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A TV series that makes young Japanese people nostalgic for the “outdated” 1980s


Young people in Japan often blame their elders Casual sexism, Excessive job expectations and Unwilling to give up power.

But an unexpected TV show has people discussing whether older people, especially some in Japan, are doing something right – just like their peers USA and Europe — Questioning the heightened sensitivity associated with “wokeness.”

Titled “Extremely Inappropriate!”, the series follows a rude, short-tempered PE teacher and widowed father who boards a bus in 1986 Japan, only to find himself transported to the year 2024.

He came from a time when it was perfectly acceptable to beat students with baseball bats, smoke on public transportation and treat women as second-class citizens. He returns to the present to find a country transformed by cell phones, social media and a workplace where managers obsessively monitor employees for signs of harassment.

The 10-episode series aired earlier this year on TBS, one of Japan’s major television networks, and is one of the most popular shows in the country. Netflixthe series became the platform’s number one TV series in Japan for four consecutive weeks.

“Extremely inappropriate!” compared Showa 1926-1989, Japanese wartime rule Emperor Hirohitoup to this era, that is Reiwa And started in 2019, when Emperor Naruhito ascends the throne.

The writers and executive producers are all Gen Xers in their 50s, and their nostalgia for the freer, more bubble-like days of their youth permeates this silly comedy-drama, in which the characters occasionally break out into crazy musical numbers.

The show also unabashedly comments on the shift of offices toward being more inclusive and tolerant, portraying them as places where work can’t get done due to strict overtime rules, and where employees repeatedly apologize for breaking “compliance rules.”

Such descriptions resonate in Japan, where people often complain on social media about “political correctness” being used as a “club” to restrict speech or water down TV shows or movies. Part of what fans find refreshing about “Indecent” is that it’s set in the Showa era and is free of restraint.

While critics called the show regressive, some young viewers said it made them question social norms they once took for granted and think about what had been lost.

Writing in an online entertainment publication, Rio Otosuki, 25, said the series “must have made many viewers feel deep down that the Showa era was more interesting.”

She wrote that she was initially shocked by some of the 1980s behavior depicted in the film. In an interview, Ms. Otoki said that seeing sexual harassment and extreme disciplinary measures described as “so normal at the time” made her glad that she did not grow up in an earlier era.

But she also wondered whether people felt more empowered to make their own choices as a result, pointing to the show’s depiction of a TV variety show where young women cavorted in revealing clothes and competed to get their nipples to slip out of their shirts while a male host crawled between their legs and made sexually suggestive comments.

Ms. Otoki was initially resistant to this. But in the end, she decided that if the stars “realized that their bodies were tools and wanted to use them for entertainment,” then she could accept the variety show’s approach.

Kaori Shoji, an art critic who was a teenager in the 1980s, said she loved “Extremely Inappropriate!” She particularly appreciated how the series reveals the chilling effects of increased regulation in today’s workplaces.

“Everyone is playing a game to see who can be the least offensive person in the world,” Ms. Shoji said. “Everyone is exchanging platitudes and empty statements because they are afraid to say anything. That’s definitely not a good thing for the workplace.”

The show pays tribute to “back to the Futureis a classic film about a 1980s teenager played by Michael J. Fox who travels back in time to the 1950s when his parents were teenagers. In “Unfairly Timeless!”, the main perspective is the parent who traveled into the future – Ichiro, played by Japanese character actor Sadao Abe.

Other characters, including a feminist sociologist and her teenage son, travel back in time, while Ichiro’s rebellious teenage daughter meets a TV producer and single mother who struggles to balance work and personal life in a future episode.

Movies from both eras are often shot for hilarious scenes, but the extremes are more pronounced in contemporary scenes. Modern TV producers interrupt the host every few seconds to find his remarks inappropriate. A group of young girls tell the time-traveling teacher that the punctuation in his text messages is considered offensive.

Aki Isoyama, 56, the show’s executive producer and longtime collaborator of screenwriter Kankuro Kudo, 53, said they wanted to create a TV series that reflected “discomfort with conformity and modern trends.”

Ms. Isoyama added in an interview at TBS headquarters in Tokyo: “Of course, we feel that things are generally moving in a positive direction. But we don’t feel comfortable and we have been talking about it.”

Ms. Isoyama said she was surprised by the show’s popularity. “I do want people to have a discussion,” she said. “Of course, I also hope that the younger generation will ask their parents, ‘Was the Showa era really like this?'”

For Kumiko Nemoto, 53, a professor of management at Tokyo’s Senshu University who specializes in gender issues, the show is simply “going back to and embracing 1980s Japan as if it were the best of times.”

She complained about the book’s portrayal of modern young men as “very confused and overly sensitive to harassment”. She added that the female characters seemed stereotyped, with a contemporary feminist sociologist initially portrayed as “a ‘feminazi'” but ultimately portrayed as “a kind mother”.

In the end, the play delivers the message of “can’t we find a middle ground” and the grumpy old teacher ends up evolving the most.

Art critic Ms. Shoji sees the series as a “fairy tale,” imagining what might have happened if those earlier gray-haired fathers had been “given a second chance” and become gentler and more considerate of others’ feelings.

Anna Akagi, a 23-year-old freelance writer, said the show made her feel that perhaps times have not changed much. She said things that people used to express publicly and without shame have now moved to anonymous postings online.

“Maybe the shape has changed, but things that existed during the Showa period exist in a different form during the Reiwa period,” she said.

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