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Thursday, March 22, 2018

My Top 5 Japanese Drama Recommendations on Netflix

Netflix is starting to see the value in Japanese entertainment. They have a selection of anime, some anime live action adaptions (good and bad) and now starting to dive into the Japanese drama department. Japanese dramas are pretty hard to find on the internet, especially if you don't know what you're looking for. Not only that, but when you do find Japanese dramas online some of them are in such horrible quality that they're not worth watching. I have to say that Netflix is doing a great job with creating their own original Japanese drama series. I'd like to give my top 5 recommendations when it comes to Netflix original Japanese drama series.

These recommendations are given with three aspects I try to consider: enjoyment, learning (language and/or culture) and promotes Japan best. I find these three qualities very important for Netflix to aim for. Enjoyment, because obviously people want to be entertained. Learning, because a lot of people are trying to find sources to learn the language and the culture. And then promoting Japan because currently Japan is trying to engage people to become interesting in visiting Japan to boost tourism throughout the country.

So here are my recommendations!

1. Samurai Gourmet

Do you like food? If yes, this is the Japanese drama for you. Japan is probably most famously known for its food such as ramen, sushi and tempura. One way to draw people closer to visiting Japan is to really show off the different cuisine that Japan has to offer. Samurai Gourmet is about a newly retired salaryman who is trying to figure out what to do with all of his extra time during the day. He finds enjoyment in trying different eateries with foods he can enjoy. His biggest influence when ordering food or interacting with people in the establishment is a fictional samurai character he reads about which really conflicts with his own personality. I can't recommend Samurai Gourmet enough for the food lovers out there. Samurai Gourmet is an existing two volume manga series from 1994. It's Japanese title is Kodoku no Gourmet. An anime series is in production right now by Production I.G.

There's another food themed drama called Midnight Diner but I didn't include it in my list. The reason is because the story focuses more on the customers' personal problems and most scenes stay in this one place. Samurai Gourmet is not only a better source for studying Japanese but it is also a better source exploring different Japanese food and what places you can have the opportunity to eat at during your Japan travels.

2. Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman

I don't know about you, but I love sweets. I probably love sweets just as much as Kantaro does in this Japanese drama. Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman is about a salaryman who works for a publishing company as a salesman. To his coworkers he's a hard-working person, but what they don't know is that he takes breaks on his sales routes to enjoy some sweets. He has to try to hide this from them while also publishing his sweet discoveries on his blog, especially one stubborn coworker. You will get a glimpse of the Japanese work life (excluding the animated acting) and a taste for Japanese sweets. If this drama doesn't make you want to go to Japan, then I don't know what will. The Japanese manga series is called Saboriman Ametani Kantarou. This manga series is also only two volumes but is a more recent series form 2015. These short, slice of life series make great Japanese live action dramas.

3. Good Morning Call (Seasons 1 and 2)

This series kind of reminds me of Marmalade Boy. We see two characters (male and female) in high school who have to live under the same roof. And we see this through their college life too. In the case for Good Morning Call, they start to live together because of a mix up from the landlady and they try to hide it from their friends and family. In like most fictional Japanese romance stories, the girl starts to develop feelings for the guy and try to find a place in his heart. As the story continues in the second season, they are now living separately (neighbors in the same apartment building). Their relationship is tested with the new encounters they make in college. I highly recommend this series for the entertainment value and for learning the language. You will start picking up on some words. Good Morning Call is originally a manga series by Yue Takasuka from 1997. The drama series pay homage to the manga in their opening credits (that made me so happy as a manga fan). Unlike the drama, the manga series changes its title for the second half of the story (college life) to Good Morning Kiss which started publishing in 2006. Good Morning Call also has an anime OVA that's one episode from 2002, but it's not worth mentioning too much since it makes no sense unless you've read the manga series.

4. Terrace House

This is not a Japanese drama, but I'm including it for it's value in learning the culture and the language while being entertained. Terrace House is a Japanese reality show about young men and women living together under one roof in the real world. You can think of it as the equivalent of the American reality show MTV's The Real World, but not as crazy. You will see that Japanese life is very down to Earth. Terrace House began its TV debut in 2012 on Japanese TV. Netflix has many seasons of Terrace House such as Aloha State, Boys and Girls in the City and Opening New Doors. I think people will benefit from watching this series for its real life interactions that you may come across if you visit or live in Japan one day. 

5. Erased

From the very popular anime, Erased, or in Japanese Boku dake ga Inai Machi, is a story about a present day young man who has the ability to travel back in time by a few minutes in order to stop any disasters from happening. When his mother is murdered, Satoru travels all the way back to his elementary school years in order to stop a sequence of child kidnappings and murders that is related to his mother's murder back in the future. This is a psychological mystery, grounded in real world Japan. This Japanese drama series is originally a manga that was the adapted into an anime series. Netflix's Erased is a great live action adaption of a popular anime. It's a very entertaining series, especially if you enjoy murder mysteries. Learning Japanese from this series will be a bit challenging at times because a lot of criminal terms are used, but I think it's still worth trying out for the language.

Honorable Mention - Itazura na Kiss (Seasons 1 and 2)

This is not a Netflix original series, but it's definitely worth mentioning. Itazura na Kiss is a story about a young, clumsy girl named Kotoko who has to live with her father and his friend's family due to their homelessness (there house got destroyed). She ends up living in the same house as her crush Naoki Irie, who has already denied her confession for the whole school to know. Throughout the series she tries her best to meet his approval in her own way. Itazura na Kiss started out as a manga series published in the 1990's. In 2008, it got an anime adaption (only subbed, no dub). It's such a popular series that it even got live action adaptions in other countries such as Taiwan and Korea (Taiwan's adaption is the best in my opinion, called It Started With a Kiss). This is a great shojo romance series that is both entertaining and can help you pick up some Japanese (but watch out for Kinnosuke's character as he uses really slang Japanese).

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and found my recommendations and explanations helpful. Netflix is continuing with their Japanese drama ventures that I will continue supporting. I may even do a part two of this blog as I watch more series. 

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As always, thanks for reading my blog. See you in the next one!

*I do not own any of these pictures.