Review: Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman
I spent a good part of my weekend binge-watching a new Netflix produced show called Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman. Was it worth my time? Oh hell yes.
I’ve struggled to come up with a description. IMDB describes it thusly, “A stoic book salesman leads a double life as he plays hooky from work to write his sweets blog. In his journey to attain a glimpse of sweets heaven, Kantaro samples various Japanese and Western sweets”. I suppose they are accurate, but I’d say something more like this:
Sweets Blogger Kantaro takes a job in a publishing company just so he can sneak away on his bookstore rounds to indulge in desserts. Add over the top narration in the style of the original Iron Chef’s Chairman Kaga, an odd cast of characters, bizarre halucinations where individual dessert components come alive to sing and dance while other cast members wear dessert heads, add highly sexualized imagery, and sprinkle with quotes by such notables as Sigmond Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche and Brillat-Savarin. It’s jaw droppingly odd, the acting is deliberately way over-the-top, the stories are ridiculous and it’s totally silly. It also contains plenty of food porn, as all of the restaurants and desserts described in the show are real.
In one of the 24-minute episodes, Kantaro orders two eclairs, the specialty of a nearby French bakery. Just as he’s about to bite down, his dentist mother calls to say she is arriving in an hour. She is vehemently anti-sugar, and he rushes home to prepare for her arrival. Kantaro is quizzed – has he been eating sugar? She inspects his teeth. When he leaves to use the bathroom, she tears apart his house looking for evidence. But he’s prepared and nothing is found. She relaxes. Kantaro turns up the heat in his apartment and offers her a cup of chamomile tea, knowing it will put her to sleep. A scented candle is lighted to help ease her way. Then, while she doses on the couch, a secret door opens to a frosty world of desserts, including his two perfect eclairs. Kantaro says, “I have come to know the sinfulness of sweets. It has been my dream, mom, to sit right in front of you and eat these forbidden sweets, these éclairs, and cram my mouth full of them!”
In a few minutes of television that, to me, seems wrong on every level, he straddles the couch only inches from his mother’s face. Little beads of sweat roll down her neck, and she moans softly and says his name. He leans over her, long eclair protruding from his mouth to hers, and slowly eats it, saying “Your Kantaro no longer exists”.
It’s so perfectly wrong, everyone in my living room was shrieking, cringing and laughing all at the same time; mother/child/sugar baggage on a plate. Other scenes sprinkled throughout the twelve episodes had a similar effect.
Watch it with friends, and keep a pile of desserts on hand; you’ll want them. Perhaps you should be in an altered state. Either way, if you like this over-the-top style, you’ll enjoy Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman.
You can view the English Netflix preview here, or watch the Japanese version below.