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Netflix capped off a two-day promotional event in Tokyo Wednesday with the news that it has enlisted Hirokazu Kore-eda, arguably Japan’s most esteemed contemporary auteur, to direct both a series and a feature film. The projects, still in development, will be the director’s first works for a streaming platform.
Kore-eda’s films, characterized by their subtle drama and social commentary, have been earning plaudits on the international festival circuit since the early 2000s, but his career hit new heights in 2018 when his latest Japanese-language feature Shoplifters won both the Cannes Palme d’Or and was nominated for an Oscar.
Kore-eda noted that his Netflix projects will mark a creative departure from his past filmmaking. “Netflix and I are teaming up to create a drama series and a big-budget movie that is different from my previous works,” he said during the event in Tokyo. “You still need to wait for a bit before they’re finished and delivered to you. I incorporate different elements from those in theater movies and try to create exciting works.”
He added that the film will have a much larger scale than his previous features, while the series is something that simply wouldn’t exist in the Japanese TV landscape without Netflix’s support.
Kore-eda described the series as a drama but didn’t reveal any story details. He said he is serving as the project’s showrunner and will direct several episodes himself, while also working with up-and-coming directors who will helm additional episodes.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last week, Kore-eda spoke out against a sense of inertia that has taken hold within the traditional Japanese film industry, with little thought given for how to support young directors and pass on the country’s great film legacy.
“This time I try to incorporate young directors and work with them,” he said Wednesday during his Netflix presentation. “This was also a big appeal for me to work on this project.”
In 2019, Kore-eda released his first non-Japanese title, The Truth, starring Ethan Hawke and Juliette Binoche; and he is currently at work on his first Korean film, Baby, Broker, Boxer, featuring Parasite star Song Kang-ho.
The Kore-eda announcement served as the capstone to Netflix’s two-day content showcase in Japan, where an emphasis was placed on a new effort by the company to boost its output of Japanese original filmmaking. Overall, Netflix vowed to add an additional 50 pieces of Japanese content, either series or films, to the 90 Netflix-branded Japanese titles currently offered on its service.
“Our next big bet is expanding feature films,” said Kaata Sakamoto, Netflix’s vp of content in Japan. “Japan is home to extraordinary talent who shape the cinematic history of the world. With creators as diverse as the ones we work with today, we’re excited to play a role in the history of great local talent finding their voices and delivering them to audiences everywhere.”
Netflix’s newly announced Japanese film titles include romantic drama Love Like the Falling Petals from director Yoshihiro Fukagawa and fantasy mystery Once Upon a Crime by filmmaker Yuichi Fukuda. Both titles are based on popular Japanese books.
Netflix also unveiled a wide collection of live-action Japanese series, including a second season of its popular death game fantasy show Alice in Borderland; romantic drama First Love from female writer-director Yuri Kanchiku; supernatural mystery series Yu Yu Hakusho, based on the hit manga of the same name; Queen of Villains, a show set in the world of 1980s Japanese women’s wrestling; and a Japanese production of the hit Love is Blind format, among several other titles.
Netflix teased a fresh slate of Japanese anime projects in Tokyo, too. The company said work is underway on The Seven Deadly Sins: Grudge of Edinburgh, a spin-off anime film to the hugely successful manga and anime of the same name created by Nakaba Suzuki. Another series to be extended is Kakegurui Twin, a prequel to the hit Kakeguri. Additional newly announced titles include Tiger & Bunny 2, two new titles from the successful Detective Conan spin-off franchise, and The Orbital Children, an anime sci-fi set in a future where kids grow up in space — among others.
Regional media consultancy Media Partners Asia recently estimated that Netflix has approximately 6 million users in Japan, compared to 14.6 million for Amazon Prime Video and 1.8 million for Disney+. The research firm previously said Japan is believed to be Netflix’s largest revenue territory in the Asia-Pacific region, having recently overtaken Australia and New Zealand. The Japanese streaming market is thought to have considerable room to grow, however, with OTT services only just beginning to penetrate the country’s 120 million population at scale.
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