Sunday, March 25, 2012

Drama Spotlight : Asuko March

Title : Asuko March
Country : Japan
Genre : Romance, School
Episodes : 9
Release Year : 2011
My Rating : 8 out of 10
Main Cast :

-> Takei Emi
-> Matsuzaka Tori
-> Kaku Kento 

There are moments that we want to wind down our journey, to explore on something less serious and to pamper ourselves with delightful visuals. Japanese school drama, Asuko March invaded my watch-list just right on time. I really need a break right now from the heavy and angsty K-dramaland. Although I'm currently enjoying the delicacies being offered there, it's still human nature to crave for other flavors and dishes. Chocolate is a favorite treat but a person will eventually grow tired of it if he/she eats it everyday.

Thanks to Mad Dino, if not for her mini-review about this series on her blog, I wouldn't be introduced to a gem such as Asuko March. I admit that I was not that convinced to give this a shot at first but as I lurked around tumblr, I found a lot of people gushing about the story and the characters that made my attention attach to it. I just had a marathon yesterday and here I am now, working on my review about this amusing show.

Ultimately, it was a good try! Asuko March stands out with its "Gokusen-Hanakimi" inspired fusion. The blend of the elements flowing out from the "heroine-problem-solver" of Gokusen and the "only-female-student-in-a-male-friendly-environment" of Hanakimi are mixed perfectly. The story revolves around the journey of an ordinary girl named Yoshino Nao and her male classmates in the technical high school called Asuko. Just like any other common girl in Japan, Nao wants to study in the school of her choice but destiny plays a bad joke on her. She doesn't pass the entrance exam of her target high school not because she is not well-prepared but because she misses out to answer a single test item that causes her failure. Because of her grandfather's strong recommendation, she ends up enrolling into a technical high school without a choice. To make the matter worse, it turns out that there are only three female students out of the 148 entering freshmen and Nao is the only rose in her class full of masculine thorns.

Critical fans of Japanese dramas with a vast collection of school series will rant that the goal of the plot is "already been there, done that" but Nao's imperfect and persistent facade makes the story fresh and engaging in its own way. I like her as the story's heroine because she is still normal and dimensional. What makes Nao so appealing to me is that, she is not always kind and for me that's already a plus charm because in reality, everyone has his/her own bad days and so does Nao. Just like any ordinary teenage girl, she worries, whines, throw tantrums, gets angry, and giggles over her crush. She can be a pusher but she's never a pushover. It's hard to oppress her character because she knows when to strike back and stand for her beliefs. Her imperfections make her a perfect problem solver of the class. She saves the day but not all by herself because helping hands are always there for her to grab. She is "Yankumi" disguised in student uniform confined in "Ashiya Mizuki's testosterone-crowded school".

Every episode of Asuko March is a delight. The writer allows the characters to grow by giving each of them a chance to shine. As Nao struggles about her own dilemma of staying or leaving the school she thinks is not good for her, she also finds herself in a tangled involvement to decipher and solve her classmates' own conflicts. Adversities around the school are always present that usually cause them to divide but at the end of the day, the whole class still manage to work together and solidify their bond. The complications are not that abysmal and nerve-wracking but the solutions are always perky and heart-warming. Asuko March is an easy watch. On the outside, the cover of the drama looks delicate, shallow and outdated but the inside toppings will melt your heart with its poignant, fluffy and calm touch.

Episode 8 is the one that leaves a deep impact to my heart because it's wacky but warm and comical but compassionate. It shows that helping and reaching out are not a one-way-process and give-and-take method is always applicable. Nao's brooding male classmates know how to be grateful to all the help and effort she made for them. When Nao's mother goes to her school, the solid bond that the class established gets proven. The boys do the extra mile and help her to convince her mom that the school is the right place for Nao. During the visit of her mom, the boys change the way they look, act and speak, they become courteous, silent and obedient students, they work together to make her mom realized that Asuko is a friendly school for girls like Nao. And the most impressive and hilarious thing they resort to? Some of the boys even willingly do cross-dressing just to cover up her lies about having close female friends in school.

One of the elements of this drama that gives off a strong impression to me is the consistency of the setting. They are able to make use every corner of the Asuko Technical High School. "This is not a factory." : Nao declares this line in almost every episode and she's right that Asuko is not a factory but a learning institution where dreams are recognized. From beginning to end, the practical training that involves welding, construction, manufacturing, designing, crafting, repairing and other skills are all well-presented and used in the story. The school set-up is not just a meeting place for the characters. It serves as their training ground where they learn to rely on each other, utilize their own strengths and back up their hidden weaknesses. This is the construction area of the students that molded their characters and cemented in their hearts that each one of them is an important part of the class. Whether it's inside or outside the walls of Asuko High, they're not just mere classmates but family members that always look out and catch each other's back.

Asuko March is a friendship-central drama. Though romance is not really the focal point of the show, it still delivers a light and cute love triangle that torns Nao between the dependable Tamaki and mysterious Aruto. During its run, fangirls in tumblrs were voicing out their thoughts by engaging in a hot debate about who between the cute guys Nao should end up. I take the side of the majority because in my own filler, Tamaki deserves Nao more than Aruto. Tamaki is always there to support Nao, lending his hands without asking anything in return and loving her in silence despite the fact the her heart belongs to another guy. I don't want to elaborate more on the loveline of the plot because it would take a loooooong paragraph just purely rambling about how enticing the love triangle is.


Having cuties is also a bonus. It doesn't hurt that Asuko has a bunch of eye-candies to please everyone's taste. They have different personalities and most of them are just hiding behind a tough mask. But the truth is, they have a soft heart and loving side that value and cherish their families the most and the strong resistance is just a false face to cover their weaknesses. Their homeroom teacher is also an important character. He is sometimes awkward and weird but most of the time, he is a supportive, funny and kind second parent of the students. Though I like the high school boys and the teacher in the story, Yoshino Nao's grandfather is the man who completely captures my heart. Grandpa steals the show with his funny antics and lively personality. He is my favorite character of the series simply because he is cool, quirky and lovable. I can't imagine this drama without his warm and humorous presence.

Honestly speaking, catching my attention is an easy feat. It's not that difficult to please me. Decent storyline, fluffy and heart-felt moments and endearing characters are the three enough components to entertain me and Asuko March nailed my significant trifecta. This is a "feel-good" series that will brighten up your mood. If you're up for a school drama with young romance and solid friendship, now is the time for you to open another tab and go watch Asuko March.

"You had the courage to take the first steps in order to move forward. Even if they were tiny steps, without those steps, miracles won't happen." - ARUTO to NAO (Episode 9)


  1. Definitely a fan of Tamaki now. I'm glad my mini review was enough to encourage you to watch it on your own. I'm not really a fan of the high school genre, but I thought this was was pretty good. Nothing stood out to make me love it, but nothing made me dislike it. Definitely had to the potential to be loved though. By people like you who love the genre a bit more.

  2. I can't really read this post through (possible spoilers?) but it reminded me that I have forgotten all about this drama. I think I'm at episode 5 or something. Should try to find some time to continue with it, I actually liked the story.

    1. Nah. Don't worry, there are no major spoilers in this post. Hehe :) You should really finish this one. I like it! Simple yet delightful!

      By the way, I also visit your blog. ^^

    2. Oh, you do? That's great. I visit yours quite often.




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