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Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe Recount 30th Live-action Godzilla Film Produced in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ryunosuke Kamiki and Minami Hamabe

An icon of terror and despair rears its head in the Reiwa era (2019-).

The “Godzilla” film franchise marks its 70th anniversary in 2024. “Godzilla Minus One,” the newest film in the series, is currently in theaters and was produced to celebrate this landmark. The film stars Ryunosuke Kamiki and Minami Hamabe, who became household names when they starred as a married couple in NHK’s serial morning drama “Ranman.”

“Godzilla Minus One” is set in a Japan wrecked and devastated immediately after World War II. Koichi Shikishima (played by Kamiki) returns alive from the war but has lost his family. He meets Noriko Oishi (Hamabe), whose parents were also killed in the war. Then, Godzilla, the giant 50.1-meter-tall monster, emerges from the ocean and wreaks havoc on Japan.

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Godzilla in “Godzilla Minus One”

The film is directed by Takashi Yamazaki, who also wrote the script and oversaw the visual effects. Other films directed by him include “Always: Sanchome no Yuhi” (“Always: Sunset on Third Street”) and “Eien no Zero” (“The Eternal Zero”).

Kamiki and Hamabe earlier costarred in the 2019 film “Shijinso no Satsujin” (“Murders at the House of Death”). They were offered their Godzilla film roles before “Ranman,” which means the NHK series was their third time working together — even through the kaiju feature premiered over a month after “Ranman” finished its run.

Hamabe braced for the tough work ahead on “Godzilla Minus One.”

“I thought I might get overwhelmed and nervous by the huge set,” she said. “Having Mr. Kamiki on my side was really reassuring because I know he’s a warmhearted person from working with him.”

“I cried, raged, suffered and fought,” Kamiki said of his role in the film. “Noriko also faces many hardships. There are no fun scenes, and it was difficult overall. As if to air out that frustration, I fooled around a bunch in ‘Ranman.’”

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People flee from Godzilla in “Godzilla Minus One.”

“Godzilla Minus One” is the 30th live-action Godzilla film produced in Japan and is the first in the series where the plot unfolds right after WWII.

Kamiki said he could not believe it when he received the offer, thinking, “Am I right for this [role]?”

“I wanted to give my all for my last work in my 20s so I could begin my 30s steadily,” he said of his motivation before filming started, which took place from March to June last year.

Fear and excitement

The film trailer shows people frantically running away as Godzilla decimates the city. Of course, there’s no actual Godzilla in front of them while filming.

“I felt a particular kind of nervousness about depicting someone in an era I never experienced, a time when people were yet to recover from [war],” Hamabe said. But when she spoke about her scene with Godzilla, she perked up. “The scene where we screamed, ‘It’s Godzilla!’ as we fled was frightening, but also fun. It was thrilling that my long-held dream of being in a Godzilla movie came true, and it was fun to imagine Godzilla in my head [during shooting].”

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Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and Noriko (Minami Hamabe) in “Godzilla Minus One”

Kamiki said his favorite moment in the film is the scene where Shikishima boards a ship and attacks Godzilla with a machine gun. The scene was shot at sea, which was challenging for him and his coactors Kuranosuke Sasaki, Hidetaka Yoshioka and Yuki Yamada.

“It was so tough, we almost died,” Kamiki laughed. “That scene would be impossible to do in a studio, and I’m very self-confident and proud of it.”

Ryunosuke Kamiki

Kamiki was born on May 19, 1993. The Saitama Prefecture native made his media debut at age 2 in a TV commercial. He was awarded Newcomer of the Year at the Japan Academy Film Prize for his role in “Yokai Daisenso” (“The Great Yokai War”) in 2005. He also has done voice acting for animated films, such as “Summer Wars” and “Kimi no Na wa” (“your name.”).

Minami Hamabe

Hamabe was born on Aug. 29, 2000. The Ishikawa Prefecture native made her film debut in 2011 and was awarded Newcomer of the Year at the Japan Academy Film Prize in 2018 for her role in the 2017 film “Kimi no Suizo o Tabetai” (“Let Me Eat Your Pancreas”). She drew attention this year for playing the lead role in “Shin Kamen Rider.”