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Five Thoughts on Terrace House: Tokyo’s “Internationalization at Once”

By | July 18th, 2020
Posted in Television | % Comments

If episode 26 were staged on Broadway, it would be a one act play called “Waiting for Ryo.” Three new roommates show up, the girls discuss Ryo’s dateable qualities, and we almost never leave the living room on this week’s Terrace House: Tokyo.

An important note before we get started: As some of you may or may not know, cast member Hana Kimura died by suicide this past May. The episodes we’re recapping were filmed before Hana’s death and as such will include discussion of her role in the show’s storylines. We will do our best to be sensitive to this fact, but please know that her inclusion in recaps might make them difficult to read for some. If that’s you, take care; we’ll catch you next binge.

If you or someone you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

1. Out with the old, in with the new

We get not one, not two, but three new roommates! Ryo is off playing basketball while Emika and Hana barely have a moment to breathe in the new quiet of the house before they each come in like rapid fire. One thing this show never does is let the viewer (or the roommates, for that matter) dwell too long on a departure. Losing Peppe is definitely a blow, but as the panel points out, he had possibly the best pre-departure scene with the publication of his manga. For once it feels like someone is leaving at exactly the right moment for their life, regardless of how we as the viewers feel about it. Alas, we’ll always have instagram.

2. “It’s like a Barbie moved in.”

The first new roommate to arrive is Vivi, a bombshell blonde who’s originally from Russia, but has lived in Japan for six years. It immediately becomes apparent that she’s going to be trouble in the best way possible. Literally the first thing she does is briefly trick Emika and Hana into thinking she can’t speak Japanese. It’s amazing. Her personality is a lot more outwardly “Western” than Pepe’s was, which undoubtedly will cause some tension between her and the girls. Vivi isn’t afraid to speak her mind, or go after what she wants. Her suggestion that Hana just corner and kiss Ryo is the most scandalous thing anyone has said this season. Imagine!

Vivi admits that she’s been on her own since she was 14 and, with the exception of a year and a half stint with a boyfriend, has always lived on her own. It’ll be interesting to see how she adapts to having her space invaded by five relative strangers and if that causes any tension. Living with other people is difficult enough even when you’re used to it.

2. Kai the comedian

New roommate #2 is Kai, a Japanese American aspiring comedian. He’s lived all over the place — Arizona, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam — and it’s only within the past three years that he’s settled in Japan. He arrives with gifts of wine, heating pads, and American gummies, which is definitely an indication of what type of person he’s going to be. He’s got a nice, calm energy, which contrasts heavily in the moment with the loudness of Vivi and Hana’s nervous laughter.

Kai reveals that he started doing stand up as a way to relieve his depression from a bad breakup. None of the others ask him to elaborate (I’m sure more details will be revealed in a later episode), but it’s worth noting that his being so immediately and publicly forthcoming about his mental health struggles is pretty unique in a country like Japan, where the stigma against mental health issues can be particularly strong. Hopefully the show deals with this in a way that’s productive and helpful to viewers that may be struggling.

4. Who is Lily Franky?

Finally, the last new roommate arrives. He’s a Filapino named Tupas who comes bearing sugar cookies. It’s sweet, but also really hits home that he’s a little too straight laced and a bit naive. Somehow I think he’s going to have the biggest difficulties navigating the ins and outs of Terrace House, but that also means it’ll have one of the biggest impacts on him (positive, hopefully).

Continued below

Tupas’ story is a bit rags to riches. He worked at a factory in his hometown up until about ten months ago when he became Lily Franky’s personal assistant, a job he was apparently hand picked for after winning a television contest. Everyone seems very impressed with the Lily Franky bit, including the panel; I, of course, had no idea who he was. After some light googling, he appears to be a fairly famous actor with some prestigious awards and nominations under his belt. The show characterizes him as an illustrator, which is also true, but there was very little in the way of explanation on that career that I could find online (he apparently created an anime series called Oden-Kun). I did, however, discover that another one of his stage names (his real name is Masaya Nakagawa) is Elvis Woodstock. Delightful.

It’s so wild how famous people continuously agree to appear on Terrace House (and so many athletes! I am endlessly curious about the show’s demographic of professional athlete fans). I wish I understood the reality show culture better in Japan, because it just feels so outside the norm of what we generally experience in America, where reality shows are generally relegated to D-list celebrities or former A-listers trying desperately to revive their careers. In fairness, reality shows in America (when they aren’t competitions) tend to skew alcohol-induced rage fighting, so it stands to reason that someone serious wouldn’t be keen to appear on them. I can’t even imagine someone on this show getting sloppy drunk and screaming at their roommate in public. I think the entire country would implode.

Anyway, Tupas admits that he doesn’t spend much time hanging out with people his own age, because of work. He’s definitely going to get his heart broken by one of the girls, but he’s ripe for the sort of coming-out-of-your-shell growth trajectory that this show loves.

5. A new love triangle might be brewing

Despite what she says, I don’t think Emika is nearly as into Ryo as she claims. I think the introduction of two new guys is going to distract her enough that she might forget about that crush. Hana, though, is definitely head over heels in that way you get about a boy in high school, your feelings so overwhelming and present every second of the day that you feel as if your chest might burst. It’s been pretty well established (by the man himself) that Hana is too immature for Ryo, so it’ll be really interesting to see what happens when he meets Vivi who, despite being two years younger than him, seems very much what he’s looking for. Hana looks appropriately nervous at this realization. Hopefully whatever happens isn’t too difficult for her to swallow and, if Vivi and Ryo do embark on a romantic relationship, that they’re mature enough to be conscientious of her feelings.

I also kind of want to see Hana and Tupas together (opposites attract!), but that might just be insanity. We’ll see how things go.


//TAGS | 2020 Summer TV Binge

Kerry Erlanger

Kerry Erlanger is a writer from New York whose accolades include being named Time Person of the Year 2006. She can be found on Twitter at @hellokerry.

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