If you’re like most people this holiday season, you get overloaded with Korean dramas playing 24/7 and need a healthy dose of Japanese reality programming to recharge your battery. Don’t worry, Netflix has a few shows that can fill that hole in your entertainment schedule that you weren’t aware needed to be filled. There’s no need to be a socially outcasted otaku or a dirty no good weeaboo to enjoy these shows; for most, they’re just a good change of pace from your usual programming – as long as you have English reading skills high enough to follow the subtitles (that means you probably have to turn on captions on Youtube or Netflix.)
1) Terrace House is entry level Japanese reality show programming and aside from being the most widely known, is probably the most widely appealing. Think of Real World or Jersey Shore … then just do the exact opposite of it and that is Terrace House. There usually isn’t much in terms of heavy drama. No one is a big douchebag, no one is starting fights, no one is trying to be the center of attention. It’s a house filled with people who have jobs and goals and are off the charts of politeness by American standards. The “drama” becomes so subtle and quiet that a more interesting level of involvement can be made. While an American reality show will have someone puking on a roommate then being voted out, Terrace House has roommates asking how their day at work was, being kind to each other, or supporting each other’s life goals. It’s creepy. The calm nature of the show is interrupted by a regular cast of commentators who periodically cut in to give their own interpretations of who might be falling in or out of love based off of a subtle glance or misspoken comment. Multiple seasons are available as well as one season set in the USA (with Japanese and American roommates) and the cult following of the show is growing in the USA each year.
2) Ainori or Love Wagon is road trip dating show that has aired for years throughout Asia with different productions in various nations. The most recent season has a small group of men and women who are looking for love being crammed into a van and traveling on a tight budget through Southeastern Asia. As they visit new locales they are given chances to date and build relationships with their fellow travelers. Periodic confessions of love are met with either approval – and the new couple are sent back to Japan together – or the confessor gets rejected and sent back to Japan alone, only to be replaced by a new love-seeking traveler. The most recent season is worth it just to bask in the glory of ShyBoy, probably the greatest romantic protagonist of the 21st century.
3) On the opposite end of the spectrum from Terrace House is Rea(L)ove. In this uncomfortable drama of embarrassment, men and women look for love while periodically being called on to reveal their darkest secret. This revelation then usually ostracizes them from any potential love interests for the rest of the season. Women finding their one true love then having to explain their work in the sex industry, men putting the moves on a lovely lady and then explaining that they are thousands of dollars in debt, or dress in women’s clothing, or worst of all are ashamed of their obsession with collecting anime figurines. While it is not clear why anyone would even sign up for this show, it’s worth the cringing to watch the hosts take every chance to destroy these lonely people, popping in from time to time to tell a woman her personality is terrible and that is why no one will choose her, or tell heartbroken men not to worry about their rejection because they should eventually get used to being rejected the rest of their lives. I don’t think we have anything quite comparable where a host carries such a blatant lack of empathy for any of the suffering felt by people on the show.
J Paige has two decades of experience in the nerd culture of New England through convention, event, and retail management. He is co-owner of NeonBomb at 260 Mammoth Road in Manchester (neonbomb.com). Do you have an event coming up? Do you have a nerdish hobby you are looking to connect with fellow nerds on? Interesting input that you would like to get the word out on? Send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Nerd Alert.