Interview Exclusive

Interview with Naoya Gomoto, Star of the "Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin" Musical

29/09/2022 2022-09-29 14:00:00 JaME Author: Anu Translator: Tomo

Interview with Naoya Gomoto, Star of the "Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin" Musical

"I never expected myself to play an animal character," stage actor Naoya Gomoto says.

© Y.Takahashi/Shueisha, GINGA -NAGAREBOSHI GIN-/Nelke Planning
In the early 1980s, manga artist Yoshihiro Takahashi had the idea of creating an exciting story starring dog characters. Back then, having a puppy as the protagonist of a manga was something not yet seen. With its unique premise and exciting battles "Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin" (also known as "Silver Fang: The Shooting Star Gin") quickly gained a following that is still going strong to this day. In 2019 and 2020, over 35 years after the series was created, it was newly adapted into a two-part stage musical featuring performances from actors Hiroki Sana and Naoya Gomoto, among others. In Japan, the musical was first presented on stage and then a filmed version was released on video.

The story revolves around a young Akita Inu named Gin (Silver Fang). Gin lives as a hunting dog in a region terrorized by an especially vicious bear called Akakabuto, who has killed and injured many of the local dogs. A pack of dogs living in the wild, called Ou Army, have figured out a plan to finally defeat the bear. However, there are not yet enough troops for that, so first they need to travel to other parts of Japan and convince skilled dogs to help with the cause. Gin joins one of the army's units, led by a battle-hardened Great Dane called Ben. Being such a young dog, Gin has a lot to learn about life's realities but as their journey progresses, Ben starts to realize Gin's potential.

While nowadays many movies and anime series from Japan get international releases, Japanese stage plays aren't that commonly seen in Western markets. Therefore fans were surprised yet delighted to hear that the musical would be getting a subtitled video release in Europe. The series' strongest foreign fanbase is in the Nordic countries, where many of the 90s kids grew up watching "Ginga" anime episodes. In Finland, after hearing about the release plans, fans expressed interest in also seeing the musical in cinemas, and local distributor Future Film fulfilled the request. The first part, "Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin - Kizuna hen" ("Ties of Friendship"), premiered on silver screens in August and had viewings for several weeks. The second part, "Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin - Gajo kessen hen" ("The Battle of the Stronghold"), is to follow in 2023. Meanwhile, a physical disc and streaming release of the first part is planned for December.

In order to get to know more about the musical and its stars, JaME interviewed actor Naoya Gomoto. He played the role of Ben, a determined leader who cares for his pack. Gomoto shared his early thoughts on this musical project and the physical challenges that came with the lofty stage set.

Firstly, how did you become a performer for stage plays and musicals? Is it something that you were specifically dreaming of and aiming for?

Naoya Gomoto: A movie I watched when I was 10 years old gave me an aspiration to become a stage performer. I joined a theatrical company when I was 13 years old. I watched a show performed by my senior actors from the company, and it made me really want to perform on stage. I felt enormous energy from the show, which a lot of people must have worked hard on together.

Were you familiar with the “Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin” series before getting a role in the musical?

Naoya Gomoto: I did not know that much about it. I remember seeing a comic book at my friend’s house. I was impressed with scenes like the ones where the dogs are talking with each other as if they were humans and courageously standing up against the bear.

When you first heard of this project, what were your early thoughts on adapting the world of “Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin” into a musical? Did you wonder if some parts of this animal-led story might be challenging to translate from drawn art into a stage performance?

Naoya Gomoto: I was like “Are you serious?”. However, I also found the idea very interesting. I had watched shows whose main characters are cats and penguins in the past, so I thought to myself that maybe this is not actually a far out idea, but I never expected myself to play an animal character. (laughs)

It's already been a few years since the musical was performed and filmed. The first part was originally recorded in 2019 and the second in 2020. What memories have stayed with you from the time when you were working on it?

Naoya Gomoto: The height difference among the stage sets was a challenging thing for me. Performing on the stage set, which was built on the upper side of the stage, itself is physically demanding. It put a lot of pressure on my lower back and legs, and I actually had to do the quadruped walking on that stage set. It was much harder than I first imagined.

You have acted in many popular stage plays. Do you feel that your role in “Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin” was different somehow from your other roles? If so, how?

Naoya Gomoto: As an actor, I did not find there was much of a difference since I had played characters who are in a similar standing as Ben many times before. However, it was quite difficult to express Ben’s leadership and inner strength.

So far, not many Japanese musicals have been published in Western markets, but many seem excited about this release. For example, in Finland, due to the strong positive reaction from fans of “Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin”, this musical was also decided to run in cinemas in addition to the home video release scheduled for later this year. How does this kind of interest make you feel?

Naoya Gomoto: I am grateful from the bottom of my heart, and I am very proud of it as a Japanese person. It would be wonderful if we could visit your country and perform in front of you, but it gives me confidence to see Japanese plays are well received by people abroad. I hope I get to actually see you one day!

Could you tell us a bit about your more recent work? What other projects have you been involved in lately?

Naoya Gomoto: I still perform on the stage, and I still have a great passion for it. In recent years, I had more opportunities to take parts in musical shows. I actually challenged myself to do a rap performance. At first, I was very hesitant to do the rap, but I am glad that I took on that challenge. I am over 40 years old now, but I am having the most fulfilling time of my life because now I can believe any challenge is possible as long as I am alive!

Lastly, what would you like to say to the foreign fans who are looking forward to seeing the “Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin” musical?

Naoya Gomoto: First of all, I am honored to be a part of such a great show. I would be delighted if this show can make you go, “People can actually create such a passionate show! I want to watch Japanese shows live!” Please enjoy this story of passionate men! I look forward to seeing you somewhere in the future.

JaME would like to thank Naoya Gomoto and Nelke Planning for the interview.

Trailers for "Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin - Kizuna hen" and "Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin - Gajo kessen hen" can be viewed below.