Switch Girl: The Big Picture
This drama and manga is best to watch and read when you need a good chuckle. It does incorporate some slapstick humor, especially at the beginning of the drama, but along the way things become, well, more dramatic. The manga is a quick read, the drawing is quite pretty, and as far as the story goes, it manages to tackle comedy, romance, and also social issues all at once. The drama also sticks very well to the manga, and kudos to the actors for being able to bring Switch Girl alive, because some of the things Nika does is a little disturbing. Nishiuchi Mariya has some seriously good comedic chops, and she is an actress I will definitely be looking out for in the future. I feel she has the advantage over Kiriyama Renn in showcasing her acting skills in this drama, mainly because more is expected out of her character. She has to switch between two worlds, while Arata’s character, only has to put on glasses…and completely drops the whole act a quarter of the way through the story. All in all, both did quite a good job in bringing both their characters to life, and I enjoyed their screen presence. At the end of the second season, they said: See you till next time…so will there be a season 3? If there will be, I’m not complaining. I love this cast. And I’m really interested to see how Nino and Masumune’s relationship will progress.
(On a side note, Kiriyama Renn reminds me of Kamenashi Kazuya who I have assigned as my Japanese husband. I’m not sure how these dudes are able to pull off “messy” hair and still look mighty hot while at it. It baffles me.)
Switch Girl: Season 1 vs. Season 2
Right away we are bombarded with “yes or no” questions on whether we do actions that range from being overly meticulous to a little audacious. Tamiya Nika has something called a “safe underwear”. She tries to guess which hairs in the bathtub belong to which family member, and she pulls hair from all parts of her body …No wonder she tries to hide her real self from her classmates, I mean it’s still quite pitiful that she has to do that, but she really is a peculiar person. Season 1 consisted of developing the characters that will move on with us to the second season. I don’t want to list all the arcs incorporated from the manga, but it included the Meika-chan trying to split up Arata and Nika arc and Arata’s mom trying to come back into his life arc. Both tested our OTP’s strength in love and friendship. One thing I love about the character Nika is that she is not written as the common weak heroine that you usually find in a shoujo manga, rather, she takes charge to protect her friendships, her love, and herself. I also love that Arata loves Nika the way she is right off the bat, and even though she may dive into helping people without thinking, it further proves that she is very selfless.
Season 2 of Switch Girl was filled with a lot more conflict and romance (the good and bad kind). A couple of the arcs that occurred along with other little mishaps is Nino and Nika being held as captives by the Black Nail Gang, and Nika’s “loss of virginity” by her hair dresser. Nika and Arata’s love continue to progress as they are consistently attacked by people who try to seduce them and pry them apart. Nino and Masamune also come to face with the idea that they might be lovers, although that relationship goes to the back burner after Masamune saves Nino. Masamune goes though a character transformation when he refuses to live up to the bad boy image, and chooses to settle down with his new crew: Nika, Arata, and Nino. However, once you’re involved in that type of gang life, it is very difficult to get out, and so the gang leader sets out to punish him for trying to leave. Even a new friendship blooms between Arata and Kimo, the classmate with glasses. Meika becomes an even further complicated character, scarred by hurtful experiences in her past she is pressured to succumb to who she was before, but with the help of Nika she slowly learns to overcome it.
I felt the first season was centered more around school life than the second season.The second season explored more serious issues, while the first was more of a fluff, and went down the “getting to know you” route. The story itself is a bit cliche in terms of the main guy being lonely and distant from everyone else. He has mother issues and trusting issues. The main girl of course takes notice of this, is somehow drawn to this type of broken character, falls in love with him, and tries to help him overcome his insecurities. Despite this, this story is a breath of fresh air with its crude comedy and recurrent social issues like bullying, sexual assault, and a lot more.
Switch Girl: The Plot line
I never expected this story to take on a more mature concept. It addresses rape (Nika’s “loss of virginity ” incident), sexual harassment (Nika forcibly kissed by the art teacher), blackmail (Meika and Runa), hints of prostitution (Nika and Nino kidnapped to be sold to a prostitution ring), gangs (Black Nail Gang), womanizing (Hairdresser and apprentice having bets on how many customers they can sleep with), and adultery (Arata witnesses his mom being unfaithful). It can be a bit heavy, yet they still manage to slip in comedic acts (Nika and Nino protect themselves from rape with chastity belts). I don’t know what is Japan’s obsession with this type of stuff. The struggle I go through to find rom-com dramas that I will be interested in is much harder with Japanese dramas than with Korean or Taiwanese dramas. So it did catch me by surprise when these conflicts kept consistently happening. I thought that the mangaka would stick more with Nika being able to merge her two worlds into one and being able to gain the acceptance of her classmates. Actually no. Not gaining their acceptance, but her classmates finding out who Tamiya Nika really is, and being perfectly fine with it. The mangaka actually mentioned in a note to her readers that she decided to write about perverts because it had been happening a lot around her, and people don’t know how to handle one when they come across them. So for people who unfortunately have or are experiencing these dilemmas, this manga can actually be used to give them confidence and help them report whatever sick person is committing these disgraceful acts.
You can actually argue that although the mangaka is not directly addressing Nika’s secret being let out to her classmates and their reaction, she is slowly becoming involved with every one of them. If her secret ever comes out, then those classmates will most likely remember what she has helped them with in the past, and not care a two-cents about her liking smelly fish bentos rather than kawaii ones. At the end of the day, Tamiya Nika still has the same heart like Arata notes in the manga, “Even though we say that appearance is just a disguise…the inside of your heart will always remain the same” (Switch Girl chapter 22).
Switch Girl: The Romance
The romance in Switch Girl is more than I ever expected from a J-dorama. Let’s be real, they can be really stingy with the romance scenes. Yeah, I guess its more about how the OTP can connect with each other on a level that doesn’t involve them touching each other..but I rather kill two birds with one stone. The second season really teased the viewers with a few of their kisses being interrupted, and the very last scene in episode 8 which might have ripped my heart out. It was a HUGE TEASE. They didn’t have many static kisses as I like to call them besides their very first one. I have to talk about the romance this way because Kdramas are notorious for doing those tightly pressed lip kisses, where the girl and sometimes guy have their eyes open as if they are a deer in the headlights.
Switch Girl: Manga vs. Drama Adaptions
Let me begin by saying that 8 episodes for a drama, with each episode being under 30 minutes can be very limiting. It doesn’t even come close to the common 16 episode, 1 hour long Korean dramas that are given every week. The manga is still ongoing, and so the characters are still developing. The drama adaption for Switch Girl did not include the play arc, nor did it include the part where the class goes on a trip and Nika, Arata, and Monkey Boss get stuck on a mini island. I also noticed that the drama did not really go into depth with the issue of Arata’s frustration and inability to forgive his mom when she comes back to look for him. For a few chapters in the manga, the plot line was surrounded in that, and also involved Nika helping him to forgive. Instead, the drama sent him away to his dad, it did not even mention that he would see his mom for a few days every month when he finally came back. So when I say that Kiriyama Renn didn’t really have time to show off his acting skills, it is partly due to the fact that they had to cut out a lot in order to fit everything into 8 episodes. It is understandable though, since the title is Switch Girl and not Switch Boy. There are also other mishaps the drama doesn’t get into, but for the most part it stays very close to the original story.
Official Website for Switch Girl Season 1: http://www.fujitv.co.jp/otn/switchgirl/intro.html
Official Website for Switch Girl Season 2: http://www.fujitv.co.jp/otn/switchgirl2/introduction.html
Official Switch Girl Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/dramaswitchgirl
*All screenshots used in this post including the main picture belong to Fujifilm TV