by Chris MaGee
Last year saw the blockbuster hit "Hana yori Dango: Final", the last go-around for Tsukushi Makino and her beaus at Eitoku Academy, and consequently the the folks at Toho raked in over ¥7 billion (almost $88 million CAD) at the box office with it. Now it looks like another hugely popular series will be coming to an end this year, but it still remains to be seen if the big bucks, or yen, will roll in.
As we spoke about last October the fishing-themed films, known in English as "Free and Easy" began in 1989 when Shochiku released an adaptation of Jūzō Yamasaki and Kenichi Kitami's manga of the same name. That first film starred Toshiyuki Nishida (above right) as Densuke Hamasaki, a good-hearted salaryman who has one all-consuming hobby: fishing. Hamasaki is so obsessed by the sport that his boss, Ichinosuke Suzuki, played by screen veteran Rentaro Mikuni (above left), has nicknamed him "Tsuribaka". The thing is that Suzuki also harbours a love for the rod and reel. Japanese audiences fell in love with the pair's weekend adventures, so much so that after the huge success of the first film both Nishida and Mikuni have returned on an annual basis as Hama-chan and Su-san (as they're affectionatly called) with one "Tsuribaka Nisshi" after another; but when the 20th film in the series is released across Japan on December 26th it will mark the last screen adventure for these two fishing fools
Tokyograph is reporting that this year's 20th installment in the series, titled "Tsuribaka Nisshi: Final" will bring the character's nearly two decade long love affair with fishing to an end. Apparently this decision was made three films back, and with Toshiyuki Nishida nearing 62 and Rentaro Mikuni having just turned 86 in January it's probably about time. While the "Tsuribaka Nisshi" films may not hold the same legendary status as Shochiku's "Tora-san" film series the down home humour of Hama-chan and Su-san have been the next best thing for the studio during these past 20 years.
To help send the "Tsuribaka Nisshi" boys on their merry way Shochiku and director Yuzo Asahara are assembling an impressive group of guest stars including Keiko Matsuzaka (Happiness of the Katakuri's), Kazue Fukiishi (Memories of Tomorrow), and Kazue Fukiishi (Kisarazu Cat's Eye). Now, like I said above, it remains to be seen if "Tsuribaka Nisshi: Final" will cause the same kind of box office stir for Shochiku as "Hana yori Dango: Final" did for Toho. Both series are wildly popular, but they don't share the same audience, and in these dark economic times you have to wonder if cash-strapped middle-aged audiences will be spending money on going to movies like their daughters and grand-daughters did with "Hana yori Dango" last year. Then again, maybe what everyone will need after this year will be a bit of a laugh...