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Title: Samurai High School
Genre: Comedy
Episodes: 9
Cast: Miura Haruma, Shirota Yuu, Anne, Kaneko Nobuaki
Plot: Spineless schoolboy gets possessed by samurai ancestor and suddenly has a lot more to worry about than passing university entrance exams.

Meet Mochizuki Kotaro. He's 17, a few months away from writing the exams that will determine whether or not he manages to make it into university, and he's hopeless. He's a coward and a weakling, he uses humour to avoid being serious about anything, his study habits make teachers weep, and he's content to go through life without doing anything that really matters.

Meet Mochizuki Kotaro. He's 17, a samurai serving under Sanada Yukimura during Japan's Warring States period, brave and noble...and dead. He's been that way for just under four hundred years.

What do these two share aside from a name and genes? (And the fact that they're both played by Miura Haruma.) A body, once schoolboy!Kotaro is assigned an essay on the Siege of Osaka and ends up reading a book in a creepy historical library. The samurai's spirit leaves the book to take possession of the schoolboy's body, and that's when the trouble begins. Before long, when Kotaro finds himself in danger - especially if someone tells him to die - the samurai takes over, easily identifiable by the tiny topknot, the lack of clothing (the samurai always manages to strip himself down to a tanktop, somehow), the fierce expression, and the improvised weapon (ruler, mop, whatever comes to hand). When possessed, schoolboy!Kotaro exists in the back of his own mind, unable to control his body, which performs feats of athleticism of which he'd never have believed himself capable.

Hardly an ideal situation for a young man desperately trying to study for exams. His father is a mild-mannered sort who supports his son in his own quiet way, while his mother and much smarter younger sister chastise him for his relaxed attitude to studying. His teacher, Miki, is sympathetic and believes in her students but refuses to let them simply slip through the cracks - unlike the rest of the faculty, who initially appear to have been transplanted from one of the Gokusen schools. Their school is known for its academic and sporting excellence and slackers like Kotaro just don't fit in with the golf heroes and maths whizzes.

It doesn't help that Kotaro can't tell anybody why he suddenly switches from his usual meek self to a stubborn, take-no-prisoners warrior who beats people up with cleaning equipment. If he does, the mysterious librarian tells him, the samurai might take off with his body altogether. Consequently, Kotaro has to go to great lengths to keep his secret hidden from his friends.

There's Nagasawa Ai (Anne), his childhood friend with whom he shares the expected "I secretly like you but will make fun of you instead" relationship. Like her character in BANDAGE, Nagasawa is a musician, and would like to make a career of it. During the course of the series, she becomes more conscious of her feelings for Kotaro - both versions, though initially she likes the samurai more - and she always believes in him. Her closest female friend, Yuriko, is played by Kobayashi Ryoko (Ueda's Juliet.)

Then there's Nakamura Tsuyoshi (Shirota), a weak, snivelling, awkward boy whose father is deceased and mother is ill. Nakamura was rescued by the samurai and since then has been Kotaro's staunchest supporter, standing by his side even when the odds are hopeless. He admires the samurai but he likes the schoolboy too, and is the only person to figure out exactly what's happening to his new friend.

I have to add a mention for Motoyama (Kaneko - having a mini-BANDAGE reunion here), a former gang member turned police officer who somehow finds himself getting involved with Kotaro, his friends and his teacher - though not as involved as he'd like to be with the teacher! While he's rough and blunt, he's a good man to have on your side and when the kids are in trouble he'll help them in his own way.

I'll admit that schoolboy!Kotaro annoyed me a great deal at first but as the series progressed and he learned lessons from the samurai and found the strength within himself to try, I started to like him much more. I'll also admit that samurai!Kotaro in a tanktop and with his hair tied up, beating up people with a ruler, was an excellent reason to stick with the show. I liked the friendships between the characters, and the changes with Kotaro's family, and the fact that actual character development took place. Some predictable plots, of course, but the comedy and sweet moments more than made up for that.

But the most entertaining thing about the series was the friendship between Kotaro and Nakamura, neither of whom appear to have any understanding of the concept of 'personal space'. They clutch at each other when scared! They crawl over each other to get to the door! They cuddle up on the floor and laugh together when they're happy! It's so cute I would never believe it of actual high school boys, but if j-drama delinquents can curl their hair and pluck their eyebrows (cast of ROOKIES, I'm looking at you), I guess the non-delinquents should at least be cuddly. I feel the need to track down all the series promo material now just to see the pair of them interact some more.


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