Home-grown Netflix content amazes me. I watched Stranger Things last year on a binge. Ahh, I totally loved the show! But during my down time, I wanted to watch a J-Drama. Thus, I binged on Atelier.
(By binge, I mean watch it for 5 episodes, then watched the rest after a few months.)
I found Atelier under the Asian TV Shows tab. Most of the shows there were either Korean, romantic, or docus. I was in the mood for “quality TV”, so I set the sorting to “highest rated”. Then I saw Atelier was pretty high up there, so I clicked that.
And wow! When do you see Asian dramas like this? There’s a strong female lead. Lead’s main goal centers on her passion (fabrics) and her job. The only relationship she’s focused on here isn’t even romantic at all. And her character doesn’t heavily center around relationship with others, either. Atelier managed to do what most Western shows wanted to do. They got that strong, independent girl who need nobody.
Long Story Short
Atelier is a work-based coming of age story. Fabric lover Mayuko Tokita (Mirei Kiritani) gets a job at Emotion, a lingerie design house. The main arc involves around her relationship with the founder Mayumi Nanjo (Mao Daichi), and how she grows in the lingerie biz. Several subplots include Emotion’s state as a business, rivalry with major brands, and Nanjo’s own story.
This show is actually the first ever J-Drama developed for Netflix! That’s a first for them, and a lot of Asian dramas (if not the first to do so). And considering the main idea, Atelier is a pioneer in Asian TV.
No Sex, Please (セックスしないでください)
This is a show about underwear. Heck, in Japan, the show is actually titled Underwear (アンダ—ウェア). And when we think of underwear, we think, “sexy time!” But surprise! (And sorry, guys with expectations.) Atelier treats the subject matter with taste and respect. We do see a lot of models in bras and panties, but they’re not ogled upon in the show.
And with that in mind, the show is only PG in terms of content. Claire Carusillo of Racked says the story is “sappier than most of the Disney shows I watch“. They don’t call the brand Emotion for nothin’. And speaking of sappy, the theme song is very cheery and LSS-worthy in a cheesy way. Binge watch this, and all you’ll hear is “all about you~”
The Business of ‘Emotion’
Atelier is a unique show that made it stand above other office shows like Mad Men or The Office. First, it gave importance to fashion design as a business. Then, Nanjo’s relationship with Mayuko and other subordinates are less bitchier and more realistic.
About The Little Things
TV shows often add glamor to workplace settings. But for 13 episodes, you can see how the atelier really runs. The smallest details are given emphasis.
We see how Reiko Tanaka (Masako Chiba) gets the customer’s measurements. Then we get details of how Jin Saruhashi (Ken Kaito) runs the office as the manager. Also we see the struggles of Mizuki Nishizawa (Wakana Sakai) as a senior designer wanting to get more creative with what she usually produces.
Slapped Some Respect On It
What I love about Atelier is how they treated the boss-employee tension between Nanjo and Mayuko. I’ve seen The Devil Wears Prada before. There, they made it clear how Miranda Priestly bosses Andy Sachs around in such a dreary manner. Both Nanjo and Priestly are compared to Vogue‘s Anna Wintour. Priestly is a direct expy. Meanwhile, Nanjo has a few more nuances that make her more than just a Japanese version of the fashion icon.
But here, Mayuko respects Nanjo, and vice versa. She apologizes to the “boss”, as she calls Nanjo, even during times when she stands up for herself. And although Nanjo is stern with Mayuko, she mentors her all throughout.
Both women learn from each other in the process. Nanjo teaches Mayuko the business and art of lingerie, while Mayuko helps Nanjo adapt to modern business ideals. Atelier shows women in a great light without having to preach #girlpower in our faces.
My Emotions On Atelier
We definitely need more shows like Atelier. This is an office drama that gave the workers a more human depth without too much theatrics. It also empowers two women instead of pitting them against each other because of their positions. And they got to treat a racy topic with barely any sex or nudity involved, how’s that? The difference in culture might’ve what made the show so mild. Had Westerners made such a show, it would be more than Rated 13+.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
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