Gunshi Kanbei draws inspiration from S Korean drama successes … The last two NHK taiga Taira no Kiyomori and Yae no Sakura have fared the worst in the history of taiga with both failing to hit 15% in average viewership ratings. In the not too distant past, taiga like Tenchijin could command an average of 20%. Now NHK hopes to turn things around with Gunshi Kanbei. The year-long 50-episode drama is about the life of Kuroda Kanbei, a military commander active as a military strategist during the Sengoku period. Kanbei is described as a fascinating character by scriptwriter Maekawa Yoichi. “He was betrayed many times in an era when treachery was an everyday occurence for the sake of survival and had an axe to grind. And yet he was an honest man who never betrayed anyone.” In a recent Japan Times interview, chief producer Nakamura Takashi talked about the new things the crew is trying to do in Gunshi Kanbei, “What struck me is that Japanese people would say that they thought our dramas were ‘interesting’ or ‘enjoyable,’ but that they were ‘addicted’ or ‘obsessed’ with Korean dramas. There was a very big difference in terms of emotional investment.” South Korean dramas are Nakamura’s source of inspiration: an interesting character with enough adventures in his life because “every episode needs to have its ups and downs, its emotional pulls … we want people to end up cheering for Kanbei as he encounters all sorts of traumas and challenges”; emphasis on emotions; and a good-looking star in popular actor Okada Junichi of the boy band V6 for convincing romantic scenes and physical prowess, “With fewer and fewer historical dramas being made these days, it is actually rare to find young actors who are capable of handling swords or moving their bodies in the way that samurai used to. Okada is one of the few.” Did Nakamura really have to turn to South Korean dramas for that sort of inspiration? Taiga set in the Sengoku period have traditionally exceeded 30% and been the highest rated of all time. The feudal warlords of the era have also become a popular theme for female history buffs as well as recently released games and anime. What NHK forgets is that these heady numbers belong to a time in the 1980s and 1990s when viewing habits were completely different. Episode 1 which aired yesterday drew a respectable 18.9% but already the media has pounced on the fact that it is lower than Yae no Sakura’s and the second lowest in the last ten years. A little too hasty to pass judgment, eh?
TBS eager for Hanzawa Naoki sequel … TBS is moving to produce a sequel according to people familiar with the matter. The network is already in negotiations with Sakai Masato whose schedule is apparently filled until spring 2016. However, there seems to be some degree of hope of broadcasting it as early as autumn 2015. The official statement from TBS is that it has no plans to air a sequel to Hanzawa Naoki although it has received more than 3,000 phone calls enquiring about a second season. It is likely that some characters will have to be replaced because actors have been pulled into variety programmes and CMs, but one insider noted that there would always be counter-offers from actors and actresses wanting to star in sequels including a former AKB member. Another insider said there are many people who want a film adaptation of Ikeido Jun’s novel Lost Generation no Gyakushu which is about Hanzawa’s transfer to Tokyo Chuo Securities, a securities firm under the umbrella of Tokyo Chuo Bank. There have also been suggestions for a spin-off or a special if a sequel cannot be decided quickly. I made it only as far as episode 5 before the bad acting became too much for me to bear. It was easy to drop it since the way the story unfolded never gripped me like WOWOW adaptations of Ikeido Jun’s novels did. No need for seconds.