Whether it’s a lockdown or the weather keeping you inside, we’ve gathered a bunch of recommendations on what to watch - and some on what to listen to - to keep you entertained.
Grouped (loosely) by topic and in no particular order, have a look for your next binge-worthy series made in or about Asia.
Travel without travelling with Netflix’s documentary series Street Food: Asia. From crispy, savoury chaat in India to reef eel soup in the Philippines, this is the perfect Asia food tour, although beware – don’t watch while hungry. The nine-part series takes you first to Thailand’s Jay Fai restaurant where the khai jeaw poo (crab omelette) earned a Michelin Star.
In a slightly different vein, Midnight Diner and follow-up Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a great Netflix comfort watch. Set in Meshiya, a late-night diner, it focuses on the restaurant’s owner – the mysterious ‘Master’ – and the lives of his customers. Sweet and intimate, grab a blanket, curl up and give it a watch.
If you want to get your blood pumping, the Hindi film Baahubali and its sequel Baahubali 2 makes for great action escapism. The movies follow a young man on a mission to rescue a princess from a vicious warlord. Get ready for beautiful sets, extravagant storytelling, stunning fight scenes and just a little bit of ridiculousness.
If you want your action with some zombie horror, Netflix has no end to content from South Korean genre masters: Train to Busan won global accolades for its take on zombies, while the tv show Kingdom freshens up the genre – set in feudal Korea, it intertwines political power plays with flesh-eating monsters.
Perhaps you’re more in the mood to learn – in that case, Singapore’s Channel News Asia outlet has a YouTube channel called CNA Insider, packed with free full-length documentaries. From WWII shipwrecks near Indonesia to the Philippines’ obsession with beauty pageants, you’ll be surprised at what you can find.
Closer to home, step onto the cricket pitch with Beyond the Boundary - ICC Women's T20 World Cup, on Netflix. Featuring highlights from the 2020 tournament, it also profiles the Asian teams - including Thailand, one of the newest teams to the tournament.
Sometimes, you need a show that keeps you guessing to the end – luckily, Netflix has just the selection of Asian crime dramas.
First up is Signal. In an almost sci-fi twist to the genre, profiler Park Hae-young finds a walkie-talkie in 2015 and discovers he can talk to Detective Lee Jae-han – who's listening in from 1985. The pair solve crimes together, but sometimes end up changing the future.
Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) is a bilingual show set across Tokyo and London where detective Kenzio Mori becomes immersed in the dark underbelly of both cities as he hunts for his brother’s murderer.
Parts of Asia are seeing cultural and societal change when it comes to the rainbow community and LGBTQ+ content is on the rise, with some stellar content coming out over the last year.
Earlier this year, a Hong Kong remake of Ossan’s Love made an on-screen splash. The drama, starring singers from popular local boyband Mirror, is the first mainstream show focusing on same-sex relationships to air on public television. The tale of self-discovery and romance follows a young man who finds himself in a love triangle between his boss and his roommate - Ossan's Love can be found on YouTube.
Moving to Taiwan, Your Name Engraved Herein, released on Netflix last September, is one of the highest-grossing films in the history of Taiwan’s queer cinema. Set in 1987, shortly after Taiwan’s Martial Law lifted, the film tells a bittersweet coming-of-age story of two boys in a boarding school, as they develop a forbidden relationship.
If you’re sick of screens, maybe a podcast is more the speed you’re after?
In that case, try out The Lazarus Heist, by Jean Lee, ex-AP Pyongyang bureau chief. In 2016, North Korean hackers came within an inch of stealing nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh’s national bank. How did such an isolated country become a frontrunner in cybercrime? Listen and download the series from the BBC.
Keeping on the North Korean theme, The Last Voyage of the Pong Su is a gripping listen. It follows the true story of the North Korean cargo ship the Pong Su and its role attempting to import a record amount of heroin to Australia – listen on iTunes or Google Podcasts.
For a different speed, some of The Economist’s free podcasts, The Economist Radio and The Intelligence, have lots of good Asia content. Some examples are Value-free investing: China and Afghanistan, and Money talks: what tech does China want? but have a peruse and see what takes your fancy.
- Asia Media Centre