‘Lighthouse’ (2023) Review: Netflix’s Japanese Talk-Show May Be Too Japanese For Some

The Japanese entertainment industry has always put out really unique and culturally significant content over the years. From having their own styles of comedy to setting trends in media and entertainment, there’s something very original about Japanese shows that later get adapted by other countries. Lighthouse is a unique sit-down between two very popular Japanese artists who discuss their day-to-day struggles with each other once a month over the course of six months. The show runs six episodes of about 30-38 minutes and is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s two people talking to each other in the most humane way possible. As someone who isn’t well-versed at all in Japanese culture or the language, I found it very hard to connect with Lighthouse initially. But, interestingly, each episode has a specific monologue or conversation that seems relatable to anyone in real life. While I mostly found myself very detached from Gen Hoshino and Masayasu Wakabayashi, possibly because I’m not a middle-aged man, some of the things they said were quite inspiring.

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The show was shot over a period of six months, from October 2022 to March 2023, and was created by Nobuyuki Sakuma. He titled the duo Lighthouse himself because they seemed to be like a beacon of hope shining out of the dark. Both Hoshino and Wakabayashi had humble beginnings, and we see their journey through their discussions in the show, which takes them from the little towns they began in to the massive city of Tokyo. What I found really tiresome was the additional laugh track, which was entirely unnecessary. I found the two artists to be commanding enough on screen that even when they are laughing at each other’s jokes, it is more than enough for the audience to go along with them. Although I would like to add that if you’re someone trying to learn the language, this would be a great show to watch because of all the exposure to conversational Japanese. At the end of each episode is a new song written, arranged, and performed by Hoshino himself. I’ve found myself a new artist to obsess over in the next few months.

Every episode has a segment where the two creators write down their stress points in the form of a sentence in a journal. At least as far as I can tell, they each have very stigmatizing thoughts based on how they discuss those observations. Every time they read out from their phone screens, the other person comments on how they may get cancelled for saying such things out loud. They discuss the struggles of being in the middle-aged segment and how their experiences differ from those of the youth, but they still wish to help them achieve their dreams and show them some sense of hope. Interestingly, one of the episodes has the two sit down in front of a live audience and still follow the same format as the rest of the episodes, with them just talking to each other. It’s as if you’re listening in on two of your friends having a deep discussion on life, but they’re Japanese, and the subtitles are not doing them justice.

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Lighthouse at times feels like watching a live show that is unscripted and may be boring at points or distant at others. There’s definitely huge cultural relevance, and to me, if I were a fan of either of the two men, I may have been inclined to give the show a fair chance. Instead, I found myself getting lost in their reactions to each other’s words rather than actually paying attention to the words themselves. I think it’s definitely a case of me feeling lost in the translation personally, but I’m sure any fan would find it much more intriguing because of how much you get to learn about each of the men’s personal and innate thoughts and feelings.

The show definitely comes across as very authentic and humble, even for someone who has no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into (aka me). I think another reason I found myself getting distracted was because of the many Japanese words used to describe certain things without translation. For example, Wakabayashi does a very specific type of Japanese comedy that I have no idea about. So, I must take a much deeper dive into what Manzai comedy is to really understand Wakabayashi’s point of view. Still, from awkward first meetings to really getting to know each other and giving each other advice, the two strangers (although they had met once previously to make a rap song) get to know each other in a very “normal” manner through the show.

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The two artists chosen for the show seem to have been handpicked because of their diverse personalities and unique understanding of the entertainment industry. It’s funny to see how they each majorly agree with the other’s opinions, even if it is something a Japanese audience may find jarring or taboo. There is definitely cultural context in the show, and it is heavily rooted in making the youth feel more at ease. The show is, after all, based on Hoshino and Wakabayashi’s struggles. At the end of the episodes, we also get to hear from regular Japanese youth and how different they are now than when the two men were young and dreamed big. Hoshino pushes the envelope as an artist, and he makes sure the audience hears this idea too, because it is truly hope for those who may be lost in the scary world of the Japanese workforce.

As a young person, I did find a lot of the things coming from Hoshino specifically very relatable and also understanding of my situation, but as a non-Japanese person, I was also confused quite a bit. For something claiming to be a comedy show, it actually delves into a lot of depressing thoughts, but the two artists definitely deliver their personal ideas in a very careful and strategic manner that is both helpful to the youth and won’t harm their image. They also talk a lot about the set standards in the industry they work in and try to break free from some traditional ideas.

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Ultimately, I’d say if you’re a fan of either one of these artists, there’s a lot to love about Lighthouse. On the other hand, if you’re just interested in Japanese culture and have some understanding of the language, the jokes and some of the dialogue may come across more deeply to you. If, like me, you are very new to Japanese reality TV, then tread trepidly and watch the show at a slow pace to truly get everything it’s trying to put out, rather than binge-watching it. Our terrible attention spans are not going to help with this conversational show. I’ll definitely be checking out the work of both artists after having seen Lighthouse. I’d give Lighthouse 3 out of 5 stars for originality and uniqueness in comedy.


Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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Lighthouse at times feels like watching a live show that is unscripted and may be boring at points or distant at others. There's definitely huge cultural relevance, and to me, if I were a fan of either of the two men, I may have been inclined to give the show a fair chance. 'Lighthouse' (2023) Review: Netflix's Japanese Talk-Show May Be Too Japanese For Some