Vampire in the Garden
Photo: Netflix 'Vampire in the Garden'

5 best Japanese films and series coming to Netflix in May 2022

From slice-of-life anime and heartfelt dramas to a mouthwatering movie about food set in Edo-era Japan

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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We love dark documentaries and dystopian thrillers as much as the next person, but you can have too much of a good thing. With the exception of ‘Vampire in the Garden’ – which looks ultra violent – the month of May will bring more mellow and uplifting features to match the cheery spring season, with slice-of-life titles like ‘Akebi’s Sailor Uniform’ and wholesome dramas like ‘Mio’s Cookbook’. (Note: regional restrictions may apply.)

The Stranger by the Beach 

Synopsis: Shun Hashimoto is an aspiring novelist who lives in Okinawa after his parents disowned him for being gay. One day, he meets an orphaned high schooler on the beach called Mio and the pair slowly get to know each other before Mio abruptly announces his plans to relocate from the island into the city on the mainland. Mio eventually returns to Okinawa as a 20-year-old with the intention of professing his love for Shun, but it’s been three years since the two last met and a lot of things have changed for Shun in the interim. 

Overview: ‘The Stranger by the Beach’ is a 2020 anime film adaptation based on the 'L'etranger' manga series by Kanna Kii. While the original story has been classified as a BL (boys love) manga, the anime has a surprising amount of depth to it. It also veers away from gratuitous intimate scenes that only exist for the sake of fan service. Sweet, wistful and beautifully executed, this is one of the best Japanese LGBTQ+ films on Netflix to date. 

Available May 1. 

Mio’s Cookbook 

Synopsis: After losing her parents in a devastating flood, young Mio leaves her hometown in Osaka to pursue a life as a cook in Edo Tokyo. While Mio has a lot of potential in the culinary arts, she has a difficult time grasping the differences between the cooking techniques and the flavours she was accustomed to in Osaka and the food culture of Edo. Mio is determined to prove herself nevertheless. All the while, she looks for the next chance to reunite with her childhood friend Noe, who is also in Edo and working as an oiran (high-class courtesan). 

Overview: Written and directed by Haruki Kadokawa, this mouthwatering film will delight anyone who loves the ‘Kiyo in Kyoto’ anime series. Honoka Matsumoto (‘Love Like the Falling Petals’) plays the role of Mio. 

Available May 6. 

Mio on the Shore

Synopsis: Mio, who’s 20 years old, lives in Nagano and runs an old inn with her grandmother. When her grandmother falls ill and has to be hospitalised, Mio’s aunt decides to close the inn for good and Mio has to leave her hometown to find work elsewhere. Kosuke, an old friend of her father, offers Mio a place to stay in Tokyo and she goes on to help out at the bathhouse he owns. Just as Mio is settling into her new life, it becomes evident that the bathhouse is at risk of demolition to make room for the district’s redevelopment. 

Overview: Directed by Ryutaro Nakagawa, ‘Mio on the Shore’ is a beautiful meditation of life, loss and coming-of-age. Incidentally, Honoka Matsumoto who played the role of Mio in ‘Mio’s Cookbook’ also takes on a character of the same name here, though the two stories take place in completely different time periods. 

Available May 15. 

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform 

Synopsis: Akebi Komichi has adored sailor-style school uniforms ever since she was little. When she learned she had been accepted into the prestigious girl’s school Roubai Private Academy that her mother attended as a student, Akebi couldn’t wait to wear the old-school uniform hanging in her closet. On her first day of high school, however, Akebi is dismayed to find that the school has updated its uniforms to reflect a more modern style. Despite the shaky start, Akebi is able to make friends with her classmates, who are drawn to her cheerful personality.

Overview: Newly released in 2022, this anime series is adapted from the eponymous manga by Hiro. This first season features 12 episodes and stars Manatsu Murakami as the voice of Akebi. 

Season 1 available May 6. 

Vampire in the Garden 

Synopsis: There was once a time when vampires and humans co-existed peacefully, but now those days are long gone. The few humans that survived the long battle against vampires live in a small community closed off to the rest of the world, but the circumstances remain dire for everyone involved. Desperate to change the status quo, a young girl called Momo and the vampire queen, who are supposed to be sworn enemies, make a pact to find the faraway promised land, where humans and vampires are free to make music together. 

Overview: It’s an all-out war in this deliciously dark fantasy series that was initially expected to be released in 2021. By the looks of it, ‘Vampire in the Garden’ will be well worth the wait with its captivating visuals and intriguing premise that’s sure to take audiences on an emotional rollercoaster. Directed by Ryoutarou Makihara, the anime series is created by Wit Studio, the same team behind the Attack on Titan anime films and series (episodes 1-60). 

Season 1 available May 16. 

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