Celebrated Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike arrived in San Francisco recently for a screening of “Blade of the Immortal”, his 100th title as director, based on the manga of the same name by Hiroaki Samura. Here’s an excerpt from a longer chat we got to have with him...
Crunchyroll News: I’ve heard that the film Blade of the Immortal is your 100th movie as a director. Do you have any special feeling for this film?
Takashi Miike: No, I was not aware of that when I was making it. When I sent the film to Cannes, either the festival director or someone really into movies counted my films and realized that this was my 100th movie. Also, the film starts with killing100 people with a sword… but it was all a coincidence. That incident came from the original manga.
Blade of the Immortal is based on a manga, and you’ve also made Yatterman (based on an anime) and Like a Dragon (based on SEGA’s Yakuza video games). Is making these kinds of adaptations different from making your own original works?
Hmm… I guess it depends on the individual. But for my generation (Miike was born in 1960, so he’s 57 years old – ed.), manga represents a lot of dreams. After WWII, each family bought a small television for their home. There were also many movie theatres. However, manga was the best entertainment that children could afford with their pocket money.
People in my generation have a lot of respect for manga artists. No matter which house I went to, including classmates’ houses, there was always a book called “How to Become a Manga Artist” (laughs). So becoming a manga artist was my childhood dream, and I have special feelings about manga.
In Japan now, there are many movies are made based on manga. The producers are from our generation, and you can feel the love and unique emotions that are different from other countries’ culture. Compared to novels, manga feels closer and more intimate.
It’s also very easy to make a film from manga. However, in terms of expression, manga is often looked down upon by some parts of society. But that’s also what makes manga good.
Although manga has its own unique way of expression, the level of sophistication is not much different from that of Shakespeare.
For us who grew up with manga, that’s what I feel. When I make films based on manga, I notice details that I was not aware of when I was reading the manga. So it is important that I do not disappoint or sadden the manga artist when he/she sees the film that I made. That’s the only thing I need to ensure, and the rest is actually quite easy.
Once I meet and talk to the artist, I know his/her personality, and when I read his/her manga, I know what is important for him/her. However sometimes what the manga artists think is important can only be expressed in manga. When I try to show that in movies, the investors are not happy. It is important that the manga artist feels “This is interesting. This film is definitely based on my manga”.
It is good that we have clear idea who will be the target audiences when making a film out of manga. When making my own movies, all I need to do is to find answers within myself, but also, I need to think “will the audiences like this film?” Although this is very important as a result, whether the audiences like the movie or not will be revealed after the movie is made. I do not want to compromise when making a movie. Maybe out of several films that I’ve made, audiences will like one of them, but that’s not my purpose. However this kind of mindset is very dangerous for investors (laughs).
Megastar Takuya Kimura (from the group SMAP) played the main character Manji in Blade of the Immortal. How was he as an actor?
He is really special. He is a really super idol. I believe it was his fate to play the role of the main character Manji. They are very similar. They both have gifts that other people cannot have, such as the power of immortality…
Takuya Kimura has been a major idol for the last 25 years, and it is a dream for a young people. The common ground for them is loneliness. For example, Kimura cannot go outside to shop. Of course, he cannot even go to convenience stores either. He has been living life like this for a long time now. But one thing that is very special and different about him is that, among other SMAP members, he is the only one who has family. His encounter with his wife must have been very significant. He also has two kids and he is sending them to study abroad. He is a father. But he doesn’t show that at all. His family saved him from loneliness. I feel he is very close to Manji.
For me, Manji is immortal, and he lives on even after this movie. He survived World War II, and even now he is living in somewhere in Japan. I don’t know which part of the Japan, though. He must have gone through plastic surgery to change his face (laughs). When I think “what is Manji doing now?” I think of Kimura. He healed his wounds, and playing the role of a super idol as if nothing had happened (laughs).
In addition to the coincidence that this is your 100th movie, and the fact that Kimura played the role of Manji, many coincidences seem to have made this film a reality.
Yes. But I don’t think that’s why I must be very careful or worried about failing. Although I am doing my best, this film has many imperfections, too. Perfect entertainment is not possible for movies. In the end, I just want audiences to like the movie, including its imperfections. Otherwise, my job just becomes about eliminating imperfections. When that happens, filmmaking itself becomes boring. So it is okay for the imperfections to stay imperfect.
Patrick Macias is the Original Story author of the URAHARA anime, now streaming on Crunchyroll.