Takeru Satoh: Not all manga needs live-action adaptations

This Japanese actor is similar to his character in Bakuman in some ways

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Video: Teng Siew Eng

After breathing life into the popular “wandering samurai” figure Rurouni Kenshin (from the same name popular manga series by Nobuhiro Watsuki) in a three-part film series, Takeru Satoh will soon be appearing on movie screens in Singapore as Moritaka Mashiro, a hot-blooded high school student and budding comic artist who – together with his imaginative classmate Akito Takagi – toil day and night to get their work serialised in renowned weekly comic magazine Shonen Jump Weekly. 
 
While he is no stranger to the genre of live-action adaptations, having portrayed a slew of comic characters from series like BECKKamen Rider and Rurouni Kenshin – just to name a few, Takeru shared that his role as Moritaka, which is based on a “really popular” manga, had its fair share of “hurdles” nonetheless. 

And it was not so much the acting that felt pressuring or challenging, quipped Takeru, but about meeting both readers and fans’ expectations of how a character and story would play out on the big screen. 

“Perhaps it’s more about whether the audience will be kind enough to accept me playing all these popular roles,” the avid manga reader later added, as if speaking in the shoes of a fan, during a 15-minute round table interview with local media on Friday afternoon.

Takeru’s worries are unfounded however, going by audience response and Bakuman’s outstanding box office performance in Japan during the movie’s opening weekend, which saw it top charts and rake in 252 million JPY (S$2.92 million) over two days.

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Takeru Satoh and Ryunosuke Kamiki's high school characters join forces to get their manga series serialised in Shonen Weekly Jump

Apart from working on gaining acceptance from fans of the original manga series, this boyishly handsome actor shared that he had certain “worries” and “difficulties” playing a high schooler, especially since he had graduated from high school a good decade ago. 

Read on as he tells us how he overcame that and related to his character’s deep infatuation for his dream girl of a classmate, despite having a lack of “love experiences" in high school.

#1 He was really worried about playing a high schooler, 10 years after graduating from school 
Luckilyy for Takeru, he had real-life friend Ryunosuke Kamiki, who also plays Moritaka’s best buddy Akito Takagi in the movie, to loosely base his character on. As Kamiki is five years his junior, he attended high school more recently than Takeru did. “So I watched how he acted and the kind of feelings (or “tension”) he brought forth (as a high school student) and in a way, imitated his acting,” he shared.

#2 He was not really into girls during his high school days
Contrary to the besotted Moritaka (he has a major crush on a classmate who eventually quits school to become a voice actor) whom he plays in the movie, Takeru did not have much love experiences in high school and was not that into girls. Still, the 26-year-old could identify with the throes of adolescent love. 

“But – of course – every guy would have or liked someone and they’d want the girl to like him back; any guy would want to be popular amongst girls too,” he said, “I used a lot of imagination in order to play this role.”

So, if he was not into girls, what did he focus on in high school?

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#3 He spent all his free time break dancing during his high school years
“I was into dancing – specifically, break dancing – in high school,” quipped Takeru, who shared that it was the only thing he truly focused and worked hard on during his schooling years too. “Every day after school, I’d go practice break dancing with my friends till late into the night and then I’d go to school again in the morning. I’d be sleepy and tired and end up sleeping during the class. (Chuckles)”

That’s not the only similarity he shares with his character, Moritaka, who’d end up snoozing in class after pulling an all-nighter to draw. 

#4 He once fell seriously ill while filming Kamen Rider
In the movie, Takeru’s character worked himself to the point of exhaustion in order to meet their weekly deadlines, and the actor recalled a similar situation that happened to him years ago when he was filming for TV series, Kamen Rider. “Filming went on for a long time for about a year. At the six month mark, I fell sick and found out I had a hole in my lung,” revealed Takeru, who was adamant about doing a check-up at the hospital at that point in time and only found out about his condition after going for one.

The actor was eventually persuaded to take time off from filming and even tried to come up with a solution to continue working. Thankfully, he went on his 10-day break, but not without feeling a twinge of guilt. “It was not like it was painful but I felt sorry (for holding up filming) and felt an urge to run away and escape from this situation,” he said.

#5 He's a manga fan who doesn’t believe all series require a live action adaptation
A self-professed fan of manga series like One Piece and Hunter x Hunter, Takeru smiled and shook his head, saying, “I can’t decide,” when asked to choose a manga character he’d like to play. “Reason why I can’t just choose one role it’s because I’m a manga fan and as a fan, I do not think that all manga (stories) need to be made into live action films. 

“Perhaps, as a fan, I’d like to see all these live (movie) versions made 100 or 200 years in the future – when technology is much better.”



Bakuman opens in theatres on November 19. Rated PG. 

Catch Takeru Satoh, TRIQSTAR, Kyushu-Danji Shinsangumi, MARTIN, banvox, IKU, HyperJuice, TJO, Nebuta-odori from Aomori, Suzume-odori from Sendai and JUICY at the SUUPAA JAPAN Festival today (Nov 14) at WAVEHOUSE Sentosa from 1 pm to 10 pm. 

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