Japanese TV, the revenge

Seeing as I’ve wasted a couple of posts lending the weight of my tongue to Japanese comedy and talentos I thought it’d be only fair to write at least one post on the merits of Japanese television, which though few, do exist.

Ai no Apron
This show plucks a trio of talentos from a massive pool of talentlessness and makes them cook a particular dish, which is then tasted by a panel of idols and cooks who judge them. Obviously they play up a little and cook as bad a meal as possible; no one is stupid enough to really think French toast is garnished with liberal helpings of salt or to put raw shrimp in a Crème Brule. But still, it makes interesting viewing, especially because the panel are possibly contractually obliged to take big spoonfuls of the dishes; no messing about with little nibbles, dig in, take a mouthful and eat. And then retch. If a meal is particularly bad the panelists can run to the “ai no bucket”. Afterwards the talentos are judged by having their names put on a board where the vertical position equates quality. In recent times this has become silly, beginning with names being put underneath the board, far away from the board and eventually even seeing a panelist walk outside of the studio and handing the name card to a passerby asking them to deposit it somewhere far outside Tokyo.

The Ai No Apron website is here.

Zenikin
Possibly the most evil and therefore funniest program on television sees a panel (what else?) visit and discuss the living arrangements of very poor people. First we are shown a photo of a poor target, a breakdown of his monthly income and some personal details after which one of the panelists visits their house and does a lot of “eeeHHHH??”ing and “aaaahhhhh!”ing about how they live. One time they visited the house of a student who had never thrown out the rubbish, his house filled waist-deep with plastic bags, his bed a bedroll thrown over a few sacks of empty beer cans. Or one time there was a very old geezer who basically sustained himself by living in a shed and making his own food from the plants and herbs around him. Or the student who shared a house with a few others, living, as he did, in the cupboard usually reserved for futons. The subjects are invited to the studio and the panel picks a winner based on criteria I am not fully aware of. A lot of hilarity and finger pointing ensues.

Half of a Zenikin episode with links to more here.

London Boots
London boots are those knee-length platform boots Shibuya girls like to wear when they’re feeling particularly masochistic. It is also the name of a Japanese comedy duo that display a kind of evil black humour that most Brits should be able to appreciate. Their best segment usually revolves around setting up a guy with a loose girl (actress) to see if she can seduce him, while the man’s girlfriend or wife sits backstage with the duo as they broadcast instructions to the actress. Then follows the big reveal and we watch he man back-pedal and apologise and be generally humiliated. Another segment they have pits the two sides of a fighting couple in a giant metal-barred arena where they have to fight out their differences, only verbally, in front of a ravenous and laughing crowd. Though I often want to see blood, hearing the two bitch about each others’ shortcomings is diverting enough.

The Lonboo website (”Amazing and big fun") is here.

Sumo
Sumo is something you really need to see live. The atmosphere is great, a mix between a cheap izakaya and a sports event; you’ll sit watching big men push each other while consuming chicken and beer. Sadly however the seats are a little expensive, but if you do go I recommend either the very first tournament day of the year, where you’ll see the emperor do his royal wave to the crowd, or the last day of a tournament period, where if you’re lucky you may see the reigning champ be toppled amidst a rain of pillows.
Luckily sumo on television is no less exciting. Though the stereotype is that the wrestlers are all big fat men in nappies that merely push each other if you witness the brute force of an initial clash and start to learn about the many techniques involved it becomes an engrossing, even addictive, sport to watch. My personal favourites are usually the smaller wrestlers who rely on technique and reflexes to battle the giants. The sumo roundup is the one thing I will always try to watch on television.

The sumo website is here.

Specials
Sometimes on national holidays Japanese television airs specials:; these are usually the things you see on trashy, sensationalist foreign television as an example of how crazy and whacky the Japanese are. From crazy sports events to hilarious programs like “Silent Library”, these are usually worth a giggle.

A hilarious episode of "Silent Library" can be found here; though I have no idea when this was broadcast it is exactly the kind of madness you see on national holiday specials.


Apart from the sumo, which is regular fare during the tournament seasons, I haven’t watched much television recently so I don’t know which of these shows is still being broadcast. But at least you should know that amidst the cooking related panel-shows and Korean dramas there is something worth watching on occasion. One thing to remember when watching any of the clips above is that all those noises, bells, whistles and graphics…that is normal Japanese television. You get immune to it pretty quickly but it may be a bit much at first.

6 comments:

  1. The only regular show I watch is Ainori.

    I watched the first episode of Sailor Fuki to Kikanjuu on the weekend. That looks like it's set to be a rocking drama!

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  2. I'm not too keen on Japanese dramas. My Japanese is robust enough to understand what's going on, but not quite good enough to judge wether the actors are any good or just standing there reading their lines off cue-cards, as I suspect they do.

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  3. Ha! Brilliant topic - you have to tell us more about other Japanese shows that stand out.

    Do they pay any attention to U.S. series, or get them at a much later time?

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  4. In he unlikely event of other good Japanese shows appearing I'll write a post on it.

    US dramas and films most definitely make it over here. There is a FOX Japan that broadcasts (and repeats) only US shows (FOX shows obviously), and films get broadcast on terrestrial television, often bilingually (one channel Japanese dub, one channel English original, sometimes only English with subtitles).
    Any US shows that appear here do come a LOT later than the US adn even Europe though.

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