I know I promised several updates this week, but I’ve been pretty busy getting ready for this two week English camp for Japanese high school students that starts on Monday. Oh and midweek my PS3 died, so I wasn’t really in the mood to write. Anyway, I’m back now with my first TV post.
So I understand I may lose my official member’s card in the club of mandom with this one, but so be it, I enjoy this show. What show you ask? For those of you who speak Japanese, you’ll have already figured out simply by reading the above image, but for those of you who don’t speak Japanese, I’m talking about Ainori.
First the name, Ainori, is a play on the Japanese word 相乗り (ainori), a real word meaning car pool. But when written phonetically あいのり could also mean love (愛- ai) ride(乗り-nori). Ainori was a weekly half-hour TV show that started on Fuji TV in Japan in October of 1999, that, taking a cue from it’s titular word play, was a about a group of people traveling the world trying to find love.
On the show a group of four single guys and three single girls travel together from country to country. In each country they are introduced to a local native who becomes their driver and takes them around the country in the aforementioned Love Wagon (seen below in toy form).
This trip has two overall goals: one, to learn about countries all over the world, and more importantly, two, to find the love of your life. Each day, the group is given a budget for food, lodging, and any kind of souvenirs they may want along the way, and then the group generally heads off to some kind of landmark, adventure, or to meet a famous person. At these places and at night in their free time, the group tends to break up into pairs (or threesomes) in order to get to know each other better and in the hopes that it will spark some chemistry.
If at any point, someone decides that they have fallen in love with someone, they first go to the driver and ask for two plane tickets back to Japan. Then, they ask the other person to come meet them and at this point confess their love and hand over one of the tickets. The person who has been confessed to is then given the night to think about it. The next morning they are then required to respond. If they also have reciprocal feelings, they have to kiss the other person and then they both return to Japan together. However, if they don’t have feelings, they will give the ticket back, and only the person who confessed will go home. Shortly after any member returns to Japan, they are replaced with a new member of the same sex.
Apart from these confessions though, no one is allowed to speak openly about their feelings during the show to the other participants. There is a confession room though, much like The Real World, where the participants can talk to the producers about how they are feeling. Also, each member keeps a diary about everything they do and feel during the trip, and occasionally bits of this diary are shown to the viewer as well.
The only other aspect to this show is the three hosts and the studio audience in Japan. Basically they are watching the show along with the viewer and make comments about what is going on during the episode.
It sounds like a bit of a silly show, but it’s really a lot of fun. It combines the best parts of a travel documentary with the fun of a reality TV show. Not only do they go to interesting places, but they often do whole sections of show on history lessons about the places that they go to. In addition, Ainori often donates money to the places they visit and they have also set up schools in Africa and Asia. The reality TV show aspect is fun too, because it interesting to see how someone from another culture reacts differently to things around the world. Plus, I’m a softy for romance drama…
Anyway, the show circled the world twice, and then in it’s third trip only visited countries it had missed the first two times around. After this third “season”, in March 2009, the show was canceled. According to Wikipedia, as of that time, 44 couples were made on the show, and there have been 8 marriages afterwards (although apparently one ended in divorce). Also, 4 babies have been born from couples who met on the show.
So, now for the real point of this post. As of last December, Ainori is back, now called Ainori 2 (as you can see in the logo at the top of this post), and with a couple of changes. To start, Ainori 2 is now only on once every two weeks, but it is now an hour long show, so you still basically get a half hour every week. Also, this time around, there are no hosts or studio audience, which to be honest, I kinda miss.
The last and biggest change is a new rule created to keep things fresh. Basically, at any point, the producers can decide to introduce a new member. Problem is, they can only have seven people at any one time. That means if the producers introduce a new girl, one girl has to go home, and if they introduce a new guy, one guy has to go home. Now, to decide who has to go home, the other sex votes on who they want to send home. For example, if they need to get rid of a guy, the girls vote. It makes things interesting, but the producers seem ready to change pretty quickly, so it kinda kills any chance of a long developing romance.
So far, it’s been a pretty good return. They actually brought back one girl from the first season who was unable to find someone and actually quit the show. Now, the reason she never found anyone is because she’s crazy as hell, but that makes for good TV. Apart from her, there’s been some real characters on the show. There’s a laid back soccer player who’s recently got bowel issues, a professional wrestler who’s actually really shy and quiet and has never had a girlfriend, a playboy who is all about hitting on girls and dating but has never had a serious relationship, a cheerleader (though not what you’d expect of a cheerleader), an airheaded girl who believes we are all living inside the body of a little child and the planets are organs, and the girl with G-cup breasts that all the guys are obsessed with, among others.
Anyway, the show’s a lot of fun and definitely worth a look. If you are in Japan, you can catch it every Saturday night at 11 on Fuji TV TWO (on CS unfortunately), or online at this site. For those of you not in Japan (or who might want subtitles), you can find all the episodes (and some subtitles) here.