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Sunday, Sept. 5, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

NHK's documentary on Ashkenazy and more

If you don't think you're up to speed with the history of Japanese anime, check out NHK's BS2 channel this week at 11 p.m.

Each night, one classic cartoon will be shown and discussed by a group of experts.

Leiji Matsumoto's "Ginga Tetsudo 999 (Starlight Express 999)" is scheduled for Monday night. Chronicling adventures on an intergalactic "railroad," Matsumoto's manga, which he himself turned into a mid-70s TV series and movie, is considered the Holy Grail of sci-fi-oriented anime and has been extremely influential, especially in Europe.

On Tuesday, a 1979 installment of "Lupin III" will be presented and dissected. Created by the artist "Monkey Punch," the manga/anime is about a clumsy hard-boiled detective. With his violent nature and balloon-breasted assistant, the character appeals to adults as much as it does to adolescents. Anime superstar Hayao Miyazaki directed this particular episode.

"Ashita no Joe," an extremely popular sports melodrama from the early 1970s about an orphan who grows up to be a boxer, will be shown on Wednesday.

A more recent anime, "Card Capta Sakura," will be on air Thursday. Considered the pre-eminent "girls manga," created by four Osaka women collectively known as Clamp, the series is about a fourth grader with magic powers.

The 27-year-old enka singer Kiyoshi Hikawa has developed a huge fanbase of older Japanese women who buy everything his name is connected to, so he wouldn't seem to be in need of career counseling.

However, that's exactly what he receives on this week's "Takeshi no Dare demo Picasso (Takeshi's Anybody Can Be Picasso)" on TV Tokyo, Friday at 9 p.m.).

Comedian Beat Takeshi "discovered" Hikawa five years ago, but it was the singer's own modest demeanor and incredibly powerful singing voice that made him a star.

Nevertheless, Takeshi exerts his mentor authority and brings Hikawa on to his show, where he and two other veterans -- comedian Ken Shimura and actress Tamao Nakamura -- lecture the young man on "how to survive in show business," including advice on public relations, money, marriage, and "starting from zero."

In the process, Hikawa's apartment from his salad days is recreated on stage.

This month, the Russian-born pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy assumes the position of music director for the NHK Symphony Orchestra. On Sept. 12 at 9 p.m., NHK-G will present an introductory documentary about the 65-year-old centering on a tour he did last year on the theme "Totalitarianism and the Artist." He presented keyboard and orchestral works by Russian composers -- mainly Shostakovich -- who were forced to adhere to a strict ideological format. The maestro himself was born in the city of Gorky during Stalin's reign, but left for the West in 1963.



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