The Making of the Movie Kirakira Megane
From the left: Director Kazutoshi Inudo (Faculty of Commerce graduate), Takeshi Usami (Dean of the Faculty of
Letters), Screenwriter Yusuke Moriguchi (Faculty of Letters graduate)
On July 13, a preview screening for the movie Kirakira Megane (Lenses on Her Heart) was held at the Chuo University Tama Campus. Director Kazutoshi Inudo (Chuo University Faculty of Commerce graduate), screenwriter Yusuke Moriguchi (Chuo University Faculty of Letters graduate), and Takeshi Usami, Dean of the Faculty of Letters (fiction researcher), sat down for a talk.
About the movie Kirakira Megane
The movie is based on a novel by the same title written by Akio Morisawa. The protagonist Akemi Tachibana (played by Hiroto Kanei) is a young man who finds a business card belonging to an older woman, Akane Otaki (played by Chizuru Ikewaki), between the pages of a secondhand book. They meet, and together they ponder the meaning of life and death. An advance screening will be held starting September 7 at LaLaport Tokyo Bay in Funabashi, and will subsequently be screened starting September 15 at Yurakucho Subaru-za and at other venues nationwide.
How the movie production for Kirakira Megane began
Usami: I heard that Akio Morisawa, the author of the original book, asked you to produce this movie.
Inudo: About four years ago, I was talking to Morisawa-san about adapting one of his other novels into a movie, so Yusuke and I gathered some materials for it. Nothing came out of that, but Morisawa-san really liked another movie we did, Tsumugu Mono (Tsumugu) (2016). The 80th anniversary of the Funabashi municipality was right around that time, and there were talks about a movie adaptation of Kirakira Megane. Morisawa-san put in a good word for us to the city and that’s how the project got its start.
Usami: How did the talks surrounding production costs and other issues go?
Inudo: For this project, we were involved with the people of Funabashi from the fund-raising stage. So, compared to other movies, we took some early steps to make sure we had community support. We were given grants, and the mayor and the deputy mayor gave us their full support. We were also not restricted in any way with regard to the dramatization of the original work.
Moriguchi: The only thing we were told was to make this movie better than Tsumugu Mono! (laughs)
Inudo: It was hard to respond to that. I mean, it was a different kind of movie altogether. (laughs)
Usami: That definitely sounds like a tall order. (laughs) When a novel is adapted to a movie, there can often be conflict with the original author. But for this movie, he entrusted the work to you entirely.
Takeshi Usami, Dean of the Faculty of Letters
Inudo: After we showed him the plot, we didn't show any of the work again until we had the final script. He never said anything about our casting choices either.
Usami: Moriguchi-san, I'm sure you appreciated the freedom of being fully entrusted with the screenplay, but did you feel a lot of pressure with that?
Moriguchi: Oh, sure. After presenting the plot, we had a sort of kickoff party in Funabashi. I remember feeling intensely uneasy during that time. He approached me and was like, "Oh, I saw the plot this morning." (laughs)
Inudo: The setting of the story was changed quite drastically in the plot. It seemed like Morisawa-san wasn't fully on board with it at that point. (laughs)
Moriguchi: But he did say he trusted me with it. I get that you can't just go and change the soul of the original work. But I was really happy when he saw it and said that it was good.
Usami: So they were surprised at how different it was from the original work?
Moriguchi: We got that response from the publisher and the city of Funabashi too.
Inudo: And we took out the cat too. (laughs)
Inudo and Moriguchi in their student days
Usami: I heard both of you were members of the school festival committee when you were students at Chuo University.
Inudo: If you are wondering if I wanted to learn about business administration, the answer is no. (laughs)
Moriguchi: I was interested in human psychology, so I applied for admission for some psychology departments. I liked reading novels too, so I applied for other literary departments as well.
Inudo: We used to travel a lot together. We traveled around Shikoku, Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, and many other places in Japan. We went to Europe too. I remember Yusuke was always reading novels. The books I borrowed from him during that time were some of the few books that I've ever read. (laughs) When we were traveling to 10 countries in Europe in two weeks, Yusuke handled everything along the way. (laughs)
Moriguchi: It's like I was writing the scenario of our trips. (laughs)
Usami: Good one! So, what did you two think of each other at that time?
Inudo: He sure had a lot of patience traveling with a guy like me. I was always complaining about being hungry, or feeling too hot, or whatever.
Moriguchi: That's true. Only I could have dealt with that. (laughs)
Inudo: He is also the type who never got angry.
Moriguchi: I was like his guardian. (laughs)
Usami: So, are you the type to get angry a lot, Inudo-san?
Inudo: Oh yes, I do. But the way I get teased by the staff for the movie is the same as the way I was treated by people around me back in my college days.
Moriguchi: You're right. People love you wherever you go. That much hasn't changed about you since college. You get teased all the time to this day. I think you can call that a talent of sorts.
Usami: When you two were students, what did you see yourselves doing 10 years in the future?
Inudo: I never gave much thought to that. But I should have traveled abroad more. I also wish I had worked at bars and diners or something similar. That would have given me a chance to observe people more. I actually worked at a hostess bar after quitting my job.
Moriguchi: I wish I had studied more. I look back and think, “Man, I wish I had paid closer attention during that class,” and stuff like that.
Usami: I understand that after graduation, you both joined companies as a full-time employee.
Inudo: After about two years, I had no interest in continuing to work as a company employee. So I did a self-analysis, and decided that what I really love doing is to make things with people. But to be honest, I'd hardly seen any movies at that point. (laughs)
Moriguchi: I wrote my first screenplay when I studied abroad for a month in the U.S. at Carleton College when I was a third-year student. I wrote a short play in English, which I really enjoyed. I also remember the two of us talking about The Spanish Apartment (2002) right before we graduated.
Inudo: Yeah. That movie was all about becoming a novelist, wasn't it?
Usami: Quitting a stable job must have been a big decision to make.
Moriguchi: When I decided I wanted to do something, I started contacting screenwriters online, offering to help with just about anything. I helped a lot of people with projects and wrote plots. As this went on, I eventually just quitted my company after a little less than a year.
Inudo: Yusuke quitted his job without telling his parents. I got really mad about that. I remember telling him, “You’ve got some nerve, after they paid for your college and everything.”
Usami: Sounds like you were more of the guardian at that point, Inudo-san. (laughs)
Moriguchi: I was helping a lot of people and working on my own screenplays when I had the chance. One of the people called me over as a pinch-hitter to a late-night drama set. That was where I made my debut.
Usami: Don't a lot of screenwriters go to screenwriting schools and win screenplay awards before they debut?
Moriguchi: I think that you learn more by actually doing the work, so I preferred listening to professionals directly rather than going to school.
Usami: Inudo-san, you quitted your job after you decided to become a director, correct?
Inudo: What the two of us have in common is that neither of us hesitated to contact total strangers and offer to do whatever they needed. Around my second year of working as a company employee, I started helping out with independent movies on weekends while working in sales on weekdays. I ended up quitting after that second year.
Moriguchi: I also feel like my work as a company employee gave me some solid real-world skills.
Inudo: I guess that experience was good for us, like being able to use honorifics correctly and write proper emails. The movie industry is full of people who suffer a loss by lacking business manners.
Usami: Moriguchi-san, this is around the time you moved up from late-night dramas to Aibo, right? Isn't Aibo a competition for screenwriters?
Moriguchi: In Aibo, writers who can write interesting plots in competitions get to write the screenplay. I watched the entire series in three months as research. I incorporated a lot of stuff I learned from studying psychology at Chuo University, which they liked. I started getting more work after that.
Inudo: At first, I started with contacting production companies and helping run movie festivals, like an assistant producer of sorts. After that, I had Yusuke write a screenplay and made a mid-length movie about musicians. Then I looked for sponsors while gathering materials, to shoot Coming Out (2014). Production costs were covered by many people who pitched in, like clients I had during my days working in the company, as well as people I met at events and production companies where I helped out. I did the movie distribution myself, too.
The effort they poured into the movie Kirakira Megane
Talk event with Inudo and Moriguchi
Usami: I'd like to return to Kirakira Megane. I think changing the protagonists' occupation from the original work is a significant move.
Inudo: We initially intended to get Akemi the kind of job that could observe people, so we went to Hello Work at first to gather materials.
Usami: The novel is written in the first person from the point of view of Akemi, but movies are generally shot in the third person, so that must have been tricky.
Moriguchi: In novels, the internal voices of the lead characters are written out, but in movies, they have to be depicted somehow. That's why we thought of making him a Hello Work employee, but Inudo began expressing doubts halfway through. (laughs) That's when we decided to make him a station attendant.
Inudo: There were a lot of ideas for Akemi's job. It was really crucial how we were going to properly depict Akemi with clouded glasses in the beginning. I also wanted to create a space that the general public is familiar with. Thanks to the help we got from the local community, we were able to film many shots in the subway.
Usami: You also changed Akane's job too.
Moriguchi: There were ideas pitched about her character and the aesthetic depiction of trash. So we made her an office worker at an industrial waste treatment plant. After we threw around a bunch of ideas, we decided on Akane’s job relatively quick.
Inudo: We were able to use the same setting as in the original one, but I wanted her to wear shiny glasses in front of a mountain of trash.
Talking with students after the event
Usami: The biggest change is Akemi's past, right? I was surprised that you changed the story of the cat to a former classmate.
Inudo: The main reason was that we wanted to emphasize Akemi's growth in the movie.
Moriguchi: We both had the same opinion from initial meetings. Novels have their own appeal, but when turning it into a movie, we had to think about what the protagonist carries with him as he grows, and how he handles death.
Inudo: In the novel, I felt that the love angle far outweighed the life-and-death angle, so for the movie, we wanted to flip that.
Usami: When I teach Haruki Murakami or television dramas, the element of overcoming death is a major theme. I cover a lot of works that talk about how to overcome the death of someone close to you to study the reason that there are so many of those works. I watched the movie thinking about how it ties into a lot of those modern themes.
Inudo: I feel that the way we may seem like we're not lying to ourselves, but we're actually closing off our hearts because we can't confront ourselves is a very modern theme. In general, since Japan is a wealthy country, many of us can live happily without having to face our true selves. I want to create movies that will motivate you to confront your own heart.
(Editorial support: Tsukasa Arita)
Kazutoshi Inudo was born in 1986 in Kanagawa Prefecture. He graduated from Chuo University Faculty of Commerce. He has directed several movies including Coming Out (2014, screenwriter and director), Saotome 4-Shimai (Four Young Sisters) (2015, screenwriter and director), and Tsumugu Mono (Tsumugu) (2016), which was screened during the competition section of the 11th Osaka Asian Movie Festival and the panorama section of the 19th Shanghai International Movie Festival.
Yusuke Moriguchi was born in 1985 in Kanagawa Prefecture. He graduated from Chuo University Faculty of Letters with a major in psychology. He wrote the screenplays for the movies Tsumugu Mono (Tsumugu) (2016), Laos, Ryu no Kiseki (The River Flows) (2017), and Kohaku (Amber) (2019 scheduled release), among others. He also wrote for television dramas such as Dohyo Girl! (Sumo Ring Girl!) (2010, TBS); Aibo (Partners) (2011–, EX); Yo ni mo Kimyo na Monogatari (Very Strange Stories) (2014–, CX); Keishicho: Sosa Ikka-cho (Metro Police: First Investigative Unit Chief) (2016, EX); Fringe Man (2017, TX); and Oh My Jump! (2018, TX), among others.
Professor Takeshi Usami
Dean of the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Fiction research and popular culture studies
TV Drama wo Gakumon suru (Studying TV Dramas)
Takeshi Usami was born in 1958 in Tokyo. He graduated from the Faculty of Education, Tokyo Gakugei University. He received his doctorate at the University of Tokyo Graduate School. He is a Doctor of Literature (Chuo University). After teaching as a full-time lecturer and associate professor at the Faculty of Letters in Chuo University, he took his current post as professor in 1998. He became the Dean of the faculty in 2017.
He analyzes modern literature of literary figures such as Haruki Murakami from a historical perspective, to place modern literature in the history of novels written after the Meiji period. In recent years, he has been advocating the comprehensive study of fiction that includes movies, plays, and television dramas in addition to literature, with a special focus on television drama studies. His major publications include Shosetsu Hyogen toshite no Kindai
(Modern Times through Novelistic Expressions) (Ofu), Murakami Haruki to Niju Isseiki
(Haruki Murakami and the 21st Century) (joint editing, Ofu), and TV Drama wo Gakumon suru
(Studying TV Dramas) (Chuo University Press).
Website:「Chuo University Takeshi Usami’s Laboratory