TV Asahi’s “Roppongi Class,” a remake of the popular Korean drama “Itaewon Class,” is doing quite well.
I often hear people say that the drama faithfully reproduces the original, and that the cast and crew are doing a great job. I am sure that is true, but there is one thing that really bothers me.
How can I put it? I feel as if I am watching a “Itaewon Class” clip.
It is true that this scene and that scene are both scenes from “Itaewon Class” that have been changed to a Japanese setting, and I feel that a great effort has been made to preserve the atmosphere of the original work. However, I feel that all the scenes are very minimal and short. To put it in a bad way, it feels as if the film “just skimmed over the surface.
All the scenes are well done, but the “details and descriptions that were in the original story” have been cut out of every scene, and it feels like there is not enough to eat.
It’s like watching a long synopsis or a clipped movie. …… Of course, it’s probably a bit silly to compare every single scene with the Korean version, but I can’t deny that I was a bit bothered by it.
Perhaps this is not because there are problems with the staff and cast of the Japanese version. I believe there is a “more fundamental fate of Japanese commercial TV dramas” behind this situation. It may be a tragedy caused by the “half-heartedness of the format” of Japanese drama productions.
In Japan, an episode of a one-hour commercial drama is actually 40 to 50 minutes long, excluding commercials. The drama is usually completed in 10 to 12 episodes. However, Korean dramas are generally longer. Itaewon Class” has a total of 16 episodes, with each episode lasting approximately 70 minutes.
To make a rough comparison, the Japanese version is 50 x 11, or 550 minutes, while the Korean version is 70 x 16, or 1,120 minutes. This means that the Japanese version “cannot finish the story unless it is compressed to half of the original story.
It is not surprising that the Japanese version “feels as if it were a clipped movie. The Japanese version is “doing the original work at twice the speed”.
Therefore, even if the “depiction seems to have somehow stroked the surface,” I think it can be said that this is not the fault of the staff and cast of the Japanese version. Rather, the staff of the Japanese version should be seen as working very hard with the heavy handicap of “overwhelmingly short time” on their shoulders.
In fact, it is not only “Roppongi Class” that is hampered by this “heavy handicap of short time. In fact, most Japanese dramas are suffering from this disadvantage.
Think back for a moment to what Japanese dramas have made headlines recently. The first ones that come to most people’s minds are NHK’s morning dramas and historical drama series. Each episode of a serial TV drama lasts around 130 episodes of 15 minutes. That’s 1,950 minutes in simple arithmetic. A Taiga Drama is 45 minutes long per episode for one year, or 2,250 minutes if there are 50 episodes.
Dramas that continue for a series of “seasons,” for example, are also very popular. For example, TV Asahi’s “Partners” is a long-running series that will begin “Season 21” this October. Also, Fuji Television’s recently hit “Mystery, Not to Mention” did not conclude the story, but rather hinted at a sequel.
Perhaps Japanese commercial TV drama slots are generally too short.
We have become accustomed to watching “long dramas” from foreign countries on Netflix and other media. Not only in Korea, but in most countries, dramas are longer than those in Japan. In China and other countries, dramas with more than 100 episodes exist without difficulty. In the U.S. and other Western countries, hit dramas have long-running seasons.
Japanese viewers who are familiar with such “long-running foreign dramas” may find existing commercial TV drama slots too short and lacking in something.
On the other hand, those who “fast-forward through dramas,” which has become a hot topic these days, must find the current commercial dramas “too long and dull.
In a sense, we must recognize that the current “format” has already become “short on the belt and long on the tasuki,” half-hearted and out of step with the times.
Either “make it longer” or “make it shorter. Without a “radical reform of program format” to match the times, I feel that it will be difficult for Japanese drama productions to emerge.
In fact, I hear that Japanese drama productions are facing a sales bottleneck in overseas markets due to the fact that they are too short. In addition to “budget and human resource issues,” we may be entering a period when the “drama format” must be changed to match the times.
Incidentally, many Korean dramas have different “lengths” for each episode. Unlike in Japan, where the broadcast frame is not set down to the second, even in terrestrial broadcasting, the length of each episode is generally acceptable. This means that the director does not have to go through the painful experience of cutting good scenes in tears in order to fit in the broadcast slot.
They are also known for “pushing” the editing until the very last minute before the broadcast time. There have been cases in the past where a director has pushed too hard and forgotten to put a mosaic over the “public bath scene,” resulting in a large number of zeros being aired.
It is difficult to create such a free and open format in Japan today, but I hope that the great people at commercial broadcasters will create a free format that “allows directors to freely express their creativity” without going that far.
If this is done, I believe that the day will come when Japanese drama productions will once again become the kings of Asia and dominate the world.
Text： Hiromichi Chinmoku / TV producer and writer
Joined TV Asahi in 1992. After covering the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo cult as a reporter in the Social Affairs Department, he worked as a director for Super J Channel, Super Morning, and News Station before becoming a producer. He has covered many overseas events, including coverage of China and the Korean Peninsula and the terrorist attacks in the U.S. He also launched the ABEMA service. He also participated in the launch of the ABEMA service. In August 2019, he became independent and is active not only in broadcasting programs but also in various media. He is a part-time lecturer at Edogawa University and an instructor at MX Television Visual Academy. As a member of the Society for Public Communication, he studies local media and has researched and written articles on face-framing panels as his life's work. His recent books include "Dramatically Increase Access and Registrations! Video Production: 52 Professional Tricks" (Nihon Jitsugyo Shuppansha, Ltd.).