Gegege no Nyoubou is a Japanese tv show from 2010, based on the autobiographical book (of the same title) by Nunoe Mura, Shigeru Mizuki’s wife. The same year a movie was released using the same title, adapting the same book, but with a different casting.
First measure of popularity: a book on how it was to be your wife becomes a best seller and gets both tv and movie adaptations.
The show tells her life story, since she’s a little kid until she’s married to Mizuki and they have grown up kids. Her struggle to open up as child, moving to Tokyo, their first years trying to survive on the rental manga industry, the later boom of Mizuki’s work, having and raising kids, life.
A lot of the anecdotes on the show were already present on some of Mizuki’s mangas. Of the stuff that I could read, some stories are present in these: NonNonBa, Showa, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths and Mizuki’s Autobiography. Presumably, some of that material is also on Mura’s book that I couldn’t read, and in the movie adaptation, too.
All of these anecdotes have been told from slightly different angles, used to construct different arguments, in slightly different contexts. And I loved it every time. The joy of repetition.
The show was the first Asadora I watched. Started in the 60’s, Asadora’s are, as far as I can tell, a format unique to Japan: every episode is 15 minutes long, they air 8:00 am from Monday to Saturday and they last 26 weeks, so there are 2 every year. The one aired during the first half of the year is produced by NHK Tokyo and the second one by NHK Osaka. Every show stars a woman and presents her life journey. Again: the joy of repetition.
It was very tempting to compare the show, by theme, subject, preoccupations and, I guess, intended audience, to the (Argentinean and Colombian) soap operas I watched and loved when I was a kid. It’s always an interesting feeling to find a familiar sense of warmth in something that seems so foreign.
Second measure of popularity: A few months ago I went to a Japanese Karaoke bar in New York. As I was walking down the hallway, I heard a girl singing, to the top of her lungs, the show’s theme song. I opened the door and saw what looked like a bunch of Japanese business men and women, all singing along. I joined them for a verse and got a smile of approval. I continued my way to the bathroom and that was it.