Shinobu goes to live with a family in England for a short period of time where she meets a girl her age named Alice in the first episode of this series. The episode details the gaps in communication between the pair when they are in England since they are only capable of saying “hello” in the others language. Shinobu departs to finish middle school back in Japan and on one spring day in high school, she has a surprising new classmate from abroad.
First of all, the level of detail that went into this episode was really good on all fronts except for one. That they use Japanese voice actresses for the English speaking parts is not surprising, but there’s no attempt to even make them sound like they are from the southwest of England. Also, you may question the fact that the family in England seems to speak perfect Japanese, but upon visiting the website seen in the credits for the bed and breakfast on which that part of the episode takes place, you would see they heavily market to Japanese visitors. There’s also a lot that goes into that quintessential stereotype of Japanese families in that shoes get taken off immediately upon entering a home. Shinobu delights in being able to walk around in an English home with her shoes still on. She carries that over to school at the end of the episode when she commits the faux pas of all faux pas.
Where this series really shines is in breaking down cultural barriers. Shinobu starts as the Anglophile on a bit of an adventure. She spots Alice as a cultural curiosity for having blonde hair. Alice sees Shinobu as the girl who looks like the Japanese doll in her bedroom that speaks a weird language. Eventually, they grow close enough to communicate at a basic level just by doing things together.
When the story skips forward, Shinobu is still an Anglophile even if she can’t read a bit of English. Alice, meanwhile became a full-blown Japanophile in the most uncritical way possible. She came to Japan having learned the language in their time apart and taken the stereotypes of Japan uncritically to be true. Since the two of them will now be living together, it will now be about breaking that down Alice’s perceptions of Japan just by spending more time together.
Yes, ultimately this is a story about having one’s perceptions about an exciting new world being destroyed. Fortunately, it’s replaced by the close friendship that comes from experiencing those things with someone close to you. Where this show will fail or succeed is in how well the material transitions from being about Alice’s reaction to experiencing realities for the first time to how well she has adjusted to life in Japan. If it goes horribly wrong, this could be the worst sort of laughing at foreigners show that frequently gets heaps of criticism. For everyone’s sake, I want this series to succeed in just that transition.
Reasons to Continue Watching
- High quality production
- Excellent attention to detail
- Not above mocking the absurdities of British and Japanese culture.
Reasons to Watch
- Hopelessly naive characters
- Stereotypes used for comedic effect
- The English speaking scenes are still awkward despite their best efforts.
My Verdict: Yet another good surprise this season, which may turn out to be better than previous summers. The potential for disaster is here whenever you make cultural clashes the subject of a series, but in this group of characters I’m willing to trust it for now.