I watched another Japanese drama. This time, it was Jyoou no Kyoushitsu, or The Queen’s Classroom (I tend to refer to it by the English name, so let’s go with that). It’s eleven episodes long, with two specials.
Those who read my post on Densha Otoko will know that I really loved that one. The Queen’s Classroom is even better.
So to start, the summary:
Kanda Kazumi is a 12-year-old girl entering 6th grade (which, in Japan, is the last year of elementary school). She and her long-time friend Erika happen to be in the same class, with a teacher that’s been away from teaching for two years. When the teacher, Akutsu Maya, enters, she tells the students that things will be different in her class. Every Monday, she’ll pass out a test. The two students with the highest scores will be given special privileges, including free use of the two lockers in the classroom. The two students with the lowest scores will become class representatives, who have to do everything from cleaning the bathrooms to serving lunch. She then gives them a lecture on how only 6% of all people can achieve happiness. That they’d be glad to make everyone else work below them work so they can get things for free. On top of that, she’s extremely strict, not allowing the children to go to the restroom during lunch and giving out harsh punishments for disobeying her.
When her last pencil breaks on the first day, Kazumi isn’t able to complete the test, and becomes a class representative along with the class clown, Yusuke. She suffers through the first week, deciding that she’s not going to let herself fail the next test.
Over the course of the year, the students experience many hardships. When Maya talks to each parent in turn, she easily plays up to their interests, leaving the children alone in their struggle against her.
Important characters that I feel need to be mentioned:
Kazumi, the main character. She’s an idealistic young girl who believes that everyone ended up in the class together for a reason. Because of that, she wants to create happy memories with them. However, that becomes much harder than she ever thought, especially after she becomes the representative.
Maya, the teacher. Akutsu Maya, really, but I’m used to calling her Maya. She’s extremely strict and always has a hard look on her face. She has a tendency to know things she shouldn’t know and show up when not expected. She’s extremely intimidating, and everything she says is correct, even if harsh and pessimistic. Not even the teachers can argue with her, as she’s good at pointing out the flaws in their ways.
Yusuke, the class clown. He’s laid back and doesn’t take class seriously. Despite all his joking, he has a good heart and often helps Kazumi out.
Hikaru, the smartest girl in class. She’s kind, but indifferent about everything regarding herself. She doesn’t mind being punished. She’s also very insightful and is the first to understand the reasons people do things.
Baba, a girl with low grades. The only thing keeping her from being a class representative is the fact that Kazumi and Yusuke are. She’s not good in school or sports, but she enjoys drawing and hopes to be a manga-ka one day.
Yu, Kazumi’s older sister. She’s a really kind and supportive older sister. She’s always there for Kazumi and listens to the troubles Kazumi has in class.
As I said already, I enjoyed The Queen’s Classroom even more than Densha Otoko. It was so much more meaningful, delving into many questions about the importance of life, learning, and the future. It managed to be both pessimistic and optimistic at the same time, both realistic and idealistic. It showed many difficulties of life, flawlessly relating the troubles the children experienced to the real, adult world.
The students also each had their own problems to overcome. There were 24 students, each with their own personality and dreams. Naturally, there wasn’t enough room to delve into most of them, and some blended into the background easier than others. But the more time went on and the more you learned, the more important everyone became, whether as part of the class or for something a bit more complicated.
This drama, especially the special, has also been highly useful in studying some information I’ll need for my story. It shows many of the troubles that many children in a public school system have to deal with, troubles that I didn’t have in my own experience.
The actors were also amazing. The actress who plays Maya is both lovely and really talented (which is easier to tell in the specials). Each of the important children are also played well, with Kazumi and Yusuke being my two favorites. The casting for both of them was perfect, and they played off each other really well to show a special friendship (and blooming love).
The last few episodes were extremely touching, and watching a recap of them in the second special almost made me cry again (I only didn’t because my parents were in the room). I highly recommend The Queen’s Classroom to anyone that enjoys dramas. It’s one of the most meaningful stories I’ve ever seen and really makes you think about teaching, learning, and life.
For anyone interested, you can find The Queen’s Classroom here.
(The ending is also extremely catchy)
Again, I’ll leave off with a quote. This speech was absolutely lovely and extremely well-written. The whole scene was beautifully executed.
“Open your eyes. Of course there are going to be worries in life. The important things are not losing confidence, not paying attention to rumors, and not hurting others. For example, nobody knows what happens when people die. There are people who say that you will go to heaven if you listen to what they say and go to hell if you don’t. That’s just nonsense. Nobody has been there, so how do they know? There’s no point in pretending you know something and then trying to persuade other people. Instead… think more about the present. Can you picture it? We’re surrounded by many beautiful things. Millions of stars shine in the night sky. A small butterfly might eagerly fly by your side. If you go into the street, your ears might become filled with the sound of a new song… You might meet a wonderful person… As you gaze at ordinary scenery, there will be many sudden surprises as time flows. Open your eyes and gaze at these important things. Clear your ears and listen. Feel it with your entire body. That’s what it means to be alive.
“If you don’t have a solid goal in mind yet, then just study. Do things you can only do when you’re twelve. And, go to junior high school. Even if you go to junior high school… Even if you go to high school… There still remains tons of things in the present. Stop doting on the future and neglecting those things. If you don’t, then you will never realize anything, no matter how much time passes.”