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‘Old Enough’: Netflix Brings Japanese Phenomenon to Worldwide Viewers

‘Old Enough’ follows toddlers as they set out, alone, on a task.

Credit: 'Old Enough'/Netflix

Netflix has a long, seasoned habit of bringing successful shows from their respective countries onto its international platform. In this newest chapter of Netflix’s syndication history, a peculiar Japanese show has been added to the streaming company’s repertoire. 

‘Old Enough’ hails from the Japanese original, titled Hajimete no Otsukai (translated literally into English as ‘My First Errand’). The content that Netflix has added to its platform comes from footage filmed in 2013.

However, Netflix has adapted the Japanese original for a streaming-oriented, binge-hungry audience. A phenomenon that has comfortably attracted a fifth of the Japanese viewer market, the show has aired two three-hour episodes a year for 30 years.

In order to appease the shortening attention span of its international market, Netflix added a first season of 20 episodes which run for 20 minutes.

Debuting on the platform on April 1, 2022, the show has drawn many viewers with its strange, intriguing, and emotional premise. 

‘Old Enough’ follows toddlers, aged two to four, as they go on an errand, unaccompanied by a parent or an adult figure. Naturally, the showrunners have a thorough and intense process to outline safe routes for their central protagonist of the episode, and they inform neighborhood residents of the toddler’s mission to ensure they do not intervene or call the police upon seeing a wandering child. 

For example, in the opening episode of Netflix’s first season of the show, a two-year-old named Hiroki sets out on an errand to the supermarket. Armed with a 1,000 yen bill that his mother gave him, Hiroki is tasked with buying fish cakes, curry, and flowers. 

With English subtitles to translate the commentary, we follow Hiroki as he heads for the supermarket, and the commentator quips that “We follow the sound of [Hiroki’s] squeaky shoes.”

When Hiroki successfully returns, having accomplished his mother’s task for him, he experiences an emotional moment of pride, joy, and confidence in his own autonomy. 

It is this, the ability of a toddler to successfully navigate a task set forth for them, one typically relegated to their parents or to the life of adults, that defines the show. It is this, the ability of these toddlers to demonstrate their independence, autonomy, and ability to succeed on their own, that carries viewers on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. 

From an Insider report, parenting expert Tanith Carey remarks that “When children feel confident, it builds self-esteem.” And this is certainly a motif that the show intends to exploit: giving children adult-like tasks to prove to them that they, too, are independent and capable on their own.

“But — and this is a very big ‘but’ —,” Carey continues, “the tasks that adults ask [the children] to perform have to be appropriate for their development.”

In this series, we largely follow timid, fearful toddlers as they embark upon a journey, in a world, they are unaccustomed to navigating alone, and these same toddlers come out on the other side with a renewed sense of joy, confidence, and self-esteem. 

As of yet, it is unclear whether the show that has gripped the Japanese audience for 30 years will prove comparably successful among an American audience, but it is certain that Netflix has prepared for its widespread success. 

Enjoyed this read? Check out more like it: Fans Startled by Netflix’s New True Crime Doc ‘Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives’

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