Netflix woos Japan with new original series about a reporter

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This image released on Sept. 7, 2020, by Netflix shows Takayuki Yamada, left, who stars in "The Naked Director," striking a pensive pose with co-star Misato Morita. The key challenge for Netflix in Japan lies with producing attractive original content, featuring directors, actors and writers out of Japan, not just licensing Japanese TV shows and movies. To keep the momentum going, Netflix would love to have more blockbusters in its self-produced lineup like The Naked Director, which premiered last year. The second season is now being shot. (Netflix via AP)

TOKYO – Netflix is producing and shooting an original series set in Japan about a journalist who challenges authority, hoping to woo this nation that’s hooked on watching good old TV.

Good timing. The series’ heroine is based on a muckraking real-life reporter, Isoko Mochizuki, who has doggedly questioned a politician who has just become prime minister, Yoshihide Suga.

Suga took office this week after his boss, Shinzo Abe, resigned over health problems.

The Netflix series called “The Journalist” is based on the story of Mochizuki, a reporter for the Tokyo Shimbun, who kept asking questions of Suga at his news conferences as chief government spokesman, despite being cut off, ignored or ridiculed. That’s a sight common in the U.S. and some other nations but rare in hierarchical, orderly Japan.

The series will be directed by Michihito Fujii, who was behind a 2019 award-winning movie that Netflix has adapted for the series. For the Netflix series, Ryoko Yonekura, an actress known for portraying tough women, plays the reporter who like Mochizuki goes after cover-ups and scandals. It's slated for global streaming next year, Netflix announced this week.

The series was decided on long before it became clear earlier this month that Suga was destined to become prime minister.

“People were before looking for the lowest common denominator, a story that has travel ability,” Greg Peters, Netflix’s chief operating officer and chief product officer COO, told The Associated Press.

“What we see is that the stories that connect with people around the world are stories that are authentic, that are anchored in the local culture, a local time that really speak a place,” he said.