A Love Story with Tsuyoshi Kusanagi? Exploring the Role of Kunimura Jun in Onmyoji 0 and Go-Ban Kiri | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A Love Story with Tsuyoshi Kusanagi? Exploring the Role of Kunimura Jun in Onmyoji 0 and Go-Ban Kiri

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Kento Yamazaki starring and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi starring…in important roles in two major productions

This spring, Jun Kunimura appears in important roles in two major films: “Onmyoji 0” starring Kento Yamazaki and directed by Tsugumako Sato, and “Goban Zanri” starring Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and directed by Kazuya Shiraishi. He is a cosmopolitan actor who has played a wide range of roles, from a blasé old man to a coquettish yakuza, from a doctor to an ordinary father, but in fact, he is surprisingly a “natural idiot”. We asked him to talk about his choice of films, co-stars, and plays.

Jun Kunimura says he is actually a surprisingly “natural idiot.

–You played a role in “Onmyoji 0” and “Goban Zanri,” both of which are completely different genres, in which you watch over, guide, and sometimes confront the main character. What were the deciding factors for you to play these roles?

Jun Kunimura (Kunimura): Basically, when I take on any kind of work, I always base it on the script, and I pay the most attention to what kind of world and what kind of sensibilities are involved.

In that sense, both works are very interesting, but there are other elements as well. For example, in the case of “Onmyoji 0,” this is the second time I have worked with director Tsugumako Sato, following “K-20: Kaijin Nijumenso Den” (’08), which I did with Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Tsugumako and I are on the same wavelength, and she loves and knows a lot about the world of yin-yang and witchcraft, so I thought it would be interesting to work with someone like that. I was also interested in the idea of playing the young Seimei Abe, the character that leads up to the world of Baku Yumemakura’s novels.

On the other hand, the book “Goban Zanri” is also very interesting, and I originally loved “Bakumatsu Taiyouden” directed by Yuzo Kawashima, which is similarly based on rakugo and combines various episodes into one. It is a work with an interesting worldview that combines various Rakugo-based episodes into one. That’s why I really wanted to do it.

My impression of Kento Yamazaki is that he is “a little bit out of this world.”

–What was your impression of Kento Yamazaki, who played Seimei in “Onmyoji 0”?

Kunimura: We had played father and son together several times before, so I knew how we felt about each other and the distance between us as actors, so it was like we were collaborating together, bumping off each other’s characters on the set without having to think about it again.

–What do you find attractive about Mr. Yamazaki?

Kunimura: Both the character Seimei and himself have a slightly out-of-this-world feel to them. He does a lot of comic-based work, and it suits him, doesn’t it? I don’t know many actors who can create that kind of presence, other than him. He can do a lot of things, but I think he has a good balance between a bit of frivolous fun and a sense of reality.

–He is a natural in the sense that he can do a lot of things, but I think he has a good balance of being a bit frivolous and realistic.

Kunimura (laughs). He doesn’t try to hide his true self, and he doesn’t try to put on airs at all. I myself prefer people like that.

Kusanagi said… “I often feel that he is firmly in his own world.”

–I often feel that he is firmly in his own world.

Kunimura: In Kusanagi’s case, he is unpretentious, but there is also a part of him that does not reveal much of himself. Sometimes Kusanagi-san will talk to me on set, but I often feel that he is firmly in his own world.

–One of the highlights of “Goban Zanri” is the exchange between you and Kusanagi across the Go board. It was interesting to see the changes in his feelings and relationship with Kusanagi, not through words, but through the exchange of blows.

Kunimura: When we think of people playing against each other across the Go board, for example, there is a term “go-enemy (go-enemy is an opponent with the same level of ability who always wins or loses. There is a term “go-enemy”, isn’t there?

There is no such thing as “Shogi foe” or “Chess foe” even if they are competing on the same board. In a sense, Go is a very simple world where you take positions with black and white stones.

The ronin Yanagida Tadanoshin played by Kusanagi and the ronin I play, Banya Genbei, are neither best friends nor rivals at first, but through playing Go, they have a relationship that goes deep into each other’s humanity. There will be a certain strength in this relationship, and they will influence each other.

–You say that it is a love story with Kunimura-san (laughs).

Kunimura: Gempei-san is inspired by Tadatsunoshin at once (laughs).

(laughs) Because Katsunoshin is a samurai and has something solid inside him, even if he is poor and a ronin now, there is something that Genbei can take from him. In fact, while the story is also based on rakugo, his own world is changing rapidly. It is both a revenge story for his dead wife and a story of his growth.

–I thought that rakugo and hard-boiled stories are actually compatible with each other as they are both humanistic stories.

Kunimura: Through their interactions across the board, Tatsunoshin’s mind changes more and more, and he begins to react to things like the subtleties of the human heart. At the end, he makes a certain choice, and I think the change in his feelings leading up to that point is a major attraction.

–Kunimura: Actually, your role in this film is one of laughter and loveliness (laughs).

Kunimura: Actually, when we were shooting, Director Shiraishi said, “I thought this part (the last part) would be a tough act to pull off, and it would be difficult to give a bland flavor, but when I saw Kunimura-san play it, I knew it was okay” (laughs).

(Laughs.) His head was full of the game of Go, but when it came time for the leaky ……, there were times when important things would just pop out of his head.

I am glad that Director Shiraishi is the type of person who pushes the logic to the limit, but also accepts unexpected performances by the actors.

People say I’m quite a natural (laughs).

–Kunimura: “I’m not really aware of it, but people say I’m quite a natural (laughs).

Kunimura: I’m not really aware of it, but people say I’m quite natural (laughs). (Laughs.) People who are more of a “tsukkomi” (a person with a natural tendency) often tell me, “You should at least be aware of your naturalness before you act” (laughs).

Jun Kunimura said, “I hope you enjoy the differences in rhythm between Kusanagi and me.

–That’s surprising (laughs). (laugh) When you think about it, do you feel a similarity with Kusanagi-san who faced you across the Go board in “Goban Kiri”?

Kunimura I don’t know. I think he is rather solid.

–I have a strong impression of the natural and free Kusanagi-san that he shows in variety shows.

Kunimura I am sure that he has that side of him, but I am sure he has been trained through variety shows, and since he is not only doing acting, I think he does things that I could never do, including the way he handles various kinds of nerves.

–You and Kusanagi-san also co-starred in NHK’s Miyagi regional drama “Peperoncino.

Kunimura: I think it’s his ability to concentrate. He is not the type of actor who thinks and plays around while acting like I do.

I play while performing.

–Do you think “playing while performing” is a luxury a veteran actor can afford?

Kunimura: I don’t necessarily have the luxury to do so, but I am sure that I have changed over the years as I have been doing this.

At first I didn’t have much leeway and tried my best to express what I had thought up, but gradually I began to think about how I should stay between cuts.

Some people call acting and performance “reaction,” and I think there are elements of that, but in my case, I think it’s about feeling first. The same is true of the atmosphere of the moment, and as we go from cut to cut with the same person over and over again, no two situations are ever the same.

The most important thing is to feel first, and if you feel it, you will naturally react to it.

But in Kusanagi’s case, when you are concentrating on something and a different element pops in, you want to come back out. In my case, I think it is interesting to have one entrance but not know where the exit will be.

–You are also known as a car enthusiast. In an interview, you once said that acting and cars are similar.

Kunimura: I think that the process of making a movie or creating entertainment is similar to the process of making a product.

For example, when one decides to make a new car, the process begins with the question of what kind of car to make, whether it should be a family car or a sports car, and then various factors are involved, such as how much the final price should be, and so on.

In making a movie, for example, I think the script is like a blueprint for making a car.

If the blueprint is not excellent, the finished product will not be of high quality. In that sense, the quality of the blueprint is directly reflected in the finished product.

–Do you sometimes want to play with the excellent blueprints further?

Kunimura: Japanese dialogue is very convenient, and even if some points or conjunctions are changed, the meaning and nuance do not change much.

For example, in “Goban Kiri”, the rhythm of the scene where Kusanagi and I exchange lines across the Go board is different every time we play. A different rhythm means that the number of sounds in the dialogue is different, and sometimes it doesn’t fit the visuals of the scene.

Then, sometimes it is better to follow the rhythm, for example, by omitting a part, shortening a conjunction, or switching the order, so that it fits the rhythm of the video.

There is not much point in trying to speak exactly what is written in the script. When you watch “Goban Zanri,” I hope you will enjoy the differences in rhythm between Kusanagi and me.

Part 2: Jun Kunimura talks about “Imo Tako Nankin” and the appeal of “morning drama” and the challenges of making films in Korea and the U.S. _ click here

  • Interview and text by Wakako Takou

    Born in 1973. After working for a publishing company and an advertising production company, he became a freelance writer. In addition to interviewing actors for weekly and monthly magazines, she writes columns on drama for various media. His major publications include "All the Important Things Are Taught by Morning Drama" (Ota Publishing Co., Ltd.).

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