In Japan, the long-running reality series “Who Is the Wolf?” has completed 13 successful seasons, captivating an estimated 70% of young girls and women in their teens and twenties. Now, it aims to replicate its remarkable achievement on a global scale by partnering with Netflix, undergoing a slight name change to “Is She the Wolf?” and making minor adjustments to its format. This revamped version will be introduced to a worldwide audience.
I believe this endeavor will likely achieve success, though perhaps not to the same extent as its original run, for two compelling reasons. First and foremost, the show’s fundamental concept is foolproof – a time-tested formula for immediate addiction. Ten participants, comprising five men and five women, embark on a quest for love as they are placed in close quarters and assigned group tasks designed to foster connections and, ideally, ignite passionate romances. The twist, while not entirely novel, is the presence of one or more “wolves” among the women who must conceal their true feelings and deceive the others to avoid detection. In the original series, the wolf’s identity remains a secret from viewers, but in this version, it is unveiled at the end of the first episode.
This setup presents a wide range of potential relationships – love, lust, unrequited affection, and more – in varying degrees of intensity. These connections evolve and unravel with each revelation about the strangers in their midst, all while one of them is harboring a secret. It’s akin to a poorly written yet utterly captivating novel.
The second reason I anticipate that “Is She the Wolf?” will find success is its gentle nature. It is notably milder and more subdued than what we typically encounter on reality TV. It even carries a touch of kindness, provided we can overlook the inherent cruelty of an entertainment form that manipulates people’s emotions and exploits their deep-seated need for connection to soothe the emptiness within us all – a concept we’ve seemingly come to terms with long ago. To breach my hardened conscience now would require the efforts of a team of sociopaths.
The contestants in “Is She the Wolf?” are reserved and courteous, as are the hosts, who offer ongoing commentary rather than voiceovers or dramatic confrontations at the end of each episode. Instead of loud outbursts, we witness subtle flutters and sighs when participants reveal snippets of information or appear to form nascent friendships. It’s a world of small talk rather than excessive drinking, of delicate conversations instead of brash statements. This show exudes refinement and charm rather than noise and coarseness. The most risqué topic broached is that of first kisses rather than more explicit subjects, providing a calming viewing experience.
Remarkably, many of the contestants are actors and musicians, yet their egos remain surprisingly in check – at least for the initial hour, shattering all Western expectations. The most significant breach of etiquette comes from Robin, an actor-photographer with American heritage, whose intense eye contact with singer-songwriter Julie is deemed “So American!” in hushed but excited tones. The program employs the contestants’ choice of perfumes as a subtle signal of attraction, a discreet and decidedly untelevised approach. It leaves you feeling somewhat uncouth for ever engaging in or watching anything less refined.
Even the challenges lack the usual cruelty often associated with such shows. In the debut episode, the ten participants are tasked with capturing “breathtaking landscapes featuring lovers” and sharing them with a global audience. They are relocated to a picturesque glamping site near Mount Fuji to facilitate this assignment, resulting in a tranquil and awe-inspiring experience, epitomized by Robin’s stunning sunrise photograph.
Even the concept of a “wolf” in the group is relatively non-predatory. After all, you cannot prevent someone from falling in love; you can only prohibit them from discussing it openly. Thus, the pain of deception becomes the central focus, rather than the exploitation of an unwitting victim.
Perhaps the show’s charm unravels in later episodes; as of now, I’ve only seen the opening installment. However, I remain skeptical that the series will take a darker turn. “Is She the Wolf?” will be released on a weekly basis, and only time will tell if it maintains its tranquil atmosphere. For once, though, we can all take a step back and enjoy the serene ride.