Netflix Inks 5-Year Deal with Japanese Producer Aki Isoyama 5

Netflix is getting deeper into business with hit-making Japanese producer Aki Isoyama. The streamer revealed Thursday that it has signed an exclusive agreement to produce and distribute new series and films from Isoyama over the next five years. The deal continues Netflix’s increasingly bullish investments in the Japanese content space.

Isoyama has been behind some of Netflix’s most successful Japanese drama titles of late. She executive produced the time-traveling comedy Extremely Inappropriate!, which topped Netflix’s most-watched list in Japan for three weeks this spring. The story of a single father who is mysteriously transported from 1986 to the present day, the series became something of a social phenomenon in Japan, tapping into the country’s mixed feelings over its growing embrace of international progressive ideals. The lighthearted show takes its title from the misplaced lead character’s frequently retrograde behavior — crude remarks, spanking kids, cigarette smoking everywhere — which was part and parcel of Japan’s freewheeling 1980s bubble era but have fallen out of favor in the tamed Tokyo of today.

Isoayama and Netflix also found success with Let’s Get Divorced, released globally last June. Another socially relevant drama with an appealingly light touch, the show tells the story of an outwardly happy and successful Japanese couple who decide to buck with tradition and address the discontent at the heart of the marriage.

“Isoyama’s work always captures the zeitgeist, posing deep questions while remaining captivating and charming,” says Netflix’s head of content in Japan, Kaata Sakamoto. “She is a master storyteller who showcases Japan and its culture in an uplifting and entertaining way. We’re excited to see what new stories Aki Isoyama will create with Netflix, highlighting Japan’s allure to a global audience.”

Netflix says Isoayama is already at work on the first series that will be released under the new deal. Described as being told in a “never-before-seen style,” the new project sees Isoyama reteam with her longtime screenwriter partner, Kankuro Kudo (Extremely Inappropriate, Let’s Get Divorced, Ikebukuro West Gate Park and Kisarazu Cat’s Eye). Netflix says further details of the project will be released soon.

Adds Isoyama: “Netflix offers many kinds of local stories, and I saw this partnership as an opportunity to add more uplifting works from Japan. I want to share a different side of modern Japan beyond period dramas and traditional imagery often seen in foreign films. With streaming amplifying our stories to global audiences, cultural barriers are breaking down, diversity and freedom in storytelling are increasing, and even Japan’s traditional business practices are evolving. I want to create optimistic, human-centered works that reflect today’s reality.”

Netflix’s deal with Isoyama follows other recent tie-ups with Japanese content producers, including Tokyo-based banners The Seven (creators of Alice in Borderland, and Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho series adaptation) and Babel Label Studio (The Journalist). The streamer has also linked with A-list names from the Japanese film world, such as Cannes favorite Hirokazu Kore-eda (who made his streaming debut by producing the geisha series The Makanai) and veteran writer Yuji Sakamoto (who penned the Netflix film In Love and Deep Water).

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