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The verdict on Netflix Japan: far from extensive, but great for docs

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Having become the leading source for the online streaming of movies and television shows in the U.S., Netflix finally opens its Japan site following months of hype. So, the savvy consumer wants to know, is it worth it?

The first thing you’ll notice, with some surprise, is that you have no way of knowing what content is available on Netflix unless you actually sign up for the service. (Although the first month is free.)

Assuming you give it a shot, you’ll find popular Netflix-produced series such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Daredevil” and “Narcos” that are hard to find in Japan, as well as some exclusive Japan content (like “Underwear” and “Terrace House”). Overall, the selection doesn’t seem a whole lot different from Hulu.jp, although one huge plus is that Netflix has “Breaking Bad” sequel “Better Call Saul.”

Search for “Mad Men” and you’ll find only three seasons, despite the fact that season seven has long since finished overseas. Search for “Downton Abbey” and you’ll find two seasons, which is one better than Hulu, but still three short of where the series is currently at. Search for “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards” or “Empire” and you’ll be disappointed. Let’s just say the catalog is far from extensive right now, mostly due to Japanese rights-holders still grasping tightly to their cable/DVD release platforms, which admittedly provide them with better revenue flow.

Netflix does differ from Hulu in offering a strong and current documentary section, and a premium membership allows users to stream two shows on different devices in the same household simultaneously.

Still, Netflix Japan doesn’t come close to equaling what’s offered on overseas versions of the site — if you can get access to them.