Yay! The internet Gods have bestowed upon us a pre-Christmas amuse-bouche gift: episode 3 of the bizarre-but-delightful anime web series, Israel, Like!
In case you missed it, the series was launched by the Israeli embassy in Tokyo back in November as part of a campaign to attract Japanese visitors to the Holy Land. It presents an oddly neutered, pareve version of Israel (no war or Palestinians, only Ashkenazi Jews, and abundant Dead Sea cosmetics), as explored by two sisters: the savvy but troubled Noriki, and the infantile, co-dependent Saki.
I know, I know, I’m not exactly selling it right now, am I? But though there’s plenty to critique, Israel, Like! is also oddly compelling. The portrayal of Israel as a land of exotic foods, good weather, and good-looking soldiers—minus the conflict—is wistfully utopian and idealistic, like a tourism reel from the 1950s. And there’s a strong current of dramatic tension pulling you through the stream of hasbara: Will Noriki reconcile with her husband? Will Saki ever learn to fend for herself? Will the two sisters make it through the trip without killing each other?
In episode 3, those questions are meaningfully teased out for the first time: Noriki ditches Saki for a couple of days of quiet marital brooding, and Saki flips out—only to be rescued by a Japanese-speaking, manga-loving, 20-something Western male stereotype called Itai. Jachnun is savored, the kotel is visited, and a lot of feelings are felt. Plus—there’s a surprise visitor from home and a kind of suspenseful ending.