Bad Boys J is a Japanese drama based on a manga about a bunch of delinquents. That’s . . . all I know about the story going into this first episode. Why was it an immediate choice for me to review this season? First, the producer is the same guy who did a similar drama – Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou – last year, and that one turned out pretty good. Second, the drama features some familiar faces from Shounen Club, including Nakajima Kento-kun, Nikaido Takashi-kun, and Hashimoto Ryosuke-kun among many others, and I’m curious about whether they can act. Third, arisu_subs came out with subs for it with lightning speed, so that I have no worries about linguistic support.

So, will this drama be a strong effort, or is it just a petty attempt to ride on the coattails of Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou? Let’s find out.

The episode begins with Kiriki Tsukasa (Nakajima Kento) facing off against a huge pack of thugs – like a hundred of them.

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Now, Terry Pratchett had a theory about fights like this in one of his humorous fantasies, noting that it’s not possible for all hundred opponents to get within arms’ reach of the hero, so all he has to do is be able to fend of two or three at a time, have unlimited stamina, and it’s really possible for a hero to fight against such odds. But that was comedy – I don’t think it helps verisimilitude to start off with a fight like this.

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Fortunately, others soon show up, including Kawanaka Youji (Iwamoto Hikaru) and Danno Hidenori (Nikaido Takashi). I’m a bit worried that, as in Bakaleya, I’m going to get overwhelmed by trying to figure out all the character’s names, so you’ll have to forgive me if I leave them out until they have speaking roles.

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In the middle of the fight, Kawanaka reflects how unlikely it is that BEAST’s Danno, Nights’ Hiro (Hashimoto Ryosuke), and Gokurakucho’s Kiriki would fight on the same side, making it pretty clear that we’re seeing the middle of a story rather than the beginning. His narration introduces them as Hiroshima’s top three (I suppose he means the three baddest boys in town as opposed to, say, the top three chefs).

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After the credits roll, we start with the real beginning, and see the sorry state of Gokurakucho under the misguided leadership of Toshi.
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Kawanaka, who is quickly developing into our main character – the eyes of the audience – doesn’t like Toshi’s propensity to take on fights that the gang has no chance of winning, but it looks like he only has two others behind him.

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Getting a good sense of the situation there, we turn to Kiriki, who is not only in less intimidating clothing, but is actually in the midst of getting bullied. Surprisingly, it’s Kawanaka who saves him from the bullies – apparently he doesn’t like the bullies messing around in Gokurakucho territory.

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Kiriki is less than thrilled with this rescue, though, because the bullies got away with what he had been carrying. Actually, I say ‘less than thrilled with’ when I really mean ‘whiny about’. Iwami Eiji (Fukusawa Tatsuya) tries to tell him that he’s lucky not to be a puddle on the ground, but the item was a gift for a girl who happens to be right across the street.
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And I’m starting to realize at this point that Bad Boyz J is going to take things much more humorously and light-heartedly than Bakaleya. Bakaleya got quite serious at times, and the atmosphere consistently gave scenes gravity. This drama looks to be more comic.
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The girl Kiriki is interested in is apparently involved with the group Gokurakucho is having trouble with – Keys. Before we get too much information, though, Kawanaka gets a call and has to rush out – leaving Kiriki with the bill, of course.

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Gokurakucho has sustained another defeat at the hands of Keys, and Kawanaka wants to go to the head of Keys to negotiate a truce, but Toshi won’t let him. Once again, Kawanaka is left with his two loyal followers and no one else.

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But even within the trio, there’s discord, as the other two feel that Kawanaka should do more to take the reins of the group.

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The next day, Kawanaka sees Kiriki in the streets, asking students he sees if they spotted thugs with the box that was snatched from him. Kawanaka is surprised that Kiriki is still persistent about it when he has no chance to get it back from the guys who took it. Looks like Kiriki isn’t the type to think too far in advance – Kawanaka just comes right out and calls him an idiot.

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Later on, Kawanaka is speaking to his buddies about the loss of members due to Toshi’s pointless war with the Keys when Kiriki once again makes an appearance.

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Turns out that Kiriki’s problems aren’t entirely separate from theirs. To find out why, you’ll have to watch the episode – I think I’ve done enough summary already.

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The pacing of the show, as you can probably tell from the parts I outlined above (the first half of the episode), is reasonably quick.

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For the most part, the characterizations were fine, but there was one significant fault – the sudden transformation of Kiriki, which came out of nowhere. Not only did we ultimately get a much stronger Kiriki, which would have been fine, but his entire personality changed. It looked like he had multiple personality disorder or sustained some sort of reverse frontal lobotomy. Don’t worry – I get that this is a manga thing that just doesn’t translate very well into live-action, and will adjust.

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Even with qualms about Kiriki, there was redemption for this episode in the way it ended, which was entirely clever. And though I have trouble with his character, Nakajima Kento-kun did a brilliant job of conveying the bipolar aspect of it.

I’m also glad that for the role Iwamoto Hikaru-kun’s character plays – the stable center he provides will be absolutely essential for the audience.

The episode didn’t have quite the atmospheric touches of Bakaleya, but they’ve already done a good job drawing the audience into the story. The willingness to do unexpected things is also there. It’s looking good for now, and we’ll have to see where they decide to take it.

Thanks again to arisu_subs for the wonderful subtitles.