Sakuragi Kenji is a struggling lawyer due to his past as an ex-motorcycle racing gang leader. He is tasked to settle Ryuzan High School which is going to be declared bankrupt due to debt issues. Ryuzan High School is the lousiest high school in the country with students' average score of 36 and only 2% of the students can enter university. With such record, it is difficult to guarantee that there will be students for the coming academic years. When informed by his supervisor that this could be a model case of school closure due to Japan's falling birth rate, Sakuragi Kenji had a brilliant idea to make this a model case if he can save this struggling school. Thus he starts a special education class with the aim of having 5 students from Ryuzan to enter Tokyo University (Todai) in the following year to boost the image of the school and prevent the school from closing down.
I am a sucker for school-themed drama, especially one with high rating :p However, Dragon Zakura turns out to be something quite unique. It does not follow the typical group of high school delinquents who are reformed by inspirational and exemplary teacher as a role model. Ryuzan High School teachers are depicted as useless and selfish, while Sakuragi Kenji and the teachers of his special class seem to be more interested in results than in students' well being. High school friendship and romance are also very minimal here.
Sakuragi-sensei is a very unique character. He can be said heartless, ruthless, frank, and brutally honest. Throughout the series, he constantly reminds the students and paints the image of cruel reality of working life. This is in contrast to idealistic approach of many school-themed stories. I actually agree with many of the ideas presented by this drama.
For example, as long as you get into a university and graduate with a degree, people do not care about your past or about how bad you did in your high school. Just like Sakuragi-sensei himself, he might be a useless motorcycle racing gang leader in the past but it all means nothing that he is a lawyer now. People are "scared" and respect lawyers. They do not even know whether he is a good or a bad lawyer, the fact that he is a lawyer, it already suggests that he is better than a large majority of the population.
Sakuragi-sensei also emphasises on being exam-smart. Of course, some people think that education should not be focused on exam and grades but reality demands otherwise. It really does not matter how much you know or what you know. What really matters is that you can answer the exam questions and get the marks. Period. Brainless mugging and cramming is just useless. Some exam tips which he shared (and I agree with) are:
1) Focus on sciences because these are factual: right is right and wrong is wrong. With enough practice, everyone can master sciences. Do not even bother about social sciences as grading of essay can be subjective and practice may not always translate to better outcome.
2) He shared how English exam to enter Todai is marked uniquely: marks are deducted for any wrong spelling, grammar mistakes, etc. Marks are not determined by whether sophisticated vocabs and sentence structures are used. Knowing how the exam is marked, his suggestion is: just use simple English words and sentences and make sure as few errors as possible. No point trying to impress with "cheemology" attempts and end up getting penalised for so many errors.
3) Skip questions when you cannot understand or cannot answer it after trying once or twice. Move on and find those which you can secure marks first and then go back to those you have difficulties. No point spending time to attempt harder questions (with no guarantee you get them correct) by sacrificing easier questions.
One thing which I find commendable is how the story depicts that these students are not stupid. With effort, success is within their grasp. And it is not showing the typical "effort", "hardwork", yada yada. To get the success, these students literally sacrificed their final year of their high school life for only mugging. Yep, no shortcut in real life. And I like how the realism is maintained right to the end when (spoiler alert!) not all students successfully passed the exam to enter Todai. Yup, it's cruel to see how their hardwork is not being rewarded etc but that's real life. Just by putting effort does not always guarantee success. However, I am slightly disappointed with the resolution for those which failed the exam. You know, Todai is the number 1 university. Failing to enter number 1 does not mean you cannot enter a number 2 university. I will still regard it as a success to enter another university, nonetheless.
I don't really have comments regarding the casts as the drama is rather "mechanical" than being "emotional". There is not much character development so I think the rating is pretty high simply because Yamapi is here. Lol. But I am still a human after all and thus for drama, I still prefer something more "emotional" than "mechanical". Thus overall, I still prefer the typical school-themed drama where friendship, camaraderie and high school romance predominate. Lol. But for those students struggling for exams or for their future, I think this drama should be quite an eye opener.
My job is not too bad but I just hate it because it is not according to my aspiration. I know that getting higher degree will be an express ticket to a better future. Just the thought of having to study again, having to have residency programme in hospital settings, having exams bla bla bla is always discouraging. So similar to how these high school students gotta suck it up to be able to enter university for better future, I think I should also suck it up for a higher degree. The pain will be for 2-3 years but the rewards last until the day I stop working.
Lastly, complaining and being envious to other people are useless. I can't help it but often think "Gosh, these people were dumber than me in school. I can't believe that he/she is a doctor or a whatever now. Just the thought of having to see him/her as a doctor or a whatever makes me shudder". But who cares about your opinion when the rest of the people will think "Wow this person is a doctor or a whatever. He/she is definitely better than a lousy shit like you". So yeah, the only way is to study some more, get a higher position of higher profile than the people I dislike and then it is my turn to trample them like shit again XD