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Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010

CHANNEL SURF

The secret story of Minako Honda; Japan vs. the world; CM of the week: Asahi's Wonda

Singer Minako Honda, who died in 2005 at the age of 38, was not your average idol singer. As a girl she dreamed of becoming an enka (Japanese ballad) star, but her agency didn't have any connection to enka. Since she was cute they sold her as a pop singer, and for a while she was successful as a saucy idol, but the careers of such singers are often short.

Once she realized this, Honda took the initiative and started auditioning for stage musicals. She won the coveted lead in the Japanese version of "Miss Saigon," and from there starred in other major productions. She also crossed over into classical music.

The documentary show "Kaikin: Maruhi Story" (Revealed: Secret Story; TBS, Tues., 9 p.m.) uncovers a previously unknown relationship that Honda forged with the legendary lyricist Tokiko Iwatani, who entered the same hospital where Honda was being treated for leukemia. Iwatani survived but Honda didn't. In their brief encounter, the two women bonded in a way that transcended Honda's death.

Never underestimate Japanese TV's capacity for self-obsession. The new variety show "Kuraberu Kuraberaa" (Comparing Comparers; TBS, Wed., 9 p.m.) endeavors to compare everything in Japan with its foreign counterparts.

Hosted by veteran slapstick comedian Ken Shimura, the series will, of course, look at products — vacuum cleaners, alcoholic beverages, etc. — but for the most part the comparisons will be of institutions.

On the two-hour premiere, for example, Japan's enormously successful musical teen girl collective AKB48 will be compared to Korea's equally successful girl group KARA in terms of what makes the ensembles popular in their respective countries. The show's guests will also compare Japanese "marriage activities" with those in other places.

CM of the week

Asahi's Wonda: Canned coffee is pitched at working stiffs, so most ads for the beverage are set in offices or other work environments.

Asahi's new series for its Wonda line takes place in a nameless corporation, with different characters used for specific products. The TV spots for Kin no Bito, which translates as Golden Slightly Sweet, involve "department manager" Toshiaki Karasawa looking for "section chief" Gackt. A young female office worker points to the scheduling white board and tells him that "Gackt Kacho" is partaking of O.G.T., or "otoko (men's) golden time."

We next see the famously cool J-pop singer sitting in a darkened office drinking Kin no Bito and watching "Rascal," a cartoon from the 1970s about a pet raccoon, with tears streaming down his face. Men who drink Wonda are softies at heart.



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