Voice actors Yuichi Nakamura and Takahiro Sakurai play enemies in upcoming film Genocidal Organ–but here they are, talking about the movie like friends.
Genocidal Organ (Gyakusatsu Kikan) is the third and final film in the Project Itoh film trilogy; a trilogy of films that adapt three of late science fiction author Project Itoh’s stories into animation—each produced by a different animation studio.
However, Genocidal Organ was never planned to be the last. It was delayed after the production company, Manglobe, filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors. Having recorded in early 2015, the cast members only found out about the closure of the studio through news outlets.
After continuing production at a new studio called Geno Studio to complete the film, the movie is finally ready to premiere on February 3, 2017, almost two years after recording was completed.
After the TIFF Ani!! Part 1 stage at the Tokyo International Film Festival, I sat down with Yuichi Nakamura (seen above, right), the voice of the film’s protagonist Clavis Shepherd, and Takahiro Sakurai (seen above, left), the actor playing Clavis’ mortal enemy John Paul.
Genocidal Organ—based on a novel of the same name—revolves around a soldier named Clavis who is on the hunt for John Paul, a man who seems to be the mastermind behind the chaos that turns into mass genocides by the world’s leading governments. I asked the actors what they thought of the book.
“My first thought when I read it was that it felt like a book that was originally written in English, then translated to Japanese. How do I put it…? It felt very cool and dry,” Sakurai told me, explaining that the contents of the book were just as frightening as the phrase that is repeated multiple times in it. “‘Hell is in your head.’ The contents of the story are exactly what this phrase implies.”
Nakamura, however, felt something different from the words of the departed Itoh, mentioning how the setting, situation, and futuristic technology were written quite meticulously. He explained that because this was Itoh’s debut work, he felt that the author tried to convey every last detail about the world he had created using just the words in the book.
“To put it bluntly, I felt like he wanted to put everything in it—even the parts that wouldn’t really be considered ‘vital’ and wouldn’t necessarily connect to any other parts of the story,” he elaborated, “Though, that’s just my opinion.”
When asked about what makes his character interesting, Nakamura hesitated, saying that he prefers to leave it to the viewer to decide what makes the characters he plays interesting. However, he told me what stood out to him about Clavis.
“When the movie starts, Clavis begins as a blank slate,” he said, explaining that as Clavis comes into contact with both allies and foes—with the most important being John Paul—and as he continues to dispose of enemies during missions, his slate starts to become colored.
“And in the end, the person who might hold the single answer to the doubts and questions he has is John Paul. To put it simply, he’s pushed along in the flow of things without much resistance,” he explained, to which Sakurai laughed, “Though it’s not very soldier-like, Clavis is a pure person who is easily influenced. In that sense, maybe Williams is more suited to deal with missions, since he’s not influenced by others.”
Describing what makes his character stand out, Sakurai chose to focus on how former professional linguist John Paul is labeled as the evil mastermind that Clavis and the millitary chase after, but suggested that he might have points that people can actually resonate with.
“It’s difficult to sympathize with him completely, but if you pick up his words during the scenes where he actually speaks, you’ll be able to see that he has a grasp on what is normal to him, and he even has things that he loves and things that he wishes for. Those are things I have in my own reality, too,” Sakurai said, “He has parts of him that are sensible, but on the other hand, he also has parts of him that have become unrestrained and have broken. These kinds of things are in all humans. […] He makes me kind of understand why he made the choice he did and why he’s causing the events that occur in the film.”
Continuing the discussion on the contents of the film, Sakurai explained that some people might feel a certain resistance to watching the film, as it takes place in a not-so-distant future.
“I often hear people saying that anything humans imagine could probably become reality, so it’s scary to think that this kind of future might be waiting for us very soon,” he said, “However, I’d like people to not just judge the film for what’s on the surface. […] It has entertainment value and even has a love story in there, so I think there’s a lot of ways to look at the film. That’s why I think it might not be a good idea to watch the film just once.”
Instead, Sakurai suggested that people view the film multiple times. By doing so, he believes that the viewer will be able to feel a little more flexibility the next viewing and be able to see the film in a different way.
Yuichi Nakamura (voice of Clavis Shepherd)
Nakamura gave a similar sentiment to Sakurai, saying that the film can be viewed in a multitude of ways.
“The film is still in production, but that’s what I thought when watching it. There’s no problem with just watching it as an action flick, and watching it while thinking about what the theme of the film is perfectly fine, too. It feels as if the meaning behind the word ‘Genocidal’ is made very clear, but in actuality, it’s not,” he explained, “If those kinds of things get you curious, well, we end up at the conclusion of ‘read the book.'” Nakamura and Sakurai laughed.
Genocidal Organ is scheduled to eventually be screened outside of Japan. Hearing this, the voice actors asked about whether the film will have subtitles or a dub, with the answer being subtitles.
“So that means [it’s going to be our voices],” Nakamura smiled, “I’m very thankful that it’s possible for people to watch this movie overseas. […] Fans might have a better understanding of the state of affairs and occurrences in the film. For us… Well, for example, Japan doesn’t have a military or guns. […] I think that the message of the film will be a lot more shocking and get across a lot easier for those who have a better understanding of the events that occur.”
Takahiro Sakurai (voice of John Paul)
“I don’t think there will be anything that [overseas fans] won’t be able to understand because of cultural differences,” Sakurai continued off of Nakamura, “It might be a bit tiresome to have to watch the movie with subtitles, but the fact that it was made in Japan might be something that’s interesting for viewers outside of Japan. After all, the movie was thought up by a Japanese person, made in Japan, but the characters that appear and the setting of film are not Japanese. […] I think there are portions that people can really connect with.”
When I mentioned the rumors of a Hollywood live-action film being made, both Nakamura and Sakurai were surprised.
“Really?” Nakamura said.
“Wow,” added Sakurai.
During the stage event (by complete coincidence, I might add), the announcer present had mentioned his choice of casting in a hypothetical Hollywood live-action Genocidal Organ: Christian Bale as Clavis and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Paul.
“Yeah, I’m fine with that casting,” Nakamura said, “Though it depends on which Christian Bale we’re talking about.”
“Damn, you’re particular,” Sakurai smirked.
“Well, you know, I think it’d be a little… off if it was the Christian Bale from Batman.” Nakamura laughed. Asking if he had any casting choices of his own, Nakamura thought it over a little.
“Clavis is a character with lots of troubles and in the book, he kind of has a mother complex, so uh…” Nakamura suddenly stopped and tried to hold back his quiet chuckle, “Keanu Reeves.” Leaving the room in laughter, he tried to explain his choice.
“I think he’d fit the mood of the character very well.”
So, if there were an event held for the Genocidal Organ movie overseas, would the two attend?
“Would there be one?” Nakamura asked.
“Let’s go!” the producer of the film said cheerfully from the back of the room.
“The producer seems to be considering this possibility optimistically,” Nakamura chuckled. “If there’s a chance, I’d like to walk the red carpet over there, too.”
Genocidal Organ will finally open in Japanese theaters on February 3, 2017. All three of the Project Itoh films have been licensed by FUNimation for distribution in North America. The company has previously screened the first two films—The Empire of Corpses and Harmony—in select theaters.