by Chris MaGee
People have been scratching their heads and speculating why a Marxist novel set on a crab fishing boat in Hokkaido has been one of the bestselling Japanese titles of 2008. The book in question, "Kanikōsen" was recently reissued to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the birth of it's author, left-wing novelist Takiji Kobayashi. Shinchosha Publishing's initial run of 7,000 copies flew off bookstore shelves and they had to rush an additional 50,000 copies to print to meet the demand from Japanese book buyers. At last count it has sold over 600,000 copies. Published in 1929 "Kanikōsen" follows the crew of a crab fishing boat who mutiny against their cruel captain and then form a union before their uprising is put down by authorities. Some are theorizing that the book's success comes from 20-something Japanese working in low-paying jobs who identify with the fisherman's struggle. Not being a 20-something living in Japan it's hard for me to say, but regardless plans are now in place to bring "Kanikōsen" to the big screen.
Having already been turned into a feature film in 1953 by actor/ director Sou Yamamura "Kanikōsen" will now get a reworking for 21st-century audiences by Hiroyuki Tanaka, better known as Sabu. Known for his idiosyncratic comedies like "Unlucky Monkey" and "Monday" Sabu plans to update the novels setting and use "modern pop influence in its costumes and design, including capsule hotel-like beds aboard the ship". And toi draw audiences into the theatres? Sabu has chosen Ryuhei Matsuda to head up the cast.
Filming on "Kanikōsen" will begin next month and is slated for a 2009 release. Thanks to Tokyograph for the details on this.