Note: This text is reproduced verbatim and provided courtesy of © Fuji Television Network, Inc.

(Interview Date: November 2020)

Here's an interview with Ayaka Kaneshiro, who is the producer of the current Monday night drama series at Fuji TV, “Asagao - Forensic Doctor 2.” She talks about some of the intriguing factors which surround the new drama series.

Based on the original story, this is the first drama series on forensic medicine since "THE VOICES" (2009) on Fuji TV, and we think that it’s kind of rare. Why did you decide to dramatize this, based on the original work and theme?

There are people who have actually lost their lives in disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as those bereaved families who are deeply saddened by the loss of their loved ones. Despite similar experiences, there are of course going to be different feelings about it, so we always have a sense of nervousness, as no matter what kind of incident we deal with in the story, there is always going to be the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings. So, we look back on it many times during the process of script making, and we continuously discuss about it during the filming and editing sessions.

What is your impression of Juri Ueno from a producer's point of view, and the reasons for casting her for the lead role, as well as her general approach to acting?

She is an actress I really trust. I think she is one of the finest actresses in Japan. She has a deep understanding for playing the role of ‘Asagao,’ and while creating a specific character, she also has a good vision for the entire story, so she is always thinking about what's best for the drama. She cares a lot about the other cast and crew members, like she always offers them delicious regional food from on-location shootings, or local food and drinks from Rikuzentakata city, where we are always working side by side with for interviews etc. During the summer season, she handed out neatly packaged mosquito repellents to each of the crew members, including the part-time workers too. I think that her kind-hearted personality is reflected in the drama itself.

Could you tell us the reasons for casting Saburo Tokito, Shunsuke Kazama and Tomoko Yamaguchi and your impressions of them?

Saburo Tokito's sincerity, good-naturedness, and professionalism towards his work are all linked to Taira's warm character, and I think that the warmth of the Maki family is reflected from his very own personality. And, Shunsuke Kazama carefully plays both the strength and weaknesses of his character Kuwahara. He cares for each and every word in the script in detail, and whilst always helping to liven up the atmosphere of the filming, he discusses what's best for each scene until the very last minute. Also, with passion like the perfect sunshine, Tomoko Yamaguchi approaches her work putting in everything she’s got. It's as if she's challenging every day to continue enjoying her life in the best way. Her style is exactly like her very own character “Chako.”

The last series received high view ratings, and after the broadcast, there were many requests from the viewers for a sequel. And this time round, it’s the first time that a Fuji TV drama is being aired for 2 consecutive seasons. What do you think about this?

The cast and crew put their heart and soul into the series with the hope that as many people as possible would see it, and so it was a great honor to receive such a response. I'm still at the early stages of my career, so the challenge of making a series for 2 consecutive seasons feels like a mighty challenge, but I'm going to do my best to help keep the viewers interested throughout. The fact that we have two seasons means that I’m able to spend more time with the cast and crew, so I feel like I've been given a valuable opportunity.

Like the first season, the sequel is also scheduled for areas such as the US and Taiwan. Could you describe the highlights of the new sequel, and the general appealing aspects of the drama series as a whole. Plus, what are the main messages you want to convey to the viewers?

In fact, after the broadcast, I received a letter from a viewer in Canada who watched the show. He wrote in the letter, "even an international audience like myself was also deeply touched by the drama. Thank you very much for your hard work!" After reading this, it brought a tear to my eyes. The drama depicts the ‘Great East Japan Earthquake’ and the lives of Japanese people, so I think it is a really local work compared to other works of a global scale, but it is encouraging to know that there are people in the world who also feel this way. To say that we should learn the importance of being alive today from the deceased is a presumptuous way of putting it, but at a time when the world is threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope that the Maki family will transcend beyond national boundaries and reach out to an international audience too.

Ayaka KANESHIRO: Profile

Originally from Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture, Ayaka Kaneshiro joined Fuji Television in 2012. In the same year, she was assigned to the Programming and Production Department where she also currently belongs to. After her experiences as an assistant director and assistant producer, her first debut came as a producer for the drama series “5→9 From Five to Nine” (2015). She was credited as a producer for other dramas such as “Natsuko Kira” (2016), “Ore no Sensei” (2016), “Good Doctor” (2018), “The Inugami Clan” (2018), and “A Devilish and Temari Song” (2019). And in 2019, she became the chief producer for a regular drama series for the first time with “Asagao - Forensic Doctor” and she is currently continuing to produce its sequel now in the year 2020.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.