Moved by the sight of medical practitioners and other essential workers risking their lives to save people at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, TV producer Masanao Takahashi created Tokyo MER (stands for Mobile Emergency Room), a tribute to the heroes of the pandemic. What started as a humble show of gratitude would go on to become a hit TV series in 2021 – with a movie adaptation that is currently one of the highest-grossing films in Japan this year.
This month, Filipino audiences can watch Tokyo MER on the big screen when it opens exclusively in Ayala Malls Cinemas on November 22. Reprising his TV role as Tokyo MER’s lead doctor, Ryohei Suzuki leads the cast of the film and is joined by notable newcomers, including Japanese idol boy band SixTONES’ Jesse as Tomohiro Shiomi, a trainee doctor assigned to Tokyo MER, and Anne Watanabe as Tomo Kamoi, the chief doctor of the MER team in the neighboring city of Yokohama.
The movie, directed by Aya Matsuki, takes place two years after the TV series, and the setting is the nearby city of Yokohama. The filmmakers wanted the big-screen adaptation to have a more realistic feel, so the main setting of the emergency is the Yokohama Landmark Tower, one of the tallest buildings in Japan. “In terms of the story, it matches the setting of spreading MER across the country [creating more MERs], and the Tokyo MER team is also close enough to rush to rescue,” said screenwriter Tsutomu Kuroiwa. As the emergency in the film is a big fire breaking out at the Tower, the filmmakers consulted with the city’s fire department to lend more authenticity to the film. They also consulted with medical supervisors about designing the newly established Yokohama MER’s ER car; the ER car, an emergency vehicle with the technology and equipment to perform emergency surgery on the scene before transporting seriously injured patients to the hospital, is a signature element of the show. Get ready to see an ER car that’s even more advanced than the one on the TV series. “I think it truly became a ‘dream vehicle,’” said director Aya Matsuki of the new ER car in the film.
Of the new additions to the cast, producer Ami Yagi said, “[The character of Yokohama MER Chief] Kamoi is a cool woman, in contrast to Kitami [Tokyo MER chief played by Suzuki both on TV and in the movie]. However, she is not just cold, but also has a side that shows her loveliness as a human being. I cast Anne Watanabe because I thought she would be able to embody this character.”
And of SixTONES idol Jesse, Yagi said, “I thought Jesse would show a new side through the role of Shiomi, which is a little different from the bright characters he shows on variety shows. Shiomi is a character who grows out of his shell, so I was hoping that it would be similar to how Jesse himself tackles roles that he has never played before.”