BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO Press Notes
Shochiku’s 2009 action comedy BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO (Kamogawa Horumo) was released on Region 1 DVD this month by VIZ Pictures. The following article is compiled from both the Japanese and American press notes for the film…
The best-selling fantasy novel by Manabu Makime that became a phenomenon among the young and picky readers of Japan has been adapted into a combat action comedy film, made possible with the high quality and innovative VFX and animation by animation studio GONZO (creators of AFRO SAMURAI and BRAVE STORY). The film is directed by Katsuhide Motoki (KITARO, KITARO AND THE MILLENNIUM CURSE, 10 PROMISES TO MY DOG) and stars Takayuki Yamada (CROWS ZERO, TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO), Chiaki Kuriyama (BATTLE ROYALE, KILL BILL VOL.1), and Sei Ashina (SILK, KAMUI).
BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO (Kamogawa Horumo) introduces esoteric and ancient Taoist magic in an unusually modern setting with tight storytelling and a cast of uniquely hilarious characters. It’s a highly comic yet charming depiction of a hapless bunch of students who get pulled into an enigmatic secret social club called “The Azure Dragons” soon after entering the prestige Kyoto University.
In an effort to maintain the extraordinary world of the novel, everything was filmed on location in Kyoto. Using state-of-the-art CG techniques, the unique and magical quality of the “Horumo” legend will make its unprecedented, bizarre and indefinable debut!
The film opens in Kyoto during the month of May. After failing the entrance exam and enduring 2 years of cram school, Akira Abe (Takayuki Yamada) finally gets accepted to the prestigious Kyoto University. He takes a part-time job helping with the traditional Aoi Matsuri, and annual festival for Kyoto’s Kamo shrines. One day on his way home with friend Koichi Takamura (Gaku Hamada), they meet a senior named Makoto Sugawara (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) who invites them to a welcome party hosted by his club, the mysterious “Azure Dragon.” With nothing to lose, they decide to go for the free food, but with no intention whatsoever of joining the club.
Once there, Abe is smitten by the beauty of Kyoko Sawara (Sei Ashina). Abe has a strange fetishism for beautiful noses, and falls head over heels for the girl with the perfect nose. He drags his friend Takamura to join the club with him in hopes that he can get closer to the girl of his dreams. Along with Sawara, there are a bunch of other oddball characters joining the squad; Fumi Kusunoki (Chiaki Kuriyama), a spectacled nerd with a weird haircut in the style of a 1980’s newscaster, a bullying control freak Mitsuru Ashiya (Takuya Ishida) and a pair of calm-natured twins, the Miyoshi brothers (Shota and Keita Saito).
At first, the club appears to be an ordinary social club, But, one night amid the throngs of sightseers at the Gion Festival, the club’s new members receive a summons to gather in the very heart of old Kyoto. Here they are met by Sugawara and the older students clad now in well-worn blue traditional clothes who initiate them into the 1,000 year-old tradition of the “Horumo battles”, the very raison d’etre of The Azure Dragons.
No sooner does the penny begin to drop when three other bands of traditionally-clothed students turn up, red, white and black representing Kyoto’s three other famous universities, each located in the four winds (North, South, East, West) of Kyoto. What on earth are the Horumo battles, and what shocking secret lies behind it?
What is the game of Horumo?
This mysterious and somewhat absurd game is said to have started over 1,200 years ago in the Heian period ad is now played by teams from the four universities in Kyoto. The battle is fought between 10 players from each team with the players manipulating an army of 100 spirits (referred to as Oni) to fight the opponent. Each Oni stands 30cm tall and weighs 1kg. The members go through a rigorous training achieving the fluency of the Oni language as well as the indefinable gestures required to go along with it.
The heat rises as 2,000 CG-spirits wage fierce battles against the backdrop of breathtaking beautiful city of Kyoto. Let the battles begin!
Author: Manabu Makime
Born in Osaka in 1969. Graduate of Kyoto University, Dept. of Law. Wrote Kamogawa Horumo in 2006 which sold 1.8 million copies and won numerous prizes including the 4th Boiled Eggs Newcomer Award, “Hon no Zasshi” Entertainment Award (1st Prize), and was selected for 6th Prize in 2007 Japan Publishers Awards. The book was also adapted into comic book series. His second book The Fantastic Deer Man (Shika Otoko Aoniyoshi) was short-listed for the 137th Naoki Award, one of the top two literary awards and was made into a popular TV series starring Hiroshi Tamaki in January 2008 by the Fuji Network. In 2007 he published the sequel to Kamogawa Horumo entitled Horumo Rokkei. Recently he completed the third in this “Kansai Trilogy,” with Princess Toyotomi which is being serialized in the literary magazine Bungei Shunju. Most recently he worked on a collection of essays entitled The Pedometer.
Director: Katsuhide Motoki
Born in 1963 in Toyama Prefecture. After studying under directors such as Azuma Morisaki, Keisuke Kinoshita and Hiroshi Teshigawara, he made his directing debut in 1998 with TENAMONYA SHOSHA which earned him the 18th Fujimoto Award for Best Newcomer. He then went on to direct 3 of the FREE & EASY movie series from 2000 – 2002. His recent films includes DRUGSTORE GIRL (2004), KITARO (2007), KITARO AND THE MILLENNIUM CURSE (2008), and 10 PROMISES TO MY DOG (2008). He has also been active in the theater and directing numerous TV shows.
Akira Abe (Takayuki Yamada)
Freshman member of The Azure Dragons. Now a typical Kyoto University student (after failing entrance exams for 2 years in a row). A big fan of veteran folk singers, who only old people listen to these days. Somewhat self-centered and short-tempered, so of course he doesn’t do well with the girls.
Born in 1983, actor Takayuki Yamada made his acting debut in the TV drama PSYCHOMETER EIJI 2 in 1999 and has gained popularity from numerous TV dramas throughout the years. He has starred in feature films including DRAGONHEAD (2003), TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO (2005), CROWS ZERO (2007), 252: SIGNAL OF LIFE (2008) and MW (2009).
Fumi Kusonoki (Chiaki Kuriyama)
Freshman member of The Azure Dragons. Physics major. Distinctive hair-style, fashion and glasses mark her as a dead-ringer for a 1980’s newscaster. Completely lacking in social skills.
Born in 1984, Chiaki Kuriyama is a model turned actress that made her actress debut in the film SHIKOKU (1999). She has starred in feature films such as JU-ON (2000) and BATTLE ROYALE (2000), AZUMI 2: DEATH OR LOVE (2005), THE GREAT YOKAI WAR (2005), and the THE SKY CRAWLERS- (voice, 2008). Her Hollywood debut was in director Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL VOL.1 (2004).
Koichi Takamura (Gaku Hamada)
Freshman member of The Azure Dragons. A returnee to Japan after being born and raised abroad, he holds a strange fascination for Japanese culture. He regards Abe as a good friend. Lives in the dormitory, and wears T-shirts with Japanese characters, which only tourists will buy.
Kyoko Sawara (Sei Ashina)
A beautiful freshman member of The Azure Dragons. Object of Abe’s affections owing to her sublime structured nose. When it comes to romance, she knows what she wants and is prepared to be manipulative to get it.
Mitsuru Ashiya (Takuya Ishida)
Freshman member of The Azure Dragons. Law student. An overbearing control-freak. Abe’s arch-rival.
Miyoshi Brothers (Shota and Keita Saito)
Freshmen members of The Azure Dragons. Even the fellow teammates can’t tell these mild-mannered brothers apart.
Makoto Sugawara (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa)
A Senior member, and the 499th President of The Azure Dragons. He initiates Abe and friends into the ways of the “Horumo Battles”. Aloof and inaccessible, he’s not the easiest person to figure out.
BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO
Original Japanese Title: KAMOGAWA HORUMO
International English Title: KAMOGAWA HORUMO − BATTLE LEAGUE IN KYOTO
US Title: BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO
2009 / Japan / 113 min. / Color
Release Date in Japan: April 18, 2009 (Wide release in Shochiku Theaters)
International Premiere: July 24, 2009 (Fantasia Film Festival)
Release Date in US: October 23, 2009 (Limited Theatrical), July 6, 2010 (DVD)
Director: Katsuhide Motoki
Original Story: Manabu Makime
Script: Maruo Kyozuka
Music: Yoshikazu Suo
CGI and VFX: GONZO / Cine Griot
Planning Cooperation: Boiled Eggs Ltd.
Cooperation: Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto University, Kyoto Sangyo University, Ryukoku University
Production and Distribution: Shochiku Co., Ltd..
Budget: USD 7 million
Takayuki Yamada (CROWS ZERO, TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO)
Chiaki Kuriyama (THE SKY CRAWLERS, THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, BATTLE ROYALE, KILL BILL VOL.1)
Sei Ashina (MASKED RIDER HIBIKI, SILK, KAMUI)
Gaku Hamada (THE FOREIGN DUCK THE NATIVE DUCK AND GOD, HONEY AND CLOVER, OPERATION LOVE)
Takuya Ishida (THE CHASING WORLD)
Shouta Saito and Keita Saito (TOUCH)
Yoshiyoshi Arakawa (THE TASTE OF FISH, FINE TOTALLY FINE)
About Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Founded in 1895, Shochiku functions as a highly-tuned vertically integrated entertainment entity, encompassing feature film and television production, theatrical distribution of Japanese & foreign motion pictures, worldwide sales, exhibition, DVD and home video distribution and the Kabuki Theater.
Shochiku operates one of the most successful motion picture divisions in Japan. The company has produced a number of critically and financially successful films, including the 2002 Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI, directed by Yoji Yamada, the first Japanese Academy Award nomination for a live-action film in 22 years. Shochiku’s latest include DEPARTURES by Yojiro Takita, the 2009 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film.
About VIZ Pictures, Inc.
Based in San Francisco, CA, VIZ Pictures, Inc. licenses and distributes selective Japanese live-action films and DVDs, with focus on Japanese “kawaii (cute) and cool” pop culture. VIZ Pictures strives to offer the most entertaining motion pictures straight from the “Kingdom of Pop” for audiences of all ages, especially the manga and anime generation, in North America. Some titles include DEATH NOTE, 20TH CENTURY BOYS, and TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO. VIZ Pictures is also the producer of NEW PEOPLE, a part of the J-Pop Center Project, a unique entertainment destination bringing Japanese pop culture through film, art, fashion, and retail products. For more information please visit viz-pictures.com or newpeopleworld.com.
For more information on BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- Shochiku 2009 Film and Anime Lineup
- VIZ Pictures Licenses Combat Action Comedy Film BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO
- BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO International Premiere at Fantasia Film Festival
- Free Halloween Exhibit: Yokai University San Francisco Campus