Japanese Drama Review: Black President

 Black_President-p1

Since this was a “business” drama, I put off watching this for a while, but when I finally decided to watch it, I was immediately lured in by Sawamura Ikki’s fabulous performance. I was also surprised to find out that this was a light-hearted comedy instead of some boring drama, and it was quite enjoyable to watch. Also, there’s a music video at the end of this post that you really should check out!

Ratings out of 10:

Acting: 9

Storyline/plot: 6

Plot Development: 7

Characters: 10

Music: 9

Ending: 10

Overall Rating out of 10: 8.5

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Acting and Characters:

Sawamura Ikki played the main character in this drama, Mitamura Yukio, who was the president of a big corporation. Mitamura’s character reminded me of Michael’s character from The Office in that he was a bit dense when it came to reading the atmosphere, and he was offended when he was told that inappropriate comments towards women that could be construed as sexual harassment were not to be tolerated.

Granted, Mitamura was a lot smarter than Michael, and he knew what he was doing even if he didn’t agree that his methods were extreme, but there were a couple of parallels that I could draw between the two “bosses.” Sawamura’s portrayal of a president who will do anything to stay on top even if that means not paying his workers overtime is very entertaining. From the very first scene where he’s interviewing for a university to the very last scene where he’s trolling his professor, Sawamura creates such a draw to his character that it becomes almost impossible not to like him even when he goes around being incredibly headstrong and expressing his unique opinions. I loved how Mitamura’s character was seen as a bit of an idiot by his classmates and professor at first, but how his character was a company president who knew how to get things done. And, to be fair, Mitamura acted like an idiot many times, but that was just what made his character all the more hilarious.

Sawamura also had great chemistry with every single one of his costars which is not an easy thing to accomplish. When he was around his coworkers, he was the businessman that they respected but also that they were comfortable telling when he was acting inappropriately. When he was with his professor, he was the loveable and irritating student who knows better than his teacher but tries to humor her much to her chagrin. When he was with his fellow classmates, he was a man that was clearly more mature and had more experience, but also the guy that was casual with them and never condescending.  Sawamura was clearly the best actor in this drama, and when he acted alongside others, he seemed to elevate their performance with his.

Kuroki Meisa played Mitamura’s college professor, Akiyama Kyoko. She was basically the less-ambitious female version of Mitamura, which is why they clashed throughout the entirety of the drama. Mitamura knew how to push Akiyama’s buttons, and Akiyama always responded accordingly. In the beginning of the drama, I didn’t like her character at all. It seemed she was keen on destroying Mitamura for no reason other than his personality irritated her. As the drama progressed, and she grew, I grew to like her a bit more. It was hard to like Akiyama completely, however, because Kuroki Meisa’s performance was so bland. Even though her character changed throughout the drama, her acting never changed. It was always the same facial expressions and the same exclamations over and over again like she didn’t know that there were other ways to react to different situations. Honestly, Kuroki is the only reason this drama didn’t receive a 10 for acting. She did an okay job, but I thought her performance was lacking spirit and understanding.

Kuninaka Ryoko played Mitamura’s secretary, and I thought her performance was exactly what it should be. She was a bit pouty until Mitamura finally realized how to appreciate all the work she did for him, and afterwards she became simply the strong secretary that told Mitamura how it was and didn’t take any crap from him. Kuninaka wasn’t given much to work with, but with what she was given, she did a fine job.

Nagai Masaru played the vice president, and I enjoyed his performance also. He wasn’t given much screen time, but I loved how when he was on the screen, his character complemented Mitamura’s. It was clear that although the VP didn’t approve of Mitamura’s “black” methods of business, he admired him and would in no way disrespect of betray him. Also, on a completely separate note, Nagai Masaru is seriously sexy, with or without glasses.

Kadowaki Mugi played basically the “main” college student that developed a crush on Mitamura. This was the first thing I ever saw this girl in, and I cannot get enough of her character or her performance. She was the cutest thing! And she played awkward so very well. The way she talked, the way she moved, even the subtle expressions on her face and with her eyes were consistent with her character’s lack of normal social skills. I was so impressed by Kadowaki’s performance because more often than not, when an actor is playing the role of an “awkward” person, they usually end up being a little too over-the-top about their awkwardness, but Kadowaki wasn’t that way at all. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if I met her in real life, and she acted exactly as her character did because that’s how well she performed this role.

There were a few other minor characters that I won’t go into detail about, but I liked almost all the characters in this drama, and most of them acted perfectly for their roles.

Plot, Plot Development, and Ending:

This was a drama that didn’t exactly have a clear plot, therefore it didn’t have a clear plot development. Most of the episodes just dealt with a different aspect of Mitamura’s college life, and although they used the “exposing” book that Akiyama was going to write as a big plot point, it only became Mitamura’s plot point in the second to last episode. I would have liked the drama to have had a clearer direction and purpose, but I think it was mostly just supposed to be about how Mitamura’s going back to college altered his perspective on things. But, that’s the thing, although Mitamura becomes slightly more sensitive toward the feelings of others near the end of  Black President,  his overall personality, attitude, and belief system never changes. That becomes a constant joke throughout the 11-episode drama because there are many times when Mitamura says something to seem like he has changed, but then right afterwards he says that all of what he said was a lie. Even in the very last scene of the final episode, the drama creators wanted to show the audience that Mitamura is still the ambitious, funny, and insensitive guy that he was at the beginning of the show, and while that is okay to do and I liked how they changed it up, what was the purpose of the drama if none of the characters developed? Perhaps that was what the writers were going for, but I’m not so sure.

The ending was really good because it wasn’t rushed, and it went in a different direction than all the dramas that do the “______ years later.” The audience is fully expecting Mitamura to go away for six years, but instead, consistent with his business-genius character, he’s only gone for a year because that’s how long it took him to get the American branch on its feet. When he returns, he discovers that his VP has implemented many changes that benefit the workers, which he is now okay with, he made a comment about how strict the US is about sexual harassment and that he was glad to be comfortable again, and then he went to tease Akiyama about how he trademarked “Black President” so that she would have to pay him royalties from the new book she was writing. So, it was a good and simple ending befitting of a comedic drama.

Music:

The music was good. As always, there were the same few background tracks that repeated but they were always consistent with mood of the scene, and none of them ever became annoying. There was only one vocal song that played, and it was always at the end of an episode. The song is “Hidamari no Michi” by Kobukuro, and let me tell you, this song is amazing. I’ve watched many dramas with theme songs I liked, but I’m pretty sure this one takes the cake. Kobukuro has a Simon and Garfunkel dynamic going, although their voices are a bit stronger and have a different style, and their blending is gorgeous. Even though the background music of this drama was good, this song is definitely the highlight of the music.

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