The miracle of Tonde Saitama, that has reached over 660,000 in circulated copies, has adapted into a film! With Nikaido Fumi and GACKT co-starring in it, the unprecedented “Saitama diss movie” has been lovingly brought to the country.
The original version of Tonde Saitama was announced as a gag manga back in 1982 when author mangaka Master Maya Mineo, known for Patalliro!, resided in Saitama and wrote about the prefecture in a self-deprecating manner. Since then, after more than 30 years, its publication was revived by Takarajimasha in 2015 to much fanfare on social media and various other platforms.
On this occasion, we will be talking to the creator of this work, mangaka Master Maya Mineo, about his feelings about the film adaptation, his thoughts about this work, and his impression of the movie after having watched it.
── What was your immediate reaction when talk of a film adaptation came fluttering in?
Master Maya: Are you serious (smiles). Or rather, ‘Are you insane!?’. My honest opinion was “How on earth do you intend to make a movie out of this!?”. But at that point, they told me the names of the two main stars. I heard “Nikaido Fumi-san and GACKT-san”, and I was even more taken aback. The momentum was enough to make everyone there pass out (smiles).
But in the next moment, I thought, “If it’s those two, then a film adaptation might be feasible”. I believed that if this casting comes true, then it might be a success. Because, in addition to that, the director is the hitmaker Takeuchi Hideki-san too, who is known for film adaptations of Thermae Romae and such. I was convinced that it wouldn’t go awry. I’m looking forward to the final product too, but when I watched the preview, it has turned out to be an even more interesting work that I imagined it would be.
── The original work has yet to conclude, so what do you think of its continuation being depicted in the movie?
M: I was impressed. I thought, “I can’t believe I’ve finally come this far”. When thinking about the scale of the movie, what I’ve drawn in the manga is just a small part of it. If someone were to say to me “Please draw what happens next”, I suppose my answer would be “That’s impossible”, so I think that this is truly of Takeuchi-san’s abilities.
I especially thought that the great battle of Saitama VS Chiba across the river was amazing. I like that he has the sense to develop that meaningless battle to that level (smiles). I think that the director’s sensibilities matches mine. Even if I were to draw its continuation, I think that I would’ve drawn such a scene. It might be because our sensibilities are alike that I came to agree to a film adaptation of my original.
There were lots of original settings and original characters in the movie, but they were all very similar to what I’ve made. I especially liked Gunma’s setting. There’s a Pteranodon flying in the sky but I loved that portrayal (smiles).
── It’s true that the portrayal of each prefecture was exaggerated, wasn’t it (smiles).
M: But perhaps it was expected from the considerations put in by the director that raised Saitama up quite a bit at the end (smiles). Though it might be a little unsatisfactory for citizens of Saitama who like Tonde Saitama (smiles). I guess it was to be expected that the director might’ve been scared too (smiles).
But a Saitama that can forgive, that will forgive is a good thing about Saitama. It’s not possible for Tonde Saitama to be established anywhere else except for in Saitama. If the day comes when I do something like Tonde Tokyo… even just thinking about it is scary, isn’t it? But Saitama is the only one that’s different. In fact, I heard that Tonde Saitama sold the most in Saitama. Perhaps it is out of great love for their hometown, or perhaps their tolerance for things extends so far that they can laugh about it and forgive… It’s odd.
── I’ve felt this too when I read the original work, but does Master lover Saitama too?
M: I… just happened to live in Tokorozawa. However, the Negi plantations and blue skies that I used to see during my 5-minute commute between home and my workplace left quite an impression on me.
── Since you no longer live in Tokorozawa, it means that you won’t ever draw the sequel to Tonde Saitama, but is there no chance of this resolution changing in future?
M: It won’t change. Because even if I did draw something in future, it’ll just be a followup to the movie. Saitama Duke does appear in the original work too, but I didn’t give any details about him, and I don’t remember anything so I don’t think I have a clear image of him in my head any more…
Strictly speaking, I’d say that he’s something like Duke Togo (Golgo 13). So if I were to draw the continuation, I think he’d turn out to be a super A class sniper Saitama Duke, but I’d end up seeing Kyomoto Masaki-san’s version of Saitama Duke from the movie. I can’t draw him any other way now (smiles). It means that this film adaptation has sealed the continuation of the original work (smiles).
── Kyomoto-san’s portrayal of Saitama Duke was wonderful, but all the other actors who play the roles of all the characters who show up in the original work were wonderful too, weren’t they?
M: I don’t think that any fan of the original will be able to say anything against GACKT-san, who acts as Rei. That’s how wonderful he was. Or rather, I think there’s no one else aside from him who can act as Rei. He has a Rei-ness that no one else has, no matter how handsome an actor.
── And Nikaido-san who portrayed Momomi was like a real teenage boy.
M: I suppose it might’ve been difficult for a male to act as Momomi, so I think that it was great that Nikaido-san did it. Personally, I’m not particular about gender, and when I draw manga depicting relationships among mankind, I just think that the most beautiful combination to me is something between a beautiful youth and a handsome young man. Because I believe that among a hundred people, there’d be a hundred different styles of love in there.
When it comes to mankind, it’s a person’s freedom to love whoever they love, isn’t it? The reason why I draw a lot of handsome young men and beautiful youths falling in love in my manga is simply because that is what is most visually appealing to me. That’s all there is.
── Also, Master’s own appearance in the movie is also one of the highlights, isn’t it?
M: Initially, as a joke, I asked, “Why not have my family show up in the movie as passers-by or roles of that sort? Just a brief glance would be enough”.
There are ballet dancers dancing around but the one in the centre is my son. My son is with Tokyo Ballet (dance company based in Tokyo, founded in 1964) but aside from him, we had dancers from NBA Ballet (dance company based in Saitama, founded in 1993). NBA is based in Tokorozawa, and it appears that they accepted our request to have them in the movie despite how sudden it was “because it’s a movie about Saitama”. Aside from my son, the other 9 dancers were top class dancers from NBA, and my son was extremely humbled and afraid to take the centre spot among them though (smiles).
Actually, the movie Patalliro!, which was delayed, will also be released next spring, so with both Tonde Saitama and Patalliro! coming out, in actuality, it’s not only Kato Ryo-kun’s, but my family too (smiles).
── Well then, finally, we’d like Master to say something as promotion for the movie.
M: In the end, this is fiction after all, factual things aren’t drawn, so there’s no need to think about it at all. Simply going to the theatre and laughing about it is enough. That is really all there is to it.
Tonde Saitama the movie will be released nationwide on 22 February 2018.
Maya Mineo’s Profile
Born in Niigata Prefecture on 4 March 1953. Author of hit works such as Rashanu! and Patalliro!. Patalliro! is presently in serialisation. It first came into serialisation 40 years ago, and has since been adapted for anime, stage play productions and has over 100 volumes released.
Translation: GACKT ITALIA Team
Translation © GACKT ITALIA