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Sunday, Sept. 30, 2007

CHANNEL SURF

Pension-system special, Japanese 'Twilight Zone', embalming drama

At the top of the list of things worrying the Japanese is the national pension system.

Despite the heavy coverage the pension problem has received, a lot of people still don't understand it, so TBS has put together "Kinkyu Gatchiri Monday (Urgent Tough Monday)" (6:55 p.m.), a two-hour special that attempts to explain how "you can lose a lot of money if you don't understand how the system works."

Until about three years ago, the problem with the pension system was seen as whether or not you were paying your fair share, but since then the problem has turned around: Maybe you won't receive your fair share once retirement comes around.

A group of comedians, TV personalities and announcers use sketches and dramatizations to illustrate in a down-to-Earth way how the average person can make sure that they will receive all the money that's owed them by the government.

'Yo ni mo Kimyo-na Monogatari (Bizarre Stories in this World)" is sort of the Japanese equivalent of the old American TV series "The Twilight Zone"; an omnibus program that presents stories of the supernatural and general weirdness.

This week's "Autumn Special" (Fuji, Tuesday, 9 p.m.), which is hosted by veteran comedian Tamori, presents five tales featuring "superstar casts." In the main drama, a "trainee angel" named Natsumi works on Earth for an advertising company. In order for her to become a fully-fledged angel, Natsumi must facilitate the meeting of a man and a woman who are destined "by fate" to spend their lives together, and she has her sights on a man who works in the same building.

In another story, Shigeru Joshima, leader of the boy band TOKIO, plays a man who has a strange encounter with a vending machine.

Because the dead are invariably cremated in Japan, the art of embalming is not widely practiced, which may be why the new drama series "Embalmer Mamiya Shinjuro" (TV Tokyo; Friday, 12:42 a.m.) is being broadcast after midnight.

The hero, Shinjuro Mamiya, earned his embalmer's license in the United States, but for reasons that will probably be easier to understand once the series starts, he is working in a Tokyo hospital as a janitor.

In the premiere episode, a friend of one of the nurse's is killed in an accident. The woman had just been made the principal soloist in a ballet company and was about to get married to the man of her dreams. The woman's fiancee, hearing of Mamiya's special skills, asks him to restore her corpse to the way she looked when she was alive.



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