by Terry O’Brien
Sometimes, I feel like a strangeness magnet. Not a weirdness magnet, because weird things don’t happen to me, but there have been several strange coincidences that have happened in my life, and one of them is relevant.
I went to Japan back in August, 2007. The World Science Fiction Convention was held in Yokohama that year, and being a true SF fan and Japan fan, I finally decided to attend, and spend several days surrounding the convention in Tokyo and on tour through other parts of the country. And it was during this trip that not one but two strange coincidences occurred.
The first strange coincidence was at the convention that I ran into my old friend Erick Wujcik. Erick was a very highly regarded game designer, whose best publication is a revolutionary diceless roleplaying system based on the Amber novels of Roger Zelazny. I hadn’t seem him for several years, as he had been teaching in China, and I wasn’t expecting him at the convention, but our paths crossed one morning as we passed on our separate ways to breakfast. We managed to chat a moment and promise to meet later, but that really didn’t happen. Regrettably but also fortunately, that was my last chance to see him as he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few months later and died the following April.
But, even though that encounter was a strange coincidence, the strangeness I’m thinking about was even stranger.
That strange coincidence was when I was watching Japanese TV in my cramped hotel room in Tokyo. I was bored, lacking Internet access in my room, so I was channel surfing. I found a lot of baseball games, a couple American and British imports (like the Turtles or early Doctor Who in Japanese), strange gameshows and some kid’s anime. But one show caught my eye and I’m glad I paused to get a closer look.
The scene I was seeing was of a man, imprisoned in a jail cell, chained to a chair, with an opaque mask over his eyes. My first question to myself was “why is he wearing a mask?” The first answer that jumped into my mind was, of course, that somehow he could hypnotize people by meeting their gaze. While I was pondering this question, the scene shifted to who were apparently the stars of the program, a group of teenagers ranging from early to late teens. It was unclear how or why they were together, but it seemed like they were some kind of investigators, nor could I tell what role the two adults (one an older man in a wheelchair and the other reminded me of a stereotypical detective, complete with a fedora, which he would run his hand across in a very expressive gesture) played. However, knowing more than a little about common elements of television drama, I could tell this the first episode of an ongoing series.
There was also the strange woman in a white summer dress and parasol who had some undefined connection with the villain and the heroes. She had the amazing power of “Summon Limousine” that would cause a black limo to suddenly appear whenever anyone got too close to her, cutting them off and sweeping her away.
Curious, and lacking anything better to do, I continued to watch. Several minutes later, my patience was rewarded. I know only a few words of Japanese, but there is one I know very well, and when the teenagers were visiting the cell of the prisoner, I heard it: “saimin”. While “saimin” in Japanese can mean a type of raman noodle dish, it also has another meaning: “hypnotism”. Given the context, my suspicion was correct, the prisoner was a powerful hypnotist. And, of course, as the villain of the piece, he would have to escape, which he did by tricking the guard into removing his mask. Under the villain’s control, the guard rampaged inside the prison, while the hypnotist was in a coma and being driven away in an ambulance. However, as the guard was incapacitated, the villain, who was apparently controlling the guard remotely, suddenly opened his eyes and entranced the nurse attending him by eye contract. He then took control of the ambulance and drove away, just as the heroes realized what he was doing, watching him drive away.
And that’s all I know about the show. I don’t know a title, or how long it ran, or anything else, and lacking any further information or any resource to search, it remains just another strange coincidence and a great mystery.