Okay, let me just admit it right from the start – I was remiss in not reviewing Kasuka na Kanojo (幽かな彼女) during the Spring season. I was just too busy, and it really wasn’t until this past weekend that I really got a chance to sit down with it properly. As it turned out, I ended up marathoning the series in two days – it was that good. Since I’ve watched the whole thing, it doesn’t seem legit to do episode-by-episode reviews, so let me do something a bit different. Let me just go through and explain why I think it’s the best classroom drama I’ve reviewed (beating out Great Teacher Onizuka), and why you should watch it if you haven’t already.

As usual, though, I’m not going to include any spoilers (except for the fact that the characters survive . . . well, except for Akane, who’s already dead) and you’ll have to watch for yourself to see how the various conflicts get resolved. Oh, I guess I will be revealing that the conflicts do get resolved, but I’d hardly be enthusiastic about a drama otherwise.

We meet a lot of characters very quickly at the start of the series – really all of the main cast within the first four minutes – but the first one I think we get a proper sense of is Kawai-sensei, played by Maeda Atsuko-san. Kawai is totally uninterested in being a teacher, putting on a fake smile, and the students sense that and despise her. One of the highlights of the show is the smooth development of her character from this state into someone who actually cares about the students. It doesn’t happen in a sudden u-turn, but takes easy stages episode-by-episode.

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It’s a tricky role for Maeda-san, because for much of the series her character is not likeable at all, but becomes likeable by the end. She manages to pull it off. By the way, the first thing you’ll note about the character is that she wears shorts – totally not what you’d expect a teacher to wear. Don’t worry – the writers have our back on this one, and they use her regular costume to set up one of the best sequences in the series. You’ll have to watch to the end to see it, though.

Our main character is a bit late to the start of school, but we meet another character properly in the meantime – Vice Principal Kirisawa Izumi (Maya Miki). She starts to give a speech, but interrupts herself to deal with a student who is texting – trying to confiscate the phone. Kirisawa is a stickler for the rules and isn’t afraid of the parents. It would have been easy for the writers to make this character extreme in one way or another, but she’s very subtle, and comes off as trying to do her best at her job. Along with Kawai, she’s an important counterbalance to our main character . . .

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. . . Kamiyama Akira (Katori Shingo). Kamiyama used to be a passionate teacher, but after failing to help a student he had promised to help, he’s become disillusioned. He still teaches, but can’t really say why. Unlike Kawai, he doesn’t put on a false face when dealing with the students, and nor does he hate them, but he also doesn’t want to go out of his way to deal with their particular problems. This, of course, is going to change very quickly. Basically, Kamiyama is on the fast-track on character development, while Kawai is on a slower track.

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At the same time, there are tons of students around, and they all have problems. For the most part, we go through all the major students one-by-one in the usual pattern. I would have been unenthusiastic about the series if this is all we got, but the development in the teachers is what really pulls everything together, creating a unified story.

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