International fans of “Terrace House” rejoiced last week as the show’s latest season arrived on Netflix several months after debuting in Japan. The program has become a hit by offering something most English-language reality shows often avoid — calm.
The reverse phenomenon played out nearly simultaneously in Japan. The third season of “The Bachelor Japan” debuted on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 13, featuring more or less the same premise as the American franchise, which has been running since 2002. Twenty women vie for the affection of the titular bachelor, with plenty of romance and drama along the way.
“The Bachelor Japan” takes the hallmarks of Western reality TV and imports them to Japan, and so far it has worked. Though Amazon Prime doesn’t share viewer data, a record number of women applied to be on the third season, and it is generating a good amount of buzz on social media. Amazon recently announced it will also bring “The Bachelorette,” which reverses the gender roles, to Japan.
In the same way that “Terrace House” has won international fans by offering a reality show emphasizing daily life and human connection over constant blow outs, “The Bachelor Japan” proves Japanese viewers are open to messier programming. After all, it offers something different to the usual snoozefest found on terrestrial TV.
It never gets quite as sloppy as its American predecessor, though. The third season of “The Bachelor Japan” features few major arguments (so far, at least) and the importance of family looms large thematically, which isn’t that sexy of a hook. Yet it’s pretty loose, with participants doing whatever they can to get the bachelor’s attention (ranging from cartwheels to semi-suggestive massages) and frequently throwing shade at one another.
Perhaps it’s just a welcome change of pace from “Terrace House,” the undisputed heavyweight of the Japanese reality show circuit. That Netflix staple shines by offering the everyday. Participants try to find love, but mostly they just go to work, exist and maybe make some time for a little parkour. Drama pops up, but it’s pretty low stakes overall.
All of that’s great, but sometimes you want the ridiculous. “The Bachelor Japan” offers pure escapism thanks to heightened situations that are almost certainly greased up by the show’s producers (then again, it’s not like “Terrace House” is innocent on this front, not to mention how the “regular life” narrative takes a hit when rock stars and sons of airline founders appear). Rarely do fireworks go off all around during a particularly tender moment near the waterfront, but “The Bachelor Japan” is all about upping romantic stakes into something absurd.
It can be overkill when done all the time, but it works in a country where over-the-top reality fare is still rare. So don’t be afraid to take a break from “Terrace House’s” genteel ASMR to check out a show where contestants gripe at one another while the target of their affection zooms overhead in a Cessna.