Yûya Yagira, lead actor of the horror-drama series, on how Masaaki Ninomiya’s manga adaptation can serve up a thrilling time.
For Yûya Yagira’s latest act, one after a Canes-winning performance at 12, playing the famed painter Hokusai, killing it in an Unforgiven remake, and channeling Takeshi Kitano’s younger self, he is a police officer in a village that will—literally—eat you up if you don’t fit in. Such is perhaps the way to have your friends take note of Gannibal, the Japanese series that premiered on (and became a hit on) the local Disney+ last year and is currently available stateside via Hulu.
Takamasa Ôe, of Drive My Car fame, writes all seven episodes of Gannibal. Other notable cast members joining Yagira include Tokyo Vice’s Shô Kasamatsu and The Geisha’s Mitsuko Baisho.
With the assistance of translator Mari (Hong) Oki, The Spool got to chat with Yagira and take a bigger bite into his performance, his character (Officer Daigo Agawa), and filming among isolated beauty.
The Spool edited this interview for length and clarity.
What is it about Gannibal that prompts you to, in a way, return to the horror genre after The Shock Labyrinth 3D in 2009?
YUYA YAGIRA: It was produced by Disney+, and also because of the production team. They all made me very excited about getting involved!
In preparing to be Daigo, did you read the manga beforehand?
How did it influence your approach to your performance?
YAGIRA: Since the original script was manga, it was very important to take it into consideration. But turning it into images, and expressions that you can only do when putting things into images, bring out even more of the goodness of the story. It also helps you explore more of the story. In the manga, there are many conflicts between different people, families, and so on, but on screen, we’ve made edits to have the love between the families and the sense of justice as well.
Thing is, characters in manga or graphic novels and the like can be supernaturally expressive. Meanwhile, the work of translating them to the real world needs to account for physics and natural laws. How did the production navigate this hurdle?
YAGIRA: Because of the strength of the production team, it made us feel easy to act in a natural way—and that was what they wanted. I think that, somehow, making Gannibal into a series created some kind of compatibility with the manga. I don’t know how this would turn out in the U.S., but at least in Japan the series got top ranking with great words on the performances. The crew that we had had great compatibility with this story!
More on Daigo—sometimes I’d find him trying to be the most intimidating person in the village, the “biggest monster” of all. That makes him a very complex character; he’s our hero and yet not easy to like. What are your thoughts on this observation?
YAGIRA: I wouldn’t say his type is a leader. I think this character is full of curiosity, and being a police officer, he will use violence when he doesn’t like what he sees. And he’s not a leader because he wants to have a peaceful life with his family, but when he sees a quarrel or an argument, he will go for it. He will become very emotional. You will see how these emotions will go to extremes at the end. There’s something to see!
Do the locations influence your performance in some way? I thought that the places look so pretty, but they hide horrific things. But at times those horrific things can look so pretty.
YAGIRA: We have these beautiful scenes in Japan, but they’ll also get you to imagine that things are hidden there! We went to these locations where there are very few people living there. While filming, you’d think about, “Maybe there’s something going on here,” and you’d be kind of excited about it. It’s wonderful that they’ve found these places. And if you walk alone at night, you’ll really get scared!
Before we leave, please tell me if there’ll be a Season 2?
YAGIRA: Actually, I don’t know yet! I hope so. I want to do that!