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‘Zen-Nihon Kaso Taisho,’ the trouble with herbivores; CM of the week: Sumisho Fruits

Several weeks ago, NHK profiled Yusei Uesugi, a matte painter who works for George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic. Uesugi is a major talent in Hollywood special effects, and he got his start as a contestant on “Zen-Nihon Kaso Taisho” (“All-Japan Disguise Awards”), which takes place two or three times a year. Amateurs devise elaborate sketches using homemade costumes and props, which are then judged by a panel of celebrities. Uesugi won the grand prize of ¥1 million in 1989 for his portrayal of a giant beetle, and he used the money to go to California where he applied for a job at ILM.

This week, perennial host Kinichi Hagimoto hosts the 84th edition of the awards (Nihon TV, Tues., 7:56 p.m.). Among the celebrity judges are musical actress Mao Taichi and moguls skier Aiko Uemura. This time the stakes have been increased. In order for contestants to qualify for a winning slot they have to earn at least 15 out of a maximum 20 points.

The theme of this week’s “Nihon no Kore Kara” (“Japan From Now On”; NHK-G, Thurs, 7:30 p.m.), NHK’s occasional studio debate on a current topic of interest, is “What’s wrong with being a vegetarian?” Actually, the show isn’t about people who don’t eat meat, but rather about “herbivores,” the term used to describe young people who are not aggressive about love, life or career.

Older people complain that young people today are different from when they themselves were young. They are not interested in cars or beer or traveling. Young men just want to live at home and work at the same company in the same position. Young women just want to be housewives.

Young people in the studio say they aren’t interested in brand-name goods. What’s more important is being socially responsible and environmentally concerned. Just because their values seem to be different, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of Japan.

CM of the week

Sumisho Fruits: Nine kids in yellow body suits emblazoned with the word “amai” (sweet) on their torsos dance to a cheesy organ ditty while King Kanjuku (sweet and ripe) — a big banana sporting mustache, crown and cape — sings behind them about “sweetness for everyone” and is then shown distributing bananas on the street to the common folk, including an elderly man who jumps into the air to catch one for himself.

The absurd nature of the commercial is probably a direct response to Dole’s popular ad campaign featuring SMAP star Shingo Katori as Dole Man, a bizarre, bald super hero with bananas coming out of his ears, nose and fingers. Sumisho Fruits may hope people will confuse the two ads and buy their bananas when they go to the store.