By Makoto Hoshino / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterFilmmaker Takashi Miike has demonstrated a great sense of visuals regardless of genre, taking on everything from action to comedy. Now he has taken up a new challenge: serving as executive director for a tokusatsu action drama for girls.
“Idol x Senshi: Miracle Tunes!” (Idol x Warrior Miracle Tunes!), airing from 10:30 a.m. on Sundays on the TV Tokyo network, is about a group of girls selected to be special pop idols who fight to save The Music Land, which is being ruled by a demon king.
However, the heroines don’t literally fight using weapons. Instead, they use the power of dance and music to restore the hearts of people tainted by evil.
The demon king steals Sound Jewels, a treasure of the land, and replaces them with Negative Jewels. Anyone who picks up a Negative Jewel will turn evil.
Fairies work together with three human girls — Kanon (played by Asaka Uchida), Mai (Suzuka Adachi) and Fuka (Yuzuha Oda) — who form a group of pop idol fighters called the Miracle Tunes. Using the power of music, the girls purify the Negative Jewels and challenge the demon king.
The drama, nicknamed “Mirachu,” is produced by OLM, Inc., a production company famed for the animations “Pocket Monsters” and “Yo-kai Watch.” The child actors’ accomplished dance performances are supervised by a school run by LDH Japan Inc., the entertainment agency for the popular performance group Exile.
Miike has made films for children, including “Yokai Daisenso” (The Great Yokai War) and “Nintama Rantaro.” He also directed “Andromedia,” a film starring members of Speed, the now disbanded teenage girl band.
When he was asked to direct “Mirachu,” Miike became interested in the concept of tokusatsu heroines who don’t fight. At the same time, however, he was concerned it wouldn’t work as a drama. The director’s worries were dispelled once he started shooting.
Miike described “Mirachu” as “something like the reverse of the works I’ve done so far,” and cited films that contain excessively violent scenes such as “Koroshiya 1” (Ichi the Killer) and “Mugen no Junin” (Blade of the Immortal).
“It’s about healing someone who has been deemed evil for some reason, by using song and dance and without resorting to violence,” he said. “I don’t explain everything to children, but I believe they’ll get something from the drama.”
There has not been a big hit in the genre of tokusatsu dramas targeted at girls since the Fuji TV network ceased broadcasting of the “Fushigi Comedy” series in 1993. So, the rival show of “Mirachu” is not a live-action drama, but the “PreCure” anime series that airs on Sunday mornings on the TV Asahi network.
Miike respects the rival program, saying, “PreCure has a sped-up feel, which is very much one of anime’s assets, and some of the characters’ actions are the kind of thing live-action works cannot do, which I suppose viewers find exciting.”
Yet the director has confidence in his drama. “We can show that we have many options and can do many things,” he said.
Miike has grown even more confident by seeing how much the three child actors have grown up. Selected from a pool of several hundred girls in June last year, Uchida, Adachi and Oda initially held back during shooting as they weren’t used to it, but they have now started to shine.
“Only a live-action work can accommodate their growth within itself,” the director said.
Miike said the young actors’ performances are often completely different from what is depicted in the scripts written by adults. “That’s OK, because I place top priority on how they [the girls] feel,” he said. “The way they break apart our theoretical notions helps us change as well, I suppose.”
There are many actors who have risen to stardom after appearing in Miike’s works — Ryunosuke Kamiki and Masataka Kubota, to name but two.