Last week the massively popular streaming service Netflix started venturing in a number of countries, including here in Indonesia. Because its main line of business is providing people with things to watch, from movies to TV series, I have always wanted to try it myself. And because recently I started finding out more about the streaming business–I got a job interview in a similar company, what Netflix offers intrigues me. Not to mention, for the past week I’ve been staying home to restrain myself from spending what little I have in my bank account. The arrival of Netflix seemed perfect to fill up my time (Thank God for free trial!).
While its arrival here is an exciting prospect, the content that I have access to is a bit underwhelming. The film library consists of mostly films I have already watched or have no intention in watching. I get why this is happening. I guess it isn’t easy to take care of the rights to be able to make some films available in some countries. But hopefully as time goes by, there will be more options.
The TV series is a different story. Netflix is smart for they have started producing or co-producing their series, and some have gotten popular, too. This is probably the direction they choose when they decide they want to go global: original contents.
That brings me to the first series I finished watching on Netflix: Atelier. Because of my recent bias towards all things Japanese, I chose to start with a Japanese drama series. Atelier, or Underwear–its Japanese title, is Netflix’s original series, co-produced with Fuji Television. It tells a story about an atelier/shop that specializes in beautiful, custom and handmade lingerie. At the central point of the story, there are two women with different backgrounds, point of views, as well as from different generation.
Mayuko Tokita moves to Tokyo from her smalltown home to make it big–the motif of moving to the big city feels a bit American Dream-ish at the start, which on the first episode worried me a little because I was concerned the series would be feel more like an American show with a Japanese cast. (In the following episodes, my concerns are gone, though. Yappari, you can’t get rid of that certain Japanese charm out of a feel-good Japanese drama series.) Anyway, back to Mayumi. She’s basically a fabric nerd–she could tell you the characteristics of a certain fabric and would do a monologue about how a supply room is her heaven. She’s been hired to Emotion, a growing lingerie company owned by Mayumi Nanjo, the genius lingerie designer who sports a very chic haircut that obviously pays homage to Vogue editor, Anna Wintour. Based on the visual, you’d think she would be a mean boss, and although sometimes she says some harsh words, she’s actually a very interesting character that shows (and/or hides) a range of emotions (pun intended).
The story follows Mayuko growing to love the company she works for as well as her tough but interesting boss. Along the way, we also see the other Emotion employees struggle once or twice, either with personal ambitions or the company’s problems. Whatever it is, they are bound by their enterprise in making beautiful lingerie for women.
On first impression, Atelier is incredibly female-driven series. The two central characters are women who upon first meeting already push each other’s buttons. None of them is put into a substantial romantic subplot like what other series would traditionally do. In fact, there is no substantial romantic plot whatsover in this series and I called it on the first episode. Granted, one of the young male characters, Kaji, who is a part-timer in Emotion, holds a crush on Mayuko, but she never reciprocates. Actually, her platonic involvement with Kaji results in her realizing her own ambitions. As for the boss Nanjo, not until late in the season that we find out she has a past relationship that still haunts her. But hers was a relationship between a birth mother and estranged son.
I immensely enjoyed the series for all the corny but compelling philosophy on underwear, and how making a lingerie is like trying to find a woman’s essence. I thought the strong female perspective, without having to flaunt the sometimes obnoxious “Girl power is cool!!!” idea, is refreshing. We’ve established that women matter–the show simply reiterates that women exist in their own complex way, that they have ambition, that they are young at one time, but old in the other time. I also like that the lingerie feels very innocent in this series, instead of a symbol of sexiness and sensuality. Lingerie is a daily need, women wear it all the time but it is hidden. It is their own personal “Emotion”. Sure, you can bare it all sometimes, if you want to. But you are never obligated to.
For the first Netflix series I chose to watch, Atelier is overall a very satisfying experience. It’s a promising start if Netflix is going to consider co-producing more Asian series.