TERRACE HOUSE TOKYO 2019-2020 PART 3: Hearts Bent, Boundaries Broken - Film Inquiry (2023)

In recent reviews of Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020, the focus has been on the journeys of each individual housemate and how they connect to each other; with Part Three, this format would be nearly impossible to achieve in a way that isn’t dreadfully DENSE. In Part Three alone, there are twelve different people living in the house throughout the twelve episodes, and there is just too much content to focus on. For Part Three, there needs to be some paring down of information or we’re just going to be here all day long.

Act One

Our cliffhanger for Part Two is a tragic one; Peppe had confessed his feelings to Haruka, who needed time to think things over. She decided that she would tell him her feelings the night before an enormous deadline for his manga, which is right where Part Two ended. Part Three picks up where we left off and it appears that Haruka has changed, but not by much – she fully ends things with Peppe before they could even begin. After such a long hiatus and the fact that he has a major deadline, it’s natural to react with reproach and an eye roll – of COURSE Haruka would reject another person she had shown so much interest in.

To be fair, she is leaving the Terrace House very soon and says that she doesn’t see how a relationship can grow if they’re not seeing each other every day like they are as housemates. Still, it’s a big disappointment for viewers and for Peppe as well. Despite putting on a brave face for Haruka, he later talks to Ryo about it in English, where he confesses that when it comes to being in a relationship with someone, he always has a hard time passing through the threshold; he is just unlucky in love. It’s a very vulnerable moment for Peppe, which ups his status as number one housemate of the season and not the fact that his Italian accent is way more pronounced when he speaks English, I swear.

Thankfully, in the same episode we get to see Peppe ’s dream come true, because his manga is officially published and released! There is a truly wonderful sequence where he walks to the local conbini to search for it, reads through it with the slightest hint of tears in his eyes (though none are shed) and he proceeds to buy many copies of it. It’s a really lovely, quiet moment that serves as a perfect palate cleanser after Haruka ’s rejection.

During this same week, we see the departure of not only Haruka, but Ruka as well. After creating a pasta dinner from scratch(!) for everyone in the house and giving a beautiful speech in English, Ruka surprises the other housemates with his departure, saying that he has worked very hard to be able to cook for them and to practice his English but that it’s time for him to go. With Haruka and Ruka ’s exit, we see the last two OG Tokyo 2019-2020 housemates leave. It’s a somber moment and worthy of reflection of the two – out of everyone who came in Week One, Haruka and Ruka showed the most self-reflection and growth.

Soon after the two OGs leave, Peppe makes a startling announcement that he is also leaving Terrace House – in a sense, he has reached his goal of creating a published manga, but now he must buckle down and continue on with it. He must focus on his work and unfortunately, that isn’t entirely possible when living in a house with five other people and a camera crew, where you kind of have to do more than sit at the dining room table and get interrupted by everyone else’s nonsense. Peppe is one of the best housemates in Terrace House history and it is a shame to see him go, but it was his time.

Act Two

With Peppe, Ruka, and Haruka gone so quickly, we have to prepare for three new housemates all at once – who will they be and what will they bring to Terrace House ? Fairly late one evening, the doorbell PIN-PONS (Japanese for “ding-dong”) ring throughout the night. The new housemates arrive during Week 28, in the episode titled “Internationalization at Once”, implying that there would be more foreigners coming to join the house. With Ryo away at a game, and Emika and Hana being the only ones in the house, the first person to arrive is Violetta “Vivi” Razdumina, 24. She is beautiful, blonde, and enters the house speaking only English. The girls can’t believe how stunning she looks and are relieved when they learn that her Japanese is actually better than her English; like Peppe before her, Vivi is from Europe, where she was born in Germany and raised in Russia so she speaks three languages.

Vivi is bubbly and outgoing and she says that she originally came to Japan to study Fashion Design but is now a model and aspiring actress. Hana and Emika show her their room and where she will sleep and they begin to talk about Ryo and how they both like him. Despite their interest in him, the girls are excited to meet the new boys who will be coming to the house. After all of the girl fights and arguments throughout Parts One and Two , it’s nice to see some feminine tranquility in the house. As they talk and get to know another, the next housemate arrives – and his name is Kai Kobayashi, he is 25-years-old and he’s half-Japanese, half-American.

Tan, deep-voiced, and sporting a short ponytail, Kai comes bearing gifts, or omiyage, from where he used to live in America. He says that he’s lived in many different countries before coming to Japan, including Malaysia (where he was born), Vietnam, and Thailand. We learn that he is an aspiring stand-up comedian and that he has heavily dealt with depression since his last relationship ended.

The last new housemate is John Kimverlu Tupas, or simply Tupas, 22. He is originally from The Phillipines and has only lived in Tokyo for ten months before arriving at Terrace House. He is the personal assistant to actor and illustrator Lily Franky (perhaps best known for his role in the Palme d’Or-winning film Shoplifters ). Tupas comes off as very serious and polite, something that we haven’t quite seen this season, especially from someone so young. He speaks very formally and calls Kai, “senpai” since he is older; it’s a little odd considering they are all 20-somethings but perhaps he just needs to get comfortable. Either way, there are three new housemates and – just like Hana and Peppe before them – a whole new energy is brought to the TH that energizes the audience and the house members.

TERRACE HOUSE TOKYO 2019-2020 PART 3: Hearts Bent, Boundaries Broken - Film Inquiry (1)

The person with the most energy and charisma is no doubt Vivi. It seems that everyone – including the panelists – are interested in her and she is not shy at all about her feelings or her opinions. We come to find that she travels back and forth between Tokyo and Los Angeles for acting auditions and modeling gigs, which may explain how comfortable she is in front of the cameras (a trait that Haruka also possessed). She has also completely bewitched our resident basketball star, Ryo.

After returning home with an injured ankle, Ryo meets Vivi and the boys for the first time and, despite Hana ’s benevolent efforts to take care of him and his injury, it is clear that a spark has been lit between Vivi and he; the two immediately bond over moving to foreign countries (Japan for her, the U.S. for him) and learning the language the sink-or-swim way. The chemistry between them is so palpable that even Hana notices, which is a little sad considering her feelings for him.

Meanwhile, as Vivi and Ryo begin to circle each other, Tupas opens up to Emika, telling her that he is a shy person over drinks in the Playroom. Emika tells him that she is also shy, which is a little surprising considering her run on the show (being extremely flirty, getting into a confrontation with Hana, etc.) and the two of them begin to become closer as the weeks go on. It’s not too long before we see Kai ’s first stand-up routine and it does not go well.

It is clear that he is very new to comedy because he does not seem to have a natural ease with it – he drops way too many f-bombs (a clear sign of a green stand-up) and talks about salarymen in Tokyo killing themselves. It’s rough all over. However, he is not the only one having a tough evening: one night, Tupas drunkenly cries and makes proclamations about how he never received love as a child thus, he has no idea how to love. Both incidents bring out something fierce in Vivi, who feels that she must speak up to these two. With Kai, she says that his comedy was very harsh and doesn’t come from a place of experience, which is why there were no laughs; with Tupas, she rebukes what he says about love and insists that he certainly knows how to show love, arguing that the way he takes care of the house without anyone asking him to is a gesture of love. In both instances, she comes across as harsh herself but as time goes on, it’s clear that she was speaking from a place of wisdom – Kai ’s next standup routine goes (a little) better, and Tupas opens up more to everyone, especially Emika. It’s Vivi ’s blunt way of expressing herself that causes these changes with Kai and Tupas, as well as her relationship with Ryo, in more ways than one.

Act Three

Remember when I said that Ryo was like a Kenny 2.0, but better? Well, I was wrong. Ryo is a Kenny 2.0 but somehow worse. Whereas Kenny was somehow popular with the girls in the house despite being boring, fake, and then only turned his attitude around when he saw that it was making him look bad online. Ryo blows all of that out of the water. Ryo is also very popular with the girls in the house and, it turns out, he is also hyper aware of his portrayal on the show in regards to his female fans – Ryo wants to look like a good guy but his actions are somehow insidious AND lazy. Oh, and he’s a liar.

Emika and Hana are seeing through his facade as they muse over how he seemed like a hero when he arrived because he pointed out how filthy the house was, and yet did nothing to help clean. His point of laziness not only extends to how he treats the dirty dishes but also how he treats the girls at this point; there is absolutely no denying that Hana has a thing for him, yet he continues to string her along and shrugging it off with “she hasn’t told me her feelings, therefore how can I reject her?” But then, when she asks him straight-up if he has a crush on anyone in the house, he says no.

TERRACE HOUSE TOKYO 2019-2020 PART 3: Hearts Bent, Boundaries Broken - Film Inquiry (2)

What is possibly worse than how he treats Hana is how he acts towards Vivi. The two of them hit it off almost immediately and then flirt like crazy (not even by TH standards; they are flirting like they actually are dating). It looks like they’re about to be the first real couple of the season and then it fizzles as Ryo suddenly pulls back as Vivi goes full speed ahead. It’s unclear what was the turning point for him to lose interest in her but Vivi doesn’t quite get the hint. That is, until she asks him what his exact feelings towards her are the same night that Hana asks him if he’s interested in anyone in the house. It’s really, very hard to watch this girl do everything she can to get this boy’s attention, and for this boy to pretend like he wasn’t interested in her and then doing everything he possibly can to not give her a direct answer when she asks him how he feels. He answers her very simple and straightforward question with more questions, finally saying that he doesn’t want her to give up her dreams of moving to L.A. if they start dating. They go back and forth for what feels like a hundred years and it ends with nothing being resolved or decided, but Ryo insists that he needs to think about it. It’s an immovable object and an unstoppable force.

Later on in the Girl’s Room, the girls are talking about what had transpired between Ryo and Vivi, and Hana tells her that Ryo said he didn’t like anybody. He told two different girls two different things – which one is the lie? Which one is the truth? Nobody knows because Ryo won’t have an adult conversation about his feelings. How can this get any worse?

Oh, well I’m glad you asked. It’s clear that because Ryo was flirting with her at first and because she feels electricity between them, that Vivi doesn’t want to give up on being with Ryo no matter how much he either resists or delays. It comes off as an assertive girl who knows what she wants, and then eventually leads things into one of the most uncomfortable scenes of Part Three. We find Vivi and Ryo in the playroom. Alone.

There had been a lot of flirting and a lot of closeness between the two of them in the beginning and now, after Ryo has announced that he will leave Terrace House , he finally tells her that he doesn’t see a relationship between them. Vivi is upset and decides to share a song with him in a very high school way, with each of them sharing an Airpod and holding hands. Then, she goes in for the kill; she begins to kiss him very aggressively and does not let up, while he is frozen in place. It’s truly awful to watch and uncomfortable as hell because there is no reciprocation, and because this is Terrace House dammit – we don’t make out like this on camera. Ryo may have had a lot of the characteristics of Kenny – wishy-washy, cares a bit too much about his image, somehow a babe magnet – but in the end, it turns out that Vivi is the most like Kenny – someone who kisses people who don’t want to kiss them back. All it does is leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

Act Four

As the show progresses, the more conflict arises as the housemates are able to see not only themselves on TV (the episodes air a couple months after they are filmed), but also how the panelists see them. After watching the Ginza sushi date episode that appeared in Part Two, Emika leaves the room and begins to cry on the phone over her depiction on the show, feeling that she is misunderstood. Meanwhile, Tupas defends her to Hana (and ultimately, to the cameras) and goes to find Emika.

He joins her on the couch as she cries, offers her a tissue and tells her that, despite seeing the way she acted during the Ginza Sushi incident, he doesn’t feel any differently towards her and gives her a hug to help her feel better. Later, she tells him she is leaving Terrace House and they confess their feelings for each other – success! This is the content we’ve all been waiting 32 Weeks for! The two go on a date to an amusement park and officially become a couple – Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020 ’s first couple! They immediately move into the Playroom together and decide to leave the house together, but not before Ryo ’s successor shows up.

We soon meet Toshiyuki “Boss” Niino. He’s 30-years-old and he is the CEO of a company that assists office workers as they leave their jobs. He immediately takes on the nickname “Shacho”, which means “Boss” in Japanese and Boss is a very confident person who likes to be in control – he goes so far as to ask Hana out on a date in front of Kai, knowing that Kai is interested in her. And if that’s not suspicious, he flirts with Emika right in front of Tupas, knowing that the two of them are now a couple and are leaving the next day; Tupas is not happy with Boss ’ nerve and politely but firmly says “don’t you dare” twice. In an instant, Tupas saw what the rest of us have yet to see.

Not too long after, Emika and Tupas ’ successors arrive – Yume Yoshida, a 24-year-old office worker and model, and Shion Suzuki, a 22-year-old economics student. We find that Yume is very forward when it comes to her crushes, and that both of them like to date older people. Hana immediately says that she thinks that Yume will get along with Boss and Boss, once he hears that Yume has big breasts, or oppai. No seriously, he hasn’t even met her yet and he immediately becomes possessive of her, saying that he and Shion – a person who has actually talked with Yume – are rivals now when Shion says he finds her interesting. It’s completely normal for two people to like the same person during this season, but nobody has been so insidious about it.

On top of that, he waits alone in the dining room for Yume ’s arrival so that he can meet her with nobody around (everyone else is upstairs watching a new episode of Terrace House ) and work his charms on her by sharing a bottle of beer with her. It’s a rather cringey scene to watch because every single movement by Boss is calculated – he was going to sit in that exact spot pretending to do work, he was going to offer her a beer and then not get one for himself, then he was going to make sure that it was in a bottle so that when they shared a drink, they would have no option but to share germs. It is a nightmare.

Later in the Girls’ Room, Hana asks Yume a lot of questions about Boss and Yume keeps it cool and light; she thinks he’s great, she wouldn’t mind kissing him if it wasn’t a repulsive kiss, and she wouldn’t have sex unless she was in love. She also makes a note that she could maybe see herself dating Boss but she could also see herself dating many people, while only falling for a select few. This is how her first episode ends and unfortunately, the nightmare is just beginning.

To put it frankly, Boss is a creep. Any bad thing that has been said about Kenny or Ryo is NOTHING compared to how possessive this guy is of a woman that he has just met. He immediately offers to drive her to work since their offices are kind of near each other and, when she says that she visits Sapporo at least once a month, he says that he’ll schedule his vacation time around it. Dude, what? It has literally been a week. The real kicker though, is what he pulls on Christmas.

Everyone in the house is celebrating the holidays with cauliflower soup, cute santa hats and plenty of drinks. After the traditional Japanese Christmas cake, or kurisumasu-keki, Shion asks Yume if they can chat in the Playroom and Boss has no qualms about following them and then just standing outside the Playroom door. Waiting. Just, waiting. Meanwhile, Shion and Yume are talking about the dates that they’ve been on, and Yume asks him if he would like to have lunch with her sometime and he suggests that they both learn how to cook together. It is completely innocent and cute but all the while, Boss is waiting outside the door; it is no wonder that this episode is called “The Monster in the Hallway”. The entire scene is shocking to see and a deep anxiety is setting in – what is wrong with Boss ? What is his end game and what will he do to get there?

TERRACE HOUSE TOKYO 2019-2020 PART 3: Hearts Bent, Boundaries Broken - Film Inquiry (3)

Well, he’ll first ask Yume to hold his feet as he drunkenly does crunches in the Playroom right after her chat with Shion, and then the next week he’ll take her out on a date where he will give her some lip balm, insist that he put it on her right then and there, “accidently” put too much on her, and then go in for one of the worst kisses in Terrace House history. It all happens so fast, and yet can be seen from a mile away; Yume ’s reaction isn’t to kiss back but to give a nervous laugh and a “chotto matte” or “wait a minute” – she is thrown off by how quickly it happened and then tries to laugh it off. The panel is scandalized by what Boss has done and don’t know what to think since it seems that Yume does like him, but they are more reacting to the avalanche of actions that he has chosen to do in order to get Yume to be his.

For now, Yume seems to be taking it in stride and is choosing to be congenial about the whole thing (“I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t really fall for him”). Meanwhile, things are slowly evolving between Hana and Kai ; when Hana was going through it seeing her crush flirt with another girl, Kai was there to listen to her problems and be a shoulder for her to cry on. Now that Ryo is gone and Hana is able to move on, the two of them take time to get to know each other and go to a trampoline gym together. It’s a super cute little date and we learn that Hana ’s idea of a perfect date is at an aquarium while Kai ’s would be out in nature. It becomes clear that they like each other, and Kai gets some advice from Vivi to make an effort and be more “chivalrous” in his gestures.

During the awful “Monster in the Hallway” incident, Kai and Hana are in the Boys’ Room and Kai tells her his true feelings. Hana is overjoyed and suggests a million different things they can do for a date, including a picnic and of course the aquarium. Kai is later telling Boss about their date and Boss suggests that he and Yume tag along for a double date; Kai likes the idea of them all going to the aquarium together and then splitting off into two groups. Little does how literal that scenario will be (tune in next time for Part Four!).

As Part Three comes to an end, Kai and Hana ’s first date becomes an overnight double date in Kyoto that Boss insists on, and though Hana wishes that it were just her and Kai, the two of them still find ways to bond before the trip. She helps him cut off his long hair and the two of them share a very sweet hug in the kitchen; young love seems to be blooming but a dark cloud looms in Kyoto.

In Conclusion

So much has happened during Part Three that there’s no way to fully sit down and dissect every interaction and analyze every decision that is made – from Ryo ’s confusing excuses to, to a misunderstanding of who Emika is the fact that Vivi can just seemingly get away with anything – there is just too much. The outrageous behavior within the last couple of episodes alone are enough for its own article. With the introduction of Boss, we are seeing a side of Japanese courtship and dating that has always perturbed viewers, especially the show’s international audience.

In Japan, it is a cultural norm to keep the peace and not cause conflict that could upset the collective; this has manifested in some people doing whatever they want and the ones who are affected by their actions keeping things quiet so as not to disturb the peace.

Compound this with the fact that Japan is notoriously patriarchal and you get men routinely groping women on the trains , Japanese media essentially dismissing the #MeToo movement , and you get women instinctively reacting to an unwanted kiss with a nervous laugh and an “Eh?…”, just like Yume did in Week 36, and Terrace House alumna Seina before her, when she was also forced into a kiss or two on last season’s Opening New Doors .

With so many tears, rejections, departures, and unwanted physical contact, Part Three of Tokyo 2019-2020 has crystalized into a 12-episode block of unease and anxiety that no amount of reciprocal feelings or delicious food can amend. This is the longest that I have ever stuck with a season of Terrace House and I am wondering if it’s even worth continuing on knowing that there could possibly be more non-consensual contact – the only thing keeping me from washing my hands of Terrace House completely is the knowledge that people will leave and new housemates will arrive, bringing something new, fresh and hopefully wholesome back to this show.

Yumemiru koto ga dekiru. One can only dream.

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