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Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

Fall dramas about geisha, Ganesha and funereal pandemonium

NHK starts a new six-month-long asa-dora (morning drama) on Monday. These popular serials traditionally launch the careers of the young actresses who play the heroines, but "Dan Dan" (More and More; NHK-G, M-F, 8:15 a.m.; BS-2, M-F, 7:45 a.m.) stars twins Mana and Kana Mikura, who appeared in an asa-dora in 1996 when they were 10 years old.

Mana plays Megumi Tajima, a free spirit who lives with her fisherman father, Tadashi (Eisaku Yoshida), in Shimane Prefecture. A third-year high-school student, Mana likes to spend her free time busking in front of the train station. Kana plays Nozomi Ichiko, a maiko (apprentice geisha) in Kyoto who lives with her mother, Makiko (Hikari Ishida), a geisha.

These two meet by accident at the famous shrine in Izumo, and the encounter leads to a revelation of how the two girls are twin sisters separated shortly after birth. A deeper connection is forged, and though the girls possess very different temperaments, they aim to become a singing duo after Megumi moves to Kyoto to attend university.

T he title of the Nihon TV drama special "Yume wo Kanaeru Zo" (Thurs., 8:54 p.m.) has a double meaning. On the one hand, it means "let's make a dream come true," and on the other it means "an elephant who makes dreams come true."

The elephant in this case is the Indian deity Ganesha (Arata Furuta), who appears on the pillow of lackluster salaryman Kohei (Jun Oguri) and tells him he is going to "coach" him to great success. Kohei doesn't believe it, but he signs the contract anyway. The first task Ganesha assigns is for Kohei to tie his shoes, a simple enough order. But from there each task becomes more difficult and more revealing about what keeps Kohei from his true potential.

This drama special spins off into a regular 13-week series that starts the same night at 11:58 p.m. In the series, the recipient of Ganesha's advice is a young woman (Asami Mizukawa) who has had miserable luck in life and love.

F antasy of a darker though no less humorous sort is the basis of "Shuraba" (Pandemonium; TBS, Sat., 2 p.m.), a drama that takes place at the memorial ceremony for a man named Yuta. The event has been arranged by Yuta's lawyer, and Yuta's widow, Hanae (Yoko Nogiwa), knows absolutely none of the guests. Even worse, she has no idea what any of them are talking about. Among these strangers is a woman who claims to be Yuta's mistress and who takes over the proceedings as the emcee. Then there is a sister-in-law and her daughter, who show up and make all sorts of strange demands. In the end, five women battle over Yuta's inheritance armed with letters that he wrote to all of them shortly before he died.



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