In ‘Confession,’ Toma Ikuta And Yang Ik-june Try To Kill Each Other; But In Real Life They Get Along Like Old Friends

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Toma Ikuta, left, and Yang Ik-june

Do you have a secret that you have decided to take to the grave? One you’ll never, ever want another soul to know? The film “Confession,” released on May 31, is a suspense thriller about two men, one of whom tells his darkest secret to the other, and the ensuing fight for survival between the two in a snowbound hut.

Keisuke Asai (Toma Ikuta) and Ryu Ji-yong (Yang Ik-june), best friends and former members of a university mountaineering club, get stuck in a blizzard while climbing a mountain. Severely injured and ready to die, Ji-yong reveals to Asai that he killed Sayuri Nishida (Nao), a female classmate and fellow member of the mountaineering club, 16 years ago. Shortly after the confession, the two discover a mountain hut and enter it, saving them from imminent death. But once they are inside, a strange, tense atmosphere arises between the two.

The film is a live-action adaptation of the manga of the same title, which was serialized in the manga magazine Young Magazine Uppers in 1998, with the plot written by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, known for the series “Kaiji,” and art by Kaiji Kawaguchi, the creator of “Chinmoku no Kantai” (“The Silent Service”).

ⓒ2024 Based on “Confession” by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, Kaiji Kawaguchi published by KODANSHA Ltd. / Confession Film Partners
The story develops into a fierce cat-and-mouse game between Asai, foreground, and Ji-yong.

The film was directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita, who also directed “Linda Linda Linda.” The theme song is titled “Satsui tai Satsui (Kyohan: Ikuta Toma)” (Murderous intent vs murderous intent, with accomplice Toma Ikuta) by the rock band Maximum the Hormone, with Ikuta as a guest vocalist.

The film is the first production in which Toma Ikuta and Yang Ik-june, who play the lead roles, have acted together. Although they have a fierce fight to the death in the film, they seem to get along perfectly, shoulder to shoulder, during this interview and photo session, unhindered by the language barrier.

“Before the filming started, I had watched some films he [Ik-june] starred in and some he directed. My first impression of him was that he is very wild in a captivating way,” Ikuta says.

He adds that when they first met, Ik-june suddenly ran up to him with a big smile and said, “Wow!”

“I felt that he is a very gentle, charming person with many different facets,” Ikuta says.

Ik-june says his first impression of Ikuta was that he was “so handsome, he was the perfect image of a star.” Ik-june also says: “He helped me a lot during the filming and talked to me a lot. He created a relaxed atmosphere for me. He was a partner I could rely on.”

Superb original manga

The original manga was also published in South Korea. Ik-june says he bought a copy himself.

“It is a wonderful work and I have a lot of respect for its creators. I seriously thought about what it would be like if I were in the position [of my character], and I approached filming with that in mind.”

Ikuta, who read the original manga before receiving the script, says: “In the manga, you can use speech balloons to express a character’s internal monologue, like ‘I think this guy’s trying to kill me right now,’ or ‘The kitchen knife is gone!’ But in the film, you have to express it with facial expressions and atmosphere. I knew it would be a tough acting job.”

ⓒ2024 Based on “Confession” by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, Kaiji Kawaguchi published by KODANSHA Ltd. / Confession Film Partners
Yang Ik-june reclines in a makeup chair.

Ik-june’s presence was critical in helping him overcome the challenge of playing the role. At one point, Asai, played by Ikuta, is losing his sight due to altitude sickness as Ji-yong, played by Ik-june, is doing everything he can to hunt down Asai despite suffering from a painful leg injury. If you watch the film, you will certainly be overwhelmed by how terrifying Ji-yong is.

Ikuta says: “Ji-yong brought emotions out of himself that were two or three levels higher than I imagined a person was capable of. He naturally drew out of me a fearful feeling that ‘If I let my guard down, I’m dead.’”

In response, Ik-june says: “To play Ji-yong, I just had to be violently emotional, throw things and get angry. As Asai, Mr. Ikuta had to take the impact of all that and try to get away from it in that confined space, so I thought his role required more acting skills. Mr. Ikuta played the role so well. He is amazing.”

Like training camp

The filming took place in the gym of the closed Ashikaga Nishi High School in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, where a mountain hut set was constructed.

“Although it was a short period of time, we were all confined to the hut and focused on the shoot, like a kind of intensive training camp. It was a lot of fun,” Ikuta says proudly. “I think we created a work of art that we can present with confidence.”

But he says that he was always worried that it may have been physically hard for Ik-june, who had to come in early every morning to get injury makeup put on his leg.

Ik-june says it was not hard at all as he was able to sleep during the makeup process, but he adds with a wry smile: “The spray they used for the makeup was so cold. Every time it was sprayed on me, I would say, ‘I’m cold! Put something over me!’”

ⓒ2024 Based on “Confession” by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, Kaiji Kawaguchi published by KODANSHA Ltd. / Confession Film Partners
Filming took place on a mountain hut set.

Looking back on the shoot, Ik-june says he has a new goal. “I should have learned more Japanese. I wanted to have casual conversations [with the cast and staff] more. I’m not good at picking up what people say … I will study more!”

When asked if they might act in another film together, Ikuta says: “I hope next time we’ll be two people who get along (laughs), not killing each other but sharing a peaceful worldview!”

Ik-june nods and says: “I would like to do, for example, a story about a group of young people who have already lost their ambition.”

If you watch “Confession,” you’ll certainly want to see who the two actors are in their next film!

Toma Ikuta

Toma Ikuta, a Hokkaido native, was born on Oct. 7, 1984. Ikuta entered the show business world when he was in the fifth grade of elementary school. He made his acting debut in the 1997 NHK TV serial drama “Aguri.” Since then, he has acted extensively in films, TV dramas, and stage productions. His best-known works include the film “Ningen Shikkaku” (The fallen angel) and the TV drama “Hanazakari no Kimitachi e: Ikemen Paradise” (also known as “Hana-Kimi”).

Yang Ik-june

Yang Ik-june, a Seoul native, was born on Oct. 19, 1975. After serving in the military, he studied acting and began his acting career. He has played various leading roles and also directed, produced, written and edited films, including “Breathless” (Japanese title: “Iki mo Dekinai”), which won awards in various countries and brought him into the limelight. In Japan, he appeared in films such as “Kazoku no Kuni” (“Our Homeland”), and “Ah, Koya” (“Wilderness”), a highly talked-about movie in which he shared the lead role with Masaki Suda.