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Sunday, April 20, 2003


Comics on the telly

The spring lineup of drama series contains more than the usual share of comic-book adaptations, which is good news since comics tend to have more interesting story-lines than do dramas written directly for the screen.

"Kochira Hon Ikegami-sho (This Is Hon Ikegami Police Station)," (TBS, Monday, 8 p.m.): The story, which first started appearing in the comic book Evening in 1999, is centered on a small neighborhood police station in Tokyo's Ota Ward. This is the second time the comic has been adapted for TV. The first series was aired last summer and was a ratings hit. Unlike most police series, the tone of "Hon Ikegami" is warm and neighborly rather than hard-boiled. Masanobu Takashima plays an easygoing policeman who lives with his mother and his daughter. This week, in Episode 2, the precinct has been hit by a wave of purse-snatchings, and the pattern indicates that the criminal is doing it just for kicks.

"Kimi wa Petto (You're My Pet)," (TBS, Wednesday, 10 p.m.): An extremely popular girl's comic that appears in the comic Kiss, "Kimi wa Petto" is about Sumire (Koyuki), a young woman who appears to have everything: looks, education, intelligence and a great job. However, she's recently had a run of bad luck. After being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend of five years, she punches out a supervisor at work who she claims is sexually harassing her and is subsequently demoted. Depressed and unsure of her future, she returns home one night to discover a young man, beaten and bloody, in a cardboard box outside her apartment building. She brings him in, cleans him up and essentially adopts him as her pet, naming him Momo. Sensing her "inner suffering," Momo goes along with the game.

"Dobutsu no Oisha-san (Animal Doctor)," (Asahi, Thursday, 9 p.m.): This drama is about real pets, meaning the four-legged kind, and a young man who is studying to be a veterinarian. Based on a very popular comic that ran in Hana to Yume from 1987 to 1993, the story is about Hamuteru (Hiroshi Yoshizawa), who, as a teenager, met a strange man on the street. He gave Hamuteru a Siberian Husky puppy named Chobi and told him it is his "fate" to become a veterinarian. Though the series follows Hamuteru's education, it is characterized by elements of fantasy. For instance, viewers hear the thoughts of the animals. In Episode 2, Hamuteru's eccentric grandmother, convinced that her grandson will someday open a clinic in a certain area of town, visits a potential rival animal hospital and causes problems.

"Hotman," (TBS, Thursday, 9 p.m.): The original comic ran in Weekly Young Jump from 1997 to 2000. It's about a high-school art teacher name Enzo (Takashi Sorimachi) who is raising a daughter all by himself. The little girl, Nanami, was left on his doorstep with a note saying, "This is your daughter," but Enzo, for some reason, can't fathom who the mother is. Enzo also lives with a half brother and a half sister, thus promoting the comic's central theme that family is not defined by blood (though, apparently, it helps if it's half-blood). Because Nanami suffers from allergies, Enzo becomes a health nut, and in every episode he imparts some knowledge about natural foods and medications. This week, in Episode 3, Enzo gets mad at his sister when she goes on a crash diet after developing a crush on a fellow student and is unnerved when he learns that Nanami has received a love letter from a male admirer -- in her nursery school!

"Black Jack ni Yoroshiku (Give My Regards to Black Jack)," (TBS, Friday, 10 p.m.): The Black Jack of the title refers to the superhero physician of Osamu Tezuka's classic comic strip. This homage started running in Shukan Morning in January 2002. The hero is Eijiro (Satoshi Tsumabuki), an idealistic young intern at a large university hospital. His plan is to become a surgeon, but every day his idealism is challenged by the medical profession's cynicism: doctors expecting gifts from patients; private hospitals refusing accident victims who don't have money, etc.. This week, in Episode 3, Eijiro is assigned to the internal medicine department, and one of his patients is a man who desperately needs heart surgery. The cardiology department, however, ignores him.

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