TW Pop Culture Weekly: Another Japanese Celebrity Infected with Coronavirus

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Japan is still reeling from the death of iconic comedian Ken Shimura, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March. We can only hope that this tragedy will at the very least result in people taking the threat of the novel coronavirus more seriously, now that it has taken the life of such a public figure. Because this is the time to be more vigilant than ever, seeing as the virus’ rampage across not just Japanese pop culture but also the country at large seems to be ramping up.

Super Virus Forces Super Sentai on Hiatus

Mainly known to Western audiences from the fight footage that it provided for Power Rangers, the Super Sentai franchise has been a mainstay of Japanese television almost uninterruptedly since 1975. That’s all changed in 2020 after the production of the newest incarnation of the primary color fighting team, Mashin Sentai Kiramager, officially went on hiatus this week due to its main star contracting the coronavirus. 17-year-old Rio Komiya, who plays the red ranger, was officially diagnosed on March 31, barely three episodes into the newest Super Sentai show.

Komiya’s condition is reportedly good and the show does have enough footage to continue airing new episodes until mid-May. So parents with kids who are really into the show have 1.5 months to brace themselves for when Mashin Sentai Kiramager temporarily goes off the air.

Japanese Remake of 24 Finds Its Jack Bauer

24 has been such a huge hit in Japan that rumors of the country producing its own remake of the acclaimed action-drama started many years ago. Now, though, those rumors are turning into facts as more details have recently surfaced about the upcoming show. For example, we now know that the first season will deal with Japan’s first female prime minister, and that Kiefer Sutherland’s famous character will be played by veteran actor Toshiaki Karasawa.

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This won’t be Karasawa’s first foray into remake territory. He’s previously also appeared on The Last Cop, based on the German show Der letzte Bulle, as well as on the Japanese remake of The Good Wife. 24 Japan should premiere on TV Asahi in October.

KAT-TUN Wants You to Wash Your Hands

With all concerts etc. being canceled due to fears of the coronavirus, most Japanese entertainers have moved online with streaming live performances, like the Johnny’s World Happy LIVE with YOU series, the first part of which was released on March 30. One of the most memorable parts of the show was a performance of “We Are KAT-TUN” by a band whose name escapes us right now. Originally appearing on their 2019 album IGNITE, the song was altered for the concert, changing the lyric “Please clap your hands” to “Please wash your hands.”

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While that is one of the best ways to protect yourself against the virus, not to mention good advice in general, it does also show just how much COVID-19 is changing and influencing our world. Let’s hope it won’t get more serious than a few canceled shows and altered song lyrics.

Love is on the Air

If you’re in the mood for stories about love, you pretty much have your pick from this week’s TV offerings. For a more down-to-earth, realistic story with a sort of solemn edge to it, there is the new U-NEXT show Ato 3-kai, Kimi ni Aeru (~”I Can Meet You Three More Times”). It tells the story of a girl (Mizuki Yamamoto) learning to trust again and allow herself to be in a relationship that may be doomed to fail, underscoring that perhaps when it comes to love, the journey is as important as the destination.

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum is the NHK TV movie Kingyo Hime (~”Goldfish Princess”) about a man meeting the beautiful Ryu, who is actually the human version of the goldfish he caught one night at a mysterious game stall. Sure, why not.

Finally, for a more dramatic and emotionally rich story based on real events, check out the NHK show Yell, which premiered on March 30. It focuses on the life of famed musician and composer Yuji Koseki, touching on his many contributions to modern Japanese pop culture (such as the Hanshin Tigers song “Rokko Oroshi” or “Mothra’s song” from Godzilla movies) but also his romantic life. If the show follows his real-life story faithfully, Yell should prove to be a turbulent story of creation, grief and love that manages to withstand the harshest storms.

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