Midnight Asia: Eat – Dance – Dream is a travel docuseries that shows the nightlife of various cities around East Asia. Director Joe Evans takes his cameras to these cities, utilizing local crews, to specifically shoot them late at night, to show how cities like Tokyo, Mumbai, Seoul, Manila, Bangkok and Taipei have vibrant scenes even in the wee hours of the morning.
MIDNIGHT ASIA: EAT – DANCE – DREAM: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Overhead scenes of Tokyo at night. On the highways, we see a series of sports cars that deploy a strobing lights as they drive down the road.
The Gist: The first episode is about Tokyo, Japan’s largest city. It’s a buttoned-up place during the day, with people bustling to and from work in a country where being on time and working hard is the default. But at night, things loosen up.
In the Shinjuku neighborhood, we’re introduced to Sumiko Iwamuro, aka DJ Sumirock. She’s 85 years old (at least when the episode was shot in 2020) and she holds the world record for being the oldest professional club DJ. She learned DJing at the tender age of 77, and she does it late nights after she puts in a full day at the restaurant that has been in her family since she was 19.
Other profiles depict a night scene that was in in its infancy even a decade ago. Rogerio Ignacio Vaz, born in Brazil to Japanese parents, moved to Tokyo to get immersed in his parents’ culture. He’s a mixologist at Bar Trench, considered one of the best cocktail bars in Asia. He says that a decade ago, artisanal cocktails weren’t a thing in Japan, but it’s become the hot dining trend. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Shotaro Komijo drags his bar cart, called Twillo, to a different location every day, and then tells people where he is via social media.
Shinichi Morohoshi buys Lamborghini Countaches (base price: $2.5 million) and customizes them, often with crystals and pulsating lights. Narukiyo Yoshida operates a tiny stand-up bar/restaurant and wears a head scarf that says “FUCK OFF”. And we also get a look at a “fetish party” hosted by the group Department H.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Midnight Asia is a pretty standard travel show, not much different from shows like Street Food.
Our Take: The format of each episode of Midnight Asia is basically the same: Lots of shots of nightlife in various forms, spectacular drone shots of skylines and busy streets, a talk with a travel writer who provides a framing mechanism for each of the episode’s segments, and then various profiles of quirky and fun restaurant owners, DJs, entertainers, musicians, etc.
The sameness of the episodes squashes down what makes each city unique, but some interesting and quirky things still pop up, like the profile of DJ Sumirock, which Evans used as one of the through-lines for the episode. Every time we went back to her, sporting her see-through jumpsuit, big sunglasses and massive headphones, we smiled.
DJ Sumirock and the fetish parties were the parts of the episode that seemed truly fresh. Even though the series concentrates on the late night hours, it still doesn’t show us much that’s new.
Sex and Skin: None, even in the scenes of the fetish party.
Parting Shot: The sun comes up over Tokyo.
Sleeper Star: Why do we like DJ Sumirock so much? Because she’s 85 and found something new in her life at an advanced age. She worked to get good at it, and she loves it. She does hope people like her because she’s good at it, not because she’s a novelty, which we think is the right attitude.
Most Pilot-y Line: We wished that the show gave at least an idea of how much Shinichi Morohoshi spends on the Lambos he buys and how much it costs to customize them. We’d also love to know what kind of profit he makes when he sells them.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Midnight Asia: Eat – Dance – Dream doesn’t break much new ground. But there’s just enough interesting material, and some well-done photography, that makes for a reasonably pleasant, casual watch if you need a bingeing break.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.