Author of the musical "In This Corner of the World" Fumiyo Kono visits the rehearsal studio. She talks with Natsumi Kon (role of Suzu), Sakurako Ohara (same role), and Angela Aki (music)

Based on Kono Fumiyo's masterpiece, the musical "In This Corner of the World" (script and direction Ueda Ikkō) is composed by Angela Aki, who is making a comeback as a musical music composer after a 10-year stay in the US. Ahead of the opening on May 9th, the original author Kono Fumiyo visited the rehearsal studio. We will share with you the extensive conversation they had about the behind-the-scenes stories of the original work's creation and what to look forward to and listen for in the musical version. (Photo: from left: Ohara Sakurako, Kono Fumiyo, Angela Aki, Kon Natsumi)

OharaThank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to come to the rehearsal room today.
KunI'm really happy to meet you. I'm nervous and not sure if I can speak well though (laughs).
KonoNo no, I'm the one who's happy. You two are so dazzling.

AngelaThat's right. And both of them are just like Suzu-san. Today, you will see Kon-chan's rehearsal, but both are fascinating, so I hope you will see both of them in action.

●Ask the original author about the secret story behind the birth of "Suzu"

Kun What struck me when I first read the original work was that, even though it deals with war, there is always a warm atmosphere. Rather than loudly proclaiming "War is no good!", the story focuses on the "human heart" that is no different from us today, and I think that is why Suzu's sense of loss is so powerful. Since then, I have made new discoveries every time I read it, and what I am particularly interested in now is Suzu's facial expressions. I noticed that there are times when she is clearly laughing or angry, and times when she has a more profound expression, and I am practicing while thinking about how I can incorporate this into myself.

KonoCertainly, that depends on the interpretation of the performer. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens when Suzu's personality is combined with Kon-san and Ohara-san's personalities.

OharaRegarding Suzu-chan's personality, I would like to ask you: why did you decide to make the main character a "spacey" character?

KonoI thought that this would make it easier for readers who are unfamiliar with this time and place to get into the story. If the protagonist is someone who has been working hard in Kure from the beginning, there would be no opportunity to explain the situation in conversation. But if the protagonist is a spacey person who came from outside, he can explain the situation by asking various questions to the people around him and answering them.

AngelaAh, I see. That's the question I wanted to ask too, and your answer makes a lot of sense.

A secret as real as non-fiction

AngelaAre Suzu and the other characters based on any real people?

KonoOnly Shusaku's occupation is based on a relative of mine, but the rest is all fiction.

AngelaI see! When I first read the original work, it felt like non-fiction to me, and I even thought it was based on your own or your family's experiences.

OharaI understand, they're all so realistic. I'm also drawn to the relationship between Suzu and Rin-san, but what was the inspiration behind the creation of the character Rin-san?

KonoOne reason was that I wanted to express another "corner of the world" by creating a world for Suzu with friends of the same generation, different from her family. Also, there was actually a red-light district in Kure at the time, so I couldn't ignore the people who were living in such harsh circumstances.

OharaThank you. It's based on historical fact, so it's realistic.

KunThis is a bit off topic, but both Suzu and Rin are named after elements, right? I looked it up and found out that they're all named after elements, which gave me goosebumps. Why is that?

Kono  Character names tend to be similar if I come up with them on my own, so I tend to think of them in a systematic way. At first I thought about using a place name in Kure, but there are a lot of formal place names in Kure. When I was thinking about it, I happened to have a periodic table nearby, so I decided to use that (laughs). The reason I chose "Suzu" out of the many elements for the main character is because of my pet parakeet, "Suzushiro." One day it passed away, but I wanted it to be healthy somewhere, so I put that feeling into the main character who is working hard in a new place.

Kun So there was a lot of important thought put into it! I'm glad I got to hear it.

AngelaReally. There were so many valuable stories, I feel like I got something out of it (laughs).

The difficulties and joys of creating an original work

KonoI love Disney musical animations, so it's like a dream come true that my cartoon has become a musical, and I was moved when I listened to the demo tape of Angela's singing. It's exciting to get a glimpse of the process of making a musical, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it, but what are the most difficult things in rehearsals?

AngelaSince this is the premiere of an original work, it is difficult not knowing what the final form will be. But that's why I feel like I'm creating it together with the cast, and it's fun. The two Suzu members in particular are reliable, giving me feedback like, "I don't think Suzu would say it like this," and I change the lyrics accordingly. I hope this work will continue for a long time, and I'm really glad that the first Suzu was these two.

OharaThank you very much. Angie also consults with me about changing the music and lyrics, so although there are some challenges in creating something original, I also enjoy practicing.

KunAlthough Angela must have created the music with strong feelings, she was flexible in making changes to accommodate our feelings. It's a rehearsal space that really feels like a warm group of people are coming together to create a warm piece based on the warm original work created by Mr. Kono.

KonoThat's wonderful. Manga is basically created by one person, and there is a vertical relationship with editors, but there is not a lot of people involved at the same time and horizontally like in a musical. But I feel like by turning it into a musical, I was able to really feel that there are a lot of people involved in manga, even if we don't see them.

AngelaMusicals are a comprehensive art form. I usually make my own albums alone, but this time I'm working with everyone, so even though it's hard, I'm never lonely. That may be the best part of musicals.

Kun Another thing I struggle with is trying not to ruin the atmosphere of the original work. In the original work, every story has a punch line, which is one of my favorite parts, but the musical is about two and a half hours long, so it doesn't include all the episodes that make you laugh. I'm conscious of keeping a warm atmosphere as the basis, making up for the parts that have been cut.

KonoAh, I see. That seems like something that would be interesting to see in a musical.

What to see and hear in the musical

OharaIf I could introduce the highlights to you, it would be the date scene between Suzu and Shusaku. In particular, the song "Unawakened Dream" is so lovely, it's full of the cuteness of the two of them. It's fun to act out, and I hope you'll enjoy the sparkling atmosphere.

Kun I would like you to pay attention to the fact that "Here and There in This World" appears twice. I love the structure of the song, which is sung once when the audience does not yet know what story will unfold, and then sung again when Suzu-san has found her true self. It's a song that makes you desperately try to hold back the tears when you sing it for the second time.

OharaThere are so many songs that make you cry just by listening to them. I'm moved by how Angie alone can create so many different melodies and words. I love them all, but the one I think is worth listening to is Keiko's "The Color of Freedom." It's a song that changes Suzu's way of life and her way of thinking, and I think each customer will discover their own "Color of Freedom" and feel saved.

KonoI was also moved by "The Color of Freedom" when I heard it in Angela's demo.

AngelaThank you. Today, you will hear the voices of the cast, so please look forward to it. What I want you to pay attention to is the machine gun shooting scene.

Kono  In the manga, the scene progresses with close-ups of the character's face, so I wondered how he would act it.

OharaThat's right. Because it can't be done exactly the same way as in the manga, I think it's an expression that can only be expressed in a musical.

AngelaIn addition, the acting of the two is simply amazing. From around this scene, Suzu's emotions crescendo, and at the end they gently de-crescendo, and all of that is worth watching. I think it's really difficult to express Suzu's passion, but both of them have such incredible power that the only words I can use are "overwhelming" and "amazing" (laughs). Today's rehearsal is scheduled to be Kon-chan's, and I'm looking forward to having the teacher actually watch it.

Kun Um, please be gentle with me (laughs).

KonoDon't worry, I won't say "Yes, do it again!" (laughs). If manga is my child, then the film and stage adaptations are like my grandchildren. I just love them. After talking with you today, I felt that you were both Suzu in your own way, so I'm really looking forward to rehearsals and the performance.

After this roundtable discussion, a full rehearsal was held with Kon Natsumi playing the role of Suzu. After the performance, Kono said to the entire company, with an emotional look on her face, "Thank you for your hard work. It was a wonderful performance. I was a little moved. No, I was quite moved. Suzu was so cute, and I, who wrote this over ten years ago, want to say, 'Good job!' (laughs). Thank you so much. I was really moved." The company seemed to be greatly encouraged.

Musical "In This Corner of the World" Performance Information

Creative & Cast
Original work: Fumiyo Kono "In This Corner of the World" (Zenon Comics/Coa Mix)
Music: Angela Aki
Screenplay and direction: Ikko Ueda
Suzu Urano: Natsumi Kon/Sakurako Ohara (double cast) Shusaku Hojo: Naoto Kaiho/Ryodai Murai (double cast) Rin Shiraki: Aya Hirano/Reika Sakurai (double cast) Satoshi Mizuhara: Hayato Onozuka/Yui Kobayashi (double cast) Sumi Urano: Naru Komukai
Kuromura Keiko: Otoko

Mikiko Shiraki, Tatsuya Kawaguchi, Junichi Kato
Megumi Iino, Atsuko Iezuka, Rin Garan, Ryosuke Kobayashi, Yukari Suzuki, Yuji Takase, Ryuho Tanso, Noboru Nakayama, Manami Hannya, Rintaro Higashi, Chikako Funayama, Junta Furukawa, Maho Mugishima
Hiroka Kuwahara Anna Sawada Haru Shimase Tsubaki Omura Runa Masuda Risa

[Tokyo Performance]
Opening on Thursday, May 9th - Closing on Thursday, May 30th at Nissay Theatre

[National tour performance]
June Hokkaido performance Sapporo Cultural Arts Theater hitaru
June Iwate Performance Tosai Classic Hall Iwate Large Hall (Iwate Prefectural Civic Center)
June Niigata Performance Niigata Prefectural Civic Center Large Hall
June Aichi performance at Misonoza
July Nagano Performance Matsumoto City Performing Arts Center
July Ibaraki Performance Mito Civic Hall Globis Hall
July Osaka performance Sky Theater MBS
July Hiroshima Performance Kure Shinkin Bank Hall

"In This Corner of the World [New Edition]"

Read the first chapter

"In This Corner of the World [New Edition]"
Author: Fumiyo Kono
Release: Coa Mix Volume 1 and Volume 2 on sale now

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