Monday, February 21, 2011
School!! eps 1-5
Such and inspiring and eye catching name for a dorama, especially with the two exclamation marks! Sarcasm aside, I first tried to watch this dorama weeks ago. The first scene was of Naruse (Eguchi Yosuke) doing his last tunnel construction job before going to his new job as the principal of his old primary school. I thought the show would be different from the usual ex-random occupation turned teacher doramas since being a principal would involve different stories.
Naruse turns up in school and we are treated to the same generic group of teachers that populate 99% of jdoramas. You've got the same group of seemingly useless teachers who are afraid of the parents and lawsuits. You've got the hot young teacher who gets pissed of with our antagonist and of course becomes his unwitting sidekick, here played by Kitano Kii.Not to mention cowardly vice principal teacher who is the defacto head of the teachers and your usual classroom bullies.
However, the main antagonist Kirihara (Nishijima Hidetoshi) is not your typical cowardly opportunistic villain. He is actually the best teacher in the school and though he is at loggerheads with the idealistic and headstrong Naruse, he actually makes arguments that make sense and Kirihara admits that arguing with Naruse is useless because Naruse just states parallel points without refuting his argument.
I think I only watched the first episode half way before dismissing it as another generic and unimaginative dorama like Misaki No 1. Needing to take a break from the stressful game Catherine, I decided to finish off the first episode and it turned out to be an ok story about a kid who couldn't do his multiplication table, known as kuku in Japanese. Ep 2 is about a primary school hatsukoi story so it always cute. Episode 3 is about the relationshp between a poor and rich student which was ok. All three episodes had your typical moralistic, preachy endings but it surprisingly it didn't make my skin crawl.
At this point I'm asking why I am being drawn into watching School!! I've seen the subject matter and characters too many times and it doesn't do anything innovative but somehow the quality of the writing seems to rise about its generic concept. Maybe its because the purpose of the show was not to showcase idorus who play the students? Then ep 4 and 5 arrived with the GTO story and I was hooked. Its not the story of an incompetent teacher but the story of a teacher who tried really hard and failed and that is something you don't see in your usual school jdoramas. Ep 5 made me realise something, that School!! is not concerned about forcibly making their characters look cool. It is a dorama concerned with telling good stories and telling it well.
After finishing episode 5, I quickly looked up the writer and it turns out to be Hata Takehiko, who also wrote Dragon Zakura which I should have realised from the running while reciting the kuku in ep 1. The best compliment I can give School!! is that it has taken what looks like generic characters from your usual school dorama and given them un expected depth coupled with very solid writing. School!! is not in GTO, Jyoou no Kyoushitsu or Kinpachi Sensei good but so far it better than most school jdoramas. I would say its on the same level as Medaka and Dragon Zakura; its not must watch but its a certain charm and doesn't offend a cynical bastard like me. I leave you with my favourite piece of dialogue from School!! which was said by Miki-chan as advice to Naruse which was not just very funny but served to define Naruse's character:
Germans think before running.
English people think while they walk.
Japanese run like the people around them.
And educators these days have a meeting before they run.
So, which one are you, Naruse-kun?