When dLibrary Japan’s ad showed up in my Facebook feed boasting legal streams of Doctor X, Sanada Maru, and Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai, I was on their website signing up for the free one-week trial faster than you could say “Shippai shinai no de!”
dLibary’s lineup might look familiar to cable subscribers who’ve used the TVJapan service (dLibrary is also managed by NHK), but the perks are better and the price is much cheaper: $9.99/month with access by PC, smartphones, and tablets.
dLibrary’s catalog currently lists only 19 programs, but more additions are coming in February and March, including popular dramas like Jin, Ryomaden (starring Masaharu Fukuyama), two more seasons of Ryoko Yonekura’s Doctor X, and hundreds more episodes of the legendary morning drama Oshin.
I’ve tested the app at home and at my local Starbucks, and in both cases I had zero problems connecting, jumping back and forth in the program stream, or navigating the “My List” feature. The shows are available in 1080p and you can pick up where you left off no matter what device you’re on. There’s no temporary download feature like you would find on Netflix, so you’ll need reliable Wi-Fi if you’re going to drop some J-drama on your daily train ride. In many cases, you’ll have to endure clumsy English titles “Daddy Sister” or “Here Comes Asa!” to find what you’re looking for.
The bad news for non-fluent Japanese drama fans is that (to date) only two series have English subtitles, the yearly Taiga dramas Sanada Maru (starring Masato Sakai) and Tenchijin (with Satoshi Tsumabuki). The lack of English support is a strange omission, because drama fans know the official subs exist (I’ve even seen Doctor X on international flights) and the service is specifically licensed for the North American audience. I hope the service can expand its English offerings soon, and I’m eager to see if the new February programs will kick that into gear.
In the meantime, I’ve got 40+ more episodes of Sanada Maru to keep me going.
Check out dLibrary Japan’s free one-week trial here:
Current Programs (January 2018)
Asa ga Kita (Here Comes Asa!)
Atsuhime (Princess Atsu)
Dr. STOЯKS (Kounodori)
Doctor X – S1
Doctor X – S2
Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai (The World Unknown to Matsuko)
Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu (The Full-Time Wife Escapist)
Shitamachi Rocket (Downtown Rocket)
Toto Nee-chan (Daddy Sister)
Tsuribaka Nisshi 1 (Free and Easy 1)
Tsuribaka Nisshi 2 (Free and Easy 2)
Tsuribaka Nisshi 3 (Free and Easy 3)
Tsuribaka Nisshi 4 (Free and Easy 4)