In my spare time, I help subtitle Japanese television shows into English with Japan-TV. Now, I don't actually speak Japanese (although I seem to be learning some through osmosis). What I do is take the rough translations and transform it into something resembling the King's English. It can be a difficult job at times. Much depends on the quality of the translator's work, but even with an excellent translation, the editor (me) still has a hard road ahead.
Always there is the balance between strict accuracy and elegance. If the subtitles are flat and unimpressive, that will weigh against the show, no matter how compelling the acting or setting. But at the same time, the desire to draft dialogue has to adhere to the responsibility to convey the original work as accurately as possible. Anything else would be disrespectful. it is a constant challenge, but an engaging one.
Like American television, most of these shows are mediocre at best. They adhere to their own conventions with all the slavish devotions to cliche and cheap laughs of a Friends or otherwise intellectually and artistically bankrupt sit-com. But, as also with American television, there are the gems too. The following are a list of five shows I heartily recommend to anyone.
Even if you aren't a fan of Japanese media, or if you aren't yet familiar with any of it (although an increasing number of people are becoming familiar at least with anime, in some cases even if they don't know it), these shows stand on their own merit. As is their custom, each of these shows comprise 10-12 one hour episodes, so the entire show can be seen with a relatively slight investment.
I have listed them in no particular order, and I have posted a link to where they can be found. I have not included a synopsis, partialy because I didn't like how any of the ones I drafted turned out (it's early here and I'm tired) and partialy because I'm lazy. I'll be happy to answer any questions about them though, including how to get them and how to play them. If anyone asks for a specific synopsis then at some point I'll try and write one up. You can find some descriptions at Japan-TV or Jdorama, but they are often very poorly written, especially the ones at Jdorama.
1. Slow Dance Download it at D-Addicts.
2. Long Vacation Download it at Japan-TV.
3. Beautiful Life Download it at Japan-TV.
4. Tokyo Love Story Download it at D-Addicts.
5. Meguri Ai Download it at D-Addicts.
Kimi Wa Petto I contemplated including this with the top five, but it isn't really a romance per se, more a character study of people with emotional walls of varying difficulty. The premise is a little absurd, but it serves to allow for development that would otherwise be impossible. A good, strong show.
Orange Days I didn't like it quite as much as it seems others did. It was alright, but a little formulaic for me. In my opinion, the cast's popularity accounted for more of the show's success than its actual merits.
Moto Kare It has a good cast and a good premise, but it devolved quickly into one big cliche after another. The character of Makoto, and her portrayal by Hirosue Ryoko (Ryoko Hirosue) were the highpoints of the program. Worth a watch, but it starts slow and ends flat, with only a good middle to sustain it.
Anego Not so much a romance as a search for romance show, the main character was engaging, but there just wasn't enough going on to merit a true endorsement, and one of the sideplots was kinda dumb and took a long time to resolve.