Terrace House: Boys & Girls In The City was one of the most surprising finds on Netflix last year. Its premise -- six twenty-somethings living in a posh shared house while they pursue romance and their dreams in Tokyo. It sounds pretty basic but it stretched the boundaries of what reality TV can be with its highly-produced photography, its panel show within the show as well as its meta-ness (no media blackout, housemates can watch the show while in the show). Paired with my fondness and curiosity of Japanese culture, it quickly became one of the most engrossing reality shows I've seen in quite sometime. So much so that I wrote about it, and already took note of the worldwide release of its next season, Terrace House: Aloha State.
I was apprehensive with Terrace House losing its Japanese appeal with Aloha State. Having a significantly bigger potential audience than in previous seasons, the showrunners have decided for the current season to take place in Hawaii-- a location they think is more culturally accessible to the global audience. At a marketing standpoint Hawaii makes full sense being that its culture is more similar to the west but, at the same time, still familiar for its base Japanese audience (the Japanese are Hawaii's top international visitor based on the state's website data). Moreover, I was also underwhelmed when the news of the first batch of housemates was reported by aramajapan. The batch was younger and more racially-diverse (three of the six are 18 year olds, only one person was 100% japanese) than the initial batch of Boys & Girls In The City. Regardless, I still kept my Netflix notification on so I can jump on it as soon as it's available. Even if it's boring, at least I know it will still look beautiful and funny.
After watching the eight episodes that were made available worldwide (Netflix JP is currently on episode 11), it's safe to say that Aloha State was able to keep most of its formula working along with a few welcome surprises.
HAWAII IS EXPECTEDLY BEAUTIFUL BUT NOT AS INTERESTING AS TOKYO SO FAR
Nothing surprising here. Hawaii's beauty was wonderfully captured on screen thanks to Terrace House's focus on picture quality. The wonderful blend of blue hues of the sea together with the island's greenery help in Terrace House maintaining its position as the best looking reality show out right now.
Eating continued to play a big role in the show as most of the recorded conversations are always over breakfast or dinner. Just like in Boys & Girls In The City, Aloha State also conveniently identifies the places and restaurants they eat in, in case you want to include these spots on your itinerary the next time you visit Hawaii.
However, the sights did become dull quickly. Eight episodes in, the locations they've featured were mostly tourist beaches. Sure it's what Hawaii's known for all over the world. However, I was expecting them to also try hiking in jungles, volcano trekking or participating in a luau. (these are all factual assumptions from my knowledge of visiting the Alola region in Pokemon Sun LOL) Much of Boys & Girls In The City's charm came from its close look at Tokyo. Each featured location, restaurant or food on B&GITC felt like tips from a Tokyo native. I still can't get over that place they ate where you catch the fish right before you eat it. In contrast, Aloha State so far felt like tourist view of Hawaii.
Another indication that B&GITC appealed to me so much was that IT BADLY MADE ME WANT TO GO TO TOKYO. I wanted to go to the restaurants, amusement centers and shrines they went to. Heck, I even wanted to make an intro video of me walking around Tokyo in the style of the opening credits. To be fair, Aloha State also gave me that urge to go to Hawaii. But I don't realistically see myself visiting Hawaii in my lifetime. A round ticket from Manila to Tokyo can cost you around USD 200 - 400. On the other hand, a round ticket from Manila to Hawaii will set you back by USD 1,000, at least. That amount still excludes your accommodation and pocket money. It's a small quirk but it definitely affected my affinity with this season.
THE PANEL IS STILL AS FUNNY AS EVER
Another unique element of Terrace House was the inclusion of a celebrity audience panel in the show. They basically became surrogates and aides to the viewers as they discuss, analyze and provide background on Japanese culture in a comedic way. I'm glad that they brought back the same panel to maintain the same chemistry that they had in B&GITC. Thankfully, we still get funny bits like this from the panel.
THE FIRST BATCH OF HOUSEMATES ARE MORE INTERESTING
One concern I had with the first part of B&GITC was how things in the house developed so slow. I attributed much of the dullness from the personalities of the show's first batch of housemates. Other than Mizuki, the housemates were quiet and reserved. Yuuki, the world-class tap dancer for example, didn't even share his talent until midway through part 1. Having dull characters made the first few eps of B&GITC felt like it was aimless. Save for the dating, no other interesting storyline happened. The showrunners remedied this problem when they introduced more interesting housemates which eventually led to better storylines.
With Aloha State, the showrunners didn't want gamble anymore and surely picked relatively more interesting people for Aloha State's first batch. Standouts of this batch include:
- Laura, a half-chinese, half-american model who aspires to be an illustrator (with an awesome Fables James Jean art style)
- Yusuke, a soft-spoken guy (who hasn't had a girlfriend yet) who plays guitar and ukulele under the stage name Eden Kai
- Eric, 27, who transplanted from Japan to Hawaii in the hopes of building a café. He may not have the brightest personality but he at least has a story arc (just like Arisa and Hansan had in B&GITC)
- Naomi, a bubbly 23-year old with "undecided" as her occupation/dream. Seriously, Arman from B&GITC at least had "aspiring firefighter"
Moreover, Aloha State felt it had more direction in its initial episodes. As a viewer, you already know the narratives and couples to look out for as opposed to B&GITC aimlessness. Naomi trying to look for work. Eric slowly building his café and pop-up store. Yusuke finding the guts to ask Laura out. Or the wishy-washiness of Yuya with Naomi and Avian. Aloha State may come out as more unnatural or produced but it definitely is worked better as a TV show that the first part of B&GITC.
Scrounging around online (social media and reddit), I'm having a sense that most people aren't as into Aloha State as they were with B&GITC. The treatment and funny panel are still present but the voyeuristic look of Japanese culture is severely diminished. But Aloha State did make it up by having people with more interesting personalities and faster pacing (seriously, storyline-wise, B&GITC was boring in its first eight episodes). We'll just have to wait and see if Aloha State can compare with B&GITC after it completes its season (hopefully it goes beyond its current 24 episode order!).
Pictures were taken from the official Facebook page of Terrace House: Aloha State. Like them on Facebook
Screenshots from Netflix