Guess whose back again? It’s me, with another drama crossed off the list. This one being one of the truly more whacky titles consider that of all things; it’s a Netflix original. So hopefully this review has you booting up your account and dropping this into your queue because it’s a wild time.
Houno Tenkousei REBORN, or Blazing Transfer Students as it’s referred to on Netflix, is an adaptation of the original manga from the 1980’s. Which is neat, but not totally relevant since this is more of homage then anything. The core story is that seven transfer students, are summoned to Tanebi Gakuen, which is lead by Takizawa Noboru, the original “Blazing Transfer Student”. All seven of these students, from various backgrounds and school, all share the first name Kakeru. The Kakeru Collective, are tasked with transferring to various problematic schools throughout Japan, and improving them from the inside. However, Takizawa Noboru seems to have more in mind then just restoring the peace at these schools.
It also has the added benefits, of the Kakeru Collective being portrayed by the 7-member idol group Johnny’s WEST. So hey, you’ve now discovered why I wanted to watch this!
Before talking about the WEST boys, let’s talk about the series as a whole. For a J-Drama, this series is one of the better executed manga to live action adaptations. I earlier said this would be better seen as an homage, and I still stand by that. Blazing Transfer Student, is the original premise, and main character Takizawa Noboru does make an appearance; as a scale model figure of the original character with a voice over. No, I’m not making that up, and yes it’s as strange as hilarious as you would think.
However, instead of trying to make this a beat for beat adaptation of Blazing Transfer Student, it aims for the more modern audience. The uniforms are updated, although still highly stylized that take notes from other contemporaries of late as well as the past. This time there’s seven protagonists, verses just one. The character troupes, you can tell from the costuming of each Kakeru which best boy they are suppose to embody from the manga. Certain elements such as the Kakeru’s secret move, has an obscure and outdated name. Instead of brushing over that, the drama acknowledges it, explains it, and it shows just how ridiculous the whole thing is.
The themes explored, through comedy, show struggles that current students face like, the demands from schools for students to have academic excellence, tiger moms running the school from behind the scenes etc. I actually enjoyed the episode where they transfer to an all-girl’s school of juvenile delinquents which use to be a huge cultural movement in the 80’s and are still seen today (Uotani from Fruits Basket anyone?), but showed it in a more modern light. There’s a few other moments and episode ideas that are really brilliant as well, which makes the series’ comedy so much fun, especially for viewers more use to anime or manga troupes.
So yes, this series has some serious strength as being a ridiculous but amazing manga to live action adaptation that is (in my opinion) on par with 2018’s smash sucess Kyou Kara Ore wa!! . Unfortunately, Blazing Transfer Students‘s success was a little less commercial then it’s successor, oddly enough because it was only on Netflix. Go figure.
Now, I can get into the nitty gritty because, idol actors are pretty hit or miss and Johnny’s WEST is well within that belt. I do have a little personal bias towards two of the Johnny’s WEST members, specifically Kotaki Nozomu and Hamada Takahiro. Kotaki is an unofficial regular that I’ve talked about recently, and the drama where I saw Hamada was pretty solid too. So, I do have to say I felt those two had more presence in the series then the other members of Johnny’s WEST. Specifically, we do get an entire episode where Kotaki Kakeru is the main character so to speak, that coupled with the theme was particularly impressionable to me. So… there is that.
That doesn’t mean that the rest of Johnny’s WEST slacked off. All members had prior acting experiance, so there was no awkward newbie feel to the series. The problem laid in since the drama is so over the top dramatic, none of the characters particularly experienced any growth. They all stay a little too even on the playing field so to speak, so the only reason a particular Kakeru sticks out to you is if you have a particular character type you tend to like more, or you have a bias in Johnny’s WEST.
I do have to say, that Shigeoka Daiki needs to be given a round of applause. While we all know and love the genric, and not in any way memorable male protagonist, seeing one in live action form via Shigeoka Kakeru was a whole new level. I would genuinely forget the guy even existed in the series until he would bring himself up, by motivating his participation for Hikari (Kawashima Umika)’s affection. Which she regularly turned him down for, and by doing so adding to the ridiculous nature of the show.
Normally, I would try an hype up some supporting cast members but I have to say that once again, they were a bit too troupe-y to really stand out. They were interesting to watch, but failed to have a larger impact on the Kakeru collective or me. I want to give Kawashima Umika some spotlight, but I can’t really. She’s written like a typical female character in shonen manga, the motivation for one Kakeru, and that’s it. When she wasn’t a main players in an episode, you would largely forget she was in it. Which works sort of, playing into being an ideal adaptation, but also bad since she deserves more.
In fact, I think that’s how this series should be summarized; a lot of things were good in their own way because it made for great comedy of the moment, but bad because they left zero lasting impact after viewing. This is a series where I remembered more about the series of events in the drama, then the actors. Which, given this is a comedy doesn’t mean a lot because the goal is to laugh and entertain, not stick with you and make you ponder life’s meaning.
About the only critical flaw was the ending. It totally worked in the given frame work of the series. Yet, I still felt a bit cheated for more reasons then one. It’s not a deal breaker, but notable.
So Houno Tenkousei REBORN, is a live action adaptation done right, with the over the time premise and comedy being knocked out of the ballpark. It’s a perfect series to marathon if you need a good laugh, and your Netflix is already up. It’s not a series that will stick with you, but one that will engage and entertain you if you give it a chance. I’ll leave it at that, and see you next post!