SciFi Japan


    The devious Alien-Kun at the center of scenes from THE iDol, the independent sci-fi film made by director Norman England and some of the top fx filmmakers in Japan. Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Source: iMages from the iD Official Site: The iDol The following production notes were created by iMages from the iD for their Japanese science fiction film THE iDol. The text is © 2007 iMages from the iD. The entire THE iDol presskit (complete with photos, reviews and news articles) can be downloaded here.

    The homeless man (Yukijiro Hotaru) is confronted by the off-worldly Oavian! Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Mild-mannered Ken has a sweet tooth for figure collecting. On a visit to a local toy collectors shop he acquires a seemingly rare alien action figure that unknown to the young office worker is a creature of extraterrestrial origin! In no time Ken’s life is turned inside out as the somewhat silly looking alien alters his life by benevolently giving him everything he has ever dreamed of before callously taking it all back! SYNOPSIS A homeless man (Yukijiro Hotaru) returns to his makeshift shelter on the banks of Tokyo’s Tamagawa River after a long day of collecting discarded magazines. No sooner has he settled into a cup of cheap saki when an alien craft descends before him! In short order the UFO’s occupant accosts the homeless man and into his hands places a small, toy-like figure. Early the next morning used toy dealer Tanaka (Masayasu Nakanishi) is biking to work. A glow by the river leads him to the now disheveled camp of the homeless man. At first disgusted by what he sees he soon catches sight of the alien figure. A struggle ensues and Tanaka makes off with the toy. Unable to determine the origin or value of the figure, Tanaka sells it off to his first customer of the day, Ken (Jin Sasaki), a young office worker in his mid-twenties.

    Ken (Jin Sasaki) thanks his lucky Alien-kun, while dewy eyed super model Mayuka (Erina Hayase) looks on. Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    On his way to work, Ken shares the train with gaudy, uniformed high school girls and introverted manga reading businessmen. He finds solace in an overhanging advertisement featuring Mayuka (Erina Hayase), Japan’s latest ‘idol’ sensation. Ken loses himself within a fantasy daydream of Mayuka – only to be pulled back to reality when current girlfriend Rika (Takako Fuji) intrudes upon his fantasy. In Ken’s imagination she scolds him with unmitigated rage for blowing his money on yet another toy! Ken arrives to work late. Yamada (Mitsu Katahira), Ken’s cynical neighbor, reprimands Ken for his tardiness and reminds him that should the day’s report not be finished Ken will be joining the ranks of the nation’s unemployed. After settling into work, Ken receives a call from Taki (Hirotaka Miyama), a fellow member of the Mayuka Fan Support Club, informing him that Mayuka is engaged in a photo shoot near his office. It is imperative that Ken gather candid photos for the club. Ken complies and, shirking his work responsibilities, rushes out of his office. In the corner of a tree-lined park in midtown Tokyo Mayuka poses for photos. Ken is elated until he realizes the shoot is coming to a finish. Quickly, he runs off photos on his cell phone only to be caught in the act by Mayuka herself. However, Mayuka is smitten by the alien figure jutting from Ken’s bag. A closet collector, she suggests they take in the town together. Ken can hardly believe his luck.

    Obsessed Otaku show off the latest issue of Young Boss! Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Or is it luck? What happens when the pixie-like alien extracts its price for granting Ken the best day of his life? As his luck takes a turn for the worse, Ken reconsiders some of the life decisions that led him to his current predicament. PRODUCTION HISTORY Work on THE iDol began in spring of 2002 when director Norman England devised the film’s story while riding a crowded Tokyo subway on the way home from Toho Studios. Over the next two years he composed the script, eventually enlisting the talents of notable Japanese scriptwriters Takashi Yamazaki, award winning director / writer of ALWAYS: SUNSET ON THIRD STREET and Jiro Kaneko, frequent writer on the Ultraman TV series. With the script complete in 2004, England began raising funds, seeking sponsors, and organizing a team of professionals.

    The Oavian arrives on Planet Earth! Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Casting began in 2004. Careful consideration went into the choosing of female lead Mayuka, who director England felt was the film’s pivotal character. After more than a year long search, England found Erina Hayase through an audition at her agency, Stardust Promotions. Jin Sasaki, who plays main character Ken, came to the production on recommendation from DEATH NOTE director Shusuke Kaneko, who used the young actor in his TV show HOLY LAND. Ken`s girlfriend Rika, played by Takako Fuji, was cast after director England caught her perform as the archetypal Japanese horror ghost ‘Kayako’ on the set of THE GRUDGE. Filming of THE iDol began in August 2005. A whirlwind, ten-day shoot, the production utilized locations throughout the greater Tokyo area, including Shimokitazawa, Shibuya, Shiba Park / Tokyo Tower, the Tamagawa River, and the film stage at Tokyo Film Center School of Arts. Editing, scoring and creation of the film’s special effects began that November and continued until the premiere of THE iDol at the 2006 Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Canada. A resounding success, the debut of THE iDol was attended by an audience count of over five-hundred people. Following its first screening, THE iDol has played sporadically at festivals around the world, its limited exposure due to director England not being fully satisfied with the initial edit of the film, rushed to meet the Fantasia deadline. Tackling the film once more with New York based editor Yasu Inoue, the two polished off the film in September 2007. The premiere of the final edit of THE iDol was held at the Kansai International Film Festival in August 2007 in the city of Osaka. In October 2007, THE iDol screened at the Vancouver Comicon where it ran in a double bill with DEATH NOTE, one of the most successful films released in Japan in 2006. THE iDol continues to play at film festivals worldwide. CAST BIOGRAPHIES

    Ken (Jin Sasaki) on the surface of the Pink Planet. Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Jin Sasaki (Ken) Jin is a regular performer at theaters in Tokyo and has appeared in TV productions such as Shusuke Kaneko`s HOLY LAND and ULTRAMAN MAX. Jin is a member of the talent agency Cube. Erina Hayase (Mayuka) Erina has been working as an actress and model since her teens and can be currently seen in the TV Tokyo production, JOSHI ANA CHOKUSEN. Her film work includes the fantasy film ARCH ANGELS and RED LETTERS. Erina is a member of the elite agency Stardust Promotions. Yukijiro Hotaru (‘the homeless man’) A popular character actor in Japan, Yukijiro has starred in dozens of cult films including the Gamera series of the 1990s and the Zeiram series. He has also appeared in such notable films as Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s CURE and Kon Ichikawa’s THE INUGAMIS. Takako Fuji (Rika) An accomplished stage and film actress, Takako Fuji is well-known for her recurring role as ‘Kayako’ in the popular JU-ON movie series and THE GRUDGE, its successful US remake, as well as THE GRUDGE 2.

    The dastardly Yamada (Mitsu Katahira) proudly clings to Mayuka (Erina Hayase). Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Mitsu Katahira (Yamada) With extensive experience on the stage, Mitsu has been performing in theaters throughout Japan with his troupe Dotoo!. Mitsu has appeared in many TBS and NHK TV series, and TV commercials for companies such as Sony and Japan Rail. Masayasu Nakanishi (Tanaka) A member of the Actors Studio, Masayasu is a Japanese actor based in NY City. He has appeared opposite Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty in TOWN & COUNTRY and done wide-ranging theater work in both Japan and the US. Masayasu is also a director and an acting teacher. Hirotaka Miyama (Taki) A member of Studio Life, Hirotaka is a veteran of the Tokyo theater scene having performed in more than two-dozen productions. Tomoo Haraguchi (Boss Goro) One of the most in demand special makeup FX artists in Japan, Haraguchi has created effects for every major Japanese director and studio in Japan. He is also the director of the film SAKUYA: SLAYER OF DEMONS, the Kibakichi series, and is a regular director on the Ultraman TV series. Shio Chino (TV Announcer) In what can be considered a perfect case of type casting, Shio is a popular TV announcer in Japan on Fuji TV. Alien-Kun (?) From a world impossible to pronounce with human vocal chords, Alien-kun has been traveling world to world for eons. Highly sensitive, it feeds on the emotional output of intelligent beings, controlling the reality of their world in order to attain its bizarre brand of nourishment. THE iDol marks Alien-kun’s film debut. STAFF BIOGRAPHIES

    The staff and cast of THE iDol! Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Norman England (Writer / Director) American born Norman England is a long term resident of Japan living in Tokyo. Since 1994 he has been writing about film, specializing in Japanese fantasy and horror cinema. Norman’s resume includes magazines and newspapers such as Starlog, Fangoria, Rue Morgue, Hobby Japan, Japanzine, Pia Magazine, Flix and The Japan Times. To date he has spent time on over thirty-five film sets, being on hand for several productions from start to finish. Norman has also put time in front of the camera, with small speaking parts in the films STACY (2001), GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (2003), ZOMBIE SELF-DEFENSE FORCE (2005) LORELEI: THE WITCH OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN (2005), and DEATH NOTE (2006). Director credits include the SF film THE iDol (2007) and the documentary, BRINGING GODZILLA DOWN TO SIZE (2008). Jiro Kaneko (Scriptwriter) A scriptwriter by trade, Jiro is a member of the Screenwriters Guild of Japan and has written screenplays for the films I WANT TO BITE YOU, HONG KONG PARADISE, and BIG SHOW - SINGIN’ IN HAWAII. Jiro also scripts for Japanese TV, Anime, and the OV (Original Video) market. Other pieces of his include ZERO WOMAN, CHOB-BITS and YANMAMA TRACKER 3. Jiro’s most recent work can be found in the latest incarnations of the long-running and world famous Ultraman TV series, for which he has scripted several episodes. Hiroo Takaoka (Director of Photography) Hiroo earned a B.A. in Film from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1993. After graduation, he worked as a camera assistant for Slawomir Idizak and Ellen Kuras. Hiroo shoots national commercials in Japan and in the US. His resume includes McDonald’s, Unilever, Nissan, Japan Airlines, Dove, and Coca-Cola. He has also shot for directors such as Hideo Nakata (RINGU) and Shusuke Kaneko (DEATH NOTE). Kow Otani (Original Score) Kow has written music for a number of A-list films. His numerous credits include the Gamera series of the 1990s, GODZILLA: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK, PYROKINESIS, GUNDAM and the hit PS2 game, SHADOW OF COLOSSUS. Kow is a sought after studio musician who has toured and recorded with super groups Dreams Come True and Southern All Stars. Kow also provided the score for director Norman England’s upcoming documentary BRINGING GODZILLA DOWN TO SIZE (2008).

    Director Norman England discusses a setup with the staff during the filming of THE iDol’s opening sequence. Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    Takashi Yamazaki (CG Artist / Script Additions / Concept Illustrator) Writer / Director of RETURNER, JUVENILE and winner of the Japanese Academy Award for Best Director for the film ALWAYS: SUNSET ON THIRD STREET, Takashi Yamazaki contributed to the script of THE iDol as well as created the film’s CG sequences. In addition, Takashi puts in a cameo performance as ‘the cameraman’ in THE iDol’s park sequence. Hajime Matsumoto (FX Supervisor) Hajime’s resume includes visual FX work on such high profile films as RINGU (for which he created the original Sadako curse video), GODZILLA: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK, the Gamera trilogy, ANOTHER HEAVEN, JU-ON and its US remakes, THE GRUDGE and THE GRUDGE 2, and SHUTTER (2008). Hajime is also an accomplished scriptwriter and penned Amemiya Keita’s Zeiram series. In 2005 he was FX director of the live-action version of GIGANTOR (Tetsujin 28-go). Kakusei Fujiwara (Creature Creator) Building the alien creatures for both the opening and end sequences of THE iDol is Kakusei Fujiwara. A highly sought after makeup artist, Kakusei has done everything from detailed appliances in films such as Shusuke Kaneko’s PYROKINESIS (Cross Fire) to building full body monster suits for the Godzilla series, which he has also served as part of the FX team since GODZILLA 2000. Jane Wiedlin (Soundtrack) One of the founding members of the popular 80s girl group The Go-Gos, Jane has provided THE iDol with her hit song Blue Kiss from her first solo album ‘Jane Wiedlin.’ Jane is also an actress and can be seen in the films BILL AND TED`S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and STAR TREK IV and many more! Bob Eggleton (Concept Illustrator / Matte Artist) Nine-time winner of the coveted Hugo Award and twelve-time Chelsey Award winner for his paintings, book covers and illustrations, Bob has done concept art for other films, including the Academy Award nominated JIMMY NEUTRON, ANT BULLY, and SPHERE.

    Poster design for THE iDol. Photo courtesy of Norman England. © 2007 iMages from the iD

    THE iDol Running Time: 52 Minutes Year: 2007 (Final edit) Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Language: Japanese Available Subtitles: English, French Country of Production: Japan Cast Ken - Jin Sasaki Mayuka - Erina Hayase The Homeless Man – Yukijiro Hotaru Yamada - Mitsu Katahira Rika - Takako Fuji Tanaka - Masayasu Nakanishi Taki - Hirotaka Miyama Boss Goro - Tomoo Haraguchi Announcer - Shio Chino Voice of Alien-kun - Toshiyuki Watarai Staff Writer / Director / Producer - Norman England Scriptwriter - Jiro Kaneko Original Score - Kow Otani Producer - Shinako Sudo Director of Photography - Hiroo Takaoka Editor - Rob Moreno, Yasu Inoue Computer Graphics - Takashi Yamazaki Visual Effects - Hajime Matsumoto Creature Creator – Kakusei Fujiwara Alien Figure Sculptor - Bill Gudmundson Concept Illustrator / Matte Painter - Bob Eggleton ‘Blue Kiss’ - Written and Performed by Jane Wiedlin For more information on THE iDol, please see SciFi Japan`s interview with director Norman England.

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