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The Future Diary Review 2021 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew
Can you really fall in love with a stranger you meet on a television dating show? Perhaps you have a better chance than you would in boring real life – if you can suspend your disbelief and give in to the tricks the producers play to make the right emotions flow. The Future Diary, a new Japanese reality series, leans fully into that collective delusion, giving two young people instructions on exactly how they’re going to win each other’s hearts. The stunts it uses are so contrived they ought never to work, on the participants or on us at home, but goddamit if artificial TV romance cannot sometimes be effective.
College student Maai Nakasone is 19 years old and lives in Naha City, Okinawa; Takuto Wakamatsu, 24, is a trainee chef from Otaru, Hokkaido. They go on a series of unusual dates, made even more intense by written messages handed to them by the show’s producers, each grandly presented in the form of a leather-bound, hardback “diary”. These can be rules (the pair cannot exchange phone numbers, or meet outside the filming process) or exciting prophecies (“you kiss in a field of sunflowers at full bloom”), and, on occasion, one is given a message that hasn’t been seen by the other: Nakasone, for example, receives an order that, should she develop feelings for Wakamatsu, she must not express them and must wait for him to go first.
The pair are brought up to speed by an introductory video, screened in a cinema in Yokohama. When the lights go back up, the scores of extras who were seated around them have magically disappeared, leaving the two potential lovers alone. The surprise means pulses are already raised as they conduct their first proper meeting over iced tea and coffee in a cafe, discussing how many siblings they have and how their locales of Okinawa and Hokkaido are so far apart. The chat is halting and basic but the scene is all about those little gestures and expressions that say: something could happen here.
As it goes on, The Future Diary mixes tiny, tender moments with elaborate set-ups, designed to foster a whimsically old-fashioned view of love in which Wakamatsu is a strong, humble protector and Nakasone a pure companion waiting to be impressed. They board a cruise ship but, oh no! A manager emerges to say the chef is indisposed. Could Wakamatsu recreate his day job by preparing seared fillet of beef and a legumes garnish for 12 diners, with Nakasone as his sous-chef? He steps up, even though he never has the responsibility of overseeing a full service at work. Then they go on a road trip in a Volkswagen Beetle, but what’s this? The car has broken down and Wakamatsu must push it, sweatily but heroically, to their destination? Well, OK then, muscly chivalry it is.
Yes, all this is absurd, which the show acknowledges by cutting sporadically to a studio – done up like a library, for some reason – where four Japanese celebs, including the singer Daigo Naitō and the TV Tokyo announcer Reina Sumi, react to what has been seen so far. They are fully into it but do point out that the underlying concept – when the show is over, the couple are supposedly not going to be put in contact and will thus never see each other again – is “cruel”.
No time to fret about that, though, because we are now too busy watching a simply lovely scene where Nakasone and Wakamatsu walk down a street in Otaru, with her harbouring a secret task to hold hands with him when the moment is right. When she finally gathers the courage and links fingers outside a branch of KFC, the look of bashful exhilaration on her face is irresistible. You do wonder whether The Future Diary would work at all with different participants: switch her for a woman even slightly less open-hearted, or him for a man with only a smidge of cynicism or selfishness, and the whole sugary edifice could crack.
Like stage hypnosis or indeed any structured reality programme, The Future Diary works if you want it to work. The spell is not even broken by the somewhat nonsensical cliffhanger at the end of the three episodes used to launch the show, before it goes weekly: there’s an implication that their dates might not continue, but we know they will because we’ve seen flashforwards to scenes that haven’t appeared yet. We can, it seems, look forward to a kiss and plenty of splashy tears. They all look real enough.