252: SIGNAL OF LIFE Production Notes
The signal only known to the Hyper Rescue Squad
It’s the Signal that Brings Hope
It’s the Code that means…
“There are Survivors”
The largest mega-typhoon ever in history strikes Japan and destroys Tokyo!!
252: SIGNAL OF LIFE (252: Seizonsha Ari), the biggest disaster drama ever to strike the screens of Japan, will move everyone to tears. It’s a drama of extreme conditions, told from both sides of the rescue operation in the aftermath of a disaster; the survivors trapped in the collapsed subway station and the rescuers attempting to save them against the devastating force of nature. This spectacular catastrophe was shown for the first time at Cannes Film Market and attracted international attention. 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE tells the story of a natural disaster, and this global concern is realistically depicted with a Hollywood-scale production. The ferocity of nature has been visualized in an unprecedented scale through real scenes and CG. This is the story of the greatest escape drama and a high-risk rescue operation, with life or death for the survivors divided by only 18 minutes!
In the inescapable underground structure, the survivors both help and confront each other in a struggle for survival. Above the ground facing the hazard of a mega-typhoon and a potential evacuation, the rescuers continue their rescue-search attempts. The survivors’ desperate will to survive and the rescuers’ fierce determination to save them are connected with a single code, 2-5-2, a Hyper Rescue distress code to indicate there are survivors. When a 252 is transmitted from underground with the hope of rescue, the rescuers know that they have a job to do. They have only 18 minutes to save the survivors when the eye of the storm arrives. In the 18 minutes that could determine life from death, this emotionally involving human drama begins…
Another focus of the movie is the Hyper Rescue, the fire department’s special rescue unit. This is the first movie ever to depict these specialists in action. For authenticity, the Tokyo Fire Department 8th Division Hyper Rescue Unit helped in the principal photography. With their cooperation, the movie features realistic and detailed rescue operations.
“Code 252—There are survivors!” It’s a code of hope.
Two brothers, separated by the disaster.
One sends a message with hope “I’ll come home alive.”
The other receives it, “I’ll save you at all costs!”
An earthquake of a magnitude 5+ on the Richter scale strikes Japan… with the epicenter right under Tokyo! A few weeks pass, and Metropolitan Tokyo slowly begins to function again, unaware that the force of the quake has caused a horrible chain reaction. A rise in the ocean temperature creates a mega-typhoon of unprecedented scale in the Pacific.
The most devastating force of nature ever recorded in history strikes the capital. First a hailstorm strikes Ginza, and chunks of ice the size of golf balls fall from the sky onto the crowds of shoppers. Then an incredible tidal wave engulfs Tokyo’s waterfront, swallowing and pushing the buildings, bridges, trees and people to the inland area. Rainbow Bridge, Ginza, Odaiba and all the famous Tokyo landmarks give way to the rushing water.
On this day, Yuji Shinohara (played by Hideaki Ito) is in Ginza to meet his wife Yumi (played by Sachiko Sakurai) and their deaf daughter Shiori (played by Ayane Omori) to celebrate Shiori’s 7th birthday. Yuji is an ex-Hyper Rescue Squad member; having left the Squad a year ago because of a tragic accident in a rescue operation. As Yumi and Shiori arrive at nearby Shimbashi, they get swallowed by the panicking crowd and Shiori gets lost. Yumi calls Yuji, who hurries to Shimbashi. But the water floods the subway with an incredible force, causing the Shimbashi subway station to cave in.
Surviving the incident, Yuji finds Shiori alive but also trapped in the underground structure. There is absolutely no way back to the surface. Besides Yuji and Shiori, there are 3 survivors in this dangerous space: medical trainee Shigemura (played by Takayuki Yamada), Fujii (played by Yuichi Kimura), a president of a small firm, and Sumin (played by MINJI) a Ginza hostess from South Korea. Fujii has 9 children and a pregnant wife waiting for him at their Osaka home. Sumin has a mother she’s left in South Korea. The antagonistic Shigemura also wants to survive, just like the others. Yuji takes the situation in hand so he can return home with Shiori to Yumi, and he’ll take the other survivors with him.
Tap, tap… Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap… Tap, tap… Yuji taps on the wall. It’s a signal to let his ex-colleagues of Hyper Rescue Squad know that there are survivors. They’ll pick up the signal and rescue them. They just have to put their faith in the fateful signal. That’s their only hope.
As they nervously wait, the situation gets worse. Sumin has an abdominal injury and she needs a blood transfusion to stay alive. The underground structure is gradually collapsing and Shiori falls into one of the cracks.
Above ground, the Hyper Rescue Squad, under the command of Yuji’s brother Lieutenant Shizuma Shinohara, is trying everything they can to save lives. All the entrances of the collapsed subway station are jammed with debris. The rescuers continue with their rescue-search by removing the rubble but their dangerous efforts don’t help them find more survivors.
Adding to the already bleak situation, the mega-typhoon continues. The powerful force of wind and rain make the already unstable ground even less secure. There is the potential of secondary hazards, which prompts the rescue-search operation to be terminated. The young courageous officers are reluctant to follow the evacuation order which is to be put into effect immediately. But Lieutenant Shizuma convinces the rescuers not to risk their lives unnecessarily as they have their own families and loved ones. Shizuma and Sergeant Miyauchi are still mindful of a tragedy when they lost one of their men years earlier. They’re not going to lose any more men.
Yumi accuses Shizuma of abandoning Yuji and Shiori, even though she used to be the one who waited anxiously for Yuji’s safe return as a wife of a rescuer. She tells Shizuma that what all survivors’ family can do is rely on the Rescuer Squads. She cries, leaving Shizuma speechless with all the bleak implications.
That’s when the Acoustic Life Detector picks up a signal from underground. It’s a code 2-5-2… It’s one of their own down there! “It’s a 252!” Shizuma’s voice carries across the disaster site to energize the rescuers. The high-risk rescue operation commences against the fierce storm. They have a marginal 18-minute calm while they are in the eye of the storm.
Will they succeed? Will the 5 survivors come back alive?
Which City in the World is Most Susceptible to Natural Disasters?
A multi-national insurance company assessed the data and came up with an answer to this question: Tokyo and Yokohama. The hazard level of these cities is higher even than San Francisco, the second on the list. The fourth on the list is Japan’s Kansai district, including big cities like Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.
Any kind of natural disaster and its possible consequences could happen in Japan; earthquakes, tropical storms, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions. There is a long history of natural disasters and there will always be more. It’s unavoidable. Imagine the most disaster-prone city in the world being struck by the largest mega-typhoon in recorded history. It’s not a fantasy. It could really happen. And this movie simulates the terrible event so realistically that it’ll take your breath away.
For the Tokyo flood sequence, the Shimbashi area, a train terminal, subway station and its underground structure were perfectly replicated on sets. Tremendous amounts of water were poured onto the sets to create a flash flood, achieving the horror of a flood that can’t be depicted solely with CG. The familiar landscape turns into rubble in the blink of an eye. The shockingly realistic disaster-torn cityscape was further enhanced with astonishing computer graphics. CG was used in the scenes of tidal waves swallowing up the Tokyo bay area to actualize the awesome force of nature. You’ll see the devastated Tokyo created by surprising CG techniques.
252: SIGNAL OF LIFE; a Dramatic Story Inspired by a True Event
The movie 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE was inspired by a miraculous rescue event that took place following the Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake of 2004.
The quake caused a massive landslide, and tensions were high with the threat of secondary hazards. Captain Mitsuo Kiyotsuka of the 8th Division Tokyo Fire Department Rescue Squad, who served as the movie’s technical consultant, made a decision against all odds to continue the operation. 90 hours had passed since the big tremor. Would anybody be alive…?
Then Lieutenant Makita heard something so soft he wasn’t sure if he really heard it. He whispered in disbelief, “I think I heard somebody breathing down there…” He ordered the helicopter to evacuate and listened again. This time he said more definitely, “I hear something, code 2-5-2!” 252 is a Tokyo Fire Department Rescue code indicating that rescue is required. When the code is used it means that there are survivors. Mentioning the code created a positive reaction among the fatigued rescuers who had begun to think that there wasn’t anybody else that they could save. There is someone alive waiting for their help!
Officer Tabata squeezed into a gap and came out with 2-year-old Yuta. The highly televised and deeply memorable rescue event cast a bright light of hope on the grief-stricken disaster area. It demonstrated the nonstop effort of the courageous rescuers and their absolute dedication to saving lives. 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE is made with the noble and shining spirit of the rescuers. Only a drama that is inspired by a true event can have this much emotional impact.
A Gift Turned Feature Film
In the beginning it was a small token of appreciation written by a screenwriter to a movie star. In 2005 the movie star, Hideaki Ito was on location shooting LIMIT OF LOVE: UMIZARU 2. His friend Yoichi Komori visited him, bringing a gift that he thought might amuse Ito. It was a 10-page treatment he wrote based on an idea he had in the bath. It was a human drama based on a Hyper Rescue Squad rescuer who waits to be rescued in a collapsed tunnel in a Tokyo suburb. It was not written either as a screenplay or a comic book project. It was solely to entertain Ito.
Weeks passed before Komori received a phone call at his home in Fukuoka. Ito’s agency asked him to visit the next time he was in Tokyo. When Komori made what he thought was a casual visit to the agency, he was surprised to see Nobuo Mizuta there. Mizuta would eventually helm the 252 project. Mizuta worked with Ito on a 2003 TV drama, and Ito had contacted him through his agent about an intriguing movie idea. After Komori was introduced to Mizuta, Mizuta took out the 10-page treatment that Komori had written. Mizuta told him that he intended to make a movie out of it. Komori was surprised but very pleased.
Atsuyuki Shimoda, the producer was also at that first meeting. Ito had worked with Shimoda on the movie, A HEARTFUL OF LOVE and he’d invited Shimoda to the meeting. The plot that Komori had written for fun had first grabbed Ito’s attention and then Mizuta’s and Shimoda’s. The unusual course of 252 would commence production.
“That scene alone would give an audience goosebumps.”
Back when that first meeting was held, Mizuta was tied up with a movie, MAIKO HAAAAN!!!. Mizuta asked Takahiro Salut, a fellow employee from Nippon Television Network Corporation to work on 252 as a producer. Salut was responsible for the phenomenal success of the DEATH NOTE movies and his participation helped further develop 252. Salut recalls, “When I read the story, I found it interesting because its appeal as a great drama is like that of earlier Japanese movies. But I had to oppose the Tokyo suburb tunnel idea because it was too limited. The plot had the potential to be special. I suggested a bigger budget, event movie targeted to a wider audience.”
As Salut’s suggestion the caved-in tunnel changed to the Tokyo waterfront, around Ginza, Odaiba and Shimbashi where an earthquake causes a mega-typhoon and impending disaster!
But Salut was not after a disaster movie that depended on the thrills of special effects. He elaborates, “Spectacular images are important but the heart of this movie is a human drama of a rescue operation. Komori described to me a scene at a rescue site. ‘It’s a 252, we’ve got survivors!’ One rescuer calls out. The others rush in for a rescue. I thought that scene alone would give an audience goosebumps.
Salut’s intention was to treat the natural disaster with a sense of awe. He explains, “Recently there are natural disasters induced by global climatic changes. We are all susceptible to nature’s brutal force. So I wanted the movie to deal with people’s endurance and our commitment to protecting those we care about. I also wanted the audience to start thinking about disasters after seeing this film. And I wanted them to share the universal theme of family love, the bond of brothers’ and the wonder of life. And I wanted to give hope to those who had survived a natural disaster.”
The Exterior Sets that Recreate a Devastated Shimbashi
To depict the disaster-torn Tokyo waterfront, Komori consulted the National Meteorology Agency and Tokyo Fire Department Hyper Rescue for technical accuracy. He wanted the movie to be based on a believable simulation and a probable situation. He didn’t want to make a fantasy, but instead show the horror of a realistic natural disaster and the danger of an actual rescue operation. In order to achieve that goal, the Shimbashi train station was replicated according to scale and constructed on multiple sets.
On a 450 square meter lot in Kyonan-cho, Chiba, the underground structure of the Shimbashi subway station was constructed. Producer Shimoda recalls, “We had to make it look totally devastated so we couldn’t shoot at the actual location. So we sent people to measure the dimensions of the Shimbashi station platforms and took many photos of the details.” The result was a 30-meter wide and 70-meter long platform, complete with rails and a section of a train, all constructed in a gigantic semi-cylinder shaped tent, equipped with 3 water tanks to contain and release 300 tons of water. When it was filled with 5000 extras, the flood scene on the set was scarily real. A few days later, the set was redecorated to recreate an abandoned Tokyo Rapid Transit Shimbashi station where the hero and a band of survivors take refuge in a suspenseful drama.
Adjacent to the Tokyo Ajinomoto Stadium in Kantomura village, Chofu, the exterior set of Shimbashi was constructed to realize the devastation above ground. Though slightly downscaled, the set was the splitting image of its real counterpart. Shimoda continues, “One thing we worried about was the durability of this set. There were to be many extras in the rescue scenes and we had to create gusts of wind with a row of wind machines. We didn’t want the set to wobble in the wind (laughs).” At the same location, a Mitsukoshi Department Store entrance to the subway Ginza station was also constructed.
At nearby Nikkatsu Studio, ticket gates on the basement level 1 of Shimbashi subway station were constructed along with stairs leading up and down. The set for the hotel where the rescue operation command center was set up was constructed in an abandoned wedding hall in Utsunomiya City. The floors were covered with mud and water to make it seem realistically devastated before 2000 local extras were ushered in for the shoot.
Most notable is the scene in which the rescuers descend from the surface to save survivors trapped in a tilted subway car. The train was approximately 20 meters long and was deemed too large to be suspended in an existing movie studio facility. Producer Shimoda reveals with laughter, “We suspended it in the training tower that’s on the Tachikawa Fire Department property. It was built to train firefighters for high-rise fire situations. It’s hollow inside the tower, so we begged for permission to use it.” Without Tokyo Fire Department’s cooperation, the scene would have been impossible.
Perfect Cast Members
For the first time, Hideaki Ito of the UMIZARU movie series and Masaaki Uchino of the hit TV historical drama WIND, FOREST, FLAME AND MOUNTAINS (Furinkazan), star together in the same movie. Ito played a coast guard in UMIZARU where he rescues people, but in 252 he has to be rescued for a change. This is also the first time for Ito to play the part of a father.
To tell a dramatic story in a believable way, a star cast of capable actors was assembled. Most notably, Masaaki Uchino was chosen for the part of Shizuma, the Rescue Squad Lieutenant and Yuji’s brother. Producer Salut elaborates about the casting. “It was originally a story about rescuers who are rivals. But to make the most out of the dilemma of whether or not to do a rescue, Director Mizuta changed it to a story of brothers. For the story to work, we needed a presence as strong as Ito’s. It was very fortunate that we could secure Uchino for the role.”
The survivors underground are played by a unique ensemble of actors. Ito plays Yuji, the ex-rescuer. Takayuki Yamada plays the role of a disillusioned medical trainee. Yuichi Kimura plays the part of a president of a small firm who’s struggling to support a large family. MINJI plays the role of a Ginza hostess who has left her mother behind in South Korea. Ayane Omori plays the deaf daughter of Yuji, Hideaki Ito’s character. Each survivor has his or her reason for returning home alive.
Above the ground are the rescuers. Uchino plays Shizuma, Yuji’s brother and the lieutenant of the rescue squad. Taro Yamamoto plays the sergeant, who replaced Yuji when he quit the squad. Tetta Sugimoto plays the role of the captain. Yu Kashii plays an officer in the National Meteorology Agency. Sachiko Sakurai plays Yumi, Yuji’s wife.
Salut discusses his reasons for choosing this cast. “The character of Shigemura is difficult to play because of his complex personality. Yamada is the only actor I know who can depict such a character convincingly and who is younger than Ito. Director Mizuta agreed with me. Because it’s set in Metropolitan Tokyo, we wanted somebody from outside Tokyo, too. For Fujii, we wanted a man who looks like a president of a failing company and Kimura immediately came to mind (laughs). For variety we wanted someone of a different nationality and gender for dramatic value so we engaged MINJI from South Korea. She is a very accomplished model and singer with an interesting presence. This is her first movie but she’s incredible.”
Full-fledged Support from Tokyo Fire Department
Without the cooperation of Tokyo Fire Department, 252 wouldn’t have been realized at all. The 8th Division Tokyo Fire Department Rescue Squad (commonly known as Hyper Rescue Squad) became known for their operations at the 2004 Chuetsu Earthquake in Niigata, Japan. When they saved 2-year-old Yuta from the rubble, the whole country saw their expertise.
As mentioned earlier, they allowed the production to use their training tower for a shoot. Not only that, they gave rescue training to the actors playing the rescuers. The 1-week intensive training included how to walk and talk like a rescuer, how to salute, and how to respond to the specific rescue situations seen in the movie. Captain Mitsuo Kiyotsuka, the man who was the commanding officer in charge of the Yuta rescue operation explains, “The story called for a situation where a group of survivors are trapped in an abandoned subway station. So the actors did a set of rescue maneuvers to save people on stretchers out of shafts. They also practiced rope descents. I was particularly impressed by Mr. Uchino. He wasn’t sure how a lieutenant would speak so he came and asked me. But the moment he delivered a line, he became a lieutenant! How professional!”
For the climactic rescue scenes shot at the collapsed Shimbashi station set, there were 15 actual rescuers on the shoot. Their experience as rescuers influenced the whole set, and the actors could see just how intense the rescuers were. Also on the set were specialized vehicles such as ambulances and cranes plus a helicopter. The local fire department spared one of their fire engines for the shoot. Captain Kiyotsuka adds, “But only on the condition that the vehicles would be deployed when there was a situation. We were operative at all times.”
CGI That Does Not Look Like CGI
The most eye-catching elements of the movie are the elaborate sets, but enhancing the physical effects are the computer generated imageries, or CGI. Issei Oda supervised the special visual effects of the movie and he recalls his priority: “In this movie we aimed to perfectly blend CGI and digitally composited elements into the surroundings.”
Extremely realistic CGI applied in the movie include the school of fish in the sea in the opening sequence, oceanic water particles, flames and dust in the fire, hailstones pounding on the streets, the crumbling ceilings of the underground structure, and the subway platforms in the rapidly flooding water. Digital enhancement includes adding subtle tremor vibration and erasing unwanted objects in the frame. The effects team worked with a Tokyo University project team to develop a fluid simulator. Together they simulated a tidal wave of unprecedented scale and the simulation data was used to render the 3D CGI waves for maximum realism and impact. The director also asked the effects team to create a camera angle that shows Odaiba waterfront being consumed by a crashing tidal wave.
Oda, the veteran special visual effects supervisor of MAIKO HAAAAN!!! and CLIMBER’S HIGH, is also a filmmaker who directed ARCH ANGELS and KUNG FU KID. His priority in 252 was not just the spectacular disaster scenes. Oda elaborates, “I knew that the most important effects to pull off in this movie would be the tidal wave and the staging of the devastated Shimbashi above ground. The drama really begins with the tidal wave and the flooding subway station, when the survivors are in action. Naturally that’s very important. But it was more important to make the devastation at Shimbashi credible, when we see the rescue men in action. If the audience didn’t think that looked real, the movie would die right there.”
Budget restraints and the physical reality of the location were determining factors, too. The devastated Shimbashi set was constructed only partially and the Tokyo Ajinomoto Stadium was visible over the set of the train overpass. On the reverse angle there were houses visible behind the set. Oda elaborates, “The sets constructed by the art people were realistic and incredible. But the shooting angles were restricted. In the shot where Mr. Uchino walks towards Ms. Sakurai, it’s partially a set and partially a composite. Matching the high quality set design with the CGI was a big challenge.”
Oda’s goal was to make things look as real as possible. His determination can be seen in the details. Oda explains, “The thing was to make the streets look messy with a kind of dampness. The town of Shimbashi has a scattered look, not like some well-developed American urbanscape. In Shimbashi many small buildings house various businesses, more so than other parts of Tokyo. For the background I opted for traditional matte paintings of Shimbashi rather than fully rendered computer graphics to replicate that cluttered, humid feel. One major problem was the light conditions. As the Shimbashi set faced a different direction to the actual Shimbashi, the sunlight was also different. So when we composited background imagery of Shimbashi, we photographed images on a cloudy day at the exact same angle and lens settings and painted in the sunlight to match that of the scenes on the set.
Simulating A Natural Disaster (with the consultation of Japan Meteorological Agency)
Methane clathrate, also called methane hydrate is a solid form of water that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure. Significant deposits of methane clathrate are believed to exist under sediment on the ocean floors around Japan. It releases methane into the atmosphere when the sea water temperature increases by a few degrees, encouraging the greenhouse effect which in turn causes more methane to be released. In 252, a large scale earthquake causes a massive methane release in the ocean which leads to a rapid temperature increase in the sea; in this chain reaction a mega-typhoon develops.
Yuji Shinohara, the hero of the movie, is attacked by an incredible hailstorm in Ginza, Tokyo. In reality, a hailstorm often develops with a large tropical storm. The cumulonimbus clouds form when the high altitude temperature is cold and the sun heats the lower altitude. It generates a strong updraft which rapidly leads to the development of a tropical storm. At the upper part of the storm, frozen droplets repeatedly descent and ascent to form hailstones. An intense updraft extends the cycle which results in hailstones the size of golf balls.
In real life, on the day of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, hailstorms and tornados hit Jinmeng and Tianmen in Hubei province, causing serious damage. 2 weeks after that a hailstorm and tornados struck Harbin in Heilongjiang Province, leaving 40 casualties.
There are two major causes of tropical storm induced tidal waves…
At the center of a tropical storm the pressure is lower than the surrounding area, causing the ocean surface to be sucked upward. This is one cause for the sea-level rise.
Also when strong storm winds blow the coastline, the seawater also gets blown towards the coast, causing a sea-level rise. The rotation of the tropical storm causes the seawater to circulate. In deep water, the cycle dissipates naturally but in shallow water, the cycle doesn’t lose its force. When the water circulation hits the coast it causes a rapid increase in the sea level. This is the scientific evidence behind the tidal waves depicted in 252.
An example of a tidal wave that was induced by a catastrophic tropical storm was Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans. With its unique historical background, New Orleans was developed on low coastal ground and the residents were aware of the inherent danger of an oceanic disaster. Hurricane Katrina was everybody’s worst nightmare came true.
Hideaki Ito as Yuji Shinohara
Most memorable are the scenes with Shiori, my character’s daughter.
More than being a spectacle, this is a movie about family love.
Hideaki Ito was born on August 3rd, 1975, in Gifu prefecture. In 1993, he won the semi-grand prize for ‘JUNON Super Boy Contest’, and he debuted as an actor with the TV drama DESSAN in 1997. He played the lead for the TV drama YASHA in 2000, and with the film UMIZARU in 2004. The sequel LIMIT OF LOVE: UMIZARU 2 become a big hit in 2006. His other titles include SECRET (Himitsu, 1999), ONMIYOJI (2001), ONMIYOJI 2 (2003), A HEARTFUL OF LOVE (2005), and SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (2007).
Ito, who played a hot-blooded Coast Guard Officer in the UMIZARU films, is back in 252 as Yuji Shinohara, an ex-Tokyo Fire Department rescuer. Currently working as a used car dealer, Yuji was a sergeant of the 8th Division Tokyo Fire Department Rescue Squad (also known as Hyper Rescue Squad). One tragic rescue operation caused him to leave the Squad. A few days after an earthquake, he is in Ginza to meet his family. Worried about his wife and daughter he takes a subway to Shimbashi where the station caves in. His survival depends on his instincts and knowledge as an ex-rescuer…
Ito recalls, “I had no difficulty getting into character this time. I spent time with firefighters and the Hyper Rescue Squad. I learned a lot from them and I was inspired. Talking to them helped me get into character naturally. I didn’t need to make any special effort.” Ito showed a natural aptitude for the work when he underwent rescue training. He enjoyed the physically demanding process.
Ito continues with a smile. “I’m naturally very curious and I like experiencing as much as possible. I experienced so much on this movie and I was actually paid for it. I’m very grateful.” Ito’s natural inclinations made him perfect for the role of Yuji, who has experiences and keeps skills as an ex-rescuer but is yet to overcome the traumatic memory of a rescue operation that went wrong.
Ito credits his performance to screenwriter Yoichi Komori. “He researched the subject so thoroughly and interviewed the Hyper Rescue team whose challenging operations were reflected on in the movie. That helped make the movie a realistic interpretation of a story about rescuers on and off the disaster site. Komori told me many interesting stories about them which helped me develop my character. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m boasting but in a way, 252 is a movie Komori and I helped develop together.”
The exterior set of the devastated Shimbashi Station also helped Ito get into character. He reflects, “I’d never seen such an amazing set ! It was awesome to look at. It was so real I felt like I was really in Shimbashi. It gave the illusion that there really had been an earthquake and tidal wave at Shimbashi!”
During the making of 252, Ito formed a valuable friendship with fellow actor Masaaki Uchino who played the part of his brother. Ito recalls, “Uchino is always telling jokes. In the beginning I thought he would be difficult to talk to but he was friendly and talkative. The set was really dusty so he kept offering me mouthwash. He’s a very experienced performer so there was a lot I could learn from him.”
One main aspect of the movie is the unfolding drama between the brothers played by Ito and Uchino, but equally memorable for Ito were the scenes between him and his daughter. Ito reminisces, “Ayane Omori played my character’s daughter, Shiori, and she was so adorable; every scene I played with her is memorable. She was 8 when we were shooting and she knew exactly what to do. But besides being professional and incredible, she was an adorable 8-year-old girl!”
Together with screenwriter Komori and Director Mizuta, Ito developed the movie from its inception. Ito has a lot invested in 252. He emphasizes that 252 is not just a disaster movie, “It’s an action-packed spectacle movie but personally I think the most significant theme is Family Love. Don’t miss it.”
Masaaki Uchino as Shizuma Shinohara
Don’t give up hope for your loved ones. Otherwise there’ll be no miracle.
Masaaki Uchino was born on September 16th, 1968, in Kanagawa prefecture. He became a member of the Bungakuza Institute when he was a student of Waseda University. He played the lead for the first time with the NHK Saturday drama MACHIKADO. In 1996, he became popular with the NHK TV drama series FUTARIKKO. Since then, he played the lead with so many plays and films, such as ELIZABETH, PERICLES, THE BEGGAR’S OPERA (Haru, 1996), THE BLACK HOUSE (Kuroi Ie, 1999), and AKANEZORA (2006). For the TV drama SEMI SHIGURE (2007), he won the Gold Nymph Award of 44th Monte Carlo International Television Festival as the lead actor. He has also won a number of awards for many plays and was highly acclaimed for playing the main role of Kansuke Yamamoto in the NHK Taiga drama WIND, FOREST, FLAME AND MOUNTAINS (Furinkazan). PRIVATE LIVES (Theatre Creation) is his latest play on stage.
In 252, Uchino plays Shizuma, a lieutenant in the Hyper Rescue Squad and older brother to the main character, Yuji. Quick, intelligent, calm and all business, Shizuma gives orders from the Rescue Command Center. He once lost a colleague in a past operation, which is why he is so stern. Once he learns that his brother has survived the collapse of the train station, Shizuma pleads with the Captain to permit a dangerous rescue operation.
Uchino prepared himself for the role both mentally and physically. Uchida elaborates, “I was moved by the way the Hyper Rescue men do their routine training. They use their muscles everyday in their work. They’re tough. I worked out because I wanted to replicate that toughness.”
His hard work paid off. Taro Yamada, who played one of Shizuma’s men, says, “On the first day of rescue training, Uchino already had the physical presence of a lieutenant.” Uchino went through the training with the same vigor, making sure that he knew what each procedure was for. Uchino recalls, “We did a lot of simulation with the full gear on, plus we familiarized ourselves with the decision-making process and giving orders. We also got to see how things work at the disaster site. I picked up lots of the lingo that a lieutenant rescuer would use. We also trained ourselves to rescue people from fire. We went to the 8th Division Tokyo Fire Department Headquarters in Tachikawa to practice rock-climbing and we also did rope descent exercises from the top of the building which we used in one scene.”
Uchino’s dedication to acting didn’t stop there. Whenever he had a chance, he spent time with the consulting rescuers on set so he could observe their mannerisms and learn more about their thinking processes. Uchino elaborates. “The kind of dilemmas and struggles they have on site are unbelievable. Evacuation orders demand that they leave a site which could mean leaving behind people in need of rescue. Sometimes they have to prioritize and go to people in immediate danger while others have to wait. They are the Hyper Rescue men, the best of the best in Japan, but in some cases even they don’t succeed. They don’t leave a site without being seriously affected by it. I was speechless when I heard some of their stories.”
Through those preparations Uchino felt himself identifying with the real lieutenant of the Hyper Rescue Squad. He remembers with a smile, “When I was acting, I kept in mind a lieutenant’s concern for his men and his hope that his men would remain focused in their dangerous line of work. One of a lieutenant’s jobs is to establish in his men a sense of pride at being part of the Squad. When I saw the lieutenant dealing with his men I noticed that he was strict but loving, and I saw that he cared for them. I wanted to give the same impression. I don’t know how much of this comes through (laughs).”
On the internal makeup of his character, Uchino continues. “The name Shizuma gives the implication of someone quiet. So I kept in mind that Shizuma is a quiet man with a passion for life. He holds back but he is passionate.” Uchino paid a lot of attention to the relationship his character had with Ito’s character. Uchino continues, “Shizuma loves his brother more than anybody in the world. I was always conscious of the strong bond they would have had as brothers. Hideaki Ito who played my brother is hyper (laughs)! He’s handsome, nice, and we got along really well.”
The veteran actor had his share of difficulties in the scene where his brother’s wife Yumi accuses him of abandoning her daughter. Uchino recalls with laughter, “We had huge fans for the wind and the artificial rain. I could hardly keep my eyes open. For the first time in my life, I learned that water can hurt!”
Uchino had to mentally prepare for the climactic scenes where his character has to make numerous decisions determining the outcome of the rescue operation. Uchino summarizes, “For the last scene, to get in character I put myself in the mindset of a man who believes his love for those trapped was enough to cause a miracle. The message of the movie is that one should never give up hope for their loved ones, no matter how bleak the situation. Otherwise, there’s no miracle. I hope the audience gets it.”
Takayuki Yamada as Makoto Shigemura
My character had been pretty edgy for 20 years. So I wanted him to keep that edginess to the end.
Takayuki Yamada was born on October 20th, 1983, in Kagoshima prefecture. He made his dramatic debut with PSYCHOMETRER EIJI 2 in 1999 and became popular for playing the leads in dramas such as CRYING OUT LOVE, IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (Sekai no Chuushin de, Ai wo Sakebu, 2004) and JOURNEY UNDER A MIDNIGHT SON (Byakuyakou, 2006). On the other hand, he has also been active in films including TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO (Densha Otoko, 2005), THE LETTER (Tegami, 2006), WHEN YOU SEE HIM, SAY HELLO FOR ME (Sonotoki ha Kare ni Yoroshiku, 2007), MAIKO HAAAAN!!! (2007), CROWS ZERO (2007), and IKIGAMI: THE ULTIMATE LIMIT (Ikigami, 2008). BATTLE LEAGUE IN KYOTO (Kamogawa Horumo), MW, and CROWS ZERO II are to be released soon.
Yamada played the part of Shigemura, a medical trainee who is trapped in the Shimbashi subway platform with Yuji after the ground has caved in. His father became manic depressive after being sued for a medical malpractice. Seeing his father’s miserable career, Shigemura became disillusioned and now hates doctors. He is antisocial and talks with contempt to Yuji and his fellow survivors.
Yamada reflects on his character, “Reading the screenplay gave me the impression that my character is an uncooperative guy who is difficult to deal with. Someone with a pretty heavy history. I figured the way he talks to others would be pretty edgy. So I modified my lines. Even if it was written straight, I twisted it around and made it sound like something a young man with an attitude would say.”
As he explored his options for a realistic portrayal of his character, he asked the director to modify his character. Yamada elaborates, “He’s been difficult for 20 years. He would change slightly after interacting with others in the disaster but he wouldn’t be a new man after a day or two. In the screenplay he was going to shake hands with Yuji which would apparently lead to an understanding between the two men. But I told the director that I didn’t want him to change so much. My character has been pretty edgy for 20 years so I wanted him to keep that edginess to the end.”
In a memorable scene, Yamada’s character stabs his arm with a sharpened ballpoint pen to perform an emergency blood transfusion. He recalls with laughter, “I asked the medical consultant how painful it would be to stab your arm with something fatter than a needle. His answer was that it would be simply unbearable. I didn’t want to scream like I was in a horror film. As my character has had medical training I wasn’t sure if I should scream or just writhe in pain.”
There was an even more demanding scene when his character almost drowns as water floods the underground structure. Yamada remembers Ito’s advice. “Before the shoot, Ito told me to be careful as I could get the E. coli infection from the water. I wondered how could I be careful about such a thing… Then the camera rolled and I swallowed a lot of water and got really nervous because of his advice.”
Yu Kashii as Saki Umino
I researched meteorological terminology for my part and sometimes I could tell what the techno babble meant. I enjoyed those moments.
Yu Kashii was born on February 16th, 1987, in Kanagawa prefecture, and grew up in Singapore until age 12. She made her showbiz debut with the drama KIMAZU! In 2003. Playing the heroine of the film LORWLEI: THE WITCH OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN in 2005 was her debut on the silver screen. Since then, she has been active in films, dramas, and commercials. Her other titles include UNTIL THE LIGHTS COME BACK (Daiteiden no Yoru ni, 2005), LINDA LINDA LINDA (2005), STARLIT HIGH NOON (2006), DEATH NOTE (2006), THE PAVILLION “SALAMANDRE” (Pavillion Sanshouo, 2006), TEN NIGHTS OF DREAMS (Yume Ju-ya, 2007), YELLOW TEARS (Kiiroi Namida, 2007), and MIDNIGHT PARADE (Mayonaka no March, 2007). The film TSURIKICHI SANPEI and the new drama series INNOCENT LOVE (CX), are coming soon.
Kashii played the character of Saki Umino, a National Meteorological Agency personnel who is responsible for giving the exact weather condition reports to the Hyper Rescuers. She concludes that the typhoon number 8 will cause a secondary hazard as it approaches Tokyo and suggests to the rescue team that they evacuate. But moved by Shizuma’s determination to save the survivors, Umino comes up with a rescue plan to utilize the 18 minutes where there will be no wind as the eye of the storm approaches the site.
Kashii recalls the difficulty of her part, “I had a lot of technical terminology I had to deliver which I had never heard before. It was difficult to digest all the information. I researched it by looking on the Internet for wind conditions and weather maps and the units for the pressure system. But I still had to ask the staff questions. But after a while I started to have a better comprehension of things and sometimes I could tell what the techno babble meant on the set. I enjoyed those moments.”
Kashii says that the most demanding scene was a long take at the rescue operation command center. “It was a great scene where Shizuma is trying to get permission from Captain Mashiba to go in and rescue the survivors, including his brother. Their interaction was so tense and hyped that it made a very inspiring scene. But I’ve never acted in such a long take! To make matters worse, Nukumizu, who played my fellow meteorologist, kept ad-libbing so his dialog changed in every take. It made it very difficult for me even just to reply ‘I know!’ So it was a tense scene but I didn’t want to be the only one unable to handle it so I did my best.”
The most demanding scene also became the most memorable. Kashii continues, “After the long-take scene we have a scene where my character tells Shizuma her honest feelings, ‘I don’t want you to risk your life with regrets.’ I came to understand the meaning and weight of my line which helped me get through the movie. I realized the importance of caring for others and how strong the bond was between the brothers.”
Kashii was very aware and impressed by Masaaki Uchino’s performance and strong presence. She says, “When we were rehearsing for a scene where he had to cry, I saw Uchino’s contact lenses fall out. But that didn’t distract him at all! His talent for acting is so great that I had to try hard to match the same tension he created. But when the director calls ‘Cut’, Uchino’s face changes and he becomes a friendly nice guy again. Early on he suddenly told me that I looked pretty smart. I didn’t know how to react to that one (laughs).”
Yuichi Kimura as Keisuke Fujii
Being in the water in winter was hard. I wanted to kill the assistants who splashed water on me.
Yuichi Kimura was born on February 9th, 1963, in Kyoto prefecture and made his showbiz debut when he was 23. He is popular as a comedian, as well as a TV program writer, a cooking expert, and a magazine contributor. Meanwhile, he has also been active as an actor in famous films such as NOBODY KNOWS (Do no Shiranai, 2004), SWAY (Yureru, 2006), HANA (Hana yori mo Naho, 2006), THE MATSUGANE POTSHOT AFFAIR (Matsugane Ransha Jiken, 2007), and THE WITCH OF THE WEST IS DEAD (Nishi no Majo ga Shinda, 2008). In 2009, the film SHONEN MERIKENSACK (Shonen Merikensakku), directed by Kankuro Kudo, is coming. Kimura will make his debut as a feature film director with THE COUNTERFEITER (Nise Satsu, 2009) in which he also played a role himself.
In 252, Kimura played the part of the president of Hyotanyama Engineering, a small Osaka-based firm. To save his firm from bankruptcy and to support his pregnant wife and 9 children, he comes to Tokyo with a prototype of a water circulation device for fish tanks, his new product. On his way to see a client he gets caught up in the Shimbashi catastrophe.
Kimura recalls the hard days on a demanding shoot. “I’m a bit of a trainspotter so I was excited to see the set replicating Shimbashi subway station and the train they had there. But being in the water in winter was hard. All the assistants came to splash water on me and they really enjoyed it. Some of them I’d never even seen before. I wanted to kill them!”
Of course there were many good things during the shoot. Kimura fondly remembers, “The set was in Chiba and the locals kept giving us local delicious foods. I’m so grateful to them. I made my specialty, Kimu-Pot, on the set for everybody to eat.”
Kimura didn’t have to make too much effort portraying his character. He elaborates. “I drew on my memories of coming to Tokyo for the first time. Not much else. All I had to do was keep my hairstyle the same throughout the shoot.”
On his fellow actors Kimura says, “Ito is a casual, nice guy. When we were first introduced he told me that he’d watched me on TV since he was a kid. I thought Takayuki Yamada was a serious man, but he is talkative and knowledgeable. Once he got going he wouldn’t stop. MINJI was great the way she delivered her lines in Japanese. I couldn’t get enough of Ayane Omori, she’s so cute and very smart. She made a little shop off set and sold seashells and wool necklaces for 500 yen each. Adults demanded a 50% discount as a opening sale (laughs).”
Asked how he would act at such a disaster, he replied, “I know what 252 means now. I’ll be guiding other survivors. And we’ll all get rescued and everybody will thank me for that. I know how it sounds but I want that to be made into a movie (laughs).”
MINJI as Kim Sumin
The most difficult scene was when I had to express the internal conflict of my character who had lost her little brother while she herself has survived.
Born on May 14th, in Seoul, Korea, MIMJI has been active as a model of ‘allure’, ‘ELLE’, ‘BAZAAR’, and ‘Vogue Girl’ since 2007. In 2008, she was chosen as the Asian model of ESTEE LAUDER for its commercial. The film 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE is her debut on the silver screen.
MINJI plays the part of Kim Sumin, a South Korean woman who works as a Ginza hostess and has recently lost her kid brother. When the train station collapses she saves Shiori, but in the process her arm is badly wounded. She possibly has internal bleeding and may not survive without a blood transfusion.
For MINJI, a model turned singer, everything was a new experience. She recalls, “It was the first time I’d ever acted in a movie, and it was a big movie! I was so happy to work with the great cast and staff. But I didn’t know anything about being a hostess so I asked to be taken to a club where I learned many things. I tried to think like my character would.”
When she first walked onto the Shimbashi set, MINJI thought, “Oh, my God! It’s just like a real station!” When she was later at the actual train station the set was based on, the horror of the realistic set came back to her and she thought, “What if this really collapsed and I got trapped down here!” The most frightening occasion was the first day on the set. She recalls, “While my character had a little brother, I have an older sister so I tried to think of her when I was trying to get into character. But I just couldn’t pull it off on the first day.”
MINJI says about her most unforgettable scene, “it’s when my character has to tell everybody about how my brother died. I had to express the internal conflict of my character who had lost her little brother while she herself has survived. It made me feel very uneasy to act that scene.”
MINJI’s impression of her fellow Japanese actors is a nice one. “Ito looks very handsome but behaves like a middle-aged man (laughs). When I met Yamada for the first time, he was smiling but his eyes were serious so I thought he was scary. He turned out to be a very funny man. Kimura shared information with me about good restaurants. He’s very nice and kind and he taught me how to speak with an Osaka accent. And Ayane is cute! It was a tough shoot but she helped make it enjoyable.”
Taro Yamamoto as Tatsuya Miyauchi
I’m usually asked to play energetic, dynamic types but this time my character is calm and stable.
Taro Yamamoto was born on November 24th, 1974, in Takarazuka city, Hyogo prefecture, and made his showbiz debut with the TV program TENSAI TAKESHI NO GENKI GA DERU TV!!. Since then, he has been active in films, TV dramas, variety shows, and as a narrator. What made him popular is his friendly character. His films include BATTLE ROYALE (Batoru Rowaiaru, 2000), GO (2001), RAIN OF LIGHT (Hikari no Ame, 20’01), THROUGH THE NIGHT (Yoru wo Kakete, 2002), MOON CHILD (2003), GRANNY GABAI (Saga no Gabai-Baachan, 2006), and OROCHI –BLOOD- (2008).
Yamamoto played Sergeant Miyauchi from Hyper Rescue, who knows about the tragic rescue operation that separated the Shinohara brothers and caused Yuji to quit the Squad. This quiet but determined rescuer is number 2 to a man he trusts- Lieutenant Shizuma. “He understands Chief Shizuma better than anybody and he is the middleman between the young officers and his boss. It was appropriate to portray him as a calm and stable man as he is number 2 in the Squad. I’m usually asked to play energetic, dynamic types but I played this character down.”
On getting in character Yamamoto continues, “When you walk onto the incredibly realistic set after doing that training you don’t need to make any special effort to get into character. All you have to do is to understand the situation and why each character is there. The art department and their sets helped me with my performance.”
Yamamoto recalls the demanding days of principle photography. “It was tough. The training was hard enough. How hard was the shooting? I’ve never gotten so dirty shooting a movie in my life. I was drenched with water all day. We could get warm in between takes, but the crew members stayed in the muddy water all day. It’s incredible they survived it.”
Yamamoto remembers how he was inspired by the real rescuers. “Sometimes they got emergency calls and it was surprising to see them go off and save somebody directly from the set. I realized how much they were needed. We go home when the shooting is over but these rescuers will go on doing this… I was moved by their devotion and dedication.”
Yamamoto was also impressed by Hideaki Ito. “He’s in his prime. He has the sense to know exactly what is expected of him next. “Uchino also left a strong impression on Yamamoto. “He’s hot-blooded! When he walks on the set, the temperature rises by about 8 degrees(laughs). From the first day, Uchino was our lieutenant. He put so much into creating his character from the preparation phase. He inspired us all. We could see his wonderful sense of responsibility and commitment in anything he did.”
Sachiko Sakurai as Yumi Shinohara
I can never forget the flooding water! It was so powerful it pulled me away. It was scary!
Sakurai was born in Chiba, on December 20, 1973. She made her first TV appearance in 1988 in a Sunstar Aqua Fresh toothpaste advertisement. Sakurai starred in the TV drama GALLANT WOMAN (Onna wa Dokyo) in 1992, and the following year she played a high school girl who falls in love with her teacher in the popular TV drama HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER (Koko Kyoshi). Since then, she has had a long track record acting in TV dramas and TV ads. The movies she performed in are FREE AND EASY 11 (Tsuribaka NIsshi 11, 2000), QUARTET (Karutetto, 2001), PEANUTS (Pinattsu, 2006), I’M GOING TO DIE FOR YOU (Orewa Kimino Tameni Shindeiku, 2007) and the most recent LOVE FIGHT (Rabufaito, 2008).
Sakurai plays Yuji’s wife, Yumi Shinohara. She has a strong sense of guilt for losing Shiori in the panicking crowd. When her brother-in-law Shizuma stops the rescue operation because of possible secondary hazards, she accuses him of abandoning her family.
Sakurai recalls her first impression of the character she played. “I read the screenplay and thought my character was an ordinary mom. One thing out of the ordinary was her daughter’s hearing disability which meant they communicated in sign language. I learned sign language with a coach but I found it really difficult to express myself with it.”
Once the tough shooting started, sign language didn’t seem all that difficult anymore. Sakurai recalls, “It was only in the first few scenes that I wore regular makeup and had a normal life (laughs). Once I was done with those scenes I put mud on my face and in my hair, put on a mud-covered costume everyday and tried my best to keep my spirits up.”
She winces as she recalls the demanding action scenes. “The Shimbashi Station flood scene was something I’ll never forget. First I was covered with plastic all over so I wouldn’t get wet which took ages to prepare. Then the crew dumped huge barrels of water at us and it was scary! The water was so powerful it pulled me away. It was a tough shoot.”
As for playing the wife of Hideaki Ito, Sakurai recalls, “We had about 3 scenes in the beginning together! After that the natural disaster separated us so we couldn’t see each other anymore… what a shame (laughs)!”
Asked about her impression of Masaaki Uchino (who plays her brother-in-law) Sakurai praises him like all her fellow actors. “This was the second time I worked with Uchino. The moment he arrived on the set he was in character and all business. He had a positive tension that influenced all of us. There was never a dull moment on the set.”
Sakurai also has positive feelings about Ayane Omori who played her daughter. “She had to express her emotions through sign language so it must have been more difficult than it was for me. She was always practicing sign language during the takes. She can get in character the moment the camera rolls, at the age of 8! It was amazing. She’ll be a great performer.”
Satoshi Matsuda as Ippei Aoki
It was fun acting on the set but I began to feel sad as we started shooting.
Satoshi Matsuda was born on December 16th, 1978, in Osaka prefecture. In 1998, he was given a chance to make his showbiz debut at the ‘11th JUNON Super Boy Contest’, and he started his career as an actor with TENNEN SHOJO MAN NEXT YOKOHAMA HYAKUYA-HEN (1999). He became popular playing the role of Kamen Rider Knight Ren Akiyama in KAMEN RIDER RYUKI (2002). For TV dramas, he has participated in titles such as K-TAI INVESTIGATOR 7 (Ketai Sosakan 7, 2008) and GOKUSEN The Third Series (2008). His main films are TRAIN MAIN: DENSHA OTOKO (2005), TSUBAKIYAMA KACHO NO NANOKAKAN (2006), SUNSHINE DAYS –Movie (2008), and SHUN KIN SHOU (2008).
Matsuda gave an honest and realistic performance as Aoki, a young, naive and idealistic Hyper Rescue recruit who rebels against his superiors saying, “I can’t accept that our lives are valued more than the lives of those who need rescuing.” He shares his impression of the character. “Other men are experienced, whereas my character still has the naive idealism of a man who doesn’t know any better because he hasn’t spent enough time on the job. He’s professional but he still isn’t fully matured as a rescuer. I always performed conscious of his naïveté.”
Matsuda recalls the hard days of training. “I have never been so abused… and that was before the camera even rolled! I had to put a rescue officer on my shoulder and run up to the 4th floor and run back down. I saw people do that on TV but when I’m the one doing it… It was so demanding. In a real situation, the man I’d have on my shoulder might be dying, so I couldn’t put him down. It’s a tough occupation!”
When he was on the Shimbashi set, he showed his sensitive side. “I was awestruck the first time I saw the set. It was fun acting on the set but I began to feel sad as we started shooting. I often go to Shimbashi and I love the area but on the set the station is completely devastated. When I was acting with the extras who played the people caught up in the disaster, I became sadder and sadder. It was strange.”
During the 4 months of shooting, Matsuda concentrated on the movie and he says his view on the rescue operations changed. “As an ordinary citizen, I am now quite confident that I would survive in a disaster if those rescuers came to save me. Even if I got trapped in a space with no chance of escape, I’ll try to stay alive and wait for them. I called my parents and said, ‘If your house collapses on you during an earthquake, don’t give up hope because those guys will rescue you (laughs)!’”
Ayane Omori as Shiori Shinohara
When a disaster strikes like in this movie, I want to be strong like Shiori.
Ayane Omori was born on July 3rd, 1999, in Aichi prefecture. Having been active in commercials, she began to show up in TV dramas such as KAMISAMA KARA HITOKOTO (2006). In 2008, with the movie MY SISTER, MY LOVE she made her debut on the silver screen. Since then, she has shown her ability as an actress in films such as CHESUTO! (2008), OKA WO KOETE (2008), and “224466″, a short directed by Tadanobu Asano which is included in the anthology R246 STORY (2008).
Ayane Omori played Shiori, the daughter of the movie’s hero, Yuji. Shiori has just turned 7. She’s deaf but she can read lips. She’s on her way to Ginza to go shopping with her family when she is separated from her mother at Shimbashi station and becomes trapped under the rubble.
Omori was 8 years old at the time of the principle photography. Her character was deaf so Ayane had to learn sign language before the shooting commenced. Ayane talks about her difficult role. “I visited my sign language coach at his house. He wrote down things that needed clarification on the blackboard. He wrote down questions too. That made it easier for me to follow.” On the director Ayane recalls with an angelic smile, “He was very kind when he explained what I was supposed to do. When I did a good job, he’d give me a big thumbs-up.”
Asked what the most difficult scene was she replies, “The scene where I had to cry was a little bit difficult.” And the most fun experience? “I cooked Chanko Hot Pot dinner with my father and everybody liked it very much. And when I opened a little shop to sell wool necklaces and bracelets everybody bought my things with play money. It was fun.”
What did young Ayane think of the actors who played her parents? She fondly recalls, “Ito was always so caring, asking me if I was warm and making sure I was OK. He took me to a hamburger treat, too (laughs)! Between takes, Sakurai made up a story for me and illustrated it too. It was about having a dog as a pet.”
What did she think of the other actors? She confesses, “I was a little nervous around Kimura because he looked kind of scary. But he turned out to be nice and he told me many funny stories. He also made a delicious soup for us. MINJI loves sweets, and she and I always had sweets to nibble on. We went to a hot spring together in Chiba and we told each other secrets. I worked with Yamada once before but we hardly spoke then. So I was happy we had a chance to talk more.”
What would Ayane do should she be in a disaster like that in the movie? She bravely answers, “I want to be like Shiori and be strong and survive. This is a wonderful movie. When the movie is finished you want to hug your mom and dad.”
Tetta Sugimoto as Tetsuji Mashiba
My challenge was to depict a man who understands the situation his men are in but has to stay objective to give orders.
Born on July 21st, 1965, in Kanagawa prefecture, in 1981, Tetta Sugimoto made his debut as a vocalist for the rock group ‘Guriisu’. After he turned to acting and started his career, he won ‘Rookie of the Year’ of the Japan Academy Prize with HAKUJASHO (1983). In 1996, he played a lead for the first time with the film BILLIKEN. Since then, he has been active in films, TV dramas, and plays. His main films include ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU (2001), CRYING OUT LOVE, IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (2004), BOY MEETS GHOST (2006), DORORO (2007), SEASON OF SNOW (2008), and ICHI (2008).
Sugimoto played the part of Captain Tetsuji Mashiba of the 8th Division Tokyo Fire Department Rescue Squad. Prioritizing the safety of his men, Captain Mashiba gives an evacuation order. Moved by Shizuma’s tenacious request to save his brother, Mashiba permits his men to move in for a rescue. This he undertakes knowing that the result will be his responsibility.
Sugimoto analyses his character. “He used to be just like Lieutenant Shizuma Shinohara, commanding his men at the rescue site. So he understands what it’s like to be where the action is. But now his position demands that he stays back and makes objective decisions. That’s his dilemma. My challenge was to express it.”
He was impressed by the Shimbashi set also and recalls his first time there with glee. “It was so realistic I was blown away! I was so excited, I don’t know why. My heart started pounding.”
Asked if the set helped him get into character, he replies with a smile. “Definitely! I had no problem getting into character.” Even so he recalls how difficult it was to play the scenes in which Shizuma pleads with him to give the go-ahead to rescue Yuji. “It became really tense on the set and the takes were so long! My line was ‘Shut up, Shinohara!’ but I was so nervous I said ‘Shut up Mashiba!’ instead (laughs).”
Sugimoto gives his impression of Uchino, who played Shizuma: “He is a very serious actor. He can maintain the same level of intensity from the rehearsal to the take. Incredible concentration!” On Hideaki Ito, Sugimoto recalls, “We hardly had scenes together but at one time I saw him on the set and it was like, ‘There’s Yuji!’ He was really in his character.”
What would Sugimoto do in a disaster like that in the movie? He replies, “It depends on when it happens. I hope it happens when I’m home.”
Sugimoto summarizes the movie, “This is an intensely hot movie. Watch out or you’ll get burned!”
Nobuo Mizuta (Director)
Born on August 20th, 1958, in Hiroshima prefecture, he joined Nippon Television Network in 1981 and worked on TV drama production. He started his career as an assistant director of IKENA GENTA 80 KILOS. After that, he directed lots of popular TV dramas such as KOI NO NIDOME NARA (1995), KOI NO VACANCE (1997), PSYCHO DOCTOR (2002), and MY LITTLE DARLING WITCH (2003). He won the Best Prize from Hoso-Bunka Foundation Award with FUYU NO UNDOKAI in 2005. He produced theater plays such as ARIGATO SABOTEN SENSEI (2002), and JOKER (2004), as well as the film MAKOTO (2005). In 2006, he made his debut as a film director with BOY MEETS GHOST, and his second film MAIKO HAAAAN!!! (2007) became a big hit in Japan.
Yoichi Komori (Screenplay)
Komori was born in Saga, Japan on May 4, 1967. He learned screenwriting at Osaka University of Arts. He joined Toei and started out as a production assistant. After working for several companies producing TV programs, he started a career in writing. He wrote stories for Umizaru comics as well as the TV series and 2 movie franchise. He also wrote stories for the comics Special Rescue (Tokkyu) and I am a Fisherman (Waga na wa Ryoshi). He is highly praised for his realistic stories, meticulous research and the attractive characters he creates. He is known as an authority on Ultraman. In 2007 he published Ultra World Collection, Ultraman Returns in Volks Jr. Sculpture.
Hiroshi Saito (Screenplay)
Born in 1959, Tokyo. He started his career writing scripts for TV dramas, and he wrote a script for a film for the first time with BANG! (Asobi no Jikan ha Owaranai, 1991). Since then, he has been writing scripts for films such as KOKKAI HE IKOU! (1993), SECRET WALTZ (1996), SHARAN-Q EMKA NO HANAMICHI (1997), SF: SAMURAI FICTION (1998), HIMITSU –Secret (1999), RESURRECTION (Yomigaeri, 2002) which has won ‘Screenplay of the Year’ of Japan Academy Prize, ROCKERS (2003), 4TEEN (2004) which has won both ‘Excellence Prize (Galaxy Prize)’ of Japan Arts Festival and Best Prize of The National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan, LIFE (Tengoku de Kimi ni Aetara, 2007), THE GLORIOUS TEAM BATISTA (2008), and YOUR FRIEND (Kimi no Tomodachi, 2008).
Taro Iwashiro (Music)
Born in 1965, Tokyo, Iwashiro graduated with a Faculty of Music in Graduate School of Tokyo University of the Arts. The work he made for his graduation, TO THE FARTHEST LAND OF THE WORLD, won Best Music Award of Silk Road Orchestra International Composition Contest which was sponsored by Asahi Shimbun and TV Asahi. The piece will be kept eternally in the reference room of the Tokyo University of Arts. Since then, he has been active in music of TV or films. His music has been used for films such as MEMORIES OF MURDER (Salinui Chueok, 2003), SAYONARA KURO (2003), BLOOD AND BONES (2004), SEMI SHIGURE (2005), SNOWY LOVE FALLIN’ IN SPRING (Haru no Yuki, 2005), SINKING OF JAPAN (Nihon Chinbotsu, 2006), BOY MEETS GHOST (’06), MAIKO HAAAAN!!! (2007), AKANEZORA (2007), DOUBLE TROUBLE (2008), CHILDREN OF THE DARK (Yami no kodomotachi, 2008), and RED CLIFF (Chi Bi, 2008).
Junichiro Hayashi (Cinematography)
Born in 1948, Tokyo, some of the films he participated are MUCCHAN NO UTA (1985), REMEMBRANCE (Kyoshu, 1986), WUTHERING HEIGHTS (Arashigaoka, 1988), SAKURA NO KI NO SHITA DE (1989), TASMANIAN STORY (1990), BOU NO KANASHIMI (1994), RING (Ringu, 1998), DRAGON HEAD (Dorragonheddo, 2003), THE SUSPECT: MUROI SHINJI (Yougisha Muroi Shinji, 2005), KAIDAN (2007), CYBORG SHE (Boku no Kanojo wa Saibogu, 2008), and JYURYOKU PIERROT (2009). Creating unique visuals, he has won the Encouraging Prize of 32nd Miura Awards, Best Engineering of 42nd Motion Picture of Japan Awards, and Best Cinematography of 44th Mainichi Film Awards.
Tetsuro Sano (Cinematography)
Sano was born in 1958, Tokyo, and graduated Japan Academy of Moving Images. In 1996, he made a commercial film for the first time with FOCUS, and won a special prize of 50th Film Technique Award of Motion Picture and Television Engineering Society of Japan. There are also many works in which he made the most of his diving technique. His main titles are HASEN NO MARISU (1999), MR ROOKIE (2002), EMBRACED BY MANA (2003), DEVILMAN (Debiruman, 2004), UMIZARU (2004), THE SUSPECT: MUROI SHINJI (Yougisha Muroi Shinji, 2005), MUSHISHI (2006 / underwater shooting only), LIMIT OF LOVE: UMIZARU 2 (2006), and MASTERS OF HORROR: DREAM CRUISE (2007).
Meicho Tomiyama (Lighting)
Tomiyama was born in Okinawa prefecture, 1957. In 1991, he made his commercial film debut with ASATTE DANCE. He has worked a lot with Kiyoshi Kurosawa including PULSE (Kairo, 2000) and DOPPLEGANGER (2002), and also with Akihiko Shiota including HARMFUL INSECT (Gaichi, 2001) and A HEARTFUL OF LOVE (2005). The other titles are JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (2002), DRAGON HEAD (2002), MILK WHITE (2003), THE LAST LOVE SONG ON THIS LITTLE PLANET (2005), WAKEFUL NIGHTS (Nezu no Ban, 2006), DORORO (2007), 10 PROMISES TO MY DOG (2007), and VANISHED (Oyayubi Sagashi, 2007).
Takeshi Shimizu (Production Design)
Born in 1960, Kanagawa prefecture. When he was doing a part time job for a production of TV programs, he was advised to get into the film industry by a production designer. Starting as an assistant, he made his debut with VIDEO GIRL AI (Denei Shojo AI). His main works are GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira Ni-sen Mireniamu, 1999), WATER BOYS (2001), THE UNIVERSITY OF LAUGHS (2004), LORELEI: THE WITCH OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN (2005), LIMIT OF LOVE: UMIZARU 2 (2006), MAIKO HAAAAN!!! (2007), THE LAST PRINCESS (Kakushi Toride no San Akunin: The Last Princess, 2008), and I’D RATHER BE A SHELLFISH (Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai, 2008).
Hitoshi Tsurumaki (Recording)
Born in 1959, Niigata prefecture. After working at Recording Studio for two years, he became fa reelancer. He started his career as a recording engineer with THE LAST FRANKENSTEIN (1991). In 2000, he was nominated for the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Recording of Japan Academy Awards. His other titles are BE WITH YOU (20’04), LORELEI: THE WITCH OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN (2005), ALWAYS -SUNSET ON THIRD STREET (2005), MAIKO HAAAAN!!! (2007), and ALWAYS -SUNSET ON THIRD STREET – 2 (2007). With the ALWAYS series, he won the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Recording of Japan Academy Awards for both titles.
Issei Oda (VFX Supervisor)
Born in 1965, Nagasaki prefecture, he started to work as a visual director when he was a college student. With a great knowledge of VFX and excellent drawing techniques, he worked actively planning and creating games and commercials, and also worked for films and TV programs as a VFX supervisor. In 2006, he made his debut as a film director with ARCH ANGELS (2006). His other works are BOY MEETS GHOST (2006), MAIKO HAAAAN!!! (2007), KUNG FU KID (2008 / both director and VFX supervisor), THE CHASING WORLD (2008), and CLIMBERS HIGH (2008).
Junichi Kikuchi (Editing)
Born in 1950, Hokkaido prefecture. After working for Nikkatsu Corporation for 10 years, he became independent, and established his company JKS in 1980. His works are GAKI TEIKOKU (1981), THE CRAZY FAMILY (Gyaku Funsha Kazoku, 1984), FANCY DANCE (1989), SUMO DO, SUMO DON’T (1991), SHALL WE DANCE? (1996), KIKANSHA SENSEI (2004), A HEARTFUL OF LOVE (2005), THE SUSPECT: MUROI SHINJI (2005), and I JUST DIDN’T DO IT (2007).
252: SIGNAL OF LIFE (252: Seizonsha Ari)
2008 / 132min / Color
Screen Size 1:1.85
Japanese Theatrical Release: December 6th, 2008
AFM 2008 Screening: Nov. 8th (Sat) 8:30am- @ AMC Santa Monica 1, Nov. 10th (Mon) 7pm- @ Fairmont 1
Domestic Distribution: Warner Bros. Japan
International Sales: Nippon Television Network Corporation
Hideaki Ito as Yuji Shinohara
Masaaki Uchino as Shizuma Shinohara
Takayuki Yamada as Makoto Shigemura
You Kashii as Saki Umino
Yuichi Kimura as Keisuke Fujii
MINJI as Kim Sumin
Taro Yamamoto as Tatsuya Miyauchi
Sachiko Sakurai as Yumi Shinohara
Ayane Omori as Shiori Shinohara
Satoshi Matsuda as Ippei Aoki
Tetta Sugimoto as Tetsuji Mashiba
Masahiko Nishimura as Akio Kogure
Yoichi Nukumizu as Haruo Tsudanuma
Sadawo Abe as Second-hand car shop sales
Directed by: Nobuo Mizuta
Original Story: Yoichi Komori
Screenplay: Yoichi Komori, Hiroshi Saito, Nobuo Mizuta
Music: Taro Iwashiro
Cinematography: Junichiro Hayashi, Tetsuro Sano
Lighting: Meicho Tomiyama
Production Design: Takeshi Shimizu
Recording: Hitoshi Tsurumaki
VFX Supervisor: Issei Oda
Editing: Junichi Kikuchi, Takashi Sato
Scripter: Mikiko Koyama
Executive Producer: Seiji Okuda
Co Executive Producers: Satoshi Jinno, Takashi Kamikura
Producers: Takahiro Salut, Atsuyuki Shimoda
Planning & Production: NTV
Production Company: Twins Japan
©2008 ”252” Film Partners
252: SIGNAL OF LIFE EPISODE ZERO (252: Seizonsha Ari Episode Zero)
To promote 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE, on December 5, 2008 at 9:00pm NTV aired 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE EPISODE ZERO, a televsion drama set two years before the events in the film. EPISODE ZERO starred Hayato Ichihara as Yusaku Hayakawa, a fireman inspired to join the Hyper Rescue Unit by the death of his parents in the Great Hanshin earthquake. The supporting cast featured Tsuyoshi Abe, Takako Uehara, Hikari Mitsushima, Hiroaki Fukui, Tomoya Warabino, and Yu Koyanagi; with cameos by movie cast members Hideaki Ito, Masaaki Uchino, YU Kashii, Taro Yamamoto, and Mahiru Konno.