Good things about 2016, Part 2 – Best J-drama, Hibana

My list of the best stuff of 2016 continues with my favorite Japanese drama  - actually it’s the only one I watched this year:


At some point in my time here I had given up on Japanese dramas – they always felt so cookie-cutter, constantly covering the same themes and using wooden acting and stage direction.

But here comes Hibana, Netflix’s first original series for the Japan market, to set the bar very high. The mini-series, an adaptation of a book with the same title by well-known comedian Naoki Matayoshi, tells the story of a struggling comedy duo who must decide whether to sacrifice their art’s authenticity for a shot at mainstream success.

Until seeing this series, I might have claimed that the Japanese entertainment industry, with its salaried talent, collusive management agencies, and reliance on rehashing the same content and stars year after year,  was fundamentally incapable of producing a series on par with The Sopranos or True Detective. But in my view this series reaches those heights on all fronts, in terms of a compelling story, realistic and interesting acting and dialogue, and character arcs that make sense.

And the biggest surprise to me was the theme – after years of watching Yoshimoto comedians (like Matayoshi) deliver same-y content for years, never in my life did I think that Japanese comedians considered the artist’s struggle for authenticity to be so critical! (of course that probably says more about my shallow knowledge of the Japanese entertainment industry).

If you have a Netflix account, I highly recommend giving it a chance, especially if you have ever had an interest in the world of manzai. It’s a funny but touching story of friendship and careerism that also has its fair share of wacky surprises. I will be watching the team who made this to see if they have a good follow-up.

 

One thought on “Good things about 2016, Part 2 – Best J-drama, Hibana”

  1. I enjoyed it as well.

    There is a lot of talent (not just “talent”) floating around the Japanese film industry, even in its present faded form. When people have the budget and the freedom to do multiple takes, good things will result.

    You might want to check out the anime “Fune wo Amu” – a salaryman drama also about this blurry space between work, life, creativity, and contentment.

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