24 July 2014

Kamen Teacher mid-season impressions

I planned on watching an episode a day but this series has really won me over, so I should be done much sooner than I planned.

For a series that I had little faith in once I started watching it Kamen Teacher has really gotten me hooked. On the surface it is the usual teacher-reforms-a-delinquent-class drama that is popular in Japan but Kamen Teacher shines by taking it all another step further. Instead of merely winning the hearts of the students by a single confrontation it has to be won by doing much more than that. It may not be perfect in this front though, but it tries, which is something more to say than other dramas of its ilk.

Araki Gota (Fujigaya Taisuke) remains an interesting protagonist that is easy to want to cheer for. His steadfast belief in the way to help students is by reaching their hearts instead of forcing obedience by force is easy to empathize with. He is an easy to like hero, especially as they dialed back a bit with his overly cheerful and positive attitude, or I guess that was explained to be the face he tended to show to hide the deeper emotions he is feeling.

The pace has been brisk without being rushed. We have had each member of the M4 get their stories told and had their battle with at least one Kamen Teacher. But probably the best thing is that once those stories are told the characters do not just fall into the background. I am honestly surprised that at the half-way mark all have been "dealt" with as there are six more episodes to go. Yet from how this drama has been playing out I doubt they will just disappear from the story either.

Not sure if I feel like I should see Takehara Kinzo (Kikuchi Fuma) as someone more important than the rest of the students yet. I know he was played out to be a major character but I have not seen anything yet to really back that up. But there are still plenty of episodes left to see if that will change. If anything having his story tie with Shishimaru's (Kishi Yuta) did at least help give him a bit more screen time.

I was really glad that Ichimura Miki (Oomasa Aya) has been developed a bit as a character outside of simply being there to give Araki information he needs or as just the love interest. And I rather liked the fact that she started off uninterested in Araki, instead of being stuck in a will-they-won't-they relationship with him throughout the series. I think for a love interest she is one of the better ones in the fact that she could stand as a character in her own right.

While I made no mention of  Kusanaga Keigo (Jesse) in my first episode impressions post it was because there really was little to say about the character. He just stood around and was mysterious. He still remains so for the most part but his presence expands and he starts an antagonistic relationship with Araki and is certainly tied to the Kamen Teacher program. There has not been much of him to make a fair judgement, but I have the feeling that will change in the second half of the series as really the only thing that looks like Araki really needs to deal with is the black Kamen Teacher.

Probably what has continued to impress me about the series is the fact that Araki seems to be confronted with challenges to his ideals. As fun as the battles are the fight Araki has with whether or not his choice not to use violence to force troublesome students to behave is one of the more interesting fights to play out. Even though it looks like he will keep to his ideals there have been times where it really looked like he would slip up or convince himself that there could be an exception. And it is believable with all the pressure he gets.

And as an aside, I rather enjoy the 3-B Gumi Kinpatsu-sensei segments with Tsukada Ryoichi. They are wonderfully silly and do help pinpoint what the theme of the next battle will be. In a way it kinda reminds me of the Shadow Girls in the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime series as their segments had the same narrative function and were also rather odd. But it helps keep things light, which is needed at times.

Overall this drama is a great breath of fresh air for this genre. It may not stray far from the usual tropes but it does them well. And in doing so it makes using them feel natural and not as if the writers were just pulling them out for the sake of having them included.

I do hope it all keeps it up as it will undoubtedly become one of my favorite late night NTV dramas if it does.

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