The Daily Evergreen

Americans should be open to foreign entertainment

DANIEL ANDERSON | Evergreen movie columnist

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With the overwhelming selection of television shows airing at any given time, streaming services putting out masterful original content and even Youtube evolving from the days of hallow click-bait videos to creative web series, we live in a golden age of television.

The same can easily be said about our food world as well. Restaurants and food culture have taken off at meteoric rates without any signs of stopping soon.

That doesn’t mean every show or restaurant is a hit though. Much of our television and food culture have become saturated with uninspired or homogenous works clearly just carbon copies of whatever was popular a week ago.

But there are exceptions: the hidden gems of television and even food culture that are unique and have a real thoughtfulness to them.

“Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” on Netflix is one of those gems. The foreign series made its American debut last week, and I am honestly surprised there aren’t any reviews for it.

The show might sound new, but it has achieved success in Japan for the past decade in manga-form and then as a television drama in 2009.

The series is an anthology of the slices of life of everyday people. Each episode highlights a different character and their own story, but they all take place in the same restaurant. The restaurant owner, referred to as “Master,” often acts as a friend, counselor or guide to the individual customers as they share their struggles with him.

As each episode is just shy of 30 minutes, they act as sweet, cozy vignettes for the viewer. It was very relaxing to binge-watch the 10 episodes Netflix had to offer.

The beautiful shots of real food are both appetizing and agonizing as you attempt to reach into the screen to get a bite. This is something that will appeal to anyone who loves spending time scrolling through Instagram food pictures.

Netflix has found success with the streaming of Food Network content and even their original series “Chef’s Table.” A documentary about some of the world’s greatest chefs, also featuring stunning shots of food, “Midnight Diner” is in a league of its own by having elements of comedy and well-written, character-driven drama.

It also becomes a departure from the typical American sitcoms or slice of life. The writing, characters, sense of comedy and acting are all different because it is of a different culture.

One can’t learn an accurate representation of America simply by watching American television, but there are, at times, real takeaways to be had.

The same could be said in regards to foreign television. It’s something to be treasured because it allows viewers an insight into other lifestyles or the genuine spirit of a different group of people. It may be a scripted show, but characteristics of Japan are obviously there.

If we are what we eat, then we are what we watch as well.

And if you aren’t used to watching foreign shows, there aren’t much better mediums for the bridges of East and West to be crossed than through food. It also will allow for national celebrities to ascend to international status.

Countries outside of the United States are accustomed to Hollywood blockbusters permeating their cultures, but there doesn’t seem to be much ground for the reverse to happen in America.

Having a trending foreign show featured on a widespread platform like Netflix tips the scales to those foreign countries that deserve recognition for their visions and breakthroughs in media and entertainment.

Iconic American films like “Star Wars” and “The Matrix” all take heavy influence from Japanese storytelling or action sequences featured in Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” and Toriyama’s “Dragon Ball Z,” respectively.

Even Japanese or children’s television and film has become a staple in America. Anime like “Pokemon,” “Digimon,” “Yu-Gi-Oh,” and films like Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle and “Spirited Away” are beloved classics.

When it comes to seeing those kinds of characters and culture on screen, there is a dissonance and discomfort when they move from animated to real skin color.

This country is a rich melting pot of different cultures and races. In this day of age, when it comes to food, Americans have become adventurous and euthanistic to try foods from other parts of the world and out of their comfort zones.

Then those countries’ art and media should be treated with the same brand of zealousness and curiosity.

Not all of us can travel the world to gain a global perspective, but it can start by a willingness to watch, taste and listen to the stories offered by the diversity of the world around you. Making a “reservation” to the “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” on Netflix is a good first step.

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Americans should be open to foreign entertainment