If you could switch bodies with anyone you on earth, would you do it? Would you still want to, if you knew you couldn’t switch back? What if you also had to risk death to make the switch, would you still give it a try?
Apologies for all the strange questions, but they are the main obstacles faced in the Netflix series Switched. As you have probably already guessed, this series is based on the good old tried and tested concept of having two characters swap bodies, then attempt to live as the other person. Usually leading to many lessons in empathy and gratitude. However, unlike your typical body swap movies or series such as Freaky Friday or It’s a Boy Girl Thing, Switched has a huge dark side to it. By this I mean it features a lot of triggering or darker subjects, like bullying, exclusion, neglect, body/beauty shaming and suicide, not forgetting that characters have to risk death to make the switch (in the literal sense).
So, why after reading the description on Netflix and knowing how dark this series was, did a sensitive little soul like myself (that cries at Disney movies), decide it was a good idea to watch this show? Well, it’s a bit of a strange story but in a nutshell, my friend was convinced I looked like the main character in the series, so I started watching it to see if this was true (or whether my friend needs glasses). Then got sucked in by its plot and had to know how it all ended. But before we go any further, let’s have a quick summary of this show. (In case you’re wondering, despite my friend still insisting I do, I don’t look like the main character. I only ever so slightly look like her. We both got pinchable cheeks).
Switched is a 6 episode long J-Drama about two high school girls that are complete opposites in personality, mindset and circumstance. During the red moon the unpopular and tormented Umine, carries out a twisted scheme to swap bodies with the most popular and prettiest girl in school, Ayumi. This plan involved jumping from the school roof and making Ayumi watch as she falls to her doom (told you it was dark). Due to the magical powers of the red moon this allows Umine to switch bodies with Ayumi. The story then focuses on Ayumi trapped in Umine’s body, as she struggles to live in Umine’s body or get anyone to believe her about the swap. In Umine’s body Ayumi faces a much harsher world, filled with beauty shaming, exclusion, bullying and a mother who would make Miss Trunchbull from Matilda look like mother of the year. Thankfully, Ayumi’s best friend Kaga quickly realises that Ayumi was swapped and is in Umine’s body. Kaga and Ayumi then work together to find a way to get Ayumi her body back.
The strongest point of Switch is its unusual but interesting take on the body switching concepts. It puts a bit of spin on the regular idea of body switching, though this is a rather dark spin. Which is why this series might not be enjoyable for the easily triggered or those of a sensitive nature. If you can get over the darkness of characters risking death to steal another’s body and jumping from tall buildings, it can be an interesting concept to see in play. The added fact that when 2 people swap bodies they can’t swap back, really gets you thinking and adds suspense to the plot. Leaving you wondering how on earth Ayumi is going to get her body back. The additional pressure of Ayumi and Kaga not knowing who they can trust or who has ill intents for them, truly put you on the edge of your seat.
Another likeable aspect about this series is the relationship between Kaga and Ayumi. Kaga interactions with Ayumi in Umine’s body is incredible sweet and heart-warming. Kaga as a whole is a very likeable character, always looking out for Ayumi and joking around to keep her spirits up. Definitely a contender for the best boy list, which makes you really want to see him end up with Ayumi, even after the whole plot plays out. You may even find yourself at times shouting at the screen in frustration, when Kaga bottles it or when gets brushed off.
Switched does have its weak points which are noticeable from the very beginning of the series. Like 90’s TV, some of the Teenage roles are played by actors in their mid-twenties, which is made even cringier when you consider that the actors playing Koshiro Mizumoto and Kaga are both older than myself (and I’m not that young). The series can also be a little over the top and silly at times. There are just parts where things are extremely over dramatic. I know it’s a J-Drama and there’s meant to be some drama, but jeez does it take the biscuit sometimes. The body switching also gets a little ridiculous, when a man switches bodies with his pet budgie and magically gains the ability to tell when people have switched (which was never explained how or why).
Seeing Umine and Ayumi in Umine’s body get bullied and excluded can be a very bitter pill to swallow. It makes your heart break for them. No matter where they went people were very loudly making snide remarks about their appearance and calling them ugly. At times, you’re left wondering what the fudge is wrong with people in the world created in this J-Drama and why they’re choosing to be so unnecessarily cruel. With a foul natured mother on top of this, you can begin to see why Umine was pushed so far and why she did what she did. However, considering that Ayumi did nothing to Umine and actually offered her help on a few occasions, Umine’s actions still seem pretty twisted. Meaning your left with mixed emotions about the whole situation. On one hand you can empathise with the pain Umine’s character is feeling and wish people would treat her better. But on the other hand, you can’t really agree with her actions or look upon them in a good light. Even after understanding that her actions are a result of how she was treated (her actions aren’t very fair and she seems to have singled Ayumi out just because of how she looks, which makes Umine just as bad as her bullies). Though painful to watch at points, it’s this mix of emotions that keeps you watching the series.
Overall, Switch is a pretty good little watch. It can be dark and sad at points, but despite this it’s still heart-warming and has its happy moments. If I were to classify its plot, I’d say it was a tale of friendship, rather than a tale of vengeance or misery. For the most part the show focuses on the friendship between the characters, however it does feature topics that some may find difficult to deal with. Being an interesting and exciting 6 episode long series, I would recommend giving this show a watch if you’re into J-Dramas and can handle the series dark side. If you’re easily triggered or of a sensitive nature I would pass on this show, as it may be too emotive to watch.