Editor's Note: Psycho Drama is featuring a series of articles looking closely at the Japanese and Korean drama scenes, in anticipation of our new section for Drama reviews. In our first set, Jet Encila analyzes the current staple of shows (plus an excellent look at some Asian trends) from a Filipino's point of view. This article was originally published late 2013, but a lot of what is said still applies today.

Screen capture from the NHK asadora Mare, starring Tao Tsuchiya and Kento Yamazaki. Copyright NHK Broadcasting, All Rights Reserved.

IN MY neck of the woods, Korean dramas are one of the biggest staples in primetime TV. They are like beef stews that families crave for during dinnertime. The excitement builds just before the rooster crows at dusk and you can see eager faces, both young and old, patiently and quietly beholding the boob-tube on their living room for their daily dose of outrageously-dressed foreign actors with orange-colored hair.

As I write this, I could hear my next-door neighbor belting out “Nobody, nobody but you! (*clap, clap*)” – a pop song by Korean girl group “Wonder Girls” that became a monster hit in Asian as well as the American charts. Top Hollywood record label honchos who went gaga over the catchy beat decided they could make money and come up with an English version of it to the delight of Uncle Sam’s new generation of Korean-crazy audience.

It’s hard to imagine Korean music penetrating the bailiwick of pop heavyweights Katy Perry, Rihanna, and J.Lo but music is a universal language and who can resist those cute and tiny little girls with the skimpy skirt singing and gyrating to a brand new tune?

Updates! The Kirishima Thing is the big winner of the recently concluded Japan Academy Prize grabbing two major awards - Best Picture and Best Director. Wolf Children won Animation of the Year while Hiroshi Abe is Best Actor for Thermae Romae and Kirin Kiki is Best Actress for Chronicle of my Mother.

- - -

Ryunosuke Kamiki as Ryoya Maeda in The Kirishima Thing, directed by Daihachi Yoshida. Copyright NTV, Showgate, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

 - - -

Favorites Erika Sawajiri and Aoi Miyazaki failed to grab the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards respectively, while Kengo Kora (nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Drudgery Train) and Mirai Moriyama (with dual nomination for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for The Drudgery Train and Chorus of Angels) suffered the same fate.

There was 7 Rookie of the year winners:

Emi Takei
Fumi Nikaido
Ai Hashimoto
Shota Sometani
Shim Chang-Min
Masahiro Higashide
Tori Matsuzaka

Emi Takei was last seen in Takashi Miike's "For Love's Sake" opposite Satoshi Tsumabuki and Takumi Saito, while Fumi Nikaido is the lead star in Himizu together with fellow Rookie winner Shota Sometani. Masahiro Higashide is part of The Kirishima Thing, and has a significant role in the currently Wowow TV drama xxxHolic, together with Sometani.

Shim Changmin, is, of course, the fab South Korean celebrity who played a North Korean spy in Fly with the Gold, while Tori Matsuzaka did some amazing performances in Tsunagu and Wings of the Kirin.

In the past, the words "Japanese film" may have conjured up an image of Godzilla trashing downtown Tokyo to most Americans, or perhaps in other audiences, black-and-white remembrances of gruff samurai from Kurosawa Akira's famed pictures. While these iconic images still remain central to the American image of Japanese film, now where once they stood by themselves they have become surrounded by a myriad of other varied characters and visuals. Greasy-haired yakuza gangsters, eccentric fully-realized future worlds, horrific monsters hiding in the shadows of our televisions and psyches, samurai warriors with swords dripping blood, uniformed schoolgirls navigating the busy neon-drenched streets of Tokyo and Osaka, beautifully animated landscapes and dreamworlds; these images and many more have come to embody what Japanese film means to Americans. These visuals and the stories and themes that accompany them have increasingly captured the attention of American filmgoers.

- - -

Spirited Away (Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し Hepburn: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi?, "Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away") written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli

- - -

There is much to like that attracts Americans to Japanese film genres, be they samurai jidaigeki, J-horror, yakuza, anime, slice-of-life coming of age, or even kaibutsu monster features. In order to understand the progression of Japanese film in the US, a brief history of the topic is illustrative:

Japanese films first made waves in America in the form of the aforementioned destructive tendencies of everyone's favorite irradiated dinosaur, Godzilla. The film itself was deemed "too Japanese" at the time, and the end result was the reconstruction of the original plot and the splicing of Hollywood actor Raymond Burr into the film. Godzilla was a huge success in America, and as the first film since World War II to represent the Japanese as heroes to an American audience, it helped pave the way for viewers to be able to sympathize with Japanese characters in film.