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This drama is based on a two-volume manga of the same name, which I really liked a lot. However, the drama is just bad. I didn't like it from the very first episode, but it's only twelve half-hour episodes, so I figured I'd watch the whole thing just to see all the changes they made (I had no hopes of it getting better; the badness was built right in).

So, the premise. It's a four-panel manga about a Japanese language teacher who teaches Japanese to foreigners in Japan and the title ("the Japanese the Japanese don't know") refers to the sort of things many native Japanese speakers get wrong, as well as the etymology of words and that sort of thing. These things are told to the reader via anecdotes about her students.

The manga is written by a Japanese teacher, and it's clear that she is an experienced teacher and knowlegeable about Japanese. In the drama, the character is Haruko, a young woman just out of college, who gets roped into becoming a substitute Japanese teacher. She is not a good teacher, nor is she very knowledgeable about Japanese. She constantly makes mistakes and gets chided and lectured by her male boss, a character who did not exist in the original manga. This sort of change really, really bugs me.

I understand that dramatically the arc of her becoming a better teacher is perhaps more interesting, but it means that they've not only taken away a competent woman and replaced her with an incompetent one, but they've introduced a male teacher to be in charge. Ugh. (There is actually an older female teacher who is really the one in charge of the language school, but she's in the hospital the entire time, which is why she asked Haruko to substitute. So she is in charge in name only, and what we actually get throughout the series is competent male boss, incompetent female underling.)

In addition, in the manga, she was the one telling her students about these facts about the Japanese language. But in the drama, this is usually not the case. One of her students is an older white man who is pretty much fluent in Japanese and just likes coming to the language school. There was at least one time when he lectured her on Japanese, and there were several times when her boss or the other teachers did. Or sometimes she found out herself through various events in the manga, but still, she was often shown as not knowing the things her students asked her about.

Then there's the other female teacher. She only appears very briefly in the second volume of the manga, but from what we see, she's very strong-willed and quirky. Of course in the drama she's a demure, shy woman who spends most of her time mooning over the male teacher.

Another change is the students themselves. In the manga, there are humorous misunderstandings and some of the students (all of whom are based on her real students over the years) are rather quirky (like the one who's convinced there are still ninjas in Japan). But in the drama, it's more than that. It took me several episodes to put my finger on what really bothered me, but it's that they are portrayed as very childlike. They squabble and won't listen to reason and just generally act like a bunch of kindergarteners rather than the adults they are. So while Haruko bonds with them in the show, the general feeling that comes across is that foreigners are well-meaning and kind-hearted and you shouldn't be mean to them or discriminate because they don't know any better, but they're not really Real People.

Finally, I was really irritated by the cartoonishness of the drama. From the few manga-based dramas I've checked out in recent years, this seems to be a common trend. Even when, as with this series, the manga it's based on is not over-the-top and cartoonish at all, because it's "based on a manga", they feel the need to have everyone act ridiculous. Hardly anyone ever delivers a line the way a real person would. It's all OTT and hammed-up to a ridiculous degree. (I've actually seen this in dramas that weren't based on manga, come to think of it. It's one of the things I disliked about Nobuta. wo Produce, though that wasn't nearly this bad.)

So yeah. There is not really much to recommend this, except the interesting tidbits about Japanese.


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