Friday 4 January 2013

TV Tarento I Don’t Hate

This will be short.

So one of the benefits of my job is that I get a couple of weeks off over christmas and New Year. Looking after the kids all day is frankly harder that what I normally do at work, but not having to get up with the alarm clock every morning at least means I can get a bit of Quality Time alone with my wife at the other end of the day. And, as you’d expect, we’ve been using these precious few stolen moments without the children to engage in the most ‘adult’ of pursuits - vegging out in front of the TV.

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.

George Tokoro (所ジョージ)
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.


  1. I'm not sure if you'll get to see this comment since I assume you are currently being deported from Japan for calling Sanma a cunt! I can't stand that guy - dunno his name but he's an old dude with glasses and buck teeth, looks like a squished face mole. Bet he's hentai as fuck.

    I like Morisanchu but then I've only seen them on Arashi variety shows where the chick, O-chan?, is all fan girly on Matsujun. I thought it was part of their act but apparently not. She really is a fan. And I like their fashion sense.

    I also like Becky. A lot of people hate her but I like that she doesn't act like a pathetic bimbo, unlike most female talento. I had a slight girl crush on her until I saw her in Eight Rangers wearing a leather cat suit. Now I have a major girl crush on her.

    1. My wife swears that one of Morisanchu is actually quite sharp and funny. Can't remember which one though, and as a group they depress me as much for what they symbolise as what they do.

      Becky's far from the worst, but I always feel like she promises way more than she actually delivers. That might be unfair of me, but there you go.

    2. The one in the middle. She was the star in a love comedy/drama a few years ago and was pretty good in that.

    3. That's the one. Thank you for the fact-check, as ever :)

  2. On the Facebook 'Hiking in Japan' group there was a major pile on Imoto for getting helicoptered off The Matterhorn, after getting 'short-roped' up it. Yeah, it's just TV, but with the hiking boom these days some idiot's going to get themselves killed climbing above their strength and knowledge because of TV stunts like that, presented as her own accomplishment. Still, take off the eyebrows and she actually cleans-up fine.

    Becky? I like my 'halfu', but not quite so pubescent. Give me a woman like Takagawa Chrystel or Kuroki Meisa... please!

    1. There's a 'hiking boom' now?

    2. Google '山ギャル', but as always with Japanese things involving 'girls', set your search settings to 'safe'... or not...

  3. I feel like commenting just to confirm my mutual desire to kick Sanma in the nuts.

  4. I like Yanagihara, but don't see her on tv so much these days. But I do feel and admire her gumption. And yeah, Morisanchu I also don't like for the same reasons you listed. I like most of the guys from 007, too. They're all kinda classy. Something about Arita rubs me the right way.

    1. 'Gumption' is a great word, isn't it? Slightly old-fashioned and with a pleasing heft you don't get with these newfangled coinages.

      Is it Peke-Pon (or something like that) with Yanagihara and Cream Stew? I have to admit that the pun game they play at the start goes right over my head, but that thing where they have to guess the prices of various dishes is normally quite good, even if it does use two of the things that annoy me most about Japanese TV (the obsessions with food and physical punishment as a source of comedy).

  5. The 20 second English segment on Zip has the most useless words and makes my soul wither from cheesiness when they repeat the word. Seems like a waste if this woman went to an American university, but it could also serve as a metaphor for the utilisation of any abilities from abroad. Anyway I am quite into the NHK rendora and watch that with the weather report. Have been into it for quite a few years now. The one about okonomiyaki was by far the best yet. Not sure if I am into Coco's kitchen or whatever either.

    I quite like the Hamada/Matsumoto combination and enjoyed watching their special on New Year's Eve. Their other shows are quite good other than the music one, which I think has finished lately.

    Apart from that I avoid any shows that have the "Everyone Loves Raymond" type of humour in them, except for the ones where they go to interesting places. I also like Tsurube's show where they go to random towns, they even came to my town once. Does NHK even count in this conversation though?

    1. Downtown? Sometimes I quite like them. Matsumoto is generally pretty funny, but Hamada definitely falls into the 'Bullying Cockend' camp.

      Their New Years show has been getting worse and worse every year. I still watch it though, because it's a useful marker to see how much my Japanese has improved (or not) over the previous 12 months. This year was pretty poor, but for some reason the 'CARNIVAL!!!' reveal in the old-timey village made me piss myself laughing.

      Everyone Loves Raymond? That's a misnomer right there.

    2. Agreed on Hamada. Don't like it how he likes to hit people over the head like a prick.

  6. Good man for admitting that going off to work is harder than staying at home with the kids.

    1. I think you might have meant to include an extra 'not' in that sentence, no?

      I am so not even going to touch that argument ;) Except to say that, as I'm employed mainly as an ALT, pretty much most things would be harder than my job. I love it and take it seriously, but there's no point pretending it's back-breaking labour.