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

14 thoughts on “A Concerning Trend in Japanese Dramas

  1. I don’t really see the problem with it as long as the teacher isn’t forcing the student then it’s perfectly fine for them to be together. It’s basically free love as long as they both consent then they should be together. It’s nothing bad or wrong it’s just a cultural difference in a lot of other countries (Japan and China). These things certainly aren’t out of the ordinary (but not super common either). Look at it like this if people spend a lot of time together 9 months out of the year for 3 or 4 years they are bound to fall in love right?

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  2. I forgot to mention something : I find it very ridiculous that we live in a world that permits lesbian and gay relationships and marriage – which I believe are abnormal relations and against nature – yet when it comes to man and woman – which is the nature- it forbidds the relation just due to age gap !! How Ironic

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    1. Well, I won’t comment on lesbian and gay relationships, but I think there is a big difference between what two consenting adults do (adults as in their brains are fully formed, which doesn’t happen until a person is about 21) and a sexual relationship between a 12 year old and 28 year old. Saying that, I have no issue with couples who have a wide age gap (many people in my own family were a decade or more apart when they married), but the issue is more between a child who cannot truly consent and an adult.

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  3. There’s a more recent one that takes it a step further: a 17-year old student falling for a 40-year old man. I believe it was originally an animé or manga. Not sure how that story ended, but the popularity of these dramas could be due to the “younger women and older man” romance culture. And while that trope pairing isn’t necessarily problematic, animé, manga, and live action tends to exaggerates it in that it becomes too much and disturbing.

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  4. 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.

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    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.

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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?

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  7. 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.

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    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.

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      1. Glad to find that another person have noticed the same as me..I found really weird that they keep making these drama abt student/teacher relationships..may be it’s something abt their culture as the comments here said..but let me give another point of view on the topic : I realize very clearly that should be boundaries bet teacher and a student but I asked my self also ; who invented these words : minor,,adult ? and why should one called an adult only if he became 18 ? is it becoz our growth stops there ? does that mean that a man -yeah a man – from 15 or even 14 and up can’t get a woman pregnant if he had a relationship with her ?? it’s maybe weird to say this in our age but give it thought ! in old ages even kings and queens tend to get married at a young age ? so why not a relationship ? is becoz the barrier of respect that should be there bet a student and a teacher?? again why 18 to be an adult ? why the word “minor” ? didnt we invent these words ??
        I know my comment sounds weird and freak but it give it a Thought

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        1. I have given most things thought, because I’m a history major. I suppose I look at it from the psychological perspective. I’m not an expert on the topic, but long ago (1) people didn’t live as long so they needed to marry younger and (2) life was simpler so there were not as many societal complexities to effect someone that age. There are some places around the world even now who engage in child marriages (a disturbing tradition, in my opinion, but I won’t get off topic). One of the issues specifically with teacher/student relationships is that (I believe I mentioned this in my post) a teacher is in a power position over the student, making the bound between them dangerous both because of difference in age and in societal status. There are some psychological studies about the long-term psychological impact on young people when they engage in sexual relationships with someone older. Often times it can negatively impact all their relationships for the rest of their life. So I definitely stand by my original point that relationships between teachers and students is not good, whether the student in 12 or 18.

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