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Ever since Netflix revived Queer Eye in early 2018, the show’s five experts in grooming, food, fashion, design, and culture – known collectively as The Fab Five – have become household names. Well, at least to American audiences – with a new mini-season filmed in Tokyo, Queer Eye’s reach is expanding. At the start of the month, Netflix unveiled the four-episode Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! Special.
Though perhaps not as hotly anticipated as the upcoming Philadelphia-based fifth season of Queer Eye, We’re in Japan! has nevertheless drawn in plenty of viewers eager to see The Fab Five transform and inspire “heroes” in an entirely different country. Queer Eye fans have generally enjoyed seeing the journeys that hospice worker Yoko, gay marketing worker Kan, manga artist Kae, and musician Makoto have taken. Critics have agreed with fans – and here’s what they’re saying.
Kan’s episode spotlighted harsh realities for gay Asians
In recent years, Asian users of gay dating apps have raised awareness about the racism they often face while looking for dates. Some dating app users will include the phrase “no Asians” in their profiles to indicate that they aren’t interested in dating Asian people, and this language can be traumatic for Asian users to encounter. In Kan’s episode, when Fab Five culture expert Karamo unites him with queer makeup artist and Buddhist monk Kodo Nishimura, Kan breaks down into tears when he recalls how often he’s seen the hateful “no Asians” phrase.
Queer critics have praised this moment as among the mini-season’s most meaningful. These critics have also stressed the importance of another topic that Kan and Nishimura discuss: coming out in Japan. Kan continues to cry as he describes being hit with homophobic slurs when he first came out, a reality that many Japanese queer men continue to face in a country that has yet to legalize same-sex marriage.
It was smart to seek help from Japanese people
When the Fab Five deal with their usual American heroes, they’re fully aware of the culture in which their heroes were raised. After all, the Fab Five, like the vast majority of their heroes, were born and raised in the U.S. (except food expert Antoni, who was raised in nearby Canada, a country with vast cultural similarities to the U.S.). In Japan, though, they faced a learning curve – and critics mostly liked how they addressed it.
Throughout Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!, American-Japanese model Kiko Mizuhara guides the Fab Five through Tokyo and educates them on Japanese culture, social norms, and the like. Critics have praised her inclusion, saying that her work with the Fab Five avoided any potential confusion on societal values and ensured the Fab Five would remain as compassionate as ever. Some critics, while extolling Mizhuara’s involvement, noted that occasionally, in her absence, one of the Fab Five might unwittingly explain Japanese culture to a Japanese hero, and that this tendency displayed slight presumptuousness on the Fab Five’s part.
What did you think of Queer Eye: We’re in Japan? Sound off in the comments!