A Concerning Trend in Japanese Dramas

I’ve been trying to get back into watching more Japanese dramas recently. When I first became interested in Asian dramas, it was through Japanese dramas (around 2009). Think of shows like Bloody Monday, Gokusan, Hana Yori Dango, etc. These were what got me interested in Asian dramas in general. But over the years, I haven’t kept up with many of the new Japanese dramas coming out and focused more on Korean and Chinese dramas.

But, in the last few months, I’ve been watching more of them, and I’ve been noticing a…disturbing trope in many of the new Japanese movies and dramas being released (it’s not really a new trope, but it’s new to me).

What is this trope, you may ask? Well, I’ll refer to it as the teacher/student romances. I’ll explain what I mean through two examples.

Chugakusei Nikki and Sensei! … Suki ni Natte mo Ii Desuka?

Left to Right: Chugakusei Nikki and Sensei!…Suki ni natte mo Ii Desuka?

These both came out in 2018 and 2017, respectively. I picked out these two in particular, both because they are very popular, and because they are perfect examples of my point.

Chugakusei Nikki (English title “Junior high school diary”) tells of a romance between fourteen-year-old student Kuroiwa Akira and his twenty-five-year-old new teacher Suenaga Hijiri. Even though Okada Kenshi, the actor who plays Akira, is 19, his character is still fourteen (or fifteen)! I don’t have a problem with the concept itself, but instead the glorification of a romance between a minor and an adult. Just because Kenshi is an adult in real life does not make this drama any less creepy!

Sensei!…Suki ni natte mo Ii Desuka? (English title My Teacher) is a movie which tells of a similar situation, only the genders are reversed. Hibiki Shimada (played by 19-year-old Suzu Hirose) is a high school student who falls in love with her teacher, Kosaku Ito (played by thirty-five-year old actor Toma Ikuta).

The Problem

Let me just say, there is no problem in portraying this type of story in film. I can name numorous examples where it is done well.

Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta (that’s a long title, meaning You Taught Me All The Precious Things) is a 2011 drama about a high school student who develops an obsession with her teacher, who is about to get married. It’s a great drama, and I highly recommend it.

Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta
Poster for Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta

Unlike my previous two examples, this drama does not glorify the romance and instead warns of the danger. It is NEVER APPOPRIATE FOR A TEACHER TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A YOUNG STUDENT!

I don’t know why Japan likes to glorify extremely unhealthy relationships like this. I have less of a problem if the student is an adult (for example, a college romance between a student and a teacher), but a child does not have the emotional and mental faculties to understand the repercussions of their actions. And it is the teacher’s duty to not allow themselves to take advantage of that child.

Not only is the teacher in a power position over the student, but they are the adult! It is their responsibility to set boundaries between them and their students.

What’s the Solution?

What is most worrying to me is not that these movies and dramas are getting made, but that they are influencing young people to believe that relationships such as these are not unhealthy. And it is not just Japan. Korea is guilty of this as well, though I personally find Korean dramas featuring this trend aren’t as creepy as Japanese ones just because of how they handle the romance, but that is just my opinion.

To give you a bunch of other examples, here is a list of both Korean and Japanese movies/dramas which feature this trope.

  1. Flower Boy Ramyeon Shop (Korea)
  2. Close Range Love (Japan)
  3. My Little Bride (Korea)
  4. Himitsu no Kankei – Sensei wa Doukyonin (Japan)
  5. Hello My Teacher (Korea)
  6. Majo no Jōken (Terms for a Witch) (Japan)

And those are just a few of the ones I’ve heard of or seen.

Conclusion

Saying that, I am not in any way saying all Japanese cinema is bad! There are so many amazing films and dramas which do not employ dangerous tropes like this one. I personally believe that no country can do horror better than Japan. And Japan is not the only country who glorifies these types of taboos in their movies/shows.

There are many taboos which are glorified in American television as well. For example, incest (take shows like Flowers in the Attic and even to some extent Game of Thrones). And abusive relationships (I’m looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey!). And I’m sure every country has their own glorification of taboos, so I don’t want to pick on only Japan here.

However, it has been something which has been bothering me recently as I watch more Japanese dramas and movies. It’s a crime to engage in a relationship with a minor, and yet these Japanese movies/shows glorify it to the extreme.

What is a trope you find to be…concerning? Do you agree with my assessment of this trope, or do you have a contradictory opinion? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

7 thoughts on “A Concerning Trend in Japanese Dramas

  1. It seems this sort of pure love trope is common in Janpanese dramas. They have a tendency to show forbidden love. Some are glorified as pure love which is quite ideal while some are really extreme ( and even disgusting). I once read a book on Janpanese culture that said Janpanese culture has a penchant for little, tiny and cute things. Does it have anything to do with the trope?
    And one of my friends told me many Janpanese are living a stifling life with much pressure. Perhaps these tropes are ways to combat boring everyday life? After all, to some degree dramas and movies are a form of daydreaming.

    I think everything can be discussed in books, TV shows, movies and other forms of arts. My teacher said literature is where an author reveal and discuss problems and then try to put forward a solution in an imaginative way. I agree that it’s more meaningful to portray the forbidden love in different perspectives instead of just glorifying it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could not agree more. Everything can, and probably should be discussed in all forms of media. It is a way to examine topics we know little of ourselves, though it depends if it is portrayed in a realistic way, or presents a picture which is not real.

      And I agree that all dramas and movies are a form of daydreaming. We like to live vicariously through a character. And yes, Japanese culture does love adorable, tiny things! I want to learn more about the Japanese culture in general.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Japan also has a long history of pederasty, would that account for part of the explanation? I’m not saying it makes it any more acceptable, but maybe a bit more understandable?

    As for what I find concerning – pretty much every rape trope ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think a lot of it has to do with just how hyper-conservative Japanese culture is and has been for much of its history. In a society as straight-laced as Japan, it should not come as any surprise that tropes like these make it into media. I guess it’s a way to releasing pent-up societal frustrations?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Unfortunately, this is a trope I see sometimes in anime as well, and it’s no less disturbing. The only anime film I’ve ever seen that treats the relationship between student and teacher with any real maturity or subtlety is the film The Garden of Words. It also helps that the film is amazing to look at.

    I think a lot of this can be attributed to…for lack of a better word…the ubiquity of fetish culture in Japan. Discussing fetishes are in their very nature taboo, so making J-dramas or anime about them isn’t really surprising. I think it just is off-putting to foreign audiences because this particular fetish is not really discussed in mainstream parlance. Hell, whenever we hear about a teacher/student relationship in the west (especially in America), our first reaction is condemnation and disgust.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could not agree more! Japanese culture does seem to like fetishes, and I’m not surprised to hear that anime is also filled with this particular trope. In Japan, there is a very different understanding of what is moral. It is definitely a different outlook on life.

      Liked by 1 person

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