Synopsis : Police officer Daigo Agawa is posted to a mountain village where a series of alarming events makes him realize that there is something deeply wrong with the village and those who live there.
Q: In adapting Masaaki Ninomiya’s manga “Gannibal,” screenwriter Takayoshi Oe, who co-wrote “Drive My Car,” how did he put this manga into the script that differs from the manga that fascinated you?
Yûya Yagira: I’ve had the chance to appear in several live-action movies based on manga. When they were making a live action film, I noticed that there were a lot of things — like editing the video intentionally as if you were watching a manga. This time, while including the good things of the manga, depicting the horror of human beings and familial love, going to the depth, and throbbing development of the movie is a relatively long seven episodes, keeping it entertaining within a scale, I think it was really natural. To be honest, the lines were very easy to say. I think that a world cinema perspective was put into the dialogue so that it feels natural; it’s not like the fixed dialogue of the comics.
Q: This [series] is an original work from Disney Plus “Star” and was created with a perspective of getting it worldwide distribution. But did the set differ from a regular production, say, in terms of the atmosphere of the staff and the process of creating each step?
Yûya Yagira : I think that Disney Japan’s production is still at a stage where they’re making a jump in an unprecedented way, but everyone in the cast is excited to be on that ship. Of course, among the staff, there are people who possess an aura that says, “Now is the right time.” The shooting department was at the center of this game, and director Katayama created an atmosphere that gave everyone a sense of security.
Q: Director Katayama had a megaphone through such movies as “Sibling of the Cape,” “Missing” and “Life of Mariko in Kabukicho.” He also served as an assistant director for “Mother,” “Hana’s Miso Soup” and “The Naked Director.” What was appealing to you about his directorial approach?
Yûya Yagira : I don’t know if it’s because he worked as an assistant director on Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother,” or if it’s his personality, but even in scenes with serious orientation, he added a little humor. Even when I watched films which displayed his directorial influence, I can feel that he captured the humor at the right time. Mr. Katayama expressed that sense of humor.
Q: Due to a violent investigation in the past, your character Daigo Agawa was stationed in Kuge Village, but this role seems to be of a person much closer to yourself. You also have a wife and children. However, once your character starts to notice the abnormal things happening around you, it turns into a difficult role to depict because you have to act in order to protect your family. How did you balance out playing that role and which part was most difficult?
Yûya Yagira : I get a lot of questions similar to this one, but to be honest, I had the experience that it was a fun shoot. I don’t often play characters who have a family, so the setting of having a wife and children overlapped with my own a little. It was an advantage that, in a good way, made me feel confident when I went to the set. For this role, I didn’t spend every day trying to find out what he’s thinking about during filming. I’m making various decisions based on the perspective that a man would make if he is a man with a wife and children, so this setting was to my advantage.
Q: In the first half, there are many scenes where you confront Keisuke Goto who leads the Goto family — played by Mr. Sho Kasamatsu. What preparations did you make with Sho Kasamatsu for the confrontational scene? What did you find attractive about his performance?
Yûya Yagira : There are conflicts in the story, but of course with the Agawa family, and the Goto family as well, we rehearsed and improvised scenes that were not in the script. I felt that Mr. Katayama was good at creating such an atmosphere that made me feel that I was connected with the other cast members in a good way.
Q: When I saw Sho Kasamatsu’s acting in the TV series “Tokyo Vice,” he demonstrated that he could be a great rising star from Japan, but when you actually acted with him, what was attractive about his performance for you?
Yûya Yagira : I think he’s passionate about acting, and that’s the case with all of the cast this time. But personally, the word “presence” doesn’t mean much to me. I didn’t understand it, but when I saw Mr. Kasamatsu’s performance, I felt like I understood the meaning of his “presence.”
Q: In this film, there’s a story that, in the past, among the indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea, there was a custom to eat the meat of a member of the tribe at the time of the funeral of a tribal member who died. Were there any aspects — other than manga — that you researched?
Yûya Yagira : I haven’t done much research on cannibalism. This time, I read the manga carefully. I’ll give you some examples. There are some directors who want the actors to really get drunk for a role and those who tell the actors not to get drunk too much, but director Katayama always asked me to get drunk, so I think he was confident that he could do better shooting the film rather than doing much research.
Q: Several years ago, there was an article in which Hirokazu Kore-eda, who worked with you on the film “Nobody Knows,” lamented the fact that there were few Japanese films that could compete at overseas film festivals. Recently, Korean movies and dramas have been attracting global attention. What kind of approach do you think Japanese films — including this film — should take in the future?
Yûya Yagira : Netflix and Disney are the same, and I will definitely watch those overseas films at the movie theater. What is amazing about Korean dramas is that they have raised the standard of what the viewers want. Therefore, the fact that “Gannibal” was made in Japan under the direction of Disney Japan makes it possible for creators in Japan, and of course the actors as well [to get attention]. To create such a work and bring it out to the world, it would be good if it creates such an atmosphere, that says there’s something here, something new from its predecessors.
Q: Now that you’ve appeared in “Gannibal” — which is targeted to the world — do you have a desire to team up with American or foreign directors in the future? Are there any specific directors or actors you want to work with?
Yûya Yagira : To be honest, there are so many. It’s rare for Japanese films to be promoted in the United States. The interview (in America) is a fresh experience for me, isn’t it? To be honest, there are still unknowns about what kind of impact this will have in the future. I’m at the stage where I started understanding the meaning of worldwide distribution. Well, I think it’s an era where opportunities and possibilities to meet directors from around the world are expanding, so I don’t know who, but I’d like to co-star with Brad Pitt.
Q: I heard that you had a short-term study abroad experience in New York. What memories do you have from that time?
Yûya Yagira : I’ve been to many countries, but I really liked New York because it suited my personality. It may be from its music culture— especially Jay-Z. I like hip hop, but my best memory is of Notorious BIG and Bedford Stuyvesant. There was a time when I was introduced by friends to a part time job at The Pancake House. While I was there, I washed dishes and there was stand-up comedy over the weekend. I set up a place for them to perform. When I was about to go home, there was a guy walking down the street with a boombox. I thought that was such a New York moment and that made an impression. That was the kind of thing that I remember about New York.
Here’s the trailer of the series.