Japan Has its Highest Rated Dorama in a Decade with Hanzawa Naoki

To say I’m shocked is an understatement, but its more like I’m wondering what magic sauce was in this J-dorama to create these results. A workplace dorama premiered earlier in the Summer that totally flew under my interest radar as those types always do. Hanzawa Naoki starring the currently on career fire Sakai Masato in a drama about banking turned out to be the biggest J-dorama of the Summer, of the year, and when all the ratings were tallied up, of the last decade. Co-starring Ueto Aya and Kagawa Teruyuki, it premiered strong and went on a steep ratings climb with each successive episode and more and more Japanese viewers tuned in to watch the titular Hanzawa Naoki stand up against fraud and injustice. It all culminated in the final episode 10 breaking 40% in all regions of Japan (hitting 42.2% in Kanto region that includes metropolitan Tokyo), with the final two minutes of the final episode hitting 46.7% in Kanto and 50.4% in Kansai. This is what I call a national dorama, people! The final episode of Hanzawa Naoki did the same or higher ratings as the annual Kōhaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦) for the last decade. Incredible, just incredible, and this dorama is about bank loans!

Two years ago Matsushima Nanako‘s robotic housekeeper Kaseifu no Mita had very good ratings in the 20% range during its run, with only the final episode jumping slightly past 40%. That episode cemented Mita as having the biggest single episode rating in 12 years since Kimura Takuya‘s Beautiful Life final episode. In less then two years since Mita ended, Hanzawa Naoki has broken her short reign and now Sakai Masato can do no wrong in the eyes of Japanese viewers (and he just married actress Kanno Miho earlier this year as well). He already had a hit dorama this year with Legal High with Aragaki Yui, and season 2 is about to air for that dorama and I foresee some Sakai residual popularity been a boon there. Hanzawa Naoki has already secured itself a season 2 as well, and with its incredible ratings averaged out over its entire run, this dorama has managed to crack the top-10 list of the most highly rated doramas of all time. This dorama is so popular that catch phrases have spawned, visitors are going to the filming sites to take pictures posing like the characters, and in general this has energized a wave of can-do-fight-back-against-the-fat-cats mentality sweeping through the nation. It’s not only popular in Japan, the dorama is a hit all over Asia where it’s aired and I better be checking it out soon rather than remaining totally perplexed that a dorama about bad bank loans could be the biggest hit in a decade.

Everyone knows KimuTaku is the Crown Prince of Japanese entertainment, and his reign on the top of the dorama ratings chart is unparallel. Let’s put it this way – out of the top-10 highest rated J-doramas of all time (taking the average by adding up each episode’s rating), KimuTaku has a total of 6, but importantly, 5-out-of-6 of his doramas occupy the number 1 through 5 rank. That’s insane. For those who can’t read Japanese, below is the English title of the top 10 rated doramas of all time with the lead actor/actress.

1. Hero – Kimura Takuya
2. Beautiful Life – Kimura Takuya
3. Good Luck!! – Kimura Takuya
4. Love Generation – Kimura Takuya
5. Long Vacation – Kimura Takuya
6. Hanzawa Naoki – Sakai Masato
7. GTO – Sorimachi Takashi
8. Under One Roof – Eiguchi Yosuke
9. Gokusen 2 – Nakama Yukie
10. Asunaro Hakusho – Kimura Takuya

The overacting in this dorama is out of control though, and it appears completely intentional because Sakai Masato is a fabulous actor. And hot. But here I kinda want to tranquilize him just by looking at the stills. Without giving anything away, anyone having fun watching Hanzawa Naoki? When I start watching I’ll provide my two cents then.

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Japan Has its Highest Rated Dorama in a Decade with Hanzawa Naoki — 52 Comments

  1. Still watching but love it! It was great right outta the hate for me but I loved the cast (which is why I picked it up). The premise would seem odd for fervor but there’s such life in the characters and richness in the story. It deserves all the accolades. Knew it was popular just didn’t know how much!!!

    • exactly! i like j-dorama more than other dramas even i watch kdrama, taiwan drama, mainland drama, thai drama, filipino drama, indonesian drama, telenovela, western drama but just like you said, they can deliver good stuff!

      • you’re right in all honesty and without being biased Japanese drampas lately are so much better, there is so much more quality and depth, it’s a shame that more people are tuning in to watch the cliché ridden latest Sageuks and other evil mother in law and rich chaebol dramas ect ! I find it very frustrating

    • Japan does a wonderful job at captivating realism that other Asian countries lack. Most of the times, those Asian countries (cough Taiwan and S. Korea) focus on the cliche rich guy-poor girl or rich girl-poor guy and the story line of Cinderella. Too much sugar-coated in those drama that it really takes away the value of life.

  2. I’m surprised, I love both Aya Ueto and Sakai Masato (legal high made me love this guy) but didnt catch this drama due to the concept of banking not appealing to me. I mean it really sounds boring on paper. Hahaha.

    But I am surprised to see this news, cracking into the overall top 10 list is just WOW! What a great feat! Gonna catch this soon, I’ve heard a lot of great reviews during its broadcast.

  3. in the beginning of summer when I first read for the upcoming Jdoramas ,I read about this one and thought it would be boring even that synopsis sounded very interested -actually I do not not why but it reminded me American dramas from 80s( Dallas) .I see now I was wrong.I will check it.

  4. This show is awesome. It has a fast pace, it has suspense and it has humanity. Transplant the actors on a kabuki stage and you have the explanation for the overacting: The characters are like emperors, ennemies, allies and concubines. All of them are fighting for revenge, wealth and acknowledgement, or simply to survive. Maybe that explains a bit the fact why it’s been so successful.

  5. I checked it out shortly after the first episodes aired because I was puzzled at how a drama about such a boring subject could score these ratings…

    … and then I was even more puzzled. For me the drama’s subject is boring and it doesn’t look much different from any other Jdrama.

    Sure, Sakai Masato is a great actor (he was outstanding in last year’s “Ooku ~Tanjou~ Arikoto Iemitsu Hen”) and Aya Ueto is Japan’s darling… but… these ratings!

    I thought the next drama to enter the TOP 10 would be an epic romance… starring KimuTaku too! LOL it seems the Japanese audience is drifting further and further away from the romance genre.

    Despite my complete surprise at this strange ratings hit, I’m happy for Sakai Masato.

  6. Finished, and one line MsK,
    Hanzawa Naoki is a perfect man.

    I loved how story shifted fast, and showed all human characteristics. Sakai was wonderful here.
    What I didn’t like is manga overreacting, manga in serious drama is NO.

    I can’t say it’s better then Woman, that drama had all superb acting, wonderful directing and good script (killed by illness).
    Still Saikou no rikon stays the best Jdorama this year.

  7. Story is good, but the portrayal of lead actor is OTT (Overacting). Prefer the natural acting of the actor playing his friend (wears glasses). Can’t stand the male lead act but finish it due to the storyline.

    Lead actor and actress as husband and wife is weird. They are like brother and sister.

    • I would say Sakai Masato looks more like Won Bin than KimuTaku does… Won Bin’s features are actually pretty common place in Asia but everything on his face fits together perfectly.

      • Where in Asia is WB’s features pretty commonplace?!?!?! I have never heard of that paradise.

        It’s been a long swwooonnnn WB is a KT facetwin, ever since WB made oppadom in AiMH. Fact.

      • You are not the only one. 😀 They can pass off as brothers. Won Bin too is one of those rare “tan” Korean actors. I’m glad both too can bring depth in their emotions when acting. Wish to see more projects from these two. I think Kdramaland will go crazy if he goes back on TV but I think he’ll be doing movies. Sigh. KimuTaku on the other hand I have yet to see that drama he did recently. I hope it was good.

  8. Amazing!! I completed this drama in one go and it was so intense, gripping and really smart!! Definitely my cup of tea and the most interesting drama I’ve seen this year!
    At first, I wasn’t interested at all in it (bank, loans, and I even though the drama took part in the past at first when I saw the characters…) but well, since it has amazing rating I gave it a shot and I’m really happy to be a sheep XD
    But yeah it’s not perfect. There are clearly overacting and at times it didn’t bother and other time I thought it was too much… But the plot is so interesting that you don’t care about that, really.
    And to finish, I looove Sakai Masato and Kagawa Teruyuki acting!! Definitely the best ^^
    You have to watch it and tell us how you feel about it \o/

  9. Finished watching Hanzawa Naoki when the last episode aired in Japan.. I loved the actor in Legal High so I thought I’d give this one a try and I totally Loved it. The bank terminology can bog you down a bit but I still believe that its a great drama regardless.

    He delivers quite well in the drama, along with the rest of the cast, and you can’t help wanting to root him and everyone else on in here..

    I can’t wait for Legal High 2, coming up this week!

  10. You guys shud watch him in “Atsuhime”! I fall in love with that 10 eps (watching it over and over again)where he played the last Tokugawa general! He’s not the flower boy but he can really acted out everyone of his character soo sooo well! And i think he paired best with Aoi Miyazaki! Highly recommend!
    If anyone interested, shud watched the vid clips, here’s the link: https://www…youtube…com/watch?v=5WeLpev3l4Q or http://///www.tudou•com/programs/view/4sC7IQThr-A/

  11. Masato x Kagawa is my reason this works.

    You have the little guy played by the Affable soft spoken yummy voice HotUncle Masato, who can make mean scary faces too when called for, throw at him obstacles and beatings and bullying. Every white collar grey suit can commiserate, then throw in the fantasy element like every romcom did with the OTP where the little David beats the Goliath time and time again. Escapism from the workplace = HIT. Very easy to grasp really.

  12. The drama is great.It’s basically a revenge story…within a bank, how awesome is that?! I loved it and for me it was the best drama of the year along with Woman and Saikou no Rikon.

    But, as everyone said, it’s not perfect.There is occasional overacting and dramatic moments.Moreover it’s about banks and banking system so it may not be suitable for everyone.Most of all, do not start this drama with mindset of testing out a rating hit and to find what the big deal is as then you might be disappointed.

    I, personally, enjoy watching something different and am really happy that this drama with unique story and style was appreciated by the Japanese audiences unlike the Koreans.

  13. Some says it’s in fact a samurai story placed in a modern environment with everyone dressed in suit (and none of those too-short-pants which has dominated in SK, thank goodness), and to a certain extent I agree with this perspective. They just no longer fight with a sword but the spirit is similar, and that’s why majority of the Japanese audience can easily echo with the emotions involved. And since it’s also about office politics pretty much all salaryman across Asia can empathize with Hanzawa. I’m actually rather surprised it took people in the industry so long to know what can actually create empathy with audience – a well-written hardcore workplace drama, not those fluffy romcom disguised as a workplace drama.

    • When Hanzawa and his friend were practicing fighting with sticks, this does remind one of samurais. Hanzawa, Kondo, and Tomari were the samurais, no?

      It was like we were seeing Japan’s feudal class system at work in a modern setting. I enjoyed this drama tremendously and am glad it received the ratings it did.

  14. This is my first time watching Sakai Masato. Watching him makes me think he looks like Jung Bo Suk (he played the main villain in Giant). From the pictures above he seems overreacting, but watching the show I feel it’s not out of place at all. For me, OTT is commonplace when watching J-drama so to me it’s a norm. hehehe

  15. Started this drama on Saturday, spent the entire day glued to the tv and finished it on Sunday morning. It is super addictive and suspenseful, although every episode was so intense that we had to take breaks from viewing. As mentioned, there are lots of OTT acting but the bromance was very touching and the plot is fast paced. Certainly deserves all the accolades it’s receiving.

    Looking forward to Ms. K’s thoughts, esp of the ending.

  16. I watched this one because when it was airing in Japan, my Japanese friend said it was the hottest thing on TV. It was a lot better than I expected (I mean, banking doesn’t sound that exciting, right?). However, I still prefer Sakai Masato in Legal High – so really looking forward to the second season.

  17. haha I love your “It’s about bank loans, people!” perplexity.. Honestly, I would’ve probably watched it if you hadn’t posted the stills because uhh.. I can’t take OTT acting and I’m not a big fan of anyone here to overlook it…

    Oh who am I kidding, I will watch ep 1 to see what the hype is about.

  18. I marathoned the series in 2 days! It totally deserved all the hype (cf. kaseifu no Mita which i totally don’t get what’s the big deal about it)!

  19. Seeing how popular this dorama is, HK TVB station has purchased the rights and will remake this drama. Sigh! They will probably butchered the original plot…

  20. Wow, who knew a drama like banking loans could be so massive in Japan… wow O.O
    I’ll wait for your 2 cents Koala Unnie, then I’ll contemplate wether to watch it, seriously baking loans LOL. I was planning to watch the one about the Housekeeper which was a mega hit in Japan as well but now there’s another one to add onto the list plus all the ones on the Top 10 rated dramas.

  21. I honestly tried to watch this but couldn’t, Ueto Aya was miscast and Sakai Masato I thought he was going to have stroke sometimes when watching him.
    I mean when playing Komikado he sometimes goes over the top but that’s needed in that role. It had some really great actors but I think this dorama was beyond dreadful.
    I think people liked it because of the current economical situation in Japan but still…..

  22. I’m currently watching this drama and I don’t really get the hype tbh. It is nice, but not really all that addicting. With that said, I’m very happy for Ueto Aya that got to star in such a high-rated drama.

  23. Finally you pick this dramaa! this is my favorite jdroma of the year so far, it’s really good, for me one of most refreshing drama and the ending, I love it which make really anticipated for season 2.

    somehow I am so proud as a big fan of jdorama for this great achievement! The acting is great, especially the antagonist one, what a fantastic actor he is!

  24. OMG THE ACTING ! the acting here is so stellar it will keep you with your jaw dropped for most of the show, really this drama is a must watch for everyone, the best Asian drama i’v watched in ages. if you’re craving more stellar acting watch masayo sakai’s previous drama: legal high

    • also, exagerated acting from sakai can never be called overacting, he is the only one who could pull this show without over acting, it is even truer in Legal High, any other actor would have seemed absolutely lame and ridiculous in that role.

  25. also I’m not suprised this drama went unnoticed for many people given that everyone seems to be so much focused on Kdramas’ latest news while there is rarely much quality to be enjoyed in most of the kdramas everyone is blogging . thematically, japanese dramas are so much more diverse and there is so much more originality and much better acting. I find it also very unfair that other amazing dramas such as Woman went unnoticed, if you can please check it Koala, it stars Oguri Shun.

  26. I got on the bandwagon as my husband wouldn’t stop raving about it (and that’s very unusual!) I am not a big fan of the overacting though but the plot is gripping. That said, I only skimmed eps 8 and 9 as it’s kind of same and expected. Intrigued to see if there’s a movie special or sequel, as otherwise it’s a little disappointing.

  27. Dude, seriously, this is a drama about BANK and LOANS and credit and bank.. stuffs. I had no idea why I started watching it but I LOVE IT! It’s suspenseful and exciting. I couldn’t stop watching once I started.

  28. I seriously recommend this drama, with al the shit that’s happening with banks lately it’s refreshing to see someone standing up to the corruptcy and fraud.
    At first I couldn’t get past ep 1 too, but after this article I started to watch it again, and I’m so glad that I did. Things start to get really interesting after ep 3, that’s when I started to LOVE it!

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