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Arts Culture 10 Must-Watch Japanese Dramas To Add To Your Netflix List

10 Must-Watch Japanese Dramas To Add To Your Netflix List

10 Must-Watch Japanese Dramas To Add To Your Netflix List
By Chananya De Ruiter
December 28, 2020
From romance to thrillers, these binge-worthy Japanese Netflix shows beckon your holiday downtime

The best kinds of TV shows are the ones that swallow up whole weekends and ruin our sleeping patterns, and the Japanese film industry is one of the world's most captivating and infectious. With many Japanese shows adapted from well-written manga with cult followings, they contain some of the most creative storylines and characters. Whether you're already a fan of 'J-dorama' or are new to the genre, Netflix currently has a bunch of great Japanese shows to watch and these are our top picks.



1/10 Alice in Borderland


Escape rooms were all the rage for fun group activities before the pandemic hit. Alice in Borderland takes the concept of escape rooms to a whole new level, transforming Tokyo into another dimension called “Borderland”. Everyone trapped in Borderland must compete in deadly games in order to survive and gain visa days. It’s emotionally intense and a series you’ll be forced to binge. 

2/10 Million Yen Women


Originally a Japanese seinen, or youth, manga by Shunju Aono, Million Yen Women has been adapted into a live-action TV drama by Netflix that stars Yojiro Noda, the lead vocalist of RADWIMPS. In the story, Shin Michima, a novelist struggling to produce a bestseller, has been living with five mysterious women in the same house. The women pay Shin a million yen each month for rent, in exchange for their privacy. As the show progresses, each woman's identity and past is unravelled, revealing that they are not who they appear to be. This 12-episode series is a one-of-a-kind psychological thriller that touches both the emotional and mental state in a gentle and satisfying way.

3/10 Switched


Another mango adaption, Switched revolves around Zenko Umine, plated by Miu Tomita, a high-school student who apparently commits suicide. A fellow student witnesses the suicide and passes out, only to find out she’s no longer in her own body but in Umine’s. Watch to find out why Umine "commits suicide" and why their bodies are switched.  The series not only sets up a compelling fantasy premise but also explores themes of social anxiety and depression.

4/10 Giri/Haji


It is bloody and violent, tender and exciting and contemplative. Giri/Haji is a British-produced drama with half of the cast Japanese and speaking Japanese. Kenzo Mori, a detective from Tokyo, scours London for his missing brother Yuto, who has been involved with the Yakuza and accused of murder. Kenzo's search for his brother strains his family back in Tokyo and also brings him into London's own criminal underworld. With elements of both Tokyo and London combined, the drama is a unique spectacle.

5/10 Erased


Based on a popular fantasy thriller-manga series, Erased is about Satoru Fujinuma, who has the ability to travel back in time to save others. After finding his mom killed, his time-traveling ability takes him back 18 years for a chance to prevent her death and those of three classmates. The show draws upon heavy themes such as child abuse and IS also a coming-of-age story for young Satoru who now has people's lives in his hands. Out of all the adaptations on this list, this Netflix drama series is the closest in depiction to the source material, making it so satisfying for fans. 

6/10 Kakegurui


Adapted from a manga series that goes by the same name, Kakegurui is set at an elite school, Hyakkaou Private Academy. Here, academic ability and achievements aren't the criteria for determining your social rank but rather your gambling ability. By day, Hyakkaou is a normal private school, but by night, it turns into a gambling den. Money is power; those who come out on top in the games gain ranking and popularity while those who lose fall into debt become pets of the student body. 

7/10 Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories


Focusing on Meshiya, a late-night diner in Shinjuku run by a mysterious chef known only as "Master", Midnight Diner is the next best thing to exploring Japan through food, as travel is on hold for the timebeing. A success in Japan and overseas, each episode focuses on one customer who tells their life story while the Master in returns offers some advice along with food. The stories are comforting and heartwarming just like the food that is served by the Master. 

8/10 Followers


Set in vibrant Tokyo, Followers follows fashion photographer Limi Nara and Natsume Hyakuta, a young actress finding her way through life and molding her confidence and identity along the way. Both their lives change when Lima posts photos of Natsume on Instagram. However, they soon also discover the dark side of social media and what we're left with is a scarily relevant story about the digital age. 

9/10 The Many Faces of Ito


Based on an award-winning novel by Asako Yuzuki, The Many Faces of Ito is a romantic drama about Rio Yazaki, a jaded rom-com screenwriter in her 30s who is looking for her next big hit. Searching for inspiration, Rio finds herself offering advice to four women who are all experiencing relationship problems with a man named Ito. To each woman, Ito’s character is completely different. Intrigued, Rio decides to use the women and their problems with Ito as the inspiration for her next creative work. 

10/10 Good Morning Call


If you’re not much of a thriller fan but prefer rom-coms, Good Morning Call is for you. Also adapted from a manga series, main character Nao Yoshikawa moves into her own apartment in the city only to find out that her classmate Hisashi Uehara has moved into the same apartment. Both of them agree to stay in the same apartment and share rent and as time progresses, a romance sparks between the two. It's a feel-good watch for the Christmas season. 

See also: 11 New Films For The Ultimate Christmas Lover


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