On June 13th, 2010, a Japanese space probe named Hayabusa returned to Earth after having been away for 7 years. Like America’s Apollo 13 mission, Hayabusa’s return was deemed a miracle because of the major failures it suffered. This month, Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan will tell the story of the technicians’ efforts to bring Hayabusa home on the big screen.
Hayabusa launched from Kagoshima Space Center in 2003 led by project manager Professor Yamaguchi. The unmanned space probe’s objective was to land on an asteroid and return a sample of material back to Earth.
Throughout, the mission suffered several disappointing setbacks. On the way to the asteroid, solar flares damaged the engines. On the asteroid, Hayabusa’s capture mechanism malfunctioned and it was unclear whether any samples were obtained. On the way back, communication dropped out and engines faced more problems. But with each difficulty, the engineers led by Yamaguchi, came up with an elegant solution to bring Hayabusa home.
Hayabusa’s story captured the attention of all the media outlets and its popularity became a national sensation. Harukanaru Kikan is actually one of three separate movies being made about this mission by rival studios.
Hayabusa Hayabusa (20th Century Fox), released last October, stars Takeuchi Yuko (Be With you) and is directed by director Tsutsumi Yukihiko (20th Century Boys, TRICK). Hayabusa Hayabusa leans slightly towards the female demographic with its j-drama direction and jpop theme song.
So why should you see Harukanaru Kikan?
The first thing you’ll notice is the all-star cast. In the lead is Japan’s favorite Hollywood actor, Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai) as Professor Yamaguchi. Sharing the screen with Watanabe are a whole string of distinguished Japanese actors: Eguchi Yosuke (Goemon), Natsukawa Yui (Kekkon Dekinai Otoko), Yoshioka Hidetaka (Always Sunset on 3rd Street), among others.
But more importantly, Harukanaru Kikan is the passionate bro-drama about men turning a doomed mission around. The direction and score is tasteful, unlike the sappy Hayabusa Hayabusa, which shamelessly throws in some jpop to get a tear or two from the audience. Harukanaru Kikan is a success story that can be appreciated by adults, not an educational film a substitute teacher shows students in a science class, like Okaeri. The budget seems the highest of the three and it shows in the special effects.
Finally, Harukanaru Kikan is the film that has the endorsement of JAXA, Japan’s space agency responsible for the Hayabusa mission. None of the other films can beat that.
Hayabusa Harukanaru Kikan hits theaters in Japan on February 11th. Let us know what you think of the trailer and more in the comments below.