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The Japanese public broadcaster NHK announced on Monday that it will premiere the Purekiso Eigo (Early Basic English) program on April 2, and Oscar-nominated animator Koji Yamamura ("Mt. Head," "Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor") revealed that he is serving as the program's art director. Every month, Yamamura is producing an animated short that adapts an English-language story by American poet Arthur Binard. Yamamura is also producing the visuals for the main character of the program.
NHK's educational channel is aiming the 10-minute Purekiso Eigo episodes at elementary schoolchildren, particularly fifth and sixth graders; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will begin mandating English classes for all fifth and sixth graders this year. The program is part of NHK's larger, three-year-long "Eigo Grand Design Project" for overhauling its English learning programs.
Besides Yamamura's animated segments, the program will also have video profiles of people from countries around the world, as well as lessons on English terms for colors, shapes, numbers, time, and other concepts. The program will run at 6:50 p.m. every Saturday, and then repeat on Tuesdays at 10:05 a.m. and on Thursdays at 9:15 a.m.
Yamamura received an Academy Award nod in 2003 for his short "Mt. Head," although he did not win. He remains the only Japanese animator besides Hayao Miyazaki and Kunio Katō to be nominated for an Oscar.