This week TBS celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new version of “Seishun no Mon (The Gate of Youth),” one of the great publishing successes of the postwar era. Written by Hiroyuki Itsuki, the seven-volume novel, originally published in 1969 and 1970 in serial form, went on to sell more than 20 million copies in book form and has been adapted several times for movies and TV.
TBS focuses on the “Chikuho” volume. Part One (Monday, 9 p.m.), takes place in 1939 at the bustling Goho mining company, which works the huge Chikuho coal mine in northern Kyushu. The strong-willed head of the miners, Juzo (Etsushi Toyokawa), falls in love with Tae (Kyoka Suzuki), a waitress at a drinking establishment. She eventually moves in with him and becomes a mother to Juzo’s young son, Shinsuke, whose real mother is dead.
Their happiness is short-lived. There is a major accident at the mine and many workers, including a large number of forced laborers from Korea, are put at risk. Juzo confronts the executives of the company who brush aside his concern. Japan is at war, and these men are expendable. Replacements are not difficult to find. Juzo decides to sabotage the operation.
In Part Two (Tuesday, 9 p.m.), the widowed Tae has made a resolution to raise Shinsuke to be a model adult, which proves to be more difficult than she imagined. For one thing, she contracts tuberculosis and is sent to a sanitorium.
Shinsuke is thus taken in by Ryugoro (Goro Kishitani), one of the bosses of the local criminal underworld. It was Ryugoro who secured Tae’s waitressing job at the drinking establishment. He had essentially “bought” her as a young girl and installed her there as an employee, but he has always been in love with Tae, even after she started living with Juzo. In fact, in Part One the two men were about to fight a duel over Tae, but she stopped them.
Ryugoro has his hands full with Shinsuke, whose introduction to puberty is particularly distressing. He becomes obsessed with sex, and the boy believes he is mentally ill.
On March 27 at 9 p.m., TBS will also air “Fu ryo Shonen no Yume (Dream of a Juvenile Delinquent),” a special drama about the younger days of Hiroyuki Yoshiie, the famous yankii sensei who now teaches in Yokohama.
“Yankii” is a slang term that refers to hot-rodders and other teen dropouts. Yoshiie was thrown out of his home by his parents when he was a teen and ended up at a special high school in Hokkaido that took in such youths. At first, he refuses to amend his antisocial ways, getting into fights and generally ignoring his studies, but one female teacher refuses to give up on him, and it makes all the difference in his life.