The Pretz / Pocky game (and Japan’s Ally McBeal)

Recently saw the ‘Pretz Game’ プリッツゲーム, aka the ‘Pocky Gameポッキーゲーム for the first time.

What is the Pretz game? Set-up: Take a snack stick (Pretz for salty, Pocky for sweet), and put it in the mouth of two people. Play: take small bites and try to reach the other person.

According to Wikipedia, “Two people begin eating one Pocky from each end. The first person whose mouth comes off the Pocky or the other player gets to the middle first loses. If the participants end up kissing, it is a tie.” It looks something like this (source):

This is a scene from Tokyo Love Story 東京ラブストーリー (1991), a classic manga-turned-TV drama. The primary female character, Rika Akana 赤名リカ, is a vivacious and emotionally expressive woman; just the type who makes a cheesy drama worth watching. Here’s a picture of her (actress Honami Suzuki 鈴木保奈美) with a big-ass phone:

Regarding the manga version of this character, Sgt. Tanuki’s Lonely Hearts Club Blog writes:

“Rika is held up as the exemplar of all of this fast Tokyo-osity.  At one point Nagao even says she’s Tokyo itself.  Which means that of course she’s yet another take on the age-old theme of the moga.  But it’s the specificity of the character that is so powerful:  the details of her position in the company, the work she’s expected to do, how she does it;  her ease with fashion, international travel, communication in English;  the way she represents for the men in the company a kind of consumption-based sexually-inflected freedom that both fascinates and threatens them.  All of this makes her a compelling new character, and simultaneously a perfect expression of the place of Tokyo in the cultural imagination in the late ’80s.  There was, and is, a dynamic in Japanese culture that sees Tokyo as somehow un-Japanese (despite the metro area being home to something like a quarter of the population), something to be shunned, even as it’s plainly something that attracts vast numbers of people.  Rika is all that.”

The following passage from Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image notes the show’s regional impact:

“Tokyo Love Story (1991) – in which the heroine was presented as unhesitating in her choice of the man she wanted, displaying an emancipated attitude that contrasts with Suzie Wong’s dependent one – was the drama that led to a revified Japanese cultural wave in the 1990s.”

Rika embodies late 1980’s / early 1990’s Tokyo in much the same way that the titular character of Ally McBeal (1997-2002) represented (or misrepresented) women in 1990’s America. Consider the following remark from the Washington Post:

“From the moment it debuted on Fox in 1997, “Ally McBeal” announced its offbeat, mini-skirted status as one of the defining television shows of the Clinton decade. At the time, David E. Kelley’s dramedy about a self-absorbed, soulmate-seeking Boston attorney (Calista Flockhart) ignited much debate in the media and around water coolers nationwide, on questions that ranged from “Is Ally McBeal a True Feminist?” to “Unisex Bathrooms: Freaky or Excellent Opportunities for Office Bonding?'”

If words aren’t convincing, perhaps this will help: Is Feminism Dead?, the cover of Time Magazine, June 29, 1998. Flockhart shares the cover with feminist luminaries Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem.

Back to Tokyo Love Story. A commenter to the previously mentioned manga post writes:

“I also love this one. Did you ever watch the TV series? Definitely worth checking out if the period detail in the manga was your thing. Cheesy, but totally iconic.”

I completely agree.

  • Of personal interest, Ally McBeal made an appearance in one of my very first blog posts
  • For more images of the Pretz/Pocky game, do a Twitter search for プリッツゲーム or ポッキーゲーム; there are plenty of examples every week. Here is the Pretz game with bunnies:


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