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Freeter, Ie wo Kau. (English title: A Part-timer Buys a House)

A realistic and sometimes painful portrayal of the toll mental illness can place on a family. Despite most of the societal problems featured in ‘Freeter’ being very Japanese in nature, the themes of sacrifice and familial bonds can be understood universally.

‘Freeter’ is the term used for someone who works only part-time jobs instead of a steady position or a career. This drama is centered around one such person, Take Seiji (Ninomiya Kazunari), who cannot find gainful employment. After his mother falls ill with depression, he decides to take on a part-time job in order to buy her a house in a more peaceful environment.

Last Cinderella

A fun twist on the classic Cinderella tale that tackles controversial topics such as divorce, female sexuality, and birth control with good-natured humor.

Last Cinderella is about Toyama Sakura (Shinohara Ryoko) and her life as she enters her 40s. Having focused on her work as a hairstylist for most of her life, she finds herself single and unsatisfied. Enter Saeki Hiroto (Miura Haruma), a BMX biker in his 20s, who seems to like her despite her age difference. But he’s hiding a huge secret from her, one that her salon manager, Tachibana Rintaro (Fujiki Naohito) discovers and disapproves of…

Kazoku Game (English title: Family Game)

A psychological mind-game played on characters and audience alike. This drama takes on the major societal problem of bullying and presents an extreme solution.

Loosely based on the 1980s movie of the same name, Kazoku Game tells the story of tutor Yoshimoto Kouya (Sakurai Sho) and the violent, unconventional way he makes his students shape up. The story of his past and of the broken Numata family gets more and more convoluted with every episode until you’re no longer sure what the real truth is.

Tiger and Dragon

An incredibly well-done slice-of-life story that manages to be both hilarious and touching at the same time. This drama taught me to enjoy rakugo (traditional storytelling) and it will do the same to you.

Yakuza member Yamazaki Kotora (Nagase Tomoya) is the unfunniest man in Kabuki-cho, and he wants to rectify that. When he goes to collect debt from a rakugo storyteller, Yanaka Shokichi (Nishida Toshiyuki), he convinces Yanaka to take him on as a student. But how do you teach rakugo to someone who can’t even memorize the classic stories?

Saikou no Rikon (English title: The Great Divorce)

Set after the March 11th earthquake, this show manages to be very topical while at the same time weaving a universal story about relationships and shared traumas.

Saikou no Rikon is the anti-happily-ever-after. Following two couples with a lot of problems born from miscommunication and years of silence, this drama presents what happens if people don’t undertake the kind of negotiation and compromise that is necessary for a happy marriage. Life and relationships are messy, but they’re both worth fighting for.

Marumo no Okite (English title: Marumo’s Rules)

Japan has a number of stories about orphans being taken in by foster parents, and Marumo no Okite rises above the rest not only because of its all-star cast but also because it manages to be light-hearted and funny even though there are serious and sad situations.

Takaki Mamoru (Abe Sadao) didn’t expect to end up being a foster father to a set of twins (and a talking dog), but when his dear childhood friend passes away, that’s what ends up happening. He and the twins, Sasakura Kaoru (Ashida Mana) and Sasakura Tomoki (Suzuki Fuku), have to learn how to live together and become a real family.

Ryusei no Kizuna (English title: The Meteor’s Bonds)

Another story about family, but this one is much darker and sadder, about three siblings still trying to get over the grisly double-murder of their parents twenty years later. Still, there is some comedic relief as they become scammers in order to earn some cash on the side.

Back in 2008, Japan still had a statute of limitations on murder crimes, and the statute of limitations on the murder of their parents was quickly running out. The three children, Ariake Koichi (Ninomiya Kazunari), Ariake Taisuke (Nishikido Ryo), and Ariake Shizuna (Toda Erika) take the law into their own hands to find the murderer and bring him to justice.

Nazotoki ha Dinner no Ato De (English title: Problem Solving is After Dinner)

A comedic mystery drama for people who hate mystery and detective shows. So popular it spawned two TV specials and a movie!

Based on a popular novel, this drama follows Hosho Reiko (Kitagawa Keiko) as a rich heiress who secretly works as a police detective — but she and her whole department are pretty lousy at it. Her new butler, Kageyama (Sakurai Sho), is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes: rude and abrupt, but very, very, very good at his job, whether it’s being a butler or solving crimes.

Rich Man, Poor Woman

The story of a technological prodigy and the woman who keeps him afloat when everything goes wrong. If you liked “The Social Network,” you’ll enjoy this.

Hyuga Toru (Oguri Shun) is the young billionaire at the helm of Next Innovation, an up-and-coming IT firm that’s raking in the money and the recognition. Sawaki Chihiro (Ishihara Satomi) is a student at Tokyo University who is doing her best to find a job. Hyuga is ill-mannered and selfish, but it doesn’t stop Chihiro’s fascination with him and her desire to see his rising star continue to soar. Too bad his best friend Asahina Kosuke (Iura Arata) has other plans.

Lucky Seven

A fun detective drama with an action flair to it, it features an ensemble cast of distinct characters. There’s something for everyone!

Tokita Shuntaro (Matsumoto Jun) is a good-for-nothing playboy who accidentally ends up finding a job at a detective agency, Lucky Seven. While each detective has their own case, as time goes by it seems like they’re all pieces to one big mystery, and the seven of them have to work together to solve it.

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