If you are are reading this review you might also be interested in reading the reviews I did for the first and second episodes as well. If you look over those, please take note that I had some nice things to say about episode two. I’m trying to be fair. But this episode… This episode…
Home Sweet Tokyo, Episode 03: Alice’s Lunchbox
writers: BJ Fox and Teruyuki Yoshida
director: Teruyuki Yoshida
Where to begin? There is so much wrong with this episode. Poor acting. Incredibly poor choices in dealing with cultural conflict. Bad parenting. The fact the the 17 minute stops in the middle for a three minute bento cooking lesson. Just so bad in so many areas. I mean, really, the other two were bad in a lame roll-your-eyes kind of way. This manages to be bad in a pit-of the-stomach-are-you-kidding-me way. Burn it with fire.
Spoilers Lurk Below
Really, the only thing I can attempt to give this show points for is that it at least brought up the idea that standing out isn’t always a bad thing and that not everything needs to be the same. Of course, that notion almost immediately gets bulldozed over and replaced with a full on message of “do things our way.”
But let me back up. This episode starts with the young Alice opening her lunchbox to find what is obviously store-bought sweet/snack type waffles and possible cut up apples. And almost immediately her classmates come over to laugh at her. I had two thoughts competing for attention. The first was who is this show trying to kid with this lunch? Are we supposed to believe this is a lunch that a sane person would give their elementary school kid? Are we supposed to think those waffle things are homemade? If anyone from the UK is reading this and if this is a normal UK lunch, please let me know. But even in my crap food loving America that lunch would be seen as bad.
But I said two thoughts. The other was where was the teacher? Alice is bringing onigiri to school. Kids are making fun of here. This is a country where bullying is a huge problem and at no point is there any interaction from the school. None. Sure, the terrible writing of the show is likely the main culprit here. But in my mind I just keep thinking about the tragic results of elementary school kids getting bullied for having a foreign parent and what that means, and teachers didn’t step in because “the kids were saying true things.” This show aims to teach culture and this form of abuse and non-intervention, even if it was not a choice of the show, is the only thing that feels authentic. And in the way this show handles such abuse, it is basically saying this is the parents fault and condoning the abuse.
And then we have the Dad. Good old Bryan. Dad of the year, who when he finds out his kid has been eating other food starts the conversation by yelling at his child. Did he ask if something was wrong? Did he ask why she didn’t it the lunch he made? Nope. He just went on attack mode. Oh, and he asks what she did with the food. Because that is the important thing. Keep in mind, his horrible way of addressing this is never called into question. He is only ever called to task for not creating Japanese style site bentos. Again, because that is what is important. Not how the family communicates, or how they feel about something or why they feel that way, just that the outside world accepts them based on appearances.
Here are questions that this show does not provide answers to. What grade is Alice in? We know that the family only recently moved from the UK to Tokyo. Were these the same lunches she ate in the UK? We mention Bryan, the husband, put his career on hold. What career was that? These are all questions that could provide inside into the family and perhaps give us hints into their actions. But instead of that let’s have a step by step guide to how to make a wiener octopus because crap food is far more important than a round family depiction.
Episode two had a guest appearance from an elderly actor whose name I haven’t been able to find. Which is a shame, because he was actually quite good. He felt real. Sadly, this episode has no such guests. Instead we are left with actors who might as well be reading off a sign. Everyone is wooden. Everyone sounds fake. It is a form of acting that exacerbates an already shaky script and shoddy direction that can’t even follow time. I swear, when we had the voice over of the bento lady offering to teach lessons, I thought she had come back to the house. But, nope, they just needed to add in voice over because otherwise what was happening on screen made no sense. You know, almost the textbook definition of how voice over is used poorly.
But, by far and away, my favorite nonsense crap writing had to be the combination of the lines (and I’m paraphrasing) “I’m going to make a tuna and pickle sandwich” soon followed by “That’s a family recipe.” Read that again. A family recipe. For a tunafish sandwich. Do I need to explain why that is awful?
This episode cranks the ignorance up to 11, tops it with a huge heaping of missed opportunities and then smothers it with a thick sauce bad parenting all around. And people have been calling me out for not identifying that the character of Bryan is played by BJ Fox, the writer of this mess. But he is. And I’d love to hear his thoughts on this show. And, just like before, it can be streamed from the NHK world site.
If you enjoyed this post, please like my Facebook author page and become a patron through Patreon. Or if you like podcasts and want to hear more of my thoughts on Japan, check out Living Japan. If you want to hear me talk superhero comics, listen to Brent & Lydia Talk Starman. Thanks!