Many people will argue that some of the best Japanese dramas are school dramas. Their outrageous plots often involve a bunch of cliched tropes such as rich and poor leads, love triangles, bullying, and unrequited crushes.
However, it’s their storyline delivery, character development, and beautifully-shot Japanese scenery that imprint on viewers’ minds.
The 10 Best Japanese School Drama
If you’re looking for a list of the best Japanese school dramas to binge on, look no further. We’ve curated the top 10 best Japanese school dramas below for you to peruse.
- Gokusen (2002)
- Hana Yori Dango (2005)
- Great Teacher Onizuka (2012)
- Ouran High School Host Club (2011)
- Wolf Girl and Black Prince (2016)
- High School Debut (2011)
- Tales of Yamada (2007)
- Mischievous Kiss: Love in TOKYO (2013)
- Yamada Kun to Nananin no Majo (2013)
- Switched (2018)
1. Gokusen (2002)
This hilarious feel-good drama follows the story of Yamaguchi Kumiko, a fresh-faced, idealistic teacher who is hired at Shirokin High. Here’s the catch though – Kumiko is the heir to a 4th generation yakuza crime organization!
Kumiko quickly learns that it won’t be all smooth sailing as she becomes assigned to the class 3D – the most wayward class of all, full of delinquents and troublemakers with little respect for their elders.
She doesn’t give up though, and she slowly begins to win over the students through sheer grit, determination, and resilience.
2. Hana Yori Dango (2005)
Hana Yori Dango is an absolute classic high school drama that has it all: a poor but bright female protagonist, a rich and snotty male antagonist, a love triangle, and enough laughs to give you abs.
Makino Tsukushi enrolls in a prestigious high school that is home to the F4, a popular group of four boys who are sons of some of the most influential families.
She inadvertently becomes the target of their relentless bullying one day. When unexpected sparks fly between her and the leader, it leads to a series of events and relationships no one could have ever predicted.
3. Great Teacher Onizuka (2012)
Great Teacher Onizuka is a quirky unconventional drama that you must add to your list for those who are highly entertained by school dramas.
It follows the story of Eikichi Onizuka, a former gangster who becomes a teacher of a class of delinquents who cause trouble and havoc wherever they go. Onizuka is tasked with getting the students in line whilst helping the teachers ignite their former love of educating.
This comedy-drama showcases some highly unorthodox methods of teaching and will have you in stitches from the first episode.
4. Ouran High School Host Club (2011)
Similar to Hana Yori Dango, Ouran High School Host Club is about a female student who comes from a modest family. She enters Ouran Academy, a prestigious school, on an academic scholarship.
One day she accidentally stumbles upon the school’s ‘host club’, a club that consists of six handsome male students who entertain female students. She accidentally breaks one of their previous items, and in return, they make her join the club – not realizing that she’s a female!
5. Wolf Girl and Black Prince (2016)
Erika Shinohara is a first-year student who is friends with a clique of girls who all have boyfriends. In an attempt to fit in, she tells them lies about her make-believe ‘boyfriend’.
As they become more suspicious and she runs out of lies to tell, she decides to take a photo of a random boy on the street and shows it to them, claiming that he is her boyfriend.
As luck would have it, the photo was of none other than Kyouya Sata, the most popular boy in her school. To save face, she asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend.
He agrees but only under one condition, and it is only then that she realizes that he has a darker side to him than anyone would have guessed.
6. High School Debut (2011)
Haruna Nagashima was a softball fanatic in middle school and devoted all of her time to the sport. When she enters high school, she finds herself becoming interested in boys and ultimately wants to find herself a boyfriend.
However, she quickly realizes that she has no clue how to attract a boy!
One day, she meets popular upperclassman You Komiyama, and they come to an agreement that he will teach her how to become attractive to boys under one condition: she cannot fall for him.
7. Tales of Yamada (2007)
Tales of Yamada (sometimes called The Story Of Yamada Taro) follows the life of Taro Yamada who is a student at Ichinomiya Private Senior High School. From the outside, he is perfect. He’s attractive, an all-around athlete, and a brilliant straight-A student.
He looks like he is from a rich family, but truth is, he is actually from a dirt-poor family. He shares a small home with his six younger brothers and sisters.
This is a light-hearted comedy-drama that shows how Yamada hilariously tackles issues that arise because of his poverty and how his character grows and develops.
8. Mischievous Kiss: Love in TOKYO (2013)
Mischievous Kiss: Love in TOKYO is a classic high school drama that’s suitable for anyone and everyone. Its cliché yet heart-warming storyline has the potential to melt even the coldest of hearts.
Kotoko Aihara is a below-average student who lacks intelligence and is part of class F, the lowest class in the school. She falls in love with Naoki Irie, the smartest, most handsome guy in school one day after she witnesses him giving a speech at the high school entrance ceremony.
She eventually works up the courage to confess her love, but he out rightly rejects her. Crushed, she decides to give up on him.
On the same day, her house is hit by a meteorite, leaving her and her father homeless. At the insistence of one of his best friends, they move into his house temporarily whilst their destroyed home is being re-built.
As it turns out, her father’s best friend is none other than Naoki Irie’s father!
Being in such close proximity to Naoki, she realizes that she is not over him and continues her crush on him. You’ll fall for Kotoko’s ditzy and lovable personality immediately and you’ll be rooting for her the entire way.
Read More: Best Japanese Romance Dramas
9. Yamada Kun to Nananin no Majo (2013)
Urara Shiraishi is an excellent student with top grades and who excels at everything. Ryu Yamada is a trouble-maker student who doesn’t care for school.
One day, they literally stumble upon each other and fall down the stairs, accidentally kissing on the way down. When they come to, they realize that they’ve just switched bodies! They conclude that every time they kiss, they switch bodies.
Through a bit of investigation, it appears that their body-switching magic is the work of seven witches who attend their school. They work together to discover the identities of the seven witches to remove the magic.
10. Switched (2018)
This is yet another body-switch drama, but with a bit of a twist from the first.
Shunpei Kaga, Koshiro Mizumoto, and Ayumi Kohinata have been friends since childhood. Koshiro starts to develop feelings for Ayumi and eventually confesses to her. Ayumi reciprocates his feelings and they begin a romantic relationship.
However, on their first date, Ayumi and her unpopular classmate Zenko Umine suddenly switch bodies causing much confusion. To Ayumi’s dismay, no one believes her about the body switch except for her friend Shunpei Kaga.
As it turns out, Umine suffered from a broken family and depression and intentionally instigated the body swap with Ayumi. Whilst Umine sounds like the typical underdog, you will find yourself rooting for Ayumi as she fights to get her body back in this engaging coming-of-age drama.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this diverse list of Japanese school dramas. Admittedly, the high school genre is one that’s been popular with people of all ages for a long time, and with an unoriginal genre often comes stale plotlines and one-dimensional characters.
Luckily for you, Japanese dramas are not like that at all! They’re like a breath of fresh air, with their original plots and charming characters.
For the uninitiated, is there a particular one that caught your eye?
If you’ve watched any of these in the past, what are your thoughts? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!
For more inspiration, you can also check out our more general list of the 10 best Japanese dramas or also our 10 best Japanese historical dramas.