I spent the better part of my recent Boys Planet recaps complaining about the show’s predictable and dull formula. So, I’d like to offer a counterpoint to those complaints today.
It’s not often I devote an entire post to a TV show, but I want to bring attention to what may be the best audition series I’ve seen – at least in the past few years. The Japanese “Year 0, Class 0” (“0-nen 0-kumi”) has taken over my life since late-April. It’s everything I’d want an audition series to be – a breath of fresh air when compared to the staid, corporate machinations that often characterize this format.
In an effort to convince you to press “play” on the series, here are a few of the elements that have made Year 0, Class 0 so enjoyable. And yes, the entire series is available for free on YouTube with English subtitles! I’ll even embed the first episode so you can get started right away:
This show wouldn’t be anything without Avu-chan.
Moving from lead singer of alt-rock band Queen Bee (I raved about their recent single Violence back in December) to boy group producer, she brings her unique vision and perspective to the series. And honestly, she’s a force of nature. You can’t take your eyes off her. You’ll be obsessed.
Beyond the fact that it’s wonderful to see non-binary/trans representation on a show like this, Avu-chan brings a unique flair to her role as producer/host. Her advice is often blunt and surprising, yet completely heartfelt and clearly coming from a place of unique experience. Dressed in all manner of colorful school-teacher get-ups, she brings a natural sense of camp to the role. Just watch her dramatically grind her chalk into the blackboard or switch vocal intonation and energy at a moment’s notice. She’s commanding and intimidating, but with a sense of vulnerability that humanizes every moment of the series. This is 100% her journey, and that’s thrilling to watch.
2. A Point of View
This series isn’t attempting to create your run-of-the-mill boy group. Avu-chan immediately makes it clear that she’s looking for an “alternative” troupe. That means the boys cover oddball song choices from deep within J-pop history and ultimately perform original material that pushes against the grain of what it means to be an idol.
So often, these shows are sanitized of all their personality. Year 0, Class 0 oozes with character, from the quirky students to the challenges themselves (a fashion show! A poetry contest! A song from the musical Rent!).
Sure, there’s more than a little “audition show editing” (the producers love to focus on the boys’ tears), but it’s fused with a ton of individual flair.
3. The Brevity
The episodes are twenty minutes long! Yes!! You won’t spend your time trudging through endless rankings and behind-the-scenes drama. The show is taut and to-the-point, sometimes to its own detriment (you rarely get to see a full performance).
With that said, I’m dying to see the uncut versions of the episodes that are available of Hulu Japan. This is the one audition series that’s left me wanting more.
4. The Students
The series is structured like a school, with Avu-chan the sensei and the students her disciples. They’re an oddball bunch, given funny monikers that stick with them throughout the episodes. Most are quite unpolished, but truly grow throughout the course of the project. Expression is valued over perfection. Being “weird” is an asset — and not in a cliched, pandering way. I love how Avu-chan acts as a sort of life coach for them. You can tell they admire her, and by the final episode there’s a palpable bond formed between them.
And without giving spoilers, I’m very pleased with the members chosen to form the debuting group. Avu-chan has good intuition and an innate sense of what she’s looking for.
5. It’s honestly quite moving
Finale episodes can be exciting and even emotional, as members are announced for a debuting group. But, I didn’t expect Year 0, Class 0’s fifteenth episode to pack such a wallop (in a good way). Even recalling some of the scenes is making me tear up now!
The combination of earnestness, devotion to art, personal growth and acceptance is very powerful – much more than I expected from a series that often reveled in its own sense of camp.
And after you’re done crying, the final moments deliver an idiosyncratic flourish perfectly in keeping with the show’s embrace of individual expression. It makes me want to follow this funny little troupe to the ends of the earth.
** Spoilers **
If you want to watch the series without knowing who makes the final group, I’d recommend waiting to enjoy these YouTube videos. But as of today, the newly founded Ryugujo has released two songs (both featured prominently in the show).
Without context, each is odd and a bit confusing in its own way. Watching the series gives so much more meaning and enjoyment.
I know I’ll be a Ryujugo supporter. I hope you will, too!
(I’ll replace this with the full music video when it’s released)
Okay I’ll give it a watch, sounds interesting
I haven’t really liked any of the audition shows I’ve watched so far (except for Loud) so I’m looking forward to watching this!
Wow thanks for sharing! I never would’ve known that this exists. This feels absolutely mental, and it feels like there’s something off and sinister while watching this. It’s refreshing!
There’s definitely a wonderful, surreal sense from time to time 🙂
Oooo,this sounds delightful! And I looove short episodes!
Okay you were right, this was great, def the best survival show experience I’ve had.
S and Itaru were favorites so I’m glad they made it, but JEEZ I feel so bad for Sho-K, I was certain he was a shoo-in, he really won me over by the end. Definitely will be following the group, Rondo is pretty good! Definitely a good sign that I ran to follow the group and certain members/contestants on Spotify and Instagram once I finished the show.
btw Itaru gives me MAJOR Hirate Yurina vibes. And S reminds me of AKB48’s Shimazaki Haruka. Definitely good choices for an alternative boy group.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
you can try youth with you, chinese version of Produce series but with much much better styling, the girl version (season 2) gave us much personality on the contestant side, they allowed the girls to use pants instead of skirt due to personal styling choices in the theme song
Haven’t watched this yet but I am an Avu-chan fan now! I have a weakness for any “crazy clown”-type singers, the kinds who perform like they’re trying to devour something. I listened to Mr. Fortune and found it a bit cloying/twee for me—I think I only like the random elements when it’s mixed with Queen Bee’s signature rock style. But I’ll keep up with both. (“Half” is my favorite of what I’ve heard but I liked “Violence” too.)
Oh, you MUST watch this asap! I already came into the series thinking Avu-chan was a compelling performer, but the show made me love and admire her as a person.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll come away from the series a huge fan of Ryugujo too! The music benefits from knowing the background and meaning behind it.
I haven’t finished the series yet (I’m on episode 11 and my brain forgets everything if I binge things), but I made this choreography version of one of the songs: https://youtu.be/z8_VkDlbhYU
(It’s probably somewhere on Hulu and I’m clowning myself but eh.)
Will report back later when I finish it! I’m studiously avoiding Ryugujo content to not get spoiled on the results.
Oh, I love that! Good work 🙂
Let me know if you want any Ryugujo content after you’re finished. I’ve subbed their TV/variety appearances so far, though their aren’t many yet.
Finished it just now. I made some screenshotted notes which are half basically just complimenting Avu-chan’s outfits: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ywap-uRe4SfH0bsf-YqXTPciqaAnc9anu9P36gKFqr4/edit?usp=sharing
I’m down for the content! Do you speak Japanese or did you find the translations elsewhere?
Oh, I loved reading your notes!!!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this.
I’m studying Japanese, but I’m nowhere near being able to translate something on my own. I use an AI model for Japanese transcription (AI is a game-changer with this) and then a few different translation apps plus my own knowledge to create subtitles. They’re not 100% perfect (probably closer to 90-95% depending on the video), but they’re definitely good for personal use. I’ve been doing this for a lot of my favorite J-pop acts and — although it’s time-consuming — it’s really increased my engagement as a fan.
I just shared my Ryugujo folder with you via email. Let me know if you have trouble with it (or don’t get the email).
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