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10 Underrated Japanese Romantic TV Drama

Updated on December 21, 2016

If there’s one thing that Japanese TV Dramas do well, it’s romance. They can do the funny approach, the cute approach, the serious approach, even the tragic approach – sometimes all of them in the same series. The main point is that when it comes to romance, Japanese TV Dramas know how to hit you straight in the heart.

However, the sheer volume of shows that are produced and the fact that people have a limited amount of time devoted to watching means that there are shows that don’t get the attention or praise that they rightfully deserve. If you still have a few slots left in your watchlist, here are 10 underrated Japanese Romantic TV Drama that you can check out:

1 - Zenkai Girl

Synopsis

Zenkai Girl follows the girl Ayukawa Wakaba (Aragaki Yui), who has always dreamed of becoming an international lawyer. She thought her dreams have been fulfilled when she lands a job at an international law firm but to her dismay, her first assignment is to babysit the boss’ 5 year old daughter, Hinata. While on her rounds of picking up Hinata from preschool, she meets the underachiever Yamada Sota (Nishikido Ryo) and ends up looking after Hinata and a few other kids along with Sota. This is where Wakaba starts to feel the conflict between her aspirations and what is really important in her life

Unique Love Elements

Zenkai Girl plays upon contrasts; Wakaba is a type-A personality who’s willing to do everything and sacrifice everything just to achieve her goals, Sota, on the other hand, is a happy go-lucky underachiever who just wants to coast by on life. And then there’s Hinata, who represents everything that Wakaba doesn’t like – kids, nursing, and staying at home. Somehow the series manages to develop a story in which they all meet halfway and find out what’s truly important in life.

2 – Koizora

Synopsis

Koizora starts out innocently, with ordinary high school girl Tahara Mika getting kissed without her permission by her classmate, Sakurai Hiroki. It was Mika’s first kiss so she was furious especially since Hiroki is a troublemaker with bleached hair and piercings, and is also dating someone. She then meets the other boy Tatsuya, who is different from Hiroki. This love triangle serves as the jumping off point for a very touching and heartbreaking story the tackles the pain of losing someone you truly love.

Unique Love Elements

Hiroki is one of the leading men but he doesn’t fit the sugary-sweet stereotype commonly found in teen dramas. He’s crass and does not shy away from doing things that could turn you off (even acts that could result in jail time in any civilized country.) However, the story works so well in peeling off the façade slowly, and showing why Hiroki acts the way he does and what he would be like if he had full control of his life.

The drama’s ending is one of the saddest you’ll ever see in the genre. You get an effective build up full of twists and turns, which all boils down to the fact that Hiroki and Mika really deserve each other…however, with the way things turned out – you’ll just have to watch the series for yourself.

3 -Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta

Synopsis

The story focuses on two teachers, Natsumi Uemura and Shuji Kashiwagi, and the young girl Hikari Saeki. Natsumi and Shuji are about to get married in less than a year’s time, but before the school year’s opening ceremony, Shuji becomes involved with Hikari, noit knowing that she’s going to be a student in his class.

Unique Love Elements

The love triangle in the series is complex. Shuji is not the kind of hateful philanderer that other drama series use as their male lynchpin – he truly loves Natsumi. However, he is torn between helping Hikari deal with her own issues and struggling with the guilt of cheating on Natsumi, who doesn’t deserve being cheated on. Meanwhile, Hikari’s own issues turn her into a jealous mess that wants to destroy the couple’s relationship.

4 One Million Stars Falling From the Sky

Synopsis

One Million Stars Falling From the Sky focuses on playboy chef Katase Ryo (played by SMAP’s Takuya Kimura,) who only considers women as playthings and gets rid of them in any way possible when he’s done. One of his former flings died in a suicide, which later turned out to be a murder case. Detective Dojima Kanzo is assigned to the case and considers Ryo as the primary suspect. The story gets complicated when Dojima’s little sister falls for Ryo.

Unique Love Elements

Despite being portrayed as a cunning manipulator, Katase Ryo has hidden depths as a character and the series shows that he’s not entirely irredeemable. After all, he wouldn’t be able to seduce so many women if he’s really completely hateful. Many of these hidden depths will be revealed once Kanzo’s little sister appears in his life.

The series is also full of dark secrets and twists – Kanzo is not an innocent protagonists because he’s hiding a dark secret from his past, and the series doesn’t really reveal early on whether Ryo is really the killer or not until you reach the shocking twist ending. Plus, there’s a secret connection between the three main characters that will make a lot of people wish that things worked out a different way.

5 Proposal Daisakusen

Synopsis

Proposal Daisakusen is about a man and a woman who have been friends since high school; the socially awkward Ken and the cheerful Rei. Ken has always been in love with Rei, but Rei is about to get married to another man. When Ken and his friends gather together to attend Rei’s wedding, a fairy appears and sends Ken back in time so that he can get a second chance at winning Rei’s heart.

Unique Love Elements

Technically, Proposal Daisakusen should be a tragic love story with an unrequited love theme, but the fantasy element turns it around and makes it truly unique: instead of Ken trying to weasel himself in-between the relationship between Rei and her soon to be husband, time is rewinded so that he can profess his love before it became too late.

6 Nagareboshi

Synopsis

Nagareboshi follows an aquarium employee named Kengo and a prostitute named Risa. Both are full of despair and ended up meeting each other, before agreeing on a marriage of convenience.

Unique Love Elements

Nagareboshi is unique because the romance aspects play on much darker elements. Here we have a woman forced by circumstances to a life of prostitution, who meets a man harboring a secret he wants to protect. They marry, but not because they love each other but because it would be mutually beneficial. And then the story allows both to redeem themselves as they start to fall in love for real, while overcoming each other’s various problems.

7 Hotaru no Hikari

Synopsis

The eponymous Hotaru is a nihilistic young girl who works for a famous interior design company. Contrary to her glamorous job, she is really disorganized and lazy and would rather slack around at home than fool around. Through some sort of coincidence, her landlord’s son visits to inspect the apartment she rents, and finds that it is a complete mess. What makes matters worse is that her landlord’s son is actually her boss at work, Takano Seiichi.

Unique Love Elements

Hotaru and Takano are complete opposites – while the former is a lazy slacker, the other is ambitious and exhibits a Type A personality. Thanks to the wonderful performances from the actors (Ayase Haruka and Fujiki Naohito, respectively), the disconnect comes off funny and cute, yet still believable when they eventually end up falling for each other.

8 Aishiteru to Itte Kure

Synopsis

The story focuses on a young actress living in Tokyo, Hiroko, who meets and falls in love with a deaf and mute man named Koji. The drama series was so popular that it led to many people taking an interest in Japanese Sign Language during its airing.

Unique Love Elements

Aishiteru to Itte Kure shows that love can conquer language barriers, and you also have to admire the tenacity of the two lovers as they managed to persevere despite the difficulties that their situation brings. Hiroko, in particular, studied sign language just to be able to converse with Koji.

9 Tatta Hitotsu no Koi

Synopsis

Written by the “Goddess of Love Stories,” Eriko Kitagawa, Tatta Hitotsu no Koi focuses on the relationship between the wealthy heiress of a chain of jewelry stores and the son of a man who runs a struggling ship-repair factory. The story is set in the backdrop of Yokohama, Japan.

Unique Love Elements

The story is your usual “poor boy falls in love with rich spoiled girl,” but what makes this unique is the setting. It’s not set in your usual contemporary backdrop, giving it a sense of inclusiveness that you normally associate with period dramas. The characters are also given life by exceptional actors Kamenashi Kazuya and Ayase Haruka, both of whom provide performances that elevated somewhat generic romance stereotypes into living, breathing people with their own quirks and nuances.

10 Majo no Jouken

Synopsis

A 26 year old high school teacher who’s about to get married gets cold feet before meeting and falling in love with a rebellious 17 year old boy. What makes things worse is that the kid turns out to be a transferee student in her class, and is the son of a wealthy yet extremely protective businesswoman.

Unique Love Elements

Majo no Jouken is unique due to the love story made complex by various conflicts in their stations in life. Aside from the age gap, they also occupy opposite ends of the social ladder and worst is that they have to prevent their feelings from getting in the way of their student-teacher relationship.

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