Big Weekend for Japanese Movies

The Magic HourIn a relatively rare occurrence, new live-action features from Japan’s three major movie studios opened on the same weekend. Toho released “The Magic Hour,” directed by Mitani Koki; Shochiku countered with “Tsukiji Uogashi Sandaime,” starring Osawa Takao and based on a popular manga; while Toei’s money is on “Kamisama no Pazuru,” directed by the prolific Miike Takashi and produced by the flamboyant mogul Kadokawa Haruki. The studios each release up to a couple of dozen movies a year, but it’s been a year and a half since they went competed directly against each other on an opening weekend. The timing is no doubt an attempt to keep the market lively during what is usually an off-peak time between Golden Week and the summer vacation. Hitmaker Mitani and his star Sato Koji (47) have been backing up a massive advertising campaign with appearances on 96 TV shows, 15 radio shows, and 47 newspaper and magazine interviews.

• Popular rock band L’Arc En Ciel finished up their “world tour” at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka yesterday. The name “L’7 Trans Asia via Paris” sums up the scope of the tour but it was a big enough project that it gets its own DVD. Along with the new single “Nexus 4/Shine,” it’s due out on August 27 and fans of the band’s live performance will have to make do with the DVD for some time. Guitarist ken and vocalist Hyde shocked yesterday’s audience when they said the band wouldn’t be playing live again until 2011, when they mark their 20th anniversary.

• NHK announced yesterday that they are to make a drama based on the Snow Brand tainted meat scandal that shook Japan back in 2002. The case was groundbreaking in that it was a rare incidence of a whistleblower exposing corporate wrongdoing. Mizutani Yoichi, president of a refrigerated storage company, exposed the fact that Snow Brand were relabelling foreign meat in order to qualify for government compensation for mad cow disease. The action led not only to resignations at the major food producer but also to the closure of Mizutani’s company. Only through extensive lobbying of public support did he get the business back on its feet in 2004. The new drama will focus on Mizutani’s story, with top actor Takenaka Naoto (52) in the lead role. The drama will air on July 30.

• Currently riding a wave of popularity, comedienne Edo Harumi is to have her first regular drama role. She will play a head nurse in the TBS medical drama “Tomorrow.” The drama series features top stars Takenouchi Yutaka (37) and Kanno Miho (32) together for the first time and will air on Sunday nights from July 6.

• Yoshiki, the leader of rock group X Japan, has suddenly canceled a planned trip to South Korea and Taiwan, it was revealed at the weekend. According to a Korean newspaper, he was due to arrive in the country yesterday. No reason was given for the cancellation and Yoshiki’s management refused to comment on the story.

• Former Morning Musume member Kago Ai (20) returned from Hong Kong on Saturday. She says she put on three kilos during the three weeks she was there filming her role in an action movie. Provisionally titled “Kung Fu Chef,” the movie stars Sammo Hung (56). It was announced last week that Kago and another former musume, Goto Maki (22), are to form a new pop unit called L&L (Lady and Love). Goto was Kago’s mentor when she first joined the group in 2000.

• Talento and former idol singer Yakumaru Hirohide (42) surprised his fellow “Hanamaru Market” presenters on Saturday morning when he announced that his wife had given birth to their fifth child. Herself a former idol singer, Ishikawa Hidemi (41) had the baby at the end of last week.