Etsushi Toyokawa was born in Osaka in 1962. He became well known after starring in a popular TV thriller "Night Head" in 1992. He has been active in movies and TV dramas ever since. Awards he received for his performances include both Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading and Supporting Role Awards from Japan Academy Awards, Best Actor Award for Takasaki Film Festival and Hochi Film Festival. He often chose to work with directors he'd never worked with, to expand his boundaries.
Etsushi Toyokawa's other film appearances include, Isao Yukisada's Kondo ha Aisaika (2010), Katsuaki Motoki's "Inu to Watashi no Ju no Yakusoku / 10 Promises to My Dog" (2008); Kaneto Shindo's "Hana wa Chiredomo / Though the Petals have Fallen" (2008); Yoshimitsu Morita's "Southbound", "Tsubaki Sanjuro / Sanjuro" (2007); Kunitoshi Manda's "Seppun / The Kiss" (2007); Junji Sakamoto's "Tamamoe" (2007); Yasuo Tsuruhashi's "Ai no Rukeichi / Love Never to End" (2007) and Tomoyuki Takigawa's "Hanin ni Tsugu / The Investigation Game" (2007).
Otcho or Choji Ochiai was one of the Secret Base friends. Later he disappeared while working for a trade company in Thailand. He's found working as an underground crime fighter, named Shogun, in Thailand. He goes back to Japan when Kenji contacts him so they can fight Friend together. In 2015 Otcho is put in solitary confinement in Umihotaru Prison, until he risks his life and escapes. He then attempts to assassinate Friend...
Did you read the original manga?
Yes, and I've always been interested in it, because there have been rumours about adapting it for a while, as well as another masterpiece "Monster" created by Naoki Urasawa. Naoki Urasawa is a master storyteller. The way he depicts scenes in his manga is very cinematic. I like the way his drawings are dynamic, but he doesn't use bold strokes. I think that's one of the reasons why the "20th Century Boys" manga is packed with action and dynamic, yet it has class. To adapt it into a movie, I believe that the director is very conscious of the graphic excellence of the manga.
Are there anything you particularly did to play Otcho, the manga character?
The original manga goes into Otcho's background in detail. So I read it over and over. You don't see it in the movie but in the manga, Otcho goes through zen training like a "Dragon Ball" character (laughs). His life is quite extraordinary and in that sense his character is the most fantastic. Most other characters come from regular backgrounds and that puts Otcho in a heroic light. Like Toshiyuki Karasawa said, "20th Century Boys" is an ensemble movie. I figured the character I play could stick out a little. I also postured a lot and positioned my face as Otcho was drawn in the manga. Normally I don't pay attention to storyboards and camera setup plans. But this time, photocopied pages of the manga came with the screenplay so I diligently checked them for reference. Of course this is going to be very enjoyable for those who haven't read the manga but I really don't want to betray the expectations of the manga fans. If we were not truthful to the original manga, it would be meaningless. The principal plan was to follow the manga as close as possible, so I did my best to play the character as closely as it was drawn in manga.
How did you like the location shooting in Thailand?
I went there to mainly shoot the action sequence. I had a long partial wig and a long coat on so it was really hot. Otcho never takes off his long coat. I'd like to ask Naoki Urasawa what's behind Otcho's look one day (laughs).
What do you find most interesting about Otcho?
Otcho is a man who lost something very important in his life. There's something very sexy about him because of that.
About Chapter Two:
"15 years has passed between the first and second chapter of the mega saga of 20th Century Boys. Our toughest challenge in bringing this saga to audiences was to transport them to 2015 in a convincing way. Everything conceivable was done by the director and actors to realise this. Special makeup was applied to age us by 15 years, which also assisted us in our performances. Although it was physically taxing to go through the 2-hour makeup application every day.
The makeup artists and I talked a lot about hair colour options and the affect of ageing on skin. In the comic series of 20th Century Boys, Otcho's hair shows signs of receding in 2015. Initially we wanted to keep as close as possible to the original manga series so I tried on a bald cap. The result was not too convincing so we opted not to go with the balding look.
Otcho in the first movie was a tough, heroic figure who'd gone through a lot in Thailand's ruthless underworld. He continues to be the tough guy in this movie. After he breaks out of Umihotaru Prison, he has many encounters with people with crucial information about Friend and helps solve the 2015 mystery in Tokyo.
Playing his character meant doing many unusual and fantastic things. But in the 20th Century Boys universe, it wasn't unusual so I got used to it when I was playing his character. I really enjoyed all the action-hero scenes. The scenes where my character rescues Kanna at the church and where Otcho confronts Friend alone were particularly exhilarating.
In this movie, Otcho has a sidekick, Kakuta. I got the feeling that the director wanted to bring a buddy element to the film with their relationship and comical interaction. Otcho has very strong feelings for Kanna. He calls Kanna the last hope and really thinks of her as special. I think it comes from his strong feelings for Kenji. Otcho thinks of Kanna as Kenji's legacy.
While Otcho interacts with many characters, there are episodes in the movie where he doesn't feature. It's a complex, big movie. The tone and the pace of the movie are totally different from the first chapter. I hope you'll enjoy this very different 20th Century Boys, set in 2015."
About Chapter Three:
"I did my very best in all three instalments. The shooting of the trilogy lasted a year which, frankly, was gruellingly long (laughs)! Because there were so many actors in each scene, I had a lot of waiting time in between my scenes. It was hard keeping in character during those periods.
While shooting the first two movies, I didn't know how the trilogy would conclude. So my performance involved some guesswork. I had read the original manga but I knew some things had to change. When I finally got to read the final chapter screenplay, I was impressed by the accomplished rearrangement and reconstruction of the original material.
As in Chapter 2, my character is in his 50's. In the final chapter, Otcho's 2 years older. The makeup artist and hair stylist did such a great job ageing me that it made it really easy to get in character. But really the emotions and tensions of each scene were more pivotal than the realistic ageing process of the characters. What the director wanted is entertainment. So I played my character with youthful exuberance despite his age. My character does a lot of stunts, he has to run from Friend's henchmen, climb up a high wall and shoot down flying saucers, which requires a lot of energy! And of course there's the past that Otcho turns a blind eye to. I had to always keep in mind that Otcho is always stuck with his son's death. He has a special bond with Kenji, which is never articulated but motivates him. In the climactic scene where Otcho and Kenji confront Friend I asked the director to do another take because I wanted to get the right emotions. All through the shooting it was very satisfying to be able to perform with incredibly talented contemporaries."
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