While some consider the work of Takashi Yamazaki as being the voice of Japan’s conservative right wing politicians, no one can deny the quality and innovation of his films. He has introduced spectacular special effects in most of his projects – from Returner (starring Takeshi Kaneshiro) to the more recent The Eternal Zero (which won Best Picture at the Japan Academy and also stars Junichi Okada) and Parasyte (Part 1 and 2, with Shota Sometani).
There’s a new project at hand – and Yamazaki cast some of Japan’s biggest names, including Junichi Okada, Haruka Ayase, Kaoru Kobayashi and Shota Sometani.
A Man Called Pirate (Japanese: kaizoku to yobareta otoko) is a best-selling Japanese historical novel by Naoki Hyakuta. As of January 2014, it had sold over 1,700,000 copies. In April 2013, it won the Japan Booksellers Award.
It is loosely based on the story of Sazō Idemitsu, the founder of Idemitsu Kosan, a Japanese oil company. The story begins on August 15, 1945, the day Japan loses World War II. Set in 1945-47, the protagonist, Tetsuzo Kunioka, is an owner of a company that sells oil. Most of his company is either missing, in the army, or otherwise not available. The fate of the company’s network of overseas offices is also unknown. Not fazed by the defeat of Japan, he is determined that Japan will rise again, and is driven to create a large oil company.
The book has patriotic themes that would more commonly be associated with the Japanese right-wing but has been popular with the mass market.
Okada will be playing Idemitsu while Ayase is playing his wife.
As a backgrounder, both Okada and Hayase took the leads in NHK’s Taiga dramas (those epic, historical telling of Japan’s biggest names who made the country as it is now).
Ayase’s “Yae no Sakura,” where she plays the role of Yae, a big proponent of gender equality, was followed by Okada’s “Gunshi Kanbee,” where the actor played the role of Kanbee Kuroda, a strategist who gave advice to Japan’s influential leader – Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi is a preeminent daimyo, warrior, general, samurai, and politician of the Sengoku period who is acknowledged as Japan’s second “great unifier”.
Tha Asahi Shimbun reported about the novel’s win last 2013:
Naoki Hyakuta’s novel “Kaizoku to Yobareta Otoko” (The man who was called a pirate) won this year’s Honya Taisho (grand bookstore prize). Hyakuta stressed that he wanted to write about “an amazing Japanese person who fixed a country that was turned into a field of fire by war.”
“When I wrote it, I felt I had a mission to tell people about this,” he said. “I want to encourage our downcast country of Japan.”
Although Hyakuta said he does not particularly feel “Kaizoku to Yobareta Otoko” is about nationalism, it urges readers “not to lose the pride of the Japanese.”
That message is similar to the sentiments of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who described the book as “interesting.” [ source ]
As mentioned, Okada and Sometani performed in previous Yamazaki films, where both played central roles in The Eternal Zero. I still wonder what sort of role Sometani will play, but looking forward to Okada’s performance. I was not impressed with the Library Wars series, but Okada appeals to me when he plays historical characters. He seemed more authentic and inspired doing that sort of roles.
As an end note, I’m quoting Yamazaki when he was asked what sort of themes he loves to use on his projects:
… people come ‘into their own’ during times of flux. There’s something very interesting and satisfying about watching this, so I guess that’s why I am interested in it. Naturally, it’s interesting to watch how people will respond or behave given different situations, so that could be why I’m interested in it… And that is probably the reason why it has become a kind of theme for me. It is possible for everyone to change. The main character always grows up and changes in a positive way. This is an important thing to portray, and I feel because it relates to everyone who watches the film: “We can change and change for the better.” That’s an idea that I want to spread. [ source ]
– – –