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Sunday, Aug. 19, 2001


You're in for a shock

In Japan, the difference between tanpatsu (one-off) dramas and drama series goes deeper than length. Drama series feature the freshest, most popular idols, while tanpatsu dramas feature the most popular idols of 10 or 20 years ago. And these days, there's an even blunter distinction: All tanpatsu dramas are "suspense" dramas, a trend that has also infected serious literature and art-house movies.

This week's "Tuesday Suspense Theatre" (NTV, 9:03 p.m.) stars Takashi Naito, who is less a fallen idol than a late bloomer. In his youth, he was a character actor (salarymen, mainly) who saw a lot of work, but a successful series of Sony commercials several years back boosted him to leading-man status.

In "The 15th Summer," he plays Minobe, a laid-off trading-company employee who starts anew as a water-meter reader in Kamakura, a calling that suits him. By following the changes in water usage of the houses he checks, Minobe forms ideas about the lives of the people who reside in them.

One day he notices that the volume of water usage at the house of Ryoko Fujisaki (Satomi Tezuka, another aged idol) has doubled in a month. Minobe takes the trouble to advise her of this change, saying that it may indicate a leak in her pipes. They become friends and start dating, and Minobe learns that 15 years earlier Ryoko's step-sister, Kanako, killed Ryoko's father but was not caught. Minobe begins to suspect that Ryoko, in fact, may be harboring Kanako until the statute of limitations runs out at the end of the summer, but then, suddenly, Kanako's corpse is discovered.

Kimiko Ikegami, another former ingenue who used to be a fixture in drama series, returns as private eye Yumi Katayama, who specializes in wayward spouses, on this week's "Onna to Ai to Mystery (Women and Love and Mystery)" (TV Tokyo, Wednesday, 8:54 p.m.).

Katayama is hired by a hospital administrator to tail his wife, who he believes is fooling around. The detective finds the wife and another man together, but cannot gather solid proof that they are having an affair. At the same time, she is asked by a woman to follow the woman's photographer husband to Tottori Prefecture, where he is planning a photo session, to ascertain if he is having an affair.

When Katayama returns to Kyoto with her information, she finds the wife murdered. Not only that, but the hospital administrator's wife and her supposed lover are found poisoned. The police believe the latter deaths are suicides, and the photographer is not a suspect in his wife's death because he was in Tottori. Katayama, however, has her suspicions, and when she follows the photographer one night, she has quite a shock.

Dysfunctional families and antisocial children are big news items right now, as are the social and physiological theories about the origins of these problems. One popular theory says that increased urbanization and the proliferation of nuclear families at the expense of extended families has created problematic bonds between mothers and their children. As a result of increased dependency on mothers and mothers only, these children grow up unable to form trusting relationships with others.

This afternoon, the TBS documentary series "Information Special" (5:30 p.m.) will look at the problem of antisocial children in Japan and in France. In Japan, antisocial behavior has traditionally been treated at large hospitals. France, however, has Maison Vert, a system of 500 facilities throughout the country that specifically analyzes and treats antisocial children (and their parents) at the earliest signs of trouble.

Tonight, NHK begins another extended science series (NHK-G, 9 p.m.), this one on the origin of the Japanese people. Despite the claims of the LDP and certain nationalist groups, anthropologists believe that the Japanese people are not genetically homogeneous, much less a separate and distinct race. Most people tend to categorize Japanese faces into either Jomon (rounder face, softer features) or Yayoi (thinner face, sharper features), but the differences go even deeper.

Tonight's special, the first of five monthly installments, will explain Japanese heritage from a purely genetic standpoint. Thirty-thousand years ago, the Japanese archipelago was attached to the Asian mainland, and many tribes came and went. The National Genetics Research Laboratory has analyzed the DNA of teeth from the remains of 29 Jomon Period individuals and compared it to the DNA of 5 million living individuals throughout the world. It found that 17 have DNA that closely matched the Ice Age inhabitants of Buryat, the area surrounding Lake Baikal in Siberia. These prehistoric people developed a sophisticated hunting technology to catch huge mammoths. Using computer graphics, the special will show in dramatic form how Japan's genetic ancestors lived.

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