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Sunday, June 14, 2009


Dazai's final novel, Father's Day drama and 'animal fantasy' anime

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of novelist Osamu Dazai, who committed suicide in 1948 following the publication of his masterpiece "Ningen Shikkaku" ("No Longer Human"). This week, NHK's documentary series "Rekishi Hiwa Historia" ("History's Secrets: Historia"; NHK-G, Wed., 10 p.m.) looks at the circumstances that led Dazai to write his last complete novel. As a young writer Dazai admired the great Ryunosuke Akutagawa and aspired to win the famous literary award named after him. But writing was always a struggle for him, and he couldn't accomplish the things he set out to do, so he changed his way of thinking and working. He would write in a workmanlike way while raising a family. However, World War II changed his values yet again. Always a heavy drinker, he became an alcoholic and an adherent of burai-ha, the "decadent" school of postwar Japanese literature, whose members lived lives that contradicted all traditional social conventions.

The drama special "Oyaji no Ichiban Nagai Hi" ("Dad's Longest Day"; Fuji, Fri., 9 p.m.) is based on a famous song by the singer-songwriter Masashi Sada called "Chichi no Hi" ("Father's Day"). This sentimental 10-minute epic chronicles the relationship between a father and daughter from her birth to her wedding day. Eiichiro (Hayato Kunimura) runs a workshop that makes lanterns in the close-knit Asakusa district of Tokyo. He adores his daughter Chiharu (Masami Nagasawa) and can't stand the idea that she will some day marry and move away from him. He understands that his feelings are illogical, but he can't help it, and when Chiharu brings her boyfriend home one day, Eiichiro refuses to meet him. The incident causes a strain in their relationship, and father and daughter can no longer talk to each other honestly. Then, something happens that changes everything.

As part of its "Save the Future" series of programs about environmental issues, NHK is presenting a feature animated version of Hiroki Matsuura's Akutagawa Award-winning novel "Kawa no Hikari" ("River Light"; NHK-G, Sat., 7 p.m.). Matsuura's novel has been characterized as an "animal fantasy," like Richard Adams' international best-seller "Watership Down." The story centers on three mice, a father and his two sons, Tata and Chitchi, who live beside a pristine river. But after humans arrive and start to alter the river banks with construction equipment, the mice must look for a new home, and endeavor to travel upriver, where they believe it is more peaceful. The journey is filled with danger and hardship. They are attacked by a pack of rats, and swept away in a flood of sewage that almost drowns them.

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