SMAP’s Kusanagi arrested for drunken nudity outside Tokyo Midtown park

WOW! (English story here)

Tsuyoshi Kusanagi was arrested by Akasaka police for drunken nudity!

 

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At 3am in Hinokicho Park just outside Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, police found a naked Kusanagi dancing wildly making a scene (apparently not “dancing” exactly). When they told him to calm down he refused saying “What’s wrong with being naked?!” So they had no choice but to arrest him. He resisted and had to be “wrapped in a sheet” to be taken to the station. He is so ubiquitous on Japanese TV that the stations have been thrown into chaos today, in danger of having to cancel a good portion of their programming schedule and commercials (why? for some reason it is standard operating procedure to systematically blacklist a talent who runs afoul of authorities or even is caught cheating on a spouse).

Kusanagi is (was?) a member of SMAP, the pop group that gained popularity through wide-ranging appearances in variety shows, survived through the 90s into today despite numerous scandals, rumors, and accusations. Their popularity also engendered no small amount of sour grapes and cries of unfairness who felt their talent agency Johnny’s Entertainment abused their market power to set inconceivably favorable terms for their acts. But they got away with it thanks largely to their bottomless capacity to bring out their fanbase to generate ratings/sales. With this incident all those who hated on SMAP over the years have something to hang their hats on.

The SMAP members are well-known to have their lives fairly closely monitored and managed by talent agency Johnny’s Entertainment. Perhaps Kusanagi just couldn’t take it anymore as the group entered their mid-30s and industry observers wondered how they could adapt even as middle aged “ossan.”

If anything Kusanagi chose a nice park to stage his downfall in. Hinokicho is clean and boasts a “Japanese but modern and artistic” feel. Mrs. Adamu and I have enjoyed its tranquil (though crowded) lightup around Christmastime.

A little more from Bloomberg:

Japan’s government may halt advertisements promoting digital TV after the incident, as the campaign features Kusanagi, said Hideo Harada, an official in the terrestrial broadcasting section at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

A person who answered a call to Kusanagi’s management agency, Johnny’s and Associates Inc., said there were no officials available to comment on the case. She declined to give her name or position at the company.

SMAP’s music is sold by a label under the control of JVC Kenwood Holdings. JVC Kenwood shares fell as much as 8.3 percent in Tokyo trading today, and finished the morning session 6.7 percent lower at 56 yen. The Nikkei fell 0.5 percent.

73 thoughts on “SMAP’s Kusanagi arrested for drunken nudity outside Tokyo Midtown park

  1. Fucking HILARIOUS. One overrated former pop singer and variety staple feature gets caught in public naked and all Japan goes unhinged!

  2. This is precisely the discussion I wanted to have…

    1) Is SMAP overrated? In fact I think the talent level of SMAP is just about in line with the very low expectations of the Japanese public. I never hear anyone declare Kimutaku or Kusanagi “the king of pop” or whatever. In fact when Michael Jackson showed up on stage during an afternoon show afew years ago the members of SMAP all but groveled at the man’s feet, so in awe they were of a man with actual talent.

    2) All of Japan goes unhinged – SMAP is (not formerly but currently) at the center of the slothful cartel of Jabba the Huts that for 15+ years has killed Japan’s brain cells to fund their six trips to Hawaii each year. I am sure I am not alone in hoping that Kusanagi will become a martyr for the Japanese entertainment industry that will allow them to turn a page on this era of vomit-inducing mediocrity. He could be a hero!

  3. Two down, four to go. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long for the others to disappear.

  4. I’m in this windowless room and can’t comment in detail.However.

    A)SMAP had survived the arrest of Inagaki “member”(so it was described in media instead of “Yougisha”,the suspect.)back in 2001 for illegal parking.

    B)This is more than just Johnny’s scandal.Hatoyama(the younger and the friend of friend of terrorist)is furious because Ministry of Postal and Telecommunication had invested billions in TV CM and posters for the announcement of digital terrestrial television by 2011 using Kusanagi as “Chi-degi ambassador”.He is also a sort-of friendly ambassador kind of status with Korean entertainment industry due to his Korean linguistic ability he obtained in 2002 and has been doing MoFA related assignement regarding J-K relations.

  5. Thank you for commenting from your isolation pod, Aceface.

    Did people use “member” to talk about the attendees of a party etc BEFORE the “Inagaki Member incident”? If so, it is testament to SMAP’s power to fundamentally change the Japanese language (see also the popularization of “bucchake”).

    Still, this goes beyond mere parking infractions. Who knows what societal impact this arrest could have. I imagine “裸になって何が悪い ” could catch on but its not a grammatical innovation.

  6. From “Chi-degi ambassador” to “chin-deta ambassador”.

    I’ll get my coat, but not before pointing out “Johnny’s”, “abuse” and “bottoms” all appear in the the same paragraph, and I’ll be the one sniggering at the back if the media uses “Kusanagi member”.

  7. “Still, this goes beyond mere parking infractions. Who knows what societal impact this arrest could have. I imagine “裸になって何が悪い ” could catch on but its not a grammatical innovation.”

    The reaction of most of the coworkers (especally female co-workers) is “So what? Was the arrest needed?”

    Some even suspect that he has been arrested because he “inhaled” something other than alcohol (otherwise why the arrest and the fuzz because of beeing drunk).

    Despite the wish of some “SMAP haters (OK I am not a big fan of SMAP either)”, there is a possibility that it won’t be a big scar for their carreer.

  8. Musically speaking, Nakai needs to be the next one to go. Without Kusanagi (or the other dude that left in the 90’s to pursue motor sports) around, how are they going to achieve that muddled unison that tweenies have known and loved for nearly 20 years?

    Kimutaku will have to quit any hopes of harmonizing and go back to singing unison with Shingo and Goro just to drown out Nakai, who usually sings a minor second above or below the melody-line.

    I say vote Nakai off next.

  9. “Kusanagi member” will no doubt be difficult to handle if they do go with that

    “muddled unison” surely reminds me of the spice girls back in the day

    Nakai has been unable to show Japan the top of his head for quite a while now. How long can he continue to constantly wear hats?

    If any organization can bully their way back into the limelight its Johnnys so I dont count them out completely, but its got to be pretty embarrassing. Who knows maybe Kusanagi was set up for a showbiz hitjob after making noises about going rogue. Like with anything on the internet i say the most intrigue-filled scenario is the truest

  10. By the by, Inagaki’s incident was not just for illegal parking…that was good ol’ hiki-nige.

    Who knows? With the passage of time, and maybe even before Japan goes all terrestrial-digital, Tsuyoshi may be back on TV.

  11. I don’t have a problem with the SMAP guys. I envy them and pity them at the same time.

    However, I have a big issue with Jonnys management; I think they are a destructive and evil force in Japanese entertainment. An agency should not have so much power over what show gets created and who gets cast. An agency should work on behalf of the talents and the production companies not the other way around. This is the reason why the general level of talent amongst tarento is not high.

    A tarento working for Jonnys must do what they say and must never question business. They perform when told. They get paid a salary and everything else like car, house etc is taken care of. They’re whole life and schedule is told to them. If they overly want independence, they will be cut off from all media. How does Jonnys have such power to black list? By threatening the networks with not casting their hottest tarentos anymore. Since all the networks feel the need to air SMAP and other cute boys from Jonnys (and the few other agencies who monopolize the industry), the networks are brought to their knees. If Jonnys tells them to hire somebody, they do it. If Jonnys tells them to blackball somebody, they do it.

    As a parent, I would never give my kids to Jonnys for any price. I heard the young boys have to do some horrible things. Its an open tabu secret in Japan.

    I hope this Kusanagi incident at least brings criticism against Jonnys. They will be masterful at deflecting it though. When Inagaki, Goro got busted a few years back, a few networks including Fuji TV would not call him 容疑者 because Jonnys controlled it. They called him 稲垣メンバー。 Not even busted politicians or sumo stars get such a privilege from the networks.

    There is no significant cable TV culture but the internet is clearly helping create positive change by pulling away viewers, ratings and sponsor money. Blogs/vlogs in Japan are helping by exposing truths that used to be silenced. Either way, agencies still pull the strings in Japan entertainment for now. Hopefully some day there will be real talented tarento available who hire credible agencies.

  12. That park is almost right next to the physical Johnny’s Jimusho (which is just east of Nogi Shrine by Nogizaka Station), as I recall from having lived around there a year ago.

    I was used to seeing drunk/drugged Roppongi partygoers around there on the few occasions when I was adventurous enough to wander through at 3 AM, but never naked SMAPs. Guess my timing was off.

  13. Yes and on the way to Nogizaka station from Midtown there is an indiscreet building called “Enterland Studio” (as in enter-tainment-land) with the Johnnys logo. I saw one pretty-boy getting filmed walking across the crosswalk, and there is ALWAYS an idling minivan outside. Plus I have counted about a half dozen Russian (female) models who live in the area but I am not sure if they are related. But I too have managed to avoid SMAP-related nudity.

  14. BREAKING NEWS:
    Kusanagi’s poster has just been removed from my office.

    He’s becoming more like WMD in the form of celebrity hour by hour.
    Head will role in the industry tonight…..

  15. Dunno about models, but the “Akasaka Residential” building on the east side of the park is where a lot of the second-world hostesses sleep after working in Roppongi’s Nigerian clubs.

  16. Saitama has a new shame…and its name is Kusanagi.

    Have the jokes on Nihon CHINbotsu begun?

  17. I first heard this story when the Tokyo Reporter sent me an email with a link to an early Sanspo story. I also remembered how the media fudged the use of 容疑者 in Inagaki’s case so was curious to see how it would be handled this time. Sanspo decided to cover all bases and none by referring to him as SMAPメンバーの草なぎ剛容疑者. It seems this story is getting a reasonable amount of coverage in the overseas media with the newswires, foreign correspondents and entertainment news correspondents all getting involved.

    Some of the weeklies have been lining up to take shots at Johnny’s for a while now so it looks like they have their chance. Unless the police find some drugs in his apartment, however, there’s a possibility that some people might actually start to feel sorry for him. It’s definitely a shame that, in a world of digital cameras, no-one seems to have been around to captured the scene. Has central Tokyo really become so deserted in the early hours? I think I would have been better still if he’d gone for a swim in the Imperial Palace moat.

  18. I’ve seen drunken people doing disgusting things all around the entertainment areas of Tokyo. I think it’s a hypocritical shame that, in a country where excessive consumption of alcohol is not only acceptable, but practically institutionalized, when it’s a celebrity, the establishment’s outrage far outweighs the actual “crime.” I’m not a SMAP fan musically, but Kusanagi’s a pretty good actor and I don’t think he should be excoriated for this admittedly stupid blunder. Obviously, though, some people just shouldn’t drink!

  19. I seriously wonder what hoops they have to jump through to take the leap from public indecency to getting a search warrant for his house. The only semi-logical explanation I can think of would be that he had illegal drugs in his system/on his person when he was arrested, which I suppose might be possible considering how insanely strict the treatment of drugs is in Japan.

  20. BTW, as much schadenfreude as people may feel upon seeing one of the talentless “talents” in the pop entertainment field having his career shattered like this, let’s not forget that this sort of overreaction and blacklisting over petty events is part of the system that perpetuates the vanilla bullshit in the first place. If popular celebrities were allowed to be real people instead automatons than perhaps the industry as a whole could produce something good once in a while.

    (Most wretchedly comical of all was the “scandal” when a 19 year old girl “talent” was blacklisted for being photographed smoking a cigarette before the legal age of 20, but just ~two years later she was back posing in bikini cheesecake.)

  21. The story about the police search specifically notes that he did NOT have drugs in his system. The police quote was that they were looking for evidence of motive and the incident background. I am guessing it is either curiosity or some form of police retaliation for the resistance he put up during his arrest. Either way it is totally unjustified. If the police wanted to elicit sympathy they couldnt have chosen a better course of action.

    Roy has a point that this does enforce the insanely high standards of behavior placed on pop groups BUT for this to happen to one of the worst examples of blandness worship seems like a possible silver lining to me.

  22. I dunno, of anyone who got their start on TV anywhere in the world, I think that Beat Takeshi might be the most talented (shines as a film director). Of course, BT had an abrasive onscreen persona and this may be why people forgave him for off-screen antics and general belligerence and he parlayed that into the funding to make ultra violent art films and interview Communist Party members in primetime.

    In a similar manner, one of the most consistently funny Japanese comedians, Shimada Shinsuke, repeatedly slammed a female assistant’s head into a wall but people forgave him because he plays a general @$$hole on TV.

    If your only talent is being generally wholesome or cute/naive, you won’t be forgiven – hence Kusanagi or an endless stream of idols getting the rough treatment for much more minor stuff.

    My main concern isn’t with Japanese TV because… it is generally bad (I don’t see it as being much worse than other national TVs that I am familiar with) and I don’t watch much apart from NHK and anime (great examples of which are up there with the best TV being made anywhere). My main concern with Kusanagi and friends is that they have been bringing the TV style of mediocrity to film. Kusangai, Abe Hiroshi, Oda Yuji, etc. need to be stopped from #$&#ing up perfectly good movies. There are excellent Japanese actors from their generation. Very glad to see Matsuda Ryuhei cast in Kanikosen, I was afriad that they would go with Oda Yuji. 革命がきたああああああ。

  23. On Takeshi:

    Don’t quite get the reason why foreigners are so soft on the man.Let’s face it.His politics totally resembles Gov.Ish.

  24. He hasn’t said anything overtly racist, has he? There’s also the fact that you can never tell if you should take him entirely seriously.

  25. And this doesn’t sound like Ishihara – だから我々は、もう一回あらためて九条と自衛隊、ハッキリするような、え~、選挙をするとか、国民投票をするとか。ぼくは、あの~、平和主義っていうか、あの~、今の憲法を守る方ですよ。

  26. Mulboyne,
    There are already people feeling sorry for him (or at least angry that their boy got arrested for dancing around naked in a public park):
    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/news/20090424-OYT1T00186.htm

    I speculate that he expected a happy end from his female friend, she cockblocked him and went home, and then he vented his frustrations in the park by dancing around Fisher King style.

    NHK had a stupid bit last night where they interviewed a doctor who explained that excessive alcohol can cause people to “blackout” or lose their memory. The medical term used being ブラックアウト...

  27. I don’t know that the public ever “forgave” Shimada Shinsuke – once he got all his old shows back (and a some new ones), people just seemed to forget. As one of the most well-connected and popular senior stars of the Yoshimoto stable, he just had to lay low for a while until his people scheduled a tearful comeback with the networks. He was also aided by certain media outlets doing a number on his victim and painting her as a flaky, vindictive individual who didn’t fit in at work.

    At least Kusanagi has been in some halfway decent movies and has even delivered decent performances on occasion (he gets a pass for appearing in Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s “Korei”). You should lay off Abe Hiroshi too – he was brilliant in Kore-eda’s “Aruite mo Aruite mo” last year. Oda Yuji is fair game though.

  28. Takeshi might have some pretty disagreeable politics, but I still think he’s made some great films. I don’t find it that hard to separate those in artists.

    I would say that the vast majority of Japanese TV is no worse than the vast majority of American TV-which is pretty fucking bad. The problem is that American TV has a few very, very good bright spots and Japanese TV has very, very few. Yes, NHK does good informational programming and there is some excellent animation around, but the lack of any good live action drama is particularly glaring. I am guessing that this is partly because the talentless “talents” invariably end up getting cast, which means that a: your star is probably a mediocre performer at best and b: the agency doesn’t want them in anything controversial. Of course, Marxy and others know about this far better than I do.

  29. There is some priceless SMAP-hating going down at Kotaku (which linked to us for a HUGE surge in daily traffic!)

    ***
    ...every time I see kimutaku acting like he is god’s gift to every thing, it makes me want to put a fucking golf club through my tv. That clown has been on TV shows where he was a played; An airline pilot, A neurosurgeon, and the Prime Minister of Japan….all the while I wouldn’t trust a guy looking like that to put gas in my car.

    But I feel get the feeling that if smap was not around telling people what to eat/ buy / watch / like….this country would quickly descend into martial law.

    ***

    ***

    isn’t it fuckin’ nuts how japan tries to erase people for doing one thing wrong? don’t they realize that indecently exposing one’s self in public takes serious guts or at least some kind of artistic-like detachment from mortal-world existence to actually go through with? going insane is the closest to “talented” any of these guys can and will ever get. one of the things keeping japan from culturally taking over the world (acknowledging here that this is most likely not their goal) is their refusal to Just Let The Deviants Win Already.

    ***
    http://kotaku.com/5224373/the-biggest-non%20gaming-news-in-japan-today-involves-a-naked-man

  30. “I would say that the vast majority of Japanese TV is no worse than the vast majority of American TV-which is pretty fucking bad.”

    Roy,
    I disagree, for exactly the reasons you yourself listed. America is the nation that originated the terms armchair quarterback and couch potato—TV is going to be better, or at the very least swing to wider extremes of good and bad. The remote control is what allows people to choose the good shows (and create the bias that the the quality of TV overall is better than it is in Japan). Japan has less to choose, and so it’s easy to find yourself surfing through the shitty programs.

    Don,
    I will not say that Hiroshi Abe is a terrible actor. However, the last 3 or 4 movies I have seen with him in have sucked horribly, and he was part of the problem. (The last of which, 奇談, I had to stop partway through…

  31. 1: give this poor guy some food!
    2: its nothing bad to be nacked.
    3: its not OK to be naked around children and old granies. for the first you can be jailed, for the sexond raped in a slow motion.
    4: GIVE THIS GUY SOME FOOD!!

  32. Peter,
    I hate to admit it, but even Smap members (I draw the line at Katori Shingo) have shown themselves capable of convincing and nuanced performances when working with the right director; the same goes for Abe and almost any other actor you could name. By the way, I urge you to watch Kidan all the way through for the mind-blowing climax. It’s the kind of thing you could imagine Kusanagi hallucinating in the park that night.

  33. “don’t they realize that indecently exposing one’s self in public takes serious guts or at least some kind of artistic-like detachment from mortal-world existence to actually go through with? going insane is the closest to “talented” any of these guys can and will ever get. ”

    Adamu, you make a great point. The oyaji crowd, totally don’t get it and why should they. They’ve been micro-managed their whole life in a hierarchial structure, stripped of their creativity and dreams at a young age. They naturally expect actors to behave like good company sararimen. Honestly though if an artist isn’t a little off the wall or strange, he/she would not have the creative huzpa.

    Japanese TV is so full of やらせ yarase. Every single minute is planned or “assisted”. The puppet masters in Japan really don’t like surprises.

    I just think the whole thing is funny to watch. This will cost billions after they pull then re-do all the ads, programs etc. It spells opportunity for some to profit though.

  34. that noise repellant thing is an american invention I might add. We are the masters of “getting kids off our lawn” technology

  35. “Every single minute is planned or “assisted”. The puppet masters in Japan really don’t like surprises.”

    Which is why I have to book the squirrels through their agents in advance in the past few days.

  36. “but the lack of any good live action drama is particularly glaring.”

    That is true. But I feel that Japan has a number of good to great anime that more or less equals the amount of good to great live action US TV.

    “You should lay off Abe Hiroshi too”

    I don’t know, you’re talking about a handful of good roles, they can’t erase many godawful performances. Good or great actors should at least come off respectably, even with bad directors or crap scrips. Abe has looked like a fool in some projects that should have come off a lot better (Ubume no Natsu, Kidan – loved the manga, know the climax).

  37. “that noise repellant thing is an american invention I might add. We are the masters of “getting kids off our lawn” technology”

    I believe it was funded by a DARPA project earmarked by John Mccain.

  38. “That is true. But I feel that Japan has a number of good to great anime that more or less equals the amount of good to great live action US TV.”

    I don’t think I’ve actually seen a new anime series since the GiTS 2nd Gig (and not many recent anime films either). Is there anything from the last 4 or so years that you’d recommend?

  39. Moribito, Mushishi, Genshiken 1-2, Gankutsuou, Paranoia Agent, Shigurui (only if watched with your critical hat on), Death Note (really divisive, I prefer the manga, stay away from the live action for reasons mentioned above), Denno Koiru, Planetes (may have been 6 years ago).

    Hi no Tori and Black Jack if you are up for something aimed at a younger audience.

    There are things like Code Geass, Gundam 00, Blood +, and Guren Laagen that I’m only pleased with but that inspire fanatical fandom in others.

    Also, if you haven’t been keeping up on anime films that are out of the mainstream – 5cm per second (byosoku gosenchi) is a must see.

    There are also shows like “Air” that I hate but seem to be very culturally relevant as they have tremendous cult followings outside of Japan.

    The list is weighted to 2005ish as there was a great crop that year… and I just haven’t had a chance to watch as much anime for the last few but there are a half dozen just starting up now that look like they have real potential.

    In any case, the many good/great anime out there even the playing field for Japanese TV a bit. While I think that “The Wire” is the best thing ever, I didn’t really get into Heroes or Lost and I can’t stomach CSI. Still some great comedies (Arrested Development, Curb your Enthusiasm) but HBO aside, I’m not sold on the idea that American TV is in a golden age.

    In a way, however, Japanese live action TV of all sorts can’t really be compared to American TV - which dominates an English speaking world of something like 4 times Japan’s population. When compared with French or Latin American or Russian or Korean TV dramas… you get the picture.

    The big problem with Japanese TV isn’t that people don’t know it is bad (people have been fleeing dramas like the plague). Anime proves that there are spheres of the Japanese TV world with an eye for quality, as do NHK docos. Japanese films prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Japanese people CAN act and manipulate a camera in a sophisticated manner. The problem is that enough people in Japan and elsewhere in Asia like the cheesy half soap half unfunny sitcom style of Japanese prime time dramas that they represent a way to make a little money with no risk. Risky projects (a period story with no swords or too keen an understanding of what swords can do, experimental TV like Paranoia Agent) only tend to get greenlit as TV shows or shifted off into the film sphere. Something like Beat Takeshi’s Dolls may have worked better as a TV series, but he makes a yearly film instead.

  40. Kusanagi is getting lots of support. No drugs were found and being an alcoholic is very Ok in Japan.

    鳩山 総務大臣 Hatoyama said about Kusanagi: 最低な人間としか思えない and demanded him pulled as the poster boy for digital/ analog campaigns. After that Hatoyama’s office got bombarded with anger calls from Kusanagi fans and other people who see no issue with the drunk and naked episode.

    Then Hatoyama was forced to caugh up an excuse in the form of apology. He said what he meant was that it was 最低最悪な行為。 He also said he’s reflecting 反省。

    鳩山総務大臣 is just another prince politician who has a public approval rating under 10% yet lots of influence and power.

  41. Heroes is a decent show but not great, Lost I haven’t seen, CSI is boring beyond words.

    HBO has done several great shows besides The Wire: The Sopranos, Rome, Deadwood come to mind. There have also been good shows from other sources than HBO: The Shield from FX was excellent, Battlestar Galactica probably gets my #2 rating after The Wire over the past few years, and now that it’s over there’s a spinoff series coming out next year that looks very promising. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is another great comedy, from FX, as was HBO’s Flight of the Conchords. Mythbusters isn’t even a scripted program at all but it’s the greatest thing ever, and perhaps the closest of all of these to something that could be made in Japan (at least as a variety show segment). Dollhouse, which is on now, is getting very good after the first few shaky episodes and I hope it gets renewed for a second year. Then there’s more B level shows that are still fun, like The Office (was better at first), Oz (arguably started HBO’s boom, but turned into self parody in season 3 and I bailed), etc. etc. That’s a pretty decent list, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple of A level shows and a lot more B level ones.

    The list of good recent American TV shows is pretty heavily slanted towards HBO, but certainly not exclusive to them. I’d say that the 2000s as a whole has definitely been a golden age for American TV. I think if you compare the best shows with any other 10 year period you’ll find it coming in first. Unfortunately, pretty much all of the shows on the list are over, and unless we see a new crop of similar quality stuff starting soon the 2010s may not be a continuation. Hopefully HBO’s current management is as good at choosing projects.

    “鳩山総務大臣 is just another prince politician who has a public approval rating under 10% yet lots of influence and power.”
    Considering that these positions aren’t a result of direct elections, public opinion only has a limited amount of control over them. No matter how unpopular, they still have their legal authority until the next general election.

  42. You’d think fame and fortune would be the answer to all our troubles. Yet, time and time again, we read that it is not so. I hope he finds the answers to his problems in seeking a spiritual journey. As the Bible says: “Seek and you shall find.”

  43. I’d say Amerian drama being upgraded is pretty recent phenomenon.I remember in the 80’s,people were crazed with “Dallas”.

  44. There are some good shows out there, sure. “Rome” is a BBC, Italian, HBO coproduction so I’m not sure if “American TV” should get credit for it. “Deadwood” I loved, but Season 3 lost some momentum. “Flight of the Conchords” is great but I don’t really know how to rate it as 80% of it is from the BBC radio series that I heard before I saw the TV. But you make a good case for it still being the best period for US TV.

    Have you seen “Generation Kill”? That’s another A+ show.

    In relation to Ace’s comment – I think that “The Sopranos” (instantly) and “Seinfeld” (more slowly) changed everything.

  45. Sure, those particular shows might have changed a lot, but what do you think actually changed? Did people realize they enjoyed thinking about everyday adult issues, or that they could follow a serious novel-type plot in the course of a weekly drama and not have it be the most simplistic melodramatic crap? Or did it just become easier to insert sex and violence into shows over the years and people ate that up with some sophisticated window dressing to make it seem justified?

  46. smapfan:

    As the poet said, pimpin aint easy.

    Right you are that this just goes to show famous people have problems too, but isn’t the idea that fame is a double-edged sword one of the most well-known stories around, especially in this age of the reality show? I think that rather than a solution to all your problems, wealth and fame are a ticket to the kind of problems you want to have.

    Also, we have to recognize the extent to which Kusanagi and the rest aren’t just rich and famous like we think of Brad Pitt. They are basically company men for the talent agencies. They might live basically glamorous lives, but they are restricted in ways reminiscent of the old Hollywood studio system. One area where they most definitely aren’t free is in their image management. Johnnys wants to keep them single in order to maintain their value among female fans, so for years SMAP was flat out not allowed to marry, but this has been loosened for some SMAP members but apparently not for other groups (and Marxy is speculating that it was the refusal to let him get married that caused the drunken outburst).

  47. “Have you seen “Generation Kill”? That’s another A+ show.”

    Yup, another HBO/David Simon show, like the also excellent “The Corner”. But also a mini-series and I tend not to include those in these lists for some reason.

  48. The Hatoyamas have been around since forever, so even if all the Kusanagi fans swarmed the ministry building and chased him out of office, he’d be living with very little to worry out.

    As for Kusanagi, what I can piece together as far as the public reaction to his press conference portrays him in a fairly positive light, and most of the people that were indifferent to him or at least thought him to be the sensitive, upstanding member of SMAP, is now describing him with “kawaiso”. That, as many of you know, is the road back to normalcy.

    Yukan Fuji decided to run a front page story not on what he said, but rather about what he didn’t say: They claimed to know the story behind the awkward 20 second pregnant pause that occurred in the press conference… They gave the headlight a lot more real estate than, say, the merger talks between Shinsei and Aozora.

  49. “Sure, those particular shows might have changed a lot, but what do you think actually changed?”

    I look at the Sopranos influence on a much simpler level – it convinced HBO that money could be made by taking risks on different types of dramas.

    I actually don’t like the Sopranos a whole lot. If you watch 2-3 episodes you get the whole soul draining suburban capitalism thing, how people will sell out loved ones for cash, how uber competition leaves people emotional wrecks, etc. In effect the thematic impact of the series is the same after 2-3 episodes as it is after running through the whole thing (with some exceptions like the brilliant “Employee of the Month”). All they do is escalate (from offing a close associate to a family member’s….) In the end, people were tuning in to “see who ends up sleeping with who or the fishes” – morbid voyeurism. So I rate the Sopranos much in line with your last comment “it just become easier to insert sex and violence into shows over the years and people ate that up with some sophisticated window dressing to make it seem justified.” But… on the level of TV business, no Sopranos, no Wire, I think (at least they wouldn’t have continued the show based on the expectation of DVD sales). The Wire has tremendous thematic diversity and in very important ways, it makes viewers think about violence rather than eating it up (in the last season, we start rooting for a certain guy’s violence, only to have that blow up in our faces).

    In a similar way, Seinfeld (along with 3 or 4 great seasons of The Simpsons) is a break from the “Full House”, “Family Matters”, “Home Improvement” direction that American sitcoms seemed to be going in (those shows all have the hammy, unfunny, stagey elements of the worst pseudo-sitcom Japanese dramas). By putting back in the “mean” of Archie Bunker, they managed to open things up a bit. Once again, I’m not sure that this is a good thing as it may have simply made people into bigger @$$holes.

    In the end, I’m not sure if there can really be salvation for Japanese dramas. If I were to write “A tragic(or tragicomic) ballad of alienation in contemporary Japan” that would be a (cheesy but accurate) description of the lion’s share of recent good/great Japanese cinema and literature (the films of Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Beat Takeshi, Miike Takashi; the literature of the Murakamis, Kirino Natsuo, just about every recent Akutagawa prize winner). The alienated body occasionally changes from a single woman in her 30s to a lonely 40something cop to a successful architect with a dark secret to a hikikomori – but I think that we get the picture… time after time after time. Are we really learning anything from this sorta thing at this point? You could make a brilliant story of alienated young people in rural Saga for television… but wouldn’t the kind of people who would enjoy that already be kinda sick of the postmodern ahness of things already?

    So in my mind there are only 2 ways to get away from this. One way would be to make something highly political like “The Wire”. We’ve already seen great examples on film like Beat Takeshi’s “Kid’s Return” and Miike’s “Black Triad” movies (that also look at discrimination against minorities in Japan along with gangsterism) and it is hard for me to see where they could go with this. Japanese politicians seem to be monumentally boring in their (normalized) corruption. Hard to imagine someone as entertaining as Clay Davis (Sheeeeeeeeeeet). If something hardass was done with minorities, it could easily turn into minoritysploitation – something that “The Wire” has been accused of. In the Japanese case, people seem to have forgotten what the big deal about Burakumin is (think gov. Hashimoto as a non-issue) and Zainichi only seem to be associated with criminality on 2ch (while in the 1950s the association was very common in the mainstream) so do we need a revival of the Burakumin/Zainichi = criminal underclass stereotype on mainstream Japanese TV? I would argue that we don’t. So what to do?

    The other option would be to depart from reality altogether and do it as anime / scifi – which of course is what Japan already does a great job with anyway.

  50. “But also a mini-series and I tend not to include those in these lists for some reason.”

    They fit with the conversation – most anime now are 13 episodes. Most J-dramas are 12-13. I actually think that the format can be a strong one – sure worked for G-Kill and The Corner (Simon and friends are just super).

  51. Just caught highlights of his post-release press conference. In my opinion he NAILED it… He wasnt crying like an insincere criminal and seemed actually shocked and reflective. His answers seemed studied and careful (thats only to be expected at such a critical moment for him) but at the same time he didn’t evade questions. I was really impressed and now I definitely want him to come back to show business. Just for not insulting the Japanese public by becoming one of those groveling sociopaths showing crocodile tears I feel like he deserves some credit.

    This is a man who has faced personal adversity in front of the whole country and can no doubt use that in his future acting. Weirdly I never thought I would say that about a member of SMAP even as I was writing this post. Even when Johnnys screws up somehow they end up ahead!

  52. “They fit with the conversation – most anime now are 13 episodes. Most J-dramas are 12-13. I actually think that the format can be a strong one – sure worked for G-Kill and The Corner (Simon and friends are just super)”

    For some reason, I mean in the context of American TV only. The norms of what constitutes a full-fledged series are very different between American, British, and Japanese. For example, the six episode series is standard for UK comedy shows, but ~20 episode season is standard in the US. For some reason almost all anime series are now 13 or 26 episodes (except for stuff like Gundam Seed that would have been better if it were only 26 episodes.) But the miniseries has been a pretty rare format on American TV, except in the form of really bad made for TV movies.

    Adam: Calm down, don’t be suckered. The man is an actor and he’s acting in public, don’t buy it.

  53. Precisely. And either way he should come back. If he can pull off this kind of performance when his career and reputation depend on it, he can draw on that experience every time. We could be talking about a modern day Mifune.

  54. Oh yeah, add “Flag” to the anime list.

    “But the miniseries has been a pretty rare format on American TV, except in the form of really bad made for TV movies.”

    They should do it more often – Lost or Heroes, for example, might have been great 6 episode series.

    Seed needed more than 26, I think, but far less than the 52 (or whatever) it ended up being.

    “We could be talking about a modern day Mifune.”

    He should go slightly scruffy and turn into an eccentric actor – a modern day (prime) Mikuni Rentaro.

  55. “They should do it more often – Lost or Heroes, for example, might have been great 6 episode series.”
    Heroes season 1 was overall quite solid, for a sort of popcorn entertainment show. I would say that the actual concept could easily have sustained a 20 episode/year show indefinitely (in fact, it’s mainly based on a comic book genre that is inherently designed to run forever), but the writers kind of screwed it up for a while there.

    Maybe 26 would’ve been a bit short for Seed, but the total length was easily too long. I never tried the sequel, Seed: Destiny. Is it recommended?

    Re: Kusanagi- Sure, if this is real acting I’m all for him coming back as an actor. Just don’t try and pretend he’s a martyr or something.

  56. “Is it recommended?”

    I’ve actually heard very passionate warnings to NOT touch Seed Destiny and followed said warnings. On the other hand 00 gets really good, I hear.

    “I would say that the actual concept could easily have sustained a 20 episode/year show indefinitely”

    Just because it can doesn’t mean that it should…. That is one of the problems that I see with the 20+ episode over multiple season philosophy prevalent in the US - many things are drawn on for far too long and most importantly, careful plotting goes out the window. One thing to be said for Japanese TV dramas – at least they go away quickly. I belive Simon and company when they say that they had a clear plan for The Wire (two deaths, for example, are foreshadowed seasons earlier) but some series are just a concept and the will to drag it on as long as it is making money (Lost – a title and an accurate description of narrative focus). I also think that Mythbusters has gone on far too long – they used to be destroying the most cherished Hollywood cliches but in the newer episodes they seem to have run out of myths that anyone has heard of.

    In contrast Curb Your… is brilliant in the way that it follows both a sitcom and a mini-series form (the seasons are organized around single plot strands like “the restaurant” and “The Producers”).

    BTW, has anyone seen a lot of Aibou? It looked like it had a bit of promise but I never did see more than parts of a few episodes?

  57. “Just don’t pretend he’s martyr or something”

    Under current circumstance and especially cops conducting a raid on his apartment,I’d say he’s qualified enough to be in such status.

    “Aibou” isn’t good.Or maybe I have different image of Mizutani Yutaka from the late 70’s.He was married to an American woman who co-stared in “熱中時代・刑事編”.(Now divorced)

  58. Katori Shingo made an apology on his show Smap Station for the 迷惑 that was caused. He called Kusanagi his best friend. The choked up voice and the holding back tears should win more sympathy.

    I agree that Kusanagi nailed it in his press conference. Always hard to believe an actor’s sincerity since they nail scripts for a living. It doesn’t matter as long as they sell it.

    I’m not a SMAP fan and I despise Johnny’s but Kusanagi is awesome.

    I’m only interested in watching post drunk/naked Kusanagi. Its like watching a post or pre 9/11 Hollywood movie – there is a difference.

  59. The Korean reaction to all this has been interesting (and encouraging, in a way): loads of people urging the authorities to leave the guy alone, since he’s been awesome enough to learn our language and bring our nations closer together and all that.

    One of the morning wide/news shows had an angry host wondering why Hatoyama hadn’t said anything similarly harsh about Nakagawa’s performance at the G7 meeting, which was another high point of this whole SMAP affair for me.

  60. “Under current circumstance and especially cops conducting a raid on his apartment,I’d say he’s qualified enough to be in such status.”

    Ok, you got me with the raid on his house. That was appalling and totally unjustified. Arrest? Sure. But that’s a night in jail and a small fine level offense. Unless he had drugs stuck up his ass there’s no conceivable reason to raid his home. And you know if drugs were involved it would be ALL OVER the news.

    “Its like watching a post or pre 9/11 Hollywood movie – there is a difference.”
    OK, that I don’t agree with at all. What good stuff has actually come out of Hollywood as a reaction to 9/11? The only thing I can think of is Battlestar Galactica. The rest is mostly typical Hollywood dreck, or stuff that could’ve been made anyway.

  61. “Its like watching a post or pre 9/11 Hollywood movie – there is a difference.”
    OK, that I don’t agree with at all. What good stuff has actually come out of Hollywood as a reaction to 9/11? The only thing I can think of is Battlestar Galactica. The rest is mostly typical Hollywood dreck, or stuff that could’ve been made anyway.

    My point is that after a tragedy, things change. For Kusanagi, this is a tragedy. In his world its huge so for better or worse, he will be different from now.

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