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Sunday, March 23, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

The drama of man-and-animal stories, Japan's first bone-marrow bank, and baseball batteries

Few people can resist the dramatic pull of stories that explore the emotional nexus between people and animals.

The stories collected for the special "Ichioku-sanzenman-nin ga Nakeru (130,000,000 People can Cry)" (Nihon TV, Monday, 7 p.m.) are all true and involve the "miracle" of inexplicable bonds that can exist in such relationships.

The most famous of these tales is the one about the seeing-eye dog that led its blind owner down from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The program also tells the tale of a race horse that itself went blind and thus became useless — until a high-school girl found a way to communicate with the animal.

On a lighter note, a zookeeper teaches a gorilla in his charge to do tricks and the pair put on shows for visitors, the first such show in the world.

The performance is notable less for the tricks than for the amazing rapport between human and ape.

A different sort of miracle is the subject of the drama special "Sanjuman-nin no Kiseki — Nidome no Happi Basudei (The Miracle of 300,000 People: The Second Happy Birthday)" (TV Tokyo, Wednesday, 9 p.m.), which tells the true story of the woman who established the first extensive bone-marrow bank in Japan.

There are approximately 5,000 people in Japan suffering from leukemia, and in the past decade or so the survival rate for leukemia sufferers has gone from close to zero to about 60 percent.

Progress has been credited to medical advances, but also to greater awareness of the effectiveness of bone-marrow transplants.

Rina Uchiyama plays 25-year-old Naoko, who is diagnosed with leukemia in 1989, when there was no Japanese network for bone-marrow donors.

In the hospital she meets Misawa, a young man who spends his time trying to create such a network. She offers him her help.

Next month, NHK will start a new drama series called "Battery," based on the popular film of the same name about two high-school baseball players, one a pitcher and the other a catcher.

As a preview, the public broadcaster will present "Kando! Battery Monogatari (Inspiration! Battery Stories)" (NHK-G, Thursday, 8 p.m.), which looks at some real-life examples of pitcher-catcher relationships.

The athletes profiled include Atsuya Furuta, catcher and manager of the Yakult Swallows, and Yu Darvish, the hot young pitcher for the Sapporo Nippon Ham Fighters.

Both pros talk about their battery partners in high school. One of the hosts of the program is Yusuke Kamiji, who used to catch for Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka when they attended the same high school in Yokohama.

Kamiji, however, entered show business, and now enjoys success as a baka tarento (dumb talent) on quiz shows.



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