I didn’t know what I was going to get going into High School Drive, the 2012 mobile drama by BeeTV, but it turned out to be a lot more charming than I expected. Low-key and atmospheric, High School Drive takes a stab at portraying the ups and downs of youth by following the lives of Souta (Horii Arata) and Kana (Shimizu Kurumi).
High School Drive has a slight twist, which is that a 38-year-old female is somehow stuck in Souta’s body while a 38-year-old man is stuck inside Kana’s body, though neither Souta or Kana are aware of their presence and they have no control over their hosts. It’s an interesting idea as we literally see everything through Souta and Kana’s eyes without being privy to their thoughts, but for the most part this mysterious man and woman don’t really add anything to the story and just inject some fun commentary.
Standing at ten episodes, two episodes cover the same several days, with the odd numbered episodes following Souta and the even numbered episodes following Kana. Other than the fact that Souta and Kana attend the same school, there initially doesn’t seem to be any connection between them as the days’ events rarely overlap. Souta is the star of the basketball team and school heartthrob, girls are always giving him gifts or food, though he always gives him to his friend Takeru (Taiga). Presumably Souta’s cold attitude is because he has a girlfriend, the popular Misako (Nakayama Erina), but he doesn’t seem that interested in her either. Their relationship is a secret, but he’s always shooting down her plans or going to play basketball. You have to wonder why he decided to go out with her in the first place if he doesn’t like her.
Instead of worrying about his girlfriend, Souta is pining after Mei (Hara Mikie), his former basketball coach. She left the school after finding a job, but returns briefly because of her work. Though Mei already rejected Souta, he hasn’t given up on her yet and he sees this as his second chance. Mei appears nice enough, but Souta obviously sees her through rose-colored lenses as she’s got her own problems to deal with.
Admittedly, I picked this up after seeing Horii Arata as Keita in Itazura na Kiss 2, but man, Souta’s character is such an ass. Not even a misunderstood ass, there’s no dark past hidden here, he’s just an ass. Granted, he doesn’t try to be, but he’s so wrapped up in himself and just mad or annoyed at everyone and everything, but I suppose that’s how teenagers are, yeah?
That’s where I’m kind of conflicted because I understand that he’s only eighteen, so his small mindset is somewhat understandable, but at the same time, I wish he’d at least try to think about the other party before just saying the first thing that pops into his mind. Whether it was with Mei or with Misako, he seemed to care more about himself than anything else. He does slightly redeem himself near the end (and get a deserving punishment), but I wanted to shake some sense into him most of the time.
Thankfully, we have Kana to balance out grumpy Souta. A grade below Souta, Kana isn’t as boy-crazy as her friends Minami and Shiori, so she usually watches them fawn over Souta with her other friend, the cool-headed Yui (Matsuoka Mayu) while munching on some snacks. Not that Kana is completely averse to boys; basketball player Ryousuke (Kitamura Takumi) confesses to Kana and while she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, he’s persistent enough to make her take another glance. And who wouldn’t? He’s adorably sincere, to the point that he eats all of the cookies she made in class, even though she burned them. And c’mon, he’s cute.
Yes, I am that easy.
The two story lines eventually come together when Kana tries to resolve a fight between her friends and Souta screws up his relationship with Mei and Misako, bringing everything to a head and finally uncovering the connection between Kana and Souta.
Overall, High School Drive was a very refreshing watch. The characters weren’t facing overly complex issues, and I think Kana’s story wasn’t as emotionally engaging as Souta’s, but I preferred its simplicity to the over idealized exaggeration that characterizes most school dramas nowadays. A lot of the show did center around the characters’ romantic entanglements, whether it was the blossoming love between Kana and Ryousuke or the bitter, unrequited love Souta had for Mei, but it never downplayed the other relationships. I will admit that Kana didn’t have the best of friends (except Yui who was awesome), but at least the four of them managed to work out their trust issues and put it behind them and Souta needed a friend like Takeru to knock some sense into him every once in a while.
I was disappointed with the reveal of Souta and Kana’s relationship, though it did explain a lot of Kana’s actions, it felt like too much to turn it into another fight between her and her friends. I also didn’t really understand the point of the adult voices since it’s never explained why or how they enter Souta and Kana’s lives and they sort of fall to the wayside in the latter half before being written out.
As a mobile drama, High School Drive obviously had a small budget with the episodes running up to fifteen minutes at the most, but surprisingly, it never felt rushed. I could see it being longer and more fleshed out, but I left the drama feeling mostly satisfied and it’s good to see down to earth youth dramas aren’t completely dead in Japan.
Watch High School Drive on Viki