Absolutely Secret Conclusion
The 20th Century Boys Trilogy began principal photography in January 2008. The last instalment of the trilogy started shooting in August of the same year. Written by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki, the creative team behind the original manga, the movie adaptation unfolds and concludes differently from the manga. Most astounding is the appearance of Another Friend, which created much controversy among the film crew.
Two versions of the final screenplay were prepared, one with the final pages included and another without, in order to prevent any possible leak of information.
Even after the film was finished, a specially edited version was shown at preview screenings with the last ten minutes cut out. Until the release of the movie only a handful of people knew how the trilogy concluded.
The Year 2017, Digitally Built Future
One reason it took one whole year between the release of Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 is the complex digital effects used in the movie to depict the future.
Set in 2017, 2 years after Chapter 2 concluded, Japan has gone through substantial changes under Friend's rule, as he's now the World President. Friend orders that Tokyo is rebuilt in the image of his beloved 1970s. The contrast between the ultra futuristic Friend Tower and the retro-70s Tokyo cityscape is strikingly realised with computer generated images. N-DESIGN, the effects shop responsible for the creative imagery in the hit movie Goemon (Directed by Kazuaki Kiriya, 2009), did their utmost to realise the ultra imaginative future world conceived by Naoki Urasawa. Most notable are the Fortress outside the Great Wall of Tokyo and the border patrol station, the flying saucers in the climactic scenes and the new and improved robot that walks.
The Handmade Future
Besides the photorealistic CGIs, craftsmanship also played a crucial role with the making of sets and futuristic miniatures. The exterior set of the border patrol station and the adjacent village was built at the foot of a Tochigi mountain where many Toho Monster movies were shot, including Godzilla. The state-of-art set was as detailed as the Kabuki-cho set in the second movie. Electric power lines were extended far to suggest the scale of the city and the chickens running around livened things up. On set were the stars, Toshiaki Karasawa, Naoto Fujiki playing Chono, Toru Tezuka and Kenichiro Tanabe playing Ujiko and Ujio respectively, and Sabu Kawahara as the cemetery custodian. Also on set were the squad members of the Terrestrial Peace Fighters in their bright orange uniforms, making it look like a monster movie set. Joe Yabuki arrives at this surreal village on his motorcycle with his guitar slung over his shoulder, just like Akira Kobayashi in the Wataridori series of the late 50s.
An extremely detailed miniature was used to film the exterior long shots of Pekanbe Radio Station (Pekanbe means water chestnut in Ainu). A set was used for the interior of the radio station, which was cluttered with massive amounts of tapes, vinyl and cultural memorabilia.
The Robot Laboratory of Professor Shikishima was built in the Toho Studio. The set designers decorated the set with used cars and machinery, and they incorporated the studio's structural steel beams for a jerry-rigged reality.
The Band of the Century, Million Dollars!
The Million Dollars is Kenji's old band. The band's bass guitar player is Billy, who is Yukihiro Takahashi, the musician. In real life he's a drummer, but he's playing a bass guitarist in the movie. He needed to practice the instrument, but his professionalism was apparent when he noticed one of the instruments was out of tune at the rehearsal. Besides acting in front of the cameras, he performed the song to be pre-recorded for the scene, and he was photographed for the band's poster that also appears in the movie. Takahashi has had previous acting experience when he appeared in Nobuhiko Obayashi's April Fish/Shigatsu no Sakana, and in 20th Century Boys he showed no reservations about performing.
10,000 Extras in the Pouring Rain of Tears!
The concert scene with ten thousand extras was the most laborious. It was a 2-day shoot in Chiba Minato Port Town, Chiba, at the end of September 2008. Scheduled in the middle of the typhoon season, it was raining one day before the shoot, making the crew anxious. Director Tsutsumi uploaded a message on his blog stating that he'd be at the location first thing in the morning no matter what the conditions were, which raised the crew's morale. By the time the camera rolled, the clouds had cleared and it had become really hot.
Packed with extras, the energy in the stadium was like that of a real outdoor concert. Five cameras were used to film the scene including a crane camera gliding freely over the extras. The director called out for specific angles from each camera to capture specific shots of the audience, the stage, close-ups on the musicians, etc. Tsutsumi, the veteran music video director, is confident he captured the scene's dynamic realism.
On the first day of shooting they shot the Namio Haru concert scene. On the second day they shot the concert scene where Kenji turns up and plays with his old band friends. Unfortunately the weather on the second day was not optimal, with sporadic rain. But the efficient crew worked around the rain and wrapped the shoot on schedule. This was the first time in the long shooting schedule that the Secret Base gang, Karasawa, Toyokawa, Tokiwa, Kagawa, Ishiduka, Miyasako and Yamadera, were all together. It was exciting for the reunited cast.
Toshiaki Karasawa and Arata Furuta both have stage experience, but no one had ever performed in front of ten thousand people. The two actors confessed to feeling both pressure and exhilaration. Airi Taira who played Kanna and Haruka Kinami who played Kyoko Koizumi were so overwhelmed by the excitement generated by the crowd of ten thousand that they cried.
The guitar played by Kenji on stage is a Gibson Les Paul, Naoki Urasawa's personal guitar. Karasawa was so enthusiastic that the neck of the guitar snapped off. But Urasawa didn't mind stating, "Res Pole guitars are known to break easily. But every time it gets repaired, it sounds better. My guitar was collecting dust for 10 years so it was great that it got to be played."
Hot Blooded Men vs Men
Even three 2-hour-plus movies couldn't cover the entire story told in the 24 volumes of the original manga. Omitting elements of the story was like cutting off a finger. The consequence of these omissions was that it compromised on in-depth portrayals of the characters. So the actors tried to incorporate the untold episodes into their performances.
Towards the end of the movie there's a tense confrontation between Kenji and Manjome. Karasawa who plays Kenji initially planned to give a low-key delivery in this scene but Renji Ishibashi who plays Manjome provoked Karasawa and he couldn't stop reacting emotionally.
When Kenji, Otcho and Yoshitsune find out Friend's secret, actors Toyokawa and Kagawa who played Otcho and Yoshitsune respectively, create a dramatic scene with their ardent performances. Though they were wearing inhibiting makeup used to age them, they managed to express the subtle emotions required of the scene.
Takako Tokiwa Shoulder Throws a Kick Boxer!
From Chapter 1, Tokiwa who plays Yukiji, a judo expert, wanted to do a judo stunt herself. In the final chapter, her wish came true. She practised and trained at a judo dojo and was eventually good enough to throw Musashi, who's a known master of karate and kick boxing. Though he's not a judo master, Musashi wouldn't be easily thrown with his muscular physique. He recalls when Tokiwa threw him, "She slammed me down good. It was a great experience."
Tokiwa had confrontations with Eiko Koike who plays Takasu, too. They have a tense cat-fight, including tussling and gunfire.
Kids love Toshiaki Karasawa
Many local children came to the location filming to watch. They called out to Karasawa, "Kenji, let's play!" like in the movie. It shows how popular 20th Century Boys movies are among children. Karasawa recounts with surprise, "I talked to some of the kids and they told me that they'd be out of the popular crowd if they hadn't seen these movies."
Kanna, the Leader of Handsome Young Men
In this movie, as the leader of a resistance group against Friend, Kanna is known as Ice Queen. The last chapter picks up the story 2 years on from the last instalment and Kanna's hair is longer and jet black now, which gives her character a maturity. The director decided that the members of Ice Queen's group were to be all handsome young men. Actors from D-BOYS and the stars from the Kamen Rider series were summoned for the job. On the other hand, men in Yoshitsune's Genji Faction are played by more idiosyncratic character actors.
Hero Kenji's Namesake, Legendary Musician Kenji Endo Cameos
Naoki Urasawa admires and respects the musician Kenji Endo (known as En-Ken). And so En-Ken has a cameo appearance as a hunter who Kenji meets on his journey. Urasawa says, "Our hero Kenji Endo meets the real Kenji Endo, his namesake, and recovers his faith in humanity. There is something cosmic about what the camera documented."
Musician Kenji Endo started his career in the 70s, producing hits like Curry Rice/Kareiraisu, Hoolay to Tokyo/Toukyou wasshoi, The Invincible Man/Fumetsu no Otoko and Scream, Dream! /Yume yo Sakebe. In 1980 he released an album, The Cosmic Rescue/Uchu Boeigun. A whole generation of musicians are influenced by Endo, such as Masaharu Fukuyama who recorded a cover version of A Kiss on the Forehead/Odeko Ni Kisu on his album, Fukuyama Engineering - Soundtrack album, The Golden Oldies. Endo provided music for the movie Iden & Tity (Directed by Tomorowo Taguchi) and he himself Directed a documentary movie, The Invincible En-Ken against Budokan Hall/Fumetsu no Otoko Ken-Ken tai Nippon Budokan.
Another cosmic connection between Endo and 20th Century Boys is Shiro Sano, who played Yanbo and Mabo. Before becoming an actor, Sano was a background musician for Endo! When film director Kaizo Hayashi saw him play he offered Sano a role in his movie, which started off Sano's acting career.
Principal photography wrapped in November 2008. It took more than 10 months to shoot the trilogy. The scenes where Kenji wanders about and recovers his sanity were pickup shots done on location in Niigata, in late February 2009.
© 1999, 2006 Naoki Urasawa, Studio Nuts, Shogakukan © 2008-2009 “20th Century Boys” Film Partners © 2008-2010 4Digital Media
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