“10 Best Live-Action Japanese TV Shows On US Netflix”
With the Korean Wave in full swing, we forget that not too long ago it was Japanese media that caught young people’s attention in the United States. In particular, manga anime and Japanese dramas which boasted unique stories as well as universally relatable characters.
Despite not being as popular these days, they are still around with some Japanese dramas now appearing exclusively on Netflix. Like anime and manga, they come in a wide variety of genres with different tones and character-types. But what they have in common is being highly recommended for fans who like these kinds of shows.
As movies like Saw and Escape Room prove, having a bunch of characters trapped in one place can make for successful entertainment. Even TV shows have made this premise work, including anime such as Danganronpa (which is based on a video game franchise of the same name).
So it doesn’t seem far-fetched to have a live-action Japanese show take on the concept with Re:Mind. With thirteen episodes, it tells the story of eleven girls trapped around a dining room table with their feet bound by shackles. As they try to free themselves, they suspect one of their classmates is responsible for their predicament.
9 Kakegurui (2018)
Just like the live-action shows based on comic books in America, Japan has its equivalent with manga-based live-action shows. Though like any adaptation, they may take liberties on the source material in terms of the stories and how it looks compared to the original work.
The 2018 live-action Kakegurui show, on the other hand, tries to be faithful to the manga both in its look and the exaggerated reactions of its actors. Premise-wise, it’s about a prestigious high school where students are ranked based on how much they win during student-run gambling sessions. However, a transfer student arrives to shake things up.
8 Jimmy: The True Story of a True Idiot
Due to the nature of comedy, it’s subjective to not just the person telling the jokes but also the audience. To add further complication, while some jokes are universal, others are often steeped in the culture that created them.
For instance, Japanese comedy often relies on wordplay and references that may not translate well for Americans who possibly won’t get them. But that hasn’t stopped Japanese comedy series like Jimmy: The True Story of a True Idiot from premiering on Netflix. Using a semi-documentary framing device, it tells the dramatized story of Japanese comedian Hideaki ‘Jimmy’ Onishi’s rise to fame.
Ever wanted to see a Japanese take on Wolf of Wall Street? Well, look no further than SCAMS. Taking place in 2009 after the Great Recession hit, it follows a young man who just graduated from college but is having money troubles.
After not being able to find a job, he soon gets pulled into the world of money transfer scams, which are a big problem in Japan. The show particularly focuses on scammers who make phone calls to the elderly and trick them into transferring large sums of money. How they accomplish this is by pretending to be a relative who needs money quickly.
6 Ainori Love Wagon: Asian Journey
If it seemed like reality shows were relegated to America and Britain, Japan’s got its own too. An early example of this is Ainori, which means ‘ride together’ in Japanese. The premise has seven young women and men traveling in a pink bus to find a romantic partner in another country.
Originally broadcasted in Japan during the late 90s, it was revived under the name Ainori 2 and then Netflix created a reboot titled Ainori Love Wagon: Asian Journey. While it has the same premise as the original show, the countries that are focused on are within the Asian continent.
When it comes to dating shows, the participants’ flaws are usually kept in the background but then revealed when it’s most dramatically convenient. But what if the participants’ flaws had to come out to win the affection of their chosen partner?
That is the essence of REA(L)OVE, a Japanese reality show where several contestants of both sexes are brought to one place who each use fake names and have dark secrets to hide. Within three days, their goal is to not only pick someone to date but also reveal their dark secret at some point.
Like the 2018 Kakegurui series, Switched is another live-action adaptation of a popular manga. Only the manga itself doesn’t have the same title as the live-action show, being called Sora wo Kakeru Yodaka.
Its story revolves around two girls named Ayumi and Umine, with the former being beautiful and popular while the latter is overweight and unpopular. But when Umine tries to commit suicide, a strange event happens where she and Ayumi switch bodies. From there, the series follows Ayumi (now trapped in Umine’s body) trying to get her original body back while Umine tries to keep it.
3 Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman
A common trope among Japanese comedies is having a character whom everyone perceives as perfect but in reality, has a secret obsession or habit that is perceived as funny. For example, Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman is about a guy who is seen as a hard-worker.
However, he obsesses over sweets to the point of working as a salesman for a publishing house just so he can visit the best sweetshops in Tokyo while selling books to different bookstores. Using a combination of surreal imagery and exaggerated gestures, this show works as both a comedy and travel series since the sweetshops he visits are real places.
2 Good Morning Call
While Switched examines serious issues like depression abuse and obsession over physical beauty, Good Morning Call is more lighthearted by comparison. Based on a manga of the same name, this live-action show is about a high school girl who rents an apartment.
Due to a rental scam, though, she ends up sharing the apartment with one of the most popular boys at her school. So the two have to not only get along at home but also keep the fact that they’re living together a secret from everyone else. Thus, we get a series of comedically romantic situations that currently has two seasons on Netflix.
1 Samurai Gourmet
As far as food-related shows go, Samurai Gourmet takes a unique approach. Told in a slice-of-life fashion story-wise, it follows a sixty-year-old corporate man who’s retired. Particularly, we follow him on his trips to various restaurants to try different foods.
Along the way, he’s accompanied by an imaginary masterless samurai from the Warring States period. The two are connected as the samurai embodies what the man wants to be like which encourages his food-based indulgences. So the show examines the different foods that Japan has to offer and tells a lighthearted tale of a man learning to enjoy life after working for so long.
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