Did we like it?
It was an entertaining half an hour, but it felt disjointed and rushed, a bit like England’s build-up play against Macedonia.
What was good about it?
• The Japanese-style graphics and animation were constantly arresting. Good stuff.
• The giant half-panda half-other animal contraptions called Hanpandas that were designed by Nagi Noda were superb. Even better was Nagi admitting that after she started making them she could only be reminded of her ex-husband, who could be very sweet but was also bad-tempered.
• Jung Mao, Jonathan’s special guest, whose job is to dress up as Manga characters. Those are some interesting costumes, and we want to know if she’s available for parties. And if she’s available.
• Designer Nigo’s amazing apartment, that resembled a futuristic department store for the incredibly wealthy.
What was bad about it?
• Jonathan seemed ill-at-ease presenting this show and his interview with Nigo was, to be kind, stilted. His ill-judged ‘gag’ about geeks and masturbation could have done with being cut as well.
• As this is a documentary series, each episode has to have some kind of theme foisted upon it. This week it was ‘cool’. People have spent decades trying to define ‘cool’, yet here the programme-makers tried to conquer it in about 27 minutes. Unsurprisingly, they never got close and instead we were only treated to tantalisingly, frustratingly, short dips into a tiny part of Japan’s ‘cool’ culture.
• The nod to ‘cool’ architecture bordered on pathetic. Ross said that Tokyo had a lot of cool buildings. We saw a montage of a few of them with their names flashed up and a couple of brief shots of the architects themselves (were they interviewed but never made the cut?). Then it was time to move on. We would have preferred to see a whole half hour just on this one aspect of Japan – some of the buildings were astounding – or
indeed of any one of the several aspects that were skated over, rather than these inadequately short clips.
• Despite always being watchable, in the end this episode felt jumbled and unsatisfying. In particular, we could not work out how watching the band The Magic Numbers shuffling round the Meiji Shrine added to the programme