November 25, 2023

Three to watch on Viki

The great thing about streaming is that you can sign up for a month, watch what you want to watch, and then sign off (my Netflix approach).

Even if you're not interested in the rest of the Viki catalog, I recommend subscribing for a month (or two) to watch Isekai Izakaya Nobu, Sleeper Hit, and 99.9 Criminal Lawyer.

The first is a cute live-action drama that is better than the anime (and I usually steer clear of isekai).

What makes the isekai part of Isekai Izakaya Nobu work is that it ultimately doesn't matter that much. The show posits that the back door of the restaurant exits onto an alleyway in Kyoto. The front door opens onto a sort of alternate universe Geneva during the Habsburg Dynasty.

Nobody wastes much effort asking why (or wonders how the electric lights work) and nobody really needs to.

This is ultimately a food-focused show and the setting is an excuse to introduce Japanese cuisine to people who have never heard of it before. There are melodramatic arcs that tie the episodes together but they never overwhelm the rest of the story. The meals are ultimately the main characters.

Viki has two seasons of the live action series. Crunchyroll has one season of the anime.

Sleeper Hit follows the triumphs and travails of the editorial staff at a second tier manga imprint. They are one small division in a big publishing house with healthy enough sales to keep it alive but not in the same stratosphere as Young Jump (and thus have to worry about their best talent getting poached).

The Japanese title translates as "Print the Second Edition!" That is the turning point in the life of a manga. Manga magazines do well to break even and most mangaka lose money during serialization. They only end up in the black when a series has enough chapters to justify the release of a tankoubon edition.

The show starts out like a sitcom but soon turns into a serious drama about commerce and creativity. The story arcs make no bones about the punishing deadlines, the inextricable link between business and art, and the primacy of story, with the fickle reader exercising the final vote on success or failure.

We are taken through the life and death of a manga, from acquisition to serialization to cancelation, including a poignant scene in which the company president takes two of the new hires on a pilgrimage to the warehouse where the returns (all of the unsold books and magazines) are getting shredded.

The outstanding cast includes Yutaka Matsushige (Solitary Gourmet) as the managing editor, Joe Odagiri (Midnight Diner) as a senior editor given to bouts of philosophizing, and stars Haru Kuroki as an energetic newbie hired right out of college after the CEO challenges her to a wrestling match.

That last sentence will make more sense once you watch the first episode.

Sleeper Hit should be watched along with Bakuman. The anime covers the manga industry from the perspective of a pair of budding mangaka working hard to create a break-out hit.

I'm a fan of the traditional police procedural (following the one mystery per episode formula) and 99.9 Criminal Lawyer qualifies on all counts.

Ittoku Kishibe (best known as the Machiavellian government minister on Aibou) plays the managing partner at a big law firm. He recruits the eccentric Hiroto Miyama (Jun Matsumoto of the boy band Arashi) for a newly formed criminal defense division.

Character actor and Kabuki veteran Teruyuki Kagawa is Miyama's ornery boss. The "99.9" refers to the conviction rate in Japan's criminal courts, so his skepticism is understandable. Even in modern Japan, the accused is pretty much presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Related links

Isekai Izakaya Nobu (Viki)
Isekai Izakaya Nobu (Crunchyroll)
99.9 Criminal Lawyer
Sleeper Hit!

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