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Never too old to learn something new

Last week I was chatting with a friend about a Japanese show I had watched back when I was in college. The show was really funny and one of my absolute favorites, so I searched online for a clip to send my friend. In the process, I stumbled across the entire series online instead. What a nice happy accident!

Of course, I ended up rewatching the whole series in only a couple of days. It’s probably been at least a decade since I last had the opportunity to view it, but considering that the series wraps up with a high school graduation, this time of year coincidentally happens to be the best time to watch it all again.

The short 10-episode comedy series is called “My Boss, My Hero.” The main character, Makio, is the 27-year-old son of a Yakuza boss (that’s the Japanese version of the mafia). To put it nicely, Makio isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, having spent much of his teenage years focusing on fighting instead of actually studying or even bothering to attend school. But after a major screwup, Makio’s father makes an ultimatum for his son: earn a high school diploma or he won’t be allowed to take over as the next boss.

So the former dropout ends up enrolled as a senior in a local private high school, pretending to be a 17-year-old again while he studies hard in order to graduate!

Since it’s a comedy, the whole situation is played for laughs. Makio quickly has to figure out how to balance between his rough-and-tough mafia persona and his studious student persona in order to fit in at school with his new classmates.

The plot plays out with several ridiculous, over-the-top moments that never fail to make me laugh. A good chunk of the first episode, for example, is devoted to Makio figuring out the fastest way to make it to the school cafeteria for lunch to buy limited edition pudding before it sells out. He makes a friend at the school in the process.

(Spoiler alert: Makio and his new friend overcome the pudding problem by stealing the school flag and fashioning it into a makeshift pair of wings so he can jump from one school building roof to another. They use the power of math and science to take a shortcut. Makio discovers that learning isn’t so bad after all. But don’t try this at home, kids! The show is just for laughs, of course!)

But, as with any good story, the best parts of the series are the sweet moments nestled underneath all the silliness.

Going back to school means that Makio is able to grow closer with his father. His father realizes all the things he missed out on when his son was growing up: parent-teacher conferences, attending school events to see your child shine, and simply discussing homework over the dinner table.

And it’s not just the family moments that are heartfelt. At the beginning, the students in the class aren’t very close to each other and a lot of their focus is simply on preparing for college entrance exams. Optional school activities like the annual sports tournament and the cultural festival just seem like too much effort at first.

But Makio, eager to experience everything he originally missed out on, is able to eventually encourage his classmates to participate and make fun memories together before they all go their separate ways after graduation. By the time they get to the actual graduation event, the students are teary-eyed but proud of their accomplishments.

I didn’t want to see the students split up as they head off to college and their careers, but that’s life isn’t it? We can’t stay in high school forever.

Watching the series was a good reminder again to make the most of each life experience and take advantage of rare second chances whenever they may appear.

Because I rediscovered the series by accident, I didn’t specifically intend to watch it during graduation season. But I’m glad I did. Graduation was often on my mind as I went through each episode. High school and college seniors in the Roanoke-Chowan area, and across the country, recently received their diplomas. That achievement was hard-earned, especially as we’re now in the second year of this pandemic.

If you know a recent graduate, please offer them support as they start on the next chapter of their lives and encourage them to continue to make as many fun memories as possible. Urge them to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way and to not take things for granted.

Perhaps the best lesson Makio learned during his extra year of school is simply this: you’re never too old to continue your education. Be a lifelong learner, even if you no longer have homework assignments.

I think that’s a pretty good idea to live by.

Congratulations to all of our local graduates! I wish you all success in the future.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.