Types of Popular Japanese Drama

Written by amy mcnulty
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Types of Popular Japanese Drama
Television broadcasting in Japan started in 1939. (flashfilm/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Japanese dramas are somewhat like TV miniseries in America. Most fictional live action shows in Japan are "dorama" or "dramas" -- limited series lasting usually for 12 or 13 hour-long episodes. Popular dramas can average around a 20.0 rating, meaning that 20 per cent of the people in a region of Japan are tuned into it.

Career Woman

Career women dramas frequently perform well in Japan. The drama "BOSS," which aired in Japan in 2009, features a female detective who heads an entire detective division. She's charged with wrangling an odd team of detectives that has serious flaws.

University of Oregon Assistant Professor Alisa Freedman points to a surge in these types of career women dramas beginning in the mid-1990s. She claims this is especially important following a 1985 law in Japan mandating equal employment opportunities for women. Career women dramas have evolved from the pre-1990s formula of country women moving to the big city to find low-scale work, only to drop out to get married at the end of the story. In modern career dramas, women instead juggle powerful career positions with romance and often deal with the dichotomy of choosing between career and love.


"BOSS" is one example of a drama that mixes multiple types. Besides being a career woman drama, "BOSS" is a detective drama, another popular genre of Japanese dramas. Another example is 2010s "Keizoku," which features two detectives, one male and one female, an aloof and serious veteran and a genius -- but somewhat bumbling -- young novice. The show is mostly sombre in tone but features comedic elements. Detective dramas often tend to be either comedic, dramatic or a blend of the two.


Although other types of dramas may have comedic elements, comedy is a genre of drama on its own. Take 2008's "Seigi no Mikata," which won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Awards at the Japanese Television Drama Academy Awards for both of its female leads. The story centres around a twenty-something government worker who torments her younger high-schooler sister when no one else is looking. Much of the comedy of the series centres on the fact that the older sister's plans actually lead to happy situations despite her wicked intentions.


Romance is another type of drama that can blend with other types, such as career women dramas, but the genre also stands on its own. Romance dramas revolve around high school students, college students or adults in love. "Hana Yori Dango" was one of the top-rated dramas of 2007. The story centres on a middle class high school girl who stands up to the rich boy bullies at her school and becomes the target of the bully leader's affections, much to her chagrin -- at least at first.

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