Tamura Masakazu says TV Asahi drama special maybe his last … Tamura Masakazu, who turned 70 last August, recently played the lead in Sanoku-en Jiken, one of two TV Asahi adaptations of Matsumoto Seichou’s novels to commemorate the network’s 55th anniversary. Sanoku-en Jiken mixes facts with the author’s speculations about the daring 300 million yen heist in 1968 which continues to enthrall the Japanese to this day. Tamura revealed that he felt scared after not having worked for a year because he didn’t know how embarrassed he would be on the set of Sanoku-en Jiken with all the big names in the cast if he was the only one flubbing his lines. His voice has changed these 2, 3 years. It would get hoarse and he would lose his voice. This made him wonder whether he would have a voice or be able to deliver his lines well. He said he has been thinking that this drama maybe his last and he must cherish each production. Tamura is one fine actor with a strong screen presence. I’ll be sorry to see him retire when the time comes, but glad for the memorable roles he leaves behind, most notably Furuhata Ninzaburo.
Japan’s enduring fascination with the 300 million yen heist … In the last four months alone, three different networks have produced two dramas (TBS’ Kurokouchi and TV Asahi’s Sanoku-en Jiken) and a documentary (Fuji TV’s Sanoku-en Jiken Saigo no Kokuhakushatachi ~ Shinhannin no Kage … 45-nenme no Shinshougen) related to the 300 million yen heist. Although 45 years have passed since an imposter posing as a police officer duped four Nihon Shintaku Bank employees into fleeing their car laden with 300 million yen in cash, its popularity shows no signs of waning. If anything, it seems as if the case has begun to have a following of young core “fans” a recent Gendai article observed. It drew parallels between the enduring fascination that the Japanese have for the 300 million yen heist and the favourite historical tale of revenge of the Chushingura in that both share common elements: a perfect victory in which the weak had an upper hand against the strong.
S ~ Saigo no Keikan off to a good start … S ~ Saigo no Keikan, the new TBS Sunday drama, has topped the viewership ratings for the winter season so far. The network is throwing large sums of money into promoting the drama and a movie had already been decided before the drama premiered. It is a big gamble that TBS is taking. However, the reactions from viewers appear mixed. According to media reports, there are many viewers with favourable impressions such as “It’s worth seeing and interesting”, “Mukai and Ayano are cool!”, “I can watch without using my brain” (hah is this praise?), “The passion of the actors was conveyed”. On the other hand, there seems to be just as many viewers who find the directing unsettling in prioritising entertainment value over realism “Just because the firearms are in possession, the crime group fires randomly from the building?”, “It’s too unrealistic, I can’t get into it”, “Is this kids stuff?” A TV magazine writer commented that a lot of viewers imagine S ~ Saigo no Keikan to be a serious police drama because of the cast and the TV commercial feel. But in fact, the script has a strong fantasy element, a “special effects hero” that appears to be aimed at adults. In episode 1, Mukai Osamu’s character who is a former boxer, breaks through the wall from the neighbouring unit with a punch and hits the captors in the face. I’ve trouble taking S ~ Saigo no Keikan seriously. To do so, one must take leave of logic in the story which seems to oversimplify the roles of different groups in the police organisation. It doesn’t help that the NPS sometimes feels like a bunch of boys trying to play heroes. There’s also too much needless, shallow chattering that gets irritating. Another grouse is that Mukai is not leading man quality. His acting is so superficial and forced. I didn’t get far enough to watch much of Ayano Go in his role although I would have loved to check out Odagiri Joe play the baddie. I’m sure he’d kickass. But I can’t even get past episode 1.
Controversy continues to dog Ashita, Mama ga Inai … There have been almost daily developments in the controversy surrounding NTV’s Ashita, Mama ga Inai that it’s hard to keep up with what’s happening. More than a week ago, Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto City lodged an appeal with the network to take the drama off air. The hospital objects to scenes in the drama where the orphanage director played by Mikami Hiroshi tells the children “You’re the same as pets”, “Even dogs do tricks, so cry” before the children can eat as well as the name “Post” given to Ashida Mana’s character because she was left in a baby hatch shortly after birth. It believes these scenes will give a bad image to orphanages and also hurt children left at the hospital’s baby hatch. Close to a week later, Jikei Hospital submitted a written petition alleging infringement of human rights to the Broadcasting Ethics & Programme Improvement Organisation. At about the same time, the national foster care association which has established some 600 facilities across Japan also sent a written protest to NTV demanding that the network improve on the content. The president of the association was critical of scenes of violence and abusive language which instil fear. He demanded to know what will be done if someone commits suicide even if the scenes are fake. The immediate fallout from this protest and the subsequent debate over the drama has been “self-restraint” by sponsors. Of the eight sponsors, one discontinued and two postponed CMs after episode 1 while the rest have postponed CMs after episode 2. However, NTV’s president announced at a press conference yesterday that the network plans to broadcast the drama’s entire 9 episodes and will not change the content. Before this statement was made, a media watcher had commented that NTV will probably not pull the plug since it costs about 30 million yen to produce one drama episode and the network’s drama viewership ratings during the fall season were all in the single digit. Part of the unhappiness with the drama appears to stem from the fact that the production team made no requests or inquiries to the parties concerned beforehand despite the delicate nature of the topic. An NTV personnel said, “We’ve confidence in the drama’s content. There’s a lot of criticism now, but we believe after people have seen the last episode, they’ll think “so this is what they wanted to say” and approve of it.”