Since I heard that Sakurai Sho was taking on KAZOKU GAME, and after checking the plot, I’ve always wondered why the Keio boy and News Zero caster would accept this role. I’m not saying he should do squeaky clean roles to fit his image (THE QUIZ SHOW was not exactly along those lines either) but the premise of the drama is such a touchy topic in Japan, where school bullying is such a big problem.
But after watching the first episode, I can only guess why Sho would do this drama and among Arashi or even Japan’s young actors, he would be the best choice to tackle such a role. Why? Because, Keio or not, he finished school and would know what it’s like to be in that environment. Also, he has credibility as a newscaster so bringing up an issue like this through a drama would make people sit up and pay attention. Hopefully. And such an effort is commendable, in the same way that Matsumoto Jun taking on the role of Bito in SMILE is equally commendable, but that is for another post.
Working in the news business, it’s horrifying to read news about school bullying cases, not only in Japan or South Korea, or Asia, but elsewhere. We’ve all been through or are going through school so we know what it’s like to be in an age when all we wanted was to belong. And when we start to attract unwanted attention, when all we want is to blend in with the wallpaper.
Why are some students bullied more than others? Why do people bully anyway? And what constitutes bullying? Why do teachers and fellow students look the other way and pretend nothing is happening? Why are families scared to bring this up? Why is the victim scared to speak up? KAZOKU GAME–the episodes so far–has been providing answers to these questions without being preachy. It’s not KARATE KID for sure. Sho’s Yoshimoto Kouya is an eccentric character with his own dark past, that obviously will be unraveled as the story progresses. And that’s what makes it interesting. We are often left to wonder what he will do next, and at the same time reflect on whether the scenes we are watching onscreen look familiar because we have heard or read about them before, or because we have witnessed them ourselves in real life.
I once tried to do a special report on this in Japan and spoke with two families whose kids were victims of school bullying. They were not the extreme kind, because no one wanted to come out and talk about the issue. I only found them because I was recommended by friends, and even then, they were wary talking about the incidents. It was also difficult asking questions because one has to respect other people’s personal space and I ended up scrapping the whole report and writing about something else instead.
Bullying is a real problem, not only in school and in Japan, but in society in general. KAZOKU GAME is for real. Props to Sho-kun for taking on this role.
And as Kouya would say at the breakfast table, “okasan, where’s my breakfast?” And tea, please, YELLOW, onegaishimasu.
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