The fastest route to Japanese language success is full immersion. That means Japanese books, podcasts, movies and of course, Japanese TV. Since at the moment we’re all spending a lot more time at home than usual, it’s the perfect chance to marathon some Japanese shows and swot up on our language skills.
Thanks to streaming sites like Netflix, it’s easier than ever to enjoy all types of Japanese content that spans a range of topics like food, dating and friendships, providing us language learners with a boost to our word-power which should come in handy in a variety of situations.
4 Japanese Netflix shows to watch in 2020
Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman
This delightful and surreal romp through the world of desserts highlights real-life Tokyo cafes. Kantaro Ametani, the titular sweet-toothed salaryman, starts work as a salesman, with the ulterior motive of patronising the city’s most famous sweets proprietors during his sales visits. While Kantaro’s secret struggle initially seems like a flimsy plot to facilitate the brazen Japanese sweets celebration, it becomes more compelling as the series progresses. All manner of quirky characters threaten the protagonist’s precious dessert time, and they all learn something along the way. For Kantaro, life isn’t like a box of chocolates, but rather like a box of assorted ohagi bought from Takeno to Ohagi in Sakura Shinmachi.
Aggretsuko’s handling of work relationships makes it perfect for those trying to get a handle on Japanese work culture and vocabulary. Retsuko is a polite and unassuming office worker in her mid-twenties, who has to silently put up with a pigheaded boss and the other various societal pressures waged on Japanese women (and red pandas like her). But when she gets off work and is safely shut off in a karaoke booth, she becomes her growling alter-ego, Aggretsuko (that’s Aggressive Retsuko), and lets all her true feelings out, in the form of some good old death metal screaming.
Body-switching dramas may seem cheesy and overdone at this point, but Switched puts a surprising and dark twist on the trope. What if the person you’ve swapped bodies with doesn’t want to change back? When Zenko, a girl relentlessly bullied at school and abused at home, wakes up in the body of the perfect and popular Ayumi, the much maligned student takes her chance to steal the life, parents, and even the boyfriend she’s always wanted.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru
Another animated entry, this adorable stop motion animation features one of Japan's most popular characters, Rilakkuma. This laid back bear and his gang of equally calm friends all feature in the series, which focuses on a protagonist called Kaoru, who lives a generally boring life, including a depressing job and disinterested friends. But of course, things seem brighter when she hangs around with her 'endearingly lazy roommate'. While Kaoru’s living conditions are fantastical, her dissatisfaction with life is incredibly relatable to many young people today and sensitively portrayed on screen.
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