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Blips that stayed on the media radar


Media Persons of the Year: Yasuo Tanaka and Shintaro Ishihara

Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka

In a year when national lawmakers were constantly criticized for a failure to empathize with voters, an intractable lack of fiscal common sense and downright stupidity, local politicians ruled, especially these two guys, who, granted, enjoyed an advantage since they were media personalities even before they took office. But, then again, so was Ishihara’s predecessor in the Tokyo governor’s seat, Yukio Aoyama, and he failed miserably, not only in terms of leadership, but in terms of getting the media on his side.

In terms of political outlook, Ishihara and Tanaka are opposites — the fiscal and cultural conservative vs. the secular humanist liberal — but in a way they complement each other, especially when they both appear in the news at the same time. Though primarily novelists, a calling that evokes images of bookish, pale intellectuals, they are closer to what used to be called cosmopolitans in the sense that they’re interested in what’s going on around them and confident and knowledgeable enough to comment on public matters (though in the Tokyo governor’s case, not always responsibly).

The In Crowd The Out Crowd
ventriloquists monkey acts
pregnant brides trophy grooms
Bjork Gwyneth Paltrow
“Platonic sex” “Parasite Singles”
robot dogs virtual idols
Ping-Pong karaoke
R&B hip-hop
Korea and Cuba France and U.S.
Merrell Nike

Ishihara, who has more political experience, essentially uses his power as a permanent celebrity — meaning someone who can flout the petty restrictions imposed on mere mortals — to push ideas that mainstream politicians would never dream of, much less advocate. He takes a perverse delight in making people uncomfortable, whether it’s the banking industry or the foreign community. And he isn’t above hobnobbing with the media on their own terms. His regular appearances on the Tokyo MX-TV talk show, “Tokyo Boys,” where he discusses politics and culture with comedians and tarento, most of whom probably have no idea what he’s talking about, give him a hip edge.

Tanaka has yet to prove himself in the same way, but the fact that his political actions have dominated the wide shows since he assumed the Nagano governorship in October proves that people are interested in what he’s doing and not just him. Better yet, he continues to write his regular and very personal columns for various national publications, so while we watch him dismantle the status quo, we can understand how he feels doing it. So far, it seems to feel pretty good.

Runners-up: the Kano sisters

The Kano sisters could be counted on to pose for the tabloid paparazzi at any occassion.

Their smiles are bogus, their clothes loaned and their boobs enhanced. Hell, most people are convinced they aren’t even blood relations. But that hasn’t stopped them from becoming the most successful PR props in the history of Japanese celebrityhood. Wherever they’re invited, whether it’s a movie screening, the launch of a new cosmetic, or somebody else’s fashion show, the press is there in full force.

And it’s OK with them if you call them bimbos, or if you doubt their biographies (Concubine to European geriatric billionaire! Molested by common father!), or if your TV crew does nothing the whole time but focus on their cleavage, because they’re ready for it with a knowing glance that says to anyone with a microphone and an air of superiority, “Do you think we care? You’re the ones who came to see us.”

Topic of the Year: The collapse of authority.

The press didn’t just nail politicians, but finally mustered up the courage to report abuses by doctors, policemen and teachers. Who’s next? Bureaucrats? Let’s hope so.

Runner-up: Teenage anomie

Directly related to the Topic of the Year, or so the media wished since it was the most convenient way of explaining the problem. The scary thing is: What if they aren’t related?

Best TV Commercial: ???

It’s the one with lots of singing and dancing Westerners who keep chanting, “Don’t spend money.” I think it’s an ad for an Internet provider, but nowhere in the commercial are computers mentioned or shown. There’s an URL that comes on the screen at the end, but nowadays every CM has one of those.

Actually, I think the viewer is not supposed to know what product or service is being sold. What the viewer is expected to do is visit the Web site and find out for himself, which is an interesting example of media “synergy,” but considering the fact that Japan is still lagging on the Internet tip, it’s an idea that’s more topical than effective. And if it is an ad for an IP, doesn’t it automatically mean that the people who can visit the Web site already subscribe to one? It’s like commercials for color TV sets back in the ’60s. Viewers with black-and-white sets couldn’t appreciate them, while viewers with color TVs already had them.

Best Reason for Avoiding Television: Devi Sukarno

The Ryutaro Hashimoto Human Rights Award: Tornex

Tornex is a company that makes furniture and equipment which sucks cigarette smoke out of the air. In a TV spot that appeared several months ago, a bunch of foreigners in a foreign country (the U.S., probably) discover that there is no longer any place for them to smoke. Someone informs them that they should go to Japan, and they hop on a boat and sail across the ocean, eventually arriving on the shores of the last refuge for a persecuted minority.

Shooting Oneself in the Foot Award: The Japanese government, for using Prime Minister Mori to promote Iternet usage in its public service advertisements.

Quote of the Year: Mie Yamaguchi, former CNN newscaster and talent on why she suddenly retired at the height of her popularity: “The next step up after the news business was TV variety shows, where all you’re expected to do is talk about yourself.”

Best Comedy Show: TBS’s “Broadcaster” (Sat. 10 p.m.)