March 19, 2020

dLibrary Japan (content)

As promised back in September 2019, dLibrary Japan is building its catalog at an impressive rate, adding several new titles a week. The lack of content is no longer an issue. Whether you stick with it will depend on what you make of their curated selection so far and on your willingness to watch mostly non-localized content.

Two big reasons to sign up for dLibrary Japan are NHK's two flagship series, the weekly Taiga historical drama and the daily Asadora serial. It'd be nice if they showed up on a predictably timetable after their domestic runs, but the licensing windows are all over the map. Check the "End Date" before getting too invested.

dLibrary Japan has a good selection of six recent Taiga series, including three of the most interesting woman-centered stories you'll find anywhere. And they are subtitled!

Go follows the three nieces of the warlord Oda Nobunaga as they play a major role in shaping the end of the Warring States period, two of them marrying into clans on opposite sides of the conflict.

Atsuhime examines the life of Tenshoin, the adopted daughter of the province lord of Satsuma. Hoping to become the power behind the throne, he arranged a marriage between her and Tokugawa Iesada, the third-to-last shogun.

Yae's Sakura is about a markswoman who fought on the side of the shogunate during the Boshin War that launched the Meiji Restoration. Her firearm of choice was a Spencer repeating rifle.

And then for a view of the events depicted in Atsuhime and Yae's Sakura from the perspective of Japan's Alexander Hamilton, Ryomaden follows the life of Sakamoto Ryoma, who, like Hamilton, tragically died a violent death before his time.

Asadora serials include Ume-chan Sensei, about a girl who attends medical school and becomes a doctor during the Occupation. Toto Nee-chan is a biopic about Shizuko Ohashi (1920–2013), who in 1948 co-founded Notebook for Living, a home improvement magazine still in print.

Though Oshin was the most-watched television program in Japanese history, its Gothic Perils of Pauline plot leaves me disinclined to slog through it. During the 1980s (it debuted in 1983), Oshin became a synonym for perseverance in the face of neverending hostility and opposition.

The cheerfully upbeat Toto Nee-chan is more my speed, and it's been nice to revive my old TV Japan habit of watching a fifteen-minute Asadora episode every night.

Along with the Taiga and Asadora dramas, the scripted content includes family and food dramas, and an eclectic collection of police procedurals and medical dramas, such as the preternaturally cute Aoi Miyazaki playing a teenage super-sleuth in Mobile Detective and Ryoko Yonekura channeling Gregory House in Doctor X.

Mobile Detective is worth watching simply as a reminder of what "cutting edge" smart phone technology was like a mere fifteen years ago.

dLibrary Japan has the first three seasons of Midnight Diner, an ensemble series that takes place at an all-night hole-in-the wall restaurant (Netflix has seasons 4 and 5). And speaking of food dramas, dLibrary Japan has six seasons of Solitary Gourmet, pretty much the salaryman version of Wakakozake.

On a quirkier note is Room Laundering (think "money laundering"), which arises out of Japanese superstitions about renting an apartment in which the previous occupant died. Miko's job is to move in, figure out why the ghost haunting the place is hanging around, and get it to move on. The real estate version of Ghost Whisperer.

For whatever reason it was shot in a 21:9 aspect ratio. I really don't see the point of that (I don't see the point of shooting anything in 21:9 except as a special effect).

There are a handful of documentaries and talk shows, such as Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai ("The World Unknown To Matsuko"), and the Wildlife and Great Nature documentary series from NHK. Plus a cute travel show in which Tetsuro Degawa rides a electric scooter until the battery is dead and then bums a charge from the locals.

In the movie category, dLibrary Japan has the entire Tsuribaka Nisshi ("Diary of a Fishing Nut") franchise. Starring the delightful character actor Toshiyuki Nishida, this film series follows the adventures of a salaryman at a construction company who will concoct any excuse to go fishing. And still manages to save the day.

The handful of anime titles on dLibrary Japan are aimed at kids, such as Anpanman, a long-running kid's franchise (1500 episodes and counting) hugely popular in Japan and practically nowhere else. (Tim Lyu explains why.)

So far, there's more than enough to keep me interested. If dLibrary Japan keeps adding new programming at the current rate, it will become the unquestioned home of live-action Japanese television in North America. Though I'm afraid it won't be able to significantly expand beyond the TV Japan and Nippon TV audiences without more localization.

Related links

dLibrary Japan (background)
dLibrary Japan (user experience)
dLibrary Japan
dLibrary Japan Roku app
NHK World
TV Japan

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# posted by Blogger Panino Manino
3/28/2020 7:41 AM   
I watched Yae's Sakura and ended very disappointed.
That Yae in the second half of her life does practically nothing is bad enough, like she had no influence in her husband's school.
But the worst and infuriating is that this drama gave credit to Yae for things she didn't did, for thing that other characters in the story did.