Takeru Satoh-san made his debut in 2006 at the age of 17 and played his first lead role in Kamer Rider Den-O (TV Asahi series). Since then, he has starred in topical works such as “Q10” written by Izumi Kisara-san and “Tennou no Ryouriban”, a special project for the 60th anniversary of TBS TV, in the 9” frame of NTV. In the movie “Bakuman”, “Ajin”, in which a fierce battle unfolded Tsuyoshi Ayano and the immortal and “8 Toshikoshi no Hanayome Kiseki no Jitsuwa”, etc. in recent years, he has continued to produce results in supporting works such as the NHL serial TV novel, “Hanbun Aoi”. Last year, he captivated a wide range of women with the role of S doctor Tendo in the January TBS drama “Koi wa Tsuzukyo Dokodemo”. Live calls, use of the app “SUGAR”, launch of YouTube, and the University of Tokyo. In co-starring with the intellectual media Quiz Knock, he showed his “mystery-loving” face and surprised the world.
The first starring movie, which can be said to be one of Satoh-san’s origins, is “Rurouni Kenshin”, which is an adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki-san’s shounen manga. Audiences will be overwhelmed by unprecedented cinematic experiences, such as chanbara action, images with a sense of scale, and emotionally moving human dramas, unique to director Keishi Otomo-san of NHK Taiga drama “Ryomaden” (2010). It was a bit hit with box office revenue of 3.01 billion yen and was released in 86 countries and 2 regions around the world. In 2014, two sequels, “Kyoto Inferno” and “The Legend Ends” were released in a row. Each of them achieved box-office revenue that greatly exceeded the first, making the series a mega-hit with a cumulative total of over 12,5 billion yen. This “Rurouni Kenshin” series is completed with a new two-part work.
“Rurouni Kenshin Final Chapter The Final” will be released on April 23rd, and “The Beginning” will be released on June 4th. In theme 1, we will hear from Satoh-san’s representative work, which will be completed after 10 years. First, even though the release was postponed for one year due to the corona wreck, Satoh-san started talking about why it was the “Final chapter” after seven years had passed since the release of the previous work. Satoh: The final chapter I participated in from the script making since the last time I was doing it, I was talking about “Someday we have to do this episode”, and “I can’t finish my life without drawing this episode.” There was also a sense of mission. But the previous work was hard, so everyone is already burnt out (laughs). That’s why I can’t quite get used to the feeling of “Let’s do it next time.” Even if time passes and I meet with the director, I’m always asked, “When are you going to do “Rurou”? or something like that. He turned a blind eye to the extent that he didn’t say anything like that. It’s a case that I was afraid to touch. After such a period, the offer came, so I thought. “Ah, it’s finally here.”
Um… I wonder what it is. A letter of accomplishment has arrived, right? (smiles). Satoh: The director, myself included, was like, “I have to do it at last,” so I slowly started the engine. Since I decided to do it, I needed to create something that I could be satisfied with, so I started talking about it. “Well, what should we do?” We had many meetings with the script before it became a final draft, and the same goes for the casting. It was the final chapter that took the most time and effort to prepare. In the end of the Edo period, Kenshin was feared as “Hitokiri Battousai.”
Himura Kenshin (Satoh) made a non-killing oath in the Meiji era and fought against the various enemies to protect Japan with a sword that cannot cut, a reverse blade sword. Kenshin leads a peaceful life with Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei) and Sanosuke Sagara (Munetaka Aoi), but suddenly Tokyo is attacked, and important people are attacked one after another. And what happened in front of Kenshin was the head of the Chinese Mafia, Yukishiro Enishi (Arata Mackenyuu). He was the “most feared enemy” who knew the mystery of the cross scar carved into Kenshin’s cheek… “The Final” is an action blockbuster depicting Kenshin’s battle with Eni, who tries to steal everything from the new era, based on the original “Jinchu-hen.” “The Beginning”, which will be released after that, will be a movie adaptation of the original “Reminiscence”, and will be a quiet drama work that is different from the previous works, depicting Kenshin in the era of killing people.
Satoh: For Part 1, I received the script and said, “I’m going to do this,” and I basically poured everything into action practise. But this time, let’s dig deeper. This will probably be the last time I play Kenshin, so in order not to have any regrets, I had a lot of scenes and ideas that I wanted to do. What I specifically said was “How would Kenshin move?” and “How would he speak?” It’s the same with “Final” and “Beginning”. Also, regarding “Beginning”, we talked about things like “I definitely want to do an episode about “Ikedaya” and “I want to fight Souji Okita properly one-on-one.” As for “Final”, it’s basically about how Kenshin will deal with the human being called “Kenshin.” Of course, there is a original, but a person called Kenshin, who is different from the original, lives in me. We talked about things like what they would take and what words they would use.
Are you satisfied with the script? Satoh: Hmmm… as always with the Otomo group, we make things on the spot. So, when the script is done, it’s not like, “Okay, let’s go with this!” Especially the action can’t be expressed in the script, so it’s like that every time. That’s why I was thinking about the lines until the day of shooting, such as the battle scene with the edge.
The director of the “Rurouni Kenshin” series worked on the aforementioned “Ryoumaden” and the drama “Vulture” (1970) during his time at NHK, and Keishi Otomo-san, who directed the first and second parts of “March comes in like a lion” and Kageura (20 years), etc. The action director is Kenji Tanigaki, who moved to Hong Kong in his twenties and has been active internationally.
Satoh: This role was also basically an action. I can’t do anything if my body doesn’t move, so I prepare and start action practise. I don’t do other roles. As for action, I’ve already made three movies, so I’m sure it would be boring (for the audience) to do the same thing. We felt like we did it last time, so this time it’s more condensed, or less wasteful… I’m frustrated that I can’t come up with a good analogy, but in terms of music, it’s just a big chorus (smile). Until now, if there was one action scene, there would be a normal fight, and I would put in a little big move, and I would make it like that, and I would make it like that, but I would make it a series of climaxes and pack only amazing things. That doesn’t mean I only do wire (action). Even in normal fighting, this is going to be cool. It’s like, let put is in because it’s ugly. I told the action department many times, “Please do this a little more”, or “It’s okay to cut this part,” and we created the action while consulting with them. That’s why I’m satisfied with it, and even if I look at it objectively, I think that the action of “Final” is the best among the past works, and it’s worth seeing.
The hardest parts were the 7 months from January 4th, 2018 to June 7th, 2018 for the “one-too-many” shooting. Although the two films will be filmed at the same time, it is a rare long-term filming for a Japanese film. In the meantime, he travelled around 12 prefectures, including Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, and Kumamoto, and moved to more than 4 locations. There are over 6 000 extras in total, and the total production cost has been announced as an unprecedented 5 billion yen.
Satoh: We shot “Final”, then “Beginning”, and finally we shot “Final” and that was the order of things. There are some things that have continued, and my feeling for the set have grown deeper. Director Otomo, who I met for the first time in a while, really puts my full trust in him. I trust the staff and actors. To live up to their expectations, we try to put in more effort than usual. By creating a place where it is easy to perform without saying anything and letting them do it freely, it maximizes the potential of each person and draws out more than 100%. This time, it was such a scene.
What was difficult during the seven months of filming? Satoh: Well, if you ask me, it’s everything. In terms of physical strength, the one-to-many action was tough. Of course, one-to-many has come many times since Part 1, but this time it was probably the greatest number of enemies. Even so, my thighs got tired when I tried not to be lukewarm even for one second. I was so exhausted, I said, “I physically can’t stand anymore” (laughs).
The climax scene following this big fight is the battle with the edge. There is a deep connection between Enishi and Kenshin, and Enishi tries to take his revenge by defeating Kenshin. Arata Mackenyuu-san has been cast as the lead role. He is one of the next generations of lead actors who released “Namona Sekai no End Roll” this year and his first solo starring movie “Brave: Gunjou Senki”. A big highlight is the “Taiman match” between Kenshin and Enishi, where complex emotions intersect with the body.
Satoh: It’s more about emotion than action. As I said earlier, in the scene where I was thinking about the lines until the day, I didn’t have a single word to say to the edge. That’s why I didn’t take the script with me, and I didn’t read it back. Anyway, I went to Mackenyuu-san at the scene and continued shooting while thinking, “How will Kenshin talk to me here?” The supporting role was perfect for Mackyuu-san. In terms of this role, Kenshin has matured like a hermit, a character with a very high mental age, and the relationship is like a child’s. In fact, he’s younger than Kenshin, and the danger and momentum that comes from being young is both scary and attractive. When I met Mackenyuu-san, he was innocent and cute like a child. However, the acting and action are energetic, and the aura has momentum. The good thing about him is that he plays the edge very well.
I was inspired. Actions are made by two people. We were fighting each other while taking care of each other. 7 months seems like there is plenty of room in the schedule, but it takes time to shoot the action scenes in the first place. At the moment of cranking up, there was a sense of relief that I was able to finish the shooting safely, a feeling that I was able to shoot a good shot, and, as I said earlier, I felt sad because my feelings for it became stronger. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders because I was like, “I can’t die if I don’t draw this work.” Of course, I want many people to see the finished film. But in myself, I think that one thing has been created that is convincing, so in that sense, I am already satisfied. I don’t think there will ever be another project that I’ll be involved in for 100 years, so I’m grateful for this encounter.
Keishi Otomo interview
Director Keishi Otomo of the “Rurouni Kenshin” series met Takeru Satoh in the 2010 NHK Taiga drama “Ryoumaden”. It was a young Satoh who became the main character in the super important work “Rurouni Kenshin”. Okada Izo, who was feared as “Izo the killer” at the end of the Edo period. In the end, he was imprisoned in Shijogawara. He was executed, but (I remember that the script of “Ryoumaden” wasn’t written in that much detail. In that scene, at the last moment, he broke down in tears and burst into laughter. It was an original feeling. At that time, I felt that he was an actor who could express himself. After that, I got an offer “Rurouni Kenshin”. Although Izo was a hitman, it was set as a naïve young man. As he was unable to focus on, he never had a chance to use his full potential. When I heard that Takeru Satoh-san would be the lead, I felt like I got my point. 10 years later. He has also matured as an actor. When the first film in the series was cranked up, I was released from filming and said, “I did it!” I said, “Thank you,” and calmed down. Trust in your work ethic. One of the main focuses of “Rurouni Kenshin” is action, so if you make a mistake, you’ll get injured, and the filming will stop. You may feel that loneliness and the weight of the burden you are carrying, but I have experienced it many times. Because it is steep, it has strong legs. He has an unshakable attitude to determine what he should focus on from his position and prepare thoroughly. I trust that attitude more than anything else. Recently, I’ve learned how to adjust my strength, and I think I’m doing good self-control so that I can show my best in the actual performance. At the same time, I have learned the words to explain my thoughts to others through experience. Even at such a young age, I already feel something like dignity. He’s smart, so I think he can see things from a bird’s-eye view, and he can also produce on his own. On the other hand, the role of an actor is to draw someone out of someone unknown. I’m sure you will have the feeling of “becoming someone’s material” and will continue to evolve. Regarding “Rurouni Kenshin”, I feel that both of us have done our best. I would like to meet him who 35-40 years old again in another job.