Interview by Ichibo Harada @ HEW
Riding the wave of live-action BL titles' evergrowing popularity both in and outside Japan, KADOKAWA has launched the BL drama production studio Tunku. Its first show, Mr. Unlucky Has No Choice but to Kiss! was broadcast on MBS's new drama slot, Drama Shower, while Senpai, This Can't Be Love! is currently airing.
This first-ever BL drama studio is the legacy of producer Kaoru Azuma's long-lasting love of the genre. What's the story behind Tunku's birth? And what does it take for a title to be seamlessly adapted to live-action? We asked all this and more to Azuma themselves!
The BL boom was just too good to pass up
── Thank you for your time today. Have you been working in KADOKAWA's BL-related departments for a long time now?
── I see! So you're fond of the genre yourself.
── How did you come up with the idea of a drama production studio dedicated to boys' love?
── Indeed, going through the trouble of creating a studio suggests your intention to produce several live-action BL dramas. The name Tunku is also quite evocative, isn't it?
Featuring good works regardless of the publisher
── Was it easy to get KADOKAWA's approval for your BL studio idea?
The company's always been dealing with boys' love and everyone was already familiar with BL culture, so the response was positive: they were happy to find an employee who had the knowledge and desire to take on the challenge. So it wasn't hard at all to get everyone on board. Although a BL production studio would be nothing without a station to broadcast the dramas, so we must thank MBS for their interest and for engaging with our project.
Creating Tunku gave me the chance to realize how the prejudice against the BL genre has greatly dwindled. Until recently there were almost no BL dramas on regular TV channels, but with so many hit works coming out one after the other, many people have started regarding BL content as pretty normal. At this point, they'd be more weirded out by the lack thereof.
── Why did you pick Mr. Unlucky Has No Choice but to Kiss! as your first series?
Since the studio was established by KADOKAWA, you might think that Tunku would only use KADOKAWA's original BL works, but that's not the case. Mr. Unlucky was published by Libre. I'd like to feature good works regardless of the publisher. I've always been keeping an eye on Libre's magazine B-BOY P!, because I felt that many of the titles were relatively easy to pick up, even for BL beginners.
The reason we chose Mr. Unlucky among the works featured in B-BOY P! lies in its comedic elements. I had a clear vision of how an actor would look like performing as the two-faced protagonist, Kota. I wanted Tunku's first work to be a romantic comedy, and Mr. Unlucky fits the description perfectly.
── Your second series, Senpai, This Can't Be Love! is also a romantic comedy. Are you sure you're not focusing only on rom-coms for your live-action adaptations?
Boys' love comes in many different shapes. From light and happy works catering to a larger audience to deeper works that are mostly appreciated by hardcore fans, I think variation is essential to allow people with different tastes to enjoy the genre.
Although we're still in the process of exploring what makes Tunku unique, I believe that our strength resides ー rather than in the characteristics of the works we handle ー in the fact that we're a drama studio for BL fans, established by KADOKAWA, a long-time BL manga publisher.
That's why we intend to produce each work upon careful consideration of what BL fans will want to see in a live-action BL.
── What was the reaction to Tunku's works?
Focusing on how good the actors look together
── Some actors and members of the staff had probably never worked with boys' love before. As a producer, do you give them any instructions?
── So they don't dumb it down to just being about two guys making out.
── What are you mindful of when casting?
── You're right. In this genre, whether the characters look good together really matters.
── So how did you decide on the casting of Senpai, This Can't Be Love!?
Works that let you expand on the story are easier to adapt
── What kind of manga is best suited for live-action adaptations?
── I see. In Mr. Unlucky love meets school life, while in Senpai, This Can't Be Love! love is tied to the workplace. In both cases, the story revolves around multiple axes.
The couple's love story is certainly the central aspect, but charming sub-characters and events can make the show feel more lively and expansive. However, there's no reason why a BL work revolving uniquely around two characters couldn't be made into a live-action show, and we at Tunku would like to take on that challenge someday.
Shinta Harekawa, the original author of Senpai, This Can't Be Love!, actually has real-life connections to CG creators, whom she interviewed as she was working on the manga. This allows the audience to enjoy the title both as a rom-com and as a story about work. Another point that worked in favor of Senpai, This Can't Be Love's live-action adaptation is Kaneda's character. He's pretty unique, a kuudere that's also a bit of a tsundere: if he grows too attached to someone, he ends up giving them the cold shoulder instead. Then there's Yanase, his senior coworker: at first glance, he's just amazing, but he hides a dark side. I had a feeling that the interaction between them would look great in a live-action drama.
── Just as you said earlier, they get the story going just by being together!
Considering original projects based on the feedback of fans
── MBS's Drama Shower is a limited one-year program. Will Tunku meet the same fate?
── What are Tunku's goals for the future?
GMMTV in Thailand, which produced 2gether: The Series, showcases its annual BL-drama lineup in advance, which always gets the fans all riled up. One of my dreams is to also be able to announce Tunku's up-and-coming productions for the year!
It'd also be interesting to create original projects based on fans' requests. We're still considering how to make that happen, but we could for example partner up with BL authors and create new titles. I'd also like to work with a broader range of original BL works to meet the tastes of all kinds of fans.
── Mr. Unlucky was broadcast and streamed abroad, wasn't it? With the unstopping production of live-action BL dramas in Thailand and South Korea, we're looking forward to what Tunku has in store!
── In a way, Tunku can be considered a cultural promotion project, right?
"Senpai, This Can't be Love!" is now airing!
Find out when and where you can watch Senpai, This Can't be Love! below. Don't miss this incredible love story!
MBS every Friday from 01:29 am JST
TV Kanagawa every Friday from 1:00 am JST
Gunma TV every Wednesday from 00:30 am JST
Tochigi TV every Thursday from 1:00 am JST
Teletama every Thursday from 11:00 pm JST
Chiba TV every Thursday from 11:00 pm JST
CS broadcast information:
LaLa TV every Sunday from 11:00 pm *Two consecutive episodes
Reruns are available for one week on TVer, MBS Douga-ism, and GYAO!
Niconico Channel Plus information:
Channel name: Official channel for live-action BL drama studio "Tunku"