I don’t watch much broadcast TV in Japan – I find it quite difficult to keep up with the overwhelming number of streaming video games, movies and series that surround me in my work (and hobbies) without also watch random TV shows. But one of the few Japanese TV shows that I really like has gone global. And it’s been fun to see how the world reacts.
Yes, after thirty years of entertaining national audiences, Old enough has arrived on Netflix.
Known in Japan as Hajimete no Otsukai, which translates to “My First Race,” each episode of this entertaining documentary sends a toddler of around 2 to 5 years old on an adult mission without the help of their parents. For example, unaccompanied trekking to the supermarket for groceries.
Crucially, the kid at the center of each episode doesn’t know he’s being filmed during his run – like an actual version of The Truman Show.
The word “race” doesn’t quite do justice to the drama that ensues. As these children find the courage to embark on what often feels like an insurmountable mission, the tension is extreme. With my heart in my mouth, I watch them overcome problems such as forgetting an item from the shopping list, dropping a bucket of slimy fish on the sidewalk on the way to the fishmonger, or being distracted by gambling with complete disregard. for the ticking clock.
And then the reward – the satisfaction they feel when they have finally conquered their task. And then too, the tears of their proud parents as they congratulate their little child on a job well done.
Players of games like Elden Ring are also tasked with overcoming impossible challenges. So we know that feeling better than anyone.
Cultural judgments and misperceptions
Old Enough is unlike any other TV show, in Japan or the West. So it’s no surprise that the reaction from Western media and users on Twitter and Reddit after the show’s debut on Netflix was quite intense. Some are thrilled by the show’s heartwarming concept and adorable stars. Others are concerned about the welfare of children, shocked that children so young are sent out into the world alone for entertainment.
As often happens when a Japanese show attracts global attention, many armchair experts have drawn conclusions about Japanese culture and society that range wildly from precise observation to wild guesswork.
I grew up in London and was maybe 10 when I started walking to school every day. In Japan, it happens much earlier. Even in central Tokyo, I sometimes see 5 or 6 year old children traveling alone on public transport.
But that doesn’t mean all Japanese kids run errands like they do on Old Enough.
The show is very carefully planned so that children can continue their adventure under the watchful eyes of crew members dressed as passers-by. Even the cameramen are in costume, with semi-hidden cameras disguised as luggage and other items. Rather than just throwing these kids to the lions, the show’s production team clearly went to extreme lengths to keep them safe, without the kids realizing they’re being escorted.
Either way, it’s been interesting for us in Japan to see the sudden global debate around a show we’ve watched domestically for decades.
For the IGN Japan editorial team, this was a great excuse to revisit the show and examine the reaction from our overseas audience. This was the topic of the latest episode of our weekly movie-themed video podcast series, Ginmaku ni Popcorn, and I’m thrilled to see how the response from our audience continues to evolve.
April in video games
As for video games from Japan, the past month has been relatively quiet. Finally, the AAA version rush has died down and we have a short period of peace.
But of all the Japanese publishers, the one that kept us the most busy with updates this month is Nintendo.
The Legend of Zelda
First, at the end of March, Nintendo announced that one of the most anticipated games of 2022 – the as-yet-untitled sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – won’t be released this year after all. Although the game never had a concrete release date beyond “sometime in 2022”, it has now been delayed to spring 2023.
Series producer Eiji Aonuma broke the news in a video suddenly posted to Nintendo’s official YouTube and Twitter accounts, saying, “In order to make the experience of this game something special, the entire team development continues to work diligently on this game, so please wait a while longer.”
No specific reason was given for the delay. However, it’s actually quite common for games in the Zelda series to get delayed. And of course, we all want Nintendo to take its time and make the best game possible, so the response from fans has been pretty understanding.
Breath of the Wild is widely regarded as one of the best games of all time, so the bar is set pretty high. That said, I have no doubt that the Aonuma team will deliver something truly special.
super mario bros movie
The animated movie Super Mario Bros. is also delayed to next spring, produced by Minions studio, Illumination Entertainment.
This time, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto made a rare appearance (in text form) on Nintendo’s official Twitter account, saying, “This is Miyamoto. After consulting Chris-san, my partner at Illumination on the Super Mario Bros. movie, we have decided to move the worldwide release to Spring 2023 – April 28 in Japan and April 7 in North America. My sincere apologies, but I promise you it will be worth it. »
Again, I think we can expect a lot from this animated Mario movie, if only because Miyamoto and his team at Nintendo will do anything to avoid repeating the disaster that was the Super Mario Bros. movie. live from 1993. Once bitten, twice shy – it took Nintendo almost 30 years to finally allow anyone to make a Mario movie again, and I’m sure they would only do it if they were super confident in the project.
My hopes are high, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out what’s inside Illumination’s question block.
It’s not all delays – Nintendo actually announced the release date for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 before a few months, from September to July 29. In this era of pandemic-related delays, this was a pleasant surprise.
The Kyoto company has also finally announced the release date for Splatoon 3, narrowly delivering on its “summer 2022” promise with a September 9 release. The Splatoon series is huge among gamers in Japan, so this news – another sudden announcement – was a huge hit among our readers.
Hironobu Sakaguchi wins his own studio
Finally, this month we published an interview with Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise who now has his own development studio, Mistwalker.
Although Sakaguchi no longer works on the Final Fantasy series, he is a huge fan of Final Fantasy XIV, which is currently one of the biggest massively multiplayer online RPGs in the world.
The game draws heavily from past works in the series, including many of Sakaguchi’s classic games. So we asked the veteran developer to tell us about his recent addiction to FFXIV and share his perspective as the father of Final Fantasy.
Having already racked up an impressive 1,000 hours of gameplay since last year, Sakaguchi commented, “I really shouldn’t get so obsessed with a game, should I? I have work to do!” For a rare and unique take on this beloved online game, check out the full article – it’s a great read.
As we weather the wet spring months and even wetter summer, my team at IGN Japan is cooking up some cooler coverage of the world of gaming and entertainment in Japan. I look forward to sharing more with you next month!
Daniel Robson is editor of the video game news site IGN Japan. Read his series player’s world on JAPAN Forward, and find him on Twitter here.