<<This post is spoiler-free except where clearly marked otherwise.>>
Welcome, readers! Today, I’m going to be comparing the South Korean drama Solomon’s Perjury (2016) to the brand-new Japanese remake, Solomon No Gisho (2021). I have watched the original Japanese films as well, but we’ll just be focusing on the two dramas because it’s been years since I watched the movies and I honestly can’t recall too many details. I am fairly well-versed in the K-drama, however, because it actually happens to be one of my favorite Korean dramas of all time and one that I’ve re-watched a perfectly healthy amount of times.
Now, if you don’t know what the story is about, Solomon’s Perjury follows several high-school students who hold their own mock trial to find out the truth behind a fellow classmate’s alleged suicide. Its unique storyline delivers bold social commentary as well as thought-provoking questions about the true meaning of justice. And the characters come from all walks of life, so you’re extremely likely to find someone you can relate to in one way or another. I’m definitely a fan of the story — specifically, of the Korean drama adaptation of it — so when I heard there was to be a Japanese remake, I knew I had to give it a shot.
And, people. I was stunned. I love it. I absolutely, utterly love it. I only watched the first episode and — even from just that one episode — I like it more than the Korean version already. Which, if you haven’t gathered, is saying a lot for me. And the reason for this lies in the differences I’m already seeing between the two countries’ versions of the story and what the Japanese one is simply doing better than its South Korean predecessor. (To clarify — though most will be this — not every single comparison is going to be a better/worse thing; a couple of the differences I’ll cover are simple observations of things the two dramas do differently.)
Let’s get into some of the biggest differences I’ve noticed so far, beginning with story-telling efficiency.
I have limited J-drama-watching experience, but I do know that Japanese dramas tend to skip the fluff and cut to the chase pretty swiftly and this drama is no exception. For reference, the first episode of Solomon No Gisho presents what takes the Korean version two episodes to get through. Now, that may not seem like a huge difference at first, but think about it: that’s an entire hour of content the Japanese drama either got rid of or shortened significantly without compromising the story. In addition, the Korean episodes run for a little over an hour while the Japanese ones run a little under an hour (essentially, though, both are very near the one-hour mark).
I was astounded with how efficiently this version tells its story: main characters are clearly established while the plot is quickly set up and put into motion. I’m not saying the K-drama didn’t do these things, but it certainly took longer to do so (which is fine). But the fact that the Japanese drama was able to tell the same story with exceptional quality and without leaving anything significant out — but in half the time — proves that sometimes less can indeed be more.
I truly felt invested in the story immediately, which is exciting to me because sometimes it takes me several episodes of a drama to even get to the point where I feel like I can decide whether or not I want to continue watching. The pace of Solomon No Gisho is downright refreshing and any drama that weeds out the unnecessary is a winner in my book.
Moving on to an aspect of the story that might sound super odd, but was significant enough to be one of the first differences I noticed and one I feel particularly strongly about: Juri’s acne.
Yes, I know that sounds weird. Allow me to explain.
Juri is supposed to have bad acne; that’s actually a really important part of her character. And something that has always bugged me about the K-drama version of this story is that the character of Ju Ri has like five dots on her face. I don’t want to insult whoever made the final call on this, but seriously: Ju Ri is supposed to have acne, not chicken pox. Now, far be it from me to tell people what is worth being insecure about or bullied for in dramas, but I just never fully bought this in the Korean version. In fact, I’m confident not one single person who has actually dealt with acne would watch the Korean version of the drama and feel represented in that aspect.
The Japanese version, however, gives our Juri what looks like real acne. They even have this great little scene where we see her picking at her pimples in the mirror, which was so very relatable to anyone who has ever had even one pimple. (But no matter how many times we’re told to not do that, we did it anyways, right?…Anyone else?…Just Juri and me then?) So, yes, Juri’s acne may be an odd thing to care about — and some people may not think it’s a big deal at all — but it was something I immediately noticed and appreciated, and apparently felt strongly enough to write a couple paragraphs about.
Lee Ju Ri in the Korean version:
vs. Miyake Juri in the Japanese version:
I have a lot to say about Juri and the others, but I plan on creating a post later on where I talk about them in-depth and compare the two dramas’ versions of the characters. Honestly, at this point, I want to watch a few more episodes of the J-drama before discussing any character comparisons on a deeper level.
Moving on to the next difference that caught my attention: cinematography. Both dramas are stunning, but what quickly stuck out to me is how much visually darker Solomon No Gisho is than Solomon’s Perjury. I mean, look at the screenshots below, all taken from the first episode of each drama.
Solomon’s Perjury (South Korean version):
Solomon No Gisho (Japanese version):
This may be due to Japan’s style of cinematography (which I’d argue is typically visually darker than South Korea’s), but I have a gut feeling that the darkness is foreshadowing heavier content as well — which is the next point I want to cover today.
<<This section contains minor spoilers for earlier episodes of the dramas.>> I’m getting the impression Solomon No Gisho is not going to sugarcoat things as much as Solomon’s Perjury does. Take the bullying flashback, for instance. No level of bullying is ever okay by any means, but what we see Ooide and his buddies doing to Juri in this version seems more violating than what his K-drama equivalent, Woo Hyuk, does when he bullies Ju Ri. (I want to reiterate that no level of bullying is ever okay.) I have a lot more to say in regards to these two versions of the same character, but I’ll save it for my more in-depth character comparison I plan on writing further on down the road.
To piggyback off of that last point, the Japanese version in general seems a little less on-the-nose and a little more realistic than the South Korean one. An example of this is each version’s scene with Ju Ri/Juri underneath the blanket in her room while she watches the TV news broadcast of the reporter reading her note aloud. In the Korean version, Ju Ri laughs as she recites the note’s contents from memory in tandem with the reporter; in the Japanese version, Juri simply listens to the broadcast, grinning widely and giving us a quiet, slight cackle at the end. The differences between the two scenes are subtle, but it is the little details and specific creative choices that draw the line between “dramatic” and “realistic.” Both scenes are fascinating to watch and both actresses do a great job; I’m not saying one version is necessarily better than the other, but they are different. The Japanese version of the scene presents an unhealthy high-school girl reacting to what she’s done and the Korean one shows us more of a maniacal villainess. In short, what the Japanese drama is doing with its story and characters is hitting truer for me so far. (And I’m so here for it.) <<End of spoilers.>>
As far as comparisons go between the two, these are the main ones I have for now. I still love the K-drama and always will, but Solomon No Gisho really caught me off guard with how brilliant it is so far. And remember, I’ve only seen the first episode of it, so there’s really only so much accurate comparing that I can do at this point. But I will say that if someone asked me which version I recommend they watch, I’d currently have to suggest Solomon No Gisho. It is hands-down the strongest premiere I’ve seen in a really long time — especially considering the pressure remakes have to maintain, and even exceed, public standards. I’m expecting to have a lot more to say about this drama — and how it compares to its South Korean predecessor — as I continue watching it. For now, however, I’ll leave things as they are.
I cannot recommend this enough; whether or not you’re a fan of any of the versions of Solomon’s Perjury, this drama is stellar so far and I can only hope it remains so.
As always, thank you for reading — and happy drama-watching! Until next post, friends.
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