Questions and Answers

Q&A: Why do Japanese act unnaturally in doramas? [The Quora Coverage]

There was an interesting question about Japanese actors and their acting style at Quora.

The question is:

My Answer:

There is a tendency for Japanese actors in TV series to “overact” because it’s what the audience expect of them. 

But then of course, how do you define overacting? Like seeing a famous actor (Tatsuya Fujiwara is a case in point) who is used to do theater (with all those exaggerated facial expressions) and seeing the same actor in a movie? How about those anime characters with huge eyes, breasts, and torso and watching the Japanese do live action adaptations of these anime characters? I mean, the anime are as exaggerated as they can be, so why not the live action? What’s the difference seeing a cartoon character to a real actor doing the same thing?

I have been watching Japanese “doramas” for the past eight years, and during that time I can make of list of – perhaps – a hundred things that make them different from Western dramas. So when Netflix started making “original” Japanese drama, I noticed the difference from the word go. 

I’m not even sure if the people working at Netflix Japan are locals or if there are foreign producers who are expected/required to follow certain rules but certainly, the look and feel of the show are entirely different from local shows. Some good examples are Juhan Shuttai or Wakamonotachi or those “mini-series” called taiga (Hana Moyu, starring Mao Inoue, for instance) and the morning show for housewives called asadoras. I’ve only seen Hibana (Sparks) starring Kento Hayashi, but this Netflix production is sleek and sophisticated. I can appreciate the big difference in production values, and there is no overacting here (at least from my perspective).

People have different expectations. People also based their biases on culture, tradition, and one’s personal perspective. But Japanese drama is not meant for the international audience; they are intended to satisfy local TV fanatics who expect their idols on TV even though most of them can’t act. Unlike the Koreans who export and market their shows like crazy, the Japanese don’t even want to broadcast their drama outside Japan – well, some of them anyway.

Oh, Korean dramas are generic and very predictable. I would never replace them with my Japanese dramas for a million years! 

I’m going to post these Quora queries on regular basis.

Also, I’m happy to note that I’m one of the top 10 writers in Quora’s Cinema of Japan section.


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