Japanese: ドラゴン桜 （２００４）
One of the earlier dramas of Abe Hiroshi but I was apprehensive to start watching it because of several reasons:
1) Yamashita Tomohisa – I hate this guy. He always acts like a stupid dumbass jerk with coloured hair.
2) Koike Teppei – The film “Lovely Complex” prompted my 3rd suicide attempt (dat bad!) FYI, I only watched it because of commitment with J-Soc in the uni.
3) GTO – Actually this is also the main reason why I watched the first episode of Dragon Zakura even if it has Arabic subtitles. This is probably the million (US) dollar question:
“Can any other high school teacher-drama even come close to the epic Great Teacher Onizuka?” Of course, there was Gokusen, but GTO has created such a huge impact in my life. I heard it was remade this year, but for me Onizuka will always be Sorimachi Takashi. Epic teacher, epic co-teacher, epic students, epic theme song “POISON” – yow, it will be so easy to get disappointed with anything less.
4) I hate to be disappointed with Abe Hiroshi.
Anyway, will update this post after I finish all episodes.
I just finished all 11 episodes in less than 24 hours. Maybe it was the rainy weather outside that kept me hooked with Dragon Zakura, because I wasn’t even impressed with Abe Hiroshi’s acting in this series. I think the dialogues are too superficial, it seems like he was trying too hard to play such flimsy role. As one fan commented in http://www.jdorama.com, the character Sakurai Kenji is nothing but a preachy douchebag. During the 1st few episodes, he preached nothing but “Todai, Todai, Todai” but then made a 180 degree turn around during the last 2 episodes when he said, “Todai is NOT the only path to be successful in the society.”
I am also unconvinced with the techniques they used to study, especially in the English class where they memorised song lyrics and dance to the beat to learn grammar and vocabulary. If this is indeed true then it’s no wonder why Japanese students English proficiency levels are one of the lowest in the world. I can’t believe that Todai’s students have the same writing skills as a 1st grader in an English speaking country. Anyway, I was really looking forward to hear Abe Hiroshi speak more words in English (just because it would be awesome).
Regarding what I said about Koike Teppei earlier, I think I have been too unfair with him (because of his strange-sounding accent). But he was actually the best actor in series since he was the only one who seems to be natural for his role. Listening to him is a breathe of fresh air since everyone else is just trying to be hard-assed punks.
Lastly, about the comparison with GTO (ergo Gokusen), I think that Dragon Zakura actually has a different theme. Some fans say it’s more realistic because it shows the harsh realities in the society, but I guess it stems from the inconsistencies in the storyline. There were just too many conspicuous flaws. It would have been better if it actually had flashback scenes of Sakuragi’s life as a racer-cum-gangster instead of having these as mere fillers in the dialogues. Chemistry between Abe Hiroshi and co-star Hasegawa Kyoko is also sorely missing. In the GTO drama, there is obvious chemistry (albeit sexual) between Sorimachi Takashi and (wife-to-be at that time) Matsushima Nanako, so it was interesting to see them bicker against each other. Unfortunately, in Dragon Zakura, when the lawyer and teacher bitch against each other, it’s pretty annoying.
The only redeeming factor is that the core story is enough to keep you watching till the end because you’d be curious who amongst these brats (if any) can actually make it to the prestigious Todai. Lastly, the good-for-nothing “rijicho” (principal’s) character who always cries about her dead husband is also very amusing.
So the verdict: GTO (still) rules!