Over the weekend, Japanese entertainment, along with fans from all over the world, were met with the news of 30-year-old actor Haruma Miura’s passing. The actor — best known for his works Koizora, Kimi No Todoke and Shingeki No Kyojin — reportedly took his own life; it's worth noting that the actor faced online harassment while still alive. His name immediately trended on Twitter with over a million tweets on the first hour when the news broke, with fans expressing both disbelief and grief over the matter. Even international personalities like Glee’s Matthew Morrison and Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee — both of whom Miura has worked with previously — as well as non-Japanese news sites paid tribute to the actor.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a public personality has reportedly committed suicide due to mental health struggles. Just last May, Japanese professional wrestler and Terrace House alum Hana Tajima also took her own life due reportedly due to cyberbullying. In 2019, South Korean idol Sulli also met the same fate. Which begs the question: when will online harassment of these stars end?
While we don’t always know what happens behind the scenes when it comes to these artists — as well as friends and acquaintances we have in our lives — we do have control over our own actions. While we often see Asian dramas as a simple means for entertainment or escapism, they can also serve as a reminder for us to do and be better to those around us. Ahead are Asian dramas and films that teach us valuable life lessons, including practising mindfulness and kindness online and in real life and how to deal with our own challenges.
3-Nen A-Gumi: Ima kara Minna-san wa Hitojichi Desu (2019)
When it comes to Asian dramas and movies that teach us valuable life lessons, 3-Nen A-Gumi: Ima kara Minna-san wa Hitojichi Desu, also known as Mr. Hiiragi’s Homeroom, is the one that tackles cyberbullying perfectly. The story revolves around art teacher Hiiragi Ibuki (Masaki Suda) who suddenly hostages his homeroom class to uncover the truth about one of their classmate’s suicide. This drama might come off as a crime thriller at first, but its raw take on the effects of our words and actions towards people — and the lack of accountability often allowed to us by social media — is truly as timely as it can get. P.S. It's so good, it even got its own Turkish adaptation!
Notable lines from the drama: “One casual word that you spit out to others, it might hurt them deeply. For your own self-satisfaction, you might take away someone’s life so easily by attacking them all at once.”
Itaewon Class (2020)
Holding the title of South Korea’s seventh highest-rated drama as of writing, Itaewon Class was initially thought of as a romance drama. However, it flipped expectations — in a good way — by being a slice-of-life Asian drama that teaches us valuable life lessons on fighting against discrimination, self-acceptance, and finding courage and determination no matter what life throws your way.
Notable lines from the drama: “I’m a rock. Go ahead and sear me. I won’t budge an inch because I’m a rock. Go ahead and beat me up. I’m a solid rock. Go ahead and leave me in darkness. I’m a rock that will shine all alone. I don’t break, ash, nor decay as I go against nature’s way. I survive. I’m a diamond.”
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020)
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay doesn't fail to captivate its audiences in every episode with its sharp take on mental health disorders. While such Asian dramas have the potential to romanticise this kind of narrative, this K-drama starting Seo Ye-ji and Kim Soo-Hyun faces the reality of these disorders upfront in an almost heartbreaking manner, teaching us that dealing with mental health is not an easy journey and that those who suffer from illnesses deserve respect and a little bit more understanding.
Notable lines from the drama: “The first step is always the hardest. But once you take your first step, things will get easier from there.”
Close Knit (2017)
LGBTQIA+ themes in Japanese dramas and films are often portrayed through yaoi or Boys’ Love storylines often limited to high school romances. That’s why it’s truly groundbreaking to have a movie cover other members of the queer community, more specifically transgenders, and zoom in on their own struggles with acceptance, discrimination and navigating through daily social stigma. Close Knit beautifully brings this narrative to light through the eyes of 11-year-old Tomo Ogawa (Rinka Kakihara) who starts to live with her uncle (Kenta Kiritani) and his girlfriend Rinko (Toma Ikuta) who is a transgender woman. Viewed from a child’s innocent and non-prejudicial perspective, this tear-jerking Asian movie teaches a valuable lesson about family.
Notable lines from the movie: “When you fall for someone like Rinko, nothing else matters. Man, woman, none of that makes any difference.”
Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Also known as Every Child Is Special or Like Stars On Earth, this 2007 film starring renowned Bollywood superstar and philanthropist Aamir Khan reminds us of valuable life lessons: celebrate uniqueness, practice kindness and nurture friendships. Focusing on the story of eight-year-old Ishaan who has dyslexia, it creates a glaring but non-convoluted criticism on purely academic-based education, which usually does not accommodate those with difficulties coping with a more traditional curriculum.
Notable lines from the movie: “There have been such gems among us who have changed the course of the world. That’s because they could look at the world differently.”
If you are or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call these suicide hotlines: 1800-221 4444 (Singapore), +2 804-HOPE (4673) (Philippines) or 603-79571306 (Malaysia).
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