Seven must-see Japanese shows to stream in the UAE

From animation and fantasy horror to samurai action flicks

Kaoru Kobayashi is the master chef in 'Midnight Diner'. Drama Shinyashokudo Production Committee
Kaoru Kobayashi is the master chef in 'Midnight Diner'. Drama Shinyashokudo Production Committee

The history of entertainment in Japan goes back to the classical Japanese dance Kabuki and Noh theatre during the days of the shogunate dictatorship.

Today, the country is known for everything from anime films to samurai action flicks. Thankfully, streaming services in the Middle East offer a wealth of Japanese content for many to enjoy. Here are seven you should not miss.

1. 'Tokyo Vampire Hotel' (2017), Amazon Prime

Director Sion Sono is a Japanese filmmaker well known to cinema lovers, but probably not casual viewers. In his popular fantasy horror series Tokyo Vampire Hotel, you get to see what makes him stand out among his peers. The show takes you on a wild ride with vampires in Tokyo. It is a flashy and exceptionally colourful TV show.

2. 'Blade of the Immortal' (2017), Netflix

Director Takashi Miike might also be well known to avid cinephiles, but most general viewers are yet experience the weird worlds he constructs in his films. That said, in Netflix’s Blade of the Immortal, Miike is more restrained than in past works, but his quality remains. The story, adapted from a popular manga, follows an immortal samurai and his quest for vengeance. There is a lot of sword-slashing and blood flying, making it a very memorable viewing experience.

3. 'Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salary Man' (2017), Netflix

This TV drama comedy follows the exploits of a salesman who happens to be a lover of desserts. Kantaro must maintain the appearance of a serious worker who, every now and then, happens to slip away to a sweet shop to satisfy his cravings. But simply eating sugary treats is not enough, as he also loves describing the delights in great detail. It is a wacky and funny show that is lighthearted, and will give you ideas on plenty of places to visit on your next trip to the Japanese capital.

4. 'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' (2016), Netflix

If you have ever walked the streets of Tokyo, and wandered into a small eatery, you will instantly relate to the cosy, warm feeling this show conjures up. The popular Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories has many fans, for its variety of stories, as it presents a different dish, as well as a new character, with every episode. The success of its show comes from the chef and custodian of the diner, Kaoru Kobayashi, who is always there to help and cook. He has one rule: he will make you anything, if he has the ingredients.

5. 'Your Name' (2016), Apple TV+

Anime, sometimes called Japanimation, is probably Japan’s biggest cultural export. Fans from all over the world have their favourites, whether new or old, violent or tame. While many will cite Studio Ghibli, there's plenty more content available within the genre. One such film is Your Name, a blockbuster hit that broke records upon release in Japan. The story is fantastical and imaginative, but it's also worth a watch for its beauty and attention to detail. Fans of this film even travel to Tokyo after watching it, to see the locations depicted. Warning: it is a tear-jerker, so keep a box of tissues nearby.

6. 'One Punch Man' (2017), Netflix

Japanese anime shows are a dime a dozen these days, and you can find them everywhere. For an anime to stand above the rest and carve out a fanbase with only two seasons is an incredible achievement. One Punch Man has managed to do that with a fairly simple plot device: the antagonist is unbeatable. The title gets its name from the fact that our antagonist can defeat enemies with just one punch. The animation style is eclectic but also successful in providing ample amounts of entertainment and comedy.

7. 'Begin Japanology' (2007), YouTube

Perhaps it is a huge undertaking to try and learn about Japanese culture and society without travelling there, but watching Begin Japanology certainly gets you part of the way there. Presented by Peter Barakan and produced by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, the show’s topics span from the country's elaborate eating etiquette to the fun and quirky history of vending machines. The lessons taught are presented in one enjoyable and neat package.

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Updated: July 6, 2020 12:27 PM

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