The Johnny's group Sport Music Assemble People, mostly known as SMAP, is officially disbanding at the end of this year after 25 years since debuting and 28 years of being together. In those 25 years, they have given us some of the most iconic and fun dramas in Japanese history. I've only been a SMAP fan for about three or four years, and obviously that cannot stand up to 25 years of legacy. However, I've seen a good portion of their dramas, or at least know enough about them, and so I would like to make a post about the legacy that they have created in the drama world (and will continue to make as they continue with their solo careers in the future.
Let me give some of you who do not know about SMAP a little back history. SMAP is a group underneath Johnny's entertainment, the biggest boy band producing company in Japan. They were officially formed in 1991. Throughout their career they sold 35 million copies of records and starred in roughly 140 dramas, give or take 10 in that estimate. They've collaborated with many artists on their program SMAPxSMAP and have interviewed many foreign and native celebrities alike for the last two and a half decades. They are living legends and should be respected as such.
Like I said, since the group collectively has more than 100 dramas and specials that span over 25 years and I've only been a fan of them for a short while, I've only seen about a handful of those, but I'll do my best to honour these men who put so much of their time into entertaining the masses as a group for 28 years of their lives.
Let's start with the most well known member to drama fans. Kimura or as many affectionately refer to him, Kimutaku, is the living icon in the Japanese drama world and entertainment business. He's often mentioned in research studies done on Japanese television. He's also one of the best known Japanese actors in parts of Asia outside Japan. I've mentioned him in all of my articles so far because he's just that important. Any research done on Japanese television that does not mention Kimura did not research deeply enough.
An absolute classic, this drama will get deep in your feelings. Revolving around a woman who is ill and wheelchair bound and a male hairstylist played by Kimura, the story is sweet but also somber in nature. I can't say that you will walk out from this drama feeling good about life because I forced myself to pull an all-nighter basically just so i could watch the last episode before sleeping. I wanted to avoid watching it the next morning and starting my day with sadness. This is one of those dramas that you love dearly and you keep on loving it for years to come but you don't want to re-watch it for the next 10 years for fear of crying harder than the first time you watched.
Let me start by saying that I'm not into sports so I thought that this wasn't going to be for me, but it was! It just happened to be about a hockey player who fell in love with a typical office lady. However it's not such a smooth sailing romance because he doesn't treat love and romance like something important. For him, Hockey comes first and romance comes last. All in all it was a bit of a roller coaster with these two characters. However, I did watch this one with my mother who thinks that my "Asian shows" are a little strange and even she liked it! So give it a go!
This is the first legal drama I ever watched and it was amazing all the way through. I watched it at sort of a young age but still feel the impact of how great it was. Although Kimura is playing a prosecutor, he neither dresses nor acts like the typical person in his profession. This baffles his assistant. HERO is such an easy watch. It's a good saturday drama to ease you through the day. It's also a good introduction to legal drama for those who have not yet seen any legal shows.
This is a historical drama that is in format of two spectacular specials. They are each two hours long, so it just feels like watching a really long movie. However it feels like you're actually there and you won't mind the four straight hours you just spent because it was four hours of beautiful cinematography and costumes. The acting was amazing of course, and you'll just be captured by the historical figure Miyamoto Misashi that Kimura portrays very well.
This drama exceeded my expectations! This drama is about a shrewd and cold businessman who one day is in a terrible accident and he loses his memories along with his cold personality. The only thing he has with him to find his past self is a ring full of keys. As he finds out what each key belongs to he starts to piece together who his past self was and he struggles to cope with the fact that his past self is not the person he wants to be. If you're thinking about watching this one, watch it, it's so worth it. The way they reveal pockets of his personality really make you wonder about the type of man he really was and if he was even cold to begin with. The acting was superb and the filming was great. This is Kimura's newest drama at the moment. He's a bit older now so the overall feeling of this drama is mature. I wouldn't recommend to someone who likes something more bubbly and youthful.
Probably my most watched Kimutaku drama to date because it was the first drama that I saw him in I believe. I can't get tired of this drama. Kimura plays a neurologist who used to be a host but then one day, he acquired a serious brain injury due to a building collapsing on top of him. You will be captured by the antics of this quirky and down right strange neurologist. Solving crimes using neurology is definitely a very Japanese theme. Many of their crime shows relate criminology to other fields like neurology, physics, and even meteorology. Mr. Brain is a short one day marathon and a very funny and exciting one at that. I still laugh at the same jokes from this one.
I watched this one just this year and I'm glad I finally did! this drama, in my opinion, is one of Kimura's underrated dramas. It is a drama about politics however it's not mundane or boring. If anything it's more about this man's journey from being a clumsy Elementary school teacher to the Prime Minister, and his determination to provide his country with the things that they absolutely need. It's heart warming and funny and such a great marathon session. You'll find yourself feeling like the political system is very interesting and exciting.
Let's take a step into the 90s for a moment. This was one of the most well received dramas of the decade and definitely of that year. Long Vacation's story line is very simple. It's about a young pianist and bride who was ditched at the alter by his ex-roommate who end up living together due to a series of circumstances. They live together and share many experiences with each other that they never would have had otherwise. Overall this has a more easy going vibe and it's fun to watch. The actors really make these characters and the drama as enjoyable as it is.
Another 90s favorite of mine about a man who seems to be stalking this woman played by Nakayama Miho. It turns out that they have a mysterious connection in their childhood that she is unaware of and the drama unfolds from there. This was a very thrilling and intriguing watch. It has many elements that only Japanese dramas have from that era and it keeps you wanting more with each passing episode. And once you think you've figured something out, you're still going to be wrong. This drama is long over due for me to re-watch it. Another must watch by Kimura.
I've heard mixed reviews on this one, however I can confidently say that I thought this one was gold. I was hooked on this drama every week when the new episode was coming out. Kimura is playing both a socially awkward scientist as well as an android and I think he transitioned well between the two roles quite well. His believably robotic expressions were priceless and the action in the drama was top notch. Needless to say I was impressed every week by this drama because in 2013 I had not seen Japan do anything quite like it in drama form just yet. It was refreshing yet thrilling.
Shingo is my favorite member of SMAP because of his quirky and very eccentric personality. In my opinion, Shingo is a versatile actor that doesn't get the recognition he deserves all the time. Although I love his more somber characters, he has played many different roles with some fun loving and cheerful characters as well. Also check out that interesting hair in his profile picture! XD i strangely love it.
Not many people know about this one and I hope that this article will spread the word about it and give people motivation to check it out. This one is unique because Shingo is playing a Vietnamese immigrant who is trying to learn Japanese at a Japanese language school as well as work to send money home to his family in Vietnam. The teacher that he meets is a woman that he helped cross the street in the bustling streets of Vietnam. She's older than him and they end up liking each other despite the odds. It's a touching and somewhat mellow romance that more people need to know about.
If you are not a fan of SMAP or have not heard of Shingo I think you may have a least heard of this drama because it is a Nojima Shinji drama. Nojima Shinji writes a lot of popular story lines that usually deal with some sort of a broken character. This is a must watch! I'm thinking about re-watching it as I type this because it's been so long and I loved it. It is quite somber and mellow but the characters and the story will touch you deeply. Shingo's character is one of the purest and kindest characters that I've seen in a while and it's hard not to love him because of it. You might find yourself very hung up on this drama because his character was beautifully written.
I'm in the middle of this myself but it's quite good and very much full of life lessons. Centred around three friends who used to be in a neighbourhood gang because of their family situation. These three men try to raise a little boy until his real guardians take him in. Although I personally haven't finished this one I still believe that it deserves a place on this list as one of Shingo's more popular dramas. It's silly, fun and just warms your heart as you watch it. But you could also just watch for Shingo's lion hair.
This drama is very quirky and not serious at all. It's about a teacher who can see ghosts but he decides to ignore their existence. However there is a ghost living in his apartment who was a teacher when she was alive and he helps her figure out why she is still in limbo but he also unexpectedly falls in love with her. Another easy watch for those interested in a quirky romance.
I'm going to be honest that even after finishing this show I did not understand what the Smoking Gun was supposed to mean or symbolize. However it's still a great watch. It's not a cinematic master piece or anything of the sort. It's just about a guy who hates people and focuses on his research as much as he can without interacting with others. He falls in love with one of his lab partners and she is killed in front of him but he cannot remember why or how. So he goes about his days being tortured by the fact that he may be the cause of her death. While carrying that burden he moved to a different research facility and met new people who started to open his eyes on how important he is to them. This drama is touching, thrilling, and all around a good watch. Not award winning like I said but definitely worth a try.
His newest drama and also a very well received one it seems. It is about a man who is near the age of 40 and has yet to get married. He seems to think that he can just get married whenever he wants and has no need for it right now at this point in time, especially since he hates the idea of being hurt by love. He has particular tastes and habits that he does not want anybody to interfere with. He meets a divorced woman who has no intention of re-marrying. She's strong willed and similar to him in many ways. Therefore they butt head a lot. This one was probably well received because of dynamic between the two finding this love in an unexpected place. While the drama keeps a lighter feel and balances out the serious moments, it makes for a great watch.
His more recent dramas seem to be getting more attention from international drama fans rather than his earlier works. Tsuyoshi has been in some noteworthy dramas in his time, a lot of his popular works are mainly popular in Japan and mentioned sometimes by other Japanese celebs. I too have mostly seen only his recent works. I'm unfortunately in the middle of all four of these dramas but I quite like them.
Wow! just wow! I'm close to finishing this one and the conflicts in this one are just intense. It's about a man who works with numbers for a living in a major firm only to be fired from that firm because of his father's debt which becomes known at his company. This drama is pretty intense, from dealing with money to dealing with romance, it couldn't be better. His impeccable knowledge of stocks and money and his ability to become cut throat to get to where he needs to be is what makes this drama great. He seems strong on the surface but he's emotionally weak deep down and I think they made this character perfectly.
If this character were real I'd have to slap him. As a person dealing with relationships he is absolutely terrible and should be slapped. Tsuyoshi plays an elite who is the president of a film company and he's satisfied with being single. He has eccentric tastes in art and things of culture and he takes many women back to his apartment for one night stands but he's not interested in marrying any of them. He meets a woman who despises men's views on marriage and they start to fall for each other. This is a light and slightly comedic but not slap stick drama. Another one of those non-cinematic master pieces but you will probably end up loving it all the same.
I have actually watched all of the specials that lead up to this drama adaptation but have yet to watch the actual drama. The specials kept getting better and better with each coming year. It's about a police officer who was falsely accused of a crime and ends up spending 10 years in prison. In those 10 years he observed and analyzed criminals. Once released from prison he is assigned to a special police force to help in solving out of the ordinary mysteries based on his knowledge of criminals over the 10 years he was locked away. This wasn't so much that thrilling cop show that you watch sitting on the edge of your seat but more of a ''wow that's such an interesting theory and these cases are quite different'' sort of feeling.
A pure romance between a gentle glass maker with no experience in love and a woman who is married with a daughter. She goes on a sight seeing trip alone and unfortunately gets into a car accident. Tsuyoshi's character tends to her in her time on need and the two are drawn to each other. I started this in either middle school or high school and never finished it but still have plans to do so in the near future. I'm saving it for a day where I want to relax with an easy going and slower romance as opposed to a hyper and fast paced one. This drama is often compared to the Korean drama winter sonata although it is not an adaptation of it. It's worth a try!
Now here is a drama that I really need to watch, especially after watching the SMAP Mr.S concert where they did skits from it and showed some clips. It looks like a thrilling yazuka show full of fighting and other unpredictable situations. It's about a Yazuka underling in Roppongi that is reassigned to an old folks home after his boss dies. He did not get what he apparently signed up for with this new position.
4. Inagaki Goro
Goro, unlike the other members, is not known for his acting ability. He is more often of a side character in a supporting role in dramas. I do not believe this to be a bad thing because even some of the most talented actors mostly do supporting roles. Some of Goro's supporting roles have been of my favourite of his work.
This story does not revolve around Goro's character at all. In fact he's more of a side character than a supporting character. This is more about a man who works in an aquarium and is working to help his sister find an organ donor. He meets a person who is in the sex trade trying to help her brother pay off his debt. That brother is played by Goro. Although his part was small, I believe it made an impact on me for what Goro could do as an actor and this drama is just a sad yet heart warming master piece.
I have only heard good things about this drama although I've never watched it. It's a great detective drama with an all star cast. The reviews on this seem promising and the story line is interesting: A former surgeon turned detective is trying to solve a cold case. It's on my plan to watch and I'll be checking this one out very soon!
I discovered the existence of this drama only this year and wow I'm glad I found it! I'm in the middle of this series at the moment but it's great. It's about a band of thieves who get together and steal things that are of value to them and Goro plays a hacker who is using them for his own personal gain. Since I have not finished this one I cannot guarantee the overall feel but so far it's quite thrilling and fun. Not a grip your seat type of thrilling but a jump on your couch and and shout praises type of thrilling. I can't wait for more!
Another drama where Goro is in a supporting role. He's the antagonist in this drama. The drama centres around a man who loves rock and roll music and wanted to make it big with his band before he turned 30. Rock music became very important to him at a young age and is a part of his soul. Before rock music he was trained by his mother in the art of French cuisine and a little bit of the French language. His mother passes away around his 30th birthday and he decides to take over her business.owever his mother's restaurant and servers were taken away from him because his father was tricked by Goro's character. This is a very light and almost coming of age story about a man who is forced to face his reality and do great things in a field he didn't intend to be in. It's funny and playful and full of great food to drool over.
This drama was made probably more for Johnny's fans than for anybody else however I highly enjoyed it. It's about a psychiatrist treating school aged patients. It can be said that because each episode is only about 24 minutes and he's treating multiple patients, it's hard to get in depth with the characters and their problems. This is was a very interesting watch for me. The stories were all a little dark and and pacing wasn't bad. It's a quick watch for people who like psychological dramas.
A detective drama where Goro plays the boss to a sort of eccentric detective assistant who disregards everything he tells her in order to solve cases. She is more of the main focus than he is although they are both leading characters. She pulls you in with her passion and unorthodox methods of going about cases. Another drama worth a try!
Last but not least I placed Nakai-san last because he acts the least out of all of the members but perhaps has some of the best acting ability. He mainly decided that he wanted to invest in hosting variety shows instead of starring in dramas, which has shown to be in his favour since he is one of the richest celebrities in Japan because of his investment.
I have to be honest because Nakai does not act as much as the others, this is the only drama that I've completed with him in it. However, this is a master piece that everyone is bound to love. Ataru centers around a severely autistic man who has the ability to solve crimes with brilliant memory and deductive skills. I hadn't even planned to watch this one, I just suddenly decided to do so and I was gripping onto my laptop as I got hooked from the first episode. The way he plays an autistic man is believable and the cases that he solves are all interesting. It's another must watch!
Another drama that I have not seen but the story line has peaked my interest and the review given has made me even more curious about this one. Any sort of mysterious character seems to fit well with Nakai's acting style and I'm ready to give this one a try. I hope that everyone else will also does.
Shiroi Kage is a somber and interesting romance between a doctor and a nurse. Nakai-san plays a sort of mysterious and cold man. He shows very little emotion but is extremely confident in his ability as a surgeon. The nurse has high expectations for the hospital she was hired in and she doesn't want anything that happened at her last hospital to repeat itself. Although I'm in the middle of this one as well, it's a very mellow/slow feeling drama. Nothing exciting happens too quickly. For another sad adult romance Shiroi Kage is the show for you.
This is sort of my way of saying goodbye to one of the most influential groups in entertainment history. I know it's not the best tribute they could be given but I tried my best. I hope others will look into these shows as well. Although they aren't gone completely they will truly be missed. Thank you SMAP for all the things you did over the years!