Korean dramas continue to make rapid progress. One day, when I looked at the “Today’s Overall Top 10 (Japan)” on Netflix, I saw that the majority of the dramas were Korean dramas, with at most one or two Japanese productions. Sinking of Japan: Man of Hope,” which was supposed to be a hot topic in Japan, was not included.
Although the ranking of viewership fluctuates from day to day, in late November, nine of the “Today’s Overall Top 10 (Japan)” were Korean dramas. The only Japanese work that ranked in was the anime “The World’s Best Assassin, Reincarnated as a Different World Aristocrat. Korean dramas are so strong that one can no longer help but wonder, “What country am I in? The next day, 9 Korean dramas were ranked in the top 10.
The following day, nine dramas were Korean dramas. In addition, “Love’s Emergency Landing” was ranked 5th and “Itaewon Class ” was ranked 7th again. This indicates that Korean dramas that were popular a year ago are still being watched today.
The biggest hit in Korean drama this year was ” Squid Game”. Needless to say, it became a huge hit not only in Asia but also worldwide.
The number of viewers around the world quickly reached 111 million households when it was first distributed, and it dominated the overall ranking in Japan for two months.
This was the first time a Korean drama had ever ranked No. 1 in the U.S. “Squid Game” became the biggest hit in Netflix history and was nominated for three U.S. Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards.
However, even “Squid Game,” with all its momentum, has yet to become a hit on the level of “Crash Landing on Love” in Japan. This is due to the unique tendency of Japanese Hallyu fans.
In Japan, it is difficult to become popular in the long term.
The popularity of “Squid Game” was taken over by ” Hell is Calling,” another Korean drama. It is the latest film from Yong Sang-ho, director of the Korean film “New Infection: Final Express” (16). A remake of “New Infection” is currently underway in Hollywood, and in addition to that, the Korean drama “Squid Game” has already proven to be interesting. The distribution started amidst high expectations.
As a replacement for “Squid Game,” “Hell is Calling” has also taken the top spot in viewership rankings in various countries, and is in the top 10 in 71 countries and regions.
As in neighboring Asian countries and the West, “Squid Game” and “Hell is Calling” were hits in Japan as well, but their popularity will not last any longer. In contrast to “Emergency Landing of Love,” which triggered a new Korean boom last year, the Korean drama ” Vincenzo,” which was popular in February this year, was also fast fading away.
Vincenzo drew attention in the spring and dominated the top rankings. The Japanese media was all over it, but contrary to expectations, it quickly disappeared from the top 10.
In Japan, even if a game becomes “explosive”, it is difficult for it to become “long term” popular. Squid Game” and “Hell is Calling” are also unlikely to become popular in the long term, given the genre of their works.
In fact, “Squid Game” and “Hell is Calling” have already fallen in the rankings and have been overtaken by the Korean historical drama “Love. Compared to the shocking storyline of “Squid Game,” “Hell is Calling” has fallen rapidly in the rankings, probably because it is more cruel.
Hallyu fans in Japan like “love stories” and “good-looking characters
When I was in charge of planning and writing columns for Hallyu entertainment magazines, I noticed something. When I was working on a project and column for a Hallyu entertainment magazine, I noticed something: Japanese Hallyu fans love love stories and good-looking characters.
Of course, before that, there is the prerequisite of having a story that attracts viewers.
And once Japanese Hallyu fans fall in love with a show, they tend to love it to no end. Winter Sonata” and “It’s a Handsome Man,” which captivated fans for several years, are good examples, and “Emergency Landing of Love” also falls into this category.
On the other hand, “Squid Game” and “Hell is Calling” have become global hits and are still ranked in the top 10 in Korea and the world.
Both of these films are extreme and make you sweat, but the thrill you get from them is something completely different from the thrill of “Love’s Crash Landing”. It is far from a love story. In “Squid Game,” if you lose the game, you die immediately, and in “Hell is Calling,” people are killed without knowing why.
Similarly, “Vincenzo” was a drama with many elements, but it was more hard-boiled than romantic. My Name: Falsehood and Revenge,” starring the popular actress Han So-hee, was also an action-oriented revenge drama. It is still ranked in the top 10 in Korea, but it is unlikely to rise again in Japan.
All of these dramas cost a lot of money to produce and must be well-made entertainments, but they are in a genre that is different from the tastes of Japanese female fans, and few fans seem to fall in love with the drama itself, as in the case of “Love’s Crash Landing.
While “Squid Game” will make you want to watch it again from the beginning when you know what happens at the end, “Hell is Calling” is not a drama that will make you want to watch it again and again, and repeat viewings will be rare.
The attention to the lead actors of “Squid Game” and “Hell is Calling” is not as enthusiastic as that of Hyun Bin in “Love’s Emergency Landing” a year ago. Lee Jung-jae of “The Squid Game” has been active since the 1990s and is very well known in Korea. Yoo Ah-in of “Hell is Calling” has appeared in one hit after another, and the offers keep coming.
Both of them are very popular in Korea, but it seems that it was difficult for them to win the hearts of Japanese viewers with their characters. In this sense, Song Joong-ki, who starred in “Vincenzo,” has not become the same kind of presence in Japan as Hyun-bin was last year.
A drama that is a hit in Korea is not necessarily a hit in Japan.
It is not enough to simply have a “love story” and a “good-looking character. As mentioned above, what is important is the attractiveness of the story. If the content is monotonous and the love story relies on casting, it will not be talked about in Japan and will be forgotten.
For example, dramas that disappointed Korean viewers in spite of their high reputation, such as ” I Know It All,” starring Song Gun and Han So Hee, are out of the question in Japan.
Another thing that can be said is that even dramas that were big hits in Korea are often surprisingly not popular in Japan. As was the case during the heyday of the Korean Wave boom, the tastes of Japanese fans and their ranking in the viewing rankings still show a peculiar trend that is different from that of Korea, the home of the Korean Wave, and from other Asian countries that like Korean entertainment.
Although “Crash Landing on You” became a hot topic in Korea, it did not drag on as it did in Japan. The subsequent broadcast of “The World of Married Couples” had much higher ratings and “Crash Landing on You” was forgotten.
In addition, “Penthouse” was the most popular show in Korea from last year to this year, and it has been aired up to season 3. However, no matter how much of a hit it was in Korea, the absolute popularity of “Emergency Landing of Love” in Japan did not change. The fact that “Love’s Crash Landing” is now ranked in the top 10 again is a sign of this.
In Japan, Netflix is the sole winner, as online distribution has become the mainstream way to watch dramas. No matter how popular a drama is in Korea, such as “The World of Married Couples” or “Penthouse,” it will be difficult for it to gain popularity in Japan unless it is distributed by Netflix.
On the other hand, even if a Korean blockbuster is released on Netflix, it is unlikely to be watched in Japan if the cast is weak. A good example is ” SKY Castle: Wives of the Upper Class,” which had higher ratings than “Love’s Crash Landing” in Korea. It had already been distributed through U-NEXT and other services, but when Netflix started distributing it, it did not become a hot topic.
Similarly, “Marriage Lyrics: Divorce Composition,” a drama by popular Korean scriptwriter Lim Sung-han, was distributed by Netflix until season 2, but it did not attract much attention in Japan. Although the drama itself is interesting, it does not seem to be attracting the attention of younger viewers who started watching Korean dramas with “Emergency Landing of Love.
Perhaps due to this background, viewership rankings in Japan show a different trend than in neighboring countries. Japan and Thailand are the only countries that are still reeling from “Love’s Emergency Landing,” but we will have to wait and see how far the historical drama “Love’s Love” will fight the good fight.
Text： Aiko Kodama (Korean columnist)
A Korea watcher who plans, interviews, and writes for Hallyu entertainment magazines and guidebooks.
In addition to introducing Korean films in the media, she contributes columns on Japan-Korea relations.