Dramas about divorce and
air control – a strange pairing
but worth comparing
I started watching this Japanese comedy drama online a month ago – about a young couple who divorce but continue living together. A very funny and enjoyable piece of television I must say. The two main characters are brilliant. There`s another couple linked to them that are quite a pairing themselves but I won`t say anymore because I`m only about five episodes in and other people who do know it might not have got that far yet. I`m not going to give the name nor am I going to say where I found it in case the `internet swat team` go and look it up and then take it off line because it shouldn`t be on there (one series I used to watch, not a Japanese one, was closed down by the エフビアイ no less). But you`ll know if you find it what I`m talking about. It`s hard to think of an equally good show to compare it against but if other Japanese shows follow the lead of this one, they`ll do ok.
Before I get onto the one about air control, there was another drama I watched, last year, about 2 women sharing an apartment and their views of marriage. One, in her 40s, was committed to her view that she didn`t need to get married and that she was married to her job. I don`t think it`s ever healthy to be married to your job, however much you love it, but at least she didn`t succumb to pressure about actual marriage. The other one was trying to be independent but kept faltering because of various things her family members were saying to her about her not being married in her mid-30s (and still only being a contract worker as well which doesn`t seem to give you much job security in Japan). The guys in this are a bit lame and have problems getting their act together. It was nice to see the situation where the first woman didn`t mind not getting married. Well, at first because then she kind of let her convictions fall by just falling into a relationship with this college lecturer because they both happened to be single at a certain `late` time in their lives(their 40s). So why create this role at all if she wasn`t going to stick with it? Probably to show that life doesn`t go as you expect it to – best laid plans and all that. The 30 something year old annoyed me in this one and her colleague in the travel agency really got on my nerves.
I was watching another drama for a while but it`s also finished up now. In comparison to the others, I do wonder how I managed to watch the whole lot because it`s so cheesy with their `here`s the moral of the story for today …./let`s all work together …` monotony. It`s about air traffic controllers (and as far from Pushing Tin as you can imagine). There was a bit of that `moral of the story` thing going on in the one I just described above, but it wasn`t as full on as it was in this one. It`s quite condescending to the audience, this air-control one. And the opening credits sequence is baffling.
If you want to watch a tv show to help your casual Japanese, I would definitely recommend the first show here as it has a good mixture of slang and language you might use among your family and friends to take the mickey or whatever and it shows Japanese people being completely blunt with each other and not hiding their true feelings or thoughts. The other one about marriage (or not) had a good bit of formal language but overall it was informal as well and easy enough to follow language wise. True, the air-control drama is set in a serious work place so it would be formal language anyway (apart from all that air traffic control jargon which they speak with, sometimes, not very well pronounced English I must add) and you have to act a certain way in the workplace. However, as they don`t show any sense of humour (inside the tower, that lack of humour is allowed of course), and the characters are a tad irritating, it might be good to watch this if your Japanese is only going to be used in academia or the workplace (don`t worry – I`m not insinuating anything about the people in Japanese academia or Japanese workplaces). Not in daily life with family and friends. Even the few personal conversations in this seem stilted and formal (though that could be the fault of the actors involved). Of course, you`d have to be really well settled into Japan to be speaking with your Japanese friends (and family if you happen to marry into one and then it might not be a very happy marriage given the context) the way people do in the first and second drama I`ve described above, but I`m sure you get my drift.
So yeah the two shows about marriage and divorce are helpful if you want to concentrate on casual Japanese (and watch a good show at the same time, in the case of the first one), though the one about the divorced couple contains a lot of slang and rather heavy accents so the subtitles do help more. The other is for formal work language (with a smattering of straightforward language we hear used in the few personal interactions between the main character and her ex-boyfriend).
I have to say to any students of Japanese that there is bound to be a drama out there that will suit you (and hopefully is not so-so but really good like the one about divorce) and that Japanese results at university, or even the JLPT and other tests, aren`t the be all and end all of the whole learning process. Like I said elsewhere, I do like my book Read real Japanese (over any boring textbook) and though I still make notes of certain grammar from each story (that`s part of the design, it would only be a real collection of Japanese short stories if it had no grammar explanations or a dictionary at the back!!), I still try to enjoy the actual stories by these talented writers. These dramas on the other hand are mostly for enjoyment. On that note, I appreciate the work of fan subbers out there who make them accessible to others.