The MIPCOM Asian World Premiere TV Screening Way Too Kawaii! is a fun but thoughtful look at pop-culture from Nippon TV, produced by Arisa Mori and starring Yudai Chiba.
Art meets life in the new romantic-comedy series, which centres on an ambitious editor called Nankichi, who works in the literary department of a publishing house. When he is transferred to one of the company’s fashion titles — a publication dripping with female-targeted cuteness — Nankichi faces the professional challenge of his life.
Kawaii, the Japanese word for pretty or cute, has become synonymous with trends ranging from Japanese anime and manga to Lolita fashion.
“Nankichi, the character I play, is a tough and ambitious man who simply doesn’t appreciate kawaii,” Chiba said. But career opportunities come in all guises and, as Nankichi begins to observe the genuine skills of the models, photographers, stylists and editors, his professionalism kicks in and he starts to grow into his new role. Unsurprisingly, romance follows.
For Chiba, meanwhile, the show presents a shot at international stardom. “As a result of Way Too Kawaii! being rolled out globally, I definitely believe there will be positive influences in terms of how I will be able to approach new roles from more angles,” he said. “When I see the reactions of the international viewers, I know I will realise how I could have done certain things differently and will get ideas on how to improve for my future projects. I have no doubt this experience will enable me to step up to the next level.”
The show is an important vehicle for Nippon TV as well. “I get the impression the directing team put quite a bit of effort into creating the drama series to attract the attention of global viewers,” Chiba said. “When you watch it, you will notice that the computer graphics and sound effects are colourful and pop. I myself was surprised that it ended up being so pop when I finally saw the finished version. But actually, I think it helps make the show easy to watch.”
He added: “Kawaii is one of the better known Japanese words abroad, but I can’t think of any dramas that have depicted the people who create kawaii. The movie The Devil Wears Prada has a similar theme, but it takes place in Vogue, which is not even remotely close to the teen fashion magazine featured in this series.”
One of the title’s greatest production challenges was filming in Tokyo’s hectic fashion district Harajuku, which is crammed with stores selling kawaii-inspired clothing and accessories. “It’s really difficult to film in Harajuku because the streets are packed,” Chiba said. “In Japan, when a story takes place in a busy district like Harajuku, we usually build a set in the countryside to avoid the huge number of people walking by. There were a lot of difficult moments, but I’m happy we are able to share the essence of what Tokyo is like at this moment in time. Just by watching the scenes, you get an unfiltered experience of Japanese culture.”
For Chiba, coming to MIPCOM means not only serving as an ambassador for Japanese culture, but also being exposed to international trends. “I’ve always loved learning about foreign cultures and I dreamed of studying abroad, so it’s such an honour to have this opportunity in my career,” he added. “I hope Cannes will become a second home to me as a result of this world premiere.”
This and more in the MIPCOM News Issue two, out October 16. This article was written by Jo Stephens and edited for MIPBlog