Netflix has been producing incredible TV shows in the US for years now. Its reputation has been certified by the success of shows like “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things.”
But Netflix isn’t just the go-to streaming service in the US. It has been expanding throughout the globe, and with that, it has been creating internationally produced Netflix Originals that are as engaging as many of their US shows. The great thing about Originals is that they are available in pretty much all Netflix markets which isn’t the case for the rest of their programming.
1. Atelier (Japan)
Watch this show if you liked: “Gossip Girl,” “13 Going on 30”, or “The Devil Wears Prada.”
This show is a total feminine guilty pleasure, with its gorgeous shots of Ginza, Tokyo, stylish fashion industry mavens and the totally adorable, slightly klutzy main character. It’s been described as a Japanese “The Devil Wears Prada,” and that is pretty accurate.
The story follows a young, nerdy girl named Mayuko fresh out of design school who is a total nerd for new and innovative fabrics. She applies for a job at a high-end bespoke lingerie house and must learn to work under the demanding designer Mayumi Nanjo who is a legend in the industry and unwilling to change her craft to suit the times. From the photos of gorgeous lace lingerie to the adorable relationship she has with her friend who works in a Japanese bridal salon- this show is so easy to watch and packed full of fashion industry intrigue and drama. My heart broke a little when I discovered that “Atelier” was a mini-series and would not have a second season but that just makes it all the more precious.
2. Ingobernable (Mexico)
Watch this show if you liked: “House of Cards,” “Scandal,” or “Quantico.”
Let me start by saying this show is so good that I delayed finishing this article so I could binge it. It stars Kate del Castillo, a titan of Mexican television and movies in this Bourne-film-meets-telenovela. Here’s what you need to know: the first lady of Mexico, Emilia Nava, and her husband have a violent fight in a hotel room about her decision to leave him. During the fight, the president falls to his death over the balcony. As the government mobilizes to locate the first lady who’s on the run, the secrets of her husband’s administration are revealed, and it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems.
You may come for the drama of the first few episodes, but you will stay for the ass-kicking, female characters and political suspense as Emilia goes deeper and deeper into the underbelly of Mexican politics. Oh, and have I mentioned the music? Someone needs to make a playlist of it ASAP because the soundtrack is full of incredible latinx artists- I recommend you start with the theme, Me Verás by La Santa Cecilia.
3. Samurai Gourmet (Japan)
Watch this show if you liked: “No Reservations,” “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” or “The Lunchbox.”
“Samurai Gourmet,” tells the story of Goro Inogashira, who’s just entered retirement, through the food he eats. It is reverential about food, like a lot of food TV, but it takes a unique approach, relishing the quotidian experience of eating unremarkable food.
In the first episode, he is utterly delighted by the prospect of being able to drink a beer anytime he wants, and big band music swells as he downs his lager. The show is pure charm and will speak to the heart of anyone who loves food. Not foodies, not food snobs, but those who relish in the power of meals to serve a purpose. I cannot remember the last time I saw something quite so pure in its intentions, which is not a compliment I would think to pay a TV show. The purity of “Samurai Gourmet” will keep me coming back.
4. 3% (Brazil)
Watch this show if you liked: “The Hunger Games,” “Jericho,” or “Between.”
I’m a sucker for dystopian sci-fi, so I don’t know how it took me so long to watch “3%.” It depicts a world divided into two distinct realms: “Inland” and “Offshore,” where a heavenly “better world” has been created. Inlanders live in poverty, on land stripped its resources, but are allowed to take part in a series of mental and physical tests to gain entry into the better world. “3%” will make it through.
This show presents the emotional and psychological struggle of going through the process. The candidates feel incredibly real, and none of them is somehow above the cruelty of the system. I think that’s what is so compelling about the “3%”: it feels believable enough to pull you into the fast moving current of interweaving stories. I’d recommend watching this with subtitles instead of the English dubbing.
So, what are you waiting for? Queue up Netflix and immerse yourself in another way of seeing the world. We are so often tethered to our phones or browsing our laptops while watching TV, and the beauty of these shows is you can’t do that. Watching in another language demands your attention and rewards it by allowing you to spend a little time monotasking.
And at the same time you’re supporting international (and, as is the case with these shows, non-white) artists. Personally, I love it, and I hope you will too.