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Kankuro Kudo and Yoshihide Otomo: An Extraordinary Life with an End in “A Town Without Seasons”

2023.8.24

#MOVIE

Kudo’s interest in the extraordinary moments arose in ordinary life

-It was clear Kudo enjoyed making this project. I would also like to ask about the earthquake. “Amachan” was about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and the restoration of the closed Kita Sanriku Railway. In “A Town Without Seasons,” more time has passed since then, and the film deals with the eviction of people living in temporary housing. How did you view this film from the perspective of the “earthquake disaster”?

Otomo: Surprisingly, I did not think about that. I often visit Fukushima as part of “Project FUKUSHIMA!”, so temporary housing is a familiar place for me, and I wonder if it is because I am actually aware of the fact that it is gone.

Kudo: I wasn’t aware of it at all at the site. I wonder if it was the strength of the original work.

There is a part of me that wants people to see the drama apart from the original work. When people hear that the story is based on Shugoro Yamamoto’s original, this drama could be associated with a period drama, but the core story is universal, which I thought people still can relate to. But of course the postwar barracks in “A Town Without Seasons” are no longer there. So, it should be a story about temporary housing.

Everyone has lost their homes due to their circumstances, and they have all gathered together in one place. But they are all smiling and laughing and living strong. If this story were to be set in the present day, there was no better place than in temporary housing.

During the planning process, I had the opportunity to visit various places. I visited temporary housing in Miyagi where people who suffered from flood damage live. In Koriyama, I visited a temporary housing complex that had been damaged by the earthquake. I was actually allowed to go up to their rooms and talk with them. Some of them had customized their rooms in their own way. These experiences are reflected in “A Town Without Seasons.”

Otomo: Of course, there are people with strong characters in the temporary housing, though not as strong as the characters in the drama. I felt that there was a link between the characters in the drama and the people I met in various places, not only in the disaster-stricken areas.

-Not only in this film, but in many of your other works, you have depicted an ensemble drama set in a certain community. Otomo has also been involved in “Project FUKUSHIMA!” and other community-related activities for a long time, and you seem to actively engage with this area.

Kudo: In “Idaten,” the reconstruction sports festival held after the Great Kanto Earthquake is exactly like that. Everyone’s houses have been destroyed. During the daytime, they cook together and enjoy themselves. But when everyone goes home at night, you can hear someone crying from somewhere.

In the case of the Great East Japan Earthquake, this area was not where celebrities often come visit, but many popular idols started visiting the area for consolation. And when they left at the end of the day, people felt very lonely.

This is a universal feeling regardless of the time period and this is what I want to depict, which is why I’m interested in his “meaningless loud” situation. This also has to do with the theme I intend to deliver through my work. I’m interested in the extraordinary moments that arose in ordinary life.

-The biggest difference between the original story and “Dodes’ka-den” and your “A Town Without Seasons” is the sense of parting and ending. In the original story, there is a sense that the town and its inhabitants will continue to exist forever, but in the case of the temporary housing, the eviction deadline is approaching, and it’s foretold that one day everyone will be scattered and broken up.

Kudo: Temporary housing is a temporary place. They need to leave eventually.

When I visited the disaster area in Ishinomaki, one of the things that left an impression on me was that in temporary housing, people were friendly with each other even if they did not want to meet, because they had to, but once they moved to the reconstruction housing, they stopped socializing. One elderly person who had moved to the reconstruction housing said, “I’ve reached a certain age now, so I don’t want to get to know my new neighbors anymore.” I thought that was true. Relationships are not forever.

The local government might be happy that they found a new home and don’t need to live in temporary housing. But Some people might’ve enjoyed living there and their relationships with the neighbors.

It may be a temporary joy when knowing they all have to move out in the end but that’s why even people like Hansuke (played by Sousuke Ikematsu, the main character and the narrator of the story), with little emotion, tried to make a drama in the end and to show that he existed there. That’s why I changed the ending so drastically from the original story.

Otomo: Ikematsu’s line in the last episode. I can’t tell you because it would be a spoiler, but It was really touching. I’m sure I’d feel the same way. I usually make a big fuss at live performances [laughs].

Kudo: There are a few things that I changed from the original work and “Dodes’ka-den,” such as making the setting of Shima, played by Takashi Fujii, more modern, more middle-management style.

Kudo: When I look back at Kurosawa’s “Dodes’ka-den” again, I feel it was a very artistic work. It was the first color work for the director himself, and he painted the streets and drew the shadows of the houses in black ink. My work is not art, so I feel like I want to depict more of the relationships between people and how they clash. I feel that my work is not my work unless I can show that there is actually a relationship between these people, and that is why they clash and cooperate with each other.

Otomo: The ending was great, and the rest of the story was also great. It is a story that does not exist in the original work, but that is what I like about it. When asked to be in charge of the accompaniment for the film, I looked back at “Dodes’ka-den” again and found myself looking at it in a completely different light. I love this movie, but there are so many things I want to pick at.

Kudo:“Dodes’ka-den” is a heavy story. The second episode of “A Town Without Seasons” is also very heavy. Maki Sakai, who plays the mother, says something harsh to her son Tatsuya, played by Taiga Nakano. However, if Tatsuya is not saved in the second episode, I felt too sorry for him. So, in order to forcefully boost the emotions, I put on a happy ending song. I said, “This is a comedy! This is a comedy drama!” That’s what I thought, but in the third episode, Yokohama didn’t follow that format at all [laughs]. I was so frustrated and thought I would definitely use this song in my next episode.

Otomo: Thank you [laughs].

A Town Without Seasons

Wednesday, August 9, 2023: Exclusive distribution of all 10 episodes on Disney Plus “Star
Planning/Director/Screenplay: Kankuro Kudo
Director: Satoko Yokohama, Naoki Watanabe
Based on the novel “A Town Without Seasons” by Shugoro Yamamoto
Cast:
Sousuke Ikematsu
Taiga Nakano
Daichi Watanabe
MiuraToko
Gaku Hamada
Naozumi Masuko
Yoshiyoshi Arakawa
MEGUMI
Mary Jun Takahashi
Naoki Matsayoshi
Atsuko Maeda
Muga Tsukaji
YOUNG DAIS
Kana Osawa
Eita Okuno
Aimi Satsukawa
Maki Sakai
Hairi Katagiri
Yuriko Hirooka
LiLiCo
Takashi Fujii
Shingo Tsurumi
Bengal
Ryo Iwamatsu
https://disneyplus.disney.co.jp/program/kisetsunonaimachi

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