On November 1, Netflix released a slew of new content including Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! In this emotional new season, the Fab 5 take their talents and cross cultural boundaries to help a new group of heroes. (Photo is public domain)
Recently, the majority of Netflix’s new content has been less than thrilling. However, the beginning of November brought about a few new shows and movies that actually look good. One of the many things that released November 1 is Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!
For anyone who doesn’t know, Queer Eye is a makeover show led by the Fab 5, a group of five talented and fashionable gay gays. In each episode, the Fab 5 help a “hero” get their life together through several different areas in their life like clothing, grooming, eating habits, self-care, and their environment. In this new season, the Fab 5 move beyond the U.S. and go to Japan to help people. With only four episodes, this season is shorter than previous seasons, but it’s just as impactful as the rest of the show.
The first episode in this new season is “Japanese Holiday,” a playoff of the movie Roman Holiday since the hero loves Audrey Hepburn. The hero to kick off this new season is Yoko, a nice old hospice nurse. In her dedication to helping other people, she’d forgotten to take care of herself, which is why she’s been nominated by her friend Fumiko.
Each character on Queer Eye is different, so they require different levels of help in certain areas. In this instance, Bobby’s work remodeling Yoko’s house was incredibly important because she didn’t have a bedroom before. Apparently, she gave up her space for her patients and slept on the floor instead. Because of this, it’s incredibly emotional when Bobby reveals the bedroom he made for her. It adds to the Fab 5’s message of how she deserves to respect and care for herself. It’s a really healthy message that people have to balance selflessness with self-care.
I actually cried a few times watching this episode when Yoko talks about how she became a nurse in honor of her sister, who died of cancer. This episode is the most prominent example of how this show can switch from a highly emotional moment to a fun, playful scene. For example, powerfully moving moments of Yoko crying over her sister are followed by scenes of Jonathan fawning over her hair.
The second episode, “Crazy in Love,” focuses on Kan, a gay dude. While living in Japan, he finds it difficult to be out and proud in a society that’s still not fully accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. He talks about how he was able to be open about his sexuality while studying abroad in Canada and England, and even found a boyfriend.
Each episode has some big event or goal at the end of the week, and this episode’s event is Kan’s boyfriend Tom coming to Japan to meet Kan’s family. However, the discussion about belonging is a lot more complex than I first perceived it. At first, the focus was on how Japan as a whole seems to exclude queer people, but then it evolves into a conversation about intersectionality. Even when he was in more accepting societies in England and Canada, he felt excluded because of his race. He mentions how he’d see things in people’s bios on dating sites that said things like “no Asians,” and that would make him feel unwanted. They bring in Kodo Nishimura, a famous gay Buddhist monk who’s also a makeup artist, to talk to Kan about how he’s faced similar issues and overcame them.
Additionally, they expose Kan to hangout spots for queer people and teach him that even though it might feel like society is overwhelmingly unaccepting, he can still have a supportive community. I also like how the focus of the episode revolved more around societal acceptance than family acceptance. In fact, when we finally get to meet Kan’s mom and brother, they seem really cool about his sexuality and they approve of his boyfriend Tom.
The next episode is “The Ideal Woman” which focuses on a young artist named Kae who lives with her mom and sister. The title of this episode comes from a conversation about how Kae uses her art to create an ideal type of woman, but she rarely creates anything that reflects her views of herself. Her persistent self-esteem issues arise from the bullying she faced as a teen.
In addition to dealing with her self-esteem problems, the Fab 5 address her relationship with her mom. There’s some conflict between Kae and her mom because her mom sees her as lazy and inconsiderate and Kae feels like her mom doesn’t trust her. In one scene, Antoni helps Kae and her mom bond while making food. The main issue between them is that Kae sees her mom as overly critical and unempathetic to her struggle, and her mom sees Kae as unthankful and lazy, which is extremely relatable.
At the end of the episode, Kae has an exhibit to show off her work and after seeing how shy and unsure she is, it feels good to see people praise her for her work. The most emotional part was when it’s revealed that Tan bought one of Kae’s art pieces.
The final episode of this season is “Bringing Sexy Back” in which they help Makato, a man who wants to clean up his life, so he can be a man his wife deserves. By this point in my Queer Eye marathon, I was emotionally exhausted, so I thought the emotional stuff wouldn’t affect me as much, but I was incredibly wrong.
The most touching moment of this episode is when Karamo and Jonathan make Makato and Yasuko do yoga together and practice communicating. This scene was perhaps one of the most emotionally charged moments of the show. Makato and Yasuko actually talk out their feelings for the first time in years and reaffirm their love for one another. The part that got to me was how Makato is so visibly overwhelmed with emotion that Karamo takes him out of the room to let him cry.
The episode ends with Makato fully committing to becoming a better husband.They go on a date together and both resolve to move forward as a closer couple. The season concludes with the Fab 5 reflecting on their time in Japan, and the people they’ve met.
The way a single episode can encompass a wide variety of experiences and elicit a range of emotions is part of the magic of the show. Seeing the hero both struggle and have fun enhances the feeling that the audience is seeing all of their true development.
My favorite thing about this season is being able to see a completely different culture and compare and contrast it to American culture. The language barrier between the heroes and the Fab 5 isn’t even that much of an issue, and the show is cleverly edited so conversations seem to flow without showing a back and forth between them and the translator.
I’ve always like Queer Eye because it’s refreshingly wholesome. The show is all about improving people’s lives and making them feel good about themselves. The Fab 5 not only improve the heroes on a physical level but help them on a mental level as well by teaching them to deal with their emotions and connections with others. Watching this show and seeing a variety of people getting along and improving themselves gives me hope for humanity. While the show does touch on important issues and dark subjects, it’s overall very positive and lighthearted.