Six-part Japanese drama Switched is a well written, interesting series that manages to breathe some much needed innovation into a subject that’s otherwise well-trodden in this genre. The tone of the series leans a little too heavily toward lighthearted silliness too which does juxtapose against the underlying themes of social anxiety and depression that run throughout the series. It’s ultimately these themes and the emotional drama between the four main characters that makes Switched such an enjoyable venture and one well worth watching through to its satisfying finale.
The story moves along quickly, with the opening 10 minutes or so setting the tone and pace for what’s to follow. With the sky bleached crimson under a red moon, depressed high-school student Zenko Umine (Miu Tomita) commits suicide while fellow student Ayumi (Kaya Kiyohara) watches in horror as she falls from the roof of their school to her death. After passing out herself, Ayumi awakens finds herself trapped in Umine’s body. What transpires from here is a journey that sees both girls trying to adjust to their newfound fortunes with fellow classmate Kaga (Daiki Shigeoka) offering a much needed empathetic anchor for Ayumi.
Of course, as can be expected from Japanese series’ like this, tonally the series is a little wild and unpredictable at times. Expect plenty of upbeat music and exaggerated mannerisms to dominate much of the run time which does offset some of the darker and more thought provoking themes that run throughout the series. Switched is at its strongest when the characters are allowed to explore these dark moments and there’s plenty of emotionally charged drama here with each of the main characters. Whether it be Ayumi grappling with her newfound appearance or Umine adjusting to a loving family life, there are plenty of moments here that help flesh the characters out.
What makes Switched such an endearing drama is the way its characters are allowed to grow and evolve in such a short space of time. When the series ends there’s a sense of satisfaction as each of the main players are given a decent arc including a well written ending although as a personal gripe Kaga doesn’t quite get the send-off he deserves at the end, playing second fiddle to some of the other characters. Still, all four main characters have a good amount of time dedicated to their drives and motivations, with well placed flashbacks and internal monologues helping to flesh out each of them.
Aesthetically, Switched does well although the wildly erratic sound design does detract a little from the overall tone of the series. We mentioned it briefly earlier but seeing a highly emotional scene play out to the backdrop of funky K-Pop beats and wildly hedonistic colours makes Switched tonally uneven during some of its more emotionally charged moments. Sometimes less is more and there’s a constant niggling feeling that the show could have benefited from a more minimalistic approach here to really squeeze as much drama out of these scenes as possible.
Switched is a really impressive International drama and while it may not pack the punch to make it the most impressive foreign offering this year, impressive characterisation and a strong thematic core make Switched a highly enjoyable and well written series. While the show does lack the finesse needed to pull off some of the more emotionally charged scenes, Switched still offers a cohesive, enjoyable story with a compelling cast and a decent story at its heart making for an enjoyable Japanese drama.