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Japanese television drama

Japanese television drama

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Encyclopedia
, also called , are a staple of Japanese television
Television in Japan
Television broadcasting in Japan started in 1939, making the country one of the first in the world with an experimental television service. In spite of that, because of the beginning of World War II in the Pacific region, this first experimentation lasted only a few months...

 and are broadcast daily. All major TV networks in Japan produce a variety of drama series including murder romance
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

, comedy
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

, detective
Detective
A detective is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private person. The latter may be known as private investigators or "private eyes"...

 stories, horror
Horror film
Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres...

, and many others. For special occasions, there may also be a one- or two-episode drama with a specific theme, such as a drama produced in 2007 for the 60-year anniversary of the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Japanese drama series are broadcast in three-month seasons, with new dramas airing each season. The majority of dramas are aired week-days in the evenings around 9:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., or even 11:00 p.m. Dramas shown in the morning or afternoon are generally broadcast on a daily basis, and episodes of the same drama can be aired every day for several months, such as NHK
NHK
NHK is Japan's national public broadcasting organization. NHK, which has always identified itself to its audiences by the English pronunciation of its initials, is a publicly owned corporation funded by viewers' payments of a television license fee....

's asadora, or morning dramas. The evening dramas, however, air weekly and are usually nine to twelve episodes long, though sometimes there will be an epilogue special made after the final episode if the drama has been a huge success.

Japan has four television seasons: Winter (January–March), Spring (April–June), Summer (July–September), and Autumn or Fall (October–December). Some series may start in another month though it may still be counted as a series of a specific season.

One characteristic of Japanese drama that differentiates it is that each episode is usually shot only a few (two to three) weeks before it is actually aired. Many fans have been able to visit their idols shooting scenes even as the show is still airing.

Trendy dramas


Most people associate today's Japanese dramas with the modern style of screenwriting which has coined the term "trendy dramas." The "trendy" formula for Japanese dramas was invented in the late 1980s when screenwriters decided to reach the television audience with themes that covered real-life Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, at a time when the Japanese were experiencing a bubble economy
Japanese asset price bubble
The was an economic bubble in Japan from 1986 to 1991, in which real estate and stock prices were greatly inflated. The bubble's collapse lasted for more than a decade with stock prices initially bottoming in 2003, although they would descend even further amidst the global crisis in 2008. The...

. The "trendy" formula was improved in the early 1990s, when the story lines changed with the times. By gambling on harder issues, including teenage violence
Violence
Violence is the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes. violence, while often a stand-alone issue, is often the culmination of other kinds of conflict, e.g...

, child abuse
Child abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Children And Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or...

, and modern family life, the trendy drama formula is tweaked to fit the television viewers' changing taste. Even today, the success of Japanese dramas is a result of sticking with the trendy drama formula.

Although some people consider Super Sentai
Super Sentai
The is the name given to the long-running Japanese superhero team genre of shows produced by Toei Co., Ltd., Toei Agency and Bandai, and aired by TV Asahi...

 and tokusatsu
Tokusatsu
is a Japanese term that applies to any live-action film or television drama that usually features superheroes and makes considerable use of special effects ....

 type shows as dramas, they are not covered when dramas are referred to using the "trendy" definition. Generally, most evening dramas aired nowadays are "trendy dramas," and the term doesn't apply to other types of dramas such as asadora. Some commentators have detected a kind of symbolism
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

 present.http://postbubbleculture.blogs.wm.edu/2010/03/28/closer-to-real-japan-symbolism-in-japanese-dramas/

Difference in focus between networks


Dramas broadcast on Fuji Television
Fuji Television
is a Japanese television station based in Daiba, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, also known as or CX, based on the station's callsign "JOCX-DTV". It is the flagship station of the Fuji News Network and the ....

 (Fuji TV) and TBS
Tokyo Broadcasting System
, TBS Holdings, Inc. or TBSHD, is a stockholding company in Tokyo, Japan. It is a parent company of a television network named and radio network named ....

 are usually the most popular. NTV
Nippon Television
is a television network based in the Shiodome area of Minato, Tokyo, Japan and is controlled by the Yomiuri Shimbun publishing company. Broadcasting terrestrially across Japan, the network is commonly known as , contracted to , and abbreviated as "NTV" or "AX".-Offices:*The Headquarters : 6-1,...

 produces some popular dramas, too.

Fuji T.V. is widely known as the inventor of the drama formula. During the 1980s and 1990s, Fuji TV popularized the trendy dramas with their use of young and popular actors/actresses of that time. The network's 9:00 p.m. dramas shown on Monday nights are commonly called "Getsuku" (a shortened phrase meaning Monday at 9). The dramas usually involve a love story. It is considered to be a very popular time slot for dramas, generally bringing in a high rating during the season. However, in recent years, the popularity of "Getsuku" dramas has worn off, with most dramas not crossing the 20% mark for average rating.

Other Japan television networks also have their own focuses. TV Asahi
TV Asahi
, also known as EX and , is a Japanese television network headquartered in Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. The company writes its name in lower-case letters, tv asahi, in its logo and public-image materials. The company also owns All-Nippon News Network....

, for example, focus heavily on jidaigeki
Jidaigeki
is a genre of film, television, and theatre in Japan. The name means "period drama" and is usually the Edo period of Japanese history, from 1603 to 1868. Some, however, are set much earlier—Portrait of Hell, for example, is set during the late Heian period—and the early Meiji era is also a popular...

 and crime-situated stories. NHK
NHK
NHK is Japan's national public broadcasting organization. NHK, which has always identified itself to its audiences by the English pronunciation of its initials, is a publicly owned corporation funded by viewers' payments of a television license fee....

 puts more effort into programming that reaches an older demographic, focusing mostly on epic period dramas of historical significance, often with all-star casts, called taiga dramas, as well as inspiring dramas that focus on a young, strong-willed hero
Hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

 or heroine.

Theme music and background music


Theme music and background music sets the overall tone of the Japanese drama series. Most dramas will start off with one or two minutes of opening theme music during the opening credits. Other dramas will have at the very least a catchy melody in the beginning, displaying the drama's name that lasts a few seconds, and then one to two minutes of ending theme music during the closing credits. Background music is placed and used at strategic points of the episode in order to set the mood of that particular scene.

There is a sub-genre of Japanese drama fans that are also huge fans of the drama's original soundtrack. Most television networks work with music companies to produce original soundtracks. Most opening and closing theme music is written especially for the drama series, while other theme music is licensed from other sources that previously existed. Once the library is put together, the television network will release the original soundtrack compact disc, usually a few weeks after the start of the drama. Closing themes are often sung by a popular J-pop
J-pop
, an abbreviation for Japanese pop, is a musical genre that entered the musical mainstream of Japan in the 1990s. Modern J-pop has its roots in 1960s music, such as The Beatles, and replaced kayōkyoku in the Japanese music scene...

 singer or band.

NHK
NHK
NHK is Japan's national public broadcasting organization. NHK, which has always identified itself to its audiences by the English pronunciation of its initials, is a publicly owned corporation funded by viewers' payments of a television license fee....

 produces its own theme music and is one of the only Japanese television networks that has its own orchestra. Most of the theme music heard in their taiga and asadora dramas were written and produced in-house.

In recent years, many theme songs have been licensed from sources outside of Japan. In some instances, theme songs have been licensed from some of the biggest names in the Western recording industry. This practice has disadvantages. When the Japanese drama is licensed outside of Japan, theme music licensing becomes very costly. For example, in the Fuji TV
Fuji Television
is a Japanese television station based in Daiba, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, also known as or CX, based on the station's callsign "JOCX-DTV". It is the flagship station of the Fuji News Network and the ....

 drama Densha Otoko
Densha Otoko (drama)
is a Japanese television drama that aired on Fuji Television. It is based on the Densha Otoko story, which has also been portrayed in other media.The drama's 11 episodes were aired on Fuji TV from July 7 to September 22, 2005 . A two hour long TV special, Densha Otoko Deluxe, aired on September 23,...

, the opening song and some of the background music had to be replaced in the release that aired on the Nippon Golden Network because they couldn't get the rights to use the music.

Importance of ratings in Japanese drama


As in many other countries, Japanese television is arguably the most important media type. A survey completed in 2000 by NHK, Japan's public broadcasting network, showed that 95% of Japanese people watch television every day. Eighty-six percent said they consider television an indispensable medium, and 68% said the same of newspapers. There are other forms of media that can be used to promote products and services, such as the Internet. However, Shinji Takada, a television executive at Nippon Television (NTV), believes that although the Internet is popular among drama fans, "We don't regard broadband as mainstream media. It will never happen. Broadband is a complementary medium."

Television ratings are calculated by several researching firms. Video Research Ltd. is one of the more reliable firms, and more television networks, advertisers, and Japanese drama fans use the numbers from this firm than any other. The ratings focus on the Kanto (Tokyo) and the Kansai (Osaka) areas, which are believed to serve as a good representation of what most of Japan watches. The ratings become available for the general public every Wednesday.

Rating system


The rating system is very simple. All the major Japanese television networks make up the Japanese television market, so a research firm must determine the size of an average audience. The audience size is determined using two factors: the amount of content that is transmitted and the amount that is received, as market size varies from firm to firm. The actual viewer count of a given episode is calculated using a variety of polling methods. Ratings are calculated using a percentage or point system. This is based on the episode's viewership numbers divided by the market size. Finally, the numbers are published on the research firm's website. A hard copy is also produced.

There is no solid science on how to interpret these rating percentages. For drama fans, simply the drama with the highest percentage is the "winner" for the week. The fans use these numbers to decide which dramas they should watch during the remainder of the season. Despite this simple interpretation, there are one or more factors that may come into play that explain why some dramas receive higher percentage points than others. For example evening dramas draw better ratings than dramas that air in the mornings and afternoons. Although the transmission size is virtually the same in the mornings, afternoons RRand evenings, the evenings draw higher numbers because most evening viewers work during the day, and fewer people are at home watching television. There are, however, some exceptions to the rule. For example, the NHK Asadora drama Oshin
Oshin
Oshin is a Japanese serialized morning television drama, which aired on broadcaster NHK from April 4, 1983 to March 31, 1984. The series follows the life of Shin Tanokura during the Meiji period up to the early 1980s. Shin was called "Oshin", which is Japanese archaic cognomen.In total, 297...

 drew an average rating percentage of 52.6%, a number that would be extremely good for an evening drama but even more extraordinary for a drama that airs in the mornings and six days a week.

Finally, rating percentage play a heavy role in the success of a drama artist. The numbers of an artist's previous work are used by TV producers to determine whether or not the artist is a marketing success. If the ratings drawn by the artist's previous work are good, the artist will receive offers to star in dramas that are better written and produced.

Formula for good ratings


In evening dramas, the cast members are carefully selected and tend to be famous actors that audiences are very fond of. The choice of cast members frequently affects the drama's audience rating and, pairing the right male and female artists is especially important in a renzoku ren'ai (romantic or love) drama. Cast members of morning and afternoon dramas are not as popular as those of evening dramas, as reflected by the ratings, but with time good actors gain popularity. Extra effort is put into dramas that air during the winter season, as viewers tend to stay at home more during the colder winter months.

Dramas' starting hour


Most Japanese dramas never start exactly on the hour or half-hour mark. Instead, some episodes start at 8:58 p.m., while others start at 9:05 p.m. Before television ratings started to matter, episodes started exactly on the hour. Later, because of the aggressive TV ratings war, some stations decided to beat the competition by starting their shows a few minutes earlier. The theory behind this practice is that when a show ends a few minutes before the hour or half-hour, a viewer would start changing channels until they found one that wasn't showing any commercials. Similarly, if an episode runs a few minutes past the hour or half-hour, viewers are more likely to watch the next program because they missed the first few minutes of an episode on a different channel.

The exception to this trend is NHK
NHK
NHK is Japan's national public broadcasting organization. NHK, which has always identified itself to its audiences by the English pronunciation of its initials, is a publicly owned corporation funded by viewers' payments of a television license fee....

, which continues to start their shows exactly on each hour or half-hour. Potential reasoning behind this is that because every other television station is constantly changing its start times, this strategy no longer holds the potential advantage over competition that it once did.

See also

  • Glossary: Japanese film credit terms
  • List of Japanese television dramas
  • Radio drama in Japan
    Radio drama in Japan
    Radio drama in Japan has a history as long as that of radio broadcasting in that country, which began in 1925. Some consider the first Japanese radio drama to have been "" which was a radio broadcast of a stage play. Others consider the Japanese translation of Richard Hughes's "Danger" or to be...


External links

  • JDorama.com - Large database of Japanese dramas, actor profiles and seasonal schedules.
  • Video Research Ltd. - Weekly TV ratings (in Japanese).
  • Jonathan Clements
    Jonathan Clements
    Jonathan Clements is a British author and scriptwriter. His non-fiction works include biographies of Confucius, Koxinga and Qin Shihuangdi , as well as monthly opinion columns for Neo magazine...

    and Motoko Tamamuro: THE DORAMA ENCYCLOPEDIA. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-81-7.
  • Japanese Dorama Database - The first early Dorama database in English on the Internet.