It seems as though as the end of the world approaches and global inequalities continue to be heightened, the dominant style of consumption is bingeing. We binge eat, drink, watch … and why? Do we have to do sit glued in front of the TV for hours on end just to catch up, just to maintain appearances? We’re always going to be behind.
Which is where “Sunshine Sento-Sake” comes in. This show follows Takayuki Utsumi, a unmotivated Japanese salesman trying his best to make ends meet. His boss demeans him, his coworkers surpass him — he just can’t catch a break! So he goes out into the city, hoping the next lead will close out a sale.
But that’s when he sees it: a sento, or Japanese-style public bathhouse. Every single episode of the series involves Utsumi trying to do his job but getting sidetracked enjoying himself at a bathhouse and getting an ice-cold glass of beer afterward. The beauty and excitement in the show come from the very banal, almost animalistic desire to escape the stressful world of work and worry and to enter a place entirely designed for comfort and indulgence. The small social interactions Utsumi has and the characters he meets also bring the sense of a slice-of-life show, where the quotidian becomes spectacular in the sheer fact of it being represented.
If a show’s main focus is to make one feel, “Sunshine Sento-Sake” relaxes the viewer in ways no other show does. Until they’ve seen it, one would never know how compelling it is to watch someone slowly enter a Jacuzzi, find the right position to sit in, and enjoy themselves. And what’s incredible is that the show is almost anti-bingeable. The audience shares in the deep joy of carelessness, of letting go of responsibilities with Utsumi. But then, at the end of every episode, his phone rings. The small utopia of the bathhouse has to be abandoned to return to the misery of everyday life. I haven’t finished the show yet, because each end fills me with a sense of guilt that stems from the emails I haven’t responded to or the work that still has to be done. But I can’t wait to go back in.