This Week in Tokyo Pop Culture News: Shocking Developments

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When Machiko Hasegawa’s comic strip Sazae-san first premiered in 1946, it caused a bit of a stir with its depiction of the titular heroine. Unlike other female characters of her day, Sazae Fuguta (nee Isono) wasn’t a picture-perfect housewife. She was often flustered, lazy, hardheaded, sarcastic, but above all else funny and relatable, and the country fell in love with her. So in 1969, an animated Sazae-san series started airing every Sunday on Japanese TV, and it has continued to do so almost uninterruptedly for well over 50 years. Until now…

Record-Breaking Cartoon Switches to Reruns

At over 2,500 episodes, Sazae-san holds the Guinness World Record for the longest running animated series in history. While the show’s popularity has waned somewhat over the years, for millions of people across Japan, 6:30pm on a Sunday is and has long been Sazae time. That won’t change for the foreseeable future, but starting next week, the show will cease the airing of new episodes and instead play reruns because of the coronavirus pandemic having disrupted the show’s production.

A similar thing happened in 1975 during Japan’s financial crisis, so this isn’t new ground for Sazae-san. The show will eventually come back, and when it does it will continue to be nothing like the original comic book, depicting an almost Stepford Wives-level perfect family that deals with such problems as Sazae’s husband mistakenly flagging down a taxi and being too embarrassed to not get in. So relatable!

Covid-19 Inspires New Music

The rock band Radwimps has been on a roll ever since providing the soundtrack for the movie Your Name. They’ve had some hits since forming in 2003, but the anime film seems to have put them on the global map, opening a whole new world for them. That’s actually not the origin of their new song “Shinsekai” (~”New World”) but it sounds a bit more uplifting than their official explanation, which is that the title refers to the new world created by the COVID-19 pandemic, so let’s go with my version. “Shinsekai” is now available for download or through streaming services.

If the song’s not to your liking, just wait a few weeks for the official digital release of “Ochita Koto no Aru Sora,” the first Dir En Grey single of 2020, which should be released in the summer. A special live show is also scheduled to be broadcast live through the band’s YouTube channel on May 16, so keep an eye out for that.

New TV Shows Explore Life in Tokyo

Tokyo Love Story (Fuji TV) and Tokyo Danshi Zukan (Kansai TV) don’t look alike at all. The latter is a story about a man burned by a failed romantic relationship in the past who is now obsessed with getting richer and gaining status. TLS, on the other hand, is a remake of a 1991 show about the complicated love lives of 20-somethings in Japan’s capital.

Both shows, however, explore a similar theme about how life in one of the biggest and busiest cities on Earth has a tendency to amplify your emotions. The protagonists of Tokyo Love Story and Tokyo Danshi Zukan have different goals and ambitions, but they all feel intensely, often seemingly against their better judgement and even to their own detriment. They weren’t always like this, but it’s almost like they’re feeding on the chaotic energy of the city that they live in, essentially making Tokyo itself into one of the shows’ main characters. Check the shows out to see if it’s a character that you recognize from your own experiences.

Salacious Salt Shakers

In any other setting, a man slapping a wall next to a woman’s head and leaning in, blocking her escape, would look more than a bit dodgy. But in the world of anime and manga, it creates a sexually charged atmosphere of love and romance, because Japan apparently doesn’t have HR departments. The so-called “Kabe-Don” pose has existed for some time but has enjoyed a surge of popularity after Twitter user @Hakusi_Katei posted a picture of novelty shakers doing the Kabe-Don pose. The tweet has currently been liked over 373,000 times because people know art when they see it.

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