November 18, 2023

Japanese streaming update

With dLibrary Japan offline until April 2024 (at the latest), it's once again time to reshuffle my Japanese language streaming choices. Tubi and NHK World Japan are free, so no decisions to make there.

Viki goes into watch and drop rotation. No complaints about the service itself. To start with, it's eminently affordable. It's a content mismatch. The Japanese content focuses on BL and romance. Frankly, when it comes to romance, Jdrama simply doesn't measure up to manga and anime.

I prefer police procedurals, low-stakes slice of life dramas, and documentaries, which Japanese television writers are much better at pulling off.

Viki has a few in that category, just not that many. But speaking of which, I see that Viki has licensed 99.9 Criminal Lawyer. It's a well done execution of the reliable formula that pits an eccentric defense lawyer against his uptight boss (a corporate lawyer because it pays much better).

And while I'm at it, I'll again point out that Viki has Sleeper Hit, a fun, insightful, and even philosophical examination of the manga publishing world and the hard-nosed business of selling art.

In any case, as with pretty much every streaming service that doesn't focus specifically on Japan, Viki's Jdrama offerings take a back seat to its Kdrama series (true of Tubi and Netflix too). But if that is what you're looking for, Viki is one of the better overall sources for Asian content.

Unfortunately, take away dLibrary Japan and Viki and there aren't that many viable Jdrama alternatives left. TV Japan is alive on traditional cable but adds up to eighty (!) bucks a month for a single channel on Xfinity. Not an option when I cap my monthly streaming budget at twenty dollars.

Tubi has a few Jdrama series and (subbed) Japanese movies worth watching. It sure doesn't make them easy to find. But a little effort will occasionally turn up genuine classics, campy tokusatsu series (featuring primitive CG effects and guys in rubber suits), and recent releases like Blue Thermal.

At least for now, that leaves Netflix as far and away the best of the remaining Hobson's choices.

Anime, by comparison, offers an embarrassment of riches. Thanks to Sony's acquisition of Funimation and Crunchyroll, Crunchyroll rules the anime streaming world. You could watch Crunchyroll all day long and not make a dent in the huge backlist before getting swamped by dozens of new titles.

The annual subscription option makes Crunchyroll an even better deal. On price alone, HIDIVE is the most affordable anime streaming service but is so much smaller that it's hard to justify an annual subscription anymore.

I've been following Princess Principal and Girls und Panzer on HIDIVE. Both franchises have moved to the theatrical model. This wouldn't be a problem if they were releasing standalone movies but they're actually serials. What we end up with are regular series produced at a glacial pace.

I'll wait until a season is over before watching it. I'm very much on board with the old Netflix approach of releasing a whole series at once. Even on Crunchyroll, I watch a season behind the current schedule. The added benefit is that makes it easier to figure out which series are worth the time.

While waiting for titles to accumulate, HIDIVE joins Viki in the watch and drop category. Once I run out of live-action content on Tubi, I'll shift to Viki and then to Netflix. Netflix uniquely provides Japanese subtitles for much of its Japanese content, a very valuable language learning resource.

Related links

NHK World (Japanese)
NHK World (English)
Rakuten Viki

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