How the loud-and-proud Fab Five were able to find success in a country that lags behind others when it comes to LGBTQ issues.

It’s no secret that Japan is playing catchup with a lot of the Western world in regards to LGBTQ issues. However, one group that appears to be giving the country a nudge in the right direction is the “Fabulous Five” from the Netflix smash hit show Queer Eye.

After airing two popular seasons, the stars of the show have travelled to Japan to film scenes for their third series, and as we wait to see what they get up to during their stay, our Japanese-language reporter Anji mulled over their success, giving us five reasons why the show has become a hit in this country.

1. The personality of each cast member

A show with likeable characters is the first step to success for any program, and Queer Eye gives us not one, but five loveable personalities, each with different characters that viewers can relate to.

▼ Not only do they look good on the outside; they’re equally beautiful on the inside too.

They have a natural charisma and their open, friendly approach to people makes you want to be friends with them, as you get to know them for who they are as people, regardless of their sexuality.

In a country that prides itself on formalities and places importance on “keeping face” and conforming to social standards, the openness of the Fab Five are like a breath of fresh air for people in Japan. And while each member of the cast has experienced adversity in the past, they’ve risen above it all to become the people they are today, which adds to their inspirational appeal.

2. They use their expertise to help people without looking down on them

Each member of the Fab Five specialises in a certain field, which is used to help makeover individuals who appear on the show. Antoni, for instance, gives tips on food and wining and dining for family, friends and lovers.

Bobby helps people out with interior design.

Jonathan is in charge of grooming, keeping things light with an awesome sense of humour as well.

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#wcw 📸 @mattmonathphoto

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Tan is the go-to guy for advice on fashion.

And Karamo deals with culture and matters of the heart, helping to connect with people and transforming their self-hindering mindsets and points-of-view.

In contrast to the show’s predecessor, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, which aired in the U.S. from 2003-2007, Queer Eye’s cast members refrain from coming down hard on their makeover subjects, instead referring to them as “heroes” in every episode. And despite being experts in their fields, they hold back from looking down on people, which is something a lot of horrible bosses in Japan could learn from.

3. They make you rethink stereotypes and open your mind to different situations 

One of the show’s strong points is its ability to open people’s minds without being too preachy in the process. Their very first episode, which aired in 2018, introduced viewers to a man with lupus in the southern U.S., who touched everyone’s hearts when he summed up his appearance with the sentence: “You can’t fix ugly”.

▼ There was nothing ugly about Tom, whose makeover led him to remarry the love of his life, giving us a memorable first episode.

The show features people with a wide variety of backgrounds, covering different genders, sexualities, ages, races and income brackets. No matter what the person’s situation, though, the Fab Five approach them with the same amount of respect and love every time. Japan itself is a largely homogenous society, so being able to see a rich tapestry of people being accepted with loving arms is an example of what we can aspire to be in the future.

4. We get to see what’s in vogue and trending overseas

In the same way that Marie Kondo has sparked an interest in Japanese lifestyles in the U.S, the Fab Five are giving people in Japan an insight into what’s considered cool overseas. From Tan’s fashion advice on the “French Tuck”, which involves tucking just the front of your shirt into your trousers, to Antonio’s obsession with avocados, the show makes it easy to add some fashionable foreign flair to our everyday lives.

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5. The transformations touch everyone’s hearts

In Japan, people have two sides to their personalities: honne (true thoughts and feelings) and tatemae (the front you present to the world). While it can be argued that people everywhere have these two sides to themselves, here in Japan it’s so well-practiced that it can prevent people from forming true and honest friendships with others. To see the frank honesty and openness on the show lead to touching scenes of transformation and close bonds being formed is particularly heartwarming for those who might feel the need to get that support from rental families and 2-D waifus.

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#QueerEye on Netflix Feb. 7!

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Now that the Fab Five are currently here in Japan making over four local couples for their next series, Queer Eye looks set to become even more popular with the Japanese viewing public. And with their message of love and acceptance breaking down barriers and sparking joy with viewers around the world, we hope their influence on the country leads to more leaps and bounds for the local LGBTQ community.

Featured image: Instagram/Queer Eye
[ Read in Japanese ]