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Monday, April 22, 2024

From comics to cinema: Promising rainbows and rains

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IF anyone tells me “There is this fine and funny series on TV about TV, you should watch it,” I will tell him, “What is there to say about television? Isn’t there is enough cloying drama—and cliché—on free TV each day! A film about them?”

But leave it to the Japanese to transform a story about rookie newscasters, presenters and technicians into a feel-good tale about goodness in the hearts of creatives. The series is called Stay Tuned. It is a story of a rookie reporter whose clumsiness belies a daringly different way to approaching TV reporting.

We see Hanako Yukimaru applying for a job, making a messy impression and, during an actual field test, missing the time for the presentation. She, however, is able to convince the board to listen to her. She does not give any excuse for her tardiness, a Japanese way of creating a character couched in a culture where there is no place for excuses.

Together with Yukimaru are other applicants to the HHTV, which stands for Hokkaido Hoshi TV. Hoshi is Japanese for “star.” The location, by the way, is another charming point for the series, because instead of having it in Tokyo or in another major city, like Osaka, all the events take place in that northernmost territory of Japan.

What is the market in Hokkaido? What events are ever covered by TV journalists in Hokkaido?

Along the way, like a fairy tale, there are barriers to surmount and some villains trying to snatch the map to the rainbows and perfect meadows from our heroine, but we go along for the ride. We know where the plot is bringing us to: happiness. The magic and the excitement is in the direction and end of this journey. We never know what will happen at the end of each rain or rainbow.

There is another character in the show: Hajime Yamane, a young gentleman but a tad serious. Good-looking and intelligent where Hanako is bumbling and crass, Yamane wonders why this woman ever manages to be part of the rookie team. They work together, with Yamane following seriously the step-by-step procedure a formally trained journalist has been taught to follow. He would produce results of course. Yukimaru, her defenses always down (or maybe she does not have any defenses at all), stumbles, creates more conflicts where there should be none, and then causes a chain of events making for a wonderful news coverage.

There are many other personalities in this show. There is Maki Hanae, a winsome presenter whose dream is to be able to stand before the camera and deliver the news impeccably. We see in her the broadcast culture of another industry. There is one scene where she is left to cold-read the news, meaning she is not given the copy beforehand because, yes, Hanako Yukimura is the one writing the story and is left with little time to do it. Hanae struggles through the difficult characters or kanji. But the fact that she survives this makes even her apprenticeship significant. Thanks and no thanks to Hanako Yukimura.

There is the rookie technician who has to go through a “test” before he is handed his license. He does not know in what form the test will be given. The young master control technician observes the rituals held when a shift takes place between one group of technicians and another group. That ritual will play a great part in his becoming a full-fledged member of the team.

Amid the formally suited TV executives roams wildly the “artist” behind the newscast. He is dressed in shirts with loud prints, and walks around eating snacks. He does not prescribe but observes, and then probes. He pushes people to think out of the box. And we know there is a huge box from which a good Japanese employee has to wiggle himself out if he is to produce a new, sparkling product. This TV executive reveals a strategy of introducing a “fool” that will stimulate others to innovate. Guess who the fool is?

For the Filipino audience weaned on histrionics and intrigues when it comes to depicting corporate or showbiz culture, they will miss the predictable and cheap backstabbing and rumor-mongering. They will not see flippant behaviors and exchanges of acerbic wit. The development of the characters are, to use that much abused term, “organic.” It is the Japanese person responding to the demands of the society, the individual within the frame of that community.

Stay Tuned has such a fresh approach to the lives of broadcast journalists because it is not premised on a world that is a snake pit. There is so much to cover and report that TV people should not have time to be bothered by bad hair day, or by bad blood among them. There is politics in Japanese TV but details about power play can be very boring. It has been done already.

This is a genre where women do not hate each other, and young male rookies and female rookies do not necessarily destroy each other. They do not also fall in love with each other. Puleeeze. That is trite, tired and tiring.

Composed only of five episodes, the series felt short. I wanted it to go on for some more. Perhaps, I was hoping Hajime will notice how pretty Yukimura is, but that will be an insult to rookies and field journalists everywhere. Hajime will notice Yukimura not for her cute ways but in what she achieves. When the show ends, Hajime remains serious and does not become a hunk; Yukimura still finds fun in her reckless ways. This is called respect.

Kyoko Yoshine as Yukimura and Hiroki Iijima as Yamane both remind us that Japanese actors are dreamily charming.

Stay Tuned is based on a Japanese manga, Channel wa Sonomama! This can be translated as “Keep the Channel That Way” or “Don’t Change the Channel.” Written by Noriko Sasaki, the comics was serialized in the seinen (young adult) manga magazine, Big Comic Spirits.

The Japanese television drama adaptation is a production of Production I.G. and TV Asahi affiliate HTB. It is now streaming on Netflix.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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