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Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

TBS's remake of "Okusama wa Majo" and more

Pan-Asian heartthrob Takuya Kimura starts his annual trendy drama gig Monday in the new series "Pride" (Fuji TV, 9 p.m.). Kimura plays the same kind of brooding romantic in all of his drama series, so the only point of interest is which occupation he's been given (last year it was an airline pilot).

Haru (Kimura) is the captain/forward of a company-affiliated semi-pro hockey team. In the first episode, Haru and his team, which includes the gentle, serious goalkeeper, Hotta (Kenji Sakaguchi), and the playboy/rich kid Ikegami (kabuki star Ichikawa Somegoro), are celebrating their victory at a company party when a trio of beautiful young female employees arrive. Haru and Ikegami make a wager, and Haru then attempts to catch the eye of Aki (Yuko Takeuchi), who works for the accounting department.

Several seasons ago, Kimura played a concert pianist, and now it's his SMAP sempai Masahiro Nakai's turn. However, Waga, the pianist that Nakai plays in "Suna no Utsuwa (Vessel of Sand)" (TBS, Jan. 18, 9 p.m.), is not the usual trendy drama hunk. In the original novel by Seicho Matsumoto, the pianist hero spends his childhood as a beggar because his father suffers from Hansen's disease. In the chaos of World War II he is able to take on a new identity, but his past always haunts him.

The producers of the new version have updated the story to the present and jettisoned the Hansen's aspect, but they haven't announced what it is in Waga's past that he is hiding from.

In the opening episode, Waga has just finished a concert when he is visited by a mysterious, agitated man named Miki (Hidekazu Akai), who claims to know all about Waga's past. Waga says he doesn't know what Miki is talking about, but the visitor becomes more agitated and insistent. Waga suggests they go to a bar to discuss the matter further -- and on the way he kills Miki.

One of the most popular American situation comedies ever shown in Japan is "Bewitched," which starred the late Elizabeth Montgomery as a witch trying to make it in the world of humans as a regular suburban housewife.

On Friday, TBS recycles the concept with "Okusama wa Majo" (10 p.m.), and also updates it to present-day Japan. The young witch, Arisa (Ryoko Yonekura), who has always wanted to be human, runs away from home, but her broomstick overheats and she's forced to stop in Tokyo, where she meets and falls in love with Joji (Taizo Harada, of the comedy trio Neptunes), a junior account executive in the Irabu advertising agency.

In the opening episode, Joji is ordered by his boss, Suzuki (Naoto Takenaka), to make overtures to the female owner of Nomo Foods in order to secure a contract for their new advertising campaign. Arisa wants to help, but she has already promised herself that she will not use magic so that she can fit more easily into mortal society.



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