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Friday, July 25, 2014

DRAMAtical Review - 35歳の高校生 (35-Year-Old High School Student)

35-sai no Koukousei
Also known as:  No Dropping Out - Back to School @ 35
Starring: Ryoko Yonekura, Junpei Mizobata, Nana Katase, Tetsuya Watari
Genre: Drama, School life
Region: Japan
Network: NTV
# episodes: 11
Year: 2013
Theme: Flower Song by EXILE
Summary - Delinquency. Bullying. Absenteeism. Depression. School caste system. These are some of the things Ayako Baba must face as she decides to complete her high school education after an 18 year hiatus. How will she and the class get along? Why the long wait? Will she stick with it this time?

Review -
I love writing reviews for fun. I've done a few on my other blog - MessagesbyTanders (linked in the sidebar). However, this is my first time reviewing a TV show so it may be a bit different from the usual. Enjoy!

I enjoy Ryoko Yonekura's work. I've watched a couple of her dramatic works such as Koshonin and Warui Yatsura but I've always had a soft spot for her comedic repertoire - Seikei Bijiin, Hunter, Monster Parent and Okusama wa Majo to name a few. So when I first heard about the 35-year-old high school student plot, I assumed that it was going to hit the Seikei Bijiin mint: a supermodel-like figure who jumps into a charming high school environment and everybody comes out glamorous. In a way, it was. But overall, it was a totally different show.

Koukousei does have some of the Seikei Bijiin humor but follows the Monster Parent drama. The parents are not the main focus, but they do play some part of the young students' decisions and actions when it comes to their caste system standing. The caste system even takes on a life of its own - just when you think you've figured it all out, another dimension throws your conceptions out the window. I can easily say that the caste system is a character and a very dynamic one at that.

Each episode deals with the ramifications of the caste system and how it impacts the class and Ayako's experiences. The first couple of episodes are introductions into Class 3-A's overall demeanor and Ayako's sudden arrival as a student. The dramatic (almost triggering - warning to the sensitive of mind and heart) scenarios, subdued color tone and even the show's intro tagline and title card give the impression that something dark is foreboding these halls.

I love Ayako so much that if I had a woman like her in my high school, she would definitely be one of my lifelong friends. She admits and lives up to her age difference with the students. But she's not afraid to admit her more vulnerable, "school girl" side even though it takes a lot of time to build that courage. She's a misfit in every sense yet her personality and jack-of-all-trades demeanor is magnetic. Even though she has all of this influence, she doesn't use it as a bragging point nor as interference (unless it's needed). In fact, in almost every single issue the students deal with, she's in the sidelines 3/4s of the time and only points out the distortions when necessary. She wants to have a good experience for herself and her class.

I love the diversity of the classmates and teachers as well. Though we get introduced to so many people at once, almost every single person is rather easy to remember and very unique. There are 9 teachers, 3 superintendents and 26 students. That's smaller than the average US prep school class. Yet it pulls off the community feel of a classroom rather than exaggerating one or two characters.

The situations are very realistic and they are things that students and teachers do face on a daily basis. If Japan was able to export TV shows on an international Asian network, this should be the one show that should be on television screens all over the world. I've never seen a show that demonstrates common issues so bluntly yet feels universal. I can easily say that Koukousei should be shown in high schools all over the country and the world. Even my mother, an educator and school counselor, really enjoyed this and she covers these things every day. If a child were afraid of admitting their problems out loud or doesn't have an adequate description, pointing out an episode or two could give the parents some clue of what's going on.

There are some situations that do seem to go on the end of fantasy even with a Japanese context. Ayako's situation is already a stretch but that's just a plot point. The students' and teachers' reactions to the events is rather subdued. Though the point of the situations is to be noticed, most of the time they are too overly exaggerated. Even some of the relationship developments between Ayako and her classmates feels really farfetched. Most importantly, how did Ayako get some of "the good life" when she couldn't even get past the first hurdle - graduating? The show doesn't even completely answer everything but with a drama like Koukousei it is safe to assume some gray areas.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this one and no doubt a show I'll come back to again and again.

I don't know how often I'll be able to do these reviews let alone if I'll do a set date. But I'll be posting them here. If you want to look at my regular film reviews, check out MessagesbyTanders. I'm planning on reviewing (in no particular order) Sailor Moon Crystal, Time of Eve, Around 40, The Virus, Dr. Jin and Dousoukai later on. I cover some reviews on my Friday morning radio show so something I write on here could be an on-air discussion.

I'm also thinking of including other kinds of review coverage (anime, manga, video games, movies, doujinshi and more). Feel free to recommend some titles and share some opinions. There's only one thing I love more than dramas and that's talking about them.

See you next time! :)

<3 TM

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