10 Underrated Japanese Romantic TV Drama

Updated on August 9, 2019
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Fairlane is a devout Asian entertainment fan. On the side, she is a professional screenplay writer and author.

Are you looking for your next J-drama obsession? Look no further, because I've got 10 of the most unique and underrated titles.
Are you looking for your next J-drama obsession? Look no further, because I've got 10 of the most unique and underrated titles. | Source

If there’s one thing that Japanese dramas do well, it’s romance. They can be funny, cute, serious, or even tragic—sometimes all at the same time. But the thing they do best is romance. Japanese dramas really know how to tug on your heartstrings.

However, the sheer number of shows that are produced and the limited amount of time people can devote to watching means that there are many shows that don't get the attention they deserve. So I've created a list of the 10 most deserving.

Top 10 Underrated Romantic J-Dramas

  1. Zenkai Girl
  2. Koizora
  3. Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta
  4. One Million Stars Falling From the Sky
  5. Proposal Daisakusen
  6. Nagareboshi
  7. Hotaru no Hikari
  8. Aishiteru to Itte Kure
  9. Tatta Hitotsu no Koi
  10. Majo no Jouken

If you still have a few slots left in your watchlist, check them out. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and maybe, just maybe, you'll fall in love (with the dramas).

1. Zenkai Girl

Zenkai Girl follows a recent graduate, Ayukawa Wakaba, who has always dreamed of becoming an international lawyer. She thought her dreams had been fulfilled when she lands a job at an international law firm, but to her dismay, her first assignment is to babysit the boss’ five-year-old daughter, Hinata. While picking up Hinata from preschool, she meets the underachiever Yamada Sota and his son. Wakaba and Sota bond while looking after the children—and Wakaba starts to feel conflicted between the importance of her career and her personal relationships.

Unique Love Elements

Zenkai Girl plays with contrasts; Wakaba is a Type A personality who’s willing to do anything and sacrifice everything just to achieve her goals. Sota, on the other hand, is a happy-go-lucky underachiever who just wants to coast. 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 in the middle and find out what’s truly important in life.

2. Koizora

Koizora starts out with ordinary high school girl Tahara Mika getting kissed without her permission by her classmate, Sakurai Hiroki. She is furious, as it was her first kiss and Hiroki is a renowned troublemaker . . . oh, and he's already dating someone else. She then meets another boy, Tatsuya, who is the opposite of 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. However, the story peels away at the façade and shows why Hiroki acts the way he does, as well as 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 which boils down to the fact that Hiroki and Mika really deserve each other. However, with the way things turn out . . . well, you’ll just have to watch the series to find out for yourself.

3. Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta

The story focuses on two teachers, Natsumi Uemura and Shuji Kashiwagi, and a 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 a girl named Hikari, not 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 issues and struggling with the guilt of cheating on Natsumi, who doesn’t deserve such treatment. Meanwhile, Hikari’s issues turn her into a jealous mess that wants to destroy the couple’s relationship.

4. One Million Stars Falling From the Sky

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. One of his former flings commits suicide, which later turns out to be a murder case. Detective Dojima Kanzo is assigned to the case and considers Ryo 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 depth. 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 his redeemable qualities are revealed once Dojima’s little sister appears in his life.

The series is full of dark secrets and twists—Dojima is not the most innocent character as he is hiding a dark secret from his past, and the series doesn’t reveal whether Ryo is the killer or not until later on. Plus, there’s a secret connection between the three main characters and a twist ending that will make a lot of people wish that things worked out differently.

5. Proposal Daisakusen

Proposal Daisakusen is about a man and 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 to attend Rei’s wedding, a fairy appears and sends Ken back in time so that he can have a second chance to win 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. Instead of Ken trying to weasel himself in between the relationship of Rei and her soon to be husband, time is rewound so that he can confess his love before it's too late.

6. Nagareboshi

Nagareboshi follows an aquarium employee named Kengo and a prostitute named Risa. Both are full of despair when they find each other, and end up agreeing to be wed for convenience.

Unique Love Elements

Nagareboshi is unique because the romantic notes play in a much darker story. Here we have a woman forced by certain circumstances to live her life as a prostitute. She then meets a man harboring a secret he wants to protect. They marry, not because they love each other, but because it would be mutually beneficial. As they start to fall in love for real, they are able to overcome their problems and inevitably redeem themselves.

7. Hotaru no Hikari

Hotaru is a nihilistic young girl who works for a famous interior design company. Contrary to her glamorous job, she is really disorganized, lazy, and would rather slack around at home. By 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 later is ambitious and exhibits a Type A personality. Thanks to the wonderful performances of actors Ayase Haruka and Fujiki Naohito, the disconnect comes off as funny and cute; so it is still believable when they end up falling for each other.

8. Aishiteru to Itte Kure

The story focuses on a young actress living in Tokyo, Hiroko, who falls in love with a deaf and mute man named Koji. This drama was so popular that many people became interested in Japanese Sign Language while it was airing.

Unique Love Elements

Aishiteru to Itte Kure shows that love can conquer language barriers. You have to admire the tenacity of the lovers as they manage to persevere despite the difficulties of their situation. Hiroko, in particular, studied sign language just so she could converse with Koji.

9. Tatta Hitotsu no Koi

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 against the backdrop of Yokohama, Japan.

Unique Love Elements

The show follows your typical “poor boy falls in love with a rich spoiled girl" storyline, but what makes this unique is the setting. It’s not set against your usual contemporary backdrop, giving it a sense of inclusiveness that you normally associate with period dramas. The characters are brought to life by exceptional actors Kamenashi Kazuya and Ayase Haruka. They provide performances that improve somewhat generic romantic stereotypes.

10. Majo no Jouken

A 26-year-old high school teacher gets cold feet before her wedding. Then she meets and falls in love with a rebellious 17-year-old boy. What makes things worse is that the kid ends up being a transfer student in her class, as well as the son of a wealthy and extremely protective businesswoman.

Unique Love Elements

Majo no Jouken is unique due to the complex love story that comes with such an age gap. They have to hide their love and prevent their feelings from getting in the way of their student-teacher relationship. Aside from this issue, they also occupy opposite ends of the social ladder. All you can do is hope that they are able to make their love last, despite all that stands in their way.

Are You Ready to Fall in Love?

Now that you've read about these ten great J-dramas, are you ready to fall in love with one (or all) of them? Make some room in your roster and clear your schedule, because once you start watching these geat dramas, you won't be able to stop!


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    • profile image


      3 months ago

      i couldnt thank u enough for posting this list. Bcoz this post i could find the good jdrama as what i know jdrama are tokyo love story, hyd, last friend only. Moreover, ur all recommendations match with my taste of drama. Love ya!

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      well prodai isnt underrated

    • jdrama profile image


      16 months ago from HongKong

      Give you some other picks:

      3-nen A-gumi: Ima kara Minna-san wa, Hitojichi desu

      Hajimete Koi wo Shita Hi ni Yomu Hanashi

      Good Wife

      Blanket Cats

      Know more here: https://nihofun.com/Drama/teleplay.html

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      some other I could suggest to enthusiasts:

      last friend

      kazakou game

      buzzer beat

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      i believe these should be noted too:

      "the flowershop without rose" and "all about my siblings" and "pride"

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      Been on the lookout for some under rated romance Jdramas for quite a while now. This list is amazing and I have been wanting to see some of these shows since quite some time. You have Tatta Hitotsu No Koi on this list which is a personal favourite but sadly doesn't get the popularity it deserves. After seeing that show on the list I knew straightaway that our choices will be quite alike!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Thanks to this list I watched all of them and OMG aishiteiru to itte kure is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I bawled my eyes out in the end, it's sooo good.

    • profile image

      yunho's admirer 

      2 years ago

      When there is Taisetsu Na Koto Wa Subete Kimi Ga Oshiete Kureta in this list, I agree immediately :) it's so good, it's so complicated, and the actors and actresses played their characters brilliantly. I come to love P!nk's old songs too thanks to this dorama. Gold!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I loved this post


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