My interest in Japanese culture started early when I became friends with an adopted Japanese girl. But it wasn’t until I hit my teens that I started looking for pop culture to consume. Pokemon is still one of my favourite franchises, but I hungered for more. I read a ton of manga and watched a fair share of anime, not just ones on the TV like Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragonball Z.
It wasn’t easy to find English translations though. Now with Netflix as a global streaming service, things have become a little easier. And to my delight, they have a few series I watched a long time ago. Today I’m sharing five Korean and Japanese dramas you can watch on Netflix right now. And as a little bonus, two animes I watched years ago in similar genres.
Boys Over Flowers
Boys Over Flowers and all the other adaptions are all highly rated, but this one and the Japanese Hana Yori Dango are the best ones in my opinion. Netflix also has the Chinese 2018 release, but I think that one is too violent. The F4 leader actually hurts the lead until she bleeds, something which doesn’t happen in the Korean or Japanese series. So if you’re going to watch one adaptation, I highly recommend the Korean Boys Over Flowers.
Jan Di (Ku Hye Sun) is an average girl whose family owns a dry cleaning store located near the luxurious and well-known Shin Hwa High School. After saving a boy from jumping off the roof of Shin Hwa High School, Jan Di is admitted into the school on a swimming scholarship. At school, Jan Di tries to avoid confrontation with the four richest and most spoiled boys known as the F4, because she knows what happens to those that stand up against them. However, when Jan Di’s friend, Oh Min Ji (Lee Si Young), accidentally gets ice cream on the F4 leader’s shoes, she is forced to declare war on the leader of the F4, Goo Joon Pyo (Lee Min Ho). What will happen, though, when she falls in love with someone from the F4 and Goo Joon Pyo starts developing feelings for her, too? Will the love triangle disrupt the F4 and change their lives forever?
This is probably one of the first dramas I watched on Viki. And now it’s on Netflix! It doesn’t even feel too outdated even though it’s over a decade old.
Eun Chan is a licensed taekwondo instructor who parts time as a delivery woman. One day, she comes across a delivery order that leads her to Han Gyeol, an heir to a conglomerate. Her boyish appearance deceives everyone into thinking that she’s a strong man with a petite figure. Han Gyeol, on the other hand, being relatively close to men leads his grandmother to think he’s gay. Eun Chan and Han Gyeol’s entanglement lead to them working in a cafe, which soon brews a different kind of love story. They face multiple problems along the way that bring themselves closer and their love stronger than ever. Alongside them would be Han Gyeol’s cousin Han Sung and his ex Yoo Joo who happen to be dating as well. Their love triangles bring excitement as they test another level of friendship and family.
You Are Beautiful
For all the k-pop fans, the recently added You Are Beautiful is the perfect series to binge. ANJell actually has two professional singers, and the songs are catchy.
Go Mi Nam, which literally means “beautiful”, has it all; good looks, a place in the boy band ANJell, and a horde of fans. But when a surgery procedure is botched, he is forced to secretly go to the United States to fix it. The group manager then asks Mi Nam’s twin, Mi Nyu (Park Shin Hye) to replace and take Mi Nam’s place in the gang. As she tries to be a man to the other members, Hwang Tae Kyung (Jang Geun Suk), Kang Shin Woo (Jung Yong Hwa of CNBlue) and Jeremy (Lee Hong Ki of FTIsland), she causes problems within of the group because some know his true identity. Will the group be able to survive a woman’s infiltration or will it be imploded?
I read this manga when I was fourteen or fifteen and loved every second. The Netflix series is still as funny and cute as I remember the manga to be.
Yoshikawa Nao stays behind to live by herself when her parents leave to inherit her grandpa’s farm in the country. On the day she moves into her new apartment, she discovers that it was rented also to Uehara Hisashi; a cute, super-cool, popular guy from her school. Not only did their housing agency unexpectedly close down, the landlord of the apartment tells them that they had to pay more for their apartment than they had expected. With no money and no home to return to, Nao and Hisashi decide to live together as flatmates.
Hot Gimmick: Girl Meets Boy
This is probably the most serious title on the list. The movie deals with a lot of real problems, and it might not be the fun escape as the series on this list. Still, I want to mention this one as it’s still a good movie with good acting.
Hatsumi Narita (Miona Hori) is an ordinary high school student. She lives with her nice older brother Shinogu (Shotaro Mamiya), bright younger sister Akane and her parents at a company apartment complex. One day, she lets Ryoki Tachibana (Hiroya Shimizu), who lives in the same apartment building as her, take advantage of her weak point. Since then, she is blackmailed by Ryoki Tachibana into abiding by his wish.
Hatsumi Narita’s childhood friend Azusa Odagiri (Mizuki Itagaki) moves back to into her neighborhood. Azusa is now a popular model and he seems to care about Hatsumi Narita just like when they were kids. Hatsumi is attracted to Azusa Odagiri. Even though Ryoki Tachibana tries to interfere, Hatsumi Narita and Azusa Odagiri begin to date. Hatsumi Narita is happy, but Azusa Odagiri has secret motives.
Honorable Anime mentions
I have two anime I want to mention. I watched these years ago and I think drama lovers might enjoy these too. Fair warning: you’re going to need tissues. Both anime are slice of life stories, one focused on a musician, the other on a group of friends who drifted apart. Friendship is at the core of these stories, with every character having to deal with their own tragedies.
Your Lie in April
If you can watch this series without crying, you have no heart. From the moving pieces, to the heart breaking story, this anime series makes you feel everything deeply.
Music accompanies the path of the human metronome, the prodigious pianist Kousei Arima. But after the passing of his mother, Saki Arima, Kousei falls into a downward spiral, rendering him unable to hear the sound of his own piano.
Two years later, Kousei still avoids the piano, leaving behind his admirers and rivals, and lives a colorless life alongside his friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryouta Watari. However, everything changes when he meets a beautiful violinist, Kaori Miyazono, who stirs up his world and sets him on a journey to face music again.
Another tear-jerker, although not as much as Your Lie in April. This is a slice-of-life anime, so you really get to see what daily life is like in Japan. I love how their friendship with one person brings them back together.
Jinta Yadomi is peacefully living as a recluse, spending his days away from school and playing video games at home instead. One hot summer day, his childhood friend, Meiko “Menma” Honma, appears and pesters him to grant a forgotten wish. He pays her no mind, which annoys her, but he doesn’t really care. After all, Menma already died years ago.
At first, Jinta thinks that he is merely hallucinating due to the summer heat, but he is later on convinced that what he sees truly is the ghost of Menma. Jinta and his group of childhood friends grew apart after her untimely death, but they are drawn together once more as they try to lay Menma’s spirit to rest. Re-living their pain and guilt, will they be able to find the strength to help not only Menma move on—but themselves as well?