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Sunday, May 15, 2005

CHANNEL SURF

Actor-musician Yuji Oda travels to Africa for TBS's "Big Nature Special" and more

Kabuki stars have been appearing in TV dramas for decades, but this week's "Tuesday Suspense Theatre" (NTV, 9 p.m.) may be the first time a kabuki onnagata (actor specializing in female roles) doubles as a private eye.

Onnagata star Nakamura Fukusuke plays Karuta, an onnagata performer in Kyoto. When a young colleague of Karuta's, Renjaku (Akira Akasaka), becomes the main suspect in a double murder, the older actor decides to investigate himself.

Renjaku's fiancee, Miyabi, a young geisha, is one of the murder victims. The other is Renjaku's former schoolmate Kazuyuki. When the police find the two bodies, they first think it is a double suicide, but further investigation reveals that Kazuyuki was murdered. When they learn that Renjaku essentially stole Miyabi away from Kazuyuki some time ago, the young actor becomes the suspect. Karuta is sure his friend is innocent, but DNA taken from blood at the scene of the crime is the same as Renjaku's.


Actor-musician Yuji Oda traveled to Africa recently to visit a facility for orphaned wild animals and his adventures are documented on "Big Nature Special" (TBS, Wednesday, 9 p.m.).

The orphanage specializes in baby elephants, and Oda is assigned to take care of one youngster whose mother was killed by poachers. The actor quickly learns that mothering elephants is literally a dirty job, requiring him to get down with the little pachyderm in the mud, which is important for the animal's development.

Oda is surprised to learn that real elephants do not match his previous image of them. They are a lot hairier than he thought and the trunk is pliant and very soft. He also learns that elephants communicate mainly through touch. He writes a song about his four-legged charge.


A curious footnote to the annals of classical music is the fact that many famous composers wrote piano pieces for left-hand only, including Brahms, Liszt and Ravel. The piano, of course, is a two-handed instrument, and there seems little reason to compose music for only one hand, not to mention only the left hand.

Tarento Hikaru Nishida is a big fan of classical music, and she travels to Vienna and Budapest to find out why these composers made left-hand pieces. Her journey is presented on "Kiseki no Pianist" (The Miracle Pianist; TBS, May 22, 2 p.m.), in which she discovers a whole shelf full of left-hand piano compositions at an old music store in Vienna.

She buys some of the sheet music and brings it back to Japan and gives it to the concert pianist Izumi Tateno, who, since suffering a stroke some years ago, has lost most of the use of his right hand. However, he has continued his career by playing left-hand compositions.



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