For a self-studier of Japanese, TV dramas (ドラマ) are one of the most important resources to improve vocabulary for spoken language. They are also a whole lot of fun. Compared to anime, the Japanese used in dramas is generally much closer to daily life, though some dramas about certain occupations (for example medical dramas) will have many special terminology.
I’ve watched so many Japanese dramas over the last decade or so that I’m sure the count easily exceeds 100. Like American TV, there is a lot of formulaic, over-dramatic stuff that I just don’t enjoy anymore. There is also many which start out with a great idea, but quickly become repetitive. Unlike novels where I pride myself on (nearly) almost always being able to get to the end of a book, I’m not afraid to quit watching a drama series after the first episode, or even halfway through. There is just too many out there and watching a mediocre one just for the sake of learning a few vocab words isn’t worth my time. If I’m not enjoying my time watching a drama then my retention rate of new vocabulary and expressions will be equally low.
For me to watch a drama to the end, it must have either a unique concept or a great cast (or at least one actor I really like). If the music is noteworthy that is always a bonus, and I’ve found that I’m more likely to remember a drama whose music is memorable.
These are a few of my favorites which have stood the test of time.
- Nodame Cantabile (のだめカンタービレ)
- My darling little witch (ぼくの魔法使い)
- Beach Boys (ビーチボーイズ)
- Going my home (ゴーイング マイ ホーム)
- Second from last love (最後から二番目の恋)
- Long Vacation (ロングバケーション )
- Virgin Road（バージンロード）
- Rich Man, Poor Woman (リッチマン、プアウーマン)