No Dropping Out: Back to School at 35
Directed by Noriyoshi Sakuma, Seiichi Nagumo, and Maki Nishino
Originally Broadcast between April 13 – June 22, 2013 on NTV in Japan
The term “High School is Hell” has been tossed around since time immemorial, but apparently this has never been truer these days than it is in Japan. This 11-episode television drama centres around 35 year-old drop out Baba Ayako (Yonekura Ryoko) who mysteriously returns to high school and ends up changing the culture of the school administration and influencing the lives of the students. The drama deals with the darker realities of Japanese high school, like bullying, the pressure to succeed, abuse, and teen suicide in ways that no North American drama could ever hope to.
I stumbled upon this programme recently on Crunchyroll and decided to give it a shot, and am glad I did, as it gave me insight into the darker side of Japanese culture that a lot of their films and television shows rarely touch on. Only once in a blue moon does one come across a TV show that is unafraid to peel back the layers and expose real societal problems in any more than just a superficial way. The only other one that comes to my mind is Kyoto Broadcasting’s superb 26-episode anime adaptation of Tatsuhiko Takimoto’s darkly humorous novel, Welcome to the NHK. The material can be strong meat at times, and the actors are asked to dig deep to dark emotional places, and do they succeed? I say admirably. That’s not so say it’s all dour, and gloomy, the show has its share of humour as well from slap-sticky moments with the teachers, to the funny repartee between Baba-san and her friends eating lunch on the school roof.
So, if you dig a well written, well preformed sometimes humorous drama, and you love all things Nihon, check out No Dropping Out: Back to School at 35.