The Contestant (2023)

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The Contestant Storyline

A Japanese reality TV star left naked in a room for more than a year, tasked with filling out magazine sweepstakes to earn food and clothing, prompts innumerable questions about our culture of oversharing. Before the onslaught of reality television in the West, there was an ominous harbinger in Japan of what was to come in our oversharing-obsessed culture. The Contestant traces the experience of aspiring comedian Tomoaki Hamatsu, nicknamed Nasubi, who unwittingly became an extreme case study. In 1998, Nasubi thought he was attending an audition when a successful Japanese TV producer, Toshio Tsuchiya, enlisted him to take part in a challenge. Tsuchiya led Nasubi into a room, ordered him to strip naked and left him with a stack of magazines. Nasubi’s task was to fill out contest coupons in order to win what he needed to survive food, clothing, appliances, etc. until he reached the prize goal of one million yen. Although Nasubi could have left at any time, he stayed for months with a fierce determination to complete his mission. He was cut off from all contact with his family and the world except for occasional interactions with Tsuchiya. What Nasubi didn’t realize was that his experiences were being broadcast to over 15 million people in a TV show called Denpa Shonen: A Life in Prizes. Without his knowledge or consent, Nasubi became the most famous television personality in Japan. While parts of Nasubi’s infamy have been recounted before on YouTube and This American Life.

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The Contestant Movie Reviews

The producer/creator should have been jailed!

I just watched the contestant and the tortures that that poor man went through for other peoples entertainment is disgusting and sickening! And the man who put this all together and created should be in prison for life! At the end, when that poor man just began to strip because he figured that was his life now without even thinking just made me wanna cry. Shame on you, Japan, for allowing this to happen. And shame on the people who watched this and thought that it was OK for a man to be tortured like this, there are so many other ways that they could’ve entertained themselves than to watch a man slowly slip into madness and sadness just astound me.

What the actual hell is going on in Japan

Bro my god the stuff that happens to this dude is literally horrifying?! I cannot believe that this actually exists and was broadcast to the world and everyone really loved it.. I mean I get that they didn’t particularly know how harrowing this situation was for this guy but the fact this man spent a whole fifteen months trapped inside two incredibly small rooms only being able to live off the prizes he won from contests, nearly starving almost all the time and in a constant state of loneliness and depression yet somehow managing to always be entertaining for the camera – whether that be from him possibly going a little stir crazy or just being an immensely funny guy… I think it’s a little fifty-fifty there.

I really liked the way this was all told, which makes for one of the most visually engaging documentary experiences I have had all year. Edited together really well; between its present day interviews with those involved and related to the people involved plus the actual footage itself from the hit reality show “Life in Prizes”. Said show stars the central talking point and voice of this documentary, Tomoaki Hamatsu, or better known as Natsubi (meaning eggplant) due to his long face which was the subject of many bullies in his youth but later something he seems to have come to embrace. Natsubi himself is genuinely hilarious, every single joke this man made both on the show itself and during the talking segments were incredibly funny and he has such a strong screen presence that fills the entire atmosphere with joy it’s honestly contagious, plus the man has a very happy smile.

This documentary showcases some of the most disturbing practices in reality tv I have ever had the chance to witness and I have never before felt so bad for a man who is having psychological warfare being carried out against him. It definitely works amazingly for the show as the entire time you’re cheering the man on as you desperately want him to get out, and he does too, but it’s immensely depressing to watch this guy break as he gets put through this rigorous process not just once, but two goddamn times. I am just happy that after he had gotten out of doing this show he was able to glean something positive out of it all and the perspective it ended up giving him on the way humans cannot handle loneliness and how helping each other is so important is poetic and beautiful. Also the ending part which is far more recent when he is involved in an avalanche yet instead of trying to make sure he himself is okay after it he immediately rushes to start hello everyone else out is awe inspiring and one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard of a man doing.

Japanese television is apparently really out there which I was not really aware of before.. I mean I have seen some of the wacky game shows that have appeared in tik tok clips but I didn’t know they were doing this all the way back then and to such a severe extent that they almost entirely broke this poor man. I really hope it hasn’t affected bim so much negatively that it has ruined any portion of his life as he seems like such a happy and funny guy who more than deserves the notoriety that he has acquired, but I do wish it didn’t come at the cost of his mental state for a staggering fifteen months. Toshio Tsuchiya is a very interesting guy for being willing and insanely eager to put this man through all of this stuff, and despite him contributing a whole ton of money and resources for a helping cause, and feeling a semblance of remorse for his action – I obviously still don’t think what he did was worth it in the slightest and no matter what Natsubi learned from his experience in that situation he never should’ve been put into it.

I very clearly recommend you check out this documentary for yourself if you have Hulu, even if you’re not particularly interested in the topic itself I always think it’s a good idea to spread some light on a situation I feel like a large portion of people are not already aware of, like me. It’s really well told with some fascinating stories from everyone involved and the way it is all put together both looks great but also flows amazingly. It’s not a super long runtime either only landing at about ninety minutes so I think it’s more than worth giving your time to, and hopefully watching this supports Natsubi in some sort of way. Mans got out through hell and back and somehow came out with an even bigger smile on his face and the urge to help people, so you gotta respect him at the very least. Peak for real.


I watched this by myself and I was saying out loud “WOW”, “I don’t believe this”, and many expletives.

It’s a crazy ride. I’m not really an outwardly emotion person, but at certain points, I teared up – out of happiness, out of shock, out of just wrapping my head around.

It is much more than a voyeuristic experience of him endure, it really is a reflection of humanity; on one hand the cruelty that humans can afflict on another, and then it also showcases the compassion of humanity.

After watching, I am so surprised that here in the US I had never heard about this. It’s really unbelievable.

I am typing this right after watching and my head is still wrapping my head around what I just saw.