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Editorial: Hit Japanese drama 'Oshin' screenwriter Hashida's work showed true human nature

Screenwriter Sugako Hashida, who closed in on the true nature of humankind through stories about families, has died at the age of 95.

    She launched numerous hits, such as the internationally acclaimed television drama series on NHK "Oshin," which recorded an average viewership rating of 52.6% in Japan, and the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) drama series, "Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari," which ran for 30 years. Her achievements in the television world have been invaluable.

    Her scripts were known for lines that sometimes spanned over 10 pages. What she wanted to communicate using all the words at her disposal was the universality of humankind no matter what the era, and to ask the question how people should live in the periods in which they found themselves.

    The drama series "Tonari no Shibafu," broadcast on NHK in 1976, portrayed a tragedy of the collapse of a family through the problematic relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law. The show broke with the template of family dramas, and highlighted women's true and conflicted feelings through realistic dialogue.

    "Oshin," whose namesake character was born the same year as Emperor Showa -- also known as Emperor Hirohito -- is a biography of a woman who lived through poverty and war. When it began airing in 1983, Japan was charging ahead in the bubble economy. The show made viewers ask themselves what true wealth meant.

    The characters in the series lost their way in life, were fraught by worries, and were struck by rage that had nowhere to go. It was the drama's refusal to simply gloss over the ugly parts of life that undoubtedly appealed to audiences around the world.

    Hashida stood out with dramas that were told from a female perspective in an industry that mainly comprised men. And this was made possible because of the critical eye and remarkable writing skills that were specific to Hashida.

    With World War II having taken up much of her youth, Hashida also pursued the theme of war and peace in her work.

    In "Onna Tachi no Chushingura," broadcast on TBS in 1979, Hashida portrayed women saddled with grief in the background of a raid. It was against their sadness that Hashida projected the sorrow of those who had lost their husbands and sons to the war. She also refused to portray murders in her dramas, adamant that "people should not kill each other."

    She is said to have been wanting to write a script about a family living in the coronavirus pandemic. How would she have portrayed a society in such disarray?

    Hashida's life as a screenwriter overlapped with television's golden era. We now live in a time in which many people have their own smartphones on which they stream and watch videos. This makes it hard for dramas that garner support and popularity from a range of generations to be born. Along with the death of Hashida, television culture is reaching a pivotal moment.

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