If you’re in the SEA region, chances are Netflix is your go-to platform for watching Japanese content. It’s got a huge selection of anime ranging from new anime like Spy X Family to even older classics like the original Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop.
That’s all well and good, but of course there’s also the question of the future- what’s next for Netflix? They brought us out on the J Wave Experience, a three-day excursion into the heart of Tokyo to celebrate all the blockbuster titles on the streaming platform.
Oh, You’re Approaching Gudetama? (Day 1)
Day 1 saw us celebrating Sanrio- a veritable corner of Otaku culture with the minds behind Hello Kitty, Cinamoroll, Aggretsuko and Gudetama. We got to visit the headquarters for these popular characters, in an office so pastel and fluffy I could have sworn I’d died and gone to, well, Sanrio HQ. In the center of the office was a shrine to Cinamoroll, celebrating its 20th anniversary with an appropriately fluffy altar.
Naturally, a large amount of the office also sported Hello Kitty- arguably the most dominant force in Sanrio’s roster of beloved mascots. I’m not kidding when I say just the reception area for the office was already enough to overload your senses for cute mascot creatures. If we weren’t being ushered to the main event, there’s a good chance we very well might have just been stuck in a Sanrio-induced trance for the rest of the day.
Of course, that’s not the only reason we were there- Netflix and Sanrio had arranged for a special presentation by Gudetama creator AMY, in conjunction with the live action Gudetama: An Eggcelent Adventure. AMY took our questions and even gave us a live demonstration of her drawing Gudetama, before giving us our own signed artworks of the lazy breakfast staple.
How would you even describe AMY? In short, she’s exactly the kind of person you’d expect to look at a raw egg and decide it should be the model of millennial philosophy. She was incredibly soft-spoken, and relaxed enough to put a whole room of anxious journalists at ease.
Things got even more lit when Netflix brought in Gudetama and Aggretsuko for photo ops. You always see these videos of cute mascot characters fooling around but there’s nothing quite like realizing you’re trapped in a meeting room with a giant egg yolk who seems intent on bumping into every surface.
After our time with AMY and mascots of Gudetama and Aggretsuko, we were off to Akihabara for a special screening of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean. As someone used to watching JoJo usually on my living room floor and within arms reach of something that can’t possibly be good for me, it was quite the experience seeing the Bohemian Rhapsody arc in a fancy theater room.
Heck, imagine my surprise when they bust out Heaven’s Falling Down- the new OP sequence for the anime. I remember practically vibrating in my chair with excitement seeing Anasui and Weather Report fend off as many public domain characters as possible.
You can read more about my thoughts on the episodes themselves, but this was a totally classy way to actually show off the conclusion to Jolyne’s fight against Pucci.
Day 2- At The Home Of Anime
For Day 2, we got a special treat: a trip out to Netflix Japan HQ! This was an office completely adorned with memorabilia of Netflix’s various shows. From Tiger and Bunny to JoJo, there were posters and merch for all the different Netflix shows for fans to geek out over.
What really caught my eye at the Netflix Offices was, strangely enough, the meeting rooms. Just like how SEGA had theirs named after cornerstones of SEGA history, Netflix names their meeting rooms after hit shows, such as the Upside Down Meeting Room, which was based on their little-known show Stranger Things.
While the contents of the room might have actually been right side up, the tribute does extend a little further than that- the halls are decked out in massive murals celebrating their shows, such as a 2-wall display for Stranger Things or a gorgeous black-and-white render to Baki The Grappler.
After checking out all the mini tributes to Netflix’s massive content library and some obligatory photos with the Red Light Green Light robot from Squid Game, we were brought up to the dining area for a luncheon with the Content Executives from Netflix Japan, who even answered some of our questions about the business of making high-stakes dramas and heart-pounding anime.
Makiko Okano from Live Action and Creative Series, for example, says that one of Netflix Japan’s strengths is that it doesn’t adopt a lot of the traditional Japanese corporate structure:
“What was a surprising company culture for me was freedom and responsibility. Japan has a traditional corporate culture with ‘Hanko’ “, she said, referring to stamps.
“To get your ideas approved by your superiors, we use “Hanko” as a step-by-step process in the company to make one decision. At Netflix, you are expected to make the decision that benefits Netflix as a professional in your field with freedom and responsibility. So not having “Hanko” was surprising to me”.
Head of Netflix Anime Yuji Yamano also explained that part of the challenge of getting weekly series on Netflix lie in getting subtitles out on time, since anime production schedules were so tight:
“One of the challenges anime productions face is that many often finish on or close to the air date, giving us no room to create subtitles or dubs. So we work with production companies to create a workflow that will allow us to create the highest quality subtitles in the shortest amount of time”, he says.
With the luncheon done, we moved on to our next spot: the heart of Shibuya! This was a tour of various hotspots featured in Alice In Borderland, including the iconic Shibuya Scramble. As an anime fan touring around Shibuya is a long-time goal: it’s been featured in so many different series and games, from recent titles like Persona 5 to even classics like The World Ends With You.
Of course, the pinnacle (quite literally) of this tour was the Shibuya SKY. The top of this skyscraper was a perfect place for a picnic, as your messy hair somehow gets messier being thrown around by the wind like you just got transported into an empty Shibuya.
We naturally ended the day at a rooftop bar, with some finger foods courtesy of everyone’s favorite platform to use as an excuse for calling people over to chill.
Day 3- Speaking Of Arisu…
Day 3’s itinerary was way more easygoing than the previous days. Today’s objective was simple: maintain composure around Kento Yamazaki, star of Alice In Borderland. Considering how his character, Arisu, is depicted as messy, it’s almost whiplash inducing how well Kento presents himself. From his slick floral suit to his down-to-earth demeanor, it was great listening to him talk about how humbled he was to be part of a project as big as Alice In Borderland.
It wasn’t just some coffee-shop banter with Kento, either. Netflix got the full works, with a studio dressed with Alice In Borderland decor to interview the man. You can read about more of his thoughts about Alice In Borderland, though fair note: he does get into a bit of Season 1 spoilers. Alternatively, you can also behold this magnificent specimen of a human being with Alice In Borderland Season 2, available this week on Netflix.
The Flight Home
If there’s one thing I walked away with from Netflix’s event, it’s that the premier Tinder date activity platform knows how to throw a party. A huge reason so many anime fans want to go to Japan is because of how prominently featured it is in so many series (there’s at least two whole death game series set in Shibuya alone). Tokyo is a gorgeous city even to the non-otaku, but getting to tour it while also chatting up the people behind the optimal anime viewing experience is definitely one for the books.