With the highly anticipated Crazy Rich Asians movie on screens in Hong Kong right now, there’s never been more of an appetite for Asian dramas. Here are some of the best Asian TV shows you can catch on Netflix now.
Imagine an antidote to the rowdy, drama-filled, highly sexualized reality shows of the US and UK, and you get Terrace House. A group of young, single strangers move into a house together in Japan: but there are no catfights, no name-calling, no drunken hookups. They simply live under the same roof while carrying out a regular daily routine — and they’re free to leave if they so wish. A panel watches them and provides commentary. It’s been called the anti-Love Island (the summer reality show that has been taking UK by storm since 2017). If you think this is a recipe for boredom, think again, because watching their well-mannered interactions and getting to know each other before starting a courtship is a joy.
Watch if you like: Love Island, Big Brother, America’s Next Top Model
Love Hong Kong’s classic Triad films, but hate TVB’s corny crime dramas? OCTB could be the answer to your prayers. This Hong Kong police thriller is set during the final years of Hong Kong’s colonial period in the 1980s and 1990s, and follows an undercover detective, Phoenix (Jordan Chan), who works in the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau — hence the series’ name. Phoenix has to infiltrate a Triad society and bring them down from within. Expect to see some familiar faces from Hong Kong TV and cinema, plus police chases and gang shootouts.
Watch if you like: Triad films, like Infernal Affairs (2002) and Election (2005)
This 2018 reboot of the iconic 2001 original, which took over the Chinese-speaking world, has everything you need for the perfect romantic comedy: think a shy, beautiful heroin meeting a group of handsome guys. Set in Shanghai, Meteor Garden follows Dong Shancai (Shen Yue) as she begins studying at a prestigious university. She becomes associated with the four most popular guys in school, who are known as F4. Dong gets into beef with them almost right away — but over time, she forges friendships with them (and later romance). The series is also filmed in more than half a dozen locations around the world, so get ready for some wanderlusting.
Watch if you like: The original Meteor Garden, Boys Over Flowers, The O.C.
There’s nothing quite like a Chinese palace drama filled with backstabbing and shade-throwing, and Empresses in the Palace delivers.. This historical drama is setting during the Qing dynasty and centered around Emperor Yongzheng (1678-1735)’s harem of women. A teenage girl, Zhen Huan (Huan Huan), enters the palace as part of the harem and finds herself having to navigate deep waters. She must fight for the emperor’s affection, among a sea of his consorts as well as the Empress (aka his wife). You know that Cantonese expression, “once you marry into a grand family, it’s deep as sea?” They invented that saying for dramas like these.
Watch if you like: Return of the Pearl Princess, The Tudors, The Crown
Based on the original show that aired from 1999 to 2009, this Japanese reality series features seven guys and girls traveling around Asia in a van dubbed the “love wagon.” As they traverse through exotic locales, they have to try and get paired up with one person romantically. But it’s not a simple coupling. Once a participant has found someone they want to pair with, they need to then request a “love ticket” from the driver of the love wagon. After that, the couple goes off to another location (with fellow participants watching), while the one with the hots for the other makes a case for why they should be together. If the proposal is accepted, the couple gets to leave the show — then a new guy and new girl replaces them, and the show continues.
Watch if you like: Paradise Hotel, Top Gear
Thai teen drama Hormones explores topics like sex, drugs, LGBTQ relationships, teen pregnancy and family issues. When the show first aired in Thailand in 2013, it was considered pioneering because it breaks away from the usual sitcom- or soap opera-style format of shows typically produced in the country. Set in Bangkok and featuring an ensemble cast, the show depicts high school students each with their own narratives.
Watch if you like: Freaks and Geeks, Skins, 90210
No list of Asian TV shows is complete without a K-drama or two. Strong Girl Boon-soon follows the story of Do Bong-soon (Park Bo-young), who was born with a superhuman strength that is only found in the women in her family. She becomes a bodyguard to the heir of a wealthy family, Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik). As a series of kidnappings take place in their neighborhood, Bong-soon works towards developing her strengths for good causes. Strong Girl Bong-soon came in at number 10 on the list of highest-rated Korean dramas in cable TV history.
Watch if you like: Jessica Jones, Smallville, My Love from the Star
K-pop, K-idols and K-showbiz? Count us in. Part-time Idol follows the story of K-pop producer (Kim Min-kyo), who quits the music industry only to return with grand plans to put together and train a co-ed pop group. South Korea’s K-pop powerhouse YG Entertainment is involved with the making of the series, and so fans of the genre can expect some earworms being played in the series.
Watch if you like: The Voice, Star
The Philippines’ drug war is brought to the small screen through this Netflix original. Set in Manila, Amo (meaning “boss”) is a crime drama that follows high school student Joseph (Vince Rillon)’s drug operation. Meanwhile, his uncle Camilo (Allen Dizon) is a corrupt a police officer who benefits from working with a gang. Joseph needs his family’s help to get him out of trouble with the law.
Watch if you like: The Wire, Breaking Bad, Narcos
Set in a glamorous lingerie shop called Emotion, located in Tokyo’s Ginza district, Atelier is a Netflix original that follows the story of Mayuko (Mirei Kiritani) as she struggles through her new job there. Mayuko isn’t what you would pin down as a typical hire at a high-end lingerie company: she is criticized for not being beautiful, and for not having good taste. Watch how her story unfolds in the cutthroat world of fashion.
Watch if you like: Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, Lipstick Jungle
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