Chapter 14: Connect It Together (1)
Translator’s Note: The Japanese title Tsunaide also has several meanings. The official tagline on the cover uses the English phrase Link me up, but it can mean to connect things or people together like in a network or to make something function. It can be used in a sexual sense, but also a video editing sense—to string scenes together into a video.
Summary of Facilities at Egesan TV Transmission Tower
Steel Tower: Free-standing square base steel pipe truss construction (90 m)
Radio Spire: 120 m tall, equipped with 3 types of transmission antennas
Facility: Steel-framed reinforced concrete construction, 3 floors and 1 basement
Utilities: Commercial electrical power, single-wire transmission
Emergency Generator (Diesel): 6,600 V, 1,000 kVA
Fuel: 30,000 L diesel (in underground storage tanks) – Approximately 10 days worth of runtime
Radio: 3 kW transmission output
After they passed Shin Osaka Station, he started to feel sleepy. Maybe it was due to the atmospheric pressure. Dark overcast clouds slowly rolled in over the sky—a boring view that seemed to stretch endlessly like the ocean.
“Apparently it’s raining quite hard over there.”
“It sure looks like it.”
“Whoa, the weather radar is completely red… Will we be able to hold our lecture tomorrow with the weather like this?”
“They did tell us that we should still come. If it ends up getting cancelled, we can just do some sightseeing in the area. Even if it is raining.”
“That sounds nice. There are supposed to be lots of shops and restaurants at the train station, so I’ll try to find a good okonomiyaki place.”
“Sakae, what do you feel like eating?”
Sakae ignored them as he leaned against the window and closed his eyes. The sound of the rain became louder and louder, banging against his cheek and temple.
“So we have an invitation to deliver a special lecture.”
It was the beginning of July at the end of the rainy season when Shitara came to him with the news.
“It’s from Hiroshima Peace TV. People really got to talking about our piece on My Document, and they asked if we could speak to them about some behind-the-scenes stories about TV production and the fact and fiction of what it’s like to work in the media. The president of the network, Abiko-san, is a real nice guy. He’s worked in the news forever, and he helped me out a lot when I was transferred there.”
“Go ahead, be my guest,” Sakae interrupted to say. “Don’t worry about us.”
“No, no. The director-slash-CP would be the keynote speaker here.”
“Then turn down the invitation.”
“Did you even hear what I said?” the General Producer said amiably with a smile. “I don’t recall giving you the option to attend or not. Someone above my paygrade has already approved this request from our affiliate station. It’s already signed and sealed.”
“Then I’ll get a stand-in for me.”
Sakae looked towards the staff who were in the area, and one after the other without meeting his eyes, they scampered away as if they had conspired it beforehand.
“They probably think that you’d actually do it. But it is pretty funny if you think about it—a stand-in talking about a story about a stand-in.”
“So say that I make a concession and write something up. Then it wouldn’t matter who read it or not.”
“No, no, there’s still a question and answer session, you know.”
“I’ll prepare the answers for the questions that can be expected.”
“If you’re going to go through all that trouble, I think that it’d be easier for you to just attend.”
An unfamiliar face approached the hastily cleared corner of the room.
“Good morning,” he announced. “Hmmm? Why is it so deserted here before lunch? Is everyone out covering stories?”
He was a young man who appeared to be in his late twenties. He had his employee access card hanging from a lanyard, so apparently he wasn’t a manager from an ad agency or management office somewhere.
“Uhhh, no, there’s a bit of a reason for this. Sakae, have you met him before? Of course, you haven’t. He’s Mimasaka-kun from the Contents Division.”
“Don’t ask if you already know.”
“You’re Souma-san, right? I’m Mimasaka Motoi. It’s great to meet you. I’m on loan here on temporary assignment, and I’ve only been here since May, so it’s only natural that you’ve never heard of me.”
Motoi presented his business card with a smile and said, “I’m here about the special lecture in Hiroshima.”
“Yeah, we were just talking about that.”
“Is that why you cleared out the room?”
“Well, that’s not exactly what happened.”
Shitara mentioned that the details for the lecture would come at a later date. God, it was a huge pain in the ass.
“So there’s no way you can send a stand-in.”
“Who’s going to pay attention anyway?”
“Oh, they’ll pay attention,” Motoi interjected. “When we uploaded the special feature on My Document with English subtitles, we received a greater response from overseas than expected. Maybe it’s a little niche, but it’s important to build powerful content on our streaming channel. We’re not just simply sticking a show from the past into an archive.”
Motoi’s tone of voice was bold and confident, uncharacteristic for a newcomer. If he was here on loan for training, that probably meant that he had to be pretty accomplished at his original place of work, but Sakae knew nothing about his career history, and he thought that the guy was questionable at best.
“It’s sure a good time to be alive~” Shitara said, offering a reply with a multitude of uses (essentially one that didn’t mean anything).
“Anyway, Mimasaka-kun here will also accompany us to Hiroshima. Mimasaka, are you free tonight? It’s a Friday, and it’d be nice to grab a bite to eat and discuss some things while we’re at it. It will be pretty late though with the broadcast and all.”
“So it’s not just a meeting where we grab a bite to eat? But yeah, I would love to. Should I find a place in the area for us?”
“Could you? Thanks.”
When Motoi left, Shitara explained, “He came here on loan from GRAPE.” Sakae had expected him to come from a subsidiary company, an affiliate station, or some newspaper publisher, but the information surprised him a little. That made sense. No wonder he was placed in the Contents Division instead of assigning him to be a reporter or director.
“You’ve used their services a lot too, right, Sakae?”
“So if I butter him up, I might get a free lifetime subscription out of him?”
“Not that you’d ever do it… Well, I won’t say that it’s impossible. He’s not a regular employee; he’s the son of the CEO of their Asia operations.”
A business partnership with this U.S.-based video streaming service had started this past spring. Asahi TV already had its own streaming channel, of course, but the scale of its platform could not compare. GRAPE had launched hit after hit of original shows and movies, and for the past few years, it regularly garnered major film awards. GRAPE stood for Global Real Ageless Present Entertainment. The icon of its app was a single bunch of grapes, and the number of downloads worldwide exceeded 200 million. Although it was called a partnership in public, in reality, they were a mere drop in the bucket brought into this leviathan of a media giant.
“Maybe we’ll go bankrupt instead if we piss off the little rich boy.”
Sakae thought about it a little and felt like the guy was more like a sheepdog. With a beautiful coat of fur and a great enthusiasm for his work, he was probably very aware of his own talents. It made Sakae tired to think that he would have to deal with such a troublesome person when he already wanted nothing to do with this upcoming lecture.
“Well, I wouldn’t rule it out. But he doesn’t seem to be the spoiled brat type. Did you see the special feature on festivals that was uploaded recently?”
It was the same kind of video as the fireworks compilation that Sakae had put together a while ago. The affiliate stations had a bunch of footage of local festivals and special rites from all around the country, which was compiled together and re-edited into a single video. Sakae had heard that the videos were a big hit with the overseas audience who were interested in Japanese culture.
“It didn’t take much funding. And the fact that he was able to take footage that a local camera operator had shot for the weather person to comment on, and then he turned it around into something with worldwide interest—well, I’d say that it’s pretty impressive.”
“Are you saying that he’s the one who worked on it?”
“Well, I don’t know how much direction that he had provided, but apparently, he was the one who drew up the proposal.”
“I see,” Sakae muttered. “The video did seem a bit different to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t really point out any one thing, but… It felt like a veteran director tried to do something but got it slightly wrong somehow. Either that or an amateur who was free to do whatever he wanted because he didn’t know anything essentially… If I had to say that it caught my interest, then yeah, it did.”
“So if you had to say that it was interesting, it was, but with caveats?”
“I share the same opinion. When you consider his age, it’s probably the latter.”
Sakae felt as if the smile that Shitara gave him was loaded with meaning, so he said, “What?”
“Just that he’s pretty incredible to get such praise from SoumaP.”
“I’m not praising him. Anyway, you’re probably scheming to lure him over here because you think that he might be useful.”
“I’m pretty sure that it won’t ever happen. He’s out here on loan for at most 2 or 3 years tops. Well, enough about that, make sure you make time for tonight.”
“Then in exchange, you can deliver the lecture for me.”
“Are you still saying that?”
“I’m sure that they’d be happier to hear the General P in person give a very gracious talk.”
“The job came for you specifically.”
“I said that I’d write up a script for it.”
“That’s not the problem here.”
“I’ll pay you with my body if you do it.”
“I’ll just lose interest if you try to use that trick on me. But anyway, stop that. We’re at work here.”
“You look pretty happy about it though.”
Motoi chose a cheap chain izakaya as the place that they would head to after the broadcast. As soon as they walked in, the staff all shouted, “Welcome~!” Maybe the ventilation wasn’t able to keep up with the smoke produced from the grilling of yakitori in the kitchen, but the whole place was filled with a slightly white haze, which made the harsh lighting glow with a surreal fantasy.
“I thought that it would be easier to talk here without having to worry about people listening in on us.”
On the contrary, it was so loud that they could barely make small talk.
“It’s not like we have anything confidential to talk about.”
When the waiter brought over three beer mugs half-translucent with condensation, they raised their mugs in formality for the first sip, and Motoi started talking to Shitara.
“Today’s broadcast was great as always,” he said.
“Oh, you watched it? Thank you.”
“Of course, I do. I’ve always liked The News even before I came here for work.”
“How kind of you.”
“Oh, you must think that I’m just being polite. The special report on the staged footage was great, of course, but I also enjoyed the piece before that on the Japanese woman who was adopted as a child in the U.S. and came to Japan to find her roots. It was very touching. Even when you report on news like investment fraud targeting the elderly, all this hard content just flows into my head like a movie. Your broadcasts are extremely meaningful from an educational point of view, and I think that…”
“Okay, okay, I get it.” Shitara gave a wry smile as he interrupted Motoi’s fervent adulation. “I’m just lucky to have such excellent staff working for me. I’m proud that we put out such great work.”
“Doesn’t it start with an excellent leader at the top?”
It wasn’t just cheap flattery. Sakae could see a bold light deep in his eyes that seemed to exasperate Shitara instead.
“The only thing that I’m thinking about is how to get skilled people to work for me so that I can take it easy.”
“If you really were such a person, I think that your superiors would like you a bit more.”
“Whoa there, and out comes the knives all of a sudden.”
“My apologies. Please pardon my rudeness; the alcohol must have affected me.”
Maybe it was a joke, and he knew that Shitara wouldn’t get upset over something so trivial. Or maybe he was gauging Shitara’s response. At any rate, Motoi showed no inkling of shame.
“I heard that there was a proposal to change all the commentators on The News for new ones with the spring season but that you had flatly rejected it. May I ask you for the reason why?”
“Because there was no reason to change it,” Shitara answered simply. “Upper management only wanted it changed because they thought that making them younger would be more appealing for the under-49 audience. But it’s ridiculous to let go of the assets and presenters that we’ve built for ourselves for such a groundless motive. Besides, it’s naive to think that younger viewers will watch us just because we use younger commentators on our show. They’re underestimating the audience.”
Sakae had already heard the whole story before, but it was surprising that Shitara decided to disclose such matters so honestly to this greenhorn whom he had barely even met before and was no different from a new hire. So Shitara wasn’t going to throw up a smokescreen like he usually did?
Motoi chose the beef tongue from a plate of assorted skewers. He nodded his head as he ate as if chewing on Shitara’s words along with the meat.
“It was only when I came to a television network that I learned that the under-49 numbers are far more important than the household audience rating. That it’s much easier to secure sponsors if a show has a viewership of 10% consisting of mainly younger viewers than if it had captured 20% viewership consisting of solely older viewers… But people in the industry would never say this to the outside world. They’re still fixated on the traditional viewership ratings. Even though we’re at the stage where most households have video recorders, and the number of people who watch in real-time don’t mean as much as it does anymore.”
“If you mention the recording rate to the sponsors, then they really will disappear.”
Why? Because everyone skipped the commercials.
“True, it’s not just the staging of footage, but TV is incredibly restrictive with all of the deception and regulations behind the scenes. It’s a declining industry where hardheaded old men cling to their vested interests and throw their weight around. And that is my honest impression of the industry after working here for a couple of months. The mass media giants pretty much control the press conference events, but even so, there is still support for the full live streams that can’t be arbitrarily cut and pieced together.”
“What the hell are you trying to say?”
Sakae opened his mouth for the first time during the conversation.
“Why don’t you write up a report with your damn opinions and submit it to GRAPE? If we’re not discussing work here, then I’m going home.”
Sakae went to get up, and Motoi commented, “So you don’t deny anything that I said?”
“It’s the truth. So what? People have been saying the same thing for ages, so what is there to smirk about? I’ve heard the same opinion a hundred times over.”
“All right, shall we discuss work then?” Motoi looked at Sakae without backing down.
“Shitara-san, Souma-san, how do you feel about working for GRAPE? That is what I’ve been trying to say.”
Sakae froze half out of his seat, and Shitara pulled at his wrist and said, “Sit down.”
“The budgets are quite generous, and there are no content restrictions unlike for network TV. And of course, the compensation will not be lower than what you are making now.”
“…What the hell?”
Sakae had to laugh at the utter brazenness.
“Did you come here just to headhunt for GRAPE?”
“Of course not. But I was told that I should feel free to approach talented people if I felt that I would like to work with them. People are free to choose where they work after all.”
There was a saying that went: Rent out the attic, and they’ll take the whole house. But in this particular case, they were ones renting the attic themselves. So then what?
“Do we really appear that dissatisfied with TV in your eyes?” Shitara asked.
“No. It is my own wishful thinking. I just want to see what kind of work that you would do for a much larger market. You may give me an answer at any time, and I have no problems if you choose to disclose this offer to others.”
Apparently he was confident that if news were to get out about his headhunting activities that it wouldn’t ruin his reputation.
“Anyway,” Motoi said with a smile as he changed the subject. “Let’s talk about the lecture that’s coming up. The organizers would like to hold it around the September time frame…”
From that point on, there was no unnecessary chatter as they completed their business discussions and parted ways to go home. What, so this was his strategy? After throwing them a fastball from the moment they met, now he opted for the wait-and-see approach?
When the sweat on his skin subsided, it started to rain as if it was meant to take its place instead. The sound of the downpour did not interfere with the midnight silence, but it wasn’t like Sakae noticed it anyway immersed in the middle of sex.
“I didn’t think that we’d be the target of someone’s fishing line,” Shitara commented.
“Did you know about it?”
“No, it surprised me too. But well, I do hear about it happening a lot in the industry lately. The Internet has been poaching away directors in the prime of their careers—ones who have made a name for themselves. I’m sure that they’re not lying when they say that the conditions are good. Documentaries about social issues are relegated to either the dead of night or Sunday afternoons, but with streaming services, you don’t have to deal with that at all.”
The lamp at the bedside dyed the corner of the room a dull orange. Sakae wanted to get up and take a shower, but he was too lazy to move even the tips of his fingers.
“What will you do?” Shitara asked.
“You mean if I’ll accept the offer? Don’t ask me something you already know the answer to. Even when I first joined the network, it was already clear then that the industry was shrinking. I’m not going to fall for that nonsense now.”
It wasn’t like Sakae chose this company for the future prospects or stability. He felt no loyalty for the place either, but it sickened him to be treated like a damn farm by some rich kid.
“The term ‘IT revolution’ was still alive and kicking when I first joined the network. People kept saying, ‘It’s going to be the age of the Internet,’ without knowing what it even meant. It was only 20 years ago, but it’s pretty much ancient history now.”
A question suddenly popped into Sakae’s head.
“What made you go into TV anyway?”
“There’s no real reason really,” Shitara answered, letting his fingertips play on Sakae’s back as he lay face down on the bed.
“I compared the terms and conditions and made my decision. That was all. It wasn’t like I had any special passion or aspirations for it… But well, I guess it’s nice that the days are never boring in this job. What about you, Sakae?”
“Pretty much the same as you— And it’s fine, I guess.”
“Plus I got to meet you too.”
“Don’t assume that it’s the same for me.”
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.