If you haven’t seen Old enough! however, run, not walk, to your nearest streaming device and start Netflix. Like the kids on this long-running Japanese reality show, just be sure to use a crosswalk. While Americans have cultural landmarks such as jeaporady and Annihilate!, there is nothing in the contemporary American media landscape as endearing as this. A far cry from the myriads of weird game shows that have populated the Japanese airways for years, Old enough! is a wholesome yet humorous exploration of childhood and the pervasive theme of aging.
Essentially, every episode of Old enough!, which has been formatted on Netflix into easily consumable ten-minute clips, follows either a single child or a few children, who are given a daily task by their parents, and their subsequent attempt to complete said task in a autonomous. Obviously, this leads to all sorts of blunders and gags, but Old enough! also serves as a stark reminder that young children, often viewed as utterly helpless, are creative and capable.
Old enough! is still ongoing, though production on the Japanese reality show has had its ups and downs since its debut in the 90s. What would it be like if Netflix wanted to make a similar series as a sequel to kids Americans? More importantly, does an American Old enough! would spin-off even be logistically possible?
In many ways, Old enough! is very familiar to American audiences. They can empathize with hesitant but fearless children as they go about their assigned tasks and also sense the palpable concern expressed by their expectant parents. In other ways, however, the show is totally unrelated to the average American. If Netflix were to reboot the series, they would have to deal with the difficulties of the suburbs.
The cities featured in Old enough! might as well be from another planet, compared to what the suburban counterparts of an American iteration would be. Japanese cities were designed around personal mobility. children on Old enough! rarely even need to use public transport; the goods and services they have been tasked with acquiring are all within walking distance, even on their little toddler legs. Think of the sprawling developments that have slowly sprinkled the American countryside. The Children of an American Reboot of Old enough! walk along a busy highway to the nearest mega-market? It seems a long way to go down a sunny mountain road to the local fish market in Japan.
The car puzzle
America loves cars. In fact, Americans love automobiles so much that they’ve devoted an entire three-part animated series to anthropomorphizing race cars and rust buckets. In a similar vein to the struggles of suburban sprawl, the cars lining this country’s roads would be a major obstacle to Netflix creating an American reboot of Old enough!
In the first segment of Old enough! on Netflix’s curation, a young boy has to cross a busy street. In preparation, his mother gives him a small flag which he must hold high, look both ways, and cross the street. Imagine what this scene might look like in an American iteration of the series. What use would that little sign be against a fully loaded tractor-trailer? Could the soccer mom in her sleek black military-grade SUV see an excited kid racing across the street to the local convenience store?
But do American children even want to work today? As estimated Kim K said, no one wants to work anymore, and that certainly includes modern youth, child labor laws notwithstanding. Regardless of the varying abilities of their respective children, American parents would be hard pressed to let their children go out on their own to complete an errand. It’s almost unfathomable.
For Netflix to get an American version of Old enough! operational, it should first change America’s understanding of the potential of its own youth. In an increasingly specialized society, it can often be easier to simply take your children with them. If parents don’t believe in their own children’s abilities, the children themselves certainly won’t. A catatonic, frightened kid on a mission wouldn’t make very compelling TV at the end of the day.
In the end, children are children. It is likely that American children are given fewer responsibilities than their Japanese counterparts. The differences may be cultural, based on education or, more likely, the result of more practical considerations around suburban sprawl and the automobile. If Netflix can find a way to reboot Old enough! in an American context, the resulting product could be a powerful mirror of our culture’s obsession with growth, as well as an uplifting reminder of the courageous perseverance of our youth.
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