If you are a fan of Japanese dramas, then you will know that finding places to watch them legally is much more difficult (compared to Korean or Chinese dramas anyway). Netflix is working on expanding its range of Japanese dramas, which is good news for international fans. However if your budget cannot stretch to a Netflix subscription, there are other options out there. Here are three places to get your Japanese drama fix for free (or very cheap)!
Crunchyroll has been established for some time as the go-to place to watch the latest anime, and to a lesser extent manga. Crunchyroll has evolved over the years to provide a wide range of Japanese shows in an on-demand format. This includes a pretty good range of Japanese dramas; whether you enjoy suspense dramas or romcoms, you will find something you enjoy here.
Crunchyroll (like the others on this list) operates on a ‘freemium’ model, meaning you can watch most of the content in standard definition for free with adverts interspersed in each episode (usually at least 4 ad breaks in a 45-minute drama episode). To get rid of the ads and stream in HD, you need to pay a subscription cost of £4.99/$6.95 per month.
- Can install the Crunchyroll app on a variety of platforms: iOS, Android, pretty much all video game platforms
- Broad range of dramas to watch
- Annoying adverts (on the Android App, you tend to get 2-3 ads at the same time which are not skippable at all)
- No options for Japanese subtitles
Being mostly interested in Japanese dramas, I’ve listed the Jdramas you can watch for free (further content is available if you have a subscription).
List of Japanese Dramas available on Crunchyroll:
99 Days with the Superstar
Always the Two of Us
Anohana: The Flower We Saw that Day
Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia’s Case Files
A Taste of Honey
Biyou Shounen Celebrity
Crazy for Me
Death Note (live action drama)
Detective vs Detectives
Dr Coto’s Clinic
Forget Me Not
Frenemy ~Rumble of the Rat~
Future Diary: Another World
GTO/ Great Teacher Onizuka
GTO: Taiwan Special
Hard to Say I Love You
High School Entrance Exam
I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper
Iryu: Team Medical Dragon
Life in Additional Time
Mischievous Kiss – Love in Tokyo
Mischievous Kiss 2 – Love in Tokyo
Mr. Nietzche in the Convenience Store
No Dropping Out ~Back to School at 35~
Power Office Girls 2013
The 101st Proposal
The Perfect Insider
You Taught Me All the Precious Things
Viki is a website that is a subsidiary of Japanese online retail giant Rakuten. The website has a large collection of Korean, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese dramas in addition to Japanese dramas. The collection of Japanese dramas is relatively small but there is some variety in terms of genres.
What I like about the website (and app) is that it is very easy to use. It is easy to filter by Japanese dramas and if you create an account, you can save a list of dramas you want to watch later. You can read drama reviews by other members, and it is possible to turn on live comments showing reactions from other users whilst you watch the drama too which helps foster a sense of community.
For language learners, you usually have the option to switch subtitles in the options between English, Japanese, and many other languages. Viki members help with the translations, which helps make the dramas accessible to many people around the world.
Viki is free to view, but ad-free and higher quality videos require a Viki pass, which has a subscription cost of $4.99 per month.
- Sense of community
- Japanese subtitles available for a lot of dramas
- App is very slick and easy to use
- Limited selection of dramas
- Annoying adverts (slightly better than Crunchyroll in that they are usually skippable)
List of Japanese dramas available on Viki:
A Doctors’ Affairs
A Heartfelt Trip to Fukushima [TV show]
All About My Siblings
Clinic on the Sea
Delicious Niigata in Japan [TV show]
Festival: Pride for Hometown [TV show]
Girls Night Out [TV show]
GTO in Taiwan
Hakuoki SSL: Sweet School Life
Hello! Project Station [TV show]
Hirugao: Love Affairs in the Afternoon
I am Reiko Shiratori!
I am Reiko Shiratori the Movie
Juho 2405 the Movie
Kimi wa Petto (2017 remake)
Leiji Matsumoto’s OZMA
Let’s Explore Fukushima
Love Stories from Fukuoka
Murakami Grand Festival 2016
My Little Lover
Nogizaka 46 Meets Asia [TV show]
Painless: The Eyes for Signs
Railway Story [TV show]
Ramen Loving Girl
Second to Last Love (Season 1 and 2)
Sendai Iroha Zoukangou [TV show]
Switch Girl Season 1
Tabiaruki from Iwate [TV show]
Tales of Tohoku [TV show]
The Hours of My Life
The Sanjo Great Kite Battle [TV show]
Upcoming! [TV show]
Visiting Sacred Places of the Tohoku Region
This is sort of an honourable mention as due to licensing, none of the Japanese dramas I tried were available to stream in the UK 😦
Like Viki, Drama Fever is mostly focused on Korean and Chinese dramas but does have a small selection of Japanese dramas as well.
Whilst there is some overlap with Viki/ Netflix, there are a few unique dramas. All dramas have English subtitles, in addition to quite a few other languages.
Watching the dramas is free, but a full subscription allowing additional features such as HD quality, offline viewing and casting to other devices costs $2.99 a month.
It is a shame that I couldn’t get to watch some of the unique content Drama Fever has. I am hoping by including it on this list, people in other countries will be able to make use of this website.
- Website/ app is nice to use
- Subscription relatively cheap
- Not available in many countries
- Small selection of dramas
List of Japanese dramas available on Drama Fever:
Spring Has Come [Haru ga kita]
Mischevious Kiss Seasons 1 and 2
Switch Girls Seasons 1 and 2
The Reason I Can’t Find My Love
Love Affairs in the Afternoon
The Hours of My Life
Partners by Blood
A Clinic on the Sea
The Perfect Insider
So that’s my current list of free Netflix alternatives for Japanese dramas. If you are aware of any others then please let me know and I can add them to the list.
The post I wrote on Netflix has some tips on how you can use TV shows in general to study Japanese.
Are you a Jdrama fan or not? What are your favourite dramas or TV shows to watch in Japanese? Let me know in the comments!