Autumn in Japan brings with it delightfully mild weather and beautiful fall foliage, which unfortunately also includes the ginkgo trees whose fruit smell like the insides of Satan’s gym bag. Interestingly, this week’s pop culture schedule was also a mix of the good and the bad:
HIT: The Most Honest Stand-Up Comic
Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss was propelled to international fame with the release of two Netflix comedy specials: Dark and Jigsaw. True to its name, the first special dealt with some pretty heavy subjects, like the death of Sloss’ sister. But Sloss himself doesn’t think of his style as “dark.”
“I would describe my comedy as more honest,” he told the TW. “I just happen to be a dark person. But I think we’re all dark on the inside, we just tend to hide it. It takes a comedian being honest about his or her inner thoughts and insecurities to allow the audience to also admit that they have the same horrible thoughts.”
On October 15, Sloss will try his brand of on-stage head-shrinking with Japanese audiences at Mt. Rainier Hall in Shibuya. “I’m just excited to see if I’m funny in Japan. I might be shit, who knows? … I’m interested to see the reaction,” he wonders. If you do too, catch his show next week but be sure to hang out after, as Sloss admits: “I’m a big fan of drinking and like to make sure that I go out and drink with the local fans if I can. I find it’s the best way to experience a new city.”
MISS: Re: Follower
Premiere: October 5, TV Asahi
Every day, the four members of Kureshida gather to help one troubled person who contacted them through social media, like a man who just lost his job. Each member has a different specialty, from data-gathering to infiltration, making Re: Follower pretty much the Japanese version of the TNT show Leverage only without the charisma of the original characters. Combined with a weird need to frame everything around the world of social media (one character actually says “I want you to follow life!”), and you end up with a bland, unfocused story.
Premiere: October 5, Fuji TV
Rika is a psychological thriller about an obsessive stalker who won’t let anyone get between her and the man she “loves.” Not even his fiancée. The titular Rika is a terrifying character because she doesn’t look like a monster. Played excellently by Takaoka Saki, she seems like a timid, hard-working nurse but underneath there’s a person who is… not “evil” but more “starved for love.” All Rika wants is a family but she’s been alone so long that her perfectly-natural desire has turned into something twisted and scary and getting to watch it up close has been a real treat.
MISS: Sherlock Untold Stories
Premiere: October 7, Fuji TV
Hailed as a thrilling Japanese take on Sherlock Holmes that would use Reiwa-era Tokyo to breathe new life into the character, Untold Stories does none of that. The mysteries so far have been very run-of-the-mill and lead Fujioka Dean seems downright bored as the genius detective Sher… sorry, Homare Shishio, lacking the charm of Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr. A hard pass.
HIT: Our Dearest Sakura
Premiere: October 9, Nippon TV
What really makes this show stand out is the fact that the titular Sakura (Takahata Mitsuki) is most likely autistic or some other flavor of neurodiverse. She has a singular focus, doesn’t get social cues and is often blunt to the point of rudeness. Fortunately, no part of the show is about trying to “fix” her. Instead, it’s about Sakura entering a construction company so that one day she can build a bridge between her home island and the mainland. The show is, in a word, fascinating, and it will be a joy to watch Sakura as she tries to achieve her goals.
HIT: Let’s Have a Meal Together
Premiere: October 10, TV Tokyo
Sachi and Ayari suddenly become stepsisters after their parents marry and discover that they have one thing in common: a love of food. The manga that the show was based on always put a lot of details into the food and Let’s Have a Meal Together follows suit by shooting all of the sisters’ meals in vivid, mouthwatering ways. There is very little conflict on the show, which is replaced by a simple, slice-of-life story about the joy of cooking and bonding over little things. It’s incredibly relaxing and highly recommended.
— 小豆島とのしょう観光協会 (@angelroad7) October 7, 2019
A Future Japanese TV Story in the Making?
Legends say that if you walk down Angel Road in Shikoku while holding hands with someone you love, you’ll be together forever. In short, it’s no ordinary place, so it was somewhat fitting that someone found a 2009 time capsule there containing a few letters. In a tweet that currently has been retweeted nearly 60,000 times, @angelroad7 has asked Twitter to help find the person who wrote the letters so they can be returned to them. Why not retweet it and become part of something truly special?