Although it seems like everyone says this every year, 2023 hasn’t exactly been a great year for anime. Although I enjoyed most anime, even the ones I didn’t have many serious issues, especially with later or finale episodes (see: Heavenly Delusion, Oshi no Ko, and probably a few others I forget about until some blog post mentions them and I go, “Oh yeah, that anime was pretty good until…”).
You would wonder, then, what I have done to fill the hole. Which is why I’ll be happy to push you toward Netflix’s assortment of Japanese love/dating reality shows, which are strangely addictive despite their obvious silliness. I’ll talk about a few of them right now because, let’s face it, most recent anime (romantic genre included) makes me depressed.
Yes, you’ve probably seen glimpses of or heard about shows where attractive young people are paired off on a dating show or left on an island. But what about one where a group of singles, mostly in their 35s to 60s and most of whom have been married at least once, are given a large, run-down house in the middle of the Japanese countryside that they must apparently renovate while deciding whether or not to confess to someone?
In terms of age, occupation, interests, and family/marital history, the cast of Love Village is fairly diverse, with some of the stories rather touching. The majority of the participants are normal people who don’t seem to be in it for fame or social power, especially since it’s obvious that nobody here is going to live in the lap of luxury for three months, but a few were obviously cast because they were simply too eccentric for the staff to ignore (I see you, Anchovy). On paper, it may not seem like much fun to watch a group of regular “older” adults sizing each other up while sanding wood and replacing screen doors, but as I watched, I couldn’t help but find myself strangely drawn in. Besides, Becky is one of the hosts, reporting from the reaction desk while sporting an increasingly outrageous wardrobe, which helps to liven things up. Salutations, Becky.
Is She the Wolf?
Is She the Wolf if Love Village is too drama-free and subdued for some? is, in many respects, the more conventional reality show to watch, with a young, attractive cast primarily composed of upcoming celebrities. The plot twist is that, despite the fact that the show is officially a dating show, at least one (perhaps more) of the female cast members are “wolves” whose mission is to get someone to confess to them at the conclusion of the show, even if they are not in love with that person. Naturally, there is drama, there are pointed fingers, and the audience follows along because, despite the fact that the wolf is identified as one individual very early on in the show, there is always a chance that there may be more.
Given the deceitful nature of the love game, Is She the Wolf? may be significantly more intriguing to some, but it can also be far more contentious because all of the celebrities are clearly skilled at manipulating the camera, giving the entire thing a much more staged and carefully prepared vibe. That is, if you find any appeal in the cast, who are primarily shown as self-assured, prosperous, and successful professionals with plenty of privilege to spare but maybe not much real charisma or attraction. We never saw them at home or interacting much in the “real world,” and Love Village felt almost the exact opposite in many ways. I’m not sure I ever learned anything about them as actual people, despite having seen 12 episodes that ranged in duration from roughly 35 minutes to almost an hour. Though largely to check if my own predictions based on different hints and red herrings had been true, there are some really humorous moments. All in all, it’s one of those shows that had me rolling my eyes at the beginning but leaning in by the end.
Briefly stated There are some really entertaining reality shows available to try out if you’re looking for more Japanese media but can’t bear the idea of slogging through yet another anime rom-com with stock characters resorting to cliches that are either overdone or stale. Love Village or Is She the Wolf? can be decent choices if you don’t know where to begin.