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With 48 feature installments from 1969 to 1995, the “Tora-san” series not only set a Guinness World Record, but kept its Shochiku production studio afloat for decades.

While it was drawing fans as reliably as the sunrise, the series was derided by some critics as formulaic: In every episode the titlular peddler hero, played by Kiyoshi Atsumi, returns from his wanderings to his home in Shibamata, a neighborhood in Tokyo’s shitamachi (old downtown), where he reunites with his half-sister Sakura (Chieko Baisho) and other familiar faces. Also, in every episode a new woman comes into his life and, since Tora-san is a bumbler at love, soon leaves it.

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