Sunday, October 18, 2015

Options for Watching Japanese Shows in Singapore - Hulu and Netflix

With the closure of Hello! Japan, we are back to subscribing NHK World Premium which has some good quality drama but is very limited in terms of variety.

Torrenting shows can also be rather mendoukusai (bothersome) and I am past the phase whereby I keep every single episode of stuff that I watched by torrenting - I now watch and forget. What's left are the usual channels like Youtube and Daily Motion where you can get some very good and latest bangumi before the copyright owners make complaints and the videos are taken off. Youtube also has regional locks on exclusives like promotional music videos.

However, if you are not adverse towards paying for services, there are 2 ways to get excellent programmes online - Hulu and Netflix. You will need either a VPN service or UnoTelly to watch them.

Access Method/ServiceHulu.jpNetflix.jpYoutube (Region Locked Content)Nico Douga
VPNYesYesYesYes
UnoTellyNoYesYesUnknown

VPN

The good old VPN where you subscribe to a service that "tunnels" you into Japan, giving you a localised IP address where the service providers will think you are another Japanese user. This is the best method to fool the service providers but it has its downsides.

VPN service are typically more expensive for the really reliable ones if you want a decent speed at the end of the tunnel. You will almost never hit the top speed but a reliable one should get you reasonably fast enough to watch HD content. There are also peak periods where you might hit a problem connecting to the server. 

However you should be able to use the VPN service to also access other countries (i.e. US or UK) to watch local live content. For example, I had been using VyprVPN which costs USD$9.99 per month and could get me 20Mbits to Japan on a Saturday night.  I can also use it to watch UK content like rugby matches. 

This is a strange concept when I heard about it but the idea works well enough. What UnoTelly does is mask your DNS requests and fool the content server into thinking the incoming request is from a local server instead of an overseas one. This idea works well on several regional services including BBC in the UK and various providers in US as well. Most importantly, it works on Netflix Japan and for regional locked content on Youtube. 

It does not, however, work for Hulu or any services that checks your IP address since UnoTelly does not and cannot change your IP address. 

UnoTelly also has a very big advantage over regular VPN service - since it does not force you onto one of their servers, it also does not restrict your connection speed and allows you to use your ISP's full speed. 

UnoTelly costs just USD$3.94 a month (SGD$5.45, based on a 12 months subscription) and if you pay a dollar more a month, you get the UnoVPN service which is a nice addition but I do not know the maximum speed. Also their VPN service is restricted to just US and UK servers (but is helpful if you want to watch Hulu Plus based in the US). 


Hulu vs Netflix

Hulu and Netflix are both big in Japan now with each coming up with huge libraries of exclusive content + the latest shows, dramas and bangumi. Personally I feel Hulu has quite a bit more Japanese variety content as there are a lot of partners working with Hulu like Nippon Terebi. They will usually run a regular program on TV and then post additional content (that are equal in length and production value) exclusive to Hulu subscribers only and you get to watch both with a Hulu.jp subscription.



On the other hand while Netflix is not as big into the latest variety shows, it has its HUGE library of international content to backup their exclusives in the Japanese market. Those exclusives include dramas and tele-movies that, I feel, are as good or even better than the productions made by national TV studios. They also have a larger back catalog of Japanese dramas, movies and documentaries available. And that huge library of international content has a very important feature that is helpful for Japanese learners - those Hollywood productions are either subbed or dubbed in Japanese.


As of this writing, Hulu costs 1007 yen per month (SGD$12) while NetFlix costs 702 yen (SGD$8.20) for Standard Definition or 1026 yen (SGD$12) for High Definition screens which allows an additional connection per account so your spouse or kid can watch something else on their own screen. ALOT cheaper than subscribing to Starhub!


Most Economical Combo - UnoTelly + NetFlix

If you are just going for pure viewing pleasure, a UnoTelly + NetFlix is going to be the best economical combo for approximately SGD$14-$17.50 per month. You get no reduction in speed and UnoTelly actually has a very special service that is useful for Netflix users.

Netflix uses a standard account for all their subscribers worldwide (currently). That means, if there are content not available in a certain country, you can actually use your Netflix account to watch it from another region. UnoTelly has a service named Dynamo which helps to switch your connection to the country of choice and through Filmefy (a search engine that tells you which Netflix region has a show that you want), you can easily locate your desired content and then use Dynamo to match the switch. 

The option to upgrade and get VPN service for only 1 US dollar is also an option that is nice to have. 


** All information are correct as of writing. Do remember that internet routing and regional IP locking mechanisms update with time. Service providers can and will change when they feel the need to. 

EDIT: As of July 2016, UnoTelly is no longer providing smartDNS services on a stable basis. Filmfy is also no longer working. The most stable option now is using VPN.

EDIT: Nippon Television had tied up with Hulu Japan to screen all their programs. For the 1st week after a program had been screened, you can also watch it for free (no subscription needed) at http://cu.ntv.co.jp although you must have a Japan IP address.

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