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Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007


Literary masterpieces summarized, heartwarming sports TV movie, special on voices behind anime

Do you feel guilty because you've never read the great works of world literature that you're supposed to read? Nihon TV knows how you feel, and on Monday at 7 p.m. the network will present a special called "Arasuji de Tanoshimu Sekai Meisaku Gekijo (Theater of World Masterpieces That Can Be Enjoyed in Summary Form)."

Utilizing a variety of narrative styles, the program runs through the basic plots of several of the world's greatest novels using some unlikely talent, just in case such an undertaking strikes some as being too dry. For instance, idol Eiji Wentz plays the brooding suicidal hero in a dramatization of Dazai Osamu's "Ningen Shikkaku (No Longer Human)."

Comedian Cunning Takayama does the voices in a CG animation version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," while another comedian, Udo Suzuki, appears in a precis of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina."

The Korean box-office hit "Marathon," based on the true story of a developmentally handicapped boy who trained for and completed a full marathon, has been adapted for Japanese TV with the same title (TBS, Thursday, 9 p.m.).

Kazuya Ninomiya, who earned international praise for his portrayal of the young baker in Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima," plays Shotaru, who is severely autistic. His mother, Harue (Misako Tanaka), is determined that her son's handicap will not turn him into a vegetable. She teaches him whatever she can so that he can fend for himself, and believes that he might make a good long-distance runner since he is patient. One day, she meets a reporter at the facility Shotaru attends, and the reporter suggests that Shotaru participate in a 10-km race. Shotaru does well in the race, and Harue is encouraged to seek the services of a former track-and-field star to prepare Shotaru for a full marathon.

Have you ever wondered what the guy who does the voice for Homer Simpson looks like? Most cartoon voice artists remain faceless, even in Japan where several are bona fide superstars in their own right. On this week's "Daitan Map Special (Daring Map Special)" (Asahi, Saturday, 7 p.m.), some of these stars will come out from behind the microphone.

Many are old, having voiced famous characters ever since their animated TV series debuted decades ago. Among the classic series whose voice artists will make rare appearances in front of the camera are "Lupin III," "Gundam" and "Crayon Shinchan," whose titular potty-mouthed kindergartner is voiced by a woman, as are all little boy cartoon characters.

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