One of the most interesting things about streaming recommendations is the rabbit holes the algorithms can send you down. I watched something in Japanese once so here are a dozen other Japanese language programmes. Flick, flick, oh this looks interesting … and so we have Million Yen Women.
Put on Netflix globally towards the end of 2017 following a run on mainstream Japanese television, Million Yen Women is adapted from a 2016 manga written by Shunjo Aono. The set-up is that five women have received invitations to live with unsuccessful novelist Shin Michima. He did not send the invitations but is quite happy to follow the rules: he waits on them, they all eat together, he can’t ask them any questions and he can’t go in their room. The million yen each woman must pay him (it’s about £7,000) no doubt eases the blow, as does the fact that none of the women are in any way unattractive.
Shin has a certain charisma. He’s being played by RADWIMPS lead singer Yojiro Noda so that’s bound to happen. But mostly he’s a bumbling type whose perpetual cloud is explained by the fact that his dad is a recent multiple murderer now on Death Row. The women, who range in age from 17-30 and who do (contrary to my initial Bechdel Test related fears) have very distinct personalities, motivations and story arcs, tease out his personality whilst also growing in their own way – all whilst a growing intrigue about who sent the invitations, why are things getting quite fatal, and why is that other novelist such a bell-end, play out.
It’s hard to categorise what Million Yen Women is. There are twelve 25 minute episodes so a binge won’t last long. It has melodrama, pathos, genuine shocks, gore, kinkiness, innocence and comedy rubbing shoulders, often in the same scene. And it is very compelling once you get into it. The false note for me was less about the context for the story than for how quickly books get published and promoted – but that shouldn’t be a deal killer for anyone. It also seems to have been well-translated in that the words and phrases we see gel nicely with the tone and action before us – not always the case with these streaming translations.
So, if you’re looking for a hole to fill, Million Yen Women is a pretty decent bet. And then you can look forward to the algorithm noticing you’ve watched something foreign so maybe you’ll like all these other things that are nothing like it … Oh well, a small price to pay.