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Perhaps as a reaction against the excesses of an age of material prosperity and greed, America in recent years has seen a spate of books and movies extolling the so-called Greatest Generation, the quiet men who went off to fight in World War II. Similarly, Japan now has “Project X,” a popular NHK-TV show and best-selling book heralding the anonymous men of the postwar period who started from zero and “made the impossible possible.”

The TV “Project X” began in March 2000. Each program, broadcast on Tuesday night and rebroadcast the following Thursday, takes up the reverses and eventual success of one particular project. The project examined in the show I saw recently was the struggle of the police fingerprint section to identify the perpetrators of two spectacular thefts.

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