May 29, 2024

Live-action Japanese TV

I gave up on Jme TV, NHK Cosmomedia's streaming replacement for TV Japan. They're charging the same $25/month they did for the cable channel, an amount completely out of whack with comparable streaming services. Jme offered to grandfather the VOD service for $15/month, which is no less absurd, especially given the size of its catalog.

In many cases, push the price point low enough and you can stop thinking about the sunk costs. Kocowa, for example, South Korea's equivalent of TV Japan, offers its basic plan for $7/month. But the Jme TV website and app are so poorly designed that I'd be unlikely to stick around at any price greater than zero.

Speaking of which, NHK really ought to host a version of the Jme Select channel on NHK World Japan, along with the Asadora. If nothing else, it'd be a great publicity move. TV Japan used to be the only game in town for live-action Japanese content. Used to be. That built-in audience is long gone by now.

NHK World Japan, TV Japan's public service sibling, has something worthwhile to offer most days (especially during the sumo tournaments). NHK posts its flagship domestic newscasts online. Japan's commercial news networks stream their television feeds on YouTube. NHK's hourly radio broadcasts are also online.

And it's all free.

Back in February (the offer has since expired), I couldn't resist Rakuten Viki's 30 percent off sale and got the annual basic plan for $3.50/month. Even with its emphasis on romance and Kdrama, Viki has a decent enough collection of contemporary Jdrama that there simply isn't a downside.

Though given the glacial pace at which Viki acquires new Japanese content, I'll probably subscribe every other year. That's one reason why I think Viki should do a deal with NHK to license more of their material. (It is very telling that Rakuten Viki, a Japanese company, is dominated by Korean and Chinese content.)

Tubi is probably the best FAST (free advertising supported streaming television) streaming service currently available.

As Jordan Minor puts it, "Tubi fearlessly gets down and dirty by adding whatever cheap, old, and just plain weird stuff it can find to make sure you can always look forward to a novel viewing experience." In other words, Tubi's Japanese content consists of everything from art house to grindhouse to anime, along with quirky travelogues and documentaries.

Tubi has few contemporary Jdramas series, such as Daughter of Lupin and Special Security Squad and romances like A Girl and Three Sweethearts. Plus many more older period dramas and Sonny Chiba actioners. At least two dozen subbed or dubbed Godzilla and kaiju films, four Kamen Rider series, and a sizable selection from the Ultraman franchise.

My only big gripe with Tubi is the absence of language and country filters that would make it easier to find live-action Japanese content. Tubi has three anime channels and two Kdrama channels but nothing specific to Jdrama.

Many of the Japanese historical dramas on Tubi are distributed by Samurai vs Ninja, which has an impressive collection of action-oriented television movies and series from the 1970s up to the present. Content can be viewed online and there are apps for Android and Apple (but not Roku). The cost of a streaming subscription is $7.99/month.

Netflix's affordable ad-supported tier provides access to an eclectic collection of anime-inspired adaptations (One Piece and City Hunter being two of the latest), live-action dramas, and reality TV. Netflix licenses and produces new Japanese content on a regular basis.

With its worldwide reach, Netflix is emerging as one of the best sources of modern Japanese movies and television outside Japan. Netflix also provides subtitles in English and Japanese for many of its Japanese and non-Japanese titles.

The focus here is on live-action television, but you could spend a good portion of your life working through the free anime catalogs at Tubi and Retrocrush alone. Then for under $20/month total, you could add to that Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Netflix, and you'd need another lifetime.

Related posts

Jme TV (NHK World Premium)
Jme TV (grumpy old man edition)
Tubi in Japanese
News from Japan (in Japanese)
Japanese language links

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