By Emi Yamada / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterLo and behold, “Patalliro!” has become a live-action film. The outrageous manga is the most famous work by Mineo Maya, a master of comical manga whose “Tonde, Saitama” has caused a big stir lately.
Ryo Kato, an actor with a unique presence, plays the title character, a troublemaking boy king. Kato is reprising the role after appearing in a musical version of the manga on stage.
Maya and Kato spoke to The Yomiuri Shimbun about the film.
The Yomiuri Shimbun: Were there any other proposals for making a film or theatrical adaptation of “Patalliro!”?
Maya: Many. I even talked with someone from the [all-female] Takarazuka Revue Company. They said, “We have many good-looking performers, but we don’t have a Patalliro.” At the end of the day, that was the biggest problem. That’s why, when I received an offer from the crew of the musical version, the first thing I asked them was, “Do you have a Patalliro?” and they said emphatically, “Yes, we do.”
The Yomiuri Shimbun: That was Mr. Kato.
Maya: When I met him for the first time, I immediately thought: “He’ll do fine. Hey, a comical body, highly intelligent and a quirky personality: That’s Ryo, isn’t it? I had nothing to worry about. In short, there’s no one else on Earth who can play Patalliro.
Kato: Thank you very much. Mr. Kensaku Kobayashi, who directed the musical version, is also the film’s director. He gave me a lot of advice such as “Be more venomous!” and “You’re more wicked, aren’t you!” But Patalliro has an adorable, soft side as well.
Maya: If not, he’d be just a nasty person! Ryo, you’re wicked inside, but you can be a nice person, too. Right? That’s what convinced me that you truly are a Patalliro.
Kato: Ha ha.
The original manga published by Hakusensha is a slapstick comedy involving 10-year-old king Patalliro, secret agent Maj. Bancoran and his lover, former assassin Maraich. The stories are presented in various styles, including mysteries, sci-fi and period dramas. Maya has been drawing the long-running work since 1978.
Maya’s art is known for its fine, delicate lines and decadent atmosphere. He began working full-time as a mangaka at around the age of 22, initially drawing horror works. He was stuck for ideas at one point, which led to the birth of “Patalliro!”
He attempted to draw a comical story in a serious art style in “Rashanu!” which turned out to be quite popular with readers. Then he began drawing “Patalliro!” in a similar style, mixing in nonsensical jokes and homoerotic elements that were in vogue in manga for girls at the time.
In the new film, Patalliro, then the crown prince of the ever-springlike kingdom of Malynera, lands at Heathrow Airport in London with his army of guards called Tamanegi Butai (the onion squad). They meet Maj. Bancoran (played by Tsunenori Aoki), who is in charge of protecting Patalliro, and pretty boy reporter Maraich (Hiroki Sana).
Patalliro then encounters mysterious incidents before learning of the death of the king back home. The story moves from Britain to Malynera, Kasukabe in Saitama Prefecture, and then to outer space. The film is full of ridiculous jokes, sprinkled with conspiracies and genuine romantic love, and even features dramatic songs and dancing.
This is the first film directed by Kobayashi, who is also a theater director, dancer and musician.
Maya: I heard the filming was mostly done in a carefree manner. To be honest, that’s how I draw manga, too. That’s why I was happy to see that the manga and the film have the same kind of atmosphere. But what happened? You all went to a garden in Yamanashi Prefecture, and...
Kato: We were supposed to shoot the climactic scene against a background of roses, but roses were out of season and the place was just full of dried-up thorns!
Maya: Why did no one check in advance?!
Kato: I know. But we got lucky and found a scenic place nearby where we could shoot a beautiful love scene between Bancoran and Maraich.
The Yomiuri Shimbun: What’s your next goal?
Maya: [The film version of] “Tonde, Saitama” (Fly me to the Saitama) won the audience award at the Far East Film Festival 21 in Udine, Italy, voting for which took place on the internet.
Kato: Wow, Saitama has flown to the world!