AKB48's new drama is hard to take seriously10 May, 2010 by Chad
Majisuka Gakuen (マジスカ学園) is a midnight drama staring AKB48 that was recently aired in Japan back in March. Majisuka Rock & Roll, the B-Side from AKB48’s last single, served as the show’s theme song while the single itself, Sakura no Shiori was the drama’s ending theme. Majisuka Gakuen roughly translates to English as “Are you serious? Academy”. Not unlike other late night dramas, its a nonsensical show with little literary value, tolerable only by hardcore fans of the cast.
The plot behind Majisuka Gakuen is largely inspired by manga/movie Crows Zero. The story takes place at a fictional all-girls school called Majisuka Gakuen where all the students are delinquents. About 3/4 of AKB’s 48 are present in the drama, playing gangster caricatures of themselves. Throughout the show, they use their own names or gangster call signs derived from their real life nicknames. Within the school, the girls are split up into nonsensically themed gangs with different fighting styles.
Maeda Atsuko takes the lead role in the show as a larger than life version of herself. Not apparent from her nerdy looks, she is actually a strong battler. Most of the story is is built around how she becomes a cold blooded fighter each time she hears the words “Majisuka”, a cheesy and ridiculous plot element. Despite having acted in quite a few dramas and movies before, Maeda’s performance in Majisuka Gakuen is sub par at best. The absurd plot is partly to blame but Maeda is not without fault.
The story begins with Maeda Atsuko’s transfer to the school. Despite her geeky outlook, she is actually quite the delinquent herself but has since reformed. Each episode, she unwillingly finds herself in trouble and has to battle (and defeat) all the different groups in the school.
All the different gangs are ranked according to their strength. Oshima Yuko and Shinoda Mariko act as the head and vice of the Rappapa (Brass) club of the school respectively. As the most powerful gang they are the main baddies in the drama. Out of all the girls, Oshima has the most experience in the entertainment industry, so it’s unsurprising that she is also the most talented among the bunch.
Joining Oshima and Shinoda in the Brass club are more girls from the Top 10 AKB48 Members. Ranking from top to bottom (fighting strength) are Kojima Haruna, Matsui Rena, Kashiwagi Yuki and Itano Tomomi, the “Four Heavenly Queens”.
Itano Tomomi plays a Gyaru version of herself, the leader of the Gal Circle gang who fights in a street boxing style. Thanks to Yan, I’ve also recently paid some attention to Team B’s leader Kashiwagi Yuki who plays a goth version of herself in the drama, some sort of stealth assassin. It is their first time acting so we can’t really be too hard on them but both of their inexperience shows.
Matsui Rena and Kojima Haruna both act as lunatic fighters. After Yuko, Kojima has the second most acting experience. She even appeared in were great mainstream dramas like Mei-chan no Shitsuji and Yasuko to Kenji and personally took the lead in Mendol and Coin Locker Monogatari. Despite all of that though, Kojima still can’t act to save her life. SKE48’s Matsui Rena on the other hand pulls off her role as a psychopath eerily well.
Oota Aika, Oku Manami and Miyazaki Miho act as the Sanshou (Pepper) Sisters, a Lolita freshman gang while the droopy eyed Kasai Tomomi and Kuramochi Asuka form the Kabuki Sisters duo, two theater themed combatants. Both of these concept feels forced. It doesn’t help that most of their acting ability is just not up to par.
The lowest level gang that Maeda meets is Team Horumon, a group of yankees who spend all their time eating Yakiniku (in Kansai-ben, Horumon means “discarded goods” and refers to the innards which are the cheapest type of meat). Of particular interest are Kitahara Rie and Michishige Sayumi lookalike Takajo Aki who put up a good performance. Team Horumon provide the show’s comic relief and are responsible for most (of the few) entertaining moments in the drama.
The most apparent flaw of the drama is its rather shoddy script. When compared to Majisuka Gakuen’s horrible story, all the previous late night dramas don’t seem half as bad.
Absurd slapstick scenes are carelessly thrown between serious moments, negating any emotional buildup. Most of the time, this is thanks to comedian and SDN48’s training student Nachu who plays Maeda’s new found ally. What someone like Nachu is doing with SDN48 beats me. Like most other Japanese comedians she lacks any talent other than irritating viewers with her witless gags. Whoever cast her into such a prominent role in the show ought to had been shot. Removing Nachu from the cast would had easily made the show all the more bearable.
Had Majisuka Gakuen it just been focused on a single theme, it could had turned out pretty decent. Instead, the drama has a hard time deciding exactly what it is trying to achieve. Each time the story seems to be headed somewhere the plot heads back to square one, making the only possible ending a forced deus ex machina.
Some of the moments where Majisuka Gakuen doesn’t take itself too seriously are actually enjoyable. It is unfortunate that most of the time the show unnecessarily tries to tackle social issues and promote moral values. Majisuka Gakuen even goes so far as to call itself an extension of liberal arts. But with the awful script, it puts what little talent the girls have to waste.
Judging from the viewership rating of only 3%, most were wise enough to stay away from Majisuka Gakuen. After having endured the full series, I too cannot in good conscience recommend anyone to watch this drama.