After airing in Japan for three decades, a reality show covering children doing their first errands on their own has gained a large following in Western countries.
“Old Enough!” by Nippon Television Network Corp. caused a stir on social media after it began streaming globally on Netflix, prompting US and European media outlets to run features.
In an online story titled “‘Old Enough’: The Japanese TV show that ditches toddlers on public transport”, British daily The Guardian said: “Part of the appeal…is the show’s ability to inspire confidence in children.”
The long-running show features preschoolers tasked by their parents with running errands, such as groceries.
Staff members consult with experts and police in advance to ensure the safety of children on race routes and pretend to be bystanders to watch them during filming. But they basically don’t give any help to children.
Nippon Television, which launched the program as a TV special in 1991, aired 74 episodes. The broadcaster re-released the show as a series of 20 episodes, each lasting around 10 minutes, before selling it to Netflix.
The streaming service distributes “Old Enough!” in 190 countries and regions with subtitles in 32 languages.
After the series debuted on March 31, Twitter was inundated with comments from English-speaking viewers, who said they were overwhelmed by the cuteness of the children, were captivated by the show, and wanted 100 more seasons. .
When Netflix premiered the show with highlighted images on its official Twitter account on April 12, it garnered around 30,000 likes.
Western media were quick to react.
In an article titled “Why ‘Old Enough’ is the show you should be watching right now”, American Time magazine said: “It’s also a good reminder that wonder can be found in even the most more basic – if we only take the time to look for it.
The show has also sparked controversy over parenthood.
ABC News from the United States carried a report entitled “Would you send your toddler to the store alone?”
While the broadcaster cited opinions from skeptical viewers about sending children out on errands alone, one expert commented: “Children are way more capable than we think.”
Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” a popular American satirical news program, said “Old Enough!” is one of his favorite Netflix shows. He said children should have more freedom because American parents put their children on leashes while letting their dogs run free.
Nippon Television was amazed by the responses generated by “Old Enough!”
“We made the show, hoping to lift the spirits of viewers as they watch the kids do their best,” producer Naoko Yano said.
“It’s also the theme of our show to record the country’s scenes from coast to coast. I think viewers enjoy it because they can see the natural features and everyday life in Japan.
The broadcaster sold the program format for “Old Enough!” to companies primarily in Asia, and the show has been remade in Vietnam, China, and elsewhere.
“We were sure it would be popular overseas,” said a staff member in charge of overseas affairs.
“We want to strengthen our efforts to sell programs and formats and co-produce shows with overseas broadcasters as our production capabilities have started to be recognized outside of Japan.”
A Netflix PR representative said, “We once again believe that only unique programs in the truest sense can cross cultural and language barriers and be loved by fans around the world.”