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Recap: Girls ‘Japan’

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“You seem very wealthy, because of your spoiled attitude.”

“That’s just how Americans act. We’re kind of assholes.”

A couple seasons ago, an episode of Girls set in Japan might have broken the Internet and depleted the English language’s allotment of the word “problematic” for generations to come. And yet, Shosh in Japan makes perfect cosmic sense. She was already a Nora Ephron manga character before she left America. In “Japan”, she seems, if anything, subdued, and not because writer Jenni Konner and director Jesse Peretz fall into the trap of the Western Gawk, because they (mostly) don’t. Peretz shoots Tokyo in restrained, static compositions, noting the environment rather than projecting preconceptions: this is where we’re at. It’s overcast. Young people work and play and get neurotic about their crushes and their asshole friends embarrass them, but it’s okay, because when there’s no one else around… there’s no one else around.

Zosia Mamet has the rare chance in this episode to layer Shosh with nuance. Shosh is actually at home in Japan, it’s not just a product of solipsism (as it, comically, might have been when she discussed her life there in the season opener). She’s decidedly a foreigner, but her co-workers like her (the exchange quoted at the beginning plays less harsh than it does as the candor of people who genuinely care for each other). Her office crush, Yoshi (Hiro Mizushima), clearly likes her back. When she’s abruptly laid off by the company back in America (and with sickeningly late-capitalist passive aggression), Shosh’s girlfriends take her out for a sympathetic drink, after which she seizes the day and texts Yoshi. They have quite the adventure (based, per Lena Dunham, in exacting detail, on an experience she personally had on a visit to Japan once), culminating in a trip to a sex club and, for Shosh, into a fetish nurse costume on her last night. But maybe it isn’t her last night. She never gets off the plane back in New York. Whether she stays in Japan or not remains to be seen; how she’d manage to pull that off is likely enough machinations for at least a spinoff movie, maybe even an entire season of the show.

But this is not, however tempting it might be, to wish it so for most of the episode, the Shosh Show —  it’s Girls, whose axis revolves around Hannah, who in the non-Japan parts of “Japan” is battling body-image related jealousy issues. Fran, in one of Hannah’s most justified bouts of high dudgeon in the history of the series, still has vast numbers of nude photos of ex-girlfriends on his phone. Not only that, but he openly admits to jerking off to them, justifying this by indignantly soapboxing about porn (“like Andrea Fucking Dworkin,” as Hannah puts it when venting to Ray and Elijah), while apparently not considering that his would-be-feminist onanistic practices are going on without the clear consent of the ex-girlfriends in question. Hannah, being Hannah, doesn’t dwell on this, instead having Ray take some nudes of her, which she adds to Fran’s phone, deleting all the exes. This phone business is one of the first indications that Fran is a Nice Guy as opposed to an actual nice guy, and it will need to be resolved at some point, one imagines.

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This week’s installment of the ongoing Adam and Jessa “friend” thing involves a spot-on cop show parody where Adam plays a homeless man who detective Lucy Liu (note-perfect) gives the third degree. After the episode, Adam makes another move on Jessa, who promptly declares “I won’t do the ‘will they/won’t they’ shit” and storms out, to Adam’s elaborate, physically comedic distress. Next week, it seems, this will be addressed, which is beneficial because dragging this out too long would be a mistake.

Damn, this season of Girls is good.

Danny Bowes (@bybowes) is an artist and critic whose film and TV writing has appeared in Premiere, Tor.com, The Atlantic, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, RogerEbert.com, Salt Lake City Weekly, and The A.V. Club.

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