Simple Growing Pains – Shujin-ko

Growing up is never easy. That’s been said more times then I can count to me. It’s annoyingly accurate, and something I loathe to admit. Especially now that I am in a position of saying it to younger generations, despite being fairly young myself.

‘Shujin-Ko’ is a fairly refreshing look at the concept of growing up. We follow a small group of college age students in a variety of stages within college. Several of them are job hunting or have recently accepted a job, a few of them of are approaching their final year, still a few more are just starting out. They face rather ordinary problems, studying, working part-time, their relationships with significant others, and of course the terror of what comes after college.

This series isn’t looking to reinvent any wheels genre-wise. In fact, one could argue this drama is rather ‘pointless’ since it lacks any serious plot. It’s just kids becoming adults and tackling their coming of age problems. I would argue that’s the beauty of ‘Shujin-ko’. Seriously, this drama went from being one I wasn’t too sure about watching to one that I found myself seriously thinking about once I finished.

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The drama is filled with wonderful aesthetic like this.

You see, ‘Shujin-ko’ was a crowd funded drama. It’s available for free on Youtube here actually. No English subs yet, but the full series is out and free. Many viewers have made the argument that it’s low-budget. That immediately because it’s a crowd funded it therefore must be low-budget drama, that there’s nothing of worth in it.

Admittedly, there’s none of the glitz and glamor that comes with big-budget dramas. No huge high-end sponsors, major CGI edits, and even some editing is debatable. That’s also why I like it. They keep the scenes simple, nearly all of it is shot between three major locations, and a handful of others. These places are real-world places, undisguised, that you could literally walk onto at any time. Admittedly at times, it appears several background characters did. The camera work shifts depending on scene, stable in some scenes and shaky in others.  Assisting the actors in conveying the impact of the actions taken in frame.

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Junta (Kamio Fujo), and another wonderful character.

Where ‘Shujin-ko’ lacks that polished sparkle, is made up in how the story is told. This is not some pretentious story of how friendship will always win and everything is gonna be okay. It feels more real then that, we the viewer as always watching in a third person frame – over someone’s shoulder, next to someone talking at the bar, hiding in plane sight. There’s always a small cloud of doubt, punctuated by episodes of true sorrow or true delight, which is neither overplayed nor underplayed.

The cast is small, and for the majority of the series there’s usually no more then three people in frame at once. We get to really hear, and see how two characters interact with one another. When one leaves, and another comes into frame we get to see how much that certain character changes between interactions if at all. These conversations are intimate, like you’re being let in on secrets. Many times you are, especially if you follow closely.

Being honest, this isn’t the series for everyone. There’s a sense of a conclusion at the end, where many of the characters come forth and proclaim their future intentions. Yet, it’s open ended, of course they told us what they intend to do. How did they really go about, who was really shown to be striving down the path they stated?

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Yujiro (left, Makoto), and Daisuke (right, Akira).

I got suckered by Kamio Fuju and Hasegawa Makoto being some of the main talents, not only pretty but talented. However, while their plots where interesting the other characters, their motivations and their feelings are what kept me going. How far was everyone’s lives going to twist together? Did those two even interact with one another in the first place?

It’s a simple easy to watch drama, and that’s it’s main selling point. It struck a chord with me in many ways, and in comparison to most series it was a refreshing change of pace.

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