Why you should be watching Old Enough! on Netflix
James R | On 18, Apr 2022
Season 2 premieres on 1st January 2023. This review is based on Season 1.
One of the hardest things as a parent or guardian can be learning to let go, as with every step towards adulthood a child makes, one tiny piece of their younger self disappears. Old Enough!, a hit Japanese reality series that just arrived on Netflix, is at once a bizarrely cute oddity and a strangely profound meditation on that journey of growing up that every child and their parent or guardian goes through.
Its original title is Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, but the anglicised name – complete with education mark – is almost perfectly tailored to play into the superficial cultural differences on show. The idea of letting a toddler go off by themselves, let alone to perform a household task, is unthinkable in this country, and many adults will find their hearts in their mouths as they witness a small child cross the road or venture into a supermarket, completely unattended.
Except, of course, it’s not quite that simple – the show is meticulously prepared and monitored so that the kids being featured are never in any real danger. Followed throughout by a crew, with camera operators lurking out of sight, they’re sent on a pre-approved and planned route so that there’s no risk of any grown-ups not being aware of what’s going on.
All this should set the nerves of adults at ease, as we watch children aged from 2 to 4 go out on a range of errands. Typically involving some kind of shopping – usually food – they toddle down the road to the nearby supermarket to get some noodles or, in some very complex challenges, pick up items from several difference places before returning to a shrine to lay some flowers. Sometimes, it’s a lot simpler, such as squeezing some fresh mandarin juice.
While such things might sound fairly straightforward, what the show does really well is capture the enormity of these expeditions for the tiny humans carrying them out. And yet what shines through each 10-minute episode is the excitement that grows as the kids go on their journeys, with each little act or encounter with a friendly, helpful – and often familiar – face boosting their confidence. The whole thing is accompanied by cute cartoonish titles and a knowing voiceover, but the children narrate what they’re doing to themselves too – like watching that viral video of a 4-year-old going snowboarding, but with shopping bags.
There are often distractions, from helping other people out, running round an empty house or trying to catch a friendly day, but they always succeed in their efforts, beaming with pride at how grown-up they feel. The only thing more heartwarming is the universal relief of the adults welcoming them home.