Nippon TV’s Dramatic Trio
By Mansha Daswani
Japan’s Nippon TV has emerged as a powerhouse in the Asian scripted-formats business thanks to two hit dramas, Motherand Woman-My Life for My Children-. Both have been remade to great success in Turkey (with hit local versions that have sold well globally) and both are due to be adapted in France following a deal announced at MIPTV with production house Incognita. Those two shows, along with the more recent anone, emerged from a collaboration between screenwriter Yuji Sakamoto, producer Hisashi Tsugiya and director Nobuo Mizuta.
Mother, Sakamoto’s first series for Nippon TV after a string of hits for Fuji TV, started as a single image in the screenwriter’s mind. “In the snow, one lonely woman is walking with a little girl and they are holding hands,” Sakamoto tells TV Drama Weekly via Nippon TV’s head of marketing, Yuki Akehi, who was translating the interview. “I was trying to attach a story to go along with that visual. That's where it started.”
Sakamoto says he was initially nervous about working with Mizuta, a director whose work he had high regard for. “I had heard that he corrects all the scripts! When I first met him, I saw what a gentleman he was. He very much helped me [improve] my scripts.”
Their next collaboration was on Woman-My Life for My Children-, which Sakamoto says emerged from a childhood fascination with death. “I would ask my parents, What happens when you die? What is death? What does it mean to be dead? They never had a good answer for me. I wasn't sure what I would say to my children when they asked me the same question, so I wrote this story to find the answer.”
Next up came anone, which explores themes such as human connections, aging and the power of memories. All three shows place women at the center of the storylines.
“I want to focus on people who are weak or whose voices aren’t heard in society,” Sakamoto says. “In Japan, the position of women is still very low compared with major established countries. It was very important for me to depict, from a male perspective, the situation of women in Japan. I hope that my work will lead to women being understood better.”
Asked about his writing process, Sakamoto says he likes listening to loud rap music while at work on his computer. After a while, “the music goes away, and that’s when I know I'm writing well!"
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