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Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

Emperor's 50th wedding anniversary, middle-aged detective dramas, and Japan's first seeing-eye dog

April 10 will mark the 50th wedding anniversary of the Emperor and Empress, and TV Asahi will preview the milestone this week with a two-part overview of the life of the Empress, "Michiko-sama no Hanseiki (Michiko's Half-century)" (Monday and Tuesday, 7 p.m.)

The special will purportedly offer information and images never before offered on television. Part One will focus on the Crown Prince Akihito's proposal. Michiko did not accept his offer right away, and embarked on a 50-day tour of Europe and the United States. People who were close to her at the time, as well as journalists covering the Imperial beat, comment on what they believe was going on in her mind.

Part Two is about the wedding, and provides a backstage look at what in Japan is called "the event of the century." Current observers of the Imperial family comment on the changes that Michiko underwent as she evolved from commoner to royalty.

The cinematic surprise of the year has been the box office success of "Aibo," a rote crime yarn featuring two middle-aged police detectives based on a long-running series on TV Asahi. Hoping to strike while the iron is hot, the network is offering another crime drama with older male partners, "Ekkyo Chosa (Rule-breaking Investigation)" (Thursday, 8 p.m.), that it hopes to turn into a successful franchise.

Based on a best-selling novel, the story centers on Saginuma (Kyohei Shibata), a detective working for the National Police Agency in Tokyo. He is working on a 14-year-old murder case. An executive of a major corporation embezzled ¥1.2 billion in bank loans and disappeared. Some time later, his dead body was found, but the murderer is still at large.

Eventually, he teams up with Miano (Susumu Terashima), a police detective in Kanagawa Prefecture, where the body was found. Miano says he has located some of the missing loot and that it should lead them to the murderer. However, they will have to proceed in secret, and at first the two cops don't get along.

"Arigato Champi (Thank You, Champi)" (Fuji, Saturday, 9 p.m.) is a two-hour drama special about Japan's first seeing-eye dog. Masanobu Takashima plays Kenichi, who, after World War II, decides to open an obedience school since he loves dogs and believes more people will want them as pets. However, all his "students" are invariably from rich families who look on their dogs as toys. Then he meets Kawai (Atsushi Ito), a young blind man, and Kenichi trains his German shepherd. It turns out to be more difficult than he imagined.



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