Mnet’s latest survival show “I-LANDHas started with great fanfare!
In this “Observational Reality Show” 23 trainees vie for spots for the debut in a new boy group under BELIF +, a joint venture between CJ ENM and Big Hit Entertainment.
So far, the premiere has given us an insight into what the show and the trainees have to offer, and everything looks pretty promising. Here are some things that have sparked our interest:
The shooting set
The thing that struck me most during the premiere was definitely the set (sorry, apprentices!). Gosh, the whole place was an amazing film-scale production, and all rain mentioned, probably costs a pretty penny. There is also a young adult dystopian mood. Imagine our protagonist chasing a forest and landing in a huge, mysterious building in the middle of nowhere. After entering the building, he said that it is a center where elite warriors are trained and he is welcome to join them, but only if he makes it through the admission test alive. Anyone else? Just me? Okay, go ahead.
However, it is an impressive set that is specially tailored to the needs of the trainees. There’s even a gym and medical room, though the color scheme makes it look overly cool and sterile – which in turn exudes a dystopian atmosphere. Everything is also very high tech, with the moving sections of the floors in the performance space, the rotating egg slash door too I-LAND, and so on. Everyone – from the producer to the trainee – gasped for the size of the set, so we can only imagine how much more impressive everything would look in real life!
The revolving door “egg”.
The object space.
The common / dining area.
“I-LAND” was marketed as an “observing” reality show, but only after the premiere did I fully understand the scope of “observing”. They meant it like the three producers – Bang Si Hyuk, Rain and Zico – You are literally being watched in a “production room” (which looks like a CCTV control room with screens on the wall). They observed the trainees from the moment they entered until the end of their entrance test without any interaction. We heard their reactions to the trainees’ performance, and it was nice to get an idea of their thoughts and expectations – especially since they could see the whole raw, unedited version of the performance, which would definitely give them a better perspective than that what we saw in the air.
The trio of Bang Si Hyuk, Rain and Zico is also an interesting team due to their different backgrounds and experiences in the industry. It will also be fascinating to see what they have to offer across the board. Will they be more practical down the street and personally give the trainees their wisdom, or will they mostly stay in the shade? And if it’s the latter, it would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
Given that the producers (a.k.a. the adults) are all hidden, this basically means that the trainees are left to their own devices (with a little push from the overhead “voice”). The show focuses on your own choice and how you have to go your own way to success. And to be perfectly honest, I have conflicting feelings about this, especially about the way the vote is conducted. It’s understandable that the show wants to give back power to trainees (especially given the recent voting controversy on survival shows), but that power is a double-edged sword. For the entrance test, the 23 trainees go on stage to perform either alone or in groups. Then the other 22 apprentices vote to decide whether the apprentice can officially enter I-LAND on stage, with only 12 places.
Here is the problem. The trainees all have different standards for what is good and what is not. This is another way of saying that there is no defining standard. There is also a sense of peer pressure and herd mentality where trainees look at each other and judge whether they would raise their hands to vote or not. This leads to the trainees being particularly generous with their voices in the first half, which quickly fills up the places. If you see that, the pendulum swings in the other direction and the trainees become very strict with their voices. It is not a balanced way of voting and does not appear to be ideal. It has its entertainment factor and adds the necessary excitement, and there is likely to be no lasting impact (the trainees who are not elected are not really kicked out, but only relocated to another location called “Ground”). , but it’s all pretty mentally exhausting, especially for these young teenagers. That red light under her feet after being voted out, that she is constantly reminded of her failure? Ugh, hard pass!
Now to the core of the show! And by that I mean the trainees. There are a total of 23 trainees with different nationalities, training times and backgrounds. Here are some that stand out:
Sunghoon and Jay
The duo chose NCT Us “The 7th Sense”, a song known for being difficult to replicate. They performed unforgettable and used their bodies to draw beautiful lines and shapes. Sunghoon’s figure skating training could definitely be translated well here with the fluidity of his movements.
Ni-ki from Japan was part of a trio of foreigners, including Hanbin from Vietnam and Nicholas from Taiwan. Other than the performance, I would only greet them for being able to communicate well enough to coordinate their stage. They performed SuperM’s “Jopping” and both the trainees and the producers found that Ni-ki was the one who naturally stood out from the trio.
Heeseung was the trainee everyone had an eye on. He had trained at Big Hit Entertainment for the past three years and had trained with the members of TXT. The expectations were surely met when he went on stage alone to play NCT Us “Boss” with no nerves in sight. He looked like he owned the stage.
EJ played “Any Song” with Daniel Zico. It was a bright performance that captured Zico’s original fun and playful vibe for the song. Although her stage wasn’t the best, the producers found that EJ looked very natural and charming on stage and that he had the potential to go far.
Jake, Sunoo, Youngbin
This group was the last to appear and consisted of the trainees who had the shortest training periods. Still, the trio of TXT’s “Crown” performed so well that it looked like they had been training much longer. Their song selection matched them perfectly and they brought a really great, joyful energy to the performance.
Watch the first episode of “I-LAND”:
What do you think about “I-LAND” so far? Do you already have favorite trainees? Let us know in the comments below!