Fashion is subjective but when it comes to Netflix’s latest Japanese series Followers, this series feels more like a runway disaster than a brand new trending outfit. On paper, a series following social media influencers in Japan and the fickle rise and fall of fame feels like great ammo for a thought provoking series examining the societal impact of our digital world. Unfortunately, Followers plays out much more on the straight and narrow, with characters that are difficult to warm to, some questionable scene composition and a story that fails to inspire any sort of enthusiasm across the 9 episodes in this first season.
If you’re not sold by the first episode, it’s unlikely you’ll take to the rest of the show. At the heart of this are two very different girls that find their paths intertwined across the season. Natsume is a girl that struggles to stand out, jumping between acting jobs and desperate to hit the big time. By comparison, photographer Limi is at the top of her game, reveling in the bright lights and glitzy glamour that comes with her position. By chance, Natsume finds herself bumping into influencer Limi and after one of her social media posts goes viral (thanks in part to Limi herself), Natsume finds herself wrapped up in a whirlwind of fame while Limi learns some shocking news that could change her life forever.
As the series progresses, the show touches on different topics, including work/life balance, relationships, children and briefly on the impact of social media. The latter here is explored around the midway point of the show, as Natsume faces some backlash following comments on social media. These moments, giving a reflective viewpoint on the ugly side of these platforms, are easily the stand-out moments of the whole show. Instead of building a story around this however, the series focuses a lot more on relationships and familial drama, leaning much more toward budding romance/drama.
In a bid to make this show as edgy and aesthetically different as possible, Followers stumbles over its own ambition by delivering an over-saturated, busy set of scenes that are visually jarring to look at. Whether it be a living room scene squeezed with every colour imaginable, or distracting, patterned set of outfits during scenes smothered with tinted lights, for a show about fashion and beauty Followers does not make it easy to look at. This over-saturation of colour is a serious problem at times too, something that extends over to the lighting as well. Many shots are too bright, with sun flares and brilliant bursts of light obscuring facial expressions.
The camera work and scene composition are equally as problematic at times. Whether it be a rotating shot using a handheld camera during a group chat or a character’s face obscured at crucial moments when a close-up may have been a better option, Followers tries to be artistic but some of the time struggles to find the appropriate movement for each scene. To be fair, there are some beautiful shots in this and the moments inside Tokyo’s teamLab Borderless are gorgeous but these moments feel frustratingly fleeting.
Followers will undoubtedly gain a following but whether those numbers reach the desired viral effect remains to be seen. Some may take to the off-kilter way this is shot and enjoy the various shenanigans Natsume and Limi find themselves in across the season, but for everyone else there isn’t a whole lot here worth getting excited about.