Netflix’s ‘First Love’ Is Sign of Growing Global Success for Japan Series Content

In its second week on release the new Netflix series from Japan, “First Love,” has ascended to the number five spot on the streamer’s rankings for non-English content, as well as being its number one show in Japan for the week.  
Based on two songs by Japanese megastar Utada Hikaru and directed by Kanchiku Yuri, the nine-episode romantic drama series released on Netflix on Nov. 24 and grabbed the number eight slot on the streamer’s Global Non-English list in its debut week. This week, with watch hours totaling 12.3 million, the series rose to number five.  
Starring Mitsushima Hikari as a taxi driver in Sapporo who reconnects with a heartthrob (Satoh Takumi) from her teenage years after a gap of two decades, the show is also in the Netflix top ten lists of Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand, all territories where Utada’s music is popular.          
Another Japanese show, the anime series “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean,” rose to the number eight slot on Netflix’s Global Non-English chart following the release of new episodes on Dec. 1.  
Japanese content, with exceptions like the hit 2020 sci-fi series “Alice in Borderland,” has been in the shadow of Netflix shows from nearby South Korea, including the global smash “Squid Game.”  
One reason: Japanese content producers have long focused on their much larger home market, while regarding global sales as an after-thought. Netflix, however, has been trying to change that mindset, and the success of “First Love” is a sign their efforts are bearing fruit, especially in Asia, where Japanese music, fashion, anime and other creative content has made significant inroads.  
The streamer plans to build on this momentum with upcoming releases, including season two of “Alice in Borderland,” which drops on Dec. 22, and the new series by acclaimed auteur Kore-eda Hirokazu, “The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House,” which premieres on Jan. 12.  

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