By now someone in your social circle has probably mentioned Terrace House. Or you’ve heard about it via social media, a podcast you’ve listened to, or seen it pop up on your Netflix suggestions. But you’re probably still not entirely sure what it is, why you should watch it, or what the real appeal is. Here’s ten reasons to watch that will clear up the mystery that is Terrace House.
1. It’s a reality show
This is a Japanese reality show that’s sort of like Big Brother and sort of like The Hills – at least, in my opinion (I don’t actually like Big Brother, so don’t let that deter you). There’s three guys and three girls, all strangers, living in a house together. We get to see how they interact with each other inside the house, but also outside the house when they’re at work, or on dates. Plus it seems to air as it’s being filmed so people outside the house know what’s going on inside. And the cast members watch the episodes as they air, too.
2. There’s a panel
The panel is my favourite part. There’s a bunch of Japanese television personalities (models, actors, comedians, singers) that sit around watching the show and then pick it apart and discuss what’s happened. And their banter is hilarious. They’ve got an almost Australian sense of humour – they’re kind of sarcastic and thoroughly enjoy light-heartedly picking on the housemates.
3. The revolving door of casting
Just when you start to get bored of a person, usually because they’ve tried dating all the eligible singles in the house (unsuccessfully), or they just aren’t reaching any other life goals, they decide to leave the house and along comes someone new and, hopefully, interesting. Especially sweet is when a couple leaves together, which is seen at the ultimate commitment. As an added bonus, sometimes cast members from previous seasons come by to visit which is always fun.
4. Hardly anything happens and yet you can’t look away
When I think back to The Hills it was drama, drama, drama. Tears, yelling, fighting, running around fashion shows and dating a bunch of guys. There’s less of that in Terrace House, and yet somehow it’s still compelling viewing? I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because it’s a more realistic representation for your average twenty-something? Where you work part-time, you live with flatmates, you cook together, have a date once in a while and for the most part it’s all very chill.
That said, there are definitely tears – and more often than not it’s the guys having the bawling session – but there’s never a raised voice. Plus their confrontation-style could definitely be described as passive-aggressive. And when it’s not passive-aggressive, it causes meltdowns. Here, Mizuki has just finished explaining her goal to open a cafe because she loves coffee, people and interior design. And Uchi has come back saying that he doesn’t think her goal is specific enough. It ends with Mizuki crying, Yuriko crying in sympathy, and this moment getting referenced for many an episode to come.
5. The made-up back stories created by the panel
Linked perhaps to the previous point, at times the panel makes up highly detailed and amusing back stories for cast members. In one memorable example, Yuriko, one of the housemates, was meeting up with an ex-boyfriend. Over several episodes the panel concocted a story involving the owner of the hospital the ex worked at, and his pressure to marry the hospital owner’s daughter – who was said to be always lurking just out of shot, sitting in her red convertible.
6. The cultural experience
I won’t pretend I know much about Japanese culture, but what I am learning from the show is, Japanese people are super polite. There’s a lot of bowing, and saying thank you, and cleaning up after each other. I don’t know if this is common for all Japanese people, or just the personalities that are cast on the show, but there also seems to be an obsession with career goals and general life motivations. You’ll notice whenever someone moves in, the first question asked is ‘Are you single?’, followed by ‘What’s your type?’ and ending with ‘What are you goals?’.
7. Food, food, food
There’s so many reasons to include food as an item on this list. For one – the food cooked and consumed on the show looks delicious – if you’re into Japanese food, that is. Not only are there great restaurant shots where the housemates are grilling meat in the middle of their tables, but they also seem to be fairly good cooks at home too. Plus there’s the novelty of seeing them eat a salad at breakfast with chopsticks, as well as hamburger patties with rice, also eaten with chopsticks.
The other reason to love food is it’s used as a communication tool (there’s a rice ball incident involving the character for ‘coward’ written on top in tomato sauce). It’s also the cause of a major fight involving a couple plus a few other housemates (aka the ‘meat incident’ starting with a stolen steak and ending in an almost break-up, an intervention, and a lot of tears).
8. The occasional lost-in-translation subtitle
I don’t want to give away any major spoilers, but trust me on this: there are times where you’ll read the subtitles and be praying something has been lost in translation. Your eyes WILL go wide and you WILL exclaim WTF at least once, and wonder what time slot this was aired in Japan, and if it mattered. I can’t even bring myself to add in a screenshot so you’ll have to just watch and see for yourself.
9. Watching relationships unfold
I’ve got to say, there’s something extremely old-school about how the relationships develop – particularly in Boys and Girls in the City. To start with, everyone is very open that they’re in the house to meet a partner. But once they start dating everything is extremely chaste. There’s lengthy discussions about whether hand holding is appropriate before you’re officially an item. There’s intense declarations, not of love, but of wanting to officially date. It’s kind of nice in some ways, but very slow and annoying in other ways. Either way, it’s entertaining.
10. Boys and Girls in the City v Aloha State
Personally, I found Boys and Girls in the City (Season 1 on Netflix) to be the most enjoyable to watch. Mainly because it’s set in Tokyo and has the most drama. Plus, as an Australian watching this, its more interesting in a cultural sense. And I really enjoyed seeing the different sites in and around Tokyo. I’m ready to book a holiday!
On the other hand, Aloha State is much more American – most of the housemates are half Japanese, half American, they speak English sometimes, and spend their time chilling, surfing, and working in cafes. Most of them are quite laid back so you don’t get the emotional drama that Boys and Girls in the City provided. And there’s less relationship drama because most of them seem more interested in their career than anything else.