December 11, 2021

dLibrary Japan (another update)

The one basic weakness of dLibrary Japan (the lack of subtitles aside) is that it doesn't have a backlist catalog, a decision that comes down to simple dollars and cents. Licensing shows for a year saves a ton of money they can spend on acquiring more titles, including the occasional simulcast.

Alas, that means I never got around to watching the Tsuribaka Nisshi ("Diary of a Fishing Nut") movies and now they're gone. And because the first six cours of Solitary Gourmet expire at the end of 2021, I ended up binging them (worth it, though). Season nine just arrived (no idea about seasons seven and eight).

Solitary Gourmet, a solid entry in the ever popular food genre, has Yutaka Matsushige traveling around Japan as the self-employed proprietor of an import-export business. Every episode consists almost entirely of Matsushige eating dinner at an actual hole-in-the-wall restaurant with voice-over commentary, a strangely compelling combination.

But that's why much of the programming mentioned in previous updates is no longer available. Here is some of what is, though limited to what I've seen recently or plan to watch. There are only so many hours in the day. Even without a backlist, dLibrary Japan carries a great deal of content (and I've got lots of shows queued up on Netflix and Tubi too).

dLibrary Japan currently has seasons one, eight, eleven, fourteen (through 3/2022), and eighteen (through 8/2022) of the police procedural Partners. It'd be nice to have the entire series available. But with twenty seasons to date, only indefinite license terms would make sense. Hey, how about it, Netflix?

dLibrary Japan is only as good as its latest acquisitions, and they're doing well in the police procedural department, starting with a second cour of 99.9, about a team of eccentric defense lawyers. And a simulcast of the live action version of Police in a Pod, which will debut next year as an anime series.

Police in a Pod is a "realistic" look at daily life in a koban or police box. Meaning that what the lead characters do most of the time is closer to social work than crime fighting. So nothing like the hilarious antics in You're Under Arrest.

Though if you've seen the latter, you'll recognize many of the stock characters in the former. Like every motorcycle cop is some version of those guys from CHiPs.

Detective Yuri Rintaro is a half-cour series in the Holmes & Watson format about a forensic psychologist who consults on cases for the police in Kyoto. There seems to be a Japanese television industry quota for police procedurals based in Kyoto, which is nice for the change of scenery and accents.

Koji Kikkawa in the lead role brings to mind Jeremy Brett as an unexcitable Holmes who dresses way up for his day job and carries it off with aplomb.

Ataru is an autistic version of Monk, so we're pretty much talking complete basketcase. This particular sub-genre only works if the writers are smart enough to convince you that the protagonist is a genius. So far, they've gotten it mostly right, and Masahiro Nakai is convincing in the title role.

I do my best to ignore the Spy vs. Spy subplot, which only makes me suspect that if depictions of American spies in a Japanese show are this silly, then depictions of foreign spies in Hollywood shows are probably just as dumb (like how many of them actually speak that foreign language fluently?).

Signal employs the same plot device as Frequency (with Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel). Two detectives fifteen years apart communicate via a pair of time traveling walkie-talkies to solve a cold case.

The second cour of Hanasaki Mai Speaks Out continues the adventures of two bank examiners with a knack for uncovering financial improprieties and bringing down the high and mighty. Yes, accounting can make for some quite entertaining cozy mysteries.

I follow a few dramas and reality shows too.

I saw Dragon Zakura and The Rookies when they debuted on TV Japan. The Rookies wants to be baseball version of Dragon Zakura, though it's closer to Gokusen. But while Gokusen never takes itself seriously, The Rookies takes itself too seriously to take seriously.

My Housekeeper Mr. Nagisa features Mikako Tabe as a super competent rep for a pharmaceutical company. Her private life is a wreck, until her kid sister arranges for Shigino Nagisa to show as a Marty Poppins to put her home life in order.

A couple of episodes in, as with Lucy Liu in Elementary, I started noticing that Mikako Tabe's character apparently has a wardrobe filled with an infinite number of outfits. And as with Liu, Tabe's costume designer does an excellent job dressing her up without it ever looking unnatural.

Masao Kusakari (The Mark of Beauty) teams up with an ugly (animatronic) cat in A Man and His Cat, about a widower getting over the death of his wife.

How About a Coffee? belongs to the same food genre as Midnight Diner, according to which the right food served in the right way at the right time can solve any problem.

Sleepeeer Hit! [sic] (the Japanese title translates as "Print a Second Edition!") explores the business of manga publishing from the point of view of the publisher. The great cast includes Yutaka Matsushige (Solitary Gourmet), Joe Odagiri (Midnight Diner), and stars Haru Kuroki (Hanako and Anne).

Infotainment shows like Before and After (a sped up version of This Old House) are actually the easiest for me to follow. Add to the list another cour of Tetsuro Degawa's delightful travel show, in which he rides a little electric scooter until the battery dies, then runs around trying to bum a charge.

An odder entry in the reality show category is Can I Follow You Home? in which a camera crew hangs around stations in Tokyo to get the story from people who missed the last train home. Higher up the intellectual scale are documentary-style interview shows hosted by Ryu Murakami, Eiko Koike, and Nao Matsushita.

As previously noted, for the most part, only the movies on dLibrary Japan are subtitled. Hanasaki Mai Speaks Out and Signal are two exceptions in this list (Signal even has real subtitles and not closed captions). For now, dLibrary Japan is available in the United States and Canada.

Related posts

dLibrary Japan
dLibrary Japan (update)
dLibrary Japan (background)

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