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Sunday, May 18, 2008


Period-piece thriller, historical marriage drama, family-business soap opera

"Nihonshi Suspense Gekijo" (Japanese History Suspense Theater; Nihon TV, Wed., 7:58 p.m.) offers something to both lovers of historical dramas and fans of those two-hour mysteries used to fill holes in network schedules. Basically, the producers take a real incident from Japanese history and turn it into a thriller.

This week's program relates the infamous tale of Okuma Shirakoyo, "the wicked woman who scandalized Edo." Okuma was born to the largest seller of lumber in old Edo. She was a beautiful and much desired woman, but when her family fell on hard times because of their spendthrift ways, she was forced to marry Matsushiro, a man she didn't love but who had property and money. Since her family had no eldest son, they adopted Matsushiro for his money.

However, Okuma quickly tired of her dull husband and wanted out of the marriage without a divorce, which would have meant the loss of his property. So she plots his murder with her lover.

N HK's 2008 Sunday night historical drama series, "Atsuhime," finally gets down to business in episode 21 (May 25; NHK-G, 8 p.m.; BS-2, 10 p.m.), when the title character (Aoi Miyazaki), who has been groomed to become the bride of the shogun, Tokugawa Iesada (Masato Sakai), marries him.

However, after the nuptials the shogun never shows up in his wife's bedchamber. She tries to speak to him, but he always avoids her. Atsuhime's lady-in-waiting (Keiko Matasuzaka) and Iesada's mother discuss ways of getting the shogun to take more interest in his new bride. Maybe a new hairstyle or a different kimono?

Anyone can see that Iesada is more than a bit eccentric, so Atsuhime finally asks him to his face: Why do you act so weird? O ne of the keys to the success of "Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari" (The World is Full of Demons; TBS, Thurs., 9 p.m.), the longest-running drama series on Japanese TV, is that its various soap opera storylines involving the five daughters of a Tokyo restaurant owner are predictable.

This week's episode, however, dares to be unconventional. Reiko (Junko Ikeuchi) stops by the small restaurant run by Daikichi (Ken Utsui) to thank him for his help the previous week. Reiko had been dining at the restaurant when she suddenly became ill, and Daikichi and his staff helped get her to a hospital.

The long-widowed chef listens to Reiko's story, and they talk for a long time. He invites her to stay for a free meal, and it's obvious he is quite smitten by this new acquaintance.

Daikichi's youngest daughter, Nagako (Tomoko Fujita), sees what's going on and later reprimands her father. She finds it unbecoming for Daikichi to be entertaining thoughts of engaging in a romantic fling at his age.

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