Controversial Japan TV drama about kids in orphanage to go on without sponsors

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese drama about children living in an orphanage that has been attacked for stereotyping will be broadcast as intended, a TV station said on Wednesday, despite being abandoned by all of its sponsors.

Rights groups have complained that Ashita Mama Ga Inai (Mamma won't be here tomorrow) depicts youngsters as if they were "animals in a pet shop" and say it could reinforce negative views of children living in care.

The programme shows young people "being controlled and coerced by violence and fear", said an association representing workers in children's homes.

"We are concerned that (the drama) will reinforce stereotypes and discrimination against children's homes," they said in a statement.

The furore erupted after the Jan 15 broadcast of the pilot, which showed children in the fictional "House of Small Ducks" being punished for bad behaviour by being forced to hold buckets full of water.

The show details characters' quests to find a foster home, missions that end in failure with the child returning to the bosom of friendship among fellow orphans.

It has also attracted criticism because one of its characters, played by child actor Mana Ashida, who appeared in the 2013 American sci-fi film Pacific Rim, is called "Post".

The name is apparently inspired by the Japanese word for "baby hatch" (akachan posuto), a place where parents can anonymously leave unwanted infants in the care of a hospital.

The public outcry over the programme has led to all eight corporate sponsors, including Fuji Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Estate, withdrawing their commercials from the prime-time offering, the Asahi Shimbun and other media have reported.

Undaunted, broadcaster NTV told AFP that the show would be aired as intended at 10pm on Wednesday.

Vehement audience reaction is relatively unusual in Japan, where often-formulaic dramas tend to shy away from controversial topics.

A typical series sees a cast of stock characters move artlessly through tried-and-tested plots revolving around romance or criminal investigations.

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