AKKO-CHAN: THE MOVIE Production Notes
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details and images from a Japanese movie not yet released in the United States.
Last August, SciFi Japan previewed the then-upcoming film, AKKO-CHAN: THE MOVIE (映画 ひみつのアッコちゃん, Eiga Himitsu no Akko-chan, 2012). NTV is now offering AKKO-CHAN: THE MOVIE for international sales and has provided SFJ with English production notes for the film. The accompanying photos are courtesy of NTV and Shochiku, the movie’s domestic distributor…
The compact lets her become whatever she wants to be.
The magic words are…
A must-see delight!
A super adorable romantic entertainment movie!
AKKO-CHAN: THE MOVIE is based on Akko-chan’s Got a Secret (ひみつのアッコちゃん, Himitsu no Akko-chan), a classic manga by Fujio Akatsuka that shines in the history of Japanese comics. It was adapted as three animated THE SECRET OF AKKOCHAN television series in 1969, 1988 and 1998. 2012 marked the comic’s 50th anniversary, and it has been adapted into a live-action movie for the first time.
The original comic is the pioneering work in the “magical girl” genre that is hugely popular in modern Japanese pop culture. By gazing into a compact and chanting the magic words “tekumakumayakon,” Akko can transform into anything she wants. The live-action movie adds a modern angle to the story that is like the embodiment of girls’ eternal dream come true, and the undying spirit of the original work shines through in this marvelous piece of entertainment.
10-year-old Atsuko Kagami, called Akko for short, transforms into her 22-year-old self with a magical compact that a spirit of mirrors gives her. She then happens to meet Naoto Hayase, an elite manager at a famous cosmetics company, who takes a liking to her. He gives her a part-time job in his Planning and Development Office, and she enjoys working in a company as a grownup for the first time in her life. But the company is facing a buyout and Naoto’s section is about to be shut down. Akko comes up with child-like ideas and makes the most of her magical transforming ability, trying every possible means to help Naoto. She then gradually begins to fall in love with him, and finds herself at a loss. Bewildered by the gap of an elementary schoolgirl in a 22-year-old body, Akko nevertheless earnestly makes an effort to do her very best, and her pure energy will surely touch viewers’ hearts.
Starring in this movie is Haruka Ayase (CYBORG SHE, ICHI), the number one favorite actress among men and women of all ages. She portrays this difficult role in a vibrant way, creating a relatable heroine by peppering the film with her schoolgirl-like expressions and reactions.
Masaki Okada (CONFESSIONS, VILLAIN), who has co-starred with Ayase in the past in the hit movie PRINCESS TOYOTOMI, plays Akko’s romantic interest. This skilled young actor has recently been making remarkable progress in his career through his appearances in such movies as LIFE BACK THEN and SPACE BROTHERS and TV dramas such as KIYOMORI. He sensitively portrays the troubled elite manager who still retains traces of his boyish looks. Together with Ayase’s Akko, he draws out a profound human drama from a fantastic setting.
Furthermore, accomplished actors and actresses such as Shosuke Tanihara, Kazue Fukiishi, Muga Tsukaji, Ren Ohsugi, Masako Motai, Takeshi Kaga, and Teruyuki Kagawa appear in supporting roles, adding laughter and depth to the story.
The director is Yasuhiro Kawamura, recognized for his fine filmizations of comics such as NODAME CANTABILE THE MOVIE II. He gently depicts the relationship between Akko and Naoto from their encounter to parting as if drawing a large circle, leaving a lingering warmth and happiness in the hearts of viewers.
The theme song is by YUKI. The emotion behind the title “My Wish” (Watashi no Negaigoto) combined with the story makes the movie shine even more.
Lively images that fulfill a girl’s desire to transform into something different, the fun action scenes colored with excitement and slapstickery, and a novel viewpoint that refreshingly satirizes corporate tactics… Such elements are blended into this movie bursting with fashionable and chic taste, sweeping us away into a feel-good world that “could have been done before but never had.”
1. Atsuko Kagami (Riko Yoshida), nicknamed Akko, is an elementary school student who is immensely curious about makeup and fashion. One day, a treasured mirror that Akko’s father bought for her gets broken, and she feels blue even though her dear mother (Keiko Horiuchi) tries to comfort her. That night, a man wearing a suit and sunglasses (Teruyuki Kagawa) appears and gives her a magical compact. This man turns out to be a spirit of mirrors. “Say ‘tekumakumayakon’ twice, then what you want to become,” he says. “Say ‘lamipas lamipas lulu lulu lu’ to dispel the charm.” The spirit of mirrors continues to tell an incredulous Akko, “Don’t ever tell anyone about this. If anyone finds out, the mirror will lose its magic.”
Akko returns to her room after the spirit of mirrors disappears and says, “Let me be a grown-up!” Light engulfs her and she turns into her 22-year-old self (Haruka Ayase)! She becomes carried away and transforms into the various occupations of her dreams one after another, like a figure skater and cabin attendant.
2. One day during winter vacation, Akko goes to the amusement park with her best friend Moko and her classmates. There she meets Naoto Hayase (Masaki Okada), who works for a major cosmetics company called Akatsuka. Akko rides the Ferris wheel alone with him and feels a little attracted to the sadness she senses in him.
The next day she skips cram school classes and transforms into her 22-year-old self again. While she is looking around at a department store cosmetics counter, she runs into Naoto again as he is doing market research.
3. Akatsuka Cosmetics Inc. was a company that clung to tradition and had no corporate philosophy, failing to keep up with the times. Naoto takes a liking to Akko, who claims to be a university student, because she has a surprisingly fresh way of thinking. He offers her a part-time position in the Planning and Development Office where he is given manager status. Akko is giddy with excitement as she begins working alongside unique employees such as Mari Aoyama (Kazue Fukiishi), and although she makes mistakes sometimes, she enjoys experiencing everything for the first time every day.
She learns from the security guard (Muga Tsukaji) about Naoto’s current situation, which is that he had once developed a hit product but had lost his standing because of a factional strife within the company, and could no longer work the way he wished. So she tries to encourage Naoto by transforming herself into someone he looked up to, Mr. Nakamura (Ren Ohsugi), the former CEO of the company.
4. Thanks in part to Akko’s support, Naoto submits a proposal for an innovative new product to Atami (Shosuke Tanihara), the senior executive director of the company. Naoto appeals to Atami that he wishes to turn the company around by developing the new product. Atami, however, is the very man who drove Mr. Nakamura away. “Getting rid of the inventory comes first,” he tells Naoto, and has no intention of hearing him out. Atami is actually negotiating a buyout with Gold Inc.’s Kitoh (Takeshi Kaga) in exchange for the position of CEO.
5. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s wife (Shungiku Uchida) begins to vigorously promote Akatsuka’s cosmetics. Akatsuka’s products are covered by the media in a big way and they start selling explosively. The truth of the matter was that Akko had transformed into the Prime Minister’s wife to sell out the inventory, but her action ends up landing the company in a worse predicament. Finding herself in a fix, Akko goes to meet Tsuruko Ohba (Masako Motai), the top shareholder of Akatsuka, to ask for her cooperation in turning the company around. But Tsuruko refuses to deal with Akko and all the doors appear to be closed for Akatsuka.
6. One evening, Akko finds herself alone with Naoto in the office. As they gaze at the Tokyo Tower shining outside the window, Naoto tells Akko a story. “My mother, who had been working from morning till night to raise her children, was always tired, but when she wore makeup she became beautiful like magic. There must be lots of people like her in the world. I began working for Akatsuka because I wanted to create cosmetics for those people. You reminded me of that, Akko.”
Seeing Naoto speaking honestly about himself, Akko feels her heart race and realizes that she is in love with him. But Naoto doesn’t know who she really is. If she tells him, they won’t be able to see each other again. And if she doesn’t return to her real self again, will she be able to stay with Naoto forever?
Will she be able to save the company? And what will become of their relationship?
Based on the comic by Fujio Akatsuka
Born on September 14, 1935 in Manchuria, Fujio Akatsuka made his debut with Arashi wo koete (Beyond the Storm) in 1956. His first serial comic in a boy’s magazine was Nama-chan in 1958, published in Manga-oh magazine (Akita Shoten). In 1962, the serial publication of Akko-chan’s Got a Secret (Himitsu no Akko-chan) began in the magazine Ribon (Shueisha) and Osomatsu-kun in Weekly Shonen Sunday (Shogakukan), and shooting Akatsuka into fame overnight.
In 1967, the serial publication of Tensai Bakabon (The Genius Bakabon) began in Weekly Shonen Magazine (Kodansha) and Moretsu Ataro (Extraordinary Ataro) in Weekly Shonen Sunday (Shogakukan). Some of his other representative works include Let’s-la Gon and Gag Guerrilla. He was awarded the 26th Japan Cartoonists Association Minister of Education Award in 1997 and the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 1998. He passed away on August 2, 2008 from pneumonia at the age of 72.
What is Akko-chan’s Got a Secret (Himitsu no Akko-chan)?
A nationally famous work that represents the best of Japanese comics, this work depicts a 5th-grade girl who transforms herself with a magical mirror as the protagonist. It gained instant popularity when the serialization began in 1962 in the magazine Ribon, and the TV animation was broadcast in 1969. The show marked an average viewer rating of 19.8 %, and created a great “Akko-chan sensation” in Japan. It was remade twice since then.
It is no exaggeration to say that the magic words “tekumakumayakon tekumakumayakon” that transforms Akko and “lamipas lamipas lulu lulu lu” that dispels the charm are so famous that practically anyone in Japan has heard about them.
Theme song by YUKI
YUKI made her debut as the lead vocalist for JUDY AND MARY in 1993. Needless to say, JUDY AND MARY was a hugely popular band with numerous smash hits and fantastic live performances. The band played its legendary 2-day final Tokyo Dome concert and dissolved in 2001, to the disappointment of its fans.
In February of 2002 YUKI began her solo career with the end of shite. She released two albums, PRISMIC and Commune, and established a unique style with her innovative sound and avant-garde fashion. Her third album joy ranked No. 1 on the Oricon weekly charts, and her next three albums Wave, Ureshikutte dakiauyo (Happily holding each other), and megaphonic also ranked No. 1, proving both proficiency and popularity. Her unrivaled live performances, regardless of the size of the venue whether it be a small club or arena-sized concert hall, are truly overwhelming.
In February 2012, she celebrated her 10th year as a solo artist and released an anniversary album, POWERS OF TEN. On May 6, 2012, she held an anniversary concert at Tokyo Dome entitled “YUKI LIVE ‘SOUNDS OF TEN.'” She was the first female artist to perform in Tokyo Dome both as a band and as a solo artist. Her honed style of expression as seen in her characteristic voice, lyrics, live performances, and artwork has continued to attract attention from all areas.
The world view of AKKO-CHAN: THE MOVIE – Enjoying dreams and being excited about transforming.
“The overall concept was simply ‘cuteness.’ As a woman, I wanted the live-action filmization of Akko-chan to have a visual image that girls could look up to,” says Namiko Iwaki, who created the distinctive colorfully sparkling artwork of AKKO-CHAN: THE MOVIE.
Take for example the Planning and Development Office of Akatsuka Cosmetics, the central stage of the story. For a child, “being a grown-up” means “working,” and the set of this office is like the materialization of that dream. “The Planning and Development Office is a section that’s being treated as somewhat of a burden in the company. But I thought I’d make it into a place where everyone would enjoy developing new products. I wanted the viewers to understand instantly that Akko would enjoy that space when she comes bursting into the scene.”
Next was Akko’s room. “Akko is a girl who cherishes her own ‘world.’ With vivid, bright colors as the theme, I played around to my heart’s content with the colors of the costumes as well as the wallpaper, carpets, and trimmings. Akko’s entire room is her ‘stage.’ She holds her own fashion show there. That was my concept. For example, if the walls of her room were white and the carpet beige, it wouldn’t be fun at all to transform herself (hold a fashion show) there. I thought it would take away from her thrill of being able to transform. I guess the image is something like a Barbie doll’s dollhouse.”
This concept is central to the “feelings of girls,” not just in real elementary schoolgirls but in the hearts of grown women as well. Even if you could use magic, what fun would it be if it isn’t exciting? This is why Akko’s room helps builds up the excitement.
A girl’s fantasy and classic style sparkle in the costumes.
Meanwhile, Mayumi Sugiyama, who styled Akko’s adorable clothes, explains her intent as follows. “When I was first offered the opportunity, I accepted immediately. I knew I could play around with the costumes. The original comic began in 1962, so I thought I’d use the style of the ’60s in the movie, too. ’60s fashion is characterized by simple colors and shapes, and I used the taste from that era that would work today.”
She didn’t use the style of today’s office workers. “Ms. Iwaki and I were discussing how that would be boring. We ‘girls’ were fantasizing about how Akko would look like. The premise was that Akko could change into anything she thought up, so we were lucky in that we could just fantasize about her fashion without having to pursue reality in a detailed way. The story is wildly imaginative, so even if we dressed her in an outlandish way, it would still work within the story. And Ms. Ayase looks good in anything, so we didn’t have to worry about whether or not something would suit her. I came up with the clothes that I wanted her to wear, then fit them into the scenes, and in that sense, it felt like I was playing with dress-up dolls.”
A timeless, universal character — What lies beyond the magic is a girl’s wish.
“Akko is a character that was created by a genius named Fujio Akatsuka. All she has to say is ‘tekumakumayakon’ and she can transform herself into anything she wants. She’s a timeless character in the sense that there’s no need to explain anything about her transformation,” says Masatoshi Yamaguchi, the producer of this film who also wrote the screenplay.
The director, Yasuhiro Kawamura, says, “The fact that this premise is so widely known means that it’s simple. I think there’s a wide room for interpretation and a lot of potential when dealing with something that’s truly simple, which is different from making a live-action film that’s faithful to the original comic. Because of its simplicity, the appeal of the work comes through even if the story is moved to a modern setting. So this movie should become a work that reminds those of us living in modern times about something fundamental and important, and not just one that appeals artlessly to nostalgia.”
“What’s important is the fact that Akko is an ordinary girl and not a witch,” Mr. Yamaguchi insists. “The theme isn’t about magic or transformation. It’s about ‘wishing.’ ‘Tekumakumayakon’ isn’t so much a spell to transform oneself but a girl’s wish to become or be a certain way. I think the final scene of the movie is the result, the miracle, brought about by the ‘power of wishing.'”
A modern-day story with something for both grownups and kids to discover.
So why revive Akko in today’s world? Mr. Yamaguchi has a clear vision. “A girl asks questions from an elementary schoolgirl’s point of view aimed towards a society made up of adults standing at the crossroads of their lives and unable to decide. Ever since this project came to mind 10 years ago, I’ve been thinking that this is the point of reviving Akko in today’s Japan. When a child jumps into the world of adults, both the child and the adults begin to see things that they were unaware of before. The things that adults do, like bickering between factions and fighting for positions, are really introverted and like the extension of the fights between kids in homeroom at school. The fruitlessness and ridiculousness of such activities in the adult world were things I kept in mind while I wrote the screenplay.”
In other words, the behind-the-scenes look at Akatsuka Cosmetics Inc. seems to be a caricature, a distorted view of real companies at first glance, but it actually isn’t. The reality of adult society is brought to light through Akko, who serves as a filter. Mr. Kawamura comments that the backbone of the movie is the reciprocity of how adults become aware of something through children and vice versa. “I believe that kids will realize something through this movie. Working is hard and not really cool, so kids might wonder why things are the way they are. But they’ll come to understand that that’s what’s important about working. I wanted this movie to show that although working is hard, if you put in your best effort you’ll be rewarded in some way. As for adults, I think this movie will give them an opportunity to retrace their own lives, reevaluate their current position and think about what they are capable of doing at this point in life.”
Thus a girl named Akko’s wish illuminates the world we live in.
Japanese Theatrical Release: September 1, 2012
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Aspect ration: 2.35:1
Atsuko Kagami: Haruka Ayase
Naoto Hayase: Masaki Okada
Atami: Shosuke Tanihara
Mari Aoyama: Kazue Fukiishi
Security Guard: Muga Tsukaji
Former CEO Mr. Nakamura: Ren Ohsugi
Atsuko’s Mother: Keiko Horiuchi
Co-Worker: Mika Hijii
Prime Minister’s Wife: Shungiku Uchida
Mr. Sato (Teacher): Hayato Kakizawa
Atsuko Kagami (10 years old): Ai Yoshikawa
Tsuruko Ohba: Masako Motai
Kitoh: Takeshi Kaga (special thanks)
Spirit of Mirrors: Teruyuki Kagawa
Original Comic Akko-chan’s Got a Secret by Fujio Akatsuka (assistance: Fujio Productions)
Screenplay by Masatoshi Yamaguchi, Mika Omori, Masahiro Fukuma
Music by Koji Endo
Directed by Yasuhiro Kawamura
Production Commander: Hiroshi Miyazaki
Productions: Naoki Suganuma, Masatoshi Yamaguchi, Kazutaka Akimoto, Yo Hattori, Yoshitaka Hori, Ken Hironaka, Hiroyasu Asami, Fumihiro Hirai, Naoki Kitagawa, Jun Ikeda, Shinichiro Tsuzuki
Executive Producer: Seiji Okuda
Planning Producers: Kiyoe Noma,
Producers: Kazutoshi Wadakura,
Line Producer: Keizo Yadozaki
Music Producer: Satoshi Hirakawa
Cinematography: Satoru Karasawa
Lighting: Kenji Ishida
Sound Recording: Masato Komatsu
Production Designer: Namiko Iwaki
Set Decorator: Mitsuse Matsuda
Editor: Hiroaki Morishita
VFX: Hajime Matsumoto
Casting: Tsuyoshi Sugino
Assistant Director: Kazuhiro Yoshida
Production Manager: Yoichi Asai
Stylist: Mayumi Sugiyama
Hair Make-up Designer: Akemi Nakano
Props: Junko Nogami
Scripter: Machiko Kondo
Theme song “Watashi no Negaigoto” (My Wish) by YUKI
Lyrics by YUKI/Music by Agree 2/Arranged by YUKI, Kenji Tamai, Rui Momota
Released by EPIC Records Japan
Planning and Lead Production: NTV
Planning and Production: Hint, Inc.
Production Company: Cine Bazar
Production Companies: NTV, Hint. Inc., SHOCHIKU, DENTSU, HoriPro Inc., YTV, D.N. dreampartners, VAP, Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc., DeNA, SHOGAKUKAN
Theatrical Distribution: Shochiku
International Sales: NTV
© 2012 “AKKO-CHAN: The Movie” Film Partners
© Fujio Akatsuka
For more information on AKKO-CHAN: THE MOVIE please see the previous coverage here on SciFi Japan: