I spent the better part of my recent Boys Planet recaps complaining about the show’s predictable and dull formula. So, I’d like to offer a counterpoint to those complaints today.
It’s not often I devote an entire post to a TV show, but I want to bring attention to what may be the best audition series I’ve seen – at least in the past few years. The Japanese “Year 0, Class 0” (“0-nen 0-kumi”) has taken over my life since late-April. It’s everything I’d want an audition series to be – a breath of fresh air when compared to the staid, corporate machinations that often characterize this format.
In an effort to convince you to press “play” on the series, here are a few of the elements that have made Year 0, Class 0 so enjoyable. And yes, the entire series is available for free on YouTube with English subtitles! I’ll even embed the first episode so you can get started right away:
This show wouldn’t be anything without Avu-chan.
Moving from lead singer of alt-rock band Queen Bee (I raved about their recent single Violence back in December) to boy group producer, she brings her unique vision and perspective to the series. And honestly, she’s a force of nature. You can’t take your eyes off her. You’ll be obsessed.
Beyond the fact that it’s wonderful to see non-binary/trans representation on a show like this, Avu-chan brings a unique flair to her role as producer/host. Her advice is often blunt and surprising, yet completely heartfelt and clearly coming from a place of unique experience. Dressed in all manner of colorful school-teacher get-ups, she brings a natural sense of camp to the role. Just watch her dramatically grind her chalk into the blackboard or switch vocal intonation and energy at a moment’s notice. She’s commanding and intimidating, but with a sense of vulnerability that humanizes every moment of the series. This is 100% her journey, and that’s thrilling to watch.
2. A Point of View
This series isn’t attempting to create your run-of-the-mill boy group. Avu-chan immediately makes it clear that she’s looking for an “alternative” troupe. That means the boys cover oddball song choices from deep within J-pop history and ultimately perform original material that pushes against the grain of what it means to be an idol.
So often, these shows are sanitized of all their personality. Year 0, Class 0 oozes with character, from the quirky students to the challenges themselves (a fashion show! A poetry contest! A song from the musical Rent!).
Sure, there’s more than a little “audition show editing” (the producers love to focus on the boys’ tears), but it’s fused with a ton of individual flair.
3. The Brevity
The episodes are twenty minutes long! Yes!! You won’t spend your time trudging through endless rankings and behind-the-scenes drama. The show is taut and to-the-point, sometimes to its own detriment (you rarely get to see a full performance).
With that said, I’m dying to see the uncut versions of the episodes that are available of Hulu Japan. This is the one audition series that’s left me wanting more.
4. The Students
The series is structured like a school, with Avu-chan the sensei and the students her disciples. They’re an oddball bunch, given funny monikers that stick with them throughout the episodes. Most are quite unpolished, but truly grow throughout the course of the project. Expression is valued over perfection. Being “weird” is an asset — and not in a cliched, pandering way. I love how Avu-chan acts as a sort of life coach for them. You can tell they admire her, and by the final episode there’s a palpable bond formed between them.
And without giving spoilers, I’m very pleased with the members chosen to form the debuting group. Avu-chan has good intuition and an innate sense of what she’s looking for.
5. It’s honestly quite moving
Finale episodes can be exciting and even emotional, as members are announced for a debuting group. But, I didn’t expect Year 0, Class 0’s fifteenth episode to pack such a wallop (in a good way). Even recalling some of the scenes is making me tear up now!
The combination of earnestness, devotion to art, personal growth and acceptance is very powerful – much more than I expected from a series that often reveled in its own sense of camp.
And after you’re done crying, the final moments deliver an idiosyncratic flourish perfectly in keeping with the show’s embrace of individual expression. It makes me want to follow this funny little troupe to the ends of the earth.
** Spoilers **
If you want to watch the series without knowing who makes the final group, I’d recommend waiting to enjoy these YouTube videos. But as of today, the newly founded Ryugujo has released two songs (both featured prominently in the show).
Without context, each is odd and a bit confusing in its own way. Watching the series gives so much more meaning and enjoyment.
I know I’ll be a Ryujugo supporter. I hope you will, too!
(I’ll replace this with the full music video when it’s released)