It’s shit, of course. I know it, my wife knows it, you know it, everybody knows it. What is less widely appreciated is that, under the Broadcast Television Licensing Act of 1979, there are, by law, only two personality types allowed to appear on Japanese light-entertainment shows: Simpering Lackwit and Bullying Cockend.
In general the former is restricted to female tarento and the latter to the men. There are occasional crossover acts, but it must be said that male Lackwits are considerably more common than female Bullies. Even more occasionally, the producers will cock a snook at the powers that be and employ a few people whose personas revolve around more than just the metaphorical swinging of their sex-organs in the audience’s faces. These are those few, those happy few –
Ayako Imoto （ｲﾓﾄｱﾔｺ）
Yeah, the eyebrow thing is annoying as all hell and she over-reacts to dumb shit with the worst of them. But she’s one of the few female tarento to show any kind of gumption or sense of self beyond the camera’s depth of focus. I actually think she’d make a decent fist of those trips she takes around the world even without the benefit of a massive production crew backing her up.
I’m less impressed with her most recent incarnation as the host of World Ranking. I guess it represents a step up the career ladder, but it’s a little sad seeing her forced to conform to the soulless, dead-eyed announcer-bot role that is already so ubiquitously common. Ah well, another one bites the dust.
Bit of a mixed bag, this one. One of the more senior figures on the circuit, and you don’t climb so high up that particular greasy pole without an ice-cold willingness to use the beaten and broken corpses of your enemies as fleshy meat-rungs.
Still, he’s the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Japanese Toy Story dub, which has to count for something. More importantly, he seems secure enough in himself not to try to completely dominate every show he’s on. He also hosts Waratte Koraete, which contains one of my favourite bits of TV, wherein they use darts to choose a random town from a map of Japan and send a camera crew there just to shoot the breeze with whoever seems to be about. It’s surprisingly entertaining and, crucially, clearly done with a measure of respect and affection for the people they talk to.
Unaccountably best mates with Sanma, who’s a cunt.
Mari Sekine （関根麻里）
Daughter of Tsutomu Sekine, owner of the roundest face in showbusiness. Seems pretty on the ball, and is unafraid to improvise beyond the usual wittering expected of female announcers. Seems to get away with it too, which can only be a good sign. Apparently went to university in America, which may or may not have something to do with it.
Disappointingly co-anchor for the awful ZIP! morning programme, which even if it were not the steaming, quivering mound of shit that it is would still be annoying due to the fact it replaced Zoom In in the morning schedule, which at least on occasion appeared to be aimed at actual grown-ups.
Wikipedia tells me her Body Mass Index is 19.8.
Kanako Yanagihara （柳原可奈子）
She’s a female comedian and her weight is more than most would consider ideal. She’s genuinely funny and makes jokes about many things, and in doing so will occasionally mention her weight but no more or less often than any other aspect of her person. Compare this to Morisanchu, a troupe of three fat, ugly women whose material consists of being fat and ugly. It’s funny, you see? Because they’re fat! And ugly! And fat! HA HA HA.
Wikipedia is unforthcoming as regards her BMI.
Shyabekuri 007 （しゃべくり007）
A kind of comedy supergroup, consisting of Neptune, Cream Stew, and Tutorial. They’re all usually just borderline tolerable (though Cream Stew are less bad than Neptune), but put them together and their varying levels of cockendery appear to cancel each other out.
This is notionally a talk show, and with a guest added to the group dynamic it seems to neutralize the grim seniority system which calcifies so many other ‘comedy’ shows, (most notably the unlamented Shinsuke Shimada’s various former vehicles) and give them free rein to be actually entertaining and amusing.
Slim Club （スリムクラブ）
Manzai, for those of you who don’t know, is a style of Japanese stand-up comedy. It’s something of an acquired taste. Performers always come as a double-act and the comedy revolves about speaking really fast and hitting each other.
Except with these guys, where it revolves around speaking reeeeeeally slooooowly and looking politely incredulous. Crucially, it’s slow enough for me to understand, and often surreal enough that even if I do misunderstand, it’s not going to be any less funny than what they actually said. It’s all about timing.
That’s your lot. Nothing else remains.