Japanese pop culture fans converge for cast visit
The Filipinos’ fascination for anything Japanese, especially pop culture, continues to grow.
Just this week, a cult following materialized from all parts of the country, showing a frenzied appreciation for Japanese actors Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Munetaka Aoki and director Keishi Otomo.
The maker and stars of box-office, manga-based movie Rurouni Kenshin visited Manila for a two-day promotion of Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends. The second and third installments of the saga will open in nationwide cinemas on August 20 and September 24, respectively.
In an exclusive interview with The Manila Times, Japan Foundation’s local office director Shuji Takatori and assistant director Yukie Mitomi revealed that plans to bring over the film’s cast started right after the 2013 showing of Rurouni Kenshin here.
“During a toy conference held after the film, we saw a signed petition from the Filipino fans to bring the Rurouni Kenshin stars to the country,” Mitomi said.
Thankfully, Warner Bros. Entertainment for Japan and the Philippines gave in to the clamor and collaborated to make the visit possible.
Thus, the pages of manga came to life when Satoh, who plays the film’s main protagonist, samurai Kenshin Himura, along with Takei (Kaoru Kamiya), Aoki (Sanosuke Sagara) and returning director Ohtomo graced Kyoto Inferno’s red carpet premiere on Wednesday at the activity center of SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City.
Not disappointing the event’s organizers, a horde of fans set off an energetic welcome for their Japanese idols, who in return took time to greet them and sign autographs along the red carpet.
Endearing himself more to his fans, Satoh, through an interpreter, expressed, “I am extremely happy that I am able to meet all of you.”
The beautiful Takei echoed this and said, “Thank you so much for a very warm welcome. I am very surprised.”
Aoki, on the other hand, led the three in shouting Filipino greetings like “Magandang gabi” and “Mahal ko kayo,” before the screening of Kyoto Inferno ensued.
Based on the Kyoto arc of writer and illustrator Nobuhiro’s popular manga, the two sequels of Ruruoni Kenshin follow the story of reformed assassin Kenshin Himura who fights evil Makoto Shishio and his plans to overthrow the government.
The group’s second day in the city began at the Raffles Residences Makati. There, the four were named “Cultural Friendship Ambassadors” by the Makati City Government, the Japan Foundation Manila, and Ayala Foundation.
This was succeeded by an exchange of tokens between the Japanese guests and Councilor Tosca Puno Ramos of Makati City, and Warner Bro. Philippines’ Francis Soliven.
The early activities were ended with a photo opportunity of Satoh, Takei, Aoki and Ohtomo in front of a Rurouni Kenshin-painted jeepney.
The highlight of the Japanese celebrities’ short visit took place in the evening with a general press conference at the Glorietta Activity Center. Again, Filipino fans came in full force for the event.
Satoh, Aoki and Ohtomo graciously answered a variety of questions from the press, starting off with how they feel about visiting the Philippines.
Satoh replied, “It’s really fun. It’s really beyond my imagination that all of you [the fans]are here. It is very surprising, shocking.”
For his part, Aoki thanked everyone for the great opportunity to present Kyoto Inferno. He promised adoring fans that he will use his “big power” to bring The Legend Ends in September.
Director Ohtomo, meanwhile, promised to bring his amazing experience in the Philippines back to Japan and share it with his fellowmen.
The three gentlemen further talked about their experience in filming Kyoto Inferno. The director touched on how he and manga creator Nobuhiro Watsuki had “collaborative meetings” before filming. On the other hand, Aoki revealed that fight scenes were so extreme he even lost a tooth.
Takeru said he is honored to be able to portray such a major role, which is now part of his life. “If I’m not sure of my decision making, I would ask, ‘If it was Kenshin, what would he do?’ He’s like a mentor to me, someone I respect and look up to.”
When it was time to bid farewells, the Ruruoni Kenshin said to his admirers, “Thank you very much. It’s my first time to come here [and]I’m glad I came. I’m now in love with the Philippines.”