Six of the best J-dramas you can stream right now

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J-dramas are a guilty pleasure of mine. They’re a past hobby I was completely and utterly devoted to before otome games started consuming my life.

The idea for this article came about from my most recent scrolling through of Viki, which has now started streaming both old and currently airing J-dramas. Since we have previously covered a couple of our favourite J-dramas that are now being hosted on the platform, here’s a that we particularly recommend you check out on stream.

Absolute Boyfriend

J-Drama Absolute Boyfriend

As one of the very first of its kind — an android themed romcom, something that would later become more frequently seen as a premise in other shows and movies inside and outside of Japan — Absolute Boyfriend set the standard and showed what the appeal was for such a theme.

It is based on the manga of the same name by Yuu Watase, and like any good shoujo source for a TV show, it saw multiple other adaptations from other countries – much like many of the other most popular titles listed below! The popularity of the 2003 manga has remained consistent, even well into 2019, as evident enough by its latest drama series adaptation from South Korea.

With this 2008 J-drama being the series’ first adaptation, it added some much needed closure with its very own special episode after the original series’ run. Featuring a love triangle between the android Night (played by Mocomichi Hayami) plus co-workers Riiko (portrayed by Saki Aibu) and Soshi (the one and only Hiro Mizushima), Absolute Boyfriend is hands-down one of the funniest J-dramas out there, and one that never gets old.

What makes this doubly impactful is the love story it has to tell. It goes from being awkward and chaotic, with Riiko having to hide and keep the titular “Ultimate Boyfriend” a secret, to downright tragic and gut-wrenching by the end of it; its characters mature and grow for the better as they learn to move on from what put them on the correct path to begin with. For a show that starts out as hilarious as this one, no-one will expect the waterworks to start up by its finale. It’s extremely cathartic and well-written.

Available on Viki.

Handyman Fellow Jellyfish

J-Drama Handyman Fellow Jellyfish

Looking for a show that is not too time-consuming and more action packed than the typical 20-25 episode long series? Then look no further with Handyman Fellow Jellyfish. Standing at a meagre four episodes long, Handyman Fellow Jellyfish jumps straight into the nitty-gritty with a premise that sounds harmless until it’s not. “Tabikurage Detective Diary” follows the lead bromance between Kenta Takimoto (Kenta Mizue) and Yohei Sakamaki (Yoshihiko Aramaki) in a mini-series that was started to simply market their collaborative single.

With that in mind, Handyman Fellow Jellyfish has no right being as good as it is. With the duo travelling in a shoddy camper, with Yohei as a detective whose expertise is in fulfilling lost item requests, the way the short series transforms into something more heartfelt with each passing episode is exquisite.

Encompassing multiple heart-warming themes such as found family, sentimental value versus monetary value and how one can effectively live a directionless life, the show features a variety of pretty damn feel-good takeaways. All this is topped off with some laugh-out-loud moments alongside a few of the most poignant lines to come out from such a short lived J-drama.

This is why we need more shows like this on Crunchyroll when the leads have such notable chemistry as they do here!

Available on Crunchyroll.


J-Drama Hana Kimi

HANA-KIMI – or Hanazakari no Kimitachi e/For You in Full Bloom – is a J-drama classic. A tale of a female student hiding her identity in an all-boys’ school, a messy love triangle where side-character syndrome became an epidemic for its entire audience, and the greatest balancing of heartfelt character arcs and comedic scenarios — all of these things made HANA-KIMI as timeless as it is.

With some of the greatest overacting seen in the medium — that somehow does not just work for it but actually elevates the sheer spectacle of it all — HANA-KIMI is no joke. It is fantastic on every level for what it managed to accomplish, what with its casting being especially iconic in how perfect it is across the board. Nothing comes close to its perfection, although another J-drama from around this time ended up as an even bigger hit. See just below!

Read our full thoughts on it here.

Available on Viki.

Hana Yori Dango

J-Drama Hana Yori Dango

Hana Yori Dango is one of the most beloved J-dramas ever. Even 18 years since its original release, it consistently ranks high and even lands on the number one spot for most J-drama lovers’ and publications’ lists of their favourite J-dramas. It’s not hard to see why when we go into the reasons.

Firstly, its soundtrack is iconic, containing hit singles from ARASHI, Utada Hikaru and Ai Otsuka to sell its most poignant moments and memorable scenes. These scenes are extremely notable even outside of the soundtrack for all the work put in to make its characters and relationships work.

This is particularly apparent with the almost always vindictive male lead Tsukasa, who really needed a brilliant actor to portray him, and Jun Matsumoto truly delivered. Showing his character development to make him feel authentic and genuine enough to be sympathised with is definitely a hard sell, so seeing his character work with such depth is a truly incredible feat.

That’s not to mention how wonderful the leads’ chemistry is, as they completely steal the show, more so than any other live adaptation of the manga ever. Coming with a genuinely solid script, some of the best acting from a J-drama and a production that manages to hold up even now, Hana Yori Dango will continue to go down in history.

Read our full thoughts on it here.

Available on Viki.


J-Drama Switched

Switched is one of the more side-lined examples within what modern-day J-drama offers. Based on the manga Sora wo Kakeru Yodaka by Shiki Kawabata, the first and only season available on Netflix is just six episodes long, but presents some of the hardest hitting themes of any J-drama we have recommended before.

Coming out in 2018, the show follows the depressed high-schooler Zenko who commits suicide, while fellow student Ayumi watches her jump off the school rooftop — only for them to switch bodies as Ayumi faints from seeing her fall.

The show explores the two leads literally walking in one another’s shoes, where both the body-snatcher and victim learn something of value from the initially traumatic experience. With the main cast also including two others, the grouping of the four’s coming of age stories showcases just how strong they have become and how their bonds have further aided their growth and maturity, with splendid acting to further fuel the emotional impact.

With the title name taking on new meaning by the end of the show thanks to a powerfully uplifting finale, the messages of Switched provide important comfort to anyone who relates to its subject material.

Available on Netflix.

First Love

J-Drama First Love

First Love is the J-drama for all the true romantics out there, going the extra mile with the saying “love knows no bounds”. It takes you on a stunning adventure with truly exquisite cinematography as it jumps between both the past and the present. With the two leads being one another’s very first loves and high school sweethearts, their paths split off after their time in education comes to an end as the pair want different things for their futures.

Yae and Harumichi are living very different lives in the current time, and regrets start mounting up until chance encounters give them a fresh start. With the theme of fate being heavily relevant to the emotional pulls of its story beats and revelations, the majority of the show does tend to be a little far-fetched, so going into it open-minded and with some semblance of denying reality is a must to fully enjoy it.

But that’s not all that hard to do thanks to its biggest merits – deep and flawed characters who are relatable and wonderfully portrayed, moving and captivating storytelling as well as a soaring, iconic soundtrack that once again involves Utada Hikaru, even as the inspiration for the series’ name in both English and Japanese. First Love is all style and all substance.

Available on Netflix.

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Lilia Hellal
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