Interviews with Japanese directors tend to be straightforward PR exercises. The subjects may be friendly, but they are also disinclined to deviate from their script, especially if they are on their umpteenth media interview of the day.

Ryuichi Hiroki is different, though, and that's not just because I've known him for years. After getting his start in pinku eiga (erotic movies) in the 1980s, Hiroki directed a steady stream of hit commercial films and acclaimed indie dramas in a pattern that could be described as "one for them, one for me." He has none of the pontificating self-importance of typical industry kyoshō (masters), though. Instead his answers tend to be pithy, delivered with a twist of dry humor.

When we meet at the Gaienmae office of distributor Gaga to talk about his post-Fukushima drama "Side Job.," he starts the interview with a question of his own: "Have you seen the film?" This isn't always a given with the local media, but I surprise him with my answer: Not only did I see the film, I also read Hiroki's own novel on which the Masato Kato-penned screenplay is based. With that out of the way, we can begin.