I never thought I would laugh out loud when watching the final episode of a drama broadcast 36 years ago. That is indeed the origin of trendy dramas.
I will talk about what I laughed out loud at later, but the very first “origin of trendy drama” was “Natsu Monogatari: Seven Men and Seven Women” broadcast on TBS from July to September in 1986. The “summer” in “Natsu Monogatari” was the summer of 1986, 36 years ago.
The following is an excerpt from “Highlights” on the TBS Channel’s official website.
“A Summer’s Tale of Seven Men and Seven Women” is a romantic drama masterpiece written by Toshio Kamata and co-starring Sanma Akashiya and Shinobu Otake. Three men and four women are 30 years old and 27-28 years old…for some reason, their lives have not been settled and they have yet to shed the vestiges of their youth. The seven men and women of marriageable age living in the big city are moving as they clumsily try to live out their somewhat late adolescence.
This is followed by a sentence that conveys the essence of the drama’s appeal.
Sanma loved both the roles and the dialogue so much that he himself called this work his document.
As will be mentioned later, the tour conductor Ryosuke Imai, played by lead actor Sanma Akashiya, looks like Sanma himself. In fact, it is as if Sanma himself has blended into the world of the drama. As a result, it is almost strange that the people around him act as if they were actors.
It is likely that she was inspired by Sanma. Shinobu Otake, who is now a major actress, also has a strong grounding. The appeal of this drama was the essence of its appeal, as if it were a sporting contest between two physical elites, Sanma and Shinobu, who were slugging it out on the ground.
As you know, the two later got married, but as far as this drama is concerned, Shinobu Ohtake must have found in Akashiya-sanma a unique presence who could bring out something unique about her.
In addition to Sanma and Shinobu, the “seven men and seven women” of the title are Kimiko Ikegami, Eiji Okuda, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Chikako Garai, and Midori Ogawa.
The last one, Midori Ogawa, was an entertainment reporter for a TBS morning wide show at the time. To be honest, she is a bit less important in the story than the other six (she played the role of a Japanese bush warbler at the Seibu stadium!) ), if the film had been titled “A Summer’s Tale of Six Men and Six Women” without Ogawa, it would not have been as big a hit as it was. After all, odd numbers are good for this kind of thing.
Now, in the spirit of “the origin of trendy drama,” I would like to note what I consider to be the three principles of trendy drama.
One is romanticism. Love-centeredness. The story moves around romance. In other words, the story is almost solely based on romance. As a result, the average age of the characters is inevitably young.
The second is ensemble character. Basically, the story is not about one-on-one love, but about multiple love relationships, which sometimes intermingle. In this drama, the romantic relationship between Sanma Akashiya = Shinobu Otake, Kimiko Ikegami = Tsurutaro Kataoka, and Eiji Okuda = Chikako Garai is depicted.
The third is Tokyo-ness. Not so much urbanity as Tokyo-ness. It is not set in Osaka or Nagoya, but in Tokyo, one of the richest cities in the world at the time.
As a side note, the theme song of this drama is Akemi Ishii’s “CHA-CHA-CHA,” which was a big hit (No. 1 in Oricon, 581,000 copies sold), but I have a stronger impression of the British fusion band “Shakatak” that was played as background music. In other words, the trendy drama began with Shakatak and ended with Kimutaku.
The airing time of “Summer Stories of Seven Men and Seven Women” was Friday at 9:00 p.m., and it was originally broadcast on Kin-chan’s weekly TV show. Originally, “Kin-chan no Shukan Kin Yohi” (Kin-chan’s Weekly Kin Yohi) aired during this slot from 1982 to 1985. However, the program ended, and a year later, Akashiya Sanma took the reigns in the same slot.
As an aside here, “Daremo Shiranai Akashiya Sanma Vol. 8” aired on NTV on November 20, featuring Fuji Television’s “Kin-Don! Special” (1987), a documentary depicting how Sanma took the title of “King of Comedy on TV” from Kinichi Hagimoto (script by Naoki Matayoshi), and the very same thing was happening on the TBS Friday 9:00 p.m. slot.
Reflex Fighting between Sanma and Shinobu
Now, let’s talk about the final episode of “7 Men and 7 Women: A Summer’s Tale,” which enjoyed a household rating of 31.7% (currently available on the video streaming service Paravi).
(Spoiler alert for this paragraph) Momoko (Shinobu Otake), an aspiring non-fiction writer, is offered a job to accompany Michael Jackson on his U.S. tour and write an article. She is going to be away from Japan for six months, and Ryosuke (Akashiya Sanma), with whom she is beginning to fall in love, really doesn’t want her to go. Both he and those around him are troubled, but in the end, Ryosuke pushes him to go. Chiaki (Kimiko Ikegami) and Teikuro (Tsurutaro Kataoka), Kari (Chikako Kago) and Kimiaki (Eiji Okuda) are also nice. And then we come to that famous scene where Ryosuke sends Momoko off at Narita Airport.
As I wrote the above paragraph, I thought to myself that a young aspiring nonfiction writer would have no reason to refuse an outstandingly large assignment to accompany Michael Jackson on his U.S. tour. However, those were the days when there were no smartphones, cell phones, or even the term “long-distance relationship. It must have been a time when going abroad for six months had an incredibly heavy meaning.
Well, before that, one might ask, “Why would such a big job be offered to Momoko?” (laugh), but more than that, the conversation scene between Sanma Akashiya and Shinobu Otake, which is repeated many times in the last episode, is just superb. As I mentioned earlier, I laughed out loud in front of my PC monitor. It was an unexpected experience.
Of course, there must have been a script, but Sanato Akashiya and Shinobu Otake clashed with each other using only their superb reflexes. From the look on Otake’s face, there seems to be a lot of ad-libbing (check out the scene where they eat curry and rice together). It is truly what Sanma calls “my document”.
As you know, Akashiya Sanma later repeated “verbal cross-fighting” with Tamori, Beat Takeshi, Shimada Shinsuke, and others, but the grueling confrontation with Shinobu Otake must have been even more intense than those.
And at this moment, a trendy drama was born. Instead of an aging scriptwriter and a strong-looking director who thoroughly constrained the actors, actors born in the 1950s like Akashiya Sanma and Otake Shinobu gave birth to a new kind of drama that exuded a lot of local sensibility.
Perhaps this “trendy drama” may be lighter and shorter than the dramas of the past, but it is more urban, full of romance, and filled with a sense of the times. Above all, Tokyo, the setting of the drama, is moving toward being the best in the world!
This fall, 36 years later, footage from “Summer Stories of Seven Men and Seven Women” was used in a commercial for Soujiki Hakoneze featuring Akashiya Sanma. What surprised me was that Sanma in the commercial looked much the same as he does today.
However, if you think about it, it may be natural. Sanma is still an active member of the workforce. He has been the “King of Comedy on TV” for 36 years and has never relinquished the title.
Text： Susie Suzuki
Music critic, born in Higashiosaka City, Osaka Prefecture in 1966, currently appearing on bayfm's "9 no Oto Iki" Mondays. His books include "80's Ongaku Kaitai Shinsho" (80's Music Kaitai Shinsho) (Sairyusha), "Checkers' Music and Its Era" (Bookman-sha), "Intro's Law 80's" (Bungeishunju), "Southern All Stars 1978-1985" (Shincho Shinsho), "Koisuru Radio" (Bookman-sha). He is a regular contributor to Toyo Keizai Online, Tokyo Sports, Weekly Baseball, and other publications. His new books, "EPIC Sony and the Era" (Shueisha Shinsho) and "Keisuke Kuwata Theory" (Shincho Shinsho) will be released on June 17.