Is She The Wolf? is the latest Japanese dating show to hit the streaming service of Netflix earlier this year. The show offers up a wickedly addicting premise which is its immediate hook for how unique of a setup it is. But at the same time this is exactly why Is She The Wolf? is such a gruelling but rewarding watch. Let’s get into it.
A harsh reality
This reality programme’s premise is the only significantly striking element it has going for it that makes it stand out from other dating shows of a similar kind. Is She The Wolf? brings together five men and five women who are seeking a romantic relationship. That’s to be expected. The participants’ ages range between 20 to 30. Not everyone tends to be present for each scene or event because the participants still attend their jobs during the production of the show.
While they live under the same roof together the overarching task is its female participants are to lead photo shoots in different, romantic locations across Japan. They are to take them with the male participant they are most interested in. A final shoot commences once all female participants have selected and completed their shoots. Between these shoots a midterm confession takes place to establish the pairings who are most interested in one another followed shortly thereafter with an elimination of a female participant if she gets majority vote on being the most suspicious participant.
Participants each have a SUN line and MOON line, with the former being a text message to the group with an invitation of a date directed at someone specific. This date is open to anyone and everyone joining in however. Third wheeling is optional here while the MOON line is an anonymous invitation in asking someone out that no other participant can join in on. Both lines can be used only once.
So, the big hook – at least one female participant is lying about their intentions. There is a wolf among them. Going into it blind you wouldn’t consider the feelings of the wolf in question, or at least I myself did not. The show quickly reveals said wolf because it makes the most sense to follow her as an immediately revealed wolf. The reason being is that it’s as tough on her to fake her feelings and intentions as it is for the eventual admission to the interested party and group overall.
Mean spirited yet somehow just as meaningful
This is just one example of how emotionally draining the show can be. It cannot be understated just how much of a downer ending it has when certain male participants feel betrayed or maybe even embarrassed by the wolf reveal or being turned down. But this is also where the show shines. The show allows the female participants to explain themselves and while they don’t get closure exactly since the wolf admission and reveal is the last time the wolves get to be around the other participants. But it allows both the audience and other participants to understand how the wolves themselves have struggled with the process.
It really humanises them when their role could have otherwise so easily isolated or villainised them. But before we even get to that shocking finale the journey leading up to it is where the real substance of the show can be seen. Much like how Love Village made me feel Is She The Wolf? has an exceptionally cosy and warm vibe going for it. All ten participants are welcoming, open and honest with one another, creating a feel-good environment where even when some of them are not seeing eye to eye you know that they will overcome their issues. The dynamic of the group overall is of a supportive and nurturing one.
The participants are always respectful to one another, actively support each other, even when their interests are at odds and they ultimately cherish the closest bonds that develop when having lived under the same roof as a group collective. This growing familiarity between everyone is highlighted here and there when they are doing activities or simply going out and about within a same-sex group or pair. It’s not shown as often as I would have liked but that’s understandable when the show is about romance rather than friendship. But it’s still just as nice to see said value of friendship also evidently take root and blossom throughout the journey.
A suggested watch only if you can look past its cruel premise
As always when it comes to these kind of shows from Japan there are numerous commentators and spectators as its presenters. Idol Nako Yabuki, vocalist RIKU, model and actress Karen Takizawa and actress and comedian Natsuko Yokosawa all appear across its 12 episodes, reacting to the very same clips the audience are watching at the same time. They interject with some much needed banter between each other during the more emotionally charged scenes and give their thoughts or speculation to the feelings of its participants and what has yet to come. It’s all very light-hearted entertainment until they also start tearing up by its finale.
And what a finale it is, making the entire journey a worthwhile one despite its rough setup. Idol Mikako, actress Sakurako Okubo, model Gabby, musician JU!iE, idol Honoka Nishimura, aspiring actor Tomoki Yonemura, musician Who-ya (fun fact, this is vocalist of Who-ya Extended, the music group behind the second opening of Jujutsu Kaisen), actor Masaki Nakao, kickboxer Taiju Shiratori and actor Robin Furuya make for a wonderful group altogether. Regardless of love triangles, miscommunication and the possibility of betrayal they are all there for each other in the end.
From attending outings in support of one another’s work/passion projects and being there to uplift the emotionally wounded participant with its final reveal, Is She The Wolf? is quite the cathartic viewing experience. In fact, Tomoki has really engaging growth throughout the show, having started out as meek and quiet but comes into his own by the end. He becomes more assertive, open and confident and it’s wonderful to see.
Likewise with Who-ya who goes through a rough patch for the majority of the show he comes out on top for being an all-round good guy. He doesn’t necessarily win within the show’s rules itself but he has certainly made a brilliant impression to onlookers. Also something which is always consistent with these shows is how side-lined its best girl is – Gabby. Her spunky attitude, positive outlook and effortlessly chippy nature is captivating to say the least but she goes underappreciated. Watch the show just to appreciate her existence.
The music that plays might be my only nit-pick because its especially heavily relied upon BTS tracks are ridiculously overplayed. Still, it’ll be worth even just one rewatch since throughout the show it becomes heavily implied that there is more wolves than the only one who gets revealed early on. A rewatch would add another layer to earlier scenes and interactions especially.