Sometimes, I wonder if there is a possibility to hack into all the pleasure centers of our brains at once. Companies like Instagram spend billions to track the cognitive responses that their spinning pinwheels have on our anxiety and the reaction of elation we feel when switching between our larger public accounts and our smaller private (not really) accounts.
But there is no better gauge of pure bliss than “Old Enough”, a recent Japanese documentary series from Netflix. This show flows smoother than a pasta dish tossed in a wheel of cheese. It causes such extreme happiness that Netflix should consider equipping viewers with leg and arm restraints to keep them from tossing the television remote directly at the screen (Nintendo Wii might already have a patent on that).
Episodes are fifteen minutes because if they were longer, we’d explode.
For those with too many beta-blockers in their heads, “Old Enough” is a short-form documentary series that tracks toddlers on errands around their Japanese towns. In one episode, two infants get take-away sushi from a nearby restaurant and take up the entire show just eating their portions. In another episode, a boy hikes up his family’s mandarin orchard to make half a cup of juice and then tries to catch a stray dog with a fishing net.
Each episode shows a map of where the toddler has to go. A corny narrator makes jokes that remind one of a cocktail party guest who got too drunk and asks to take the guest room.
A costumed production crew can be seen sprinting ahead of each kid as they try to set up a shot of their path. As I watch, I sometimes wonder if these kids will grow up harboring fears of performance bias, or feeling like camera crews are a normal part of life. Like how the Kardashians feel.
My favorite episode is one where a sushi chef asks his two-year-old son to go to the dry cleaner and request a clean shirt. This one sets itself apart from the other because the kid won't do it. He gets scared to talk to the owner, makes some bumbling remark to his mother, and looks like a complete fool. For those who think I’m being too harsh: I’m not. The series is simply a showcase of how well-bred Japanese toddlers are, and seeing one act normally is so jarring that it disappoints me.
“Old Enough” might be saying something about the modern society that Japan has become, so much that it feels like a separate reality from ours. It might be a metaphor for parenting or trust.
But really, it’s just little kids going to supermarkets, and that’s pretty cool.