After 46 episodes of Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City, how did Netflix decide to reinvent one of Japan’s most popular reality television shows – a combination of Big Brother and The Bachelor – to make it feel shiny and new again?
Rather than asking housemates to vote each other out of their accommodation, or adding ‘housemate challenges,' they merely moved the setting of the house from Tokyo to Hawaii. Aside from the location change – and some new faces – nothing else is different about Terrace House: Aloha State.
An equally accurate subtitle would be Terrace House: Now With More Scenes Featuring Good-Looking Young People Frolicking On The Beach.
Terrace House originally ran on Fuji Television from 2012-2014, and in 2015 Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City premiered on Netflix as a Netflix Original. Aloha State follows the same format and previous iterations, with three girls and three boys living under the one roof, sorting out unscripted conflicts and falling in love.
It’s still very much ‘slice of life’ viewing, with drama centred around who left wet towels on the floor in the girls’ bathroom and petty disagreements are as strangely riveting as ever.
With a background of azure skies and sparkling blue waters, the fancy AF house prepared for the Terrace House stars looks even more lavish than the digs in Tokyo. The housemates in Aloha State also come from more diverse backgrounds, with many of the cast having lived in countries other than Japan (or Hawaii) before.
So who are the housemates this time 'round? In the order they arrive in the first episode…
There’s 18-year-old Lauren Tsai, an aspiring painter and model, who was born in Massachusetts. Lauren is Chinese-American and studied in Hiroshima for six weeks when she was 15, which made her want to study the language and move to Japan. Listening to her fluent Japanese will make anyone who’s ever half-heartedly studied a language feel an intense, personal shame.
Then there’s 18-year-old Japanese-American Yuya Shibusawa, whose hometown is Yokohama, Japan. He's an aspiring actor whose goal is to improve his English while living in Terrace House. He has also relocated for the show.
26-year-old Avian Ku is the first housemate to arrive who already lives and works in Hawaii. She works as an assistant at the t-shirt store her mother owns, and has a refreshingly down-to-earth and direct demeanour.
The oldest housemate is 27-year-old Eric de Mendonca, who has been living in Hawaii for a while, but is originally from Nishinomiya, in the Hyogo Prefecture. He works as a craftsman and is planning to open his own café.
23-year-old Frank Naomi Lorraine was born in America, but has lived in Japan for most of her life. Her English isn’t as strong as some of the other housemates, which is only worth mentioning because it becomes a plot point as she looks for work in Hawaii.
Lastly, there’s 18-year-old Yusuke Aizawa, who was born in Tokyo but has lived in Hawaii since his early teens. He introduces himself as a keen musician, who can play both guitar and ukulele. Dear reader, if you look back on your own housemate experiences over the years, you may already be cringing. A housemate who’s ‘really into’ music and taught themselves to play the ukulele from YouTube…? It rarely ends well.
Well, Yusuke is the exception to that rule. He is a phenomenal performer – it’s a shame his ‘shtick’ isn’t the music, because I would watch eight episodes of him performing. Instead, the fact that he’s never had a girlfriend becomes the biggest driver of his ‘plotline’ while on the show.
Terrace House has always been surprisingly risqué (Aloha State is tagged on Netflix as ‘provocative’), but this new season feels even more so than usual.
While the characters (er, sorry, very real people with very real feelings) are tamer this time around, it feels like the hosts are trying to compensate. From their first episode our presenters (You, Reina Triendl, Yoshimi Tokui, Azusa Babazono, Ryota Yamasato and Kentaro) are joking about ‘baseball bats’ – that euphemism is exactly as obvious as you think it is – and foursomes.
Part One of Aloha State is only eight episodes, and with the show now available in 190 countries, there will be even more people waiting for the final 16 episodes of this season to be released.
We have only one lingering question: will Arman (the Hawaii resident in the house from Boys & Girls in the City) make a guest appearance in Part Two?!
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