Interview with ‘Boys for Sale’ Executive Producer Ian Thomas Ash & Producer/DOP Adrian “Uchujin” Storey

Currently screening at film festivals around the world, the documentary film Boys for Sale, is showcasing audiences with a unique view of the Tokyo underworld. Located at Shinjuku 2-chome, young men called urisens offer themselves for sex. 

For me, this is the first time that I’ve seen a documentary that delves deeply and comprehensively into a subject that may be considered ‘taboo’ among some Asian viewers. In retrospect, it was the South Korean filmmaker Lee Song Hee-Il – 이송희일 who made his gay trilogy starting with No Regret, about a young man who works at a gay bar. But even before that, it was Japanese filmmaker Hashiguchi Ryosuke – 橋口亮輔 who offered us his gay coming of age movie A Touch of Fever back in 1993. But both films are based on fictional characters.

 

Thus Ian Thomas Ash and Adrian “Uchujin” Storey come into the picture, as Executive Producer and Producer/Director of Photography of this documentary film.

In this interview we ask both about the filmmaking process, and why the boys at Shinjuku 2-chome need to be heard.

Continue reading “Interview with ‘Boys for Sale’ Executive Producer Ian Thomas Ash & Producer/DOP Adrian “Uchujin” Storey”

Interview with Mark Schilling

Mark Schilling is an American journalist and author. He is also a film critic at the Japan Times and Japan correspondent for Variety. I’ve been reading his film reviews for many years. As some of you may be aware, it takes months before anyone outside Japan can watch any of the country’s films. Seeing a 4 out of 5 stars rating for a movie I’m excited about could be a torture but it gives me a certain satisfaction that the waiting is – indeed – worth it. 

Udine FEFF 2017: Mark Schilling with Ogigami Naoko (left) and Sophia Wong Boccio (right), director of the Asian Pop-up Cinema festival in Chicago. 

The PsychoDrama community is excited to be given this opportunity to interview Mr. Schilling! 

“The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture” is celebrating its 20th this year. Two other books you’ve authored and released – “Contemporary Japanese Film” and “The Yakuza Movie Book” – are now over 14 years old while “No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema” was released in 2007. What would you consider the best memories writing them? Will there be a new book in the future?

“Contemporary Japanese Film” came out in 1999. Also, I’ve published several books with the Udine festival organization, the latest being “Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures and Fantasies in Japanese Cinema,” which appeared last year in conjunction with our SF/fantasy retro of the same title. Unfortunately, they’re hard to find, though Italian book sites carry them. 

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Is Yamazaki Kento trying to claim the title of Prince of Romance?

About two or three years ago, when he’d done a few dramas, and a few lesser-known movies, Yamazaki Kento was mainly known to me as a kid with potential. Someone who might surprise us one day, and had made a few interesting choices in his – at the time – fairly short career. Fast-forward a few months and he’s latched onto a trail that’ll bring him past many different romance adaptations for the next coming year, with only a few sneaking from under his gaze.

Earlier this year there was the Death Note drama. “What about Kamiki and Kanata as Light and L?” I wondered, though we knew it was too good to ever happen. “Then what about Kento?” It was a ridiculous notion and I felt like I was reaching, but it sounded interesting in my head anyway. It would get him out of the romance pit he was seemingly walking straight into and it would show people he had a different side to him than just being the pretty emo lead boy. Well, the people who either don’t know his earlier work – he was typecast as a weird eccentric genius at some point – or can’t be bothered checking it. Either way, while I was busy imagining a Kento in the drama, the guy ended up being cast in it. “How the hell did that happen?” Up till today I’m still wondering whether someone at Stardust just felt like messing around and switched Kanata and Kento’s contracts back then. I mean, Chanpon Tabetaka wasn’t exactly Kanata material and it had one of Kento’s best friends for a lead, Suda Masaki. At the same time Kanata’s partly a real life L who wouldn’t have had all too much trouble playing him. So… Stardust… What happened there? Who lost which bet?

All in all, I can’t say it hasn’t been a fun run, but the biggest part started when he was cast in Heroine Shikkaku. Now, I haven’t ever really been a big romance animanga fan, but I somehow rolled into a few things thanks to friends and voice actors with nice voices and ended up with a “Why not?” stance. When Kento was cast as Rita in Heroine Shikkaku, I didn’t immediately ask any questions. “He looks the part” “Rita seems very Kento” and upon reading the actual manga – and I admit, nearly throwing it through the window for its whiny lead – I learned that he was a pretty good fit. A few months later there was Orange. Another series which had been on my to-read list yet hadn’t ever gotten myself to start. Again he’d fit the main boy pretty well. At least as far as I could tell.

As time went on and more rumors popped up, there was one that interested me a lot. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso or Your Lie in April. The anime to an already finished manga aired in Fall 2014 as a two cours show. It was done well and with great detail. The voices, the characters, the character growth… it was all done nicely. While I wouldn’t exactly call it a romance series simply because the story doesn’t revolve around it, there’d be enough people trying to convince me otherwise. So to go along with it, I went: “What about Kento?” I’d meant it rather jokingly, adding to the fact one of my close friends loves both the actor and the series. “NO…” was all I got in return. And, I guess, that was till the casting itself came out and Arima Kousei was indeed to be played by Kento. “IT’S F*CKING KENTO.” With the casting of Shigatsu it was clear Kento’s little sidetracking to the Death Note drama hadn’t changed anything at all. It even kind of feels like everyone’s already forgetting it ever happened, and easily moved on to wonder what the next thing he’d grab a hold of would be.

Just barely a few weeks later when it was revealed yet another project would be getting an adaptation, I didn’t even dare to say a word anymore. “It’ll be him, won’t it? Yeah, it will be.” Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji (Wolf Girl & Black Prince) is a series I actually watched as it aired. While I’d initially just been pulled in because main boy Sata Kyouya is a brat with a nice voice – my favorite kind of shoujo boy – I got kind of attached after a while. Not necessarily to the story itself – again, the main girl’s pretty annoying – but because of the fact the mangaka kept Kyouya’s personality as it was without having him change for the sake of plot, even if changing him seemed to be main girl Erika’s objective at the start. But then again, which shoujo series with a “bad boy” for a love interest doesn’t take this route at least at some point?

Now, with the manga still ongoing I’m a little lost on what they’re going to adapt exactly. And at the same time also a little scared. Scared of the writer changing what makes him Sata Kyouya for the sake of being able to push everything into the movie. But also scared because of Kento. Don’t get me wrong though, I do like the guy. I think he does well enough with most of his roles and he definitely has the space to grow as an actor. But he is no Sata Kyouya. My only positive point about the casting might be that he’s going to act opposite Nikaido Fumi, an actress who doesn’t just take on any role. Maybe that’s enough to have a little hope that it won’t be ruined.

Jinx!!! (2013) – Nomura Yusuke
L-DK (2014) – Kugayama Shuusei
Heroine Shikkaku/No Longer Heroine (2015) – Terasaka Rita
Orange (2015) – Kakeru Naruse
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso/Your Lie in April (2016) – Arima Kousei
Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji/Wolf Girl & Black Prince (2016) – Sata Kyouya

By now I’m just wondering whether he got a 10 for 1 deal somewhere. I’ve thought of making a list of shoujo lead boys he’d fit and sending it to Stardust to make it easier on them – Would that be enough to get me a job? Also Kento, about that Isshuukan Friends adaptation, or any other upcoming shoujo adaptation, let me give you some advice: Don’t do it. Besides, I can hear Fukushi and the lot asking their jobs back. (Though this last remark can even already be completely overthrown as rumors have been spreading that Yamazaki Kento is indeed cast for the adaptation. Only time will tell for sure.)

But you know what annoys me the most about Kento’s career choices? Not that he’s been playing the broody and/or bratty semi-lead boy these past years – no, I actually quite like that. Not that he’s been going on a never-ending romance trip – hey, we all have our things. No, it’s just simply that the one romance adaptation role he should have gotten, was never his. “Oh, Kento would be a nice Kou.” Kento is pretty much exactly Ao Haru Ride’s Mabuchi Kou, and I’ll never get over the fact it went to Higashide Masahiro instead. Please tell me he was at least considered.

ONE OK ROCK: The Beginnings – [Part 1 of 5 Parts]

From the moment I listened to the soundtrack for The Eternal Zero featuring One OK Rock’s ‘Fight the Night.” I know I heard something special, even profound. You can feel the energy of the song, the sincerity, the heart – it brought tears to my eyes. What more if it’s a concert?

… and then I go back to the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy and listen to another of their tracks, ‘The Beginning.’ The most amazing thing about the band is not their originality since their music is influenced by artists who were ahead of them, but the energy and the efforts that go into every music video, every concert performance, every interview. There is a particular One OK Rock signature in everything they do. 

It’s hard to quantify – like perfume, the uniqueness, and allure of the scent is fleeting, you know what you’ve smelled, and you’ll know when you’ll smell it again. In the case of One OK Rock, their influence is not fleeting but long-lasting. You can hum to their tunes, do your best Taka imitation, smile with amusement at the way he replaces the r with the l, as some Japanese tend to do, but it makes their song ‘Wherever You Are’ more personal. You began to feel you have some proprietary rights to it, and that you’ll defend it to any basher if there are any.

James Stafford @WhyItMatters says it perfectly:

These guys were simply exciting to watch — tremendous energy and stage presence, and they play well, too. Here’s hoping that One OK Rock gets the kind of exposure that some other Japanese bands have enjoyed recently. They deserve it. [ source

 

Which brings me to the newest collaboration here at PD. I requested a friend of the community to help me discover more about One OK Rock. Ysa told me about the events that led to the band’s January 2016 concert in the Philippines and how fans were instrumental in making it possible. 

Continue reading “ONE OK ROCK: The Beginnings – [Part 1 of 5 Parts]”

Psycho Drama [Talkback] Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name (君の名は) Kimi no Na wa

The familiar and soothing voice of Ryunosuke Kamiki complemented by the equally soothing, yet quasi ‘hardcore, melodic’ soundtrack by Radwimps are just two of the reasons why Makoto Shinkai’s latest anime  Kimi no Na wa resonates to a broad spectrum of anime fans.

While body switching and time travel (or continuum if you like) are familiar themes in animation, how they highlight the development of the characters and the progress of the story make  ‘Kimi no Na wa’ a standout. What you get out of watching the film that runs for 107 minutes is that – it’s not predictable nor pedestrian but heartwarming without being too sentimental.  Continue reading “Psycho Drama [Talkback] Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name (君の名は) Kimi no Na wa”

Anime Through the Years: From Neon Genesis Evangelion to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind to Terror in Resonance, Durarara!! & Charlotte! [Part 1 of 4 Parts]

I belong to a generation who watches Japanese animation after school. I came from a country that was once described by Claire Danes as “filled with rats and cockroaches” and she was not entirely wrong. But despite the third-world ambiance, we Filipinos thrive for something better. Perhaps, anime has something to do with our resiliency? Our ability to laugh despite the hardship? Or no, maybe yes, maybe not.

Animation is part of my life, even now, when I’m already doing financial analysis – scaling profitability and liquidity ratios, testing break-even points and negotiating with a software company for payment terms. Back in those days, I have to run from school to catch the latest Ghost Fighter (Yu Yu Hakusho) episode or ask my dad to lend me his favorite Voltes V (and Daimos) videos. It seems so simple enough to understand what these anime are about – the fight between good and evil, of aliens sweet and nasty, or how to fall in love and do time travel.

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Today, there are dozens of anime released every season; it’s hard to honestly find gems that you can identify with, enjoy immensely and treasure forever – the kind of anime that you would watch once again after a couple of months or even years.

I’m sure there are some of you who can relate to what I’m saying, and perhaps some others who are amused for my seemingly naive outlook on anime. I guess I belong to a sentimental generation that still values something like “favorites anime of all time” or things like that.

Continue reading “Anime Through the Years: From Neon Genesis Evangelion to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind to Terror in Resonance, Durarara!! & Charlotte! [Part 1 of 4 Parts]”

Fresh new faces: A list of Japanese young actresses worth watching for! [Part 1 of 3 Parts]

How do you categorize a fresh new face? Well, it’s hard to do that since some talents may have done movies or drama already in their young acting career but failed to be “on the radar” so to speak. These “under the radar” talents may only apply to us – those outside Japan since the locals would probably know them already (the term household name applies). Be that as it may, we’re selecting a few names that appeared in the Hustle Press features of fresh, young Japanese talents. In time, we’ll be seeing them getting major roles and it maybe sooner than later. 

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Karen Otomo (大友花恋) – with bit parts in Koinaka and Omukae Death, and less than five movies to her credit, Otomo takes the lead in the youth-sports-drama Kakashi to Racket with Yuna Taira. She’s also an exclusive Seventeen model, according to her agency, Ken-On.

Continue reading “Fresh new faces: A list of Japanese young actresses worth watching for! [Part 1 of 3 Parts]”

Interview with Don Brown

I have been reading Don Brown’s column at the Asahi Shimbun for as long as I can remember. His articles on Japanese cinema are not only insightful but filled with unique and amazing information you cannot find elsewhere. While he provides English translations to a lot of Japanese films, his insights into the production process itself, the filmmakers and actors offer more than a glimpse into the Japanese movie scene.

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Don Brown interpreting for Hara Keiichi at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in 2015, for the film Miss Hokusai. Photo courtesy of Mr. Brown

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A lot has transpired in the past few years  – the domination of manga/anime into live action adaptations, the influence of the powerful production committees on what sort of movies will be released and the casting (in cooperation with the equally influential talent management agencies, which are also part of such committees).

In this interview, PsychoDrama asks Mr. Brown on the process of providing quality English subtitles and his opinions and views about the ins and outs of the Japanese entertainment scene…

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The Transformation of Yuya Yagira

It’s a delight to know that award-winning Japanese actor Yagira Yuya – 柳楽優弥 has a twitter account! Suffice to say, we @PsychoDrama are inspired to launch a special feature on the actor celebrating his most amazing films! Born 26 March 1990, Yagira has done more than 30 full length-films and TV series. During the 90th Kinema Junpo Film Awards, Yagira won Best Actor for Mariko Tetsuya’s Destruction Babies.

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Yuya Yagira photo courtesy of the actor from his Twitter account

In what can be considered Yuya Yagira’s most challenging role to date (after Nobody Knows and Gassoh), his depiction of Taira is devoid of any human emotions. Except for a few grunts and sighs as he recovers from one bloody fight on his way to the next, he remains cool and collected despite the beatings. Unlike other actors who get overwhelmed by the confusion and chaos in filming violent, demanding scenes, Yagira looks inspired, almost serene and otherworldly. [read our movie review here]

Let’s take a closer look at how he got started as an actor…

After winning the Best Actor for Nobody Knows at the 57th Cannes Film Festival at the age of 15, Yuya Yagira initially struggled with fame and the glare of the spotlight, plus the nasty attitude of the press who constantly hunted him down for gossip and news. After finishing All to the Sea (Subete wa umi ni naru) back in 2010, he took a sort of hiatus and came back to making movies three years later.

Continue reading “The Transformation of Yuya Yagira”

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