MW: Osamu Tezuka’s Controversial Manga Becomes a Live Action Film
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details and images from a movie scheduled for release in 2009.
16 years ago, a horrifying incident occurred on Okino Mafune Island, part of the southern archipelago near Okinawa. A top secret chemical weapon called MW accidentally leaked from a storage facility at a foreign military base on Okino Mafune, wiping out the inhabitants of the island.
Fearing an international scandal, authorities immediately moved in to cover up the event. Overnight, the truth was buried and everything was supposedly blown over by the thorough concealment efforts. However, there were two boys on Okino Mafune who happened to survive by a twist of fate…
Michio Yuki survived exposure to the poison gas, but the potent nerve agent managed to obliterate the boy’s conscience, leaving him with no sense of right and wrong. Yuki grows up to become an incredibly beautiful and very clever young man, a mover and shaker in the worlds of finance and politics. He is also a brutal kidnapper and mass murderer of women and children.
After each crime, Yuki visits and confesses his sins to Yutaro Garai, a Catholic priest and the only other survivor of the MW incident. A strong believer in peace and justice, Father Garai is tormented by his knowledge of Yuki’s evil deeds.
Evil and justice. Darkness and light. The two men share the same past, but it has made them complete opposites of each other. One is the Darkness from hell that God brought, and the other is the last Light that God left behind.
Michio Yuki’s brain begins to further deteriorate from the effects of MW. As his insanity grows, Yuki is no longer sated by criminal acts against individuals, so he decides to track down the chemical weapon and take his revenge on the governments behind the Okino Mafune cover up. Finally obtaining MW, he moves forward with his plan to release the poison gas and exterminate all of mankind along with himself…
EMBRACE ME FATHER, FOR I HAVE SINNED
The upcoming feature film MW is based on Osamu Tezuka’s manga of the same name. Tezuka (1928-1989) is known as the “god of manga” and the “father of anime”, having created hundreds of comics and dozens of films and television series. His creations include such internationally beloved series as ASTRO BOY (Tetsuwan Atom), JUNGLE EMPEROR (Jungle Taitei, known in America as KIMBA THE WHITE LION), PRINCESS KNIGHT (Ribon no Kishi), PHOENIX (Hi no Tori), AMBASSADOR MAGMA (Maguma Taishi, a.k.a. THE SPACE GIANTS), DORORO (Dororo to Hyakumaru), and BUDDHA.
The MW manga, originally serialized in the Shogakukan magazine Big Comic from 1976-1978, was a tremendous departure from the cute, Disney-esque style Osamu Tezuka was known for. At that time, a more adult and experimental type of manga known as gekiga (dramatic pictures) was growing in popularity, and Tezuka began to bring more of that style into his own work. A dark, downbeat, and violent thriller, MW took a hard look at such topics as government cover ups, religion, the nature of good and evil, homoeroticism, the effects of excessive technology on nature, and the US military presence in Japan. Thirty years after it was first published, MW still packs a punch.
In Japan the entire 580 page series has been collected into a single trade paperback edition by publishers Kodansha and Shogakukan. The hardcover collected English language edition was released in the United States and Britain by Vertical, Inc. in 2007. Vertical’s publicity material for the manga states that “MW explores a stark modern reality where neither divine nor secular justice seems to prevail. This willfully ‘anti-Tezuka’ achievement from the master’s own pen nevertheless pulsates with his unique genius.”
A FORBIDDEN AND CONTROVERSIAL STORY
The film version of MW will commemorate the 80th Anniversary of Osamu Tezuka’s birth. The movie is being developed by DN Dream Partners LLP, a production company formed in April 2006 by the Nippon Television Network (NTV) and the telecommunications company NTT DoCoMo Inc.. Previous DN Dream Partners productions have included the hit DEATH NOTE anime and movie series as well as the TENCHI MUYO spinoff show SASAMI.
For MW, DN Dream Partners is part of the “MW Production Committee” with Amuse Soft Entertainment (THE NEIGHBOR NO. 13), IMJ Entertainment (NANA, NANA 2), and Studio Swan (KIDS). Japanese theatrical distribution of the film will be handled by Gaga Communications (perhaps best known for the ZEIRAM series), while NTV is handling international sales.
Directing the movie is Hitoshi Iwamoto, a NTV veteran of such projects as THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW: THE MOVIE (Ashita ga aru sa: The Movie, 2002) and the television series QUEEN OF THE CLASSROOM (Jo O no Kyoshitsu, 2005), MAKEOVER (Nobuta wo Produce, 2005), GAL CIRCLE (Galcir, 2006), and LOVE OF MY LIFE (Tatta Hitotsu no Koi, 2006). The screenwriter for MW is Tetsuya Oishi, who handled similar duties for the DEATH NOTE movies.
There is no word yet if Oishi’s adaptation will stick to the more “controversial and forbidden” aspects of Osamu Tezuka’s MW manga. The original story involved a good deal of gender-bending and homosexual content; the murderous Michio Yuki is a kabuki-trained female impersonator who sometimes takes the place of his victims. Also, in addition to being confidants who shared a traumatic childhood experience, Yuki and Father Garai are lovers.
Playing the lead roles are Hiroshi Tamaki as Michio Yuki and Takayuki Yamada as Yutaro Garai. While in his teens, Tamaki had guest parts in a number of television programs before moving on to starring roles in both TV and films. His credits include the hit comedy WATER BOYS (2001) and the Shochiku action film MIDNIGHT EAGLE (Middonaito Iiguru, 2007). He has developed a loyal fanbase for his portrayal of Shinichi Chiaki in the live action adaptation of the romance manga and anime NODAME CANTABILE. Tamaki has also released two albums; RIPPLE (2004) and BRIDGE (2008).
Takayuki Yamada’s movie career began with voice work in the Studio Ghibli production THE CAT RETURNS (Neko no Ongaeshi, 2002) and a supporting role in the big budget disaster movie DRAGONHEAD (Doragon Heddo, 2003). He first came to the attention of Japanese audiences with his starring performance in Toho’s romantic drama TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO (2004). Recent works include Takashi Miike’s CROWS ZERO (2007), the geisha comedy MAIKO HAAAAN!!, IKIGAMI: THE ULTIMATE LIMIT (Ikigami, 2008), and 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE (252: Seizonsha ari, 2008).
The supporting cast includes Yuriko Ishida (PRINCESS MONONOKE, SYNESTHESIA, IKIGAMI: THE ULTIMATE LIMIT) as Kyoko Makino and horror fave Ryo Ishibashi (AUDITION, THE GRUDGE, THE GRUDGE 2) as Kazuyuki Sawaki.
The music for MW is by Yorihiro Ike, composer for BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (2000). The special effects will be provided by the FX house Shirogumi, who recently worked on Toho and NTV’s large scale action film K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK (K-20: Kaijin Niju-Menso Den, 2008).
Filming began in Thailand on April 20, 2008. MW is currently in post-production and is scheduled to open in theaters across Japan in the summer of 2009.
2009/approx. 120 min/Color
Screen Size 2.35:1
Japanese Theatrical Release: Summer 2009
Hiroshi Tamaki as Michio Yuki
Takayuki Yamada as Yutaro Garai
Yuriko Ishida as Kyoko Makino
Ryo Ishibashi as Kazuyuki Sawaki
Director: Hitoshi Iwamoto
Original Story: Osamu Tezuka
Screenplay: Tetsuya Oishi and Haruo Kimura
Music: Yorihiro Ike
Special Effects: Shirogumi
DN Dream Partners
Amuse Soft Entertainment
GAGA Communications (Japan)
NTV (World Sales)