This winter season brings several adaptations of popular manga, like “Mei-chan no Shitsuji” and “Kami no Shizuku,” as well as the return of shows like “Tokumei Kakarichou” and “Hissatsu Shigotonin.”
Fuji TV, Monday 9:00pm, premieres January 12
A group of five medical students take on the task of conveying the “voices of the dead.” Eita plays Daiki, who fails to get into a popular heart surgery seminar but is somehow accepted into a seminar on forensic pathology. When he approaches the professor Sagawa (Saburo Tokito) and asks him why he ended up in the seminar, Sagawa challenges him by asking why he wants to study heart surgery. Daiki replies that medicine is meaningless after the heart stops, but Sagawa counters that medicine also applies to the dead. Along with fellow students Ryosuke (Toma Ikuta) and Kanako (Satomi Ishihara), Daiki begins to explore the mysteries of death.
Other Cast: Yuya Endo, Tomohito Sato, Akiko Yada, Shigeru Izumiya, Mari Hamada
Official Site: http://www.fujitv.co.jp/voice/
Mei-chan no Shitsuji (メイちゃんの執事)
Fuji TV, Tuesday 9:00pm, premieres January 13
Adapted from the manga “Mei-chan no Shitsuji” (“Mei-chan’s Butler” by Riko Miyagi, this drama stars Nana Eikura as Mei, who was rescued as a young girl by someone calling himself her “butler.” With only a vague memory, though, the experience seems like just a dream. But one day, after her parents’ accidental death, he appears: Rihito (Hiro Mizushima) comes from a line of outstanding butlers, and he has been appointed to serve her! Now her ordinary life has completely flipped, as she discovers that she’s actually the heiress to a fortune, and is forced to transfer to St. Lucia Girls’ Academy, where all the students have butlers! As a result, her childhood friend Kento (Takeru Sato) decides to enroll in a butler school so that he can stay close to her.
Other Cast: Yu Yamada, Mayuko Iwasa, Aya Omasa, Osamu Mukai, Nanase Hoshii, Hiromi Kitagawa, Aoi Nakabeppu, Shiori Kutsuna
Official Site: http://www.fujitv.co.jp/mei-chan/
Fuji TV, Tuesday 10:00pm, premieres January 6
Based on a novel by Kiyomi Niitsu, this suspense series starts with the abduction and murder of a 10-year-old girl in 1984. Ryoji Goda (Yosuke Eguchi), a classmate who was in love with her, is the first to discover her death, but he runs away in fear. Carrying the burden of that trauma, he later goes on in life to become a doctor in place of his dead older brother. But the case goes unsolved, and after the statute of limitations passes 15 years later, Goda quits his job as a doctor and decides to become a detective. Then one day, his partner (Goro Inagaki) receives a phone call regarding the case…
Other Cast: Ryoko Hirosue, Saki Aibu, Masato Sakai, Shosuke Tanihara, Kuranosuke Sasaki
Official Site: http://ktv.jp/triangle/
Kami no Shizuku (神の雫)
NTV, Tuesday 10:00pm, premieres January 13
The popular manga “Kami no Shizuku,” created by Tadashi Agi, comes to life in this live-action adaptation. KAT-TUN’s Kazuya Kamenashi takes the lead as a young man whose father, a world-famous wine critic, suddenly dies. His father leaves behind a wine collection worth a fortune, but in order to obtain it, he must solve a challenge left by his father to find 13 wines. However, he has no real experience with wine, and his rival is his adopted brother, who happens to also be a prominent wine critic.
Other Cast: Seiichi Tanabe, Riisa Naka, Naho Toda, Nozomi Sasaki
Official Site: http://www.ntv.co.jp/shizuku/
Kiina: Fukanou Hanzai Sousakan (キイナ 不可能犯罪捜査官)
NTV, Wednesday 10:00pm, premieres January 21
Miho Kanno stars as a detective for the first time in this mystery series. She plays Kiina, the head of a special investigation unit that deals with perplexing cases. What makes the show unique is that the mysteries are all based on real-life cases that have been covered in NTV’s variety shows like “Tokumei Research 200X!” and “Sekai Gyoten News.”
Other Cast: Yuta Hiraoka, Muga Tsukaji, Eiko Koike, Masao Kusakari, Ikki Sawamura
Official Site: http://www.ntv.co.jp/kiina/
Q.E.D. (Q.E.D. 証明終了)
NHK, Thursday 8:00pm, premieres January 8
This show is based on Motohiro Kato’s detective manga “Q.E.D. ~Shomei Shuryo~.” Kana Mizuhara (played by Morning Musume’s Ai Takahashi) is a cheerful and energetic high schooler. One day, a boy named So Toma (Aoi Nakamura) transfers into her class, but it turns out that he’s a genius who graduated from a prestigious American university at the age of 15, leading Kana to wonder why he’s attending her school. One day, the pair come across a murder scene, and they end up becoming a crime-solving team, along with Kana’s policeman father (Ken Ishiguro).
Other Cast: Koichiro Tomioka
Official Site: http://www.nhk.or.jp/drama8/qed/
Tokumei Kakarichou Tadano Hitoshi 4 (特命係長只野仁)
TV Asahi, Thursday 9:00pm, premieres January 8
“Tokumei Kakarichou Tadano Hitoshi” is back for its fourth season, with Katsunori Takahashi again playing the suave salaryman. This time around, however, the show has moved from its old late-night slot to prime time, which will mean less sexual content. This season’s new faces include Ai Haruna, fashion model YUKARI, and AKB48’s Kazumi Urano.
Other Cast: Atsuko Sakurai, Masaru Nagai, Yuri Ebihara, Ryosei Tayama, Rieko Miura
Official Site: http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/tadanohitoshi/
Arifureta Kiseki (ありふれた奇跡)
Fuji TV, Thursday 10:00pm, premieres January 8
In this family and romance drama, Yukie Nakama plays Kana, an employee at a kitchen equipment firm who lives with her parents and grandmother, while Ryo Kase plays Shota, a plasterer who lives with his father and grandfather. One day, they happen to meet at a train station when they both try to stop a man (Takanori Jinnai) from jumping onto the tracks, and their lives quickly begin to change from that point on. The show will reportedly be the last drama series by prolific writer Taichi Yamada (“Fuzuroi no Ringotachi”).
Other Cast: Morio Kazama, Keiko Toda, Yutaka Matsushige, Hisashi Igawa, Ittoku Kishibe, Kaoru Yachigusa
Official Site: http://www.fujitv.co.jp/arifureta-kiseki/
NTV, Thursday 11:58pm, premieres January 15
Each episode of this manga-inspired drama features a different lead character who reaches a critical point in life. Comedian Naoki Tanaka plays the key role as the “time guide” Anri, a being with the power to “reset” people’s lives and give them a chance to change for the better. The original comic is written by Mayuri Yamamoto, who also did “Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi.”
Other Cast: Megumi Yasu, Airi Matsuyama, Ren Kiriyama
Official Site: http://www.ytv.co.jp/reset/
Hissatsu Shigotonin 2009 (必殺仕事人２００９)
TV Asahi, Friday 9:00pm, premieres January 9
This show marks the return of the jidaigeki series “Hissatsu Shigotonin,” which has had several seasons between the 1970s and the 1990s. The franchise came back in 2007 with a one-shot special, but this is its first full season since 1992. Makoto Fujita returns as the protagonist Nakamura Mondo, one of the “shigotonin,” a team of hired assassins. He is joined by Johnny’s stars Noriyuki Higashiyama, Masahiro Matsuoka, and Tadayoshi Okura.
Other Cast: Emi Wakui, Mitsuki Tanimura, Noriko Nakagoshi, Takashi Ukaji, Seiji Fukushi
Official Site: http://hissatsu2009.asahi.co.jp/
Love Shuffle (ラブ シャッフル)
TBS, Friday 10:00pm, premieres January 16
Screenwriter Shinji Nojima pens this romantic comedy, which stars Hiroshi Tamaki as a salaryman who has risen in status due to his engagement with the wealthy daughter (Shihori Kanjiya) of his company’s president. Shortly after she breaks off the engagement, he finds himself stuck in the elevator of his apartment building. Trapped with him are three others living on the same floor – a trilingual interpreter (Karina), a model photographer (Shota Matsuda), and a doctor (Shosuke Tanihara). Questioning their love lives, they decide to try “shuffling” their relationships with each other.
Other Cast: DAIGO, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Hijiri Kojima
Official Site: http://www.tbs.co.jp/loveshuffle/
Uta no Oniisan (歌のおにいさん)
TV Asahi, Friday 11:15pm, premieres January 16
After a dramatic performance in “Maou” last year, Arashi’s Satoshi Ohno turns to comedy in this series about a young man named Kenta, who loses his band and his girlfriend (played by vocalist Chisa of GIRL NEXT DOOR) but somehow winds up as a cast member on a children’s music show. The series also features Yoshino Kimura as the show’s producer and Kanjani8’s Ryuhei Maruyama.
Other Cast: Nana Katase, Masahiko Ono, Risa Sudo, Saori Takizawa
Official Site: http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/utaoni/
Choujin Utada (超人ウタダ)
WOWOW, Friday 12:00am, premieres January 30
Yasuhito Yamamoto’s manga “Choujin Utada” gets the live-action treatment here, with comedians Muga Tsukaji (Drunk Dragon) and Jin Katagiri (Rahmens) as the co-stars. Tsukaji plays the lead as Mamoru Utada, a cop who has long put up with the corruption in the police system. One day, a mysterious man named Kanzaki (Katagiri) appears, telling him that he only has three more years to live. Kanzaki explains that the two of them are “supermen,” who are morally allowed to live as they please. After one particular case, Utada begins considering Kanzaki’s words, and is tempted to enact his own brand of justice.
Other Cast: Masahiko Nishimura, Sawa Suzuki, Risa Kudo, Atsushi Maruyama
Official Site: http://www.wowow.co.jp/drama/utada/
TV Tokyo, Friday 12:12am, premieres January 9
This girl-oriented comedy revolves around three women living together – played by Reina Asami, Yuri Nakamura, and Maho Nonami – who dream hopelessly of being celebrities. The show follows the trio as they attempt to live like stars, combining fashion, friendship, and juicy gossip.
Official Site: http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/celebry3/
Naniwa no Hana ~Ogata Koan Jikencho~ (浪花の華～緒方洪庵事件帳～)
NHK, Saturday 7:30pm, premieres January 10
This jidaigeki drama centers on the life of the Edo period doctor Ogata Koan, played by Masataka Kubota. Chiaki Kuriyama plays the daughter of a manju maker, who also carries on secretly as the leader of a group of vigilantes. She teams up with Ogata to solve crime cases in their city of Osaka.
Other Cast: Hisako Manda, Keizo Kanie, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Taiyo Sugiura
Official Site: http://www.nhk.or.jp/jidaigeki/naniwa/
RESCUE: Tokubetsu Koudo Kyuujotai (ＲＥＳＣＵＥ～特別高度救助隊)
TBS, Saturday 8:00pm, premieres January 24
Similar to Fuji TV’s “Code Blue” last year, “RESCUE” is an action-filled series revolving around people saving lives. Yuichi Nakamaru of KAT-TUN plays the lead as Daichi Kitajima, a young man inspired to become a firefighter after a childhood incident in which he was saved by a rescue squad. Now he is aiming to become part of an elite rescue team, along with several other candidates, including characters played by Takahisa Masuda (NEWS) and Yusuke Yamamoto. To heighten the realism, the show is being produced in collaboration with a real-life rescue squad based in Yokohama.
Other Cast: Hideo Ishiguro, Shunsuke Daito, Yosuke Asari, Jun Kaname, Ryo Ishibashi, Ken Ishiguro, Yui Ichikawa, Yuko Fueki, Aki Nishihara
Official Site: http://www.tbs.co.jp/rescue2009/
Zeni Geba (銭ゲバ)
NTV, Saturday 9:00pm, premieres January 17
“Zeni Geba” is an adaptation of the 1970s manga of the same name (also called “Money Crazy” by George Akiyama. Kenichi Matsuyama stars as Futaro Gamagori, a young man born in poverty, abused and abandoned by his father, leaving his mother to die of illness. Because of his experiences, he becomes obsessed with money and willing to do anything to obtain it, even if it means deceiving and betraying the people around him.
Other Cast: Mimura, Daisuke Miyagawa, Haruka Kinami, Kippei Shiina, Ryo, Kei Yamamoto
Official Site: http://www.ntv.co.jp/zenigeba/
NHK, Sunday 8:00pm, premieres January 4
NHK’s 2009 taiga drama is “Tenchijin,” based on the novel by Masashi Hisaka. Satoshi Tsumabuki stars as Naoe Kanetsugu, who served as a retainer for Uesugi Kenshin (Hiroshi Abe). After Kenshin’s death, he became a follower of Kenshin’s son Kagekatsu (Kazuki Kitamura). Unlike past taiga dramas, “Tenchijin” will run only until November.
Other Cast: Takako Tokiwa, Masami Nagasawa, Saki Aibu, Reiko Takashima, Kotaro Koizumi, Manami Higa, Tetsuji Tamayama
Official Site: http://www9.nhk.or.jp/taiga/
Honjitsu mo Hare. Ijou Nashi (本日も晴れ。異状なし)
TBS, Sunday 9:00pm, premieres January 18
Narumi is a remote and peaceful island (modeled after the real-life island of Hateruma) that has much more need for a doctor than for police. But one day, a policeman (Kenji Sakaguchi) gets assigned there, to the disappointment of the residents. However, as he gradually becomes friends with the people living there, he begins to help them address their own problems and concerns for the future of the island.
Other Cast: Nao Matsushita, Munetaka Aoki, Elena Natsumi, Rei Okamoto, Takashi Ukaji, Yoshimasa Kondo
Official Site: http://www.tbs.co.jp/hon-hare2009/
Yoju: Mame Shiba (幼獣マメシバ)
tvk, Friday 9:00pm, premieres January 16
*schedule varies by network
Jiro Sato stars as a middle-aged bachelor who leads a worry-free life due to his reliance on his parents. But after his father dies and his mother runs away, he is finally forced to grow up. His companion on this new life journey is a Shiba Inu puppy. In addition to the drama, “Yoju” is also being told as a movie that is scheduled to open in theaters this summer.
Other Cast: Takashi Sasano, Kotaro Shiga
Official Site: http://mame-shiba.info/tv/index.html
Sagishi Ririko (サギ師リリ子)
TV Tokyo, Weekdays 11:50am, premieres January 5
“Sagishi Ririko” is a suspense-comedy series that stars Akiko Hinagata as a housewife and mother. However, she also happens to be the brilliant boss of a professional team of swindlers who take on clients seeking revenge against the “evil” swindlers.
Other Cast: Ryuichi Oura, Terumi Azuma, Shinobu Tsuruta, Mio Dazai, Atsumi Kanno
Official Site: http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/ririko/
Over 30 (オーバー30)
TBS, Weekdays 1:30pm, premieres January 5
Wakako Shimazaki and Ryoko Yui face off in this battle between two 36-year-old women. Aiko (Shimazaki) is a housewife and mother of two children, while Mika (Yui) is a single working woman. Noboru Takachi plays Shimazaki’s husband Naoyuki, a good-looking guy who’s popular with woman. In fact, he’s having an affair with Mika (who doesn’t even know Naoyuki is married), but Aiko discovers his infidelity and is now considering divorce.
Other Cast: Eiji Bando, Mie Nakao
Official Site: http://hicbc.com/tv/drama/over30/
Hikon Doumei (非婚同盟)
Fuji TV, Weekdays 1:30pm, premieres January 5
Hitomi Sato takes the lead as Yukiko, a young woman with a complicated family background due to her father’s infidelity. She eventually ends up living together with her half-sister Sayuri (Erisa Akiyama) and Sayuri’s classmate (Chizuru Lee), and the three of them unite in their “hikon” lifestyle – carrying on relationships while having no plans for marriage.
Other Cast: Toru Kazama, Maiko Ito, Junko Mihara
Official Site: http://tokai-tv.com/hikon/