ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET ’64
Fresh from the smash success of his live action SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (SPACE BATTLESHIP ヤマト, Uchu Senkan Yamato, 2010), filmmaker Takashi Yamazaki is now at work on a third installment of the award-winning ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET movie franchise.
Directed and co-written by Yamazaki from Ryohei Saigan’s popular manga, the first ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET (ALWAYS 三丁目の夕日, Always San-Chome no Yuhi, 2005) told the story of the residents of a small Tokyo neighborhood in late 1958. The image of Tokyo Tower under construction figured prominently in both the film and its promotional campaign, which presented a sentimental, nostalgic look back at Japan’s economic and cultural post-war rebirth. ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET was a tremendous box office hit in Japan with ¥3.5 billion (approximately $30 million US) in ticket sales and triggered a national fad for the “Showa Era” (1926-1989). It was also a critical hit, winning 33 awards domestically and internationally, including Picture of the Year, Director of the Year, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress at the 2006 Japan Academy Prize.
In 2007, the cast and crew soon reunited for the sequel ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET- 2 (ALWAYS 続・三丁目の夕日, Always Zoku San-Chome no Yuhi, 2007). The second film was set in the spring of 1959, with Tokyo buzzing over the newly completed Tokyo Tower and the announcement that the city would host the 1964 Olympics. Yamazaki also sneaked another 50s icon on board by opening the movie with an “imaginary sequence” starring Godzilla, King of the Monsters. ALWAYS 2 was another success, taking in more than ¥4.56 billion (approximately $42 million US) during its theatrical run and winning several awards including the 2008 Japan Academy Prize for Best Actor.
The conclusion of ALWAYS 2 appeared to be the end of the story, but— after a four year break— Takashi Yamazaki and executive producers Suji Abe and Seiji Okuda announced that they had begun production on the third film in the series, ALWAYS- SUNSET ON 3RD STREET ’64 (ALWAYS 三丁目の夕日 ’64, Always San-Chome no Yuhi ’64). Also returning from previous installments are cast members Hidetaka Yoshioka (as writer Ryunosuke Chagawa), Shinichi Tsutsumi (auto body shop owner Norifumi Suzuki), Koyuki (Ryunosuke’s love, Hiromi Ishizaki), Maki Horikita (Suzuki Auto employee Mutsuko Hoshino), Masako Motai (Kin Oota), Tomokazu Miura (Dr. Shiroo “Akuma” Takuma), Kenta Suga (Junnosuke), Kazuki Koshimizu (son Ippei Suzuki), Mitsuru Hirata (?? Suzuki), Ayame Koike (cousin Mika Suzuki), Yosuke Asari (Takeo Nakayama), and Hiroko Yakushimaru (as Suzuki’s wife, Tomoe). There has been no word yet regarding Godzilla.
During a January press conference for ALWAYS- SUNSET ON 3RD STREET ’64, Takashi Yamazaki told the press that, “As the title clearly states, the film is set in 1964, when throughout Japan there was a heightened state of excitement for the Tokyo Olympics.” It wasn’t just the Tokyo Olympics; with the grand opening of the Tokaido bullet-train line and the rapid economic growth as a result of increasing tourism, the year was a critical juncture for the country. Coincidentally, 1964 was also the year that the director and ALWAYS cast members Shinichi Tsutsumi and Hiroko Yakushimaru were born.
This time period was never depicted in the Sunset on Third Street manga series, but creator Ryouhei Saigan gave his blessing to the new film and offered some story suggestions. Yamazaki explained, “We showed the plot to Mr. Saigan and incorporated some of his ideas. I had a very difficult time creating the screenplay [with ALWAYS and ALWAYS 2 co-screenwriter Ryota Kosawa] while I was thinking about the significance of making a third movie.” Yamazaki would not divulge any details about the new story, but producer Shuji Abe said, “When I read the screenplay, you could hear the sound of tears dripping. Roku-chan [the nickname for the character Maki Horikita] is also around 22 years old now.”
The filmmakers did reveal that ALWAYS- SUNSET ON 3RD STREET ’64 will be produced as a 3D movie. In regards to photography, director Takashi Yamazaki remarked, “We’re not converting it from 2D; we want to shoot it in true 3D” by utilizing the exclusive 3D camera system called ‘3ALITY’. 3D has proven to be a popular method for showing for action and spectacle, but Yamazaki had a different goal in mind: “I had always wanted to make a real time machine. You must be able to enjoy a world that has real depth, as if you had actually gone back to that time period.”
The first piece of promotional artwork released for ALWAYS- SUNSET ON 3RD STREET ’64 once again depicts Tokyo Tower, this time with Blue Impulse— the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s aerobatic team— flying overhead. Yamazaki included the six F-86 Sabres because “The Blue Impulse’s acrobatic flight painting the Olympic symbol in the sky during the opening ceremony had a great impact on me.”
Principal photography began on January 12th, and the 3rd Street set built at Toho Studios in Tokyo, Seijo was also opened to the public. To show the passage of time since the previous film, one portion of the road is now paved, and the Chagawa Store (run Hidetaka Yoshioka’s character Ryunosuke Chagawa) has been converted into a two-story building. “The set was built right at the start of production,” Yamazaki said, “and it was like we were remembering these false illusions that still remain somewhere inside us. The whole cast and crew suddenly had this kind of sixth sense. It was quite overwhelming, but an enjoyable experience… somewhat different to those we’ve had up until now.”
Principal photography will end in early April, following which work commences on the CGI. ALWAYS- SUNSET ON 3RD STREET ’64 is scheduled for a theatrical release in Japan during the first half of 2012.
For more on the ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET films please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan: