Ever wondered what’s on Netflix in Japan?

Photo and words by Rochelle Kirkham | @RochelleKirkham

Screenshots sourced from Netflix

Logged on to Netflix while relaxing in my Tokyo apartment, I hit the ‘browse’ section, then ‘anime’. Because who wouldn’t instinctively click anime when in Japan? Hundreds of options appear – 546 to be exact. I counted.

I sit drinking iced green tea after enjoying a home-cooked butadon (pork rice bowl) and scroll through the list. A few anime titles grab my immediate attention. Bottom Biting BugCowboy BeBopHell Teacher Nube…

There are names I have heard of before, like Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon. Others are in Japanese characters I can’t understand. Of course, there are three different series of the popular Hello Kitty, but the Netflix list also shows many Japanese makes of stories most foreigners would know, like Les Miserables, Little Women, even the Trapp Family Story and Anne of Green Gables.

The noise of cars passing by outside is constant, as most Japanese apartments and houses are close to the road. Everything seems squished in this city; there’s so little space for such a mass of people. For an Australian from the spacious leafy green suburbs of Melbourne, it’s almost claustrophobic at times.

Bottom Biting Bug is an anime series on Japan’s Netflix.

I can’t resist the intriguing title of Bottom Biting Bug and have to click play. The description is curious, for a lack of a better descriptor:

“In the business of butt-biting, bottom-biting bugs rule! However, not all bites end on a happy note. Plus, there’s music!”

This series is in Japanese, and there are no subtitles, so it’s hard for me to understand. From what I can gather, the episodes are roughly five minutes of following the journey of a bottom-biting bug family. Keep in mind, this series is labelled okay for kids. But so many anime shows are definitely not created for the eyes of children.

Tokyo Ghoul is a gore fest. The opening scene of the first episode is a murder where a bloody woman falls against a fish tank. But the series does provide an opportunity to learn Japanese through both English and Japanese subtitle options. Many foreigners do turn to anime to consolidate their Japanese language skills through exposure to casual conversational flow.

Once produced only by and for Japan, anime has become a global product and international phenomenon over the past forty years, leading to translations into multiple languages.

As I continue to browse other categories on Japan’s Netflix I come across Japanese Movies and Japanese TV Shows followed by International and Asian sections and the usual descriptors like Action, Sci-Fi and Drama. 

What I am most excited to explore is Japanese Academy Award-winning Movies. It will be an interesting experience, with little to no Japanese language skills. But as the old travellers saying goes: “when in Japan, do as the Japanese do”.

RMIT journalism student Rochelle is on a six-week internship placement at The Japan Times in Tokyo.

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