A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman is an extremely quirky Japanese show that follows Kantaro, an outwardly serious salesman, who plays hooky from work in order to eat desserts. It's set up like a workplace sitcom, and there's some broad humor that centers around whether or not Kantaro will get caught eating desserts during office hours. The twist: In the center of each episode, Kantaro visits a real Japanese restaurant, where he orders dessert and describes in depth how it's made, like a fictional version of a Food Network show. The desserts often send Kantaro into ecstasy, and he hallucinates that he has become an ingredient in the dessert. For example, when he eats red peas, he becomes Mr. Peabody, with a pea head. If you like food, and you like weird, this show will be right up your alley.
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What's the story?
In KANTARO: THE SWEET TOOTH SALARYMAN, computer programmer Kantaro Ametani is so obsessed with sweets that he quits his job for something a little more flexible, a salesman for a publishing company. Every day he goes out on sales calls in different Tokyo neighborhoods, and he's so efficient that he always has enough time to make an extra stop for dessert. Kantaro plans his trips very carefully, choosing only the best sweets, which he describes in detail as he eats. Desserts often send Kantaro into such flights of ecstasy that he imagines himself becoming one of the ingredients and going on crazy adventures. Unfortunately, if anyone in his office discovers that he's playing hooky, he'll be in a lot of trouble. So he has to keep his passion -- and his blog! -- low-key.
Is it any good?
Like Kantaro himself, this show is so invested in desserts that it's nearly impossible not to be won over. Whenever Kantaro visits a restaurant (all of them real places in Tokyo), he goes in-depth on what makes the dessert great, describing the preparation, ingredients, and finally, the actual tasting. The show uses a wide variety of techniques to make each of Kantaro's descriptions a rich visual experience. Ingredients are shown in beautiful close-ups, and Kantaro often has extreme emotional reactions to them. Each dessert sends Kantaro into such a reverie that he hallucinates himself becoming one of the ingredients: When he eats melon kikagori, he becomes a melon-man, dancing with his melon-bride; peach parfait inspires a vision where he is reborn from a peach, only to engage one of his co-workers in a battle to see who can do the most squats.
As the show evolves, the workplace half of the setup gets more intriguing as well, with Kantaro having to evade co-workers that have decided to follow him on his sales route or have discovered his dessert blog. Slowly, Kantaro becomes a deeper character than he appears to be early on: He's a man who has built not only his job, but his entire worldview around sweets, but over time, he becomes more empathetic for other people and their own passions. The fact that Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman can build that level of drama around what's essentially a Food Network-type tourism show makes it even more astounding.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's at stake for Kantaro if he gets caught eating desserts during work hours in Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman. There are some clear cultural differences between the Japanese workplace in Kantaro and an American workplace, but there's also a lot of overlap between what is and isn't OK. Is what Kantaro doing wrong? Does it matter that he is the best salesperson in his office if he is constantly breaking the rules?
Kantaro clearly has an extreme relationship to food. What does food mean to him? Why does he care so much about individual ingredients and preparation? Is a dessert more than just a treat for Kantaro?
Families can talk about the amount of dedication and hard work it takes to make something even as simple as a dessert. Kantaro often talks about how the chefs discovered how to make the perfect versions of desserts. Why does it take so much work? Is it worth the time and energy? What does it mean to be so dedicated to such a specific thing?
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