Is She the Wolf? Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
In Japan, the reality series Who Is the Wolf? has run for 13 seasons and is thought to have been viewed by about 70% of girls and women in their teens and 20s. Now it is seeking to replicate its astonishing success beyond its shores by partnering with Netflix, tweaking the name (to Is She the Wolf?) and the format (very slightly), then putting it before a global audience.
I suspect it will succeed, if not perhaps to the same massive original extent, for two reasons. First, the basic premise is foolproof – a tried and tested formula for instant addiction. Five men and five women looking for love are placed in close proximity and given group tasks that will allow them to get to know each other and, hopefully, strike sparks that can be fanned into the raging inferno of all-consuming lurve. You know the drill. The twist – again, not wholly unprecedented – is that one or more of the women is a “wolf”, who is forbidden to fall in love and must lie to all the others to prevent discovery. In the original show, the wolf’s (or wolves’) identity is kept secret from viewers too, but here it is revealed at the end of the first episode.
Thus you have the whole range of straightforward but numerous potential relationships – love, lust, requited, unrequited – in full or half measures. They are extended and withdrawn with every new revelation about the strangers in their midst – the curveball being that one of them is not to be trusted. It’s like a really, really badly written novel and just as compelling.
The second reason I suspect Is She the Wolf? will succeed is that it is gentle. Much gentler, and much quieter, than we are used to. Maybe even a bit kinder too. As long as you set aside the inherent cruelty of an entertainment form that depends on messing with people’s heads and playing on every human’s defining need for connection in order to placate the howling void inside us all, of course. But we all got over that years ago, didn’t we? The level of mental savagery you would have to display now to pierce my calloused conscience would need to be devised by a team of sociopaths.
The Wolf contestants are quiet and polite, as are the presenters to whom the camera periodically cuts to allow ongoing commentary – rather than voiceovers – or a convening at the end of each episode. There are flutters and sighs rather than shrieks when people disclose snippets of information or seem to be forging the beginnings of a friendship. There is small talk rather than big drinking. There are circumlocutions rather than bald statements of intent. There is delicacy and charm instead of noise and grossness. The most risque subject broached is that of first kisses rather than first threesome. It’s very restful.
All this is despite the fact that a lot of the contestants are actors and musicians of one kind or another. They must do the artistic temperament differently in Japan. Egos are kept firmly in check – for the first hour at least, which breaks all known western records. The biggest breach of etiquette and decorum comes from actor-photographer Robin, whose mother is from the US. The amount of eye contact he makes with his potential inamorata, singer-songwriter Julie, is declared in hushed but thrilled tones to be “So American!” This is a programme that uses the contestants’ wearing of perfumes to signal attraction – as indirect, face-saving and radically untelevisual a choice as you could think of. It makes you feel like a pig for ever having done things, or watched things being done, any other way.
The tasks, too, lack the tinge of brutality that they often have in these shows. In the opening episode, the 10 participants are required to photograph “breathtaking landscapes featuring lovers and share them with other lovers around the world”. They are relocated to a beautiful glamping site in the foothills of Mount Fuji to facilitate the task. The tranquillity of it is as marvellous as the shining sunrise Robin captures for them.
Even the wolf bit is essentially unpredatory. Because, of course, you can’t forbid someone to fall in love. All you can do is forbid speaking about it. So the pain of deceit becomes the thing, not the exploitation of an unwitting victim.
Perhaps it all goes to pot in later episodes. Is She the Wolf? is to be released weekly and I have only seen the opening instalment so far. Maybe by the halfway point there are dismembered parts scattered across Tokyo, Kyoto or wherever and anyone left is on the lam. But I doubt it. I think, for once, we can all relax and enjoy.