Anyone who hasn’t watched an Asian series will, sooner or later, come across one of them. Especially those who usually browse streaming platforms in that famous “what can I see today?”.
Known generally as dramas, the series include content produced in Japan, South Korea and China. It needs to be punctuated: drama refers to Japanese content. The term refers to the Japanese pronunciation of the word drama. Japanese series can also be called J-drama.
Korean content, the most viewed today, is called K-drama – the term has already gained registration in the Oxford dictionary. The Chinese are the C-dramas. And the T-dramas are Thai. The themes are diverse: comedy, action, romance, suspense, fantasy, horror and history.
In the top 10 of the most watched series on Netflix in Brazil in the last week, there were two Korean productions: Uma Lawyer Extraordinary, which tells the saga of Woo, an autism carrier who stands out in the legal environment, and The Three Sisters, inspired by the book Little Women, by the American Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888).
Juliana Pessoa, 22 years old, in May 2020, at the height of the pandemic, was looking for what to watch on streaming platforms. At her mother’s recommendation, she started watching Asian series. Since then, she has seen 63 productions. She became a classic dorameira. K-dramas are her favorite.
“I swear I work too”, she jokes, who didn’t think twice about exchanging a national company for a vacancy in the marketing of a Korean multinational in the technology area. The reason, in addition to the professional, is the love for the series. “What catches my attention the most is the format. The endings are always surprising. There is always a cuteness in relationships. The most you’ll see is a ‘mini kiss’ between couples. It’s very different from American series”, says Juliana .
She started to study Korean to not depend on subtitles – sometimes the productions are difficult to receive the Portuguese or English version. And fans don’t want to wait.
English teacher Ally Stopa, 26, also studies Korean with a native speaker. And she’s packed for an exchange in Korea. She became interested in dramas in late 2019. “I was tired of Western series,” she says, who has increased her consumption of ramen noodles because of K-dramas.
The first one that Ally followed was One Spring Night, a romantic drama still available in the Netflix catalog. Soon after, she created an Instagram profile, @zoandodorama, which currently has 134,000 followers.
Ally highlights the variety and the “family” side of the scripts as a positive point of the productions. “You can watch it on a Sunday, with everyone in the room. There’s no scare with sex scenes. It’s all lighter,” she says.
Dramas, that is, Japanese series, have been present on Japanese television since the 1950s. Before, they were already successful on the radio. They originate from manga, the typical Japanese comic books.
Dramas gained strength in Japan between the 1970s and 1980s, according to Larissa de França, a researcher at the Nejap (Nucleus of Japanese Studies) at the Federal University of Santa Catarina. The big boom came in the 1990s, when it started to be exported.
“The Knights of the Zodiac (a series based on manga and anime) helped to attract interest in Japanese culture. Korean dramas gained prominence in the 2000s and collaborated even more with the dissemination of the genre”, explains Larissa. With the emergence and strengthening of streaming platforms, everything has become even more accessible.
The researcher explains that, in Japan, the preference is for plots that portray everyday life. Productions there follow strict release dates based on the seasons. Those displayed in spring and summer are the most popular. Each broadcaster has a preference for a genre.
“NHK, for example, produces morning dramas, to be watched over coffee, which are 15 minutes long, something they don’t have in Korea. The most classic episodes, romance, last 45 minutes and are shown once a week on prime time,” he says.
Larissa says that, in general, the viewer comes to Asian series when they are looking for a novel to watch. For her, the possibility of interacting with a new culture – cuisine and means of transport are always on the scene, for example – also contribute to holding the public’s attention.
Dramas are easy to marathon. In general, stories are resolved in one season, in 12 or 24 episodes lasting about 50 minutes each – and the Japanese are pretty strict about that. There is no time variation in different episodes as occurs, for example, in Brazilian soap operas.
K-dramas are a little longer. Young Lady and Gentleman, for example, from 2021, has 52 episodes. The production caused controversy in the country of origin for dealing with the love between an older man and a younger woman.
In addition to Netflix, other platforms offer dramas and k-dramas. One of them is Rakuten Viki, which has 1,500 titles, translated into up to 150 languages. Among its highlights are series such as What Happened to Secretary Kim?, Love Between Fairy and Devil, Love in Contract, Good Job and If You Wish Upon Me.
Viki has over 63 million registered users in 250 countries. Brazil, according to the platform’s press office, is one of its main markets. The audience is mainly composed of women between 18 and 34 years old.
“We believe that Brazilians are discovering and consuming more Asian dramas because the series are creative, original and extremely relevant to young audiences”, says Sarah Kim, content director at Viki.
The Kocowa platform is exclusively dedicated to South Korean productions – in addition to series, it offers reality shows and music programs, with subtitles in Portuguese.
Disney’s Star+ released two new series in September: With the Court’s Permission and Taiwanese Women. They were joined by Snowdrop and Grid, two K-dramas, which were already out of print.
On pay-TV, the novelty is the romantic comedy Sobre Amar e Saborear, produced by the MBS network in Japan, which premiered on October 3rd in the night slot on the Prime Box Brasil channel.
The series tells the story of Megumi, a single writer who is asked to write a column about her blind dates with potential suitors. She is a foodie (addicted to gourmet food) and finds them in restaurants in Tokyo. Sobre Amar e Saborear airs three times a week. The second season premieres in November.
For Yoshimitsu Naohara, international business manager at MBS, the series has unique aspects that will catch Brazilians by mouth and by heart. “Each episode is an independent story, with a different man (boyfriend). Also, dinner and courting are a universal part of life for all human beings, but they are even more attractive to Brazilians, who are very passionate,” she says. he.
Previously, Prime Box Brasil had shown Chinese content. The audience, according to the channel, increased by 2,000 thousand percent. For 2023, the channel says it intends to continue investing in Asian series.
Streaming audience numbers are not usually opened by platforms. However, according to Claudia Dreyer, Head of Acquisitions and International Partnerships at Box Brazil Media Group, data from the South Korean government indicate that Brazil is fifth in the world in terms of K-dramas consumption.
Among the best-known actors in Asian series is the South Korean Choi Woo-shik, who is in the cast of Our Eternal Summer. The actor participated in the film Parasite, by Bong Joon-ho, which won an Oscar in 2020.
One of the stars is Park Min-young from Love in Contract, who can also be seen in What Happened to Secretary Kim? and Climate of Love. Park Eun-bin, who stars in A Lawyer Extraordinary, is one of the highlights of the moment.
It remains to be seen when Brazilian open television stations will surrender to Asian series. The Loading channel, which was dedicated to the pop and geek world by showing anime, ended its activities in November 2021. The channel was taken over by the World Church of the Power of God.
A Lawyer Extraordinary (Netflix)
The story of the lawyer with autism spectrum disorder has been in the Top 10 Brazil for most viewed content for ten weeks.
The Three Sisters (Netflix)
Family betrayal and the involvement of the three sisters in a crusade against one of the most powerful families in the country.
Surprise Suit (Netflix)
Romantic comedy, which tells the story of the girl who goes on a surprise date instead of her friend, was once among the global Top 10 for most watched content.
Love in Contract (Rakuten Viki)
It addresses a topic that generates curiosity among the Brazilian public: marriage by contract. The girl who facilitates the links does not escape a trap of fate.
What Happened to Secretary Kim? (Rakuten Viki)
Narcissistic businessman does not realize the qualities of his secretary. Upon leaving work, she sets out in search of her true identity.