Season Finale of Show About Bankers Draws Japan's Highest Drama Ratings in 30 Years

Hanzawa Naoki Still P

The title character of "Hanzawa Naoki" has become a hero to Japanese office workers, with his catchphrase heard all over the country.

TOKYO – The final episode of Hanzawa Naoki, a 10-part series from Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc. (TBS) set in a Japanese megabank, pulled in 42.2 percent of viewers on Sept. 22, the highest ratings for an evening drama from a commercial broadcaster in three decades.

The show, which stars Masato Sakai in the title role as a loans officer at the fictional Tokyo Central Bank, seemed an unlikely mega-hit when it debuted on July 7 with a storyline set in the world of corporate finance, even with ratings pushing a solid 20 percent. However, Hanzawa's strong principles and tough talk struck a chord with audiences, while his willingness to openly defy his superiors made him a hero to many of Japan's salarymen.

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The popularity of the drama grew episode by episode, and Hanzawa's "bai-gaeshi" catchphrase -- which means, "pay back your enemy multiple times if they cross you" -- was soon being heard everywhere, with even sports stars and politicians picking up on it.

The drama has won praise for its convincing performances and strong script, based on a series of novels by Jun Ikeido, who spent seven years working in a bank.

"It is very realistic, both the way that things happen and the dialogue. It is very much like Japanese banks were about ten years ago," a manager from the megabank that Hanzawa Naoki is loosely based on told The Hollywood Reporter. "Everybody in the bank has been watching it and talking about it at work."

According to data from Video Research Inc., Hanzawa Naoki attracted 45.5 percent of viewers in the Kansai region, based around Osaka, where the action in the first half of the season took place before moving to Tokyo.  

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I'm Mita,Your Housekeeper, a 2011 drama from Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), hit the 40 percent mark in its finale, at that time the highest ratings seen in more than a decade. A remake of the NTV drama by Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) began airing in South Korea on Sept. 23, the day after Hanzawa Naoki finished.

The ratings for its last episode make Hanzawa Naoki the best-watched drama in Japan since another TBS production, Tsumiki Kuzushi, which aired in 1983 and logged 45.3 percent for its finale.

TBS has reportedly been inundated with requests from viewers for a sequel and a big-screen version of Hanzawa Naoki, though a spokesperson for the network told The Hollywood Reporter that nothing has been decided.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair