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16-year-old actor Ryōhei Hirota will play the critical role of Tombo in next year's live-action film of Eiko Kadono's fantasy novel series Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin). Tombo is an aviation club member who deals with adolescent feelings of both envy and adoration when he meets Kiki, a witch girl who can fly on her broom.
Hirota has beeng acting for over a decade in such works as the historical television series Kōmyōgatsuji, the supernatural school show Kasuka na Kanojo, and the Japanese Ano Sora o Oboeteru film version of Janet Lee Carey's Wenny Has Wings novel. He said that he was surprised and delighted when he was picked in the Tombo auditions, and he acknowledged the enormous pressure he simultaneously felt for this famous role.
Director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge/Juon, Tomie: Rebirth) explained that he looked for an actor who conveyed an image of a simple boy raised on an island blessed with the sea and nature. He also looked for someone who, when put next to Kiki, did not show obvious signs of romance at first glance. (The film will adapt the first two novel volumes, when Kiki and Tombo are first getting to know each other.) Even though Hirota grew up in the city in real life, Shimizu said that Hirota fits the image.
Fūka Koshiba (Iki mo Dekinai Natsu) plays the title witch girl Kiki. Co-starring with Koshiba and Hirota is Machiko Ono (Suzaku, Like Father, Like Son) as Osono, the owner of the bakery where Kiki works. Hiroshi Yamamoto plays Osono's baker husband Fukuo, and Miho Kanazawa plays a woman named Saki who visits the bakery. Satoko Okudera (Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Princess and the Pilot) is writing the script for the film.
Filming began on May 23 in a Tokyo studio, and it moved on May 30 to Shōdo Island, a locale known for its olive gardens and Mediterranean-like climate and architecture. Filming will continue until the end of July, and the film will open next year.
The six novel volumes of Majo no Takkyūbin follow the coming of age of Kiki with her black cat Jiji. They have sold 1.8 million copies and have been translated into eight languages, including English, Italian, Chinese, Swedish, and Korean. Hayao Miyazaki directed Ghibli's famous anime film version, which adapted the first novel volume.