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The streaming wars are heating up in Japan, the world’s third largest economy and a growing driver of subscribers.
After a steady drip of local content announcements from Netflix and Disney+ over recent months, Amazon unveiled its own uptick in production of Japanese originals at a showcase event held in central Tokyo on Wednesday. With a collection of A-list Japanese stars on hand to promote the occasion — Takeshi Kitano, Asami Mizukawa, Sôsuke Ikematsu, Naoya Inoue, and Shinya Ueda — Prime Video’s local executive team unveiled plans for six new Japan originals, as well as additional live boxing rights for the country.
The slate includes a reboot of Kitano’s iconic game show Takeshi’s Castle, a local adaptation of romantic anthology series hit Modern Love, YA romantic horror adventure-comedy series My Undead Yokai Girlfriend, a movie adaptation of Ryota Kosawa’s bestseller Angel Flight, and second seasons of hit shows The Masked Singer and The Bachelorette Japan.
“Japan has incredible storytellers and we are delighted to be working with some of the best filmmakers, writers, directors, producers and actors in the business,” said Takayuki Hayakawa, head of Japanese Originals at Prime Video. “We have something for everyone: from big shows, to drama, to comedy, to live sports. We’re excited to be announcing these incredibly varied new Japanese Amazon Originals.”
The reboot of Takeshi’s Castle, which aired on terrestrial network TBS from 1986 to 1989 and became one of the most successful Japanese game shows ever, will premiere exclusively on Prime Video in 2023.
“This iconic Japanese series has continued to fascinate people all around the world, transcending languages and cultural barriers,” said Hayakawa. “We hope customers of all ages will enjoy this program, with many new tricks on a grander scale
Modern Love Tokyo, a local adaptation of the popular Prime Video anthology series based on the New York Times romance column, will feature five leading Japanese film directors bringing to life a collection of stories set in Japan’s capital. Modern Love Tokyo stars Asami Mizukawa, Hiromi Nagasaku, Yûsuke Santamaria, Sôsuke Ikematsu, and Naomi Scott, with episodes directed by veteran filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Wife of a Spy), Naoko Ogigami (Close-Knit), Ryuichi Hiroki (Ride or Die), Nobuhiro Yamashita (Matsugane ransha jiken), and Atsuko Hirayanagi (Oh Lucy!), the latter also serving as showrunner. The series will premiere this fall.
“With Modern Love Tokyo, we are thrilled to bring a uniquely Japanese dimension to the franchise, a true love letter to the city,” said Erika North, head of APAC Originals at Prime Video. “Proudly, our production was underpinned by gender equality both in front of and behind the camera, featuring a balance of female and male directors and writers, and some of the strongest and multi-dimensional female characters that we have yet seen on Japanese television.”
Set for premiere in 2023, My Lovely Yokai Girlfriend is a half-hour, YA romantic horror adventure-comedy series about a lonely college student who wants nothing more than to find a girlfriend, and a yōkai who accidentally becomes bonded to him through a magical hex. The quirky love story morphs into an adventure saga following a mysterious set of murders, as the two outcasts reconcile their complicated love for each other with a yokai’s mission of reckless vengeance. The series is directed by Takahiro Miki (Love Me, Love Me Not), and created by Yalun Tu (NCIS: Hawaii, Grace) and Zach Hines (Grace).
The feature drama Angel Flight, also launching in 2023, follows a group of professionals who work as international hearse repatriation experts, a job that involves sending people who have died abroad back to their homeland. Featuring moving stories of life and death, the film is being scripted by Ryota Kosawasawa (Aibo, Confidenceman JP) and Takafumi Kosaka (Doctor X).
In the live sports arena, Prime Video announced several pick-ups of popular boxing rights for Japan. Prime members in Japan will have access to Prime Video Presents Live Boxing at no additional cost to their membership, the company said. The first installment of live boxing offer will take place on April 9 with the WBA and IBF World Middleweight title unification fight between Ryōta Murata from Japan and Gennadiy Golovkin from Kazakhstan. Later, the service will livestream the WBA, IBF, and WBC World Bantamweight title fight between WBA World Bantamweight Super Champion and IBF Bantamweight World Champion Naoya Inoue, and WBC World Bantamweight Champion Nonito Donaire on June 7 from Japan’s Saitama Super Arena.
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