Special Interview with Shōgo Kusano, a Japanese film director from "What She Likes"

"What She Likes" (Kanojo ga sukina mono wa.../ 彼女が好きなものは... in Japanese title) is one of the films in Nippon Cinema Now category at 34th Tokyo International Film Festival this year (2021). By the courtesy of TIFF, we got an opportunity to have special interview with Shōgo Kusano, a film director from movie "What She Likes", to share his viewpoints and behind-the-scene ideas include his opinion about Japanese BL movie and series and the trend.

Shōgo Kusano, a film director from movie "What She Likes" after interview at Hibiya Midtown Tokyo

Q: What is your great reason to make this film?

Shōgo Kusano: in 2018 or begining 2019, producer ms. Maehara (Minori Maehara, 前原美野里) sent me a letter and also original book. When i read it, I was very impressed by this book and it make me realized that in everyday life, there is the thing i didn't see or i ignored about it or the words that i thought i knew but i didn't really think or pay attention to. I was impressed by the book and in the same times, I didn't sure that i can adapt it into the film because it's so sensitive theme. And then later i had a meeting with producer Maehara and i realized how serious she want to do it and how sincerely she want to make this film and then i thought OK, may be i should work with her. That's how i started to make this film.

Q: When you shot the film?

Shōgo Kusano: September year 2020.

Q: The film was shot during pandemic?

Shōgo Kusano: Yes, we shooting during the pandemic.

Director Shōgo Kusano with the poater of 34th Tokyo International Film Festival

Q: In the film, There are many Japanese characters who hide their gay status like Hayato Kondo (starring by Daichi Watanabe) who revealed that there are many gays in the Onsen, a classmate he met at the school's walkway and Makoto, a middle-aged married guy. What do you think about LGBT+Q status in Japan society today?

Shōgo Kusano: Well, I'm not in a position to talk about, or represent about environment for LGBT+Q in Japan. I don't know how they are in the other countries like in Thailand, but i feel we are not in the situation to open and talk about "sexual minority" in casual manner, we are not ready yet in Japan.

Q: Talking about the trend, there are so many popular bl manga in Japan and it also famous worldwide. Compare with other Asia's countries like Thailand or Taiwan, there are not so many hit bl manga like in Japan. Surprisingly, the number of bl Japanese movies and TV series is not much in Japan even there are so many good bl stories manga.

Many Japanese films or TV series related to bl story targets mainly to domestic audience, not aimed to cover oversea audience at the beginning. Recently, the Thai bl series and movies increasing rapidly, they also target both domestic and international markets. What do you think about the trend of LGBT+Q film and TV series in Japan? Do you think Japanese bl movie and series may increasing and how about its trend in the near future?

Anna Yamada as "Sae Moura", one of the main characters in "What She Likes"

Shōgo Kusano: well, I don't know the answer, but you knew Japaness boyslove manga started its trend from "amateur manga magazines", it's not "commercial magazines" so it's really a  community like what Sae Miura presents in the film, a kind of a secret joy for them. They don't talk about it with the others but they're talking about it with the insiders in their own community who liked the same thing. So it is the culture that shared inside their own community only, very different from TV or films which make to satisfy everyone. I think, bl manga is a different culture from TV and films.

Jun Ando and Sae Miura during their first date 

Shōgo Kusano: This film, as well as drama related to the situation of LGBT+Q in Japan is increasing. The TV drama that I'm shooting right now which is broadcasting on TV, it's about gay sexuality, gay love and a relationship between the man (He mentioned to "Kieta Hatsukoi", 消えた初恋, a bl series on TV Asahi). I would say it's increasing but I shouldn't say this film "What She Likes" is cover all LGBT+Q issue, It's about gay. May be there are more gay relationship drama increasing a little in Japan, but not so much "Lesbian", not so much "Transgender", not so much "Bi-sexual" and not so much Queer. Those themes are not really depicted in the film. So we cannot say LGBT+Q films are increasing, the gay issue may be increasing a little but not cover all the others. 

For this work, it's about gay. Personally i think we shouldn't really put this film in whole one LGBT+Q category.

Jun Ando met Sae Miura by chance at a bookstore and found her secret.
Q: How about your reason to cast the main characters?

Shōgo Kusano: About actor Fūju Kamio, i like his character. Somehow he looks shady, a little bit darkish feeling and also at the same times he visually quite had some kind of transparency to him so i thought he will be perfect for the role of Jun Ando even at the time when i writing the script and i also thinking about him.

And for the role of Sae Miura is actress Anna Yamada. Actually producer Maehara met her in some film festival. She told me that ms.Yamada exactly like Sae. When i met her, she attempted hard from her heart and she is a very good actress as well that's why i decided to choose her.

Director Shōgo used the slow-shutter technic on the monologue scene at the begining of the story

Q: How about your most favourite scene in the film?

Shōgo Kusano: Of course, there are so many, may be the sports gym is my favourite scene.

Q: Why you liked this scene?

Shōgo Kusano: I thought it's very sincere acting, very true acting. You knew, Jun, Sae, Ono and Ryohei, those characters' feelings and the emotions are portrayed in very natural way so that's why i liked this scene.

Fūju Kamio as Jun Ando, a highschool student who struggle his life and found himself in the film "What She Likes"

Q: You also added a scene of the students in the classroom discussing about LGBT+Q, about gay issue. Why you want to present the voice of the new generations?

Shōgo Kusano: Actually, on the contrary, i thought people are still stucked in the old value system and they are not aware of it. They make comments which is reflecting very much the old value system but they are not aware of it. I don't think it's the voice of the new generations yet.

Tsubasa Imai as "Makoto Sasaki", a married middle-aged guy who hides his sexual status

Q: Talking about the camera style in your film, you also make the slow-shutter scene, for example: when Jun met Sae first times at bookstore or the relationship between Jun and mr. Fahrenheit was suddenly broken and getting worse. Your camera style reminds us the Wong Kar-Wai's film. So what is your inspiration behind this cut?

Shōgo Kusano: Actually, the beginning of the film, the Jun Ando's monologue is actually directly refered from a Wong Kar-Wai's film's  "Chunking Express", I just having fun by this  playful theme and the slow-shutter is the technique they don't use anymore. They don't use for expression because high speed camera is so advance so you can make the slow motion scene beautifully. So i thought it will be refreshing to use this old technique and it's kind of my way to reviving this technique.

Makoto Sasaki met Jun Ando during he came for the fiest date at an Onsen in the film "What She Likes"

Q: What do you means about a phrase "Distance keep you Safe" in this film?

Shōgo Kusano: Well, because" Social Distance" is the word we used in Japan since pandemic started. This word "Social Distance" is a kind of a word that became normal and first appeared in Japanese vocabulary and when the pandemic started everythings were stopped. We were shooting and everything were stopped. So i have to stay home and then those are the monologue that i added it, I wrote it when i had to stay at home. Because of the Corona so "Keep the Distance and the Distance keep you safe" it's for the Corona as well as for Jun, he protecting himself to keep safe by keeps distance from other people so it's distance of physical and mental distance to protect himself.

InStyle Asia: How about your next project? What kind of genre you want to make in the future?

Shōgo Kusano: I loved "coming of age story" (Seishun story), i've done two films and also TV series that I'm doing is also "coming of age story", and i liked it. I never feel bore it. But so far my main characters and protagonist are boys, may be next times i can make the girls as main characters, may be senior highschool students, girl students who would represent to new generations. May be, it will be great if i can shoot outside Japan like in Thailand or other countries, that will be wonderful.

Jun Ando who tried to be "normal" under the standard that majorities defined and Sae Moura who loves the fantasy world in bl manga.

Q: Wow! You also thinking of make new film and series outside Japan.

Shōgo Kusano: That's correct, i want to do. But i have to learn English (laugh)

Q: "What She Likes" is a great film both its story and everyone casts. After the film is released in Japan, hopefully it will be showing in abroad and be one of favourite films among audience worldwide.

Shōgo Kusano: Thank you so much. i hope so.

About the Movie and Filmmaker

"What She Likes" is released in Japan theaters on December 3rd, 2021 after premiered at 34th Tokyo International Film Festival in November 2021. Based on a popular novel "Kanojo ga Sukina Mono wa Homo de Atte, Boku dewa Nai" by Naoto Asahara (Kadokawa publishing). The novel was adapted into a series version and aired on NHK channel in 2019 under the title "Fujoshi, Ukkari Gei ni Kokuru".

Shōgo Kusano is one of the new wave Japanese film directors, he is known from the film "Bittersweet" (Nigakute Amai/ 苦くて甘い - starring by Kento Hayashi and Haruna Kawaguchi) in 2016, "The  Longest Photo in The World" (Sekai de Ichiban Nagai Shashin/ 世界で一番長い写真 - starring by Mahiro Takasugi) in 2018 include a popular bl series "Vanishing My First Love" (Kieta Hatsukoi/ 消えた初恋 - starring by Ren Meguro and Shunsuke Michieda) airring from October to December  2021 on TV Asahi.

Film Title: What She Likes (English)/ Kanojo ga Sukina mono wa..., 彼女が好きなものは... (Japanese)

Main cast: 

Fuju Kamio as Jun Ando

Anna Yamada as Sae Miura

Tsubasa Imai as Makoto Sasaki

Oshiro Maeda as Ryohei Takaoka

Ryota Miura as Yusuke Ono

Daichi Watanabe as Hayato Kondo

Nao Miura as Toko Sakura

Akane Ikeda as Kurumi Imamiya

Hayato Isomura as mr. Farenheit

Sayaka Yamaguchi as Mizuki Ando (Jun Ando's mom)

Film Director & Script writer: Shōgo Kusano

Cinematography: Yuta Tsukinaga/Music: Gary Ashiya/ Executive Producer: Kwang Gi-Sung/ Producer: Minori Maehara, Aya Miyamoto/ Stylist: Sakai /Novel: Naoto Asahara/ Distributor: Bandai Namco, Animoproduce /release date (Japan) December 3rd, 2021/ running Time: 121 minutes/ language: Japanese

Text/interview images: InStyle Asia

Interviewer: Teerapat Permprayoon

©2021 "What She Likes" Production committee

No comments

Post a Comment

©2024 inStyle Asia All Rights Reserved.
Designed by Creatopia Space