me many years ago, with a show called Bus Stop that aired on a random cable channel. My Japanese was elementary level at best, and the show had no subtitles. However the emoting, detailed setting, and fascinating characters had me and my mother hooked! Despite my struggle to translate (which I did a terrible job with) we looked forward to watching each new episode, even if we were only somewhat certain what was going on. It didn’t matter! That show sparked my curiosity with Asian dramas, and I’ve been watching them ever since.
The first show I’m going to recommend is the Japanese drama Untouchable, which aired in 2009. It stars the ultra talented Yukie Nakama, who was also the lead actress in Trick. I will admit that I am madly in love with her. After seeing how amazing she was in Trick, I started watching everything else she has been in! Trick and Gokusen are probably her two biggest series, and are both fantastic! I recommend them, but today I’m going to discuss a more recent show.
Untouchable follows journalist Ryoko Narumi (Nakama) and her fellow coworkers at a trashy, third-rate gossip magazine called “Shukan Untouchable.” Ryoko had previously been fired from a respectable news publication, and despite the gossip rag gig, she continues to go above and beyond to get her stories. Throughout the series Ryoko is asked to investigate petty claims, such as love scandals between celebrities. However there is usually a different and darker side to what’s actually going on. A shady charity organization keeps showing up with ties to different famous people, and the unfortunate occurrences that happen to them. Each episode furthers the mystery, and each of the characters get more twisted up in what’s going on.
I won’t lie, towards the end it’s pretty obvious who the real “bad guy” is, but the reveal is still great. It’s a very creative story, and despite it sounding rather serious, I would still say Untouchable is a comedy. Ryoko comes into contact with many colorful characters, and she herself has some pretty hilarious banter. The show does a great job balancing the murderous mystery plot with humor. I think if they had tried to sell this show as just a crime drama, the plot would be way too heavy handed and campy. Luckily the comedy lightens the mood, but I still felt the suspense of wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Untouchable is 9 episodes long, and all are easily found with subtitles. I highly recommend checking out this series, especially if you have never watched an Asian drama before. It’s current, the plot has very little crybaby relationship crap in it (no offense to anyone who enjoys overly romantic shows…but I can’t stand them!), the humor is easy to understand (sometimes cultural humor can fly over our heads), and I feel the story is interesting and fun.
I’m hoping to make this column a regular one, where I can recommend some other great dramas. I’ve been watching them for a long time, but I haven’t seen them all. If anyone knows of a great series, please let me know!
You can check out Untouchable on D-addicts!