Rabid fans await the arrival of the stars of GANTZ. Will that thin strip of cloth keep them at bay?
Part One: In which your humble editor in chief hosts a Hollywood event
Bright lights, screams, being scared you’ll mess up in front of everyone and sign your own death warrant: to be real brief about it, that’s what it felt like standing on stage at Mann’s Chinese 6 theater in Hollywood performing MC duties at the World Premiere event for GANTZ.
In front of me: 400 flesh and blood human beings. In front of them: a wall of cameras that are broadcasting my every nervous tic and slip of the tongue to 334 theaters across the USA. To my immediate right: dreamy Kazunari Ninomiya, member of boy band ARASHI and one of the biggest celebrities in Japan, known to millions simply as “Nino”. To his right: hunky Kenichi Matsuyama (AKA “Matsuken”), at age 25 already one of Japan’s most-loved actors. Both have arrived here in sunny LA mere hours after attending a similar launch event for their new film in Tokyo.
Perhaps you were aware of these unprecedented events as they unfolded last week on January 20th, 2011. Heck, maybe some of you were at the show in Hollywood or perhaps even watching the show go down at your local multiplex Nickelodeon with a large Coke and a tub of pop‘d corn! Either way, for me, the whole thing added up to an experience nearly as surreal and curious as the big black ball known as GANTZ itself! As the man in the old Talking Heads song asks, “well, how did I get here?” Now that I’m safely off stage and the screaming has ceased, I’ll do my best to try and explain…
The prime movers behind the GANTZ Hollywood premiere were a collation of forces from Toho and Nippon TV (who together helped to produce and distribute this $40 million dollar movie) and those US-based purveyors of all things J-pop, New People.
“Is this thing on?” Setting up the theater for the big show ahead.
A few weeks back, representatives from the latter contacted me to see if I’d be interested in being the MC for the event, a gig which would mainly consist of handling the after-film Q&A with the visiting pair of superstars. I briefly put down my chocolate and pizza-stained video game controller, scratched my head, and figured, “sure, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Flash forward through a few days of waiting, an early morning flight to Los Angeles, to a few hours just before show time. We’re in Mann’s Chinese 6 having a full rehearsal walkthrough with all the trimmings and it seems like nothing works. The lights blow a breaker, the timing on the cues is all off, and most worryingly for me, the microphones have this habit of not working when they are supposed to (something that would come back to haunt us later like in a bad J-horror flick). But of course, there’s no time to work out all the kinks. I have to run to a nearby V.I.P. room to meet and greet Matsuken and Nino, go over the flow of events with them, and just generally prepare for combat.
Matsuyama is, as they say in Japan, “tottemo genki”. He periodically gets up and paces around the room and keeps his energy level high. He answers my weird questions about working with dishy actress Natsuna who plays Kishimoto in GANTZ. For a guy who convincingly played L in the Death Note movies, he’s surprisingly down to earth and yet looks every inch like a Japanese movie star about to take his first Humvee limo ride to greatness in Tinseltown.
Unaware of the dangers awaiting him, your E.I.C.
strikes a pose in full-on Hollywood @$$hole mode!
Nino is… well, NINO. As a member of a superstar boy band, he’s been photographed, filmed, poked, and prodded by the media non-stop for nigh on a decade now. He’s simply not an ordinary Joe like you and me. Even now, as we meet, there’s a camera crew fixated on him, filming only his eyes as the PR guys explain the delicate procedures ahead. Afterwards, he lets out a battle-ready “gambarre masu” (“I’ll do my best!”) and you can feel an amazed and solemn hush fall over the room. We are in the presence of a Japanese idol who is a 100%, to the hilt, Japanese idol!
But pretty soon, there will be screams a plenty punctuating the air. Fan girls make certain of that as the pair arrive in front of Mann’s Chinese theaters. Meanwhile, I pace nervously back and forth in yet another V.I.P. room, checking my notes, receiving updates from the staff about what to ask during the after film Q&A.
Then, at one point, someone involved in the event (neither Toho, NTV, or New People it should be noted) looks me straight in the eye and says, “Don’t let us down out there.”
The word “GULP” suddenly flashes before me and I stumble outside and make for the main stage…
Up next: the show itself, the champagne, and a whole lot of Teriyaki sauce.