James May: Our Man In Japan Season 1 Review: Amazon Continues To Expand Top Gear Universe

By Daniel Hart
Published: January 3, 2020 (Last updated: March 17, 2024)
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James May: Our Man In Japan Season 1 - Amazon Prime


James May: Our Man In Japan breathes life into his career away from cars in a fascinating Amazon docuseries as James travels around Japan.

Amazon Prime Series James May: Our Man In Japan Season 1 was released on the platform on January 3, 2020.

I genuinely believe when BBC dismissed the original Top Gear clan that it did them a world of good. They had to move on, don’t get me wrong; Jeremy Clarkson felt too invincible for a show about cars. And then there was Amazon’s The Grand Tourwhich I admit I have not delved into apart from the odd episode, but I think it is reasonable to highlight that it is not as successful as their original concept, and more of a safe haven for loyalists. As for James May, he has always had this documentary-flair about him; he was never the most vibrant in the group, but he was a fantastic storyteller, a great narrator.

James May: Our Man In Japan expands the so-called “Top Gear Universe”, following our ever-awkward James May around Japan; a country that I’ve always wanted to visit but I’d have no idea where to start. James is perfect for this type of remarkable journey around the Land of the Rising Sun. He has that British honesty and dull humor that helps in the most obscure tourist destinations.

In the opening episode, James May travels to the icy northern island of Hokkaido; he explains the difference between landmass versus population which is an incredible statistic. We get to witness James enduring dog sledding, showing zero awareness of balancing himself as he ventures through snowy lands and woods. We then get to see him grumpily partake in amateur snowball fighting with headgear and be terrible at it. But perhaps the most British moment of the opening chapter is when he has to order noodles from a non-English Japanese vending machine — he questions the logic of the process but absolutely devours the food.

James May: Our Man In Japan Season 1 brings out the James in all of us when we are touring; further chapters include James traveling to the main island of Honshu, enjoying a naked plunge with a wandering friendly monk and visiting Osaka where he is introduced to sumo wrestling. The Amazon series does allow James to divulge into his passion of motorsport in Episode 4, but most of his experiences are out of his comfort zone.

Regardless if you are a fan of the original Top Gear crew, there is plenty to be enjoyed in James May: Our Man In Japan Season 1.

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