Review: Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020 Part One

Credit: Terrace House Instagram  @th_6_tv

Credit: Terrace House Instagram @th_6_tv

Or, ranking the members based on likeability.

Konban wa! It’s been a minute! Terrace House is back—finally—and the latest season also takes place where it all began, Tokyo. After the Japanese reality show’s second season, Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City premiered on Netflix in 2015 (wow, were we ever that young?), the show has steadily gained traction and an international fanbase, spurring a Terrace House edition in Hawaii (Aloha State from 2016-2017), one in Karuizawa (Opening New Doors from 2017-2019) and now, Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020! (You can tell they really went all out with the name for this season.)

Terrace House follows a pretty straightforward format: six strangers live together in a beautiful house (which sets completely unrealistic expectations for real estate and interior design in actual everyday life, but y’know), and six entertainment personalities provide often hilarious commentary on their relationships. In stark contrast to the pandering, over-the-top and frankly, unrealistic drama of Western reality shows, Terrace House is calming to watch. Its stars aren’t just caricatures of people, but rather relatable people in search of success, whether that be in love or career—and oftentimes, both.

One of the most charming points of the show is how meta it is. At one point they all gather and watch the first episode when it airs (in other words, their first meeting and first impressions of each other) and hear conversations that they wouldn’t have been privy to otherwise. It’s a delightful conundrum where they are being recorded watching themselves on TV—and the consequences that seeing their past selves has on their current selves (in that episode, anyway.) Meanwhile, they’re still filming Terrace House right at this moment (the season’s slated to end in summer 2020) so you can only imagine what is going on right now and how you’ll only get to see it, like, half a year later.

The strength of Terrace House lies, obviously, in the guests and whether they have chemistry or not. (Sometimes it’s even better if they don’t, but hey, this is reality TV.) This season started off pretty strong, with a diverse range of careers and also age gaps. And although it’s a calm watch, that doesn’t make it any less entertaining, because you really get to see the layers of personality over the course of the season or the cast member’s run on the show. I’ll review this season by cast members, and I’ll even rank them from most liked to least. ;) Some spoilers ahead, obviously.

Kaori Watanabe

28-year-old illustrator, @foxco_kaori. Easily my favourite member on the show—she’s down-to-earth, tries not to get involved in petty drama, has a pretty cool career as a freelance fashion illustrator. She’s definitely got more career drama than romantic drama going on in the show so far, but for the show’s demographic, it’s still pretty damn relatable (one might say even more so than romance, for certain people). She’s got a very amiable personality—my only complaint is that she might be playing it a bit too safe but anyway, here’s hoping one of the guys leave in the next segment so a new candidate emerges for her affections.

Haruka Okuyama

24-year-old actress, @harukaoffi. They really made her out to be that catty girl in the beginning but don’t worry, she turns out to be much more likeable than expected. I like that she’s straightforward and that she has drive—literally. Her hobbies include drag racing (she owns a pretty sweet Corvette) and golfing. She attributes her bluntness to hanging out more with middle-aged geezers than people her own age, which so far checks out. She makes you want to root for her (or at least, for me.) Girl also has some excellent side-eye action going on, which means, you can always tell what she’s thinking, which is kind of refreshing.

Ruka Nishinoiri

20-year-old part-timer. Such a pretty face, with a puppy-dog personality, to boot—but not so great at everything else. This guy started off with “if I talk to girls, I blush”—which became his ‘thing’ card for the first five episodes—but then it turns out he’s unexpectedly and (un?)intentionally a total charmer. The commentators have a great time roasting him and it’s hilarious, plus the fact that he inadvertently tries to wheel every single girl, one after the other is just amusing to watch. Still, he’s an endearing sort of person to watch because he tries to act grown up but clearly hasn’t quite gotten there yet—you HAVE TO see him “cook” carbonara pasta in episode 11, you will hate to see it—but at the same time, he’s 20, so what do you expect?

Shohei Matsuzaki

26-year-old actor, @matuzakishohei. This guy earns plus points for being a good cook, as well as the best listener—according to the girls, he’s the easiest to talk to but loses points for being a classic drifter. He calls himself a broke Jack-of-all-trades—actor, model, freelance writer, construction worker and who knows what else. He has a pretty unique take on life where he wants to be able to do everything. Some might say he’s unfocused. (Also, it must be said: there’s this one part of an episode that follows him as he shoots a part in an adult film and ohmygod, I really could’ve happily gone the rest of my life without seeing it. You’ve been warned.)

Risako Tanabe

21-year-old fitness trainer, @risako_tanabe. Her vibe is a mix between looking really mature and acting the complete opposite. I found her personality to be slightly abrasive—some might say ‘bratty’— and she created plenty of intrigue with the love triangle between her, Kenny and Ruka. She doesn’t “get along” with the other two girls which creates some awkwardness, but aside from the whole catty girl-on-girl narrative, I can appreciate that she stays true to her own views as well (even though I don’t necessarily agree with her.)

Kenji “Kenny” Yoshihara

31-year-old musician, @kenny_spicysol. To put it bluntly: I have no use for this guy. His only strong point is that he’s a musician, but even that works against him because he’s so obviously on Terrace House to promote his band—something which the commentators point out with much amusement. But also in terms of romance, he’s the most frustrating guy to watch because, for some reason, he has 2/3 girls interested in him and basically 0 redeeming qualities. He starts off by saying “he wants to be straightforward in love” at the first meeting and then just sits on his ass for the entire 12 episodes. I’m not saying girls can’t ask out the guy every so often, but when it’s every single date and confession, it gets old real quick. Further complaints: he sucks at listening, he likes instigating petty gossip, and he was way too callous about that whole Haruka-Risako fight. Sorry, Kenny fans, not sorry.

All this to say that as a reality show, Terrace House might be no less contrived than its peers, but at the very least, it’s self-aware, not to mention presented in a sleek and chic fashion. Needless to say, I was super excited for this season to finally arrive on Netflix—they started filming sometime in late April and the season premiered on Netflix Japan in May. Part Two is airing on Netflix Japan right now so I guess it’ll be another few months until we catch up with the crew. Time to binge-watch the other seasons in the meantime (I recommend the Karuizawa one in particular, the members on that season were also pretty ace)!

Check out Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020 on Netflix or follow the show on Instagram for episode previews as they air in Japan!