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Sunday, June 19, 2011


Profile of a swordplay master; keeping cool with SMAP; CM of the week: Dream Jumbo

A theatrical mode that's unique to Japan is chanbara, the art of make-believe sword-fighting. More choreography than martial art, it is a skill that takes years to master since it is basically a group effort.

This week, NHK's topic-specific talk show "Deep People" (NHK-G, Mon., 10 p.m.) features two respected choreographer-teachers and veteran chanbara film actor Hiroki Matsukata discussing the finer points of swordplay, called tate, on the screen. They touch on the fact that chanbara actors need to have a grounding in dance, emphasize the importance of breathing in harmonizing the various elements of a sword fight, and dissect the complex relationship between the killer and the killed.

That somewhat frivolous summertime government policy known as Cool Biz is receiving more serious attention this year thanks to power shortages that are projected to occur when the dog days start in earnest. This week on the late-night news variety show "SmaStation" (TV Asahi, Sat., 11 p.m.), host Shingo Katori from SMAP will enumerate various ways that viewers can keep cool without spending any money by using materials that they already have in their homes. He also shows how to best take advantage of your electric fan, which most people use ineffectively.

The show also features fellow SMAP member Goro Inagaki's monthly movie corner, in which he provides somewhat loopy reviews of five new theatrical features.

CM of the week: Dream Jumbo

For years, veteran actor Toshiyuki Nishida has been the big face in commercials for the Dream Jumbo lottery, usually wearing garish costumes and dancing in big production numbers. In the latest ad for the ¥300 million Happy Dream sweepstakes, he's dressed as a king.

For once, Nishida gets a production number all to himself. The music is stately and climactic, along the lines of "You'll Never Walk Alone" or "The Impossible Dream." The lyrics are suitably philosophical. "Whenever I think that life is hard," he sings, "I try to imagine that I'm just accumulating a store of good fortune." The music swells and Nishida hits the big finale: "So I have to be positive, thinking that the day will come when my luck will blossom." Apparently, even kings have it rough these days.

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