This week, Nihon TV launches a new series called “Drama Complex” with a three-hour adaptation of Akiyuki Kosaka’s best-selling novel “Hotaru no Haka (Grave of Fireflies)” (Tuesday, 9 p.m.), which is set during World War II.
Nanako Matsushima plays Hisako, who loses her home in Tokyo to Allied bombing. With her husband fighting somewhere in Asia, she and her two children evacuate to a suburb of Kobe, where they share a house with Hisako’s cousin, Kyoko. However, the area where they are staying is also bombed, and Kyoko is killed. Hisako is forced to take care of Kyoko’s two children in addition to her own, but there is not enough food for everyone. In the end, to save her own children, Hisako allows the other two to die of starvation.
In Japanese popular culture, Hisako has come to represent the archetype of the cold, ruthless mother, which most people remember from the famous animated version of Kosaka’s book.
Another archetype is the subject of NHK’s historical documentary show, “Sono Toki Rekishi ga Ugoita (The Time When History Changed)” NHK-G, Wednesday, 9:15 p.m.), which this week looks at the legacy of John Manjiro.
Born Nakahama Manjiro, Japan’s first export to America was a fishermen whose damaged boat was rescued by an American whaler during the last days of the Edo Shogunate. The crew was brought to Hawaii, but Manjiro opted to continue on with the whaler back to San Francisco, where he studied English and other subjects.
Manjiro later returned to Japan and advised the shogun during the eventful period after Commodore Perry’s ships arrived in Yokohama, demanding that Japan open up to the outside world. Manjiro, in fact, is credited with persuading the shogun to not attack the ships. He convinced the shogun that the Americans mainly needed a stopover point between the west coast of the United States and the east coast of Asia.
Though New Yorkers may find it an odd analogy, the Higashi-Nakano district has often been called “Tokyo’s Brooklyn,” because it has traditionally been the place where young people hoping to break into show business reside. This week’s installment of the neighborhood variety show ” Admatic Heaven” (TV Tokyo, Saturday, 9 p.m.) looks at Higashi-Nakano as a place where “people with dreams” gather.
Five minutes from Shinjuku by train and relatively reasonable in terms of rent, Higashi-Nakano is mainly a magnet for aspiring comedians, and quite a few famous funny people spent their salad days there. The program visits the many restaurants and shops that still cater to this group, and relates plenty of anecdotes about famous comedians before they made the big breakthrough.