Joe's Top 12 Jdramas from 2012

2012 has been one crazy year. We've had our ups, finally landing that teaching job we've always wanted (GTO 2012). We've had our downs, Dad dying and us having to take over the family funeral home business (Ending planner). We've realized our dreams, becoming a chef and owning a French restaurant that everyone is welcome in (Hungry). We've had some nightmares (Akumu-chan). We've fallen in love (Rich Man Poor Woman). We've made friends that will last a life time (Beginners). We've been on adventures (Dragon Seinenden). And we've realized what's most valuable in life (Priceless).

So before we head into the new year let's look back one more time at 2012 and make sure that you didn't miss the best it had to offer. Here's my top 12 Jdramas from 2012.

1. Hungry

When Eisuke and his band mates turn 30 they realize that their dreams of being rock legends are fading away. That, and the death of Eisuke's mother causes him to turn back to his first love - cooking French cuisine. Eisuke has a natural talent for cooking, and no one understands that better than the food loving, my-stomach-is-the-way-to-my-heart Chie-chan played by the adorable Takimoto Miori. That being said, this drama isn't necessarily big on romance, but where it lacks in that area, it makes up for in charm. This drama is creative, interesting, funny, and believable. The characters, the way they interact, the bond between them, and the food philosophy make Hungry a very enjoyable show that will have you smiling from beginning to end.

Me: Do you like smiling?
You: Smiling's my favorite!
Me: Then you should watch Hungry.

2. Legal High

I was going to try to write something to describe the awesomeness of Legal High, but then I read expert linguist Farah's amazing review of it and decided to quote her instead. I hope she doesn't mind.

"Legal High” is an exceptional legal comedy. The story seeks to adopt the unorthodox aspects of litigators as its main theme and presents us a combination of peculiarity and logicality. Audacious humor, whimsical characters, eccentric litigation, hilarious encounters, fanciful mannerism and outrageous ridicules in every episode make this drama highly entertaining... The characters are simply outstanding. The lead character Komikado is whacky, cynical, wasteful and indulgent. He is not only the center source of interest and excitement but also of contempt and resentment. The preposterous remarks delivered by him are unbelievable and unforgettable. Mayuzumi as an upright, honest lawyer has nothing surprising to offer but her existence is certainly indispensable in emphasizing the contrast with Komikado and maintaining the balance of craziness with rationality. The supporting characters are equally capricious and funny and enhance the pleasing power of the series... Overall it's an excellent drama and if you are in the mood to watch something that will make you laugh out loud in every episode then Legal High is a must for you." --Farah, not me, but I wholeheartedly agree.

3. Rich Man, Poor Woman

On the surface RMPW looks like a drama that couldn't be more typical. I mean the title can't get more generic than that. But I believe that the writers knew what they were doing when they daringly chose such a bland title. RMPW is anything but your ordinary Cinderella story. It has a magic to it that doesn't come from fairly tales or Hollywood but from the unique and lovable genius we call Japan. The chemistry between the leads is fantastic, and so is their acting. And while the romance is good, the business side of the story, which has been called a drama version of the hit movie "The Social Network," is equally as good. With a nice soundtrack, an excellent story, and great acting, it's easy to see why RMPW was one of Japan's most popular this year (at least on the internet).

4. Ataru

2012 had some great mystery/detective dramas but Ataru was my favorite. Ataru isn't your average detective drama. It has a uniqueness and ingenious to it that will touch you. You've probably seen people with autism, more specifically savant's syndrome, who although disabled in some areas are super abundantly abled in other areas, like memory. Ataru is one of those people. But Ataru is more than just a drama where someone with savant's syndrome solves cases. As the drama unfolds we have to solve the mystery of the sweet, compassionate, eccentric Ataru himself. Ataru has great cases, humor, and a touching story that makes it a really good watch.

5. Kagi no Kakatta Heya

Locked room cases are the enigmas of the mystery genre. Someone was killed in a locked room with no way of getting out so how did the the murderer escape? Was there a murderer? Was it suicide? It seems impossible to determine the truth. Has the perfect crime been committed? Much like a lock with all of it's intricacies, it can be opened if you have the skills to patience to pick it. And that's what this show focuses on, not as much on who did it, but how they did it. Kagi no Kakatta Heya appeals to the logical side of your brain which entertains you and keeps you locked in to the cases, but it also appeals to the fun-loving easy going side of your brain with it's unique and humorous characters. Ohno Satoshi does an awesome job at playing the calm, cool lock otaku Enomoto-kun, and Toda Erika does an even better job at playing the I-must-solve-this-case-at-the-expense-of-the-annoyance-of-my-boss go-getter lawyer assistant Aoto Junko. The drama is also fueled by one of the best OST's I've ever heard. I'm not gonna lie, the OST alone kept me coming back for more Kagi no Kakatta Heya every time.

6. Tokyo Zenryoku Shoujo

Tokyo Zenryoko Shoujo was a whole lot of fun to watch. It's a light hearted family comedy that's really entertaining. Takei Emi is a new young actress that has already gathered a large well deserved following for her roles in other dramas. Those roles were more serious, but in TZS she gets to cut loose and play the cheerful, positive and determined Saki Rei, spelled like rei from kirei (pretty) but pronounced Urara. Urara sets out to find her long lost father in Tokyo, and upon finding her bachelor father, she decides that he must pick one of the 3 women he's been dating to be his wife. Her father thinks she prying, but Urara is determined that it's necessary in order for him to be happy. Filled with a surprisingly big and bright cast, cute/funny manga-like expressions, and an amusing story of a daughter's love for her father, Tokyo Zenryoko Shoujo is a show that you will really enjoy.

7. Priceless
Priceless is one of those dramas that just has "it." What is it exactly? It is cleverness, originality, reality, and a touch of magic. Priceless has all of those, and it works it well. It's one of those rare shows that is brilliant without all the hype. Kimura Takuya plays the role of the charismatic, kind hearted, riches-to-rags-to-riches Kindaichi Fumio well. And Karina Nose, who has surprised me with how versatile she can be, also plays her role as the cereal samurai collecting accountant Nikaido Aya good too. The story of Kindaichi's loss and struggle back to the top while learning what's truly priceless in life is an enjoyable watch that I could recommend to anyone.

8. Akumu-chan

Akumu-chan stars the incredible Keiko Kitagawa who has long since won me over with her great acting and cute mannerisms, which she brings to this show as well. In Akumu-chan she plays a teacher who pretends to be kind hearted, caring and perfect, but on the inside is cold, insensitive and selfish. Given her true personality, you wouldn't think that she would be recruited by Kouto Yuiko to help people, but unlikely as it may seem, she is the only one who can help. Kouto Yuiko is a girl from her class who see's prophetic nightmares, but has always been unable to prevent them from coming to pass. Child actress Kimura Manatsu is adorable as Koto Yuiko. Gackt is pretty awesome here as well. Akumu-chan is unique, interesting, funny, and entertaining. It reminds me a little of last years Yokai Ningen Bem, but I like Akumu-chan better.  It's kinda episodic, but the overarching story begins to take top priority and it is really good. It's a great show. Definitely a can't miss from 2012.

9. Piece

"There are four types of human beings, 1. The ones who never get on the wrong bus, 2. The ones who always get on the wrong bus, 3. the ones who after getting on the wrong bus immediately get off, and... 4. The ones who, when realizing they got on the wrong bus still go along for the ride."

Piece is one of those dramas that you didn't expect much out of but were pleasantly surprised to find that it's actually freaking amazing. The visuals, the soundtrack, and the monologues/dialogues make this drama a nice piece of cinematic poetry. I don't even know how to put the dangerous chemistry that the two leads have together into words, but it will definitely get your heart pounding. Top that with an air of mystery and you have an excellent suspense romance drama that begs to be marathoned. And at 23 minutes per ep it's a really easy watch.

10. Strawberry Night

Strawberry Night is a noir detective/police drama that has the best cases I've seen of any detective show so far. They're edgy, intense, emotional, dark, but highly entertaining. This drama isn't episodic like most detective shows. Some cases span 2-4 episodes, but that gives you time to really delve into the them. If you decide to watch this, you must start with the 2010 special. It's a little hard to get into at first but by the middle you'll be gripped and by the end you'll be astounded. As far as the drama goes, I'd like to quote Amrita - 

"You are thrust into the first crime and given brief flashes of the characters' past, pieces of a puzzle you'll only complete by the end, and not in full. It's realistic, harsh and frustrating, but it worms its way into the viewer's interest in a very subtle, gradual way, until you come to the end and wish there were another entire season to watch at once. The cases brought me more than once to the brink of tears. They are desperate and intense, involving such human characters I couldn't remain detached even if I wanted to."

11. Risou no Musuko

Risou no Musuko is another drama that caught us all by surprise. How could this episodic drama about a boy who deeply loves his mother and a mother who only wishes to raise her son so that he'll become rich and buy her a house be so entertaining? I don't know, but it was, LOL. It probably has to due with the fact that this drama is hilarious and all the actors did a really good job at playing their outlandish characters. I mean, we had some good couples this year in RMPW, Beginners, Piece, Sprout, but none so interesting as Daichi and his mother. Don't misunderstand. There's nothing incestual about this. You just have to watch this drama for yourself to see the unique mother and son relationship, the hilarity that ensues, and the awesomeness of it all.

12. Beginners
There were a lot of dramas fighting for the number 12 position. Ending planner, Lucky 7, Suugaku Joshi Gakuen, just to name a few, but I chose Beginners because it was a little more solid than the others. Beginners is the story of a group of police academy students that didn't quite make the initial evaluation. They're the underdogs and they have to work twice as hard to prove their worth. Fujigaya Taisuke, who you may recognize from Ikemen Desu Ne, leads the drama as Shimura Teppei. Shimura Teppie is an ex-yankee cut up kind of guy so can tell that there will be a lot of funny antics, which there are. An added element to the show is the slight romance and awesome chemistry between Teppei and Hiro. Hiro is played by Gouriki Ayame and she is heart meltingly cute in this, just as she was in Mirrai Nikki. Overall it's a pretty fun and enjoyable drama, and that's why it's #12 on my list of top 12 Jdramas of 2012.

What about you? What were your Top 12? Have you been inspired to go back and watch any of these that you missed? What did you think about 2012 as far as Jdramas go? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments (60)

  1. 1800 characters remaining Spoiler?
  • kittyflumpin 24 days ago
    I read this article maybe a month ago and made a note of the ones I'd not already seen. So I'm watching Strawberry Night right now (yes, I followed the advice and started with the 2010 SP) and it's FANTASTIC. I'm so glad I happened across this article over a year after it was first posted!
  • Kiribechan Aug 12, 2013
    Thank you very much for these suggestions! They all sound very interesting!
  • baka_usagi Jun 23, 2013
    It was a shame that I've only watched Kagi no Katta Heya, Beginners, Ataru, RMPW and Hungry. Gotta watch these all :D
  • NewKDramaAddict Jun 11, 2013
    Watching Legal High. It's hilarious!! Priceless, RMPW were masterpieces! I still have Akumu-chan, Strawberry Night and Kagi no Kakatta Heya on my PTW list.
  • realdeal May 6, 2013
    what no yuusha yoshihiko LOL
  • sambart Mar 14, 2013
    Seem all except Strawberry Night, Tokyo Zenryoku Shoujo and Rich Man, Poor Woman. So I didn't do too bad xD
  • amrita828 Jan 11, 2013
    I haven't watched many j-dramas this year. No, I atone: I haven't watched many dramas. One more reason to collect infos and useful recommendations from you, Mike. You know I always trust your judgment. :D
    Strawberry Night and Kagi no Kakatta I truly loved, but then I do have a weakness for Erika Toda and most of all for Takeuchi Yuko, my favourite asian actress. And then there was Hungry, wonderfully delicious drama.
    So here I go adding the ones I haven't seen to my ptw list!
    Thanks for the article, Mike. It's always a pleasure reading you. :D
    2 ❤
  • darkn3ss Jan 7, 2013
    ok now I have only see two of the drama in this list and one is one is on hold but I taken with the envy to put them all in my to watch list.
    1 ❤
  • sakurasomething Jan 6, 2013
    I've watched every single drama on this list, except for the newer ones, (Piece, Akumu-chan and Priceless) [haven't started on those yet] but yes Hungry was really good! My favorites this year are Risou no Musuko, Hungry, Kagi no Kakatta Heya, Ghost Mama Sousasen and Naniwa Shonen Tanteidan
    1 ❤
  • Mrmz Jan 6, 2013
    I've only watched 3 doramas from that list. Hungry always made me hungry while watching ( wouldn't recomend it if you're doing a diet :P) RMPW was so much fun!! And the chemistry between the leads + acting was awesome!!! My favorite though was Akumu-chan :D it was really different from usual school doramas. I just watched the 1st ep of Piece and seems interesting to say the least. You got me curious about the locked room dorama and I love Toda Erika ;)
    1 ❤
  • yankumicho Jan 6, 2013
    Most of the j-dramas that I watched this year are on your list too! I haven't seen all of the list, though. I really like Suugaku Joshi Gakuen and GTO 2012. But I agree, Hungry, RMPW, Risou no Musuko, and Beginners! are all great!
    2 ❤
  • Gaijin_ Jan 6, 2013
    I loved Hungry so much!!!
    2 ❤
  • nielyngrace Jan 6, 2013
    rich man and hungry are rated highly by me!! haha. thanx for the list. i'll check on the others. ^__^
    3 ❤
  • gracejt Jan 5, 2013
    Priceless is the best!! i already watch 8 eps. Richman and poor woman also really nice comedy romantic drama..
    2 ❤
  • bajanVIP Jan 5, 2013
    Loved Rich Man, Poor woman <3
    3 ❤


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