I have a new Netflix obsession.
It’s my first day in Bacolod and I have so much free time on my hands, I’m basically just lounging around and enjoying the comforts of home. I have all the time in the world to catch up on my Netflix shows, and just when I was about to pick up on where I left off with Stranger Things and The Designated Survivor, I saw a teaser for Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salary Man and was instantly intrigued. I don’t watch a lot of Japanese-language shows since unlike other Japanophiles I know, I’m not really fond of anything Japanese. I tried to watch Midnight Diner but couldn’t ride with Japanese humor and storytelling – it is for me a bit dry and slow, almost too melancholic. I understand the aesthetic, but it’s not something I would go for. Kantaro, however, tickled my fancy because the teaser was playful and fun, if not a bit bizarre.
I started watching it and now I’m irrevocably hooked.
I’ll try not to spoil, but here is the rundown of the plot: Kantaro is a systems engineer and a programmer whose sole goal in life is to get to as many sweet shops in Tokyo as he can. There are, according to the teaser, hundreds if not thousands of sweet shops in Japan’s capital, and Kantaro couldn’t sample all of them, given his workload and his schedule. He quits his job to join the sales industry, which is filled with Japan’s burnt out salarymen. He hatches a plan to visit all of the famous sweets shop while on sales calls.
This resonates with me on a deep level.
For those who don’t know, I’ve recently quit my job as sales and marketing manager without any clear prospects for my next job. I knew I just had to get out of that job because I was losing myself bit by bit in an environment that didn’t make me feel fulfilled. There isn’t a sob story behind that one — just the fact that people sometimes get tired of their places of work and choose to move on. Maybe to pursue other passions, maybe to take a job somewhere else. There wasn’t any bigger reason other than I just needed to do it for my own sanity. What I know, though, is that I want a job that will allow me to travel, to learn new things, and interact with cool and inspiring people (but don’t we all?).
So I somehow managed to turn this entry about an update about my life. Sooo sorry if you came here expecting a review of this new Netflix show. We’ll get back to it… right now.
Yoshi, junbi dekita..
Okay, so Kantaro is great because it reminds me of Cooking Master Boy, which was probably the only anime I enjoyed growing up. Kantaro adapted the ridiculous and over-the-top antics of Cooking Master Boy, as it features delectable Japanese desserts but with exaggerated and larger-than-life reactions and expressions from the actors. It even has daydream sequences wherein Kantaro is transported into magical realms where he has deep, existential conversations with the ingredients of the food he is about to dig into. The featured image (check up there, by the title) is of Kantaro basking in the ambrosial syrup that one pours on the anmitsu, the Japanese dessert of agar, adzuki bean paste, mochi and dango balls, and fruit. He escapes into psychedelic fantasies which serve as a big contrast to his humdrum office and fieldwork job. His face is twisted into orgasmic contortions as he anticipates the arrival of his orders. The production value is astounding: awesome special effects and cool graphics.
I may not enjoy all things trademark Japanese, like anime, most Japanese food, and the otaku culture, but I do enjoy stories about Japan’s quirkiness and uniqueness. Kantaro is my brand of messed up and weird Japanese BS. It’s hilarious and offbeat, just like other funny Japanese videos I randomly come across on Facebook.
I also don’t know much about quintessentially Japanese desserts, so this is quite educational for me. Kantaro explains with full detail, each component and ingredient of each dish he eats. He also goes into the history and the cultural significance of Japanese desserts. It’s almost ethnographic, and it’s quite an interesting watch for those who love Netflix’s other food-centric offerings like Chef’s Table or No Reservations. Kantaro is a food show, a satire of Japan’s cutthroat salarymen culture, and a travel show – all rolled into one. It’s a cross-section of one of many quirky and very Japanese ways of life. Oh there are bonus tidbits of philosophy and wisdom from the likes of Churchill and Tolstoy. These are told through Kantaro’s entries in his food blog. Then there is also some brewing drama with an envious officemate, which ought to keep things exciting. And the best part? THEY BREAK INTO DANCE AND SONG IN RANDOM PARTS. Beat that.
It’s campy, it’s trippy, it’s ironic, and it has a twisted sense of humor.
I love it.
Do you watch the show, too? Any other Netflix recommendations? Let’s talk about it in the comments.