My favorite show on Netflix is 45 minutes of random previews before you give up and watch a Archer repeat on Hulu. I’m not the only one; “There is nothing to watch on Netflix” is a familiar refrain. Apart from their own series – which appear with great fanfare and then disappear like reflections of heat on the road – find something New is a real challenge. The top ten list is of little use, usually full of bad kids’ CGIs, soapy dramas, and past stand-up hacks that struggle to regain their relevance.
But if you’re willing to look a little further than the United States, Canada, and Britain, you’ll find a world of new shows and movies available to you, often overlooked by American pop culture. To be fair, there is a lot choice and it’s hard to know where to start, especially if you are only fluent in English. Many good choices come from Mexico and Central South America; Diablero, my favorite, is similar and totally different from Supernatural. Luna Nera and Curon are also solid genre choices. But more often than not, I turn to South Korea and Japan for my dose of entertainment. And in this area, Netflix excels.
A few caveats: My taste leans towards genre fiction. It’s not that I don’t think the compelling dramas about the impact of drug trafficking on families or small town disappearances and murders aren’t worth watching; they absolutely are. There’s just enough of this pain in the real world that it’s not what I turn to for entertainment. Give me monsters, gore, slapstick comedy, absurd situations and crazy action. And other than a few old martial arts movies, I don’t do any dubbing. It doesn’t look good and it doesn’t sound good. I’d rather read the subtitles than listen to a white guy talk like he’s a dinner menu. So I can’t tell you what the English track looks like for something like Alice in the land of borders, other than probably not very good.
Below is a mix of live action series and movies from South Korea and Japan that I enjoyed or at least found intriguing. A lot of them are based on manga or anime series, but I left out anything that is animated. Most contain elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror. All of this is currently available in the United States and (I believe) in Canada.
The strange meter (2020)
So Mun (Byeong-gyu Jo) is a physically disabled high school student in the fictional town of Jungjin. After surviving a car crash as a child that killed his parents and left his right leg paralyzed, he lives with his grandparents and keeps his head down. A guardian spirit chooses So Mun as their counter, one of the few physically empowered to defeat the evil spirits residing in the human body and send them back to the Hereafter to be judged. It also makes her hair curly, for whatever reason. So Mun learns to use his gifts with the help of Ga Mo Tak, Do Ha Na, and Chu Mae Ok at Ennoi’s Noodles, the restaurant they use as their home and home away from home. Together, they fight to protect their city from Spirit Possession, a task made much more difficult when Spirits and the local criminal element begin to work together.
The strange meter is soapy, goofy, charming and serious. I’m a sweet touch to the entertainment that wears her heart on her sleeve, and YOU KNOW definitely qualifies. He is brought up by his main actors, who are all wonderful. Ga Mo Tak (Joon-Sang Yoo) is strong but sensitive, a man who cares fiercely about his chosen family. Chu Mae Ok (Yeom Hye-ran) motheres everyone around her but has an iron core. And Do Ha Na (Se-Jeong Kim) keeps most people at bay, but she is powerful in both mind and body. It goes from the absurd to thrilling to heartfelt and back again at a breakneck pace, and it can be a challenge to keep it all straight, but it’s worth it.
Season 2 is confirmed but does not have an official release date. The 2021 holiday season or the release in early 2022 is not out of the question.
Alice in the land of borders (2020)
” It’s like Royal battle! ”is the rallying cry of any American critic who doesn’t know how to describe a Japanese action series or movie. If you’ve got the depth of a kiddie pool, then yes, AiB is exactly like Royal battle, except in all the ways that it isn’t. In this series based on a manga by Haro Aso, longtime friends and (by Japanese cultural norms) losers Ryōhei Arisu (Kento Yamazaki), Chōta Segawa (Yūki Morinaga) and Daikichi Karube (Keita Machida) spend the day together when they’re suddenly pulled into an empty Tokyo. Along with young mountaineer Yuzuha Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya) and dozens of strangers, the trio must play a series of difficult and deadly games, determined by the cards they receive. Refuse to play, die by space laser. If someone wins all 52 cards, he may get their freedom, but can anyone do it when all the games are rigged?
AiC can be more correctly compared to Squid game, although there are some important differences. Arisu and the others appear to be in a Tokyo that has lost its nearly 14 million people, but everything else, from cars to food. Death is still worth it for refusing to play, but it comes by means of a mysterious laser fire from orbit – no word on whether it is a Jewish or non-denominational space laser. Some players focus entirely on getting home; others revel in their freedom as they embrace chaos and violence. No character is immune to death; only a few episodes in we see several characters who seemed destined to overcome it getting murdered graphically. The show is well performed and uncompromising in its action. Shows like this are much more in the wheelhouse than my wife’s, but even she was captivated.
Season 2 of Alice in the land of borders is currently in production, with release slated for 2022.
Squid game is on everyone’s list right now, which is why I didn’t put it first. I am stubborn like that. Chances are you’ve heard of it before, even if you haven’t watched it. 456 heavily indebted South Koreans are invited to play a series of children’s games. The winner wins billions won. Everyone dies. contrary to Alice in the land of borders the players are volunteers. Even when offered after the first game, in which hundreds of people are murdered, players choose to continue. Call it a cash grab or a scintillating critique of Korean capitalism and social inequality; Either way, it’s Netflix’s biggest series launch and is worth almost $ 900 million, using math I don’t understand. He’s incredibly popular, will definitely have a second season, and is already a new source of parental hysteria (more on that soon).
A favorite of Tori, Sweet home is an apocalyptic horror series from South Korea. Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang) is a suicidal young man who moves into the Green Home building after his family dies in a car accident. Soon after, monsters appear out of nowhere and start murdering people. The residents of Green Home are trapped inside and each escape attempt leads to a brutal death. Hyun-soo becomes a reluctant hero when he gains superpowers from one of the monsters.
CGI effects are a strange mixture of efficiency and something of the lesser resident Evil Games. It was the first South Korean series on Netflix to enter the Top 10. Sweet home does a pretty solid job of alternating between monster action and human drama, as the residents struggle to survive. It is worth a try.
Space sweepers (2021)
The only movie on this list, Space sweepers is also one of my favorite entrees. Captain Jang leads his small team of sweepers as they collect trash like obsolete satellites in orbit and deeper space. Earth is virtually uninhabitable due to pollution, and evil industrialist James Sullivan (Richard Armitage) wants to terraform Mars. Ex-soldier Kim Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), ex-gangster Tiger Park (Jin Seon-kyu) and ex-military robot Bubs (Yoo Hae-jin) are looking to make money for their own selfish reasons until they find out about Dorothy, a childish synthetic being / weapon of mass destruction they can buy back for a fortune. It is not “Korean Serenity“but that at least puts you in the right place. The strange meter, he wears his heart on his sleeve. It’s a blatant critique of the space adventures of billionaires in an era of maximum economic disparity, and a surprising (but very welcome) exploration of healthcare and trans acceptance. The action and effects are top notch, and it’s just great to watch.
Song Joong-ki Becomes Another Strong Netflix Entry With Vincenzo, in which he plays the adopted child of an Italian family. He joins the Mafia as a lawyer and is betrayed after Don’s death. He flees to Seoul and tries to recover 1.5 tons of gold hidden under a building. In the process, he runs into a real estate company and finds himself fighting for the tenants of the building.
Song Joong-ki excels at rapid emotional changes, from cold consigliere to affable blunder and back again. It’s smart and fun and really, what more do you need?
My name (2021)
I can’t really recommend this one yet, as I haven’t seen it. But he looks great and is next on my list. Yoon Ji-woo (Han So-hee) desperately seeks revenge after the murder of his father. She joins a local gang to get information and then becomes a cop under the direction of the crime boss. He looks intense, violent, and has a number of very attractive stars. That’s all I need to give it a go!
It’s only a beginning. Live film adaptations of Bleach and Rorouni Kenshin get a shout out for being decent too, and there’s Kingdom, Hotel Del Luna, and dozens of others. These are a few of my favorites; drop some of yours in the comments!
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Source of header image: Netflix screenshots