Who doesn’t love curling up with a good TV show, some snacks and a cozy couch?
Some of us take it a bit far and turn an hour of “me time” into eight hours of “I need to see how this ends. What’s ‘outside’ mean? Somebody order takeout!”
We get it. We’ve all been there.
And if you’re prone to binge-watching fever, we’re about to ruin your plans for the next few days.
We’ve put together a list of five killer resources for finding Japanese dramas, along with 15 of our favorite titles. これ超いいじゃん！ (これ ちょう いい じゃん！) — Check this out!
15 Japanese Dramas with English Subtitles to Binge-watch for Fluency
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.
If you enjoy learning with videos but wish they had a more structured support for studying, then we have a great bonus spot for you: FluentU!
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Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
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Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app for iOS or Android!
Here are five more places where you can (legally!) watch full episodes of Japanese dramas with English subtitles.
Who doesn’t love Netflix? For $10 a month (with a few weeks free at the beginning of your membership) 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.
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.
4. おひさま — “Sunshine”
The tagline of this show says it all: “Life is what you make of it.”
In this romantic drama, a young woman copes with caring for her family when her brothers and husband are drafted to fight in World War II. It’s a heartwarming and interesting look at Japanese life during this time.
The dialogue is very simple and spoken at an easy pace, but the storytelling nature of this show means that it contains some vocabulary words and grammar newbies may have a hard time following.
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 cafe 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.
In addition to subtitled Japanese dramas, this free streaming source boasts a ton of anime, Korean dramas, Chinese dramas, films, vintage martial arts movies and much more—all for free (with ads).
13. スクールガール コンプレックス 放送部篇 (すくーる がーる こんぷれっくす ほうそう ぶ へん ) — “Schoolgirl Complex”
This late-night LGBTQ romance set in an all-female high school is steamy, dark, romantic and dramatic. It’s hard to find independent Japanese movies with this kind of vibe to it, so if that’s your thing, check this one out!
This artsy film is very minimal in dialogue, so beginners will be able to follow along pretty easily.
14. サイドカーに犬 (さいどかー に いぬ ) — “Dog in a Sidecar”
This Japanese movie is a quirky family drama-comedy about a young girl who becomes friends with her father’s lover. It’s complicated but definitely hilarious!
The film’s dialogue is pretty sparse but due to the comedic nature of it, it would help if you have a bit of knowledge of Japanese humor in order to grasp a lot of what’s being said.
15. ペコロスの母に会いに行く (ぺころす の はは に あい に いく ) — “Pecoross’ Mother and Her Last Days”
This drama film with some comedic overtones is based on an autobiographical manga. It follows the struggles of a man who has to take care of his elderly mother with dementia.
This is a great film to watch if you want to pick out the nuances and differences in how Japanese elderly, middle-aged and teenagers speak. A great selection for improving your listening fluency!
You could make a fun binge-watching weekend of all of these great series and films, while improving your Japanese at the same time. Good luck!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist who writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
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