TV Asahi has had its headquarters in Roppongi since it moved to the area in 2003. It seems like the perfect location for “Roppongi Class,” but there are other circumstances. Photo: Kyodo News“Roppongi Class”, the Japanese remake of “Itaewon Class” will soon be on air. The cast was revealed which includes Ryoma Takeuchi and Teruyuki Kagawa.
Why is it that I, a Korean drama lover and an alumnus of the Television Broadcasting Company (TVC), am still “not very attracted” to this show despite the fact that it is popular? It’s quite strange.
It’s too obvious to explain, but “Itaewon Class” was a big hit Korean drama along with “Crash Landing on You” that made the Netflix Korean drama boom in 2020, right at the beginning of the Coronavirus disaster. A Japanese remake of this drama should be quite exciting.
But why am I so nervous about this drama? I even have a “bad feeling” about it. Why is it that my mind is starting a strange battle between “I can’t wait to see it” and “I’m afraid to see it”?
It is because a nightmare of a certain TV drama has been floating around in my mind. Yes, it is “24 JAPAN”.
Remake dramas are much like live-action adaptations of very popular comic books.
To begin with, why are remakes of foreign dramas so interesting? It is because they have a track record of being a hit in foreign countries, which is a very obvious reason. It became a hit in some countries because people in that country were attracted to it. That is why remakes are made.
Television programs are “test the water” things. No one knows whether it will be a hit or a flop unless it airs. Unlike a variety show, once a drama series has started, it is impossible to make changes midway through the production, and there is no choice but to push on to the final episode regardless of whether it flops or has a major accident.
To mitigate this risk as much as possible, remaking dramas that have been a hit overseas is an excellent way to do so. The fact that the drama was a hit overseas is a guarantee that it is a well-made story.
It is a reasonable expectation that a remake of the original drama in Japan would have a high probability of attracting Japanese viewers who would find it a good story.
Moreover, Japan and Korea are geographically and culturally close. If it is a hit in Korea, it will also be a hit in Japan, which is, in a sense, a near-true “ironclad logic”. In fact, there are countless remakes of Korean dramas such as “Voice: 110 Emergency Control Room” “Familiar Wife” “Midnight Runners” etc., and all of them have turned out to be entertaining in their own way.
However, I feel that there is an exception to the rule that remakes of foreign hit dramas are a hit. That is when the original drama is too famous in Japan.
What happens if the original drama is too famous in Japan? To put it simply, the same phenomenon may occur as when a very popular comic book is adapted into a drama.
Is “Roppongi Class” a lower hurdle than “24 JAPAN”?
The original comic is too great and has many fans. When you dramatize it, you tend to get all kinds of comments, such as “the image of the main character is different,” “it wasn’t meant to be that way,” or “don’t destroy the original plot”.
The risk of being compared to the original work, which is fatalistically too good to be true, and of being labeled a “crackpot” as a “somehow different, degraded copy” is an unavoidable fate of the original work, which is so common.
This is exactly the same phenomenon that occurs when dramas are adapted from very popular comic books, and I suspect that it will happen again when remakes of very popular foreign dramas are made.
Let us return to “24 JAPAN”. In the year 2020, just as “Itaewon Class” was taking the world by storm, a Japanese remake of the American international hit drama “24” was released.
Toshiaki Karasawa became the Japanese version of Jack Bauer. I don’t want to be harsh, but it caused a storm of criticisms in Japan. I’m sorry to say this, but for a remake of a legendary international hit drama, it was a disaster.
The reason for the disappointing result of “24 JAPAN” is not according to my own theory, “why it was a global hit drama” but inevitably “because it was a global hit drama”.
Because the original drama was so famous in Japan, it was always compared to the original in the viewers’ minds, and they were always reminded of “Kiefer Sutherland and Toshiaki Karasawa”. “Wide Theater-quality, ultra-domestic level pistol-punching” were compared and contrasted with “world-class action scenes produced by 20th Century FOX Television,” and the result was a somewhat undeniable sense of “crack-up”.
The remake of “24 JAPAN” was done by TV Asahi, the company that will produce “Roppongi Class” this time.
I have a feeling that TV Asahi is about to follow in the footsteps of “24 JAPAN” again, which probably accounts for a large part of my “bad feeling”.
Why are you remaking the hit drama again, TV Asahi? Like a summer bug flying towards the fire, TV Asahi, the parent company of my hometown, is getting sucked into foreign blockbuster dramas.
The internet is already buzzing with excitement about Ryoma Takeuchi’s Park Sae Ro Yi style haircut. I was wondering if it would look good.
I want to believe in the drama team of TV Asahi. I am sure that the result will not be a “somewhat undeniable crack-up”. They will not make the same mistake again.
Unlike “24 JAPAN”, “Roppongi Class” does not have any action scenes, so I told myself that the “surprisingly different (cheaper) budget from the original film” would not affect the finished product that much.
I would like to believe that they will take the time and effort to make it look good so that people will not say that it’s a cheap crackpot.
There is one more thing I would like to say, I believe that it is a good thing that they are doing a good job.
The reason for my concern is that this is a “heavily shot on location” TV Asahi drama.
It is true that the original manga “Itaewon Class” was written by a Korean cartoonist, and “Itaewon” was changed to “Roppongi” when the manga was translated and localized in Japan, so it may be inevitable, but frankly speaking, I think “Roppongi” is not Itaewon.
I have been covering Korea since the early 2000s. I have visited Korea almost 100 times. My Korean is poor, but I can speak and understand some words. I have been to Itaewon dozens of times. And since I was in Roppongi almost every day for about a quarter of a century when I worked at Teletext, I have a close relationship with Roppongi.
In my opinion, the only thing Itaewon and Roppongi have in common is their connection to the U.S. military. There is the U.S. military base at Yongsan near Itaewon, and there are U.S. military bases in Roppongi, including the Hardy Barracks.
Other than that, however, Itaewon is a similar but completely different city. Itaewon used to be a “brothel district” with a suspicious and obscene atmosphere. However, it gradually became a town on the cutting edge of fashion as trendy restaurants catering to young people began to establish there.
That is why the original drama “Itaewon Class” chose Itaewon as its setting. Itaewon was the perfect setting for the main character to live his life, competing and aiming for the top in Itaewon, the cutting edge of food and beverage trends.
Roppongi used to be a cutting-edge dining and drinking district during the bubble era. But then the area moved in the direction of obscene entertainment, and for a time it became a place where brothels hawked “all you can drink and rub” offers.
Nowadays, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown, and other upscale buildings have given the area an upscale image, and restaurants have become “upscale, complete” places to eat and drink. It is not a cutting-edge town where young people compete with each other.
Even if there was a localized version of the manga, shouldn’t the drama have been set in a more suitable location, such as in Shibuya Ward? And since TV Asahi is headquartered in Roppongi and knows all about Roppongi, why not use a more appropriate setting, such as in the Shibuya district?
At this point, a strange fantasy popped into my head. I don’t think it’s possible, but I wonder if it has something to do with the Ministry of Energy’s budgetary concerns, such as Roppongi makes it easy to film inside the company.
In fact, “inside TV Asahi” appears quite frequently in TV Asahi’s dramas. The boardroom on the 8th floor of the headquarters is often used for meeting room scenes, the presentation room on the 2nd floor often appears in dramas, and the company cafeteria on the 7th floor is also frequently used.
In this case, it would be more convenient to have a view of Roppongi Hills in the background, so in this sense, the 7th floor cafeteria would be the best choice because it offers a clear view of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower.
In the original drama “Itaewon Class,” there are often scenes in which the night view of the city is seen from a high place, and I couldn’t help thinking that the space next to the TV Asahi Inari on the 7th floor would be the best place to view the Tokyo Tower.
Besides the headquarters building, Roppongi is also home to the EX Theater Roppongi, TV Asahi ASK (announcement school), and the TV Asahi Video at Ark Hills. It would be easy to take pictures of these buildings without having to ask for permission to do so.
Surely, that is not the reason why. You wouldn’t do the “Roppongi Class” because you can shoot it without spending a lot of time and money, would you?
Believing that this is my delusion that is totally off the mark, and praying that TV Asahi’s “Roppongi Class” will be a masterpiece that will surpass even Korea, I now look forward with excitement to the first broadcast on July 7, the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh lunar year.