Firing up the big screen in the movie adaptation of Shuji Terayama's "Aa, Kouya" (Ah, wilderness) as a young boxer, Masaki Suda clinched the title of best lead actor for the 72nd Mainichi Film Awards.
"Director (Yoshiyuki) Kishi and I spoke about making this our representative work, so I am truly delighted to have received this award," said the 24-year-old actor.
The film is set in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward in 2021. The protagonist, Shinji, is an orphan whose mother abandoned him after his father passed away. He encounters boxing after leaving a juvenile correctional facility. "It starts from Shinji losing everything. I ended up feeling sympathy for Shinji, who had only felt alive when he was angry at someone, when he started to change and use his punches differently," said Suda.
Suda appears in many boxing match scenes, and was praised by the selection committee for his "spectacular physical expression." He recalled, "You can't acquire the body or the movements of a boxer any other way but to box. I went to a gym and completely devoted myself to practice for half a year."
The movie depicts Shinji's friendship and love with Barikan, played by Yang Ik-june, who has also built himself an isolated life, and a victim of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, Yoshiko, played by Akari Kinoshita and their ultimate parting.
"People can't empathize with each other 100 percent," Suda explained. "I think that's precisely why we strive to get to know one another."
Born in Osaka Prefecture and debuting as an actor in 2009, Suda has played a variety of roles, including 2017 appearances as a comedian in the film adaptation of Naoki Matayoshi's Akutagawa Prize-winning novel "Hibana" (Spark) and a high school student aiming for student council president in the movie "Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High."
"I have a tendency to get bored easily, so it was exciting to challenge myself that much with such differing roles," Suda said, hinting at the multitude of possible roles we may see him take in the future.