It would probably be helpful to explain a little about this drama series before answering that question. 17-Sai no Teikoku, or A 17-year-old’s Regime, is the story of an experimental push of AI and politics.
In the near future, Japan continues to stagnate and even decline as a nation. To resolve this Prime Minister Washida (Emoto Akira) sets up an experimental project known at Utopi-AI. This project allows for leaders to be selected by AI to govern cities – regardless of circumstances or life experience. The AI system supplementing any missing experience or information needed by said leader. 17-year-old Maki Aran (Kamio Fuju) is selected to be the leader of the regional city of UA, with all his cabinet members being in their 20’s. However can a 17-year-old really be expected to lead a dying city, let alone revive it?
Now let’s tackle why this five, 50-minute episode series makes it worth watching.
- Political Intrigue
I am usually not a fan of political dramas because stories about politics are dense. Even in fictionalized media it’s rare to get a political story that doesn’t have a 20 minute information dump about all the events leading to that particular moment in the drama – which is boring. What this drama does is that all the political commentary is framed with younger audience in mind. Many political points were made, summarized in a way that’s easy to understand and engage with why it’s an issue. Bonus points that the story made a point to include the perspectives of the older generations, and validate those concerns too.
2. Dreams of AI futures, and what that actually means.
Most stories of AI futures are framed in a completely positive light, or a completely negative light with very few areas of in-between. 17-Sai no Teikoku does is show that a lot of these advancements are done with pure intentions, but without considering the downsides that can be terrifying. A theme in this story being the dead, through AI data gathering and then generation, can be brought back to life on screen. Showcased with Sagawa Sachi’s (Yamada Anne) grandfather, being able to ‘talk’ with their deceased wife. On a surface level, that sounds all well and good. When it’s framed with who Maki has ‘brought back to life’ for himself and how Sachi is aware of that circumstance… it’s not so wholesome anymore.
There’s other moments of AI that I really appreciated as well. UA’s technology is a lot more fesible and grounded then other sci-fi series. Their AI is limited to three super computers each with their own specific trait. Their practical technology for the citizens consists of eyeglasses, ear pieces, and a ring. When combined together you can join the live stream of the cabinet, vote directly, etc. All residents regardless of status are given these, and they’re familiar to users for ease of usage. It’s still terrifying how quickly the residents can let their opinions be known to Maki and the others, but that’s nothing new if you’ve been online long enough.
I absolutely hate when a project has little to no practical location scouting. Luckily for me, Japan adores this practice and 17-sai no Teikoku is no exception. The area in Nagasaki they chose is top notch. There’s some real locations, as well as a bit of sets, and some tasteful filtering and editing has worked wonders. There’s just the right balance of otherworldliness, but also reality of the space.
For those curious this is an article in Japanese, talking about the locations of the series and how available they are for the public to visit.
4. Cast Chemisty + Intentional Story-telling
I didn’t realize that Kamio Fuju and Yamada Anne were playing opposites of each other again so soon. Big surprise: I didn’t hate it this time! It’s amazing a better story, and stronger supporting cast helped out in showcasing their natural talents. Maki and Sachi played off each other well, being from two different backgrounds but drawn together via circumstance. It help the overall story build in the same direction too. The other members of the cabinet weren’t quite as remarkable, they all grew on me in their own ways. I mean even the ‘antagonist’ Washida Teru (Sometani Shota) grew on me once it was clear what his function was in the cabinet and as a character. The strong mix of talents really shone here.
17-Sai no Teikoku also has some tight storytelling, but in the best possible way. I wrote it earlier but just to emphasize this – it’s only five, 50-ish minute episodes. That’s it. The story does not waste it’s time trailing off to follow a secondary character, or build up points that amount to nothing. No matter how small the detail, everything builds into the events leading to the conclusion. It’s an original story too so it’s written in a way that makes sense for a short drama series.
Now, I’m usually not the one to really comment about the score of a show, unless it’s actually about music/musicians/etc. However, whoever scored this series really knew what they were doing. The opening and ending themes were really well chosen, and the music used within each episode built into the story as well. Also if you don’t watch the end credits to see how they change on a per-episode basis you are missing out. It’s the little things like this that really made 17-sai no Teikoku as impressive as it is.
And with that… I’m sorry to say this series isn’t officially subbed, yet. Fingers crossed. However if you poke around with a well worded keyword search or two, the means to see this with English subs is out there. And I hope you take that opportunity since 17-Sai no Teikoku is absolutely worth it.