Language learning journal: watching 『わたし、定時で帰ります』

In February, I haven’t done much to study Japanese apart from watching the TBS drama: わたし、定時で帰ります.

Poster of the TBS drama わたし、定時で帰ります.
Directed by Fuminori Kaneko 金子文紀 with actress Yuriko Yoshitaka 吉高 由里子 playing the protagonist Yui Higashiyama.

I keep saying to myself that I should watch films, drama and anime in Japanese to improve my listening, but I rarely find or have access to something I really want to watch. I often start drama and give up halfway through the first episode because I cannot get into it.

『わたし、定時で帰ります』by Kaeruko Akeno (朱野帰子)

However, I loved 『わたし、定時で帰ります』, partly because I love drama about workplace or work culture, and partly because I had already read the book written by Kaeruko Akeno (朱野帰子) and felt an immediate sympathy for the characters.

人は何のために働くのか (Yui)

I highly recommend this drama because it is fun to watch, it delivers a positive message and tackles several problems related to the working life in Japan. Even if you don’t work in Japan, it is easy to identify with the characters and relate to the situations described: the fear of losing one’s place after a maternity leave, the frustrations that new employees face, the courage it takes to leave before the others. You really don’t need to work in Japan to have experienced the fears and anxiety of the characters.

With all these topics, the drama could have been depressing, but it is definitely not. It is a comedy, with emotional passages, a lot of positive energy and an optimistic view of each situation. I am impressed by the capacity of the drama to address serious topics in a good-humoured way without sacrificing the core of its message.

What I loved the most is how the drama shows everyone’s motives and fears. The characters that seem detestable in the beginning all have their reasons for acting like they do. While our protagonist Yui has decided to always leave work at 6, the drama does not condemn those who don’t or those who work extra long hours. Rather than saying who is right and who is wrong, the drama shows that all the characters have a reason for acting like they do, and that is often because they feel insecure.

「やりたいことって別に大きな夢とか目標じゃなくても、自分が楽しめることだったら何だっていいじゃないかな」 (Yui)

I watched the drama without subtitles (I did not have access to it). I was surprised to see that I could follow what the characters said even without subtitles. I have watched the first 6 episodes (out of 10) twice to make sure that I understood as much as I could. The first time, I would watch to enjoy the story, without thinking too much about the Japanese. Then I would re-watch the episode and try to understand as much as I could, sometimes listening to a passage several times.

Halfway through the drama, however, I got tired of this exercise and just wanted to move on in the story. So I ended up watching the last 4 episodes only once, and I did have difficulties understanding all the work-related discussions and meetings of these last episodes…

Conclusion

I didn’t realise how exhausting a whole year of JLPT preparation could be. Since 2020 started, I have never felt like opening a textbook or actively studying something. For now, I am satisfied with reading books and watching drama!

If you know other workplace drama in Japanese, please let me know!

Other work-related resources for Japanese learners:

Poster of the anime アグレッシブ烈子

The anime Aggretsuko (アグレッシブ烈子) on Netflix is funny, cute and extremely relatable. The Japanese is easy to understand and the anime is perfect for Japanese learners.

The light novel 『ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる』by Emi Kitagawa 北川 恵海 is easy to read and perfect for intermediate learners. If, of all the characters who apppear in わたし、定時で帰ります, the one you felt the closest to is Shu Taneda, then this novel is for you!