Pro-life drama series; awards of dubious distinctions; CM of the week: Maruchan

On average, 600 abortions are performed in Japan every day. This rarely publicized situation is the subject of a new afternoon soap opera, “Tenshi no Dairinin” (“The Angels’ Proxies”; Fuji TV, Mon.-Fri., 1:30 p.m.).

A nonfiction writer named Yoshimura (Atsuko Takahata) is interviewing a woman named Fuyuko (Yoshie Ichige) for a book. Fuyuko belongs to an association of midwives who call themselves Tenshi no Dairinin. Their mission is to persuade women who are considering abortions not to undergo the procedure.

Every day, Fuyuko tells the writer a story about one of the women they have tried to talk to, including a mother undergoing fertility treatment who ends up with the wrong embryo; a woman whose husband has an affair with her sister and gets her pregnant; and a woman in her 40s who becomes pregnant by her younger boyfriend who has a terminal disease. In the background, the two women’s own stories are fleshed out.

This week, a special two-hour edition of the variety show “Ichihachi” (TBS, Wed., 9 p.m.) features two sets of female celebrities competing for some very dubious titles.

These 16 women represent distinct images and personalities. Eight of them are considered “women who are envied by other women” for their looks and material good fortune, while the other eight are “women whom other women find intolerable.”

The competition for the first group is to find which of the women maintains the “most gorgeous lifestyle” even in the middle of an economic recession. The competition in the other group is to determine which woman is the most annoyingly precious and fawning, especially when there’s a man in the room.

CM of the week

Maruchan: Food maker Toyo Suisan recently started selling a series of instant noodle products for its Maruchan brand under the name Shiki Monogatari, or “Four Seasons Story.” The campaign takes advantage of the well-worn myth that Japan is the only country in the world that has four distinct seasons.

Right now the products being promoted are three instant cup noodle offerings under the general title “Aki no Tokumeki” (“The Thrill of Autumn”), which features red packaging that brings to mind bright autumn foliage.

The ad features African- American enka (Japanese ballad) singer Jero, sporting his usual hip-hop head wear but wearing a kimono, too. He sits in an arbor among trees with flaming red leaves, slowly slurping Aki no Tokumeki noodles as his voice trills emotionally on the soundtrack. Along comes enka veteran Sachiko Kobayashi, who, to Jero’s surprise and pleasure, joins him, presumably for a duet. The end credit promises different noodles for winter.