TV | 'Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020' Recaps

Ep. 26 'Internationalization at Once'

by Tom Hanaway

STAFF WRITER

It’s a small world after all. No stranger to keeping the mix of personalities and backgrounds interesting, “Terrace House” continues to invite people from around the world into its little televised bubble. Before we meet the fresh new faces replacing Haruka and Ruka, however, we have to say one last “ciao” to Peppe.

After getting his first comic published and stocking up on plenty of copies for sentimental purposes, Peppe decides he’s ready to leave the show and focus on his work. He and Ryo share some touching last words about their burgeoning bromance, hug it out and promise to stay friends. After one last selfie with the housemates, our favorite Italian leaves — dragging his ergonomic chair with him — and we’re left to wonder who will fill the Peppe-sized hole in our hearts.

We’re then treated to a montage of my favorite “Terrace House” staple — the partial reveal of who is coming next. We’re teased with scenes of a flirtatious blonde who chats with her friends in Russian, an English speaker with a man bun, and a stoic driver who flatly says he’s excited to see the girls on the show bathe naked. Hoo boy, what a trio.

Back at the house, Emika and Hana have a chill hangout with no idea that they’re about to be bombarded with new roommates who are sure to drastically mix up the dynamics of the show.

First up is Violetta “Vivi” Razdumina, a Russian actress and model who doesn’t seem to speak Japanese at first. She greets the girls with a cheery “Hello! How are you guys?” and Hana does an admirable job of keeping up the conversation in English, albeit with a deer-in-the-headlights expression.

After a few moments, Vivi drops the act and reveals she’s an articulate Japanese speaker. Hana and Emika immediately scream, laugh and sigh with relief. Vivi drops more personal details — she was born in Germany, raised in Russia, moved to Japan after high school, and goes to the United States often in search of acting gigs.

 

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It doesn’t take long for Vivi to hit it off with Hana and Emika, and the three giggle with each other throughout the episode while ogling photos of hot men (i.e., Ryo) and dishing out romantic advice. It’s a livelier atmosphere in the girl’s room than when the more reserved Haruka was the de facto matriarch of the house.

Before the girls can give their racing hearts a break, in comes the next new member rocking long locks: Kai Kobayashi. The half-American, half-Japanese may be interested in love, but he’s mostly looking for a laugh. He dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian, which doesn’t seem to elicit much of a response from the others besides Hana.

Back at the studio, Yama-chan has to explain what stand-up comedy is to everyone else. Japan has a long history of manzai comedians, which usually involves two comedians — a tsukkomi (straight man) and a boke (funny man) — cracking jokes with each other. There are also rakugo performers, who are individual storytellers who perform anything from a harrowing tale or a funny bit. But neither of those comedy styles is exactly like stand-up.

 

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Something that is no joke at all is Kai’s voice: All of the girls — and some of the commentators — agree it’s quite sexy. Emika even describes it as sensual.

Finally, we have the curious case of Johnkimverlu “John” Tupas, a stern personal assistant and driver who is originally from the Philippines. While Vivi and Kai have excitable personalities, Tupas has his feet firmly on the ground delivering emotionless expressions and speaking in polite Japanese. It’s quite a contrast to Kai, who addresses everyone as if he has known them for years.

 

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Tupas’ stony appearance may be due to the fact that he works directly for Lily Franky, a Japanese illustrator and actor who is best known internationally as the male lead in the Oscar-nominated film “Shoplifters.” It may take some time for Tupas to drop the formalities and realize he’s talking to people his age. He even refers to Kai as senpai, a term used when talking to people older than you at school or work. He also drops the nugget, “The oldest goes first,” when picking the top and bottom bunk beds with Kai. The commentators mock him for that as soon as they get a chance.

With a new squad on deck, hormones are once again set ablaze: The men fancy Vivi, the girls are lulled by Kai’s voice and the commentators agree that Tupas is quite a looker.

It’s not often that “Terrace House” has such a diverse cast living together at one time. But now that we have a mix of people with Japanese, Indonesian, Filipino, Russian and American heritage on the show, resembling its own mini Tokyo Olympics, I expect it to be less about fitting into a Japanese household and more about finding the right rhythm with people from all over the world.

The Japan Times is posting weekly recaps of “Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020.” Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. New episodes of “Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020” stream on Netflix and Fuji TV on Demand (FOD) and air on Fuji TV on Tuesdays.