Making his on-screen debut in Daigo Matsui’s multistranded, disorderly and, at times, moving film “Japanese Girls Never Die” (“Azumi Harako wa Yukie Fumei”), singer Huwie Ishizaki admits that he was nervous prior to stepping in front of the cameras. The 32-year-old solo artist is used to putting on intense shows for his fans, but appearing in a movie alongside one of the country’s leading actresses, Yu Aoi, was a whole new kind of pressure.
“I’ve been interested in acting since I was a child so when Matsui offered me the role I was really excited,” Ishizaki says. “Soon after he mentioned my scenes would be with Yu Aoi, and I was just shocked. I mean she’s a massive name who has won numerous awards and is known by everyone.
“Before we started, my heart was pounding, then when things got underway I found it quite easy. Aoi was aware it was my first time on set and made a big effort to help me. Having watched her films, I thought she’d be serious and intimidating, but she was anything but. We’d go to izakaya (Japanese pubs) where she’d drink lots and act quite boisterous like a little old man — I mean that in a positive way (laughs). Mi-chan (Mitsuki Takahata) was similar.”
Ishizaki plays Yuji Soga, the peculiar neighborhood friend of main character, Haruko Azumi (Aoi). They end up in a relationship, but it quickly becomes apparent that he’s just using her for sex and has no intention of taking their relationship further. For Haruko, it’s an unrequited love that exacerbates her feelings of low self-worth and loneliness.
A desolate figure, she is meant to represent a typical Japanese woman in her late-20s, one that blends into the crowd and is almost forgotten. Unmarried and unhappy, she lives at home with her mother and grandmother while working at a job she despises alongside sexist coworkers.
We know that at some stage Haruko will disappear. In a series of flash-forward scenes, her “missing” poster is spray-painted all over town by a pair of male graffiti artists. They’re followed around by lovesick teenager Aina (Takahata), who they treat with disdain. At the same time a gang of violent high school girls are making headlines for attacking random men on the streets. Matsui keeps us guessing throughout as to how these three strands will come together.
“The movie has lots of layers and is quite complex,” Ishizaki says. “It tackles many troubling issues in Japanese society including the ways we objectify women. The pink writing on the poster makes it look like a cute film, but I think the content will surprise audiences, especially guys. I feel privileged to have been a part of it.”
Ishizaki hopes this role will lead to more acting opportunities in the future, though his fans shouldn’t fret as he says music will always be his main passion.
“My mother named me Huwie because it kind of sounded like (David) Bowie,” he says. “During my youth, I’d always listen to songs by him and Tom Waits. My dream was to be a singer-songwriter like them. I managed to achieve that and I believe it’s something I’ll be doing till the day I die.”
“Japanese Girls Never Die” is now playing in cinemas nationwide. Huwie Ishizaki’s new album, “Atarazu mo Tokarazu” is also on sale. For more information, visit www.ishizakihuwie.com.