Actress Mei Nagano prepares to rumble in ‘Office Royale’

It’s early May and actress Mei Nagano, 21, is at Tokyo Hanazono shrine advertising his action comedy of the same name, “Jigoku no Hanazono(Literally, “Flower Garden of Hell”), titled “Office Royale” in English.

It is a suitable place to have an interview, the shrine would be a favorite place for businessmen to pray for success, and it is a short walk from Kabukicho, an entertainment district that has long been a hotbed. favorite for underworld types (who are sometimes known to stomp on each other).

“Office Royale” is based on an original script from the Bakarhythm comic book, and it stars Nagano as an OL clerk (office woman) working in a large corporation and leading a mundane existence. Among his colleagues, however, are yankī (delinquents) OL belonging to factions that wage pitched battles for corporate supremacy. The contrast between the peaceful life of the protagonist and her pals and the warlike events around them is a source of laughter, as well as a surprise when we find out that the character of Nagano is not so ordinary after all.

Directed by Kazuaki Seki, a veteran of the music video making his first feature film, the film can focus on the gags but also satirically comment on the tendency of Japanese society to turn a blind eye to what it finds strange, uncomfortable or, in the case of the quarrel. factions, comically violent.

Back at Hanazono Shrine, a facilitator asked Nagano what she had prayed for.

“Let the film be a big success, of course,” she replied. “But since not all theaters are open now, even though a lot of movies are coming out, I also prayed that theaters across the country could open safely.”

Nagano then held up a votive sign, known as “ema“, On which visitors to the shrine traditionally write their wishes. He said: “zokuhen“(After).

Make a wish: Mei Nagano holds an ’ema’ (votive sign) while visiting Hanazono Shrine in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Visitors to the shrine are traditionally supposed to write wishes on ema, and Nagano reads “zokuhen” (continued). | © 2021 PARTNERS OF THE FILM “ JIGOKU NO HANAZONO ”

She may only be 21, but Nagano is a showbiz pro. She made her acting debut in 2009 when she was cast for the low budget “Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle” actor. Her long list of credits includes a starring role in the 2018 NHK morning drama series “Half Blue Sky,” which she landed after beating 2,366 contestants in auditions. She also played the female lead role in “Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High,” a 2017 hit comedy about an epic power struggle in an elite manga-like high school.

The prayers over, Nagano joined me in a room inside the shrine, where we sat across from each other at a table divided by a light partition. Naturally, I asked him questions about the expected result.

“People from various fields came together to make the film,” she says. “We had a strong team, and during the shoot, everyone was motivated and confident in what they were trying to do… there really aren’t that many movies like that. It was a growing experience for me. So, I want to see how the film world plays out further. “

She adds that she was excited about the project even before reading the script.

“I had heard that Bakarhythm wrote it and that Mr. Seki would be directing it so I knew it would be interesting,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to do it before I read the script. After reading it, I knew for sure that it would be a really interesting movie.

A Battle in the Garden: Mei Nagano says the fight scenes in 'Office Royale' were performed non-comically.  She must even have found out what it felt like to hit someone.  |  © 2021 PARTNERS OF THE FILM `` JIGOKU NO HANAZONO ''
A Battle in the Garden: Mei Nagano says the fight scenes in ‘Office Royale’ were performed non-comically. She must even have found out what it felt like to hit someone. | © 2021 PARTNERS OF THE FILM “ JIGOKU NO HANAZONO ”

“Office Royale” features a number of action scenes executed with a surprising level of skill given that most of the actors, including Nagano, are not action specialists.

“These scenes worried me at first,” she says. “I thought I had a hard time cursing people in a loud voice, and I had never done action scenes before. I didn’t know what it felt like to hit people.

Nagano trained for four months under the supervision of Action Director Minoru Tomita.

“I practiced really hard, starting from scratch,” she says. “The style was closest to kickboxing, but the action models we were actually going to use in the movie had already been decided. So I worked on these, the action director giving me detailed instructions.

When I tell her that the action scenes have a real impact, she looks delighted.

“I thought the comic book elements weren’t needed in the action scenes,” she says. “The story is a comedy but I wanted to show (my character) fighting for real. Everyone in the cast has thought along the same lines.

To that end, Nagano’s character Naoko Tanaka is not your typical mild-mannered OL, although she tries to act like one. Like Clark Kent, she hides her true identity until she suddenly reveals it in one of the movie’s funniest scenes.

“I thought of her as a crowd character,” Nagano says, referring to the types of non-player characters that populate video game backgrounds. “As a heroine, Naoko has monologues in the film, but she also always thinks of the close friends around her. So I saw her as someone who never tries to be the center of attention. She also has this great illusion on her mind, but I tried not to overdo it.

“Office Royale” will have its international premiere at Far Eastern Film Festival in Udine, Italy, in June. As the program advisor for the event, I tell Nagano that it is unfortunate that she does not make the trip there due to the pandemic. However, there is always the sequel, right?

“I would really like to try,” she says. “I want to shoot a film in a foreign country.” It wasn’t exactly what I meant, but the prospect of seeing Nagano face off against his OL opponents in Piazza San Marco in Udine makes me want to write my own ema: “’Office Royale’ in Italy .

“Office Royale” opens in theaters nationwide on May 21. For more information visit the home page of the film.

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