The Air Moon Chapter 3: Taiwan

While this chapter is titled “Taiwan,” it mostly consists of an interview with Gackt about MOON CHILD. Of course, the topic of Taiwan and traveling abroad does come up, and the interview was conducted there.

I had so far avoided putting hyperlinks to other sites (e.g. Wikipedia) directly into the translated text. On the one hand, the original book had no such thing, and I thought adding that altered the way the text is read. On the other hand, this isn’t being published as a book, I have to add footnotes in parts to make this understandable to a non-Japanese audience anyway, so why let myself be bound by the limitations of the original medium? So, I’ve decided to add hyperlinks where explanatory material from Wikipedia would be easier to understand than a footnote. That said, if you hover over the hyperlink a brief note will pop up, and that may be all the explanation you need.

Also, I may not be able to work on the next chapter for a month or so, as I finally have some steady freelance work coming in. But there’s plenty to enjoy in the meantime! So, let’s get to it!

August 2002 Taiwan

The Unpublished Interview

“Gackt and HYDE to co-star in movie filming this summer, to be released next spring during Golden Week!”

That sensational news spread rapidly right as the summer live house tour “Dears Presents Special Talk&Live Addition” was wrapping up.

Gackt came up with the work plan for the summer and even took on writing the script. As is widely known, during the interview for the album MOON he had said, “I can’t be more specific,” so we had gotten only a whiff of something big on the horizon. And that “something” turned out to be this movie. Likewise, the meaning of the words, “The fall tour is a preview,” had eluded us, but now we could understand what the tour was supposed to be a preview for.

For the time being, the movie had been titled MOON, but later the title was officially changed to MOON CHILD.

MOON is one big, self-contained world. It can be experienced from various angles through the upcoming live tours Kagen no Tsuki and Jōgen no Tsuki, as well as through the music videos for individual songs, photo books, and more. However, having a story cover several modes of expression was not something that Gackt was just now starting to do, it was what he had always done. It was like that with MARS, it was like that with Rebirth. What was different about this time was the addition of a new expressive vehicle: a feature film. This was huge. Certainly, the movie didn’t represent all of MOON, but as it would give viewers a taste of the flavors the two had in common, it would become a powerful part of the tale.

How many artists are there in the whole world who would make a movie related to an album for the fans? Or rather, how many artists are there who are capable of making that happen? Truly, we should all be glad that we became fans of Gackt.

And so, August neared its end. Nearly one month had passed since filming had begun in Taiwan, the stage for the city of the near future, Mallepa. Around the time that filming was about to wrap, Chief Editor Hirota and I went on location for two days.

The day we arrived, the shooting locale was a multiple-tenant building in Taipei, which had an atmosphere that recalled the busy streets of the Shitamachi region of Tokyo from 20 years ago. The building was, apparently, no longer in use, and if it weren’t for the film crew being there, it would give off a creepy vibe that would discourage anyone from approaching.

“What’s this? You actually came? Ahaha…”

We’d barely gotten there when we suddenly ran into Gackt, who had been taking a break, sitting in the building entrance. Smiling, he started talking in a cheerful tone.

“What shall we eat tonight? Chinese food? Nah, I’ve had enough of that already.”

It was immediately clear that he was in good physical condition. In fact, he seemed so full of life that it was like the Gackt from the live house tour had been a different person entirely. Well, come to think of it, Gackt spent his early childhood in Okinawa, which is near Taiwan. Given the similar climates, the Taiwanese air probably had a good effect on Gackt, helping him relax.

Today, filming began in the morning, but went over the allotted time and didn’t finish until 10 p.m. We got to observe as they shot the scene where Shō and Kei raid a mafia hideout; a fierce gun fight ensues, and they meet Son, who was there with the same objective in mind.

The temperature was just over 30℃ [86°F], and inside the building, what with all the windows shut, it was unbelievably hot and muggy. Having just arrived and being unaccustomed to the temperature, I was already dripping with sweat.

Gackt was wearing a leather jacket and leather pants, yet there was not a single bead of sweat on him. After each cut, Gackt would go check the footage, saying “Shouldn’t this move be more like this?” He and the director would talk things over as they strove to make a better film.

Since the action in a scene may end up getting changed in the course of filming, it inevitably takes a long time to shoot. But with so many staff members concentrating and going about their tasks efficiently, somehow, it didn’t feel like a great amount of time had elapsed.

Overall, there was a very creative vibe on set, so for Gackt doing this movie probably felt very fresh and meaningful. I was immediately convinced that he would be able to make a wonderful film.

After the echos of countless earsplitting gunshots had died down, filming wrapped up for the day, and we headed to a Chinese restaurant inside the hotel. The first order of business was eating. Then, once everyone was relaxed and settled in, I began the interview. This interview is particularly interesting for me to read over now, because at that time all I knew about the movie was what had been reported in newspapers.

—It looks like filming is coming along smoothly. I think I’d like to start off by asking for clarification about the relationship between the movie and concerts.
This time, I’m working off of one concept, so that the album, shows, and videos all have the same theme. I had done videos with the same concept before, but for the most part those were clips that were used during concerts, right? But this time, I’m making a complete movie rather than just clips. Even I wondered, “Can I really do it?” But then I could see the story so clearly in my mind, that I was sure it would make for an interesting movie. And so the work of actually turning that vision into reality began, and some parts other than those shown in the film—because there’s a lot of characters, right?—I’m thinking of showing those parts, each character’s story, each character’s inner thoughts, through the concerts.

—Like with the character you play, Shō?
Not just Shō, but the other characters too. There’s also the endings you don’t see in the movie, the continuation of those stories. This story (MOON) is incredibly long, so there is the matter of how much I could show, realistically, but I wanted to make it so that what you don’t see in the movie is expressed through the concerts. So, as one big work, of which this movie is just one part……in short, there’s this world that’s bigger than what can be expressed through movies and concerts, and I wanted to see to what extent the viewers could visualize that world.

—I see. So this movie doesn’t represent everything there is to the story of MOON.
That’s right, because really, the parts of the story before and after what MOON represents are very long, and a great deal of the middle of the story’s missing too. Plus, I’m not telling the story in chronological order, and don’t have enough time to tell the whole thing anyway.

—So, if people watched the movie and went to the concerts, would they be able to figure out the whole story?
Hm, maybe not. Or rather, it’s the type of story that will make you want to see more. You’ll be like, “What happens next?” That’s the impression I have of this story.

—In that case, it’ll make people eager to see the sequel!
I think it would be unreasonable to do the movie based on that assumption. Even if this time HYDE said, “Let’s work together,” and we were able to collaborate for the first time, it was because he feels deeply attached to this movie too, but he has his own projects, see? That we could work together this time was a matter of good timing. It just so happened that he had time to spare right when we were gonna film this movie. I won’t say that we absolutely won’t be able to do this again, but, you know. That’s a matter of luck and meeting the right people. It’s thanks to fate that I can co-star with HYDE in this movie. Not just because our schedules matched up. I mean, I decided to contact HYDE about this with hardly a moment to spare before it was time to actually come over here. That was in June! No one thought he’d do it on such short notice. But I strongly believed he would agree to it, even though I had no basis for thinking that. I wouldn’t know what to say if you asked me why, but I just arbitrarily believed that. Everyone around me was saying it was impossible, but that didn’t stop me at all; I went to meet him in person and actually discuss it, and after about like four days he said he’d do it, and I was like, “Told you so!”

—How did you meet the director, Takahisa ZEZE?
Well, at first, my staff and I had been thinking of making a movie ourselves. But making a movie requires an enormous amount of money, and we had nowhere near enough people on staff at that point, when we’d just finished Rebirth, to make a movie on our own. It was by chance that I met Zeze…….that TBS ended up backing us was also pure coincidence. We met somewhere completely unrelated, and didn’t talk about the movie at all at first, but it felt like destiny. “Is this really something you should do? Is this really something you can do?” Like that. “Let’s do it then!”1 When I’m serious about something, I always do it, right? After that, I was told to go to TBS and pitch the story. When I went, I said, “This is the only director who can bring my vision to life.” I took Zeze and his staff with me, and said that they could build my world on screen. Zeze is a fiercely individualistic person, and I believed he’d create a worthy challenge for me. We moved forward, keeping talks straight to the point. And all this that I’m talking about happened just this year.

—Is that right……? I’d been thinking that maybe you were working with the same staff that did “ANOTHER WORLD.”
Not at all. Well, we did have a really strong desire to make that into a movie. We were just trying to make it ourselves.

—I heard that as of today, filming was over 70% complete. How do you feel now?
Honestly, I’m blown away. I’m like, is it truly possible for things to go so smoothly and on schedule? We’re not pushing it at all. There’s hardly ever a day when we have to carry over that day’s filming to the next day because we couldn’t get it all in.

—You mean, each day you do exactly what was planned for that day?
Yeah. I thought we’d be more pressed for time. I thought giving only a month and a half for filming was really pushing it. The staff’s working incredibly hard. I think they’re great.

—You don’t have that tense vibe either, Gackt. You seem very healthy!
No, I’m in bad shape. I’m not well physically, but my heart and mind are in wonderful shape. So even though I’m not getting much sleep, doing this isn’t difficult at all. This suits me really well. To think that it would feel so good to be able to focus entirely on a single work, it makes me truly happy. I feel like I’m completely filled with joy.

—You’ve got an uncharacteristic tan going, too.
It’s not that I wanted a tan, it’s that I got sunburned. This is Taiwan, after all. I’m applying sunscreen like crazy, but it’s no good. Being here on location’s really interesting……because everything’s unknown, and because I know that everything I do will come back around to me. As I’m going along, I get all sorts of ideas for concerts and stuff, and there’s things that will quickly increase my potential from here on out. It’s not just me; I think HYDE feels it too. It happens with the other actors too, but, there’s a lot of musicians this time, right? Wang Lee Hom’s a famous musician here in Taiwan, after all. To be in a movie going all out with fellow artists is refreshing. It’s a wonderful feeling.

—I see. I think things are coming along very nicely on that point.
I think that’s because I’ve been blessed with a good staff. This is a fine group of people gathered here to shoot this movie, and they’re a creative bunch. I don’t know if everyone likes me, but I like everyone a lot. That’s a given, right? Everyone on staff gets along well, and I love both the Japanese staff and the Taiwanese staff. To say nothing of my fellow actors in the movie; I truly believe I’ve been given a chance to meet some wonderful people. I feel blessed. We don’t just play friends in the movie, we’re friends in our private lives too.

—Does it feel like being in a band?
Ah, it’s a bit different, I think. Since we’re all vocalists I thought there might be a tense undercurrent and we’d repel each other, but it feels more like we’ve……acknowledged each other? We can respect each other, and it feels like we’ve known each other for ages. Really, I can’t believe that I just recently met HYDE. We get along very well. I barely have any friends who are vocalists, right? It’s nice to have someone you can talk to and really open up with.

—Were you able to fully realize your vision?
Of course, we went into making this movie on the assumption that we were gonna do it right. First off, I’m really happy that everyone came into this with the right attitude, like “Let’s do it!” Other than that, how much can we……we have to keep the budget in mind, right, so we can’t do anything unreasonable. I think it’s the same for my concerts. But, of course we can do it. I’ve got my concerts and other projects, right? Lee Hom was kind enough to say to me, “Can I be in your concert? It’d be nice to perform at the end with HYDE.” Stuff like that. Usually, people don’t say things like that, so I was really happy about it. “How about the three of us make a song together?” If we were together merely as people doing their jobs, no one would say anything like that, because it’d be a pain to actually do. I’m really, really happy about it.

—What a great story! Do you have any anecdotes about the other cast members?
I was talking with Susumu TERAJIMA about how we were Japanese abroad, interacting like this with people from different cultures and places, Hong Kong, America, China, Taiwan, et cetera, and we started talking about how we’d realized just how closed-off a country we lived in. We’re really going to be in trouble if we don’t start feeling something like “Asian pride” more. You could say that when I traveled outside Japan and turned to look back at it, I was able to understand Japan’s position for the first time. If we don’t go out like this and genuinely interact with people, exchanging thoughts and feelings, we won’t realize that we’re in a bad position, we need more—I guess “Asian pride” would be the right term—don’t we need more of that? That’s what we were talking about. I think myself fortunate to have been able to discuss this issue with the other actors.

—So then, would it be fair to say that this movie is filled with Asian spirit?
Oh yeah. To the brim.

—I could explain the Japanese spirit, but what would Asian spirit be, exactly?
Hmm……well, to say it clearly, it’s that nationality doesn’t matter. We spent quite a bit of time on that topic. First of all, take Taiwan for example. It’s a country in a tricky situation, isn’t it? It isn’t recognized as a sovereign state. It’s a part of Asia, but it’s a country that’s had so many issues, and those problems still remain even now. Lee Hom’s in a delicate position, too. He was born in New York so he’s American, but he’s also Taiwanese. In Taiwan, he isn’t considered Taiwanese, but neither is he considered American. That’s equivalent to not having any nationality. He’s always saying, “The ‘home’ that I go back to is a suitcase.” When I was asked why I chose to come do this in Taiwan, I talked about Okinawa. Okinawa’s a tricky place. Originally, it wasn’t part of Japan, it was the Ryūkyū Kingdom, which had a culture influenced by that of China. Then it became part of Japan, and when Japan lost the war, it became part of America, later it became Japanese again, and ultimately, people just do to Okinawa whatever is convenient for them. But Okinawans don’t pay attention to that stuff anymore. But that’s something you realize for the first time when you leave and have a look from the outside. It’s like……when you’re inside, you’re influenced by the environment and don’t realize things. Those feelings and those things originally weren’t related to each other, were they? I had these feelings inside me that were polar opposites of each other, so I chose Taiwan. I talked about how I thought Taiwan was very similar to Okinawa. Lee Hom said, “Regardless of nationality, what’s most important is to what extent we can live as Asians, right?” If that framework isn’t in place, if people don’t have that awareness……because the heart of the matter is even bigger than that, right? If people could think of themselves as being Earthians, that would be the best.2 I mean, once we take pride in ourselves as Japanese or Taiwanese, then we can take pride in ourselves as Asians, and the next step up is to take pride in ourselves as Earthians. It’s gonna take an awful lot of inner strength to build an awareness of ourselves as Asians, and I think that would be impossible to achieve without going out into the world and turning back to take a good look at ourselves.

—Come to think of it, you’ve been talking about “Earthians” since the time of Mizérable.
I have. I always have. Perhaps I should say that’s why this theme is such a big part of this movie.

—Will that end up being something we’ll be able to feel directly from the story, or will it be in the movie in more indirectly?
It’s in there, in the opposite way. The characters in the movie start saying things like “We’re Taiwanese, so…,” and midway through you really get the feeling that, in thinking that way, they’ve imposed limits on themselves.

—Is Shō Taiwanese?
He’s of Japanese descent. From the beginning, we established that the story took place not in Taiwan, but in Mallepa, an immigrants’ district that exists within Taiwan. There’s no nationality there. Even within that small district, full of people of all races, there comes a point where the characters decide to form allegiances according to what country they associate themselves with, and they split up. At first, when they met, that was totally irrelevant, but midway through they go their separate ways, and ultimately that question haunts them till the end. Like when they say things like “Even though we were friends,” or how some things play out based on that question.

—So it’s a very serious movie?
The theme is serious, but the movie itself isn’t all that serious. Although it’s rather hard to pin it down into one genre.

—Is there romance?
I guess you could say that there is, in a large sense.

—Like is there a kissing scene?3
No, there’s nothing like that, but there are the pure emotions between a man and a woman. There can be an emotion between men that goes beyond friendship and is closer to love, right? That’s in the movie too. Great loves, great friendships, I think those are the biggest themes.

—Hm, I get the impression it’s pretty serious after all.
The theme is. But at the midpoint, the content of the movie isn’t……how should I say it? There are many things that I want people to get out of this movie and take home with them, but what I want most is, when the movie’s over, I want the viewers to be laughing, smiling, while crying at the same time. That doesn’t happen much, does it? I think it’d be great if this could be the kind of movie that makes you shed tears while smiling. What would you call that, “fleeting”? But that fleetingness isn’t entirely a negative thing. You can feel a very positive thing beyond that, and that’s why it can make you smile.

—Where in the whole story does the scene you shot today fall?
It’s very early on. In one day we shoot scenes completely out of chronological order, so it’s a bit difficult. I mean, it’s a story that I’ve had in my head for a long, long time, so emotionally it’s not a problem. But as far as the acting’s concerned, that’s probably a bit different.

—Does it feel different from when you’re acting as a song’s protagonist on stage?
No, I think saying lines and singing lyrics are incredibly similar. I’ve said this before, but isn’t it a given that a vocalist can act? The method of expression is a bit different, but of course a vocalist can do it.

—You said that you would portray this movie’s various characters on stage during Kagen no Tsuki, correct?
That’s right.

—In that case, can we think of each song on MOON as being a particular character’s theme song?
Yeah. I think that MOON is presented in a way that makes it easy to understand the album. Well, I was careful to make it that way. I mean, ultimately, that’s how it is. I think the conclusion the story comes to is easy to understand.

—To me, “ANOTHER WORLD” seems like it would be Shō’s theme.
No, it’s not just Shō’s song, it’s more like a preview for the whole movie.

—But there are songs that are for just one individual character, right?
Of course. Actually, even now, when I hear those songs, I can see all sorts of images, different worlds. That is, after seeing the movie and hearing the songs, you can absolutely see things like, “This song must represent the feelings of that person,” “This song has to be about that, right?” That’s how I’d like to link the music with the movie and the concerts. People usually think of movies as having lead roles and supporting roles, but all the characters are leads. I mean, everyone is the main character in the story of their own life. That’s what this album feels like. All people are protagonists in their lives. It’s just that that’s not how movies are made. But I think MOON expresses itself in such a way as to send that message, that “Each person has their story.”

—So it’s not that Shō, Kei, and Son are the only key characters?
Really, it’s all of them. I mean, there’s lots of people involved……like Tarō YAMAMOTO, right? Or Etsushi TOYOKAWA who appears at the very beginning of the movie, or Ryō ISHIBASHI, or You……they each have a story. Well, if we actually showed all of that, the movie would be several dozen hours long. But if there were enough money in the budget, it would be possible to make each of them the main character in a movie. It’s virtually impossible to amass that kind of money, but before trying to do that, I made the album MOON.

—That each character has their own story must mean that you’ve been creating it in a consistent way from long ago.
Fundamentally, nothing’s changed.

—Are you thinking about the tour Kagen no Tsuki while filming this movie?
Of course. We’ve talked over some things, like “Let’s do it this way” and such, and now it’s basically a race against the clock. I wonder how much I can do, but I’ve no choice but to do it. Well, there are things that come up related to my private life, too. For example, in doing concerts or movies or whatever, I end up thinking about all sorts of things. Like how from now, Masa won’t be in the shows. Even though that’s something that’s only about us, it’s a feeling that’s inside us as we’re making this movie, so the movie ends up being related to those feelings. “What is a friend?” Things like that. It’s not just me, I think the other members have moments like those. When Masa left, it’s not like we didn’t feel like a hole had been torn in the band. But at the same time……how should I say it? Mm, it’s what he decided, he decided his own path for himself. We have friends we have to protect, we have friends with whom we have to walk the same path, to put it one way. That overlaps with some of the things in the movie, and if we tried to make it a sad story, that’s what it would become, but if we didn’t go that route, it could become something else. It’s not that I’ve taken it in a negative way.

—Any plans for a new release?
Not this year. I don’t want to do it in a big rush, I want to sit down and focus on it. I don’t want to become commercial, to hell with that. I don’t worry about things from that angle. There will be a new song released at the beginning of next year. It’s related to the movie, but I don’t know if I should reveal that about it. I mean, it is connected, but if I said that…….

—It would be boring if people knew too much about it?
Yeah, that’s right. And I want to make a distinction between the movie and the music. Also, I want to be even with HYDE and Lee Hom. I want to be even with them as a musician. It’s foolish for us artists to fight over who has control of the rights when that has nothing to do with us. The adult world can be such a hassle. *Laughs* But that will certainly pop up to haunt us. Even though what we’re trying to make is nothing like that, there’s a lot of people itching to attach rights to it. It ticks me off. ……I understand these affairs, and I foresaw that there would be problems, but I said from the beginning that I wasn’t going to do stuff like that.

—Despite that, you seem to be in good spirits, so how has it been moving your base of operations to Taiwan?
I think it’s good. *Laughs* It’s close, after all. Well, really, the country doesn’t matter; as long as I can work comfortably, anywhere is fine.

[End of Chapter 3][Continue to Chapter 4, Part 0]

1. I’m not sure who Gackt is quoting here. Himself, Zeze, or both? There’s no pronoun at all in the Japanese phrases, and while that’s often not a problem as the subject can be deduced from context or the politeness level of the speech, in this case, I can’t be sure which is which. I went on the assumption that Gackt was quoting Zeze. That is to say, that Zeze was the one asking, are you sure you [Gackt] can make a movie? and then went along with it.

2. The word which I translated as “Earthian” was 地球人 (chikyūjin), which literally means “earth person.” In English the word “earthling” is used primarily in sci-fi contexts to contrast people of Earth with extraterrestrials, and I think the same holds true for the word chikyūjin. But as the word “earthling” has a very strong nuance of being spoken by an alien, I used “Earthian” instead. If this weren’t Gackt speaking, and if there weren’t the matter of what the interviewer mentions next, I would have translated chikyūjin as “human.”

3. In Japan, kissing is considered a bigger deal than it is in most Western countries, so the interviewer’s question would have about the same weight as asking “Is there a sex scene?” about an American movie.

5 thoughts on “The Air Moon Chapter 3: Taiwan

    1. I always just took “ANOTHER WORLD” to be the only song that was directly related to “MOON CHILD.” When I read Hirose’s opinion that “fragrance” was for Yi-che, I started looking at the lyrics, but I can’t help but end up seeing these songs as being the main characters only, contrary to what Gackt said.

      Well, just for fun, here’s what I came up with:

      Noah: Possibly Kei, lamenting that Luka’s gone and that he can’t quite tear himself away from the world of humans.

      Lu:na: Shō at the moment between death and rebirth as a vampire.

      wasurenai kara: Shō or Kei or both as they’re heading to their death. One or both of them are looking at the photograph they had taken on the beach.

      Soleil: Toshi’s mother when she found out where he was but before meeting him? Or Hana as she’s taking her leave of Kei?

      Speed Master: Shinji as he’s run out of meth or maybe after Shō broke his bong. Either way, he’s going through withdrawal and calling out to his dominatrix, Speed.

      Fragrance: Hirose said it was Yi-che when she was dying, but considering that the pronoun used in the song is “boku” (which is usually used by men) and that Gackt sings this song with a particularly deep voice, I’m more inclined to think it’s Kei as he’s weakening in prison. Then again…

      death wish: The only character who expressly stated they wanted to die was Kei. Is this his song too? And Kei never kissed Yi-che (I think), but there was that scene where Kei was telling Shō to go play with his mortal friends and Shō ends up crying and Kei cradles his head. Hm…

      Doomsday: This song is sung from a woman’s point of view, and since Hana doesn’t die, I think it’s Yi-che. That said, I always thought the character in this song had died by slitting her wrists with a shard of glass. Maybe Yi-che, in her coma, is dreaming about committing suicide?

      These three songs (Fragrance, death wish, and Doomsday) appear on the same page, so I’m tempted to think Doomsday is definitely for Yi-che and that Fragrance and death wish go to Shō and Kei, but which is which?

      Missing: Kei after he’d left the group, upon finding Yi-che or Shō? Hmm…

      rain: Either Yi-che or Hana, the “anata” (“you”) in the song referring to either Shō or Kei.

      ANOTHER WORLD: Everyone.

      memories: Shō or Kei before they die.

      Of course, this is all entirely my speculation and nothing more. What’s your interpretation?

  1. Pingback: The Air Moon Ch. 2: Live House Tour Part 5 | E.V.A.'s Warped Frost

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