by Ceki, August 9, 2018

If you are a fan of Japanese dramas and films and like researching about them online, then you've probably heard of Dorama World, a great place to find reviews on anything to do with J-ent. The founder of that blog is Chiaki and she agreed to tell us more about her blog, herself and Japan in general.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comment section below. Let's go!

1. Hi, Chiaki! Please tell us a bit about yourself and 
how you became a Japanese drama fan. 

I first watched Japanese dramas on free-to-air TV when I was a child. At that time, they were dubbed in Mandarin and there was no dual sound function to hear the Japanese dialogue. It was only much later that I first got to watch dramas with the option to switch to Japanese dialogue. First drama I watched (if my memory is correct) should be 101 Kaime no Proposal but I found it really cheesy back then even though I was just a child. What got me really interested in dramas was probably Hoshi no Kinka

2. Have you ever lived in Japan? Please tell us your journey of learning Japanese. 

Never lived in Japan, but had been there a couple of times. I started learning Japanese on my own through library books in primary school, but I wasn't really progressing because it was done on and off. After high school, I started learning it properly at a language school with my part-time job salary, but stopped after 6 months and returned to self-learning. 

It was not until I was in my mid 20s that I went back to school again and started taking weekly lessons and earning my JLPT certs. It may look like I'd learnt the language for a long time, but the total amount of time I actually spent on proper lessons was just 4 years or so.

3. I’m a big fan of your blog Dorama World because it is the place I always turn to when I want to read important news about J-dramas and movies.
What are your plans regarding the future of this blog? 

I've made some changes to the blog's content and direction over the years, largely due to my circumstances and things happening on the blog. I know that many people like to read the news translations, but it was taking a toll on me because there was so much to cover and the blog is just an OMO (one-man-operation). 

I decided to return to my roots, so to speak, because the blog was started with the intention of sharing my reviews on dramas and movies. The news updates are now "condensed" into short points which I share via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter rather than the lengthy translations I used to write. Going forward, I will probably continue to work more on the reviews while the news updates take a backseat.

4. Are there any aspects of Japanese dramas that you like or dislike in particular? 

Like: The length of Japanese dramas (8 to 12 episodes) which makes it quite easy to finish one drama. Nowadays, there are even shorter ones like 4 to 6 episodes from WOWOW and NHK. It's good for those who are busy and hardly have time and patience to sit through a 20, 30 or even 40 episode drama.

Dislike: The never-ending sequels and real-life adaptations. I can see why successful franchises need to be milked to the last dollar but I don't like seeing the same thing over and over again especially if there is hardly any change. If they make it different between each sequel or have some sort of continuity in the story like what Zettai Reido is doing now, I'm fine with it.

As for adaptations, let's just say that among my favourites watched over all these days, there are very few which were adapted from novels and manga. It takes away the surprise element in a drama and casting is often an issue. It's even worse if the original story hasn't ended. Alternate endings don't always go down well with me.

5. Which Japanese dramas would you recommend to someone who is a complete newbie when it comes to this type of entertainment? 

It's a difficult question because we all have different preferences. Nowadays, there are many sites providing listings and reviews of dramas for you to get some ideas. Just be careful about reviews because you probably don't want to find out about spoilers before watching the drama.

6. Do you keep any other blogs? 

There's another one which is more personal and not related to Japanese entertainment - Shoku / Shisou / Seikatsu. You can also follow my alternative Twitter which is about random topics.

7. You’ve probably noticed that the Hallyu wave has taken the world by storm - what is your view on that? Do you think that people tend to avoid Japanese dramas because of certain prejudices? 

I do watch some K-dramas if I happen to like the genre especially suspense thrillers. Romance stories are usually a no-no for me. I don't think watching K-dramas and J-dramas are mutually exclusive all the time, but I hardly come across or meet people who like both genres equally. It's usually one side being stronger than the other in terms of preferences. Like I mentioned above, I have become accustomed to the length of J-dramas so one issue I don't really like about K-dramas is the length and the tendency to extend the drama if it does well. That can upset the balance of the storyline and usually makes the last episode redundant. 

One recent example I saw was Black which started off slowly, picked up pace in the middle, was about to see a great climax but fizzled out in the end. Rather than people avoiding Japanese dramas, I think it's more of a challenge for J-drama lovers to find what they want to watch. Of course, things have improved greatly compared to the days of downloading dramas online illegally or resorting to watching pirated VCDs in the early 2000s. Now, there are cable TV channels like Waku Waku Japan and GEM in Asia and even Netflix, Amazon and Hulu make their own dramas so there's a lot more choices to consume dramas easily and legally. 

However, I think that the K-drama fans are luckier because there are a lot of offerings even on free-to-air TV. Accessibility is the key here when it comes to reach and popularity.

8. Are you also a fan of other Asian dramas such as Thai, Chinese, Filipino, etc? 

I used to watch a lot of Hong Kong dramas as a teenager and actually picked up Cantonese from there. However, with the exodus of big names to China and less interesting storylines these days, I am watching a lot less now. For Korean, it depends on the genre. As for the rest, I don't follow them at all.

9. And now a very generic question :) 
Tell us your top 5 favourite Japanese dramas, films and actors. 

There are so many dramas which I've liked, but it's difficult to remember all or rank them. I'll just name a few which came to mind: If you are talking about the 90s, I would say Long Vacation. I think it's very difficult to assemble such a star-studded cast now since most, if not all of them have made it big, although to different extents. Of course, the story wouldn't be considered new in this age, but back then, it was a refreshing and kinda trendy genre. 

Nodame Cantabile was one of the few drama adaptations I liked even though I am a fan of the manga. It was good that the casting was pretty spot-on and the story didn't deviate too much from the manga. 

Seinaru Kaibutsutachi - suspense was pretty good, quite thought-invoking and strong acting especially from Nakatani Miki

Recent favourites would be Cold Case and Quartet. As for films, there are too many to mention so what comes to mind is Ieji, Watashi no Otoko, Shirayuki Hime Satsujin Jiken, Detroit Metal City and Orochi

Actors-wise, it would Abe Hiroshi, Takenouchi Yutaka and Matsuyama Kenichi.
Actresses would be Nakatani Miki, Matsu Takako, Mitsushima Hikari and Matsuyuki Yasuko.

10. Are you looking forward to any upcoming J-dramas and films? 

There are a few this season which I am interested in but haven't started watching: dele, Hagetaka, Gibo to Musume no Blues, Double Fantasy and Survival Wedding. I am in the midst of watching Zettai Reido 3 and Good Doctor.

11. I think this is it, thank you for your time! ^^ 
Is there anything that you would like to say to MDL users?

Do support J-dramas and movies when you can. Especially for Japanese movies, not many titles get screened overseas and the timings are usually not as friendly compared to blockbuster films. However, if you don't support them by watching the film in the cinema, the distributors won't bring them in. Support is the best way to keep these films coming to where you are. 

You can follow Chiaki on social media:

Facebook | Twitter | Dorama World blog