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14 Japanese TV Series You Must Watch, Part 1

Updated on September 29, 2019

Even more than Korea, Japan has produced some of the most unique TV series in the history of international entertainment. Many of these have actually “inspired” Hollywood movies and/or TV series. Yet, no one has done it as well as the Japanese. It has something to do with their culture. Their entertainment industry has been very good in capturing Japanese contemporary and classic culture and translating that into narratives.

The result is a beautiful fusion of art and how it reflects reality.

Below are some of the Japanese TV series I recommend. By the way, Korea should start getting these shows. This is in no particular order.

1 Nobuta Wo Produce

An iconic scene from 'Nobuta Wo Produce'
An iconic scene from 'Nobuta Wo Produce'


Shuji Kiritani, the popular guy in school, teams up with another guy, Akira Kusano, to turn the often-bullied Nobuko Kotani to a popular guy as a testimony of his youth. What starts out as a mere attempt to do something different in their high school turns into an epic friendship as they get to know each other in depths they don’t reveal to anyone.

Why You Should Watch It

Unlike other shows that carry the theme of friendship, this one does not muddle it with a love story. Although there are hints that certain characters have romantic feelings for others, the characters choose to sacrifice their romantic emotions as it would subsequently affect their friendship. This is often referred to as UST (Unrequited Sexual Tension) by Japanese viewers. As a result, you see a story where real love is depicted without lust or unreasonable desire of possession. It is purely about friendship and how, in its truest form, can help people become better versions of themselves.

2 GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka)


Eikichi Onizuka wanted to become a teacher, originally, to sleep with the mothers of the students. When he gets assigned to handle a class that has driven one teacher to suicide, another to join a cult and another to a nervous breakdown, he learns something about himself and that he actually feels genuine concerns about other people. This leads him to use his own brand of teaching to break through the students one by one and make a difference in their life as they do on his.

Why You Should Watch It

Although ‘To Sir With Love’ and ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ remains to be the best teacher-student story for me, GTO is a strong third-placer. It also has unique elements that sets it apart from the other two:

  1. the teacher, Onizuka, comes from a shady background being an ex-gang member
  2. the show employs strategies that may be called “illegal” in delivering the lessons
  3. the transitions and growth of the characters don’t happen through leaps and bounce which make it more relatable, characters change gradually

3 Boku to Kanojo to Kanojo no Ikiru Michi


Tetsuro Koyanagi is a hardworking husband who takes pride in his happy home life with his wife and 7-year-old daughter, Rin. One day, his wife leaves with no explanation. Left to take care if Rin, he realizes that he doesn’t know anything about his daughter and how to run his house. Depressions strikes him and an unlikely “hero” rescues him, his daughter Rin.

Why You Should Watch It

There are several things that make this drama a stand-out

  1. It comes from a male perspective, a traditional Japanese man at that
  2. The audience are forced to face with the possibility that life-altering events may happen
  3. The kid was not treated like an adult as movies and tv series tend to do. Her thoughts and action remain that of a kid which make everything more realistic and relatable

4 Hanamura Daisuke


Hanamura Daisuke was hired by a big firm to handle small cases or non-prominent ones. Daisuke knew that he is being looked down by other lawyers but he decides to make the most of the situation and do what he can to resolve the cases. Using his ability to improvise, he uses uncanny and borderline weird to win his cases.

Why You Should Watch It

This is the first Asian TV series that successfully portrayed the Japanese legal system with a comical treatment but that’s not the only reason:

  1. The series is faithful the legal system. The details about the legal system are pretty accurate and they found a way on how to use actual laws and practices to create funny situations
  2. The lead character is a loser but not in that pathetic kind of way. His character reminds of me of Shia LeBouf’s character in Transformers, a loser with a fighting spirt
  3. The cases are realistic cases, ones that you think can actually happen to your or someone you know but they managed to put in funny elements by putting in tiny funny details that don’t distract you from the story but make it funny

5 Himitsu No


A female magazine editor, insecure of her abilities and talents, is tasked manage a successful cartoonies by the name of Yuriko Hanazono only the find out that Yuriko is a penname and persona used by four brothers who has to act out the stories for them to write. As she gets sucked into the world of the four brothers, she rediscovers herself, life and happiness.

Why You Should Watch It

Many call this Hanayori Dango with depth. Although I agree that it has depth, it is far from being a Hanayori Dango. It is nothing close to overly dramatic characters that make a big deal out of every single minor mishap in their lives just to feel and make it appear as if they are miserable.

The story is about how people choose to live different lives by creating stories and fantasies and make it as real as possible either to entertain them or to help them survive the harsh realities of their lives. In the process, they display how real life bonds, relationships, emotions and situations affect the art that each create.

6 Kekkon Shinai


The story follows the struggles of several single women that are all past their 30s. They are single for different reasons. Some are single because they have high standards while others are single because the man they wanted to be with broke up with them.

Why You Should Watch It

This show is brave in so many ways

  1. This story does not glamorize the life of single women. It is realistic in its approach and that includes the fact that many single women are single not because they chose to but because the man they loved don’t want to be with them. The emotions and concerns are real.
  2. Population of single women past their 30s is growing and this is a concern to a country like Japan whose population is strongly controlled, it could mean slow population growth that could eventually endanger the population of Japan.
  3. The show also accurately raises issues about the change in Japan’s culture that used to be very family-oriented

Click here for part 2.


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