Followers of this blog know both how much I love Yoshinaga Fumi’s Ôoku (男女逆転大奥)–both the 2010 film version of vol. 1 (Yoshimune-Mizuno) and especially the Iemitsu-Arikoto story arc in vols. 2-4. One of my Yoshinaga-fan friends and I have often talked about how great it would be if there were movies or a TV show of the other story arcs in the manga, particularly the Iemitsu arc, and now our wish has been granted. The Arikoto-Iemitsu storyline (vol. 2-4) will be made into a serial drama to be aired on TBS starting in October 2012, and the Emonosuke-Tsunayoshi arc (vol. 4-6) will be made into a film, which will open in theaters nationwide on Dec. 22, 2012, after the airing of the drama finishes.
There are some spoilers below, so be warned.
The Cast (so far)
Sakai Masato (堺雅人) as both Arikoto and Emonosuke
Tabe Mikako (多部未華子) as Iemitsu
Kanno Miho (菅野美穂) as Tsunayoshi
Thoughts on the Cast
Why is one actor playing both the male leads in both stories? In the manga, Arikoto, Iemitsu’s favorite concubine and the eventual head of the ôoku, and Emonosuke, who becomes the head of Tsunayoshi’s ôoku due to his age, are very different men in personality but are said to look eerily alike. (One of my friends and I have a running joke that all men from Kyoto look the same in the series, so it’s not really surprising, though I can’t figure out exactly why Yoshinaga decided to make their similar appearance a plot point.)
On one hand, it makes sense to have one actor play them both to preserve this sense of doppelganger. On the other, Arikoto is supposed to be 18 at the beginning of his story arc and about 30 at the end of his main arc (he shows up in other volumes as an old man); Emonosuke is probably 35-40 when he first appears. The actor is 38. Hmm.
I find myself wondering how certain scenes will be handled. For example, several of the major plot points revolve around Iemitsu’s and Arikoto’s androgynous appearances. Iemitsu cross-dresses and passes for the first half of the arc before she comes out as a woman and begins to wear more feminine attire and makeup. Arikoto also has a key scene in which he appears very convincingly in drag at the end of vol. 2. I think that Tabe might have the right look for Iemitsu’s androgyny, and I think costuming should be able to handle this. For instance, I have to hand it to the producers of the drama IS, about an androgynous-looking intersex kid named Haru, for making the actress who played Haru look masculine or feminine based purely on clothing choices while the actress Fukuda Saki is normally fairly feminine in appearance.
I was also surprised to see that Kanno Mika was cast as Tsunayoshi rather than Iemitsu. Kanno played the lead role of Matsukata Hiroko in Hatarakiman (働きマン) in 2007. I haven’t read the manga, but I adored her performance as Matsukata, a magazine editor and career woman in her late 20s and her refreshingly honest and feminist outlook on her career, life, and love. (My hero!) I think she will do a great job playing the (secretly) complex Tsunayoshi, the fifth Shogun; at the same time, I was really hoping she’d play Iemitsu. Iemitsu, at least in her 20s, is sort of like Matsukata in that they are both devoted to their jobs, are logical and practical (though not without a stubborn and selfish streak), and even have the same creative-but-practical fashion sense. Still it’ll be fun to see her decked out in fancy kimono and kanzashi ruining all of her retainers’ lives, though–definitely a change of pace from how I think of her as an actress and a chance for her to grow as a performer. (I am not familiar with a lot of her work, so perhaps she has played a similar character before?)
Thoughts on the Story
I saw the first Ôoku movie before I read the manga, and I was surprised how close it was to the original, with the exception of the Tsurugaoka plotline’s resolution and the appearance of Sugishita (prettier in the manga) and Fujinami (prettier in the movie). I have confidence in director Kaneko Fuminori’s ability to translate my beloved manga to the screen again, but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t nervous about the Iemitsu-Arikoto love story. Kaneko did an amazing job with Yoshimune and Mizuno’s chemistry and interactions. However, Iemitsu and Arikoto have an even more delicate and complex relationship, and I find myself praying that the actors and directors do it justice on the big screen so I can finally show my friends who aren’t reading the manga what an amazing story and beautiful, tragic relationship Yoshinaga has created.
More updates to follow! Only 8 more months till the drama airs!
Read More (as of 1/31/2012)