Arab Times

Net­flix woos Ja­pan with new orig­i­nal se­ries about a re­porter

- By Yuri Kageyama Entertainment · Netflix · Japan · Yoshihide Suga · BTS · Shinzō Abe · Tokyo · United States of America · Ryoko Yonekura · Canada · Fujifilm Holdings · Los Gatos, CA · California · Los Gatos · Amazon · Amazon Video · Amazon Prime · Yahoo! · Ryuichi Sakamoto · Mochizuki · Fuji · Yahoo! Japan · The Naked Director · Tokyo Shimbun · Michihito Fujii

Netfl

ix is pro­duc­ing and shoot­ing an orig­i­nal se­ries set in Ja­pan about a jour­nal­ist who chal­lenges author­ity, hop­ing to woo this na­tion that’s hooked on watch­ing good old TV.

Good tim­ing. The se­ries’ hero­ine is based on a muck­rak­ing real-life re­porter, Isoko Mochizuki, who has doggedly ques­tioned a politi­cian who has just be­come prime minister, Yoshi­hide Suga.

Suga took of­fice this week after his boss, Shinzo Abe, re­signed over health prob­lems.

The Net­flix se­ries called “The Jour­nal­ist” is based on the story of Mochizuki, a re­porter for the Tokyo Shim­bun, who kept ask­ing ques­tions of Suga at his news con­fer­ences as chief gov­ern­ment spokesman, de­spite be­ing cut off, ig­nored or ridiculed. That’s a sight com­mon in the US and some other na­tions but rare in hi­er­ar­chi­cal, or­derly Ja­pan.

The se­ries will be di­rected by Michi­hito Fu­jii, who was be­hind a 2019 award-win­ning movie that Net­flix has adapted for the se­ries. For the Net­flix se­ries, Ryoko Yonekura, an ac­tress known for por­tray­ing tough women, plays the re­porter who like Mochizuki goes after coverups and scan­dals. It’s slated for global stream­ing next year, Net­flix an­nounced this week.

The se­ries was de­cided on long be­fore it be­came clear ear­lier this month that Suga was des­tined to be­come prime minister.

“Peo­ple were be­fore look­ing for the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, a story that has travel abil­ity,” Greg Peters, Net­flix’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and chief prod­uct of­fi­cer COO, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

“What we see is that the sto­ries that con­nect with peo­ple around the world are sto­ries that are au­then­tic, that are an­chored in the lo­cal cul­ture, a lo­cal time that re­ally speak a place,” he said.

After five years in Ja­pan, the video stream­ing ser­vice has 5 mil­lion sub­scribers, up from 3 mil­lion last year as the coro­n­avirus pan­demic has peo­ple look­ing for en­ter­tain­ment while they stay home. That’s still a frac­tion of the 193 mil­lion global paid mem­bers Net­flix has, 73 mil­lion of them in the US and Canada.

Tar­get

Net­fix’s im­age in Ja­pan suf­fered over the death ear­lier this year of Hana Kimura, who was in the re­al­ity show “Ter­race House.” The fe­male pro­fes­sional wrestler was found dead in an ap­par­ent sui­cide after be­com­ing a tar­get of so­cial-me­dia ha­rass­ment.

“Ter­race House” aired in Ja­pan as a Fuji TV show in 2012, made with pro­duc­tion com­pany East En­ter­tain­ment. Net­flix, based in Los Gatos, Cal­i­for­nia, said the se­ries was li­censed, although it’s billed as “a Net­flix orig­i­nal se­ries.”

Net­flix ac­quired global stream­ing rights for the show from 2015. The episodes where Kimura ap­peared have been re­moved, but other episodes still air on Net­flix.

“Our hearts go out to Miss Kimura’s fam­ily at this ter­ri­ble time.

Given this tragedy, all pro­duc­tion and the launch of any new episodes have been post­poned in­def­i­nitely,” Net­flix said in a state­ment.

In Ja­pan, Ama­zon Prime Video is No. 1 in stream­ing ser­vices, and the smaller Hulu Ja­pan, U-Next and Ya­hoo! Ja­pan’s Gyao are also ri­vals. Net­flix’s fee starts at 800 yen ($7.50) and goes to 1,800 yen ($17) in Ja­pan.

Ama­zon does not give a break­down by na­tion for its 150 mil­lion global Ama­zon Prime users, but its sub­scribers are es­ti­mated to be about three times Net­flix’s. Net­flix of­fi­cials say some Ama­zon users may use its on­line re­tail ser­vices with­out watch­ing stream­ing con­tent.

Net­flix’s di­rec­tor of con­tent ac­qui­si­tion, Kaata Sakamoto, has been with Net­flix since its Ja­pan launch five years ago. He said hardly any­one ex­pressed in­ter­est in mak­ing con­tent for Net­flix at first.

One hit among its orig­i­nal Ja­panese con­tent has been its “The Naked Di­rec­tor,” based on the life of a pornog­ra­phy film­maker. It pre­miered last year and a sec­ond sea­son is be­ing shot.

The chance to pur­sue top­ics shunned by main­stream TV cou­pled with ac­cess to global au­di­ences makes Net­flix po­ten­tially ap­peal­ing for con­tent cre­ators, ac­cord­ing to Mo­to­hiro Tokuriku, an ex­pert on net trends who works at Ja­panese on­line con­tent plat­form Note.

“I used to have the the­ory that Ja­panese are too used to view­ing TV for free, and won’t ever sign up for paid stream­ing ser­vices, but that’s def­i­nitely chang­ing,” Tokuriku said. (AP)

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