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Sunday, April 8, 2001

CHANNEL SURF

You say you've got woman troubles?

This week, on "Ningen Yuyu" (Educational, Monday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.), NHK will explore the malaise that is afflicting many young Japanese women right now. The four-night series, "Hyoryu suru Shojotachi (Drifting Girls)," will use conversations with experts and documentary footage to show how many young women suffer from low self-esteem and depression. What's perplexing about the problem is that it isn't limited to any particular socioeconomic profile. Malaise cuts across the entire demographic, regardless of family stability, school performance or economic well-being.

On Monday, the show will look at the shocking rise in self-mutilation among women in their teens and 20s, who often slash their wrists out of a sense of desperation, not to kill themselves but, on the contrary, to makes themselves feel more alive. Featured is a popular Web site for "wrist-cutters" called Restless Heart that receives up to 40 messages a day.

Tuesday's show will profile the woman who launched the Web site. After she became a minor media star, her diary was published. She seemed more focused and was upbeat about embarking on a career as a writer, but when publication problems ensued she sank back into depression and killed herself.

The following night will deal with "love addicts," meaning young women who fall into self-destructive relationships. These women tend to never recover from sexual affairs and end up seriously depressed.

The series will end on Thursday with a program about so-called petit iede, which translates loosely as "little runaways." The phrase has replaced enjo kosai (compensated dating) as the latest media buzzword to describe female ennui. Petit iede are teenage girls who disappear for days at a time from their homes. Since they always return for clothes and other essentials before disappearing once again, their parents rarely call the police.

Troubled teens are also the subject of "R-17," a new TV Asahi drama series that premieres Thursday at 8:54 p.m. Miki Nakatani plays a 24-year-old counselor who gets a job at the private girls' high school from which she herself graduated.

Having left behind the pain of adolescence only recently, Nakatani can empathize with her charges more readily, understand what's really bugging them, and respond more sensitively to their unspoken "SOS" signals.

In the opening episode, Nakatani arrives for her first day of work and immediately finds herself at odds with a veteran teacher played by Kaori Momoi who has a much harsher attitude toward the girls she sees every day. Reflecting the current debate over increases in violent teenage behavior and harsher penalties for juveniles who commit crimes, Momoi's character believes that the girls she teaches are adult enough to understand the difference between right and wrong.

Nakatani's first test of compassion is the school's tennis star who carries a penknife "as if it were a mascot." When the girl is the victim of sexual harassment by a coach . . . well, you can probably guess what happens after that.

Female trouble of a less dire sort is the subject of another new serial, "OL Visual-kei" (TV Asahi, Friday, 11:09 p.m.), which is a continuation of a successful show that ran last summer. Comedian Sarina Suzuki, aided by lots of makeup and prosthetics, plays Mae Sakuradamon, an overweight, "unattractive" office worker who does whatever necessary to make herself "pretty," often to comic effect.

The series is based on a popular manga that is featured in the woman's weekly magazine Shukan Josei. Contrary to the moral precepts of conventional narratives, "goodness" here has nothing to do with the quality of one's heart and soul, but rather with the effort a woman puts into her "surface."

Sakuradamon spends each episode working to become kirei (pretty) because she wasn't born utsukushii (beautiful), a distinction that is illustrated broadly in the premiere episode, which finds Sakuradamon fighting an "extremely beautiful" colleague who has just returned from working in the New York branch office. Obviously, having worked in New York makes this woman a double threat to Sakuradamon's well-being in the universe outlined by the series. You'll laugh till your stomach staples pop.

F or those who can't survive a week without a dose of meaningless nostalgia, the old TBS series, "Chogoka! TV Tanteidan," which was itself a weekly look at old television shows, will be revived for a two-hour special tonight at 9.

In addition to the usual walks down memory lane hand-in-hand with the (washed-up) stars who made those grand old programs so grand, the special will also feature some of TBS's new shows, since they obviously need all the promotional help they can get.

Viewers who aren't so long in the tooth might want to tune in to TBS two hours earlier when the station counts down the top 400 domestic hits of the last 10 years. You're only as old as your record collection.



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