Chapter Two — Fly Me To The Saitama

The value of GACKT’s presence in “Fly Me To The Saitama” is the cherry on top¹. Right before filming was to resume, the producer and production staff came all the way to my house in Malaysia. They stayed for several days, and each morning when I saw them, I’d say, “Are we really doing this? It is a joke, right? You just came to hang out, right?” and they’d say, “It’s real!” I thought it was fake the whole time.

The filming for the sequel resumed just before winter in 2022. The shoot took place in freezing cold. It took two and a half months. There were many staff members, actors and extras who were near naked or in light clothing because of the setting. It was deathly cold. But because of the season that the movie was set in, people had to be unclothed and get in the cold sea. It was a tough set. But the fact of the matter is that for me, it wasn’t too painful because I know how to perform a mental reset. Of course, there were many things that were physically tough to endure, but when a scene finished filming, no matter how sleepy I was, I’d have silly conversations and play stupid games with the staff rather than sleep in my dressing room or the waiting area. And I’d mentally reset myself while laughing loudly. What’s important is to laugh until your heart is emptied.

At first, when the “Fly Me To The Saitama” director Takeuchi Hideki and the executive producer came to persuade me, I turned it down. But they just kept persistently repeating, “No matter what! No matter what!” Even though I only half-heartedly said, “Well… I guess…?” giving in to their perseverance, from that non-committal answer a tragedy was born. I felt quite a bit of resistance to the setting which had me playing a high school student. It seemed impossible.

Even though it’s allegedly a comedy movie, and this is true of both the sequel and the previous movie, on the actual set no one is intentionally trying to make their performance funny. The director’s orders are, “Just play it seriously, but I want you to increase the tempo as much as you can.” The more serious that you get, the more that “spaces” naturally open up in the performance, but under his direction we do the work of filling those spaces and fixing them to be shorter. He instructs the actors on set over and over, “The gap is still too long. Raise the tempo further!” “Don’t try and make people laugh. Don’t try and make it funny. Cool down!”

The director’s style is, “It’s funny when you play something exceptionally dumb seriously!” Even though it was a sequel, the filming reached an end with me honestly unsure, “Is this scene going to end up funny…?” The first one was incomprehensible the entire time. “Was what we just did really okay?” Even now that the filming for the sequel has ended, the awkward feeling from the shoot remains.

The Ultimate Farce

The director has strange tastes. I mean that as a compliment. His energy and passion are amazing. But in the middle of filming, he’s just a weird guy who is always on his own grinning about something. To be honest, it’s creepy. The first movie, I did while constantly doubting, “Is this actually funny?” For the second one, I had come to understand his sense to some extent, but during filming I was always performing with doubts in my mind, like, “Is this really the right direction…? Is it okay like this?” I was always checking with the director, “Is this okay?” He’d always reply, “Yeah, it was good!” with a big grin. The praise was so faint it was hard to believe it.

This isn’t meant as flattery, but Takeuchi is a wonderful director. His approach is skilled. It was the same for the movie “Thermae Romae”, but he never asks the actors to do something funny. He’s very good at his style of making actors do silly things in a serious and realistic way. Of course, not all of his works are like that, but he’s the most specialized and good at that kind of expression. He has a clear vision of the finished movie inside his head, and an exquisite understanding of pacing. That’s why he asks the actors for a faster exchange of lines than the usual serious performance.

Some of the actors want to be funny. But they get told off immediately. “You’re overdoing it!” “Not funny!” “No good!” He makes them redo it, “Act it out like this!” “Your feelings aren’t coming through!” There are a lot of entertainers in the movie. I suppose they want to act funny. But they immediately get yelled at and cut down to size.

Though it’s a comedy, it of course contains director Takeuchi’s consistent theme and things he is particular about. The direction he wants the actors to take it in is clear. He never seeks a performance that is trying to make the audience laugh. The performances are all serious from beginning to end. The staff on set are also earnest and serious, and always on point. The set is spicy. Most of the filming is done in harsh locations. Keeping on filming with the confusing balance of emotions from performing seriously silly things in that spicy tension is the epitome of poor psychological hygiene. You’re haunted up until the very end by the doubt, “What’s funny about this…?” When you spot the cameraman or the lighting technician grinning and holding in laughter, anxiety wells up, “What on earth is so funny…?” Filming moves on in a fundamentally disjointed manner. The set was always a flurry of activity. I was always doing it while putting together in my mind “How is this scene going to be completed?” but there were so many things that confused me.

It’s a comedy, but you’re not allowed to be funny. You have to cry. You have to make them cry. Cause I would get told, “Give a more tear-jerking performance!” I performed stupid lines while seriously shedding tears. There were scenes where I got heated during filming. But thinking about it with a cool head, I’d come to my senses like, “Why am I crying over a line like this?” Everyone cries. I shed tears with the rest of them and get heated. And when the director calls cut, I’m like “What the hell was that…?” I felt like I was going out of my mind.

Nikaido Fumi

My co-star, Nikaido Fumi, gave quite an unrestrained performance in “Fly Me To The Saitama”. To be honest, Fumi’s performances in her other works when she was being a serious actress didn’t grab me. It felt like she was performing within her capacity in roles she was good at, and in simple terms, “a good actress”. But there are many things about her approach to the role of Dannoura Momomi, who she plays in “Fly Me To The Saitama” that are different to her usual performances. That really grabbed me. She gives an extremely clever performance. She always takes in the position of the cameraman and frequently gives a performance in which she intentionally increases the amplitude of her acting to make the cameraman want to get the cut. She piles on approach after approach that the cameraman would want to film. But there’s no cynicism in her performance. Her range of expression in this role is exceptional and fascinating to watch. It gives me a renewed sense of awareness of her talent, that she is a wonderful actress with great depth.

This goes without saying, but actresses generally play women. Her role in this movie is a male role, a feminine man. It’s easy for those who know the themes of “Pataliro!”2 to understand, but just because a character is a feminine man doesn’t mean that you can portray them just by having a woman in a male role. Because in the end, she’s a woman. I’m sure that she is one of the few actresses that can naturally perform the themes of “Pataliro!”, not by going out of her way to behave in a masculine way, but with her feminine approach that she has because she is a woman, and her wildly amplified expressions. If she tried to perform in a masculine way, it would just end up Takarazuka style. 3 That would be the most easily understood interpretation, and most people would probably think it was the correct one, but she doesn’t do it with a Takarazuka approach at all. She does boyish things with her own natural expressive ability. So she never acts like a man in Takarazuka style at all. The way that she uses her own expressive ability to deliver a powerful performance makes everything she does hilarious. I can say for sure that it’s the highlight of her performance in this role. There aren’t many actresses who can do that. Of course, Fumi has a stellar reputation as an actress. There are few other actors or actresses who could portray a being who transcends gender in such an unrestrained manner as hers. She’s a wonderful actress.

Environmental Pollution

Fumi has a lot of openly feminine traits. She’s also extraordinarily androgynous. It’s a difficult thing to explain. When I’m facing her as a woman, I feel she’s a woman, but at the same time I get a sense that I’m talking to a young male relative. And also the sense that I’m talking to one of the guys I go drinking with.

We became close through the movie. When we had spare time, we spoke about travel, animals and things that are good for your skin, and I came to know her thoughts on many things. She’s a very natural and organic person. I felt the strength of her dedication in every word of our conversations. I’m also an organic person, but she’s of a completely different type. I just try to avoid putting chemicals in my body as much as possible simply because my body used to be weak, but in her case, she lives life prioritizing and caring about what is good for the environment. On the other hand, my presence is already not kind to the environment at all. I’m a man who spreads carbon monoxide just by living and moving around, and giving everything in the world carbon monoxide poisoning.4 The world that Nikaido Fumi, the organic person, lives in, and the world GACKT, the environmental polluter, lives in couldn’t be more different.

Katou Ryou

The other co-star of mine who I like as an actor is Katou Ryou. His performances are extremely funny. It’s only natural, but his approach as an actor is to thoroughly comprehend and express what is wanted from him. He’s an absolutely fascinating person as an actor. I co-starred with him for the first time in the first “Fly Me To The Saitama”, but I’d seen quite a few other movies in which he played a supporting role. It’s fun how his presence in any role shows the performance of Kato Ryou, the actor. The Katou Ryou flavor comes through no matter what he’s doing. It’s the same with Kagawa Teruyuki. His color permeates any role he plays. If Kagawa plays a role, then it will be a performance that no one but Kagawa could give. I suppose that he has his own internal method of creating a character, but it’s certain that a character he inhabits will become his own unique character. Cause you want to see more of his performances. “Relax and watch,” that’s the sensation that I get.

Of course, there are actors who have the idea that this is wrong. “You should inhabit the character themselves more,” is the way of thinking and the theory of acting, but I can’t sympathize with that idea much. The reason is that, whether it’s a movie or a TV show, it has a strong relation to the audience ratings and box office take, as well as the production costs. People go to see a work because they want to see the performance delivered by that actor, or more fundamentally, because they “want to see that person.” There certainly are actors who can deliver a skilled performance with a great range. They’re people who can inhabit a character to the point where you don’t know who is playing the character, and erase their individuality to the point where you think, “Who is that actor?” But if you ask me if range alone makes a good actor, I can’t say so. Because there are overwhelmingly more actors who act wonderfully but can’t attract viewers.

Getting back to Katou Ryou, with that said, it’s not that I became close with him. He has a completely different atmosphere in private. He’s a quiet person, calm and soft. But when he starts performing, he’s Katou Ryou, the actor. It’s so wonderful and fascinating. He’s extremely funny when he’s playing a character. I’m more drawn to him as an actor than to him as a person. He’s an actor that makes me think, “This guy is good at performing.”

Kataoka Ainosuke

Out of my co-stars in this film, the one I became closest friends with and had most interest in as an actor was Kataoka Ainosuke. There were many times when I watched Ai’s performances on sets that weren’t for my scenes, and when it wasn’t time for me to go on. He gives wonderful and funny performances. He is also a kabuki actor, and he has the unique movements of a kabuki actor, but I also sense he has a way of facing acting with sincerity, that comes from his humanity. He can express what other people are hoping to see with a 120% performance. That’s really wonderful, and more than anything, he’s great at ending a scene with aplomb. He’s constantly aware of where the first camera is and how it’s filming and nails it in one take. He makes sure to deliver the words in his lines that are the most important to deliver, and he can perfectly hit the climatic lines at the most delicious moment. To use a metaphor, it’s like he gives the scene punctuation. And because he does that, the end of the scene always wraps up neatly. He’s one of the few actors who can do that without condescension. I don’t know how aware of it the scriptwriters are when they’re writing the key lines, but I’m sure they must be glad that he nails each line to such an extent.

The majority of actors have a stance like, “I’m going to perform freely, so let the cameramen film it how they like.” And the result of that is that naturally there are many cameramen who say, “Do it how you like, I’ll find the best places to shoot.” But he’s got a solid awareness of the position of the camera and therefore is completely aware of how he looks in it. Ai would say, “Oh no, I don’t do that,” but he is an actor with exceptionally high spatial awareness.

Perhaps it’s because he’s a kabuki actor, but he wows me with every scene. He nails each and every line from the best angle. The way he delivers the final line with aplomb, and how he grasps the point is so high level that I kind of hate him for it. His presence is overwhelming. The presence of an actor is not proportional to how many scenes they’re in. The instant when he nails the final line is terrifyingly precise. Ai carries every scene he’s in. I feel secure when we perform together, and he always makes me feel safe.

There are many actors who do take after take when they’re performing and still can’t get the image right. They’re saying the lines, but the image doesn’t come together. Of course, the director will also be left with a vaguely unpleasant feeling. Ai is at the absolute peak of wrapping up a scene. If you think about it from an editing perspective, it also leads to being able to tell where to cut to the next shot. If that’s the reason why Director Takeuchi makes use of him, then I can’t help but acknowledge that he’s also an amazing director.

I used to rather like kabuki. I’ve been to see it, but a long time ago I had a conflict with Ebizō (as he was known at the time5) and we became distant. We made up, but I lost interest in kabuki. Ai is the actor who made me feel like going to see kabuki again. I’m really curious to see what kind of performance he gives during a kabuki play.

I became quite good friends with him. Because I know that he’s extremely busy, I only invite him out once a month, but our relationship became close enough to make me want to go to dinner with him. When we go out to eat, it’s usually me, him and a few friends; four to five people. He’s come to see my shows as well. He’s quite funny. He’s full of humor, and the funniest person I’ve met in the entertainment industry in the last few years. Rather than bring up conversation topics, he’ll pick up whatever others give, get excited, and create a fun atmosphere. As is befitting of his name, he’s overflowing with love.6 He makes the place fun and amusing.

I have a lot of friends who clam up if the actor, Kataoka Ainosuke, is present. So he takes the lead with an, “Allow me, then!” and demonstrates entertainment in front of everyone. Everyone there comes to love him before they know it. He’s that kind of person. He has such a presence and aura too, but on top of that he’s open and natural, and someone who, without ill-will, can take position in the middle of the circle and get excited. It’s amazing, really. I’m drawn to his humanity.

The Actor Who Serves As A Key

The first time he entered the same screen as me and performed, I felt, “This guy’s acting is amazing!” and told him so on the spot. “Your acting is amazing, really amazing!” I told him with no sense of embarrassment. That’s how we became friends. I extended a frank invitation, “Let’s go get something to eat!” Wanting to get to know a person immediately after I start liking them has always been my personality. The fact of the matter is that people who I’m that interested in don’t often show up, so I have a habit of flirting with them when they do appear, regardless of gender.

For example, there are more people than you’d expect who I think perform wonderfully and then when I meet them in private, I think, “Oh, this is what they’re like…” and don’t feel like forming a deeper relationship with them. On top of having a deep heart, he’s wonderfully fascinating. I know his wife, Fujiwara Norika, who is also appearing in this movie, from way back. We used to share a makeup artist. Ai knew that Norikacchi and I are acquainted. But when I hang out with Ai, we go eating and drinking without her. Ai’s somewhat of a lightweight when it comes to drinking, but he helps me to get the party going. When he’s drunk too much, he’ll cheerfully tell me, “I’ve lost it!” and somehow that’s cool, on top of making him a cute person. “I guess that’s why he’s popular with ladies…” I think, when I look at him objectively. I’d definitely fall in love with him if I were a woman. He’s kind and overflowing with love on top of being cool. I’m in love with him as a man. He’s the total opposite to me.

I have quite a picky personality, and on top of that, I don’t bother at all with things like work relationships. I choose who I spend time with completely based on my own feelings, and hang out with them how I want to. Of course, I have no idea what Ai thinks of me, and I’m not interested in finding out either. There are a lot of people who are concerned with what others think of them, and how they are seen, but I lack that sense completely. He’s someone who always keeps me fascinated, and that’s enough. I’m hugely lucky that he appeared in this movie. His presence creates contrast in the movie. If he hadn’t been there, it wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did.

In the first place, the number one reason that I decided to appear in “Fly Me To The Saitama” was that it was one of Maya Mineo’s works. I love Maya’s works to begin with, and the character of Asami Rei, who appears in “Fly Me To The Saitama” is based on Bancoran from “Pataliro!”. The character has long hair and is an agent of the British intelligence agency MI6. Maya’s works always have a character who resembles Bancoran. Because of that, how to play the character was more obvious than you would expect, and the key was how to portray Bancoran through the filter of GACKT.

In particular, Bancoran in the anime version of “Pataliro!” is awesome. The silly world of “Pataliro!” comes together because Bancoran is in it. On top of being cool, he’s a mysterious and forceful character who makes everything. The fact that it’s a boy’s love anime and there are hardly any female characters is part of the appeal. It was written 45 years ago, but watching it as an adult, there are some pretty wild lines. Bancoran’s lover, an assassin named Maraich, is also male. Among their lines, there’s a love scene where they say each other’s names, “Bancoran…” “Maraich…” and he puts his hand on Maraich’s chest with an “Aahh…” as they entwine. In a scene where Maraich is jealous of one of Bancoran’s female friends, there’s the line, “I’m a man, so there’s no way I can have Bancoran’s children!” It’s amazing that that line was written more than 40 years ago. From way back then, it wasn’t just depicting boy’s love, but extremely silly, and also painful, sad and beautiful. “Pataliro!” is a wonderful work. Because I’m basing my character on an extended interpretation of Bancoran, Asami Rei never wavers.

It Will Never Be A Hit

In the end, “Fly Me To The Saitama” swept all the movie awards. To be frank, this was a big problem. Before thinking of if it would win awards or not, I had been thinking, “It will never be a hit.” I was once asked about my feelings on winning the Japan Academy Award for Best Male Lead, but honestly I thought, “This can’t be right…” In the first place, all I’m doing is acting like Bancoran. When I heard that I’d been nominated for an award, the words, “Hey, hey… you can’t choose me,” escaped me. I am grateful that it was a hit… I’m grateful for it, and of course I’m glad that my fans were waiting for me, but the Academy Award and stuff are nothing but insanity caused by someone losing their mind. I’ll return the honor with a heartfelt apology.

After the movie was released, there were immediately an unusual amount of questions from my regular acquaintances about, “Can I bring my kids to meet you?” They said, “My kids are saying they absolutely have to meet GACKT.” I asked, “Why?” and was told, “My daughter just says she wants to meet you!” When I meet them, they do the Saitama pose with all their might. When I take photos with them too, I’m standing there normally but when I look at the photos all the kids are doing the Saitama pose.

Terrifying Omiya

The first time I went to Saitama as part of my private life was after I began my solo career. It happened when I was 26. I’d been living in Ikebukuro since I moved to Tokyo, but even though Saitama was just a little further out, I’d never been there. I had no reason to go there and no interest. The keyboardist who had been in my support band since I went solo was living in Saitama at the time. We ended up having a meeting at his house, which was a short distance from Omiya. At first I thought, “So this is what Saitama is like…” and had the impression it was extremely mundane. When the meeting ended, we went to Omiya to eat.

It was an izakaya7. It wasn’t a particularly expensive place, but during the meal I went to the toilet, and when I entered, locked the door, and turned around, at that moment… the lid of the toilet opened slowly all by itself. This was back in the day when even the toilets with washlets in Tokyo didn’t have lids that opened automatically. It was damn terrifying. The lid of the toilet suddenly raised itself when I wasn’t expecting it. “Oh shit, that’s scary!” I blurted out. The silence lingered as I looked around nervously, not moving an inch, and then the lid of the toilet opened on its own again. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” I panicked. I hurried back to my seat without completing the task at hand, and told everyone, “The lid of the toilet just opened on its own!” It was in Saitama that I first encountered the lid opening on a fully-automated toilet. This is besides the point but when I go into large restrooms in buildings, I still to this day see signs that say, “This toilet will flush automatically,” so maybe there are old people who panic like me and sprinkle pee everywhere. Does the fact that they still have those signs even now mean that there are still people who don’t know about automatically flushing toilets?

In this film, there are a great number of actors who hail from Saitama. The Chairman of Urawa and the Chairman of Omiya, among others, are all from Saitama. When I told them about this memory, they told me, apparently, “Oh, yeah, I get it, everyone in Saitama wants to introduce new things,” “We all jump to the latest thing.” Apparently a lot of stores want to do things that make their customers say, “This is amazing!” When you think about it like that, maybe it’s Tokyo that’s the slow one.

That was the first time I visited Saitama in my private life. The next time was when I composed the fanfare for the Kawaguchi Autorace Circuit. When I was the official ambassador for a competition, I went to Kawaguchi in person and rode a motorbike around the circuit. Kawaguchi is a great place. The Autorace Circuit is just plopped down in the middle of absolutely nothing. Perhaps regional areas are just like that, but in the past Saitama Super Arena felt even more like it had been put down randomly. I remember the first time I entered the arena, I worried, “Why is it in a place like this? Will people actually show up here?”

This time around, I saw the finished movie for the first time at a prerelease screening in mid-August. It brought up a lot of feelings for me. To be honest, I found the content of the movie so funny that it pissed me off. There’s a limit to ridiculousness. The angle of approach is different to the ridiculousness of the first one, and more than anything else, the scale of the ridiculousness is enormous. It’s so dumb you can’t help laughing. It’s really dumb. It’s so extremely dumb that I am filled with apologetic feelings for how dumb it is.

More than anything else, and surprisingly, you can cry properly to it. You can cry a lot despite the fact that the story is so dumb and we’re exchanging lines that are beyond saving. Part one was the same too, but even though there are a lot of nonsensical exchanges, everyone is seriously expressing lots of anger and sadness and passion in every scene. There’s a scene in which the oppressed people are stirring themselves up, each coming out with their feelings and expressing roused passions, “Let’s do it! Let’s fight,” and if you think about it with a cool head, it’s a very dumb and nonsensical scene. When we were on set, I couldn’t help thinking, “What are all these grown-ass adults doing together?” And yet when you see the finished film, you can shed tears to it. The scene works so well it pisses me off. It gave me a renewed feeling that, “Takeuchi’s world is truly stupid and incomprehensibly cool…” Even though we’re saying such stupid things, it’s extremely mysterious. I’ve been entirely defeated by Takeuchi’s world… But this work has many homages to famous scenes in Hollywood movies. To the point where I worry if it’s gone past homage into “rip-off”. The names of lots of famous companies also appear in the movie, and we probably got permission to use none of them. When you think about it like that, there’s an extremely large chance that the movie will be pulled. I want my fans who were waiting for “Fly Me To The Saitama” to go to the theater and enjoy it before the film is erased from the face of the earth. There’s an extremely large chance that people who are intending to watch it after the DVD or streaming release won’t be able to see it.

My Voice Is My Life

The filming of this movie was the first job I took after resuming my career. The film contains images from when my voice hadn’t 100% returned. The way that the scenes were filmed differs as the film progresses, to a certain extent the chronology of the film matches the order of the filming process. There are still lines in the first half from when my voice wasn’t coming out properly. My voice improves over the second half of the film. You can tell it’s getting back to normal. This is something that was deeply emotional for me personally. Of course my voice is my life. There were scenes when I feel that, even though I was saying my lines loudly and I was able to vocalize them, “My voice isn’t coming forward. My voice isn’t reaching.”

Maybe one time, I’ve recorded my voice and listened and felt uncomfortable. Because for work, we listen to recordings of our own voices over and over. I’m well aware of what kind of voice I have. But I listened to my voice in this film and gained a new sense of how amazing the transformation was. Whether my voice is coming through or not is so vivid. When it gets to the middle of the movie, my voice reaches further and further as the scenes get more intense. As a result, the lines start to come in in a good way. That’s the most deeply emotional thing to me. It gave me renewed conviction that to an actor, the voice is life.

Even if this film isn’t pulled from screening, and even if by some miracle it succeeds again, there absolutely won’t be a part three. I thought this when I was watching the second one, but where did the original setting of us being high school students go? It’s there in the backstory, but whether we’re high school students or not has already become irrelevant and been ruined. The actual cast playing them is all middle-aged guys. There’s not a single teenager among us. In the main cast, there might not even be anyone in their 20s. Whether there is or not, it’s already orbiting a strange world. At this rate, even if the person playing opposite me in part three was a man, it wouldn’t be boy’s love, just middle-aged man love. No one wants to see that. The production staff got ahead of themselves and were saying things like, “The area around Fukuoka is a candidate for part three…” but I intend to do everything in my power to stop it from happening.

  1. Literally “the pickled plum in a bento box” (which generally sits in the middle of the rice as a decoration).[]
  2. A 1978 comedy manga and 80’s anime that was one of the first to depict male/male romance on television. The author, Maya Mineo, also wrote Tonde Saitama/”Fly Me To The Saitama”. (Maya is his surname).[]
  3. The Takarazuka Revue is a musical theater group in which all roles are played by women. The actresses who specialize in male roles are known as otokoyaku, and have a distinct, stylized approach to playing men. Incidentally, the role of Noritsune in GACKT’s MOON SAGA II stage show was played by an otokoyaku.[]
  4. I did wonder if he meant carbon dioxide here, but it definitely says monoxide.[]
  5. Kabuki actors inherit and pass on stage names which may change during the actor’s career. The actor currently known as Ichikawa Danjūrō XIII was previously known as Ichikawa Ebizō XI from 2004 to 2022 (his father, the previous Ichikawa Ebizō, held the name in the 80s, and there is currently no Ichikawa Ebizō).[]
  6. The first character of “Ainosuke” is 愛, “love”.[]
  7. A type of restaurant/bar serving mostly Japanese food and all-you-can-drink alcohol, popular for after-work gatherings.[]