In my R5 Central column this past issue, I mentioned a hell of a film by the name of Geisha VS Ninjas. To recap, it’s the story of one Geisha girl’s journey to defeat the samurai who killed her father, along with his band of ninjas that stand in her way. In addition to being able to interview the film’s star, Minami Tsukui, I found myself fortunate to be able to talk to the director of the film, Mr. Go Ohara. Due to scheduling conflicts, I wasn’t able to quote this interview for the column so, for your benefit and enjoyment, here is my full interview with the man himself. Enjoy!
So Geisha VS Ninjas is your directorial debut, what other work have you been involved with before this?
I have worked on Death Trance, Onechanbara, Lion Maru G and many other films and TV shows as an action director.
In my opinion, the level of action films in Japan is quite low. So I try not to get prepossessed at the domestic level and try to create action scenes that would appeal to a world wide audience.
What exactly got you into action directing?
My career began as a stunt performer when I was 18… As time went by, I started think about why the Japanese film industry is so bad at making action films. So I decided to go behind the camera to make them look better.
How exactly did the film (Geisha VS Ninjas) come about?
To make a serious action film. In Japan (maybe not only in Japan), action directors don’t have enough power or rights to create a film. Because it is not a common occupation in the industry. I have been disappointed as an action director many times when working in collaboration with a “normal” director so making Geisha VS Ninjas was a breath of fresh air since I had the final say on everything. Something which I wasn’t able to do up until now.
I may as well ask this: If in a situation where they would have to fight, who do you truly think would win in a fight between a Geisha and a Ninja?
This is the hard one! I’d say it would be Ninja, but only if the purpose is just to kick someone’s ass. However, as this film says, a Geisha is not only a dancer. The actual meaning of the word, Geisha means ‘artist’. Therefore Doctors can even be Geisha. A Sword master can even be a Geisha as well….
Now, it is my turn to ask you. Who would win in a fight between legendary Ninja, Hanzou Hattori and Legendary Geisha, Musashi Miyamoto?
That IS a tough one! Going back to seriousness; Throughout the movie, Kotono, the titular Geisha, faces off against monks and samurai in addition to ninjas. With that in mind, why insist on calling it Geisha VS Ninjas?
I have been asked this for so many times! It is considered that people who dress black cloth and flip around are Ninjas. But Ninjas are still alive in this present world. If they are always in black, they’re too obvious! So they probably even dress like how we do now. The same thing goes in this film. Even a Monk or a Samurai, are actually Ninjas dressed like a Monk or a Samurai. I wanted to represent Ninjas differently from the typical stereotypes.
Tell us a little bit about your thoughts on Minami Tsukui as Kotono. What made her stand out from everybody else?
The most important thing in preproduction is to evaluate the action ability of main actresses/actors because I am trying to present not only this film, but a new action starlet to the world. So, I started auditions all over Japan and met dozens of action actresses. Then I found Tsukui. She was just above them all. The reason I chose Tsukui is her sense of action and stunts. And she was cute, too.
Were there any influences that inspired you before/during production?
The best way of making an action film is making and imagining at the actual location. It is 100 times better than just having a meeting at an office or studio. My ideas and thoughts that I put in each scene were born on location and by having discussions with my stunt team. Production occurred in the end of fall, so I used the fall icons as leaves, which represent excellent color, tall pampass grasses and bonfire.
Where exactly did you shoot the film and how tight of a schedule did you have?
The location I mainly used was Nishi (West) Izu (which includes Toi, Shuzenji and Amagi), a famous sight-seeing spot. Modern buildings, automobiles and electric wires in the air, are obviously not welcome for an Edo period piece so I decided to shoot this outside Tokyo.
I shot this film for about 17 days. There wasn’t plenty of money so I had to rush!
Is there anything in this movie that you are especially proud of?
Having the right to present myself to the world as a director! Geisha VS Ninjas will be shown around the world. My hope is that Japanese action films will be accepted internationally.
Out of all the fights in Geisha VS Ninjas, do you have a personal favorite?
This may not be that personal; my favorite part other than the fights, is the opening where the Geisha is dancing. This scene is the first scene that I shot in my first film! I have a vivid memory of it more than anybody else! The dance in front of the great golden background came out great. And it encouraged me to succeed in the project!
So what’s on the horizon now for you in terms of projects for both you and Ohara Bros.? Have there been any plans on doing a sequel to Geisha VS Ninjas?
Sorry, I am not allowed to answer the details. But my next project is totally on deck! The next one will be more dramatic than Geisha VS Ninjas. But the sequel to Geisha VS Ninjas is coming up within 10 years.
Answering as the president of OHARA BROS, there are dozens of upcoming projects! Any of them have the possibility to fly overseas. Also there are outstanding boys I am holding in OHARA BROS. such as Fumi Minamitsuji (Action director) and Naohiro Kawamoto. Please watch their work as well!
Anything you’d like to say to the Otaku USA readers?
Dear readers of Otaku USA. The Japanese film industry is pretty active these days! Including Geisha VS Ninjas, I promise that I’ll create films that truly entertain you. And I’ll work hard to get my name known overseas! Thank you very much!
Finally, this is the question that most of our readers would want your opinion on: Pirates VS Ninjas, who would win it in your opinion?
Here comes a hard question again…
I just cannot tell right now…so I’ll answer in the film Pirates VS Ninjas when I direct it. I already decided which would win!
Special thanks to Bueno for helping to arrange and translate this interview!
Geisha VS Ninjas Official HP: https://www.geisha-vs-ninjas.jp/