Two years ago, Fuji TV wanted to adapt its popular Sunday evening animated TV show about a precocious third-grader, “Chibi Maruko-chan,” as a live-action drama feature, but couldn’t find a little girl actress who looked enough like the cartoon character with her distinctive pageboy hairstyle.
Then, Momoko Sakura, the creator of the comic on which the series was based, saw Ei Morisako on a TV commercial and thought she was perfect. The rest of the cast were also chosen mainly for their resemblance to their animated counterparts, a close family of three generations living in the 1970s.
The special “15th Anniversary Drama of Chibi Maruko-chan” (Fuji TV, Tuesday, 7 p.m.) will include three stories that mostly deal with the trials and tribulations of being an elementary school student.
Tomoko Murakami, one-third of the comedy group Morisanchu, was also selected for her looks to play the lead character in the new drama series, “Busu no Hitomi ni Koishite” (Fuji TV , Tuesday, 10 p.m.), but since the title translates as “In Love With the Eyes of an Ugly Girl,” it would be understandable if she were less than completely thrilled.
Miyuki (Murakami) is an actress who would prefer roles in straight dramas, but because of her chubby appearance and natural sense of humor she tends to get offers for other types of work. Handsome TV writer Osamu (SMAP’s Goro Inagaki) is desperate to get her to become a regular on a comedy show he’s putting together. She isn’t completely enthusiastic, but so far she hasn’t managed to land a dramatic part. However, in episode two, which airs this week, she manages to pass the first-round audition for a TV series.
Obviously the product of some very strange script conferences, the new Nihon TV drama series, “Gyarusa (Saturday, 9 p.m.), opened last week with its hero, a cowboy from Arizona named Shinnosuke (Naoto Fujiki), parachuting into Shibuya to search for the daughter of his best friend, Geronimo III. How an 8-year-old American Indian girl ended up in Shibuya may be a less perplexing question than how a cowboy could reach the age of 30 and be as naive about women as Shinnosuke is, but in any case the show is more about the girls who frequent Shibuya than about the American West.
“Gyarusa” is short for “gals’ circles,” of which there is more than one in the series. Episode 2, which airs April 22, is about one circle called Angel Heart, whose members plan to hold a party at a trendy Shibuya club. However, each guest will have to pay 5,000 yen admission, and Saki (Erika Toda) doesn’t have it. While she thinks of a way to come up with the money, Shinnosuke tries to foil a purse-snatching and ends up just causing more trouble.