12 Japanese Dramas with English Subtitles to Binge-watch (and Where to See Them)
As a Japanese learner, you can use Japanese content like dramas to help you improve your listening and comprehension fluency.
One of the best sites to get your Asian drama fix used to be DramaFever, until its demise. Rest in peace, DramaFever. We’ll miss you, but we have to move on and find other streaming services for our Japanese dramas.
Here are five places where you can (legally!) watch full episodes of Japanese dramas with English subtitles, plus 12 excellent Japanese show recommendations to keep your binge-watching queue filled.
- Amazon Prime
- And One More Thing...
Who doesn’t love Netflix? For about $10 a month, you can stream thousands of titles quickly and easily.
Netflix has a growing number of Japanese dramas available, some of which they produced themselves as Netflix Originals.
As a bonus, all of Netflix’s Japanese dramas have accurate English subtitles.
1.リマインド (りまいんど) — “Re:Mind”
“Re:Mind” is a bit of a slow burner, but it definitely pays off. If you’re a fan of classic mysteries, you’ll definitely get sucked into this show.
In this drama, a group of Japanese high school students find themselves chained to a European-style dining room table. Every time the lights go out, one of them disappears. Can they figure out who’s doing this to them… and why?
“Re:Mind” is ideal for intermediate and advanced learners, as the Japanese spoken is very quick and complex.
2. 宇宙 (そら) — “Switched”
If you’ve ever been bullied, had body issues, were poor or dealt with depression or other mental health issues, you’ll probably find some hope in this thriller drama with heartwarming moments.
Using the astrological powers of the Red Moon, an unpopular depressed girl switches bodies with one of her school’s most popular, beautiful students. The two soon find out how true their friends really are, and what it means when your beauty is only skin-deep.
Like “Re:Mind,” this show would be great for intermediate and advanced learners as the dialogue can be quick with multiple people speaking at once.
3. アンダーウェア (あんだーうぇあ) — “Atelier”
This Netflix Original is a true gem. If you’re interested in the fashion industry, particularly small-scale fashion boutiques in Japan, you’ll enjoy watching “Atelier.”
In the show, a young woman graduates college and gets an entry-level job as an apprentice at a lingerie boutique. Through this job, she learns a lot about herself, family, love and her misunderstood boss.
Beginners will definitely enjoy this show since the dialogue is sparse and easy to keep up with.
4. 日々 (日々のこと) — (“The Days”)
This exciting Japanese series focuses on the real life events that took place after the Tohoku Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which occurred on March 11, 2011.
In the show, Fukushima nuclear power plant officials race the clock to avoid an even worse outcome than total meltdown. The show gets into the politics and government decisions regarding one of the world’s worst ever nuclear disasters. It’s pretty real seeming, so if you’re particularly sensitive to this disaster, view with caution.
Since the show is about some pretty complex technical issues, it’s probably best for intermediate learners on up.
This Korean streaming service is known for its ample selection of Korean dramas, but it also has quite a few Japanese titles.
All the videos here have English and usually Japanese subtitles.
Viki is free to use, though there’s a premium subscription if you want to get ad-free and higher quality streaming.
5. オトナ女子 (おとな じょし) — “Lady Girls”
If you love cutesy comedies, this drama may be worth checking out.
In “Lady Girls,” a 40-something career woman struggles to get her love life figured out with the help of her two friends: a single mother and a woman who always seems to get stuck with playboys.
The simultaneous Japanese and English subtitles make this a great selection for beginner learners.
6. きみはペット (きみ は ぺっと) — “You’re My Pet”
We’ll admit, the premise of this show is a bit weird—but it’s an entertaining and unique romance drama nonetheless.
In “You’re My Pet,” a successful journalist deals with getting dumped by her fiancé and demoted by her misogynist boss. While walking home one day, she finds a young homeless man in a box and has a strong urge to keep him as a pet. So she does.
You have to admit you’re really curious about what will become of them, right?
Along with having Japanese and English subtitles, the dialogue in this show is slower than most and easy to follow. Beginners, check it out!
7. ヴァンパイア・ヘヴン (ばんぱいあ・へぶん) — “Vampire Heaven”
Who doesn’t love a good vampire drama?
This series follows two vampires who escape an evil baron in the world of vampires and begin working in a café to survive. One of them, however, falls in love with a human customer.
The silly antics of the vampires are fun to watch and the drama is deliciously over the top, but the dialogues can be hard to understand when the vampires have their fake fangs in. Check this one out if you’re an intermediate learner or want to learn informal as well as service-specific speech.
Most anime fans have probably heard of Crunchyroll, the streaming mecca of Japanese animated movies and shows. What you might not know is that Crunchyroll also has some great Japanese drama titles, all with Japanese and English subtitles.
A subscription is as low as $7 per month after a free month’s trial.
8. イタズラなKiss～Love in Tokyo (いたずらな きす～らぶ・いん・とうきょう) — “Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo”
High school dramas are addictive, aren’t they?
In this series, a student struggles with being an “airhead” and not very good at her studies. Unfortunately for her, she’s in love with her school’s most successful and intelligent student. Do opposites really attract?
The simple scripted dialogue and clear English subtitles make this show great for any level of learner to enjoy.
9. エンジェル・ハート (えんじぇる・はーと) — “Angel Heart”
Bring on the crime dramas!
“Angel Heart” is about a brilliant cop named Ryo and his partner Kaori. When Kaori is killed in a freak accident, her heart is donated to another woman. Now this woman mysteriously comes into Ryo’s life. Does Kaori live on in her?
There’s quite a lot of fast-paced dialogue in this show and due to the thriller-mystery vibe of it, you’ll definitely need to understand every word to keep up. Advanced learners should watch this one.
10. 素直になれなくて (すなお に なれなくて) — “Hard to Say I Love You”
If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship or made a meaningful friendship with someone online, this drama about finding yourself will definitely warm your heart.
The story follows a group of men and women who all meet on Twitter as they try to figure out where they belong in life and with each other.
This is definitely one of the most dialogue-heavy shows on our list, but don’t let that deter you if you’re a beginner! Take this opportunity to listen to the speed at which the Japanese is spoken and pronounced. Even if you need English subtitles to understand what’s happening, this is a good show to learn how fast typical Japanese is.
Amazon Prime works pretty similarly to Netflix. When you purchase a Prime membership, most of the titles you’ll want to stream are free. There are some exceptions, though, especially for newly released popular movies that may cost an additional fee to stream.
There are a few Japanese shows and films on Amazon Prime that have English subtitles. Here are two of our top picks:
11. 東京少女 (とうきょう しょうじょ) — “Tokyo Girl”
Aya moves to Tokyo from a small town. For the next 17 years, we watch her grow, fall down, get back up and live an incredible life in this awesome comedy drama.
This show mostly casts women, meaning that a lot of “ladylike slang” or 女らしい (おんな らしい ) — onnarashii slang is used. If you’re not familiar with this sort of dialect of speaking, you may struggle to follow the plot. Still, the English subtitles are pretty useful in this regard.
12. 無痛~診える眼~ (むつう~ みえる め~ ) — “Painless: The Eyes for Signs”
A brilliant doctor who can diagnose anybody by just looking at them? How wonderful! A brilliant doctor who can diagnose people by looking at them but can also detect whether they’ll commit terrible crimes in the future? That’s a bit more complicated.
This medical drama explores a moral dilemma: Is there ever someone who’s not worth saving?
While the vocabulary used in this show is basic, there’s quite a bit of talking. If you’re a beginner or intermediate learner who wants to improve your listening comprehension, check out this show.
Before you watch, learn some Japanese medical terms to help you follow along.
You could make a fun binge-watching weekend of all of these great series and films while improving your Japanese at the same time.
And when you don’t feel like watching the whole movie or episode, just watching small chunks of a drama is enough to pick up some things in Japanese. For shorter clips, drama scenes and trailers are available on the FluentU language program, with interactive subtitles in both English and Japanese.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
And One More Thing...
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