“Underdog,” the two-part boxing film that opens the 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival, is the second movie on the subject by director Take Masaharu. The first, “100 Yen Love” in 2014 won the Japanese Cinema Splash Award at the 27th TIFF and was selected as Japan’s nominee for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Take was also supervising director on the hit Netflix series “The Naked Director.”
You had a big success with “100 Yen Love.” Is boxing a genre you have a special affection for?
Take: Boxing movies like “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” were interesting to me when I saw them as a kid. I love them as films, but they’re tough to make. I’ve had enough. (laughs) I don’t think I have a particular aptitude for them.
The training must have been tough for your three leads, Moriyama Mirai, Kitamura Takumi and Katsuji Ryo.
Take: It was tough. The actors had guts through. When you watch them on screen you can feel how strict and hard the training was.
Had they boxed before?
Take: Moriyama had been going to a gym for training. And he is a wonderful dancer. Katsuji had done kick boxing. Kitamura had played basketball. They were all really into sports. But the film is about pro boxers who have been doing it for years, not beginners, so the training was super tough.
When their characters enter the ring you get the feeling they’re risking their lives.
Take: Ordinary people can’t get into a ring and punch each other. It’s a world that only people who box understand. So, I thought I should depict it that way. Also, I wanted to show that they can’t do it without an audience — that also goes for films, plays and music.
In the last fight, between Moriyama and Kitamura, it’s the power of the audience that keeps them standing. Also, they can’t fight alone – there has to be two. People deal with various things alone in life but, in the end, they need to connect with others in order to live. To keep standing and fighting, they need others. For me, that’s the whole point of the film.