When I wrote a review of the first episode of Home Sweet Tokyo little diid I suspect that it would go on to be my most viewed post this year. I already didn’t want to review the second episode based on the quality of the first and seeing the views of that post furthered my resolve. Can’t capture lightning twice. But then a friend asked for my thoughts. What can I say? I’m an easy mark.
Home Sweet Tokyo, Episode 02: Naked Communication
writers: BJ Fox and Teruyuki Yoshida
director: Teruyuki Yoshida
I can honestly say that there are two moments of goodness in this episode. Sadly, one is due to a guest star whose name I have not been able to discover. The other, well, it is actually half a moment because the show kind of botches it. But even that much was lacking in the first episode. Another improvement is that while this show is still first and foremost a PR campaign for Japan, it did make the cultural point it is trying to push an actual part of the plot the attempted to develop character. Still, all of that does not add up to a good show. Just one that is less bad. But still bad.
Spoilers Lurk Below
This show is about baths and the concept of baths. In Japan. Japanese baths. Oh, it is also about how the main character has lived with his Japanese wife, who says she doesn’t like showers, for long enough to have a child in elementary school and he still doesn’t know the basics of everyday life. Really, I know bath culture in Japan can be complex if you are hearing about it for the first time, but if this guy were really so dense he wouldn’t know that most women normally sit to pee. Really, I can’t get over the amount of ignorance this show puts on their Point of View character. A first time tourist who has read a guidebook likely has more cultural insight. And he doesn’t know numbers.
Okay, put that aside. I did say there were some good things. First, there was a random old man. He was good. Not necessarily his character, which, fine, but the older gentleman showed some real authenticity. He felt real in a way that no one else on screen is. Of course, then he got the main character to wash him in a scene that felt like a potential sex crime played for laughs. Which made me wonder. This show has basically made its first mission to teach ignorant foreigners about Japan. With that in mind, why are they making social scrubbing a part of the world. I’ve been to a lot of baths and onsen. Can’t say I’ve ever seen two grown men washing each other.
The other (almost) nice moment. Was that we did get to see a moment of affection between the husband and wife. This was after we say the wife thrilled to leave home and sullen at returning, so much so that I legitimately wondered if she was had a lunch time love hotel affair planned. But she comes home and talk of baths lead to her and the husband to talk about something while smiling and there is a bit of giggling. And, for the first time, there was a hint of chemistry between them. The downside was that this bit was censored. Their flirtations were so scandalous that we couldn’t hear them. In another situation I could see this trick working, but, again, this is the first (and basically only) time in the first two episodes these two aren’t passively fighting or worse.
That this talk was censored is only made worse by the fact that later on in the show we get a dick joke. Did you catch it? See, there is a stereotype in Japan that foreign men are better endowed than Japanese men. In this show the ticket seller for the bath is stationed in the men’s changing room. Or perhaps the men’s changing room is stationed in the main entrance. (Neither of those make sense. Sure, I’ve had cleaning women go through locker rooms, but I’ve never seen a clerk just stationed in the changing room where she can spend all day watching men change. I highly suspect it is rare at best and is really only here for the following joke.) The joke is when the foreign husband, who was recently naked, leaves the clerk can make a comment “Sou demo nai” which the show translates as “What’s the big deal?” and which I would translate as “that wasn’t right.” Basically, the myth is false.
Why am i talking so much about this? Because it is yet another aspect of this show where it serves to punch down at foreigners, or at least to make certain members of the Japanese audience more comfortable with the idea of foreigners on TV. Look at how bumbling they are! Look at how little than can speak or understand! So much like children! But hey, those stereotypes are true, but don’t worry. That big dick one is totally false. But yeah, a husband and wife actually being flirty and affectionate, that we need to keep silent. But reassuring the public about the size of foreign genitals, that needs to be loud and clear.
There you go. It was better, but better don’t mean good. It is still rather insulting and lacks a sense of realism in almost all scenes. Almost everything that was a problem in the first episode remains a problem, even if some issues are dealt with slightly more deftly. And, just like before, it can be streamed from the NHK world site.
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