"DESTRUCTION" "DARKNESS" "ISOLATION" "BETRAYAL" "FEAR"...
As we enter the 21st century, the ominous doom of the Apocalypse has assumed greater significance. Regrettably, however, recent films dealing with the theme have lacked realism with miraculous endings manufactured by unbelievable heroes.
In "Dragonhead" emerges an entirely different, darker perspective of the end of the world. "Dragonhead", originally released as an animated comic series has established record sales of 6.5 million copies and developed a fanatical following of men and women from the teens to the thirties. (The author, Mochizuki is credited with other best-selling works such as "Bata-ashi Kingyo", "Zashiki-Onna", "Samehada Otoko to Momojiri Onna", and "Baiku Main", and enjoys charismatic popularity as a contemporary animation phenomenon.)
The main characters in this extraordinary tale, Teru and Ako, are actually quite ordinary and plagued with human frailty. Their saga begins with a harrowing escape from a collapsed tunnel, only to encounter even greater "horror" and "madness" on their journey through the devastated ruins in search of Tokyo. The reader is drawn into this nightmarish ordeal along with Teru and Ako, where survivors are driven to the edge of their physical and psychological limits - and fierce mudslides and volcanic fumes mercilessly engulf them.
"Dragonhead" is a work that skillfully and realistically recreates the darkest images of "despair" "fear" and "entrapment" living in the deep recesses of our minds. If a film's entertainment value is measured by the ability of the audience to "live the experience" as if they were indeed a part of it, "Dragonhead" certainly hits the mark. What it also does is make us question the meaning of "life" and what is most precious to us.
As a movie, "Dragonhead's" sheer scale and theme should attract a vast audience spanning all ages. Its approach will also provoke controversy and reflection and its effect on Japan today will be interesting to see.
On the way home from a school trip, an unexplained earthquake traps Teru Aoki's express train in a collapsed tunnel. The only other survivors of the catastrophe are his classmates, Ako Seto (SAYAKA) and Nobuo Takahashi (Takanori Yamada). While waiting to be rescued - to no avail - the claustrophobic Nobuo goes mad. Teru and Ako grope their way through the terrifying darkness and somehow find their way out.
But what awaited them on the "outside" was a desolate landscape of utter ruin. What could have caused such destruction? A natural disaster? A nuclear catastrophe? A time slip? With mixed emotions of hope and despair, the two head for Tokyo, encountering chaos and anarchy, including a crazed deserter of the Self Defense Forces, Nimura (Naohito Fujiki), and a mysterious existence called "Dragonhead"...
What is the fate of Teru and Ako? And what happened to the world as they knew it?
On location in Uzbekistan
"Dragonhead" was filmed entirely in Uzbekistan, a "first" in Japanese cinematic history. The arid terrain of Uzbekistan depicted the desolate landscape and imagery in "Dragonhead" perfectly, but another driving reason for the location was that the government of Uzbekistan, which involved its Ministry of Film, Foreign Ministry and Ministry of the Interior, also aggressively supported this undertaking.
Enormous Open Sets
At the site of an abandoned thermos factory roughly six times the size of Tokyo Dome, an actual sized Shibuya Station, a supermarket, a hospital and other large-scale open sets were constructed. The Japanese artistic staff, in collaboration with local Uzbekistan staff, worked for six months prior to filming to create this amazing piece of work.
Scenes were shot with Tsumabuki walking through a set where a dumpsite was transformed into a street in regional Japan. Fallen traffic lights, electrical poles and a huge freeway sign reading "Tokyo - 35 km" set the scene. Being an actual dumpsite, the odor was oppressive and the surroundings dismal, but for the film, this setting provided the perfect sense of grim realism.
The set of the train wreck that takes place in the first half of the movie was constructed from scratch at an operating government ironworks site over approximately 3 months. A 43-meter long train was painstakingly built to scale out of sheet metal and plaster inside an 8-meter high, 53-meter long tunnel. Even the seats on the train were made using Uzbekistan materials and actual Uzbekistan rails were brought in.
The World of Dragonhead
The set of the main street ran for approximately 200 meters. As the story called for a world enveloped in white volcanic ash, the entire set was doused with white limestone powder. Where people were involved, flour was used on the cast's faces and hair, and cicarol on their clothes. In the actual shoot, smoke was added on top of all the powder and the entire staff donned masks. "Covered in white from head to toe" was no exaggeration!
Approximately 150 meters spanning the Shibuya Station Hachiko exit was recreated in the middle of the Uzbekistan landscape. In the film, Hachiko is tragically charred and literally covered with "Missing People" posters.
Author: Minetaro Mochizuki (DOB 1/29/64)
Animated Story: "Dragonhead" serialized in Kodansha Young Magazines KC Comics # 1 - 10 from 1994 - 1999.
Published Copies: 6.5 million
Cf. Other works by Mochizuki - "Baiku Man", "Zashiki Onna" "Bata-ashi Kingyo". Following "Bata-ashi Kingyo" (Joji Matsuoka, Director, 1990) and "Samehada Otoko to Momojiri Onna" (Katsuhito Ishii, Director, 1999), "Dragonhead" is the third of Mochizuki's comics to be made into film.
Director: George Iida (DOB 3/1/59)
Following the acclaimed late night serial drama "Nighthead" ('92 - '93), the same becomes a movie in 1994. As screenwriter, Iida produced numerous hit dramas such as "Sashou Taeko - Saigo no Jiken", and in 2000, popularized the hit drama and film "Another Heaven". Most recent works include "Cold Sleep", a segment in the popular compilation film, "Jam Films".
Major Film Credits: "Battle Heater" ('89), Night Head ('94) "Rasen" (98) "Another Heaven" ('00), etc.
(Cinemascope size/Dolby digital/Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes)
TERU - Satoshi Tsumabuki, DOB: 12/13/1980
Selected in "Star Audition" ('97) from amongst an unprecedented 3 million contestants.
Popularized by his outstanding performance as a high school synchronized swimmer in the 2001 hit film "Waterboys", the young actor has since been highly sought after for various drama, film and CM roles.
Film credits: "Waterboys" ('01), "JUSTICE" ("JamFilms") ('02), "Sayonara Kuro" ('03)
AKO - SAYAKA, DOB: 10/1/1986
Made her singing debut in May 2002 with the hit single "Ever Since". While studying in the U.S., appeared in the film "Bean Cake", which went on to win the prestigious Palm D'Or (spelling?) at the Cannes Film Festival in the short film category. This is the first full-length feature film role for this promising young talent.
Film credits: "Bean Cake" ('01)
NOBUO - Takayuki Yamada, DOB: 10/20/1983
Made his acting debut upon graduating Middle School in the 1999 TV drama "Psychometora EIJI2". Won recognition for his portrayal as the "cool" younger brother of the leading role in the hit NHK drama "Churasan" and has since appeared in numerous TV dramas. This is his film debut.
NIMURA - Naohito Fujiki, DOB: 7/19/1972
Made his debut while still attending Waseda University when he was selected for the role of Rui Hanazawa in the film "Hanayori Dango" Gained popularity for his good looks that seemed to come straight out of the original comic book on which the film was based. Is also on the music scene with his CD debut in July '99 entitled "Sekai no Hate - the End of the World".
Film credits: "Nurse no Oshigoto - the Movie (Leave It to the Nurses)" ('02), "g@me" ('03)
Producer: Takashi Hirano
Original Story: Minetaro Mochizuki
Script: Masaru Nakamura, Hiroshi Saito, George Iida
Director of Photography: Junichiro Hayashi
Art Director: Tomoyuki Maruo
Video Engineer: Keigo Kagamihara
Lighting: Meicho Tomiyama
Record: Makio Ika
VFX Producer: Shuji Asano
VFX Director: Masaru Tateishi
Storyboard: Shinji Higuchi
Music: Yoshihiro Ike
Music Producer: Keiichi Momose
Music Effect: Kenji Shibasaki
Edit: Masahiro Onaga
Scriptor: Mikiko Koyama
Assistant Director: Lee Soukoku
Assistant Producer: Yuko Maemura
Associate Producer: Daisuke Ooka
Line Producer: Yoshihiro Suzuki
Director: George Iida
Production: TBS/ Dentsu / Amuse Pictures / Toho / TOKYO FM /
Mainichi Shinbun Sha / WOWOW / Culture Publishers / Sport Nippon / Twins Japan
Distributed by Toho
(C) Minetaro Mochizuki / Kodansha@
(C) Dragon Head Film Partners