Use the 5-minute Rule when Immersing

With so much Japanese entertainment out there, it often becomes very difficult to sort through all the garbage.  You want to make sure you don’t fall into the bad habit of spending more time searching for TV shows and movies than you are watching them.  This is why one of the greatest study materials is the Japanese Drama.  Usually they are anywhere from 9~14 episodes and around 20~60 minutes each.  This means that once you find a good J-drama, you will be have a nice amount of material for a while.

Use the 5-minute Rule when Immersing

To avoid the garbage, I think the best amount of time to give a drama a chance is 5 minutes.  You probably can figure out whether what you’re watching is worthwhile in the first 30 seconds, usually judging by the music, actors, and the setting.  But it is worth giving it the full 5 minutes because sometimes it takes a few minutes to really get started.

Even despite your Japanese level, you will know whether a drama is interesting to you. Try watching 闇金ウシジマくん, うぬぼれ刑事, or モテキ and I guarantee you within the first 5 minutes you will be hooked.

Once you reach the 5 minute mark and don’t like it, make sure to do the obvious, and stop watching it.  Don’t give it a chance.  Don’t waste your time thinking “well I may like it eventually.”  Drop it with no remorse.

Also keep in mind the opposite.  Just because you get past the first 5 minutes, the first episode, or even the first few episodes, you don’t have to watch it till the end.  There are many series that start off promising in the beginning, but eventually lose appeal.  I’ve stopped watching series in the final episodes, and sometimes even the final episode.  You don’t need closure, just stop and never look back.

In every new season of Japanese Dramas (usually there are 3 seasons in the year), I find between 2~5 that I like out of the dozens that are broadcast.  You should expect to only find a low number that you like.  If you need more material, just keep going further back in time with older dramas.  You’ve missed 100s of great dramas over the past 10-20 years.

As a final tip, while they do have some value, I would not rely solely on written descriptions or ratings of dramas as a guide to what you should watch.  Just like in your own language, taste varies greatly, and I find that descriptions don’t do a good enough job at letting you know if you will specifically like it.  I have loved a lot of non-mainstream dramas, with unappealing descriptions, and low ratings.

Now go on a drama-sampling frenzy.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Use the 5-minute Rule when Immersing — 14 Comments

  1. Good post! J dramas can be a great way to gain exposure to Japanese.

    I think, though, that you also have to be prepared that you may never really fall in love with a Japanese show. Coming from America, anyway, J shows are so much lower budget, and are often based on manga or anime (hence over the top). I’ve seen shows here that I like, but let me put it this way…if I weren’t studying Japanese, I’d spend my time doing or watching other things instead. That’s just me, though – everyone is different.

  2. Hm, I may look into this.

    One question though, do we buy these or do they play/air on a site somewhere? (To see if we like them.)

    Or if you do [b]have[/b] to buy them, is there a different way to watch them without purchasing, for people who don’t have too much money at the time? (or are cheap ha.)

  3. Do you know a site where I can watch dramas with either Japanese Subtitles or no subtitles at all. Most of the drama sites I see have the subtitles in English, they are very distracting because you find yourself paying more attention to the English instead of the Japanese.

  4. I agree mostly with this but, I have once watched a drama that took 15 minutes to start and it was one of my favorites.

  5. I don’t know about this. When I fist went to watch Hana Yori Dango I was just watching the first 5 minutes thinking “what the hell is this?! This is ridiculous” then I forced myself to watch a little further one day and I loved it.

    • You felt that way only in the first 5 minutes? Ha. It’s true though that some shows start off weird but get better. And the reverse (which feels way more common).

  6. Forgive my ignorance of Japanese entertainment, but is there another level of TV above the J-Drama? Or do they import the Mad Men/Breaking Bad type things from us? I have a hard time getting past the cheese factor :(.

      • I think they don’t throw around the same kind of budgets for TV like some of our better networks/studios do here in the US. I think that’s why many of the J-Dramas have that Lifetime/Hallmark original movie vibe as opposed to HBO :). That said, some of them are charming in their own way. I grudgingly loved Densha Otoko, as lame as i fell about that, and I’m digging Moteki a lot (thanks for the rec). If Rinko is in it, it’s going to have a cool factor.

        Any other tips for dramas that raise the bar and are good for ear training? I’m Moteki without subs, and I’m getting the main gist, but specifics are way over my head.

        • Too many too name (check out the j-drama guides) but my all time favorites are still IWGP, 結婚できない男, 派遣の品格 and more recently、リッチマンプアウーマン.

          I don’t think it’s necessarily the budget (though of course in some cases it is), but it really does come down to a culture difference. This really is one of those things that as you understand the culture better, you enjoy it significantly more.

          As long as you stay the current path, in a few years come back and you’ll notice the difference.

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