Two of the most anticipated live-action adaptations for 2017 are the comedies Gintama (銀魂), starring Oguri Shun (小栗旬), and The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (斉木楠雄のサイ難), starring Yamazaki Kento (山崎賢人), both of which are directed by Yuichi Fukuda (福田雄一). Both films have just released their respective trailers and the actors’ popularity certainly raises viewers’ expectations. However, a movie’s success does not solely depend on its leads. The director also plays a pivotal role as he is the driving force that pulls a film together. Looking back at the director’s previous works will give us an idea about how these upcoming films are going to look like. So while waiting for their release, might as well check out these four hilarious TV series both written and directed by Yuichi Fukuda.
The first installment, The Brave Yoshihiko and Great Satan’s Castle (勇者ヨシヒコと魔王の城), is a low budget RPG parody starring Takayuki Yamada (山田孝之), whose character is based on the hero of Dragon Quest V. The story begins when the Cowboy Village suffers from a terrible plague and their hero, Teruhiko (テルヒコ), who has been sent to find a miracle herb, doesn’t return. When his son, Yoshihiko, successfully (more like, accidentally) draws the Beckoning Sword (いざないの剣), he becomes the new hero who is tasked to find his father and the miracle cure to save their townspeople. However, his mission doesn’t end there as Buddha (Jiro Sato – 佐藤二郎), asks him to defeat the Demon King. The swordsman Danjo (Shin Takuma – 宅麻伸), female fighter Murasaki (Haruka Kinami – 木南晴夏), silly wizard Merebu (Tsuyoshi Muro – ムロツヨシ), and Yoshihiko’s sister Hisa (Azusa Okamoto – 岡本あずさ), all join him in this dangerous journey.
The actors reprised their roles for the 2012 sequel, The Brave Yoshihiko and The Key of an Evil Spirit (勇者ヨシヒコと悪霊の鍵), which follows the exact same format of the first season. In 2016, Yoshihiko’s party returned in The Brave Yoshihiko and The Seven Driven People (勇者ヨシヒコと導かれし七人).
Yuusha Yoshihiko Trilogy Website *Japanese only
Aoi Honoo, literally “Blue Blazes,” is a coming-of-age series based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Kazuhiko Shimamoto (島本和彦). This is Yuya Yagira’s (柳楽優弥) first lead performance on television. He is known for winning the Best Actor Award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for the acclaimed movie, Nobody Knows (誰も知らない).
Set in the early 1980s, Moyuru Honoo (焔モユル) aspires to become a manga writer so he decides to enter a large arts university in Osaka (大阪). Despite his initial overconfidence, he realizes that the school has plenty of other students who are just as skilled and even more talented than he is. He pursues his dreams as he overcomes his self-imposed rivalry against the school geniuses.
This extremely overacted retro series is also a treat to manga and anime fans as it involves the fictional lives of famous manga personalities such as Hideaki Anno (庵野秀明), the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン), Hiroyuki Yamaga (山賀博之), the founding member of anime studio GAINAX, Masahiko Minami (南雅彦), the president of anime studio Bones, and more.
Aoi Honoo Website *Japanese only
Based on the manga series Nietzsche-sensei ~Konbini ni, Satori Sedai no Shinjin ga Maiorita~ written by Koma Matsu (松駒) and illustrated by Hashimoto (ハシモト), the series follows the mundane lives of quirky characters who work in the same late night convenience store. This manga is based on a series of Twitter posts that chronicle real-life experiences of convenience store workers.
The main cast includes Shotaro Mamiya (間宮祥太朗) as the reticent protagonist Nii (仁井), Kenji Urai (浦井健治) as Nii’s senpai Matsukoma (松駒) who gave him the nickname “Mr. Nietzsche,” Rena Matsui (松井玲奈) as Nii’s lovestruck stalker, and Jiro Sato as the eccentric manager.
Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store Website *Japanese only
— 【公式】スーパーサラリーマン左江内氏 (@saenai_ntv) March 18, 2017
Yuichi Fukuda’s most recent series, Super Salaryman Mr. Saenai, which started airing in January 2017, is based on the manga Chunen Superman Saenai-shi (中年スーパーマン左江内氏) by Fujiko F. Fujio (藤子F不二雄), the creator of the famous Doraemon.
The plot centers around an ordinary salaryman, Saenai, played by Shinichi Tsutsumi (堤真一). In order to juggle his hectic work and home schedule, he agrees to receive a super suit from a mysterious old man. The suit comes with superpowers that enable him to finish his own tasks, and at the same time, help people who are in need. However, his heroic actions are immediately erased from people’s minds. A funny detective duo who is always at the scene ends up taking credit.
Super Salaryman Mr. Saenai Website *Japanese only
I have seen all the TV series listed above, but my favorites are Yuusha Yoshihiko and Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store since I prefer deadpan characters compared to over-the-top ones. Despite the repetitive gags, I enjoyed pointing out the references and cameos in Yuusha Yoshihiko and laughed out loud at the corpsing in Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store. “Corpsing” is actors’ term for an unscripted fit of laughter. Nii is a character who’s not supposed to smile, but the director includes the footage of those adorable times when the actor unintentionally breaks character.
Spoof, parody, breaking the fourth wall, and exaggerated anime-like gestures are just some of the most notable common elements found in these comedies. The characters’ expressions range from total deadpan to extremely demonstrative.
Based on these four TV series, we can expect the same comedic approach in Yuichi Fukuda’s upcoming live-action films. Have you seen these comedies? What do you think of Gintama‘s and The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.‘s live-action adaptations? Are you excited to see them?