Well 2012 is here so you might be asking yourself “what new J-drama should I kick the year off with?” Luckily for you I’ve just recently found one that I really like and have no qualms about recommending to everyone and anyone. And that drama is Watashi ga Renai Dekinai Riyuu (私が恋愛できない理由 ((The Reason I Can’t Find My Love)) aka “Wataren”. It’s a pretty standard romantic comedy (romedy?) spanning ten episodes, but it’s definitely one of the better shows in the genre, especially as of late. Its viewership rating was 15.8% (Kanto) which isn’t too bad at all (Densha Otoko‘s was 21.04% to give you a bit of perspective – there’s usually a good chance of anything higher than 15% being worth checking out).

It was also highly anticipated and its first episode received a viewership rating of 17%, the most successful first episode since Tsuki no Koibito (which was also really good) in the summer of 2010.

And we all know that Japanese dramas are great. Even the venerable Koichi himself once said, “One of the most addicting things in the world is Japanese drama. If I needed to quit cocaine or something like that, this is what I’d use to kick it.

Finding and “Using” J-Dramas

A while back, Koichi wrote a great post entitled Studying With Japanese Drama: The Step-By-Step Guide. If you watch a lot of dramas, or plan to in the future, you should do yourself a favor and give the guide a look-see. It will be invaluable in making your Japanese studies all the more enjoyable.

And for those of you who have no idea how to treasure hunt for great dramas, DramaWiki is a great place to find them. One of their most useful tools is the Upcoming J-Drama page where they list the dramas from every television season and give plenty of details about them. DramaWiki is definitely your one-stop-shop when you’re hunting for J-dramas. It’s helped me find almost all of my favorite Japanese shows. But enough of that, let’s get on to what this new show is all about.

About Wataren

Left to right: Mako, Fujii, and Saki.

Well, Wataren highlights the lives of three women, Fujii Emi (Karina), Ogura Saki (Yoshitaka Yuriko), and Hanzawa Mako (Oshima Yuko of AKB48). They’re all looking for love but each one has something that is getting in the way of their romantical happiness.

Fujii works for a lighting company as a lighting technician, where she is surrounded by men due to the nature of the profession. This has shaped her into a very tom-boyish woman who is very much one of the guys. She has a straight-forward and generous personality, but is unconcerned about general feminine interests such as fashion.

You’ll rarely if ever see Fujii in anything more extravagant than jeans and a t-shirt, let alone a dress. She is often treated like one of the guys by her boss and colleagues, and feels that being in love is tiresome. However, she cannot forget about her ex-boyfriend and co-worker and hopes to someday fall truly in love.

Saki is prideful and determined, but fails in landing a desirable job. As a result, she starts to work at a bar as a hostess, keeping the fact a secret from her parents. Her love interest in the story is a little bit more involved than Fujii’s so I’m not going to spoil anything for you by detailing it here.

Mako is the youngest of all, having attended the same high school following Fujii and Saki. She is earnest and responsible, but on the other hand, rather clumsy and afraid of taking chances on a romantic relationship.

Mako gets into all sorts of dumb office romance situations and her part of the story easily frustrates me the most. She’s just really naive when it comes to love and relationships. (On a side note, I really prefer Oshima Yuko with long hair rather than the short style she’s sporting in this drama (although it kind of makes sense for her character). Long hair works a lot better for her I think.)

But anyway, the three main characters end up living together in the same house, and it is there that they share each other’s experiences, bitter or sweet, desperately struggling with their individual love lives. Drama ensues, laughs are had, and overall it’s a delightful show that I would heartily recommend to any fan of J-drama, especially those who like romantic comedies (or any of the actors from the show, they all do a good job).

Synopsis credit to DramaWiki.

I looked around for a trailer or something for the show but the best I could come up with was the first five minutes of the first episode which kind of sets up the feel of what the show will be about (pursuing love vs pursuing career success, etc) and briefly introduces us to the three main characters. No subs for the video (sorry) but I think after reading the synopsis, even without subs the video below is pretty easy to follow along with (if you have any questions on what anything means, feel free to ask in the comments).

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All in all it’s a very good show and it takes you along for an emotional but ultimately satisfying ride. I haven’t been this into a J-drama for about a year or so and I was really glad to find it. You should at least give the first episode a watch.

I know from the synopsis that the show doesn’t sound like anything special and I don’t really know how to explain what sets it apart, but it’s just really well done and really well acted. The cast really makes the show here I feel. It’s super emotional and really tugs your heartstrings in all sort of directions. I feel like a lot of people can relate to the show in one way or another because it seems so real and believable. I fully recommend this show. It’s really good.

And Just In Case…

If you totally hate J-dramas, here’s an awesome and totally unrelated Japanese music video for you. Enjoy.

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P.P.S. Hate being moved to tears? Maybe you should check us out on Facebook and Google+ instead.

  • GlassOtaku

    This show seems very interesting :D Where can I find it online?

  • foozlesprite

    Ah, the venerable Pon Pon Pon. I’ve had that stuck in my head for the last few months. Even had it as my ringtone for a while, until I got one too many odd looks, lol. I think it attracted more attention than my ‘ducks quacking’ ringtone…Anywho, thanks for the recommendation. I need to finish up Hotaru no Hikari soon, then I’ll try this one out :)

  • Ky

    i’ll have to add this to my list. I actually wasn’t too interested from the wiki synopsis. But seeing as how I love jdramas oh so very much i’ll give it a try ^^

  • Nana

    I’ll start watching this right away!

  • Lily

    I always enjoy Tofugu’s articles, but this one seems like it’s in need of editing. Not sure why but something about the sentence structure and the lack of sophisticated writing makes me feel this needs to be edited more carefully.

  • Andrew

    I’ll definitely have to check this one out. I still say one of the most emotion Jdramas I’ve seen so far is Zettai Kareshi.

    If you are looking for a plethora of Jdramas, and don’t mind shelling about between $10-$20 bucks check out 999love’s store…buy all the dramas!

  • sweetdelightss

    Hahaha. That Kyary Pamyu Pamyu video at the end was a perfect add on! Hmm. I don’t really watch JDramas (in favor of KDramas :: I kno I kno I’m a bad person!) but I might have to check this one out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Jess

    I believe the accepted abbreviation for romantic comedy is rom-com ;)

  • koichi

    omg, I was watching kdramas over the holiday because my grandma watches them every night… I’ll never date a Korean person now because of their evil mother… the mother in law’s _ALWAYS_ evil.

    jkjk… but seriously, so evil.

  • JRT

    Will definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Kladkaka

    This sounds interesting! Are there any drama notes for this one? I searched on for my first time but was very confused.

  • John

    I know, but I’ve always been partial to romedy :P

  • John

    The only k-drama I’ve seen so far was Coffee Prince but I really enjoyed it. Anything else you think I might enjoy?

  • Kyla

    I’ll have to check this out! i’m really excited for a couple of dramas this winter season~!

  • Anonymous

    I think this post needs more editing…

  • Mandarina

    Post title was a bit misleading, but I was just wondering about watching this drama… Now I probably will :P Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    I love jdramas! I actually got into them thanks to Tofugu! Starting with HanaDan! Thanks for the info on this one, I’ve loved Karina ever since I watched Freeter!

  • John

    It’s a trap!

  • John

    What do you mean?

  • John

    I never finished Freeter :(

  • Anonymous

    ahh! you should! It’s not the most AMAZING drama ever, but it’s good! and the special was really good!

  • John

    Yeah I got into it back when it first came out so I kept having to wait for episodes to come out and then I got distracted and forgot about it xD

  • Anonymous

    Coincidentally I just finished Freeter today. It’s very good. Not amazing, but very very good. I highly recommend it =).

  • inna dizon

    I loved WataRen! I’m not really a fan of romantic dramas, but this one was pretty realistic… Mako annoyed me a lot though.

  • Kyah

    “It was also highly anticipated and its first episode received a
    viewership rating of 17%, the most successful first episode since Tsuki no Koibito (which was also really good) in the summer of 2010.”

    That’s not true. Yokai Ningen Bem(u)’s first episode was rated 18.9% (Kanto) last October. Source:

  • Gigatron

    Always been curious about J-dramas. They seem to have a very wide and loyal following. Sadly I could never get into them myself.

    Not the fault of the shows, mind you. I have the same issue with dramas from any other country. :P

  • Drew Meadows

    I would highly recommend King of Bakers. But beware Koichi, the mother in law is evil. Like, super evil. 

  • Anonymous

    Ah yeah, I do that way too often…start a new show and forget about an old one…

  • Anonymous

    Did you watch the special yet? I actually don’t really even remember what happened, lol

  • Anonymous

    No, but I will today or tomorrow!

  • inna dizon

    and i forgot to mention: you guys should do a post on Kaseifu no Mita, which was the drama with the highest ratings for 2011! The last episode got about 40% of the viewership ratings, plus it averaged 20something% overall. I have my own thoughts on this drama but I’m interested in seeing what the Tofugu writers think about it. :)

  • Kurishi

    LOL.  You just had to include that bra shot, didn’t you?  Kidding.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed watching this drama.  I hated Shiraishi like hell but I loved almost all the other characters.

  • sweetdelightss

    ahahaha. i <3 your grandma. She knows what's up.

  • Anonymous

    This may just be completely subjective on my part: I feel jdrama should be capitalized in all formal contexts. Also, not sure why the translation for  私が恋愛できない理 is in ((double parenthesis)). Also there seems to be a lot of side tangents in parenthesis throughout the majority of the post. Thorough editing will fix all of these problems.

    As a lover and J-drama fanatic, I crave Tofugu posts about them. 

    Also, WataRen was last season (Winter 2011), not this upcoming season (Spring 2012). Since the title, at least the permalink, had 2012 in it, I thought this post was about Lucky Seven, the most hyped up J-drama, also a getsu 9,  in the first drama season in Japan.

    Okay. I’ll be quiet now lol.

  • sweetdelightss

    City Hunter! No mean mothers but a pretty gnarly step-father! lol

  • John

    I remember reading the synopsis for this one when it came out, but never got around to viewing it. I’ll have to check it out, thanks for the recommendation. 

  • John

    Yokai Ningen Bem’s first episode actually aired 5 days AFTER Wateren’s. Have you seen any of 
    Yokai Ningen Bem though? One of my friends checked it out and said it was kindy goofy.

  • John

    Haha well you know how we Tofugu writers love our parenthesis and side tangents – I wouldn’t call them problems, some posts just get a bit more conversational than others :]

    And I know that Wataren isn’t from 2012, but it ended right at the end of 2011 and I didn’t want to dedicate a full post recommending a show to everyone that I hadn’t already checked out fully for myself first, ya know?

    And btw Wataren was Autumn 2011 and the upcoming season is Winter 2012 :P I am looking forward to checking out Lucky Seven later this month though! 
    Matsumoto Jun yayyy~

  • Kyah

    Ah, got’cha. I’ve seen it. It’s a bit goofy, but also decent. It’s something people could watch as a family. I wanted to find the original 1968 anime to watch a couple episodes and compare the portrayal of the characters, but I’ve not found it.

  • Anonymous

    Oh! Haha, you were right about WataRen being in Autumn 2011. My fault. I’m most looking forward to Lucky Seven (like you said, MatsuJun!), Saikou no jinsei no Owarikata (YamaP!) and Saigo kara niban me no koi (Nakai Kiichi). Yeah okay, starting to ramble now… 

  • IronySunLight

    Actually I recommend Protect the Boss. I don’t really like Dramas of any sort, especially Kdrama, but my friend got me to watch it and I absolutely loved it!! It’s definitely a great watch <3

  • Lily

    Probably depends on what you enjoy watching. If you like Coffee Prince, I think you could enjoy Goong/Princess Hours and also My Name is Kim Sam Soon.

  • Anonymous

    OK, this is great and all… But has Koichi, Hashi, and whoever else writes for this site know fluent Japanese. I’m going to start taking classes, but the only thing I want to know is if it’s possible.

  • Dana Atnb

    definitely will check it, but still cant give up Kdramas :]

  • inna dizon

    Yokai Ningen Bem was a little over the top, but the way the story was developed was pretty good. It’s worth it to check it out if you liked Kaibutsu-kun. 

  • syelisk

    I tried to watch but gave up after a while. It’s kinda tacky. Wataren on the other hand is very addictive. Some of the things that happens are very frustrating but when you think about it again, they are things that commonly happen to people in real life. Definitely one of the better j-dramas this year.

    Oh and have you checked out the live-action adaptation of Ranma1/2?

  • John

    No, I haven’t – but then again I’ve never really been into Ranma 1/2 :(

  • John

    Of course it’s possible :) As long as you are dedicated and don’t rely solely on class time for learning the language you’ll be great. Feel free to check out our Japanese resources page and the free lessons on Textfugu to get a better feel for what you’re getting into! Best of luck! 

  • koichi

    they always are! 0_0

  • hoshiro-

    I dont think that this answered why I couldnt find love in in japan T.T

  • John

    Perhaps it is something you’ll discover if you watch the show!

  • hoshiro-

    Then I shall watch it!

  • Meow • Japan & Urbex

    I’d love to know which of those dramas are available with english subtitles (official or not). That would be really useful to know :) I’ve never watched any of them because of that.

  • Dana Atnb

    me too never watched full series because of that : ) thatiswhy i just watch the first and the last episodes, seems could get whole meaning of story (:

  • Anonymous

    thanks a lot for the recommendation!

    I started watching it yesterday and I really like it ♥

  • kuyaChristian

    Now PONPONPON is stuck in my head. But then, I need to catch up to the Japanese music scene. I know Tofugu might not be the site for that, but I can’t find a decent site to catch up with JP music. And Jpopasia is basically poop

    PONPONPON. But but Kyary is cute :3
    Thanks, John. :D

  • John

    There are tons of fansubbing groups and they manage to cover most dramas.

  • Meow • Japan & Urbex

    But that would be cool to have a list of the dramas with links to the subs :) I live in Japan but I have no idea what TV show I should watch, difficult or not, is the season is finished or not, etc… That would be really interesting to have an article about this. We don’t all speak Japanese, and Japanese TV shows aren’t easy to access for most of us. Please help ˆˆ

  • nanami

    WHY didn’t you mention that the japanese subs are available?

    and i heard bad things abt this show personally.
    Like I love reading this guy’s blog and he doesn’t like it.

    and he watches a lot of dramas and we have similar tastes.

    I do like the actresses in the drama but it’s not enough for me to watch the drama.

  • John

    D-Addicts is a great place for information on all dramas, not just Japanese ones. They’re also the ones who keep DramaWiki up and running. Super useful.

  • John

    I thought DramaWiki had a linkback to D-Addicts on it, haha my bad – thanks for posting the link though. And yeah, probably not for everyone, just depends how much you like these kind of dramas – I can see how someone with different tastes wouldn’t be a fan of it.

  • Emily C.

    Anyone know where to see this on the internet? I’ve searched but I can’t find it :( Until then i’ll go for some other drama though. I’ve got really into Coffee Prince a few months back and trying to get back into watching other dramas.

  • John

    Yeah Coffee Prince was great. Check out D-Addicts and their forums for drama stuff though – really useful.

  • Bree

    If anyone’s still wondering where they can watch it, the drama is on under the w’s. 

    I hope it’s as good as you say! :) I’ve never watched a whole drama, but maybe I’ll start now!

  • giraffe

    Just finished watching this… sooooo good! Please recommend more like this!

  • Bree

    I love the drama! It was so good! Please recommend some more good ones! :)

  • Emily

    PONPONPON! XD  (I use to watch that video all the time)

  • John

    When I run across good ones I’ll be sure to share them!

  • John

    I will once I find more new ones!

  • Niji Hirasawa

    I have that song! But, like, I prefer the SeeU version more than this one. I don’t know if I screamed or what when I saw the original. ^ ^;;

  • Nat Wel

    Japan looks like a happy country :).

  • Anna

    Ponponpon definitely one of the trippiest videos i’ve ever seen…

  • berryp

    Wow, I just finished watching Coffee Prince. I really enjoyed it. It’s my second favorite, after My Girlfriend is a Gumiho – which, incidentally, doesn’t have an evil [grand]mother/father.

  • Elysia Beattie

    Just started watching Wataren….hoooked! My first J-drama :) I’m sure this means more in the future….

  • Cam Abi

    Everyone LOVES the Korean version of Hana Yori Dango! Also The Great Doctor aka Faith is pretty good. I’m a big Lee Min Ho fan :)

  • Cole Bearden

    Im lovin the music vid lol :3