Note: while this article is written from the perspective of obtaining Japanese subtitles, it should work just as well for subtitles in other languages.
My journey of obtaining Japanese subtitles from Netflix has been a long one, but I’ve finally arrived at the holy grail: downloading the Japanese subs as TEXT. We had previously discovered that you could download Japanese subtitles as images using a script in your web browser. You could then perform OCR to turn those subtitles into text. While this worked alright, the subtitles weren’t perfect, and would contain some amount of errors that would need to be manually corrected.
This new method is a little more difficult to get set up, but lets you get the subtitles perfectly without any errors. However, there is still one caveat with this method: not all shows that have image subtitles also have text subtitles. So, the old method still has to be used in some cases. Specifically, it seems that Netflix originals designed for Japanese audiences (such as Terrace House) have text subtitles, but shows that were not designed for Japanese audiences (such as Stranger Things) only have image subtitles.
I just want the subs!
I have already downloaded subtitles from over 30 Japanese shows and movies that are available on US Netflix, and you can grab them all here.
As far as I can tell, this includes every Japanese Netflix original that has Japanese subtitles (at least as of the time this post was written). There are also a small handful of non-Netflix shows that I also happened to be able to find subs for.
I want to do it myself!
Here is how it’s done. (sorry for the rambling instructions, I’ll try to make it easier to follow sometime)
First, you need to download and install Kodi 18. At this time, version 18 is only available as development builds. You can download the windows 64-bit version here. You can find links to downloads for other platforms through the Kodi download page, just make sure to select the development builds to access version 18, because version 17 will not work!
Next, you will need my modified version of the Netflix plugin for Kodi.
Install Kodi 18 using the Full installation option, then Run Kodi.
Go to: Settings > Add ons > My add ons > All > Inputstream Adaptive > Enable
Go to: Settings > Add ons > Install from zip file
You will get a popup window saying that installing from unknown sources is disabled. Click the “settings” button.
Enable “unknown sources” and then click “yes”.
Return to “install from zip file” and select the modified Netflix plugin to install it.
If you use Netflix in a language other than English, go to settings > interface > Skin > fonts > Arial based.
Return to the Kodi main screen, and select Add-ons > Netflix.
Enter your Netflix login details (Caution! It is never safe to enter login information into untrusted software. At the very least, you should not reuse your Netflix password on other sites!)
You should be able to browse through Netflix. (for ease of use, I recommend adding any shows you want subtitles for to your “My List” prior to starting Kodi)
Select an episode or movie to play. You will get a popup saying Playback Failed.
In your file explorer (not inside of Kodi), browse to the folder where you installed Kodi. If Kodi was successful at downloading any subtitles, you should see a folder named “Subtitles”. Inside this folder you will find the subtitle files for every available language for the episode that you just tried to play. Congrats!
Tweaking the settings
There are two settings that can be tweaked. To modify the settings, you will need to make some modifications to a file named “MSL.py”. On Windows, you should find this file in %appdata%\Kodi\addons\plugin.video.netflix\resources\lib\
Open up MSL.py in a text editor, and lines 32 and 33 will contain the two settings that you can tweak.
DOWNLOAD_LANGUAGE = ‘all’
CONVERT_TO_SRT = True
By default, the plugin will download subtitles for every language available. If you only want to get a certain language, you can change ‘all’ to the language code that you want. For example, Japanese would be ‘ja’. When you select an episode in Kodi, it will also generate a file in the directory where you installed Kodi called “Subtitle_urls.txt”. This file will give you a list of all the language codes available for that episode.
Netflix natively stores subtitles in WebVTT (.vtt) format. My plugin will do a conversion to SRT and also strip out any unnecessary style data. If you dont need the SRT files, or if you prefer to convert them yourself, you can change that setting to False.
Some things to be aware of
The plugin will not overwrite existing subtitle files. If you need to download a new version, you will need to delete the old ones first.
Sometimes, there are multiple files for the same language. As far as I can tell, the first one is always the primary subtitles, while the second one will only contain stuff like signs (that already appear in the main file). Since the secondary files generally seem unnecessary to me, the plugin will not download them. If you need to get them for some reason, you can just check the file “Subtitle_urls.txt” that appears in the directory where you installed Kodi. It will show you if there are multiple subtitles available, and will give you temporary download URLs for each one so you can download it through your web browser.
I tried using this through a VPN, and it wouldn’t download any subtitles. I’m not sure why.
Sometimes the plugin will just stop working, and you need to close and restart Kodi to get it working again. I’m not sure why.