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Black butler aims at viewers’ hearts

Hiro Mizushima

Publication Date : 10-02-2014

 

Japanese actor Hiro Mizushima wants his new film to be more than a mere piece of entertainment

 

In his first film in three years, Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler), actor Hiro Mizushima didn’t just play the leading role, he also worked as part of the production team.

“I ; I wanted it to leave an imprint on viewers’ hearts,” Mizushima said.

The role Mizushima played in the film, an adaptation of a popular manga of the same title by Yana Toboso, was Sebastian, a perfect butler, who is actually a devil.

Sebastian has signed a contract with his master, Kiyoharu, played by Ayame Goriki, to protect her until she fulfills her purpose: avenging the murder of her parents. In exchange, he will receive her soul.

The film is set in a near-future world, divided into Western states reigned over by a queen and opposing Eastern states.

Kiyoharu has inherited a hereditary title only by concealing the fact that she is a woman. She is engaged in a secret mission of espionage in the East for the queen. In the process, Kiyoharu and Sebastian begin investigating a mysterious incident in which embassy officials from various countries are found dead, in mummified state.

In order to conjure a devil-like air and still possess the smartness of a butler, the 180-centimetre-tall Mizushima lost weight, dropping to 59 kilograms to better fit in slim suits. To maintain a stiff posture, he trained the core torso of his trunk, and tried to avoid blinking.

“I tried to portray a devilish air in a way that wouldn’t disturb viewers,” Mizushima said.

He focused particularly on action scenes in which he battled adversaries. He made sure to practise moves for four months and to thoroughly master them before shooting.

“To embody the always coolheaded character of Sebastian, I wanted to keep my mind focused on acting while having my body move freely,” Mizushima said.

With a smile on his face, Sebastian bends his body to dodge bullets and throws a dinner knife while whipping his body around in a spin—both with a grace that can only be described as beautiful.

The film is Mizushima’s first role in three years. At first, he was reluctant to take the part.

“[I declined because] I found the character extremely charismatic, and more difficult than any I’ve ever played,” he said.

However, producer Shinzo Matsuhashi wasn’t ready to give up. He prevailed on the actor to accept, saying he would not make the film if Mizushima refused to take the part. He went so far as to say: “Even better, why don’t you join the production team as well?” In the end, Mizushima changed his mind.

As a member of the production team, he pitched his ideas for the script, setting of scenes and directions. He is listed as a co-producer under his real name, Tomohiro Saito.

“I can’t adequately describe what I felt, but I had some meaningful experiences that will certainly be useful for me in the future,” Mizushima said.

The film isn’t without its comical scenes, such as the one in which Sebastian tugs at the cheeks of a sulky and sullen Kiyoharu and tells her to smile. In another scene, Sebastian beams a blissful smile as he touches a cat paw.

While these scenes reflect the sensibilities of the original comic, the script was written especially for the film. Although the manga is set in Britain, the film is set in an imaginary city that gives life to human desires and human ugliness.

“In turning the comic into a live-action movie, we paid special attention to the balance between reality and fantasy,” he said. “By building the film around a pillar of sad human drama and harshness, I think we managed to create a film that will enter deeply into viewers’ hearts.”

During shooting, he tried to talk with Goriki and other actors as much as possible.

“I wanted them to enjoy making the film with us, even a little bit,” Mizushima said with the smile.

The film, in Japanese, is now showing at Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills and other theatres across Japan.

 

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