Samurai drama targets younger viewers

A samurai drama, Shin Momotaro-zamurai (Tuesdays, 7:00 p.m.) has started on the TV Asahi network, succeeding the popular original NTV series, Momotaro-zamurai, which starred Hideki Takahashi and aired 1976-81.

In the new series, which started Tuesday, Masahiro Takashima plays the hero, Shinjiro Katsuragi, a masterless samurai who freeloads at an archery shooting gallery in Edo (now Tokyo) while serving as a guard there.

His swordsmanship is master-class, and he volunteers for undercover missions to punish bad guys or powers that be who persecute people. His nom de guerre as the punisher is Momotaro (literally, Peach Boy), the name of a boy hero from Japanese folklore who destroys the marauding oni demons on a beleaguered island.

Both Momotaro-zamurai series are based on a novel by Kiichiro Yamate (1899-1978). But the new TV version’s samurai is not so much a perfect hero type as a hunky mama’s boy. “We wanted to feature the human side of the hero,” Takashima said.

To attract children as a new fan base for the jidaigeki (period drama), the hero has adopted a sword, “Tenma Fudo Ken” named after a Buddhist god and evil spirits. The producers gave the weapon the unusually grandiose name, hoping it will remind children of those used in their favorite superhero shows. “I don’t care even if some people think this [drama] is just like a comic book story. We want children to feel closer to jidaigeki and get to know the fun,” Takashima said.

The samurai has returned to the TV screen after 25 years. In a time abounding in shocking real-life crimes targeting children, will the hero help children and other viewers find some relief with his “demon punishment”?

Let’s hope for his best performance in destroying not only bad guys but also the stresses in our daily life.

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