What’s Playing: Atelier

Viewed: 2016. 01/24-02/09

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.*

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

Atelier was my introduction to the world of Asian dramas available on YouTube. And there are so, so, many to choose from. Atelier, which is also branded as Underwear in some regions, is the story of Tokita Mayuko** (Mirei Kiritani), a young woman starting out in the couture lingerie fashion industry, and what sets her apart from other startup designers, is her obsession with fabrics. She’s a total nerd, seriously. It kind of makes her adorable.

Emotion, the company she goes to work for, is renowned for its excellence in lingerie, but its owner, President Nanjo Mayumi (Mao Daichi) is both a demanding employer and harbors ambitions and secrets far beyond the experience of little Mayuko, who must learn, in this coming-of-age Netflix Original miniseries, how to grow into the artist she longs to become, and navigate the treacherous world of the fashion industry.

This is the first extended TV series that I can recall ever watching in a foreign language and I admit, there is a learning curve. Unlike other binge-worthy shows on Netflix, dramas in a foreign language (thankfully, with English subtitles, or I’d be hopelessly lost!) do not allow you to follow the story in the background while you’re doing other things. If you don’t know the native language, you have to be paying attention to the subtitles. So yes, there is a lot of reading involved. Once I was able to transition past that, the subtitles fades into the background in the same way that a translator disappears, and you’re just speaking face-to-face with that other person, and focusing on their message, their story.

Albeit with some racy imagery (it is called Underwear for a reason!), you are left with an engrossing story that is universal in its application, if exotic (to Westerners like me), in its setting. And that is probably where I got hooked. The story is for mature audiences (in my opinion, probably teenagers or up), but if you are a fan of fashion workplace dramas like The Devil Wears Prada, you will probably enjoy giving this a try.

If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Atelier, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you.

Over the next few months, expect to see more updates of other Chinese, Korean and Japanese dramas and romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed over the years, available on Netflix.

Author’s note:

  • The trailer is in the original language, without English subtitles, so try to focus on the story, not getting lost by the language (unless you can speak it of course).

** IMDB.com seems to list actor names in Western (first, last) style, and character names in Chinese format (last, first). Here, I’ve tried to include them all in Western style, (for the ease of my readers) and hopefully gotten the names down in the right order. Since I just starting out, if I’ve gotten the names backwards somehow, please let me know so I can edit this post and make corrections, thank you!


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