Chapter 2: Side Profiles and Irises (2)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
This was the first time Shin had ever worked on a live TV program, but the final stretch was a completely different beast compared to a pre-recorded show. A live broadcast waited for no one—sink or swim, regardless if the preparations were ready or not, once it was time, they had to put something on the air. Even as half a guest this first day on the job, Shin could feel that sense of tension permeating the staff room. But he didn’t hate the feeling. If he could gain experience here, maybe he could be even more useful to Sakae.
As Shin made his rounds restlessly through the various areas of the news floor, he passed by a lounge area with a TV and sofa and heard a happy-go-lucky voice that sounded completely out of place to the rest of the staff room.
“Oh! It’s a hit!! You can make it, you can make it! Keep going… What!? Why’d you stop at second!? Come on, you could have kept going~!”
“He’s gotten a bit of a belly lately. He probably didn’t trust his legs.”
“He’s gotta aim higher~ Boo~ Oh! Did you buy the newest FIFA? Instead of PES?”
“Don’t switch the subject to soccer when we’re watching baseball.”
Huh? Do they normally watch baseball here? Just chattin’ about?
Even behind the partition, one of the men’s voices was especially loud.
“Oi, shut it, Tatsuki!” a director shouted at him. “We’re briefing on the news right now, so keep your voice down!”
So it was the guy from before. His voice wasn’t exceptionally beautiful or distinct, but when Shin first heard his Oh!, his face had immediately come to mind. Maybe it was a good thing for people who appeared on TV.
Nevertheless, he didn’t cower back in his apology, and from the way that the other two announcers continued their meeting unruffled, it seemed like it was probably a daily occurrence. In between the conversations about economic trends and the BoJ Tankan survey, Shin could hear comments such as “Oi, oi, they just took the lead” and “That pitch dropped like crazy.” It was like he was watching two different shows at once.
“Yess!! They scored!!”
“Hey, I told you to keep it down!!”
After editing together video clips and running odd jobs around the office, Shin could finally step into the studio around the second half of the show. When he opened the heavy, metal door, there was the cool breeze of the air conditioning, the set he was seeing for the first time, and the bright, glaring ceiling lights. They were in commercial, but the atmosphere as the staff went about their work never relaxed. This sense of a studio, that could only be felt by experiencing it, was the same as any other studio. This was a place where they made TV, and that feeling radiated down to his bones. Every time Shin stepped into a studio, he would think, I love this. It was the greatest feeling in the world experiencing the studio in the midst of filming—to Shin, it was better than the feeling in the control room or even out on location.
“We’re coming out of commercial into sports! After the title screen, we start with baseball results! Places please!”
“Title rolling in 10, 9, 8, 7—”
Since sports was next, Minagawa Tatsuki stood on the set next to large-screen monitor. He had just finished speaking with the floor manager in a low voice about something, and with three seconds to go, he raised his head and noticed Shin standing at the door of the studio. Shin watched as he opened his mouth to form an Oh, and then of all things, he waved his hand and smiled at him. It nearly scared Shin to death.
Oi, oi, your segment is startin’. Dun ya hafta read your script?
“The title’s rolling!”
After the 5-second title roll, the monitor played clips of pro baseball highlights from earlier in the day. At that moment, Tatsuki’s eyes sharpened, and he transformed into an announcer.
“The Poseidons place their hopes on the veteran Ono to lead the team out of a string of losses. He gives up a run early in the game due to an error, but he holds down the fort against the Titans’ batting lineup.”
His voice was powerful, more so than this morning, like it could break through the sky.
“The offense flexes some muscle in the sixth as Fukushima knocks one into center field with a runner on second to tie up the game! The Poseidons have a chance to take the lead… With one out and bases loaded, Inada hits a beautiful sac-fly!”1
His delivery was crisp, and he tied it to the transitioning batting visuals with perfect timing. It was like gears snapping into place, and it electrified the audience in this single moment.
“Ono keeps his cool with the lead! He takes out the next three batters in succession, closing out the bottom of the sixth, and limits the Titans to a single run in the seventh to play his part for the team.”
Shin wasn’t knowledgeable enough to comment on Tatsuki’s skills as an announcer, but it felt good listening to him. He seemed to have a natural rhythm to his words that was especially important for sports news. Shin had no interest in baseball whatsoever, but somehow Tatsuki made him want to watch and listen.
But what surprised Shin the most was that Tatsuki didn’t have a script in his hand. He wasn’t reading from cue cards either; he just stared directly at the on-air monitor right next to the camera.
Did he memorize everythin’? He’d hafta be real smart then.
“Excuse me,” Shin whispered to an AD who didn’t seem very busy (or so he appeared). “Is there no script for the sports corner?”
“The baseball results are ad-lib. We’re really down to the wire by the 5th inning, and there’s no time to write out a script.”
Shin was at a loss for words. Tatsuki didn’t even have anything to memorize. But if Shin stopped to think about it, it made sense. It had to be incredibly tough take a game that started in the evening and discuss the results on prime time television.
“The producer and the anchor himself don’t want to pipe in a different announcer. They decide ahead of time the video they want to use, and he just goes for it when it’s showtime. Sometimes he can get a preview during the commercial break before he goes on, but there are days when they can’t make it in time.”
So he wasn’t just leisurely watching TV, he was studying the flow and the highlights of the game. Shin felt bad for thinking that he was goofing off while everyone else was working.
Even though the floor manager would give out detailed cues to the announcers, but still, wasn’t it scary to be on live television?
“They head into the ninth, leading by a single run. The Titans won’t back down without a fight. Batting fifth, Saotome faces Kotani with two outs, bases loaded, and a chance to take the game with a grand slam! Can Saotome pull through!?”
Shin couldn’t detect any fear or hesitation in his voice. There was only the energy that he loved speaking, that he loved conveying a message to the viewers—and Shin could feel it keenly through the buzz of the studio. There was an overwhelming presence that couldn’t be felt by watching a recording. It was the expressiveness of his face, the way that he held himself, the movement of his hands. It was like watching a stage performance. Yeah, it reminded him of the high he felt when watching comedians perform live on stage—the anticipation for the very next moment that had him on tenterhooks. Shin knew that he should be watching the staff more to learn about how they did things here, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of Tatsuki.
“Look at Saotome’s face! The Poseidons snag their final out with a fly ball to right field and manage to hang on for the win—ending their three-game losing streak!”
The cheers of the baseball stadium sounded like an ovation for Tatsuki.
After the broadcast, Shin gave a brief self-introduction to everyone in the studio. As he cleared away scripts and straightened out chairs, a staff member approached him.
“Do you have a moment?”
“We’re planning on holding a welcome party for you, Nawada-kun, but lately it’s been kinda boring going to the same haunts. I was wondering if you know of any good places for a party?”
Ya askin’ the guest of honor? Shin thought, but he didn’t hate it when people asked him for help. He replied, “Sure,” and pulled out his cell phone.
“What would be good? Are you thinking Japanese, Western, Chinese, Middle Eastern, or African? How many people are coming? Should it be a private room? Do you care if it’s a table setting, a tatami room, or sunken kotatsu? What about smoking and non-smoking? Or an unlimited drinks option? Do you need to arrange an afterparty too?”
“W-Wow… you’re like a human Tabelog…”2
“Just when it comes to this area. I get a lot of requests when makin’ restaurant reservations for guests and entertainers on our show.”
“Oh, that must be tough. Everyone’s pretty flexible on the news side.”
“Yeah, just watchin’ everybody work today, it definitely feels different here.”
That was when a voice cut into the conversation.
“Hey again, Nacchan~”
“You’re Nawada, so Nacchan~”
Shin realized all over again how the guy made him uncomfortable. They developed social and personal relationships at such different speeds, and Shin didn’t know how to handle him. Shin frowned, but Tatsuki didn’t seem bothered and asked, “How tall are you?”
“Oh, so it’s perfect for you.”
“Because you’re handling the floor, right? The other person we had before you was 188,4 and it was super cramped for him. He’d have to dodge things, and sometimes it was like he was doing crazy yoga poses. I almost laughed on the air a bunch of times.”
The floor manager issued directions for the show from the middle of the floor, always moving around and dodging cameras. It was true that the job was easier for people who were more compact, but Shin didn’t think many men would be happy to have someone say, Good for you, you’re short, to their face.
“I can’t believe we’re the same age. I totally thought you were a student working part-time.”
“Ya nuts? Who’d let a part-timer near the tapes? Anyway, ya look like a college student who parties all the time yaself.”
“Huh? Do I really look that young?”
“Like ya fool aroun’ like one,” Shin said, swiftly correcting him.
“Whaa? Hmm, by the way, are you free after this? A bunch of us are going out for barbecue. You should come, Nacchan.”
It didn’t surprise him anymore that people went out for barbecue past 11 pm. Working for a variety show, it was common to have heavy drinking parties that started late at night or even around dawn.
“Sorry, I’ve still got work.”
“Okay, then I’ll see you later.”
For how strong he came on, Tatsuki pulled away very readily. There wasn’t even a hint of disappointment in his face. Shin didn’t want Tatsuki to keep pressuring him, but if it didn’t matter whether he was there or not, then he wished that Tatsuki just not bother to invite him out in the first place. Then he wouldn’t have to feel the tiniest bit of guilt about turning him down. But Tatsuki didn’t seem like the type to even care about getting turned down, whereas Shin stressed himself over it—they were just people who didn’t mesh well together.
After cleaning up the set and finishing their review meeting, it was past midnight when Shin returned to the entertainment production floor. He finished compiling the footage logs from earlier, wrote a few detailed email requests for coverage on their show, and organized their equipment. Before long, it was past 2 am. He was starving because he had only eaten lunch today, but he would fall asleep if he were to eat now. Instead, he stood in front of a vending machine, looking for something he could use to fill his stomach and trick it for now. He limited himself to one energy drink every two days, so that was out. Coffee would probably upset his stomach… He had already inserted his coins, but his fingertip hesitated over what to pick. The backlighting of the vending machine and red lights displaying the prices glowed in the dimly lit corner of the hallway. It was a lonely and miserable sight, but it cheered Shin up when he thought about how there were plenty of people in the building still hard at work. The company reps could tell him until they were blue in the face to go home after the day, but there was something about this place, like a long after-school activity that made it hard for him to leave. He loved this place where they made TV, and talent aside, he thought that he was suited for the job.
Shin’s hand stopped at the very bottom corner of the drink lineup, where there was a can of juice with vibrant illustrations of vegetables. It was the one that Tatsuki had given him, telling him that it had looked healthy.
…Well, whatever. This could work. There’s a body to it, an’ it’ll prolly fill me up.
He was about to press the button for the juice when he heard someone call his name behind him. Shin immediately turned around.
“Oh, hello, so you were still here?”
“I’m starving,” Sakae said, leaning a shoulder sluggishly against the wall.
“I’ll go buy something.”
Shin didn’t care about his own drink anymore and pressed the coin return button.
“You decide. Buy something for yourself too.” Sakae threw over his wallet and added, “I’ll be in the editing suite,” as he left.
No matter how trivial it was, whether it was work or errands, as long as Sakae had things he needed to have done, Shin was happy to do them. Or maybe he just couldn’t rest if Sakae didn’t need him. Even if he only followed Sakae around, picking up his breadcrumbs, Shin didn’t care. Even if it only amounted to a fingernail, Shin wanted to be useful to him. He ran to the nearest convenience store by the network and rummaged through the meager-looking shelves just prior to the early morning restock. If Sakae was doing editing work, then food that he could eat with one hand would be best. Shin bought sandwiches, rice balls, and cartons of tea and milk packed with a straw. When he arrived at the private editing suite, Sakae turned around like he was impatiently waiting for him and called out, “Come look at this.” His face was in a very good mood.
“Oh, is this what we shot on location the other day?”
“Yeah. It’s a rough edit, but Christ, it’s freaking hilarious.”
Shin watched as the monitor played a clip of shots strung together without any pop-up text or sound effects. They burst into laughter at the same time.
“…Oh, my god, that’s amazin’.”
“I know, right? I’ve watched it about 20 times now, but I can’t hold it in whenever I see this part.”
“Seriously, what’s with that reaction…? Oh god, that’s hysterical.”
Maybe it was a repercussion of the long periods of time that Sakae could throw a fit, but when he saw something funny, he was exceedingly defenseless in his laughter.
“The part after this is good too, but it drags out a little too long… I think I’ll cut it after this close-up.”
Normally, the showrunner wouldn’t be involved with the editing. A producer’s responsibilities centered on budgets, personnel, and negotiations with the talent agencies. They would decide on the flow and direction of the show, and at the end, preview the edit and perform final checks to ensure that it was up to code for broadcast TV. However, Sakae liked to involve himself in the day-to-day brainstorming, filming, and editing processes. The reason was simply that Sakae could do things better and funnier than anyone else. Script structuring, characterization of roles for their performers, camera work, editing style—the tiniest of details, depending on the direction, could make or break a show, and Sakae had a special knack for finding what those little details were. People might criticize him for his terrible personality, but no one doubted his ability to make a good show. Souma Sakae was the be-all and end-all, the singular force behind the hit show Go Go Dash. Everyone was essentially his arms and legs when it came to the show. As an organization, it was probably dysfunctional, but Shin was happy to be here. If he could contribute the tip of a pinkie’s worth work to the show, he was satisfied, as long as he could work for Sakae and support the show. Sakae was the reason he came here, the reason he could be here. There was nothing he wanted more but to stay by Sakae’s side forever, watching the profile of his face with that gaze never turning to face him.
Tatsuki stared in a trance watching the clear fat dribble from the meat sizzling on top of the charcoal-fired grill. Up until that moment, he had completely forgotten about Shin. He wasn’t thinking of anything except that maybe he should have ordered some jar-marinated kalbi.
“So Nawada-kun didn’t come, huh?”
“Huh? Yeah, he said he still has work to do. I call dibs on this piece, okay?”
“You can have it… He probably didn’t come because of you, Tatsuki.”
“What do you mean?”
“Because you said something like, ‘It’s good you’re a shorty since you’re working the floor.’”
“Huh? That’s terrible!”
“That’s super insensitive, man.”
“No way, I never called him a shorty! And it wasn’t my first time meeting him.”
“And here we finally got someone who’s supposed to be good at the job.”
“Yeah, it’s his first day today, and he got right down to business. It’s like you can totally tell he’s from the entertainment side from the way he accommodates people.”
“I know what you mean.”
Those who were in the know nodded their heads, but Tatsuki, who wasn’t on the staff, didn’t really understand the nuance.
“Huh? Are news shows really that different?”
“I mean, yeah, you know how announcers are part of the network as regular employees?”
“You don’t have to treat them very special, and it’s totally fine.”
“But you can’t do that for outside talent managed by an agency.”
“Oi, oi, you should accommodate me too!”
“And he was really busy during the broadcast.”
Tatsuki wasn’t watching Shin that closely, but Shin did seem to have kept himself busy in the studio and the staff room. He was like a robot with its screw in the back fully wound.
“…Yeah, but hmmm,” Tatsuki said in a low voice.
“Oh, hnnn… Wanna add an order of jar-marinated kalbi?”
“You can sure eat.”
His hunger for flesh (not the sexual kind) was finally sated, and everyone sat around watching the empty grill laden with fat and char marks as they pondered whether to finish with noodles, rice, or dessert. The sizzling sounds from the fire ceased, and a strange silence descended on the group. That was when someone tossed a metaphorical bomb in their midst.
“…There are rumors about Nawada-kun…”
This type of bomb.
“…That he’s going out with Souma-san. You hear about it everywhere.”
That was the extent of Tatsuki’s thoughts on the matter. He knew who Souma Sakae was. He was an older colleague at the network, but Tatsuki had never worked with the guy, and people could do whatever they wanted in private. That was all there was to it.
But all around the table, like they were just waiting for someone to bring up the subject, people chimed in with exclamations of I know! and I heard that too!
“Huh? Is it really that incredible that everyone knows about it? Does he sit on his lap during filming or something?”
“That would make him a pet. It’s not like that. You know, Souma-san is supposed to be awful to work for. He loses his temper easily and hurls all sorts of verbal abuse. There are tons of kids who love GoGo and want to work for him, but they never last long. I hear they go through staff like crazy.”
“I have a senior colleague at my production company who used to work on GoGo. Souma-san told him, ‘Your T-shirt makes me physically disgusted. Don’t come back here again.’”
“Huh? That got him kicked off the show? Seriously? That’s totally abuse of power. Couldn’t he have filed a labor complaint?”
“They were renewing contracts that month. He could have come up with hundreds of reasons not to renew it. There’s nothing outsourced staff can do about it if the network side doesn’t want you anymore.”
“But to be fired for a reason like that? He’s a tyrant.”
“But his show’s a hit. The DVD sales alone are in the hundreds of millions every year. Plus, Souma-san has all these connections to comedians, talent agencies, all sorts of people. The execs can’t really say anything about him.”
“He’s only 35, right? That’s crazy. He’s essentially the top dog on the entertainment side.”
Tatsuki drank from his nearly empty beer mug and thought, The reason can’t really be the T-shirt. If a producer was really that stupid to fire someone over such a trivial thing, there was no way he could make a hit show. Tatsuki thought that the guy probably fired the person for poor job performance…but Tatsuki was a presenter, and he decided not to say anything that would rock the boat. Anyway, the guy was pretty terrible for giving the T-shirt as an excuse to sack the person instead of providing leadership and guidance to correct his work. But well, there were plenty of weird, eccentric people in this industry—such as his senior colleague, for example, whose private and public personas were so different they spanned the elevations of entire mountain ranges.
“Have you heard about the new Big Three at Asahi TV? It’s Nishikido from the Camera Department, Asou from the Announcer Department, and Souma from Entertainment Production.”
“Who were the old ones?”
“People are talking about adding Kunieda-san to the lineup to make it the Big Four.”
“Huh? Then they should add me too while they’re at it!” Tatsuki exclaimed, raising his hand, but he was immediately booed down.
“Why not? Isn’t five better than four? Like a power ranger squad!”
“It’s too unbalanced with three announcers out of the five. Do we really need three red rangers?”
“What~? That’s the problem~? Anyway, what were you saying about Nacchan?”
“Oh, just that he’s the only AD that Souma-san likes so he keeps him at his side. It’s like he’s his wife or something.”
“Couldn’t it be that he’s just good at his job?”
“Yeah, maybe. The very first boss or colleague who takes the time to teach you everything about the job can be a special existence for the rest of your life.”
Yeah, he’s a hard worker and seems to really love the show, Tatsuki murmured to himself. Maybe it was because Tatsuki had suddenly called out to him, but Shin was like a cat frozen in front of a car’s headlights. His eyes were directed at Tatsuki, but he didn’t see him. But when Tatsuki told him that he looked forward to the show, Shin’s eyes immediately snapped into focus. Tatsuki thought that he was probably happy to hear praise about the show. When Tatsuki saw him later at The News, he was back to an animal in front of the headlights. He had to move his body somehow so that he wouldn’t freeze and get run over. To Tatsuki, it didn’t look like cleverness or good sense that was driving Shin’s work, but a sense of urgency. Was it only nervousness? It would be nice if he could relax a bit more.
They called it a night after finishing their late dinner, and as they left the building, Tatsuki realized that he had left his cell phone inside.
“Whoops, sorry! I left something behind at the restaurant!”
“Okay, let’s disband here.”
“Thanks! Good night!”
Tatsuki went back to the restaurant, and luckily the table had not been cleared yet and his cell phone was sitting right there. He collected it, and he was ready to go home, but on his way out, his eye caught a sign by the cash register. They were the words, Pick some up as a gift!
“Oh, excuse me! Can I get the beef-wrapped rice balls to go?”
It was past 2 am, but Shin was probably still at the network. An image of Shin’s back, sitting engrossed in front of a monitor, appeared in Tatsuki’s head. Maybe he had that weird drink with him again. Well, this can be a snack and an apology for my gaffe earlier, Tatsuki thought as he headed back to the network carrying the faintly warm bag of rice balls. If Shin wasn’t there or if he didn’t want them, Tatsuki could eat them himself later.
Tatsuki didn’t have Shin’s cell phone number, so he decided to head to GoGo’s staff room. He wasn’t there, but a staff member told him that he could try checking the editing suites. It was an area lined with small offices, and Tatsuki looked in to see a row of doors with lights on inside. The office doors had a narrow vertical window that could be used to see inside.
Tatsuki passed by 2, 3 offices and then saw the profile of Shin’s face through the glass.
Oh, he’s here.
Tatsuki reached for the doorknob but noticed someone else there in the room with him and quickly pulled his hand back. He pressed his back against the wall next to the door. He could hear the sounds of a lively video clip mixed with the sounds of two people laughing.
Hey, that’s Souma-san, right?
From Tatsuki’s own memory and the mixed impressions from other people, he was a man who always seemed to be frowning, someone with low temperature, low blood pressure, and low energy. But the profile of his face from the quick glimpse looked like he was enjoying himself a lot. It was the same for Shin too. It was a face that looked like he could relax and open up to him.
“Whoa…” Tatsuki uttered dumbly in the empty hallway.
No wonder people were gossiping about the two of them.
Tatsuki didn’t care what the truth was, but he would absolutely become a third-wheel if he walked in on them now. His senior colleagues, like Announcer Kunieda, or Announcer Kunieda, or Announcer Kunieda, liked to scoff and say that he couldn’t read the atmosphere, but Tatsuki considered himself to be someone who knew when it didn’t need to be read and when it did. And right now, it was clearly the latter, so he silently minded his own business and went home. The gum that he received from the barbecue place as a palate cleanser was flavorless inside his mouth.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- It actually says 2 outs and bases loaded, but you can’t score on a fly ball that way, so I made a slight change.
- Tabelog is like Japan’s version of Yelp.
- 163 cm – Approx. 5’4”.
- 188 cm – Approx. 6’2”.