NTV’s “87 percent — My Five-Year Chance of Survival” and more

A new year means a whole new set of drama series, though the themes remain the same. Fans of terminal illness stories will find a lot to cry over in “87 percent — My Five-Year Chance of Survival,” which premieres Wednesday on Nihon TV at 10 p.m. Yui Natsukawa plays Akiko, a 35-year-old insurance saleslady who is also a single mother.

Akiko is not up to much on the sales front, and she struggles to keep her household solvent, but this turns out to be the least of her problems after she goes to the neighbourhood clinic for her annual health checkup. The young Dr. Kuroki (Masahira Motoki) sends her a notice to return for additional tests. Kuroki is afraid Akiko may have breast cancer, which his own wife died from five years earlier. The patient-physician dynamic thus takes on a deeper significance for both parties.

So Kuramoto is one of Japan’s most popular TV scriptwriters, famous mainly for his long-running “Kita no Kuni Kara (From the North Country)” series about a family living in a remote area of Hokkaido. Kuramoto’s first TV series in 15 years starts Thursday at 10 p.m. on the Fuji network. “Yasashii Jikan (The Gentle Hours)” also takes place on Hokkaido, in the popular Furano resort area, and centers on Yukichi (Akira Terao), a former employee of a Tokyo trading company who has started a new life in the countryside. Yukichi now runs a small coffee shop, but while his life seems quiet and carefree on the outside, inside he is wracked by torment.

Yukichi’s wife was killed some years earlier in a traffic accident caused by his son, Takuro (Kazuya Ninomiya), who has avoided any contact with Yukichi since then, even though he lives not far away, studying to be a potter.

Goro Inagaki of SMAP stars in “The Tragedy of M,” one of the more promising soap operas of the season. Inagaki plays Mamoru Ando, a young man whose entire life has been dictated by caution. When he was a small boy, burglars broke into his home while he was inside, and the traumatic experience has stayed with him ever since. He avoids risk at any cost; in fact, risk-avoidance is the key to happiness, he believes.

Following this credo, he graduates from an elite university and joins a security company, which he thinks is the perfect profession for someone like him. He is quickly promoted and becomes an executive in charge of product development.

He even gets engaged to the daughter of one of the company’s directors. His life seems perfect, until one day, while riding on a crowded commuter train, he is accused by a beautiful young woman of molestation. Suddenly, everything falls apart.