Netflix has greatly invested in the East Asian film industry, curating a movie library featuring many movies and dramas that have strong anime vibes. Although East Asian films, in general, get a lot of recognition on Netflix, there are a few great Southeast Asian Netflix films that anime fans can enjoy, too. Here are five Southeast Asian films that should be on your radar.
Back to the 90s
Back to the 90s is a 2015 Thai fantasy/romantic comedy. A magical phone booth transports a teenage boy named Kong from the year 2014 to the 1990s, where he has an opportunity to fix his parents’ broken relationship. Kong schemingly distracts his father’s childhood friend Som from pursuing his father, but Kong himself eventually falls in love with Som in the process.
Many anime series have protagonists who travel back in time to save the world, but Back to the 90s uses time-traveling as a means to bring people together. With characters who are working to fix their problems to create better lives for themselves, Back to the 90s calls to mind Mamoru Hosoda's classic anime feature The Girl Who Leapt Through Time as well as the slice-of-life series ReLIFE.
Whipped is a 2020 Indonesian comedy film directed by Chandra Liow. The story is centered on four guy friends who all have relationship troubles. They decide to enter an “anti-whipped” class to prevent them from being slaves to love. However, the course instructor has other intentions in mind when teaching about love to these guys.
The four guys are utterly clueless when it comes to romance but have a strong friendship camaraderie. For fans of anime such as Rainbow Days and My Love Story, Whipped is a solid Indonesian film to check out.
Furie is a 2019 Vietnamese martial arts movie directed by Le Van Kiet. After the birth of her daughter Mai, and her assistance in the arrest of a famous gangster, Hai Phuong turned her back on criminal activity to become a debt collector. One day while Hai is making her rounds, Mai gets kidnapped by a human trafficking group, sending Hai on a wild chase to track down the criminals who took her daughter.
Hai Phuong is a strong vigilante, taking matters into her own hands when the local police are unable to do anything to save her daughter. Her actions are similar to Shinya Kogami from Psycho-Pass, who left the Ministry of Welfare Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Department after he likewise believed that the law was unable to stop a criminal mastermind.
Maria is a 2019 Filipino action film directed by Pedring Lopez. Maria was once a skilled assassin but decided to quit her life of crime after refusing to kill a mother and child while on a mission. She fakes her death and now lives a normal life as a devoted wife to her husband Bert, and a mother to her daughter Min-Min. However, her former lover and partner-in-crime, Kaleb, discovers she is still alive and plans to take revenge on her for leaving him.
The titular character Maria gives off Kill Bill vibes with her badassery and self-righteous persona. Maria’s personality is equivalent to Akame from Akame Ga Kill and Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. Maria is also heavily driven by revenge plotlines, making it a great fit for fans of Hell Girl or 91 Days.
Pulang is a 2018 Malaysian melodrama directed by Kabir Bhatia. The film is inspired by real-life events centered around a love story that occurred in 1930s Malaysia and lasted over several decades. The story begins in Serkam, Malacca in 1939 where Othman, a local fisherman, falls in love at first sight with a girl named Thom who is in the area to take care of her dying grandmother. The two survive World War II and end up getting married despite coming from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
After the war, however, the two struggle to make ends meet and support a newborn son, Omar. Othman decides to be a sailor on a British cargo ship in hopes of making a fortune, but unfortunately, this leads him to be separated from his family for several decades. Pulang is similar to Sunao Katabuchi’s 2016 melodrama In This Corner of the World, based on a manga by Fumiyo Kōno -- both films center on a female protagonist awaiting her husband and handling the hardships that come after war.