Based on a novel by Tetsutaro Kato, the 1958 TV drama "Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai" ("I Want to Be a Seashell") became a paradigm-shifting hit when it was broadcast on KRT Television, the predecessor to the TBS network.

Back then, the still-mighty Japanese film industry looked down on the programs of their small-screen brethren as vastly inferior to their own product. A world-class auteur like Akira Kurosawa would sooner fly to the moon than work in TV. Telling the story of a small-town barber who was tried as a war criminal in Occupation-era Japan, "Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai" enjoyed a smashing popular and critical success that signaled TV was here to stay — and that the days of the supremacy of movies were numbered.

The drama inspired a 1959 film scripted and directed by Shinobu Hashimoto, who had been Kurosawa's scriptwriter on "Rashomon," "Ikiru" and "Shichinin no Samurai" ("The Seven Samurai"). Kurosawa gave Hashimoto his blessing for the film, his first as a director, "but you only have a C-class script," Kurosawa told him.