I've enjoyed both the episode on Tokyo, and that on Detroit, episodes 7 and 8 in season two of Parts Unknown. Tokyo:
Like a lot of non-Japanese, obsessed with Japan, Japanese food and Japanese culture, I've always been amused, occasionally appalled and always befuddled by the more lurid aspects of Japanese fantasy, pop culture and expressions of fetishistic desire. Popular comic books (manga), toys, films, advertisements and entertainments are loaded with images of bondage (shibari), hyper-sexualized school girls, rape, homoeroticism, violation by demons and tentacles – and more (all generally referred to as "hentai"). The honky-tonk Shinjuku district of Tokyo seems to promise galaxies of gratification – for flavors of desire that range from the simply eccentric to the absolutely horrifying. [...]
On one hand, the Japanese seem to have a much more open, nonjudgmental, less puritanical view of sex. Attitudes toward women's roles in the workplace and elsewhere, however, remain largely mired in the long-ago past. Rigorously conventional on one hand, batshit crazy party animals on the other, Japan will always confuse outsiders looking in. Even from close-up. [...]
So in many ways, this show is about fantasy – as much as anything else.
I hope this news will temper, slightly, the reaction of the more easily offended who watch this episode, as it contains images and subject matter of a decidedly "mature" and even offensive nature.
This is a "difficult" show. And I hope it doesn't frighten anyone away from one of the most fascinating and deeply enjoyable places to visit, experience and learn a little about on earth.
Bourdain claims that "it's easily one of the most brilliantly shot and edited episodes we've ever done." I can believe that. My one reservation is that it leaves the impression that manga is mostly about kinky sex. While you can certainly find manga that feature kinky sex, you can find manga about pretty much anything, appropriate for pretty much any audience. Kinky sex is just part of the mix.
And then there's Detroit, contemporary Detroit, the ghost city. Well, it's not that bad, but Detroit has certainly fallen on hard times, with many vacant buildings:
One only need look at some of our representatives, who, a while back, were actually suggesting it might be OK to let the beleaguered auto industry fend for itself, to leave Detroit to its fate to see how blithely willing much of America would be to point the gun straight at their own heads and pull the trigger.
Detroit isn't just a national treasure. It IS America. And wherever you may live, you wouldn't be there -- and wouldn't be who you are in the same way -- without Detroit.
Detroiters hate what they call "ruin porn." And it's understandable, the unease and even anger, that must come with seeing tourists, gawkers, (and television crews) come to your city to pose giddily in front of abandoned factories, public buildings, the symbols of former empire.
I, too, I'm afraid, am guilty of wallowing in ruin porn, of making sure we pointed our cameras, lingered even, in the waist-high grass, overgrown gardens, abandoned mansions, crumbling towers, denuded neighborhoods of what was once an all-powerful metropolis, the engine of capitalism.
That's our Tony, ever the bad boy, looking at the tough stuff. But he's right, it's fascinating. He compares the ruins of Detroit with those of the ancient world: "we shot them, illuminated them like monuments, with, I hope, the same respect as the Parthenon, the Coliseum, the remains of a magnificent – if ancient – civilization."