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The Queen's Classroom - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Jyoou no Kyoushitsu

Japan 2005

Number of Episodes: 11 + 2
Running Time: 45 min.

Drama, Comedy

Hitoshi Iwamoto

Kazuhiko Yukawa

Yuki Amami
Mirai Shida
Naruki Matsukawa
Mayuko Fukuda
Anzu Nagai
Sachie Hara
Toshinori Omi
Michiko Hada
Sairi Ito
Shigeru Izumiya
Hikari Kajiwara
Naoyuki Morita
Takashi Naito
Shotaro Sakai
Mirai Shida
Akashi Takei
Kazuaki Hankai
Shigeru Izumiya
Takashi Naitou

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The Queen's Classroom

Story: 12-year old Kanda Kazumi (Shida Mirai) is a normal girl who is mediocre at school and has a few good friends. She wants to make some nice memories during her last year in elementary school, but everything comes different. That is because of their new teacher - Akutsu Maya (Amami Yuki), a true devil. Akutsu's lets her students write tests every day, and the two worst in class have to do the school chores. Eventually, Kanda and class clown Yusuke (Matsukawa Naruki) end up being these two. Because Kanda doesn't think that Akutsu's unjustness and strictness are fair, she is punished by the new teacher even worse. Akutsu doesn't tolerate any word of protest in her class, and she punishes everyone with an iron hand who dares to oppose her. Moreover, Akutsu also confronts the kids with the cruelties of the world of adults, without mincing her words, and even tells the students that only a few of them will ever lead a happy life. The rest of them will always remain mediocre.
Soon, the teacher has driven a wedge between the kids. Friends become traitors, because they spy on their classmates for Akutsu. They are promised benefits, and thus destroy the cohesion in class. It's exactly this cohesion that Kanda wants to re-establish. However, this is not an easy task, as she is constantly bullied by her classmates. Only now Kanda realizes who her real friends are. Together with them Kanda is determined to take on the fight against their devilish teacher...

Review: "The Queen's Classroom" is an astonishingly well elaborated and smart drama series, which points at the bad condition at Japanese schools or certain deficiencies in Japanese society in general, and does so in a very entertaining way. The show isn't just controversial, it is also very touching, appealing and persuasive concerning its message. It's not without a reason that the series has been broadcast in Japan at Saturdays, so that parents as well as their children could watch it. There is something for any age. The big strength of "The Queen's Classroom" is the effectivity with which it conveys its message to its audience. If you believe that this is a show solely for teenagers or even children, only because almost all of the main actors aren't older than twelve, than you are really mistaken. It's not only that we never doubt that these children are actually adolescents in a way, the script writer also shows an enormous finesse when drawing the characters and giving them more colors, while at the same time making us aware of as many problems in society as possible. Doing so, "The Queen's Classroom" is also entertaining to a great degree, and manages to enchant us to the outermost with its charm. To put it simple, this is without exaggeration the best Asian series I've yet come across.

Heart of the show may be Kanda and her friends, but without the great performance of Amami Yuki as the devilish teacher the series would only have been half as good. Akutsu-sensei is evil to the core. At least that's what we think at the beginning. She is always dressed in black, meticulous, correct and actually is skilled in everything and knows everything. From dancing to fighting. Furthermore, she always pops up near her students when they expect it the least. Even outside of school. There is also always a dark shadow following her, which she casts upon the whole scenery when she enters the stage. There is nothing she doesn't know, and so we really must take her for an superhuman being. In this case most likely a devil. Like a tyrant she oppresses her students and scotches any attempt of rebellion against her. During class she even doesn't allow her students to go to the toilet. They also have to come to school during summer break. At first there are many complaints of the guardians, of course. But this happens one time and one time only. This is because Akutsu makes the guardians understand that she simply tries to give their children a bright future. Naturally, she easily wraps the parents around her finger with words like this.

Interestingly, as time goes by, Kanda believes more and more that Akutsu may not be that bad of a teacher. Somehow it seems that the students really start to learn and become more disciplined. Nonetheless, this view of things on itself would be rather controversial in tone and wouldn't get the series any sympathies. Instead it's more that the unfairness of Akutsu, after some problems between the students, lead to a class that gets united and strong. The students have eventually found the strength to fight this mutual enemy in shape of Akutsu. The teacher may still seem untouchable in any respect, but the class understands that they can overcome any problem or obstacle if they work as a team. Therefore, it's not only Kanda, but also the viewer, who starts to take into conideration, as it is depicted in a very credible and subtle way, that this may in fact be the whole scheme of Akutsu, and that she even may be an idealistic, loveable teacher, in the end, who has nothing more dear to her heart than her students. This belief of Kanda also leads to a small dream sequence, in which we see Akutsu as a charismatic, friendly teacher, which naturally stands absolutely in contrast to reality. But who knows, maybe this picture of her isn't so far from the truth. Anyway, this scene once again underlines the fantastic performance of Amami Yuki.

The script writer really did an awesome job. There isn't even a single bad episode, and there is always happening something significant. The pressure the students have to endure and suffer from is enormous, and they are about to be broken by it anytime. Akutsu-sensei tells them how the world works, and that they can't always hide behind their parents, who protect them and give them shelter. They have to learn to deal with failure, which is in fact something teenagers in Japan have their problems with, because of their sheltered upbringing. There will always be failures and missteps. Children are supposed to get used to it as soon as possible, as well as to the fact that they will most likely will only lead a simple life later on. Somehow this also seems to be a bit of inversed child psychology Akutsu utilizes. Kanda and her classmates hate her teacher, and thus want to find counterproofs for her teachings, resp. lead a life other than what Akutsu tells them they are about to have. Anyway, was this really Akutsu-sensei's plan to begin with?
Whatever you might think about this teacher, she is without a doubt a very idealistic one. Which stands in contrast to most, if not to say any of the other teachers. One of them is Tendou-sensei who even fully forgot what her task really is, and just wants to be loved by her students. She isn't helping her students with this attitude as we find out, leading to some failures she has to get over.

"The Queen's Classroom" handles several topics, and many of them on a side note, yet granting them the same importance as the rest of the show's topics get. Tendou is thinking of quitting being a teacher and just marrying her boyfriend, whereas this train of thought is continued with Kanda's mother, who absolutely feels fulfilled with her life as a housewife. The father of the family is a typical employee (salariman), who is unhappy with his wife and her incredibly clumsy nature. Therefore, a crisis is building up which naturally is a big problem for Kanda and exerts even more pressure on her. In the end, however, we get to see a mother that can actually come up with the courage to change her life and get a job.
Meanwhile, at school, the principal and vize-principal continue to avoid any confrontation by simply shifting the responsibility on to someone lower in rank, while ties of friendships are cut and new relationships unfold in the 6th grade. Kanda and class clown Yusuke, who seemingly doesn't care about anything like grades etc., and who soon proves to be a true friend and a good person, start a small revolution, which finds its climax in a strike. But apart from the small dramas, there are also some big ones, for example a female student, who wants to set the classroom on fire, because the pressure Akutsu exerted on her became too much to bear.

The efforts of the child actors are impressive across the board. As the series progresses you fully forget that these are little children, that's how natural and at times mature they seem. Of course, you could argue that their behavior is actually a bit too mature to be realistic, but this would be the only flaw that can be found in this show, and doesn't really stand as one to be exactly.
Kanda is portrayaed by cute-as-a-button Shida Mirai. Despite her sometimes exaggered cute acting, she can fully convince as the main protagonist, since she does an especially well done job during the more serious scenes. As a personal favorite Fukuda Mayuko could win my heart as Hikaru, who has something mysterious about her with her sad and yet self-confident nature. It takes a while until we get to know her background, though. Yusuke on the other hand is the secret weapon in this union, since he doesn't care about grades, and thus can risk to be more opposing towards Akutsu-sensei than anyone else.
The show is also supported by a great soundtrack by Ike Yoshihiro, who already did a fantastic job for "Nobuta wo Produce", a series "The Queen's Classroom" has a lot in common with. Which isn't a big surprise since the same director is responsible for both shows. Also, in both dramas the story revolves around friendship in its many forms.

Two specials, each of them having movie-length, stand as a prequel, which sheds some light on Akutsu background. We get to see what kind of a person she was in her past, and how she became the devilish teacher she is nowadays. You can think about the specials what you want, but they are in any case necessary, since they provide us with the answers we were longing for throughout the whole show, while also making us see the whole series in a completely new light. However, the specials actually stand on their own feet, since they are more dramatic than the series. Somehow this simply doesn't fit to the atmosphere and quality of the rest of the series, but we are nonetheless very thankful for this insight into Akutsu's background story. The life of Akutsu is a real drama. After many tears we learn to understand her, respect her and, without giving away too much, maybe we even learn to love her..?

Akutsu tries to open the eyes of her students. She tries to show them the world as it really is. At first this seems to be too cruel, as it is the case with the behavior of the teacher in general, but in the end something wonderful comes to the daylight. Moments in which the students fogive a female thief, who just was about to set the classroom on fire a few hours earlier, aren't just very touching, but also show that the children have learnt to understand each other, to empathize with each other and to give each other strength. It actually seems that there is a lot the students have to thank the teacher for, but the show deserves some special words of praise for not going the easy road and suddenly showing the teacher as a loving human being at the end. Things are more complex, which is also what makes this series so moving. "The Queen's Classroom" is not a simple tear-loaden drama, but instead is so moving because of the ideals the students are fighting for. Of course, there has to be some sort of tearfest at the end, but it's never too much cliché. Maybe this is because it seems more natural for children to cry. Nonetheless, the real reason why these scenes are so effective is because the script writer put much weight on credibility and naturalness.
When all is said and done "The Queen's Classroom" even isn't as sad as you might have expected it to be. Instead it's highly entertaining and simply touching to a high degree. The saddest thing about this series: That it's already over after 11 episodes and 2 specials...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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