The main idea powering the talent competition show “Produce 101 Japan” isn’t a new one for the nation’s idol industry. People love to see an entertainer go from nothing to something, and this journey has been just as — if not more — vital to the success of groups such as AKB48 and SMAP as their actual music.
“Produce 101 Japan,” now six episodes deep into its run, started with 101 aspiring pop performers trying to prove they deserved a spot in a new 11-member group set to debut in 2020. Viewers vote for their favorites, meaning that the performers themselves have to win them over. Each episode captures the trainees as they experience the triumphs and failures of trying to make it (along with conversations among themselves about how much body hair they have).