|(c)2004 "NINxNIN"Film Partners
This Summer, the best and brightest in Japan's film industry join forces to bring the world the ultimate family entertainment Ninja adventure!
Fujiko Fujio(A)'s comic("manga"), "Ninja Hattori-kun", was first published in serial form in the monthly comic book magazine, "Gekkan Shonen" in 1964, from which it earned tremendous popularity. In 1981, the series found syndication in other publications, such as Shogakukan's "Korokoro Comic" magazine, as well as being adapted to a live action television drama ('66), a long-running television cartoon series ('81-'87, 694 episodes) and several feature animated movies. Counted as one of Japan's most beloved fictional characters, its entertaining premise of a Ninja named Hattori-kun trying to get by in contemporary times with his comical and cheerful personality has long proven a big hit with children who have popularized many phrases from the story over the years, such as "Nin-nin" and "Kenichi-uji"(Lord Ken-ichi). Since its inception, Ninja Hattori-kun has been republished several times in various formats, and the animated TV series continually broadcast (currently aired on satellite TV networks) along with being available on video. The comic's immense popularity has also spawned a wide range of merchandise and continues to enjoy an immense following among Japanese from young children to the fifty-something generation that grew up with the character.
A Ninja star slices through the air! Sparks fly with the clash of Ninja swords! In the deep mountain recesses of the land of Iga, an aging Ninja, Jinzo (played by Shiro Ito), is in the final stages of preparing his son, Kanzo Hattori, for full-fledged "Ninjahood". His last test? To try to uphold the Ninja code while living in modern "Edo"(Tokyo). "You must not be seen by anyone other than your lord. If your are, you fail as Ninja", Jinzo warns.
Speeding over mountains and valleys, Hattori arrives in the skyscraper-dense metropolis of Tokyo. Perched atop Tokyo Tower, he marvels at the beautiful sea of lights below, his heart pounding with anticipation of his final test. As a Ninja, his first task is to find someone to serve, and Hattori arbitrarily chooses a frustrated and bored elementary school third-grader named Ken-ichi (Yuri Chinen) as his new lord and master. Ken-ichi's home life is less than thrilling. His father (Kazuyuki Asano) is constantly occupied with work, even at home, and his mother (Keiko Toda) busies herself by gossiping with friends. At school, too, Ken-ichi leads a lonely and flavorless existence, choosing to remain distant from the rest of his classmates. But everything begins to change when Hattori takes up residence in Ken-ichi's room, as the two embark on a secret, touching and often humorous journey together.
Just around this time, Tokyo is beset by a rash of strange and eerie incidents. Someone ? or something ? has been going around knocking people into an unconscious state without leaving any signs of external injury. The victims, who range from a night watchman to a noodle stand owner, have no apparent connection to each other. At the scene of each crime, however, the mysterious assailant has left something resembling an ancient Ninja dagger as his calling card. To the stumped detectives in charge of solving the case, Tahara (Takashi Ukaji) and Kashiwada (Mikihisa Azuma), nothing about these events seem ordinary.
Meanwhile, at school, Ken-ichi has a new teacher named Satoh, who quickly impresses the students with his astonishing reflexes. When Hattori accompanies his lord to school, using his Ninja skills to remain concealed in the classroom, Satoh immediately detects him. As it turns out, Satoh is a former member of the Koga Ninja clan who goes by the name of Kemumaki (Gori) and is Hattori's long-time rival. Hattori challenges Kemumaki to a duel but Kemumaki refuses, saying that he has given up the Ninja trade in order to survive in modern times. Many former members of the Koga clan have, in fact, abandoned the life of the Ninja and have chosen instead to blend into contemporary society, wielding their Ninja skills only on occasion in the execution of their daily lives. For example, one is an action film star, another a housewife, another a mundane company employee.
Despite the challenges all Ninja face in trying to make it in a big and modern city, Hattori relies on his long training and deft skills to remain true to his calling and avoid being seen by anyone other than his lord. Ken-ichi, in the process, gets treated to a dazzling array of Ninja maneuvers by Hattori, such as "the flying squirrel", "the gecko", "the time freeze", and "the cicada". Gradually, the two form a bond of camaraderie and friendship that transcend their age difference and master-and-servant relationship.
"It looks more stupid to give up without trying", is the advice Hattori gives to Ken-ichi who has developed the habit of shying away from new challenges. Slowly but surely, Ken-ichi begins to gain confidence, and even musters the courage to speak to a beautiful young woman, Midori (Rena Tanaka), whom he has long admired from a distance. Midori had lost her sight but is able to detect Hattori's presence near Ken-ichi through use of her other highly-tuned senses.
The crime investigation, meanwhile, turns on new evidence in the case. It seems that each of the victims did share a common trait: a tattoo resembling a family crest on the back of their hands. This has Detective Kashiwada convinced that it is the mark of the Koga Ninja clan.
Seeing Midori cooped up in her house every day, Ken-ichi invites her to join him and Hattori for a hike in the hills. As the three spend an enjoyable afternoon in the wilderness communing with nature, they stumble across a hidden Buddhist temple in near ruins. It turns out to be the secret lair of the very shadowy figure behind all the assaults in Tokyo. The darkness that emanates from this site now threatens to encompasses Kenichi and company, and imperil their lives.
Who is this dark figure? What is his true aim? Is Ken-ichi's teacher, Kemumaki, friend or foe? Hattori begins to find himself torn between his Ninja code and his friendship for Ken-ichi as he comes face to face with his ultimate decision and challenge. Will his Ninja skills be sufficient to save his lord, family and country? Hattori's final test must inevitably conclude with the greatest battle of his life.
Over 400 digitally-rendered composite shots were created in order to pull off the numerous Ninja maneuvers required in the film. It took a staff of leading computer graphics and special effects artists eight months of post-production work to complete the task of making a live action Ninja film both credible and exciting to watch. Another unique aspect of the production process was the ingenious use of various "low-tech" devices such as the construction of 360-degree, rotating set fashioned together with large circular sheets of metal to serve as Ken-ichi's room, enabling the gravity-defying shots required without resorting to CG.
IGA vs. KOGA
The film's protagonist, Kanzo Hattori, aka "Hattori-kun", hails from the famed Iga Ninja clan. His Ninja counterpart in the film, Kemumaki, comes from the rival Koga clan. The Iga and Koga clans grew to its greatest height during Japan's feudal Warring States Period (1467-1615), coming to be known almost synonymously with the word "Ninja". Both Iga and Koga clans emerged from misty, low-lying valleys inside the Suzuka mountain chain in Mie Prefecture, which served as a breeding ground for skilled practitioners of "Ninjutsu", Japan's traditional art of espionage. Within the histories of the Iga and Koga clans, the incident at Honnoji Temple in 1582 stands out as a watershed event, in which some 300 Hattori and Koga Ninja combined forces to help warlord Ieyasu Tokugawa escape a military attack on his ally, Nobunaga Oda, the country's most powerful warlord of the time. Oda was killed, but Tokugawa's life was spared, turning Tokugawa into a lifelong fan of the Ninja, particularly Hattori's ancestor, Hanzo Hattori, who played a pivotal role in the escape and would later have a district of Edo (Tokyo) named after him (Hanzomon) when Tokugawa became the unified ruler of Japan. Both Iga and Koga Ninja share the same "book of secrets" which makes their codes very similar, but they differ in that the Iga Ninja focus more on physical skills and techniques whereas the Koga excel in explosives and poison-making. Since the Iga and Koga clans hail from adjoining regions, intermarriages and blood relations are common but their proximity has also engendered a close but nevertheless deep-seated rivalry .
Kanzo Hattori("Ninja Hattori-kun")
An Iga Ninja who on orders from his father, Jinzo, leaves his ancestral mountain home of Iga for Tokyo where he must complete his Ninja training. Circumstances bring Hattori in contact with an elementary third-grader named Ken-ichi, who Hattori decides will be his new lord and master and for whom his Ninja skills are put to great use.
Shingo Katori as Hattori
Born January 31, 1977 in Kanagawa Prefecture. As a member of teen idol singing group, SMAP, Katori made his CD debut with the song, "Can't Stop!! --Loving". SMAP has since gone on to become one of the most successful recording group in Japanese music history with many chart- breaking hits, such as "Aoi Inazuma", "Yozora no Muko" and "Lionheart". The song "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana", released in March 2003, has become the 10th biggest selling single in Japanese music history. Katori's solo activities have also been a great success, with hits like "Shingo Mama no Oha Rock"(sung in the character of a housewife). The phrase he coined "Oha"(an abbreviation for "good morning") also won grand prize as the year's most popular new phrase. Katori is the featured host or a regular member of four weekly TV shows including "SMAP x SMAP", "SmaSTATION-3", "Waratte Iitomo!" and "Tokujo! Tensei Shingo", and has a long list of television drama series to his acting credits such as "Miseinen", "Doc", "Yomigaeru Kinro", "Love Story", "Hito ni Yasashiku" and "HR". He starred in the feature length film, "Juvenile" and is currently playing the leading role in NHK's weekly historical drama, gShinsengumi.h
Ken-ichi's object of affection from afar is Midori, an adult woman who has been blind since she was a young girl but spends much of her time painting landscapes from memory and feeling. Her encounter with Ken-ichi and Hattori gradually draws her out of her cloistered existence at home and brings her out of her protective shell.
Rena Tanaka as Midori
Born May 22, 1980 in Fukuoka Prefecture. Tanaka earned a total of 12 newcomer awards for her passionate, leading role portrayal of a high school girl in the film, "Ganbatte Ikimasshoi" (Give It All). She has since been building a strong career as primarily a feature film actress in such movies as "Hatsukoi", "ekiden", "Tokyo Marigold" and "13 Kaidan"(The 13 Steps). Tanaka also tops the list of female television commercial personalities with a favorable image, making her a leading endorsement celebrity, and continues to be one of Japan's busiest and most promising young actresses with successive film releases in 2004, including "Drugstore Girl" and "Kyo no Dekigoto" (A day on the Planet)
Despite being somewhat astonished by the appearance of Hattori in his life along with his bag of Ninja tricks, Ken-ichi is an elementary third-grader who is so plagued by boredom over his daily existence in a Tokyo suburb that it takes some time for him to warm up to Hattori and others. When he finally does, he winds up caught in the middle of a sinister plot .
Ken-ichi's new schoolteacher who goes by the name "Mr. Satoh" is actually Hattori's long-time rival in the Ninja world: "Kemumaki" of the Koga clan. Coincidence seems to bring the two face to face again just as a puzzling crime wave strikes Tokyo, leading Hattori to suspect his rival's involvement. Is Kemumaki friend or foe?
The strongest of the Koga clan who abhors the sight of his fellow Ninja abandoning their trade to join modern society, Kurokage eventually sets out to test Hattori's skill and devotion as a Ninja.
Hattori's stern father with a strong devotion to maintaining Ninja tradition, Jinzo tells his son that he must go to Tokyo to complete his training, but must not be seen by anyone other than his lord and master. Failure to do so, he says, will result in banishment. Will Hattori pass his father's test?
In charge of investigating a bizarre series of assaults on Tokyo citizens that has the city trembling in fear, Detective Tahara senses a conspiracy at work but is too rooted in reality to consider the possibility of supernatural forces.
Tahara's sidekick on the case, Kashiwada's former experience working a part-time job at an Edo theme park in Nikko convinces him to draw some interesting conclusions about the case despite the protestations of his doubting partner.
Ken-ichi's mother, having raised him to a certain level of maturity and independence, now devotes much of her time to her leisurely-paced, social life, tending to forget about her son. Spending hours gossiping on the telephone, she has no inkling of the events transpiring in Ken-ichi's room.
Kenichi's workaholic father, Kentaro, spends nearly all of his evenings at home desperately trying to finish the day's work. Only when his son's life is put in danger does he awaken to the importance of paying closer attention to family needs.
Manga: Fujiko Fujio(A)
Born as Moto Abiko on March 10, 1934 in Himi City, Toyama Prefecture, Fujiko's debut as a cartoonist came as part of a two-man team in 1952 with "Tenshi no Tamachan"(published in the "Mainichi Shogakusei Shimbun" newspaper). In 1954, he and his partner (Hiroshi Fujimoto, later "Fujiko F. Fujio") adopted the pen name "Fujiko Fujio" and the two embarked on a full-time career as cartoonists, creating a slew of classic, blockbuster comics and comic book characters. In December 1987, the two went their separate ways and Moto Abiko relaunched himself under the pen name Fujiko Fujio(A). In 1990, he produced a feature film, "Shonen Jidai"(Boyhood youth) based on one of his comic book stories, which earned him several awards including a Japanese Academy Award. As a producer, he has won a prestigious Masumi Fujimoto Award and a special Fumiko Yamaji Award. In 1992, Fujiko took on the role of director for the live-action television drama "Warau Serusuman"(Laughing Salesman) and currently serves as managing director of the Japan Cartoonist Association, visiting professor at Ogaki Women's College, honorary curator of the Kodomo Miraikan(Children's Future Museum) in Toyama Prefecture, and "vision advisor" for his hometown city of Himi. His main works include "Ninja Hattori-kun", "Manga-do", "Professional Golfer Saru", "Kaibutsu-kun", "Obake no Q-Taro"(together with Fujiko F. Fujio)
Born May 12, 1972 in Hyogo Prefecture, MAGY was leader of a comedy troupe called "Jovi Jova" until 2002 when he decided to try his skill at writing and directing. MAGY has also appeared in the movies "Himawari"(Sunflower) and "Aiden & Tity" as an actor. He wrote the original story for the hit movie "Space Travelers" and contributes comedy sketches for the hugely popular comedy variety show "SMAP x SMAP". In 2001, he assumed all three roles of writer, director and performer in the feature film, "Shokoki!" and continues to take on a wide range of work from movies to television dramas, variety shows and commercials. His multiple talents have made him one of the most well-known and sought after creators in the entertainment industry.
Director: Masayuki Suzuki
Born September 6, 1958 in Tokyo, Suzuki's illustrious career at Fuji Television's production bureau includes numerous hit television programs that brilliantly showcase his multi-genre directional talent, including: "Yo nimo Kimyo na Monogatari"(Tales of the Unusual, 1990-present), "29-sai no Kurisumasu"(Christmas at 29, '94), "Osama no Resutoran"(King's Restaurant, '95), "Shomuni"('98), "Furuhata Nizaburo"('99), "HERO"('01), "Netsuretsuteki Chuka Hanten"('03), and the December 2003 year-end period piece "Taiko-ki: Saru to Yobareta Otoko". His movie directing credits include full-length feature film versions of "Yo nimo Kimyo na Monogatari"(Tales of the Unusual) and "GTO".
Music: Takayuki Hattori
Born November 21, 1965 in Tokyo, Hattori graduated from the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris and returned to Japan in 1988 where his musical arrangements graced the albums and concerts of many leading artists of popular to classical music. Hattori then embarked on a prolific career as a composer, including scores for such films as "Kura"('96), "Yukai"('98) and "Rajio no Jikan"('98). He has won a Japanese Academy Award for music and his scores continue to accompany many of Japan's most successful television dramas as well as movies, such as "NHK Television Serial Novel: Suzuran", Fuji TV's "HERO" and "Osama no Resutoran"(King's Restaurant). Hattori has put his talent to work in many genres, writing music for stage musicals such as "Okepi", television commercials and even computer games. Since January 2004, he has also been in charge of music for the highly-acclaimed NHK's weekly historical drama, gShinsengumih, which also stars Shingo Katori.
Produced by Ryuichi Mori, Chihiro Kameyama, Yoshikiyo Arai, Yoshishige Shimatani, Osamu Kamei, Katsumi Shibata
Planned by Nobuyuki Tohya, Takehiko Chino, Kazuyoshi Seki, Toru Ota
Producers: Ryoichi Fukuyama, Ko Wada, Toru Miyazawa, Madoka Takiyama, Kazutoshi Wadakura
Associate Producer:Tomomi Kuroda
Line Producer:Akira Yamamoto
Director of Photography:Hiroshi Takase
Art Designer:Tsuyoshi Shimizu
Production companies: Dentsu Inc., Fuji Television Network, Geneon Entertainment, Toho, Shogakukan, Nihon Shuppan Hanbai