If you enjoy Japanese dramas but find yourself craving more variety to the common boy-meets-girl, set-in-Japan storyline, then "HodoBuzz" has the edge you’ve been looking for.
Billing itself as a “Japanese indie drama,” "HodoBuzz" tackles issues that most mainstream Japanese production teams shy away from, touching on topics like freedom in the Japanese media, racial stereotypes, objectification of women and sexism.
Starring a cast of likeable characters, this drama follows the story of Asuka Wada, a Japanese reporter who moves to New York and joins an online news site called HodoBuzz. Striving to distance herself from her past fame as a variety talk show host, Wada sets out to deliver hard-hitting local Japan news in her new role as a reporter, only to become the target of online abuse which threatens to end her career.
Check out the official trailer below.
The six-part series was written by scriptwriter Tsukasa Kondo, directed and produced by Mari Kawade, and stars actress and model Maho Honda in the lead role. This trio of New-York-based Japanese expats formed the creative team behind the series, “Derrrrruq!!!" which comes from the sound of deru kugi wa utareru, the famous Japanese saying that translates to “The nail that stands out gets hammered down“.
Derrrrruq!!! aims to be the nail that stands out, regardless of any potential hammering, by producing works that set out to challenge stereotypes related to topics like “masculinity“, “femininity“, “Japanese-ness“, and “age-appropriateness“.
▼ Left to right: Maho Honda, Mari Kawade, Tsukasa Kondo
Encouraging people to reconsider stereotypes is something the trio have done exceedingly well in the film, particularly when it comes to racial stereotypes and what it means to be “Japanese”. The character of Atsushi Mori, for example, describes himself as a “half-Japanese who doesn’t speak English“, debunking the common perception that mixed-race children are multi-lingual.
Then there’s the character of Mike Korematsu, a Japanese CEO who rented the HodoBuzz office before the current reporters moved in. Despite his Japanese appearance, Korematsu says he can’t speak the language as he grew up in the States, and he proves it by hilariously saying katsu curry instead of otsukare (“good work”) when he leaves the office.
▼ Characters like Atsushi prove that looks can be deceiving when it comes to the languages they speak.
Outside perceptions of Japan from Japanese expats living abroad is something that gives this drama its unique flair. It’s also the reason why they have more freedom to point out some of the problems within the Japanese media industry, including the objectification of women, which is also a global problem.
In one scene, Wada decides to stand up against online criticism and objectification by pointing out the fact that Australian TV presenter Karl Stefanovic once wore the same suit on television for a year without anyone ever noticing. Meanwhile, the outfits of his female co-presenter continued to be a constant topic of discussion, showing just how much women in the media are objectified by the public on a daily basis.
To show the absurdity of reducing women’s worth to their appearances alone, Wada goes on to film a video while dressed in only her bra and skirt, standing alongside a blow-up doll and a Barbie. It’s a scene that propels the action forward as Wada and her boss — played by Yuki Matsuzaki ("Pirates of The Caribbean," "Letters from Iwo Jima") — attempt to find the identity of an online troll, who might actually be closer than they think.
Despite the heavy-hitting issues, the story remains well-paced throughout and unfolds with a lot of humor, keeping the viewer entertained up until the very last episode. The drama is definitely worth watching, not just for the engaging narrative and commentary on Japanese media and politics, but for the gorgeous scenes of New York, which plays a leading role of its own throughout the series.
Anime fans may be surprised to hear that the "HodoBuzz" script development was supervised by Dai Sato — a famous anime screenwriter known for "Ghost in the Shell" and "Cowboy Bebop," among others — and the series’ Executive Producer is Masu Hiroshi Masuyama, one of the producers from "In This Corner of the World."
"HodoBuzz" is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime U.S./UK, and is free through Prime membership with English subtitles. Within Japan, "HodoBuzz" is currently only available for rental/purchase and can be viewed on 10 platforms: Amazon Japan, Rakuten TV, TSUTAYA TV, Google Play, VIDEX, YouTube, GYAO! Store, DMM, VideoMarket, and Hikari TV. While the Japanese platforms don’t support English subtitles at the moment, HodoBuzz says they’re working on adding them so that English-speaking viewers residing in Japan can also enjoy the show.
Each episode runs just under 20 minutes, making this an easy series to binge-watch in one sitting. So grab your matcha popcorn, sit back, and enjoy a trip to Japan in New York, where the HodoBuzz team are waiting to take you on a memorable journey. Katsu curry!
Source: YouTube/Der-ruq!!! – デルック
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