Meet the Japanese author behind Tom Cruise’s new sci-fi smash

by Tim Hornyak

Special To The Japan Times

You might be surprised to hear that the latest Tom Cruise science-fiction epic, “Edge of Tomorrow,” which hit theaters here recently, has a Japanese pedigree. It is based on the short novel “All You Need is Kill” by award-winning author Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

First published in Japan 10 years ago and adapted by Ryosuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata into a serialized manga earlier this year, it centers on Keiji Kiriya, a soldier battling an invasion of Earth by a powerful race of aliens known as Mimics. Kiriya is quickly slain on the battlefield, only to come back to life and relive the same day in a pattern that repeats over and over. His only hope of escape from this existential loop lies in a stranger he encounters in the war zone — a peerless female warrior known as the Full Metal Bitch.

The book was translated into English for a 2009 release, and was republished in April as “Edge of Tomorrow” to tie in with the film. An English-language graphic novel based on the book, separate from the Japanese manga, was released in May.

Author Sakurazaka tells us his thoughts on the Hollywood version of his story and its origins.

How do you feel about the movie with Tom Cruise?

Of course I was thrilled, but the excitement is wearing off day by day. It’s as if this great success happened to someone else called Hiroshi Sakurazaka — I even wanted to congratulate him. It’s as if a brother had a great stroke of good luck. That’s how it feels.

What do you think of the differences between the original text and the movie?

People can just read my original book if they want the original story. The changes made for the movie don’t bother me. For instance, the manga version (illustrated) by Takeshi Obata has the heroine’s facial expressions changing greatly from a cool reserve in some scenes. Of course, the illustrations bring the characters to life, and scenes are made more effective by their modification. In the film, the cycle of life and death, the sense of scale of the battlefield and the realism of the exoskeleton suits really brought the story to life. The film was woven from these elements, which were chosen from what I wrote.

What was your role in the movie adaptation process?

Nothing in particular. I tried not to interfere by making too many comments.

The movie “Groundhog Day” is famous for its repeating plot structure. Where did you get the idea for a repeating story line?

I’m familiar with “Groundhog Day.” Before I began writing, I looked up existing works with loop story lines. My book was inspired by an online account written by a video-game player. I read such comments as, “I messed up and my character died. Damn it! I’ll do better next time.” I thought about writing a story based not on the idea of a person playing a video game but on a hero being played over and over in a game. That seemed like a good model for a story to write.

Have you had opportunities to interact with your overseas readers? Has this had any effect on your writing?

It was a thrill for me when I visited the movie studio in England and a security guard asked me for my autograph. Until that point I didn’t really feel like an author whose works had been translated into other languages. I was born and raised in Japan, and I had only been overseas for vacations. So I have Japanese sensibilities. But when I visited the studio, I realized that even those with different sensibilities can appreciate my novels. While a sense of Japaneseness can hold an exotic appeal for novels, it can also be a source of misunderstanding. I’ll try to write future novels with an eye on how to use that Japanese sensibility effectively.

“All You Need is Kill” is a great title. How did you think of it? What to do you think of “Edge of Tomorrow,” which is also the title of two separate science fiction books by Isaac Asimov and Howard Fast?

Of course it’s regrettable. According to the contract, the title of the movie was in the hands of the movie studio. In my high school days during gym meets, we would modify the title of the famous Beatles song to “All You Need is the Points,” and we made signboards with that. I had always wanted to use that expression somehow.

The “Edge of Tomorrow” novel and “All You Need is Kill” graphic novel are out now in English, published by Haikasoru. The “All You Need is Kill” manga illustrated by Takeshi Obata is also available in English at www.vizmanga.com.

  • paula

    What a wonderful interview with an esteemed and humble author. Thank you for sharing this with us.