I Want to Hold Aono-kun So Badly I Could Die isn’t Shori Sato‘s first role in a live-action adaptation of a
pop culture work. A member of the boy band Sexy Zone, Sato played Haruta in the film version of
HaruChika in 2017. His role as the eponymous Aono-kun in the 2022 TV series adaptation of the manga
by Umi Shiina is something a little different, though: Aono-kun spends most of the series as a ghost,
stuck in the world of the living for reasons he doesn’t entirely understand. Playing a dead boy, especially
one in an adaptation of a manga series, comes with its own set of unique challenges. We were able to
ask Sato about some of those challenges and his relationship with the source material, as well as his take
on ghosts, ahead of the release of the TV show.
Your character in I Want to Hold Aono-kun So Badly I Could Die is, in fact, dead. Was there anything special or different about the way you approached playing a ghost as opposed to a living person?
Shori Sato: With normal acting, it would be easy to act as if I’m plainly visible, but since I’m a ghost, I’m less conscious of my own acting and more conscious of doing things in a way that makes it easier for the other person to act.
Are there any challenges with playing a ghost? How did you prepare for the role?
Shori Sato: Unlike a regular role, it was a difficult role where I couldn’t touch the other person even though I could talk in front of her. Fortunately, the staff created an environment that was very easy to work in, so the acting went smoothly.
How do you feel about Aono and Yuri’s relationship?
Shori Sato: You can’t normally have a romantic relationship with a ghost, so it was difficult to play, but I felt it was very interesting.
How did you approach playing “Dark Aono” as opposed to his regular appearance? Does his dark form have different motivations than his normal self?
Shori Sato: When I was “Dark Aono,” I didn’t express emotions with my eyes. The regular Aono might be dead, but he expresses his feelings like a normal person.
In the west, ghost stories are often only scary or sad, but this one tries to combine both of those feelings. Do you think that’s typical of Japanese ghost stories? What do you think makes the plot of Aono-kun special?
Shori Sato: Having grown up only in Japan I guess I’m not aware enough of Western ghost stories to assess specific differences, but in terms of how I applied myself to being a Japanese ghost as Aono-kun, I tried to make myself aware of how he would attempt to express emotions like a normal human. Free from the rigidity of Japanese society, he would be able to see that the most important thing is how you live the life you normally take for granted, which I think makes the plot special for most viewers.
Do you believe in ghosts? Would you want to be able to see and talk to them, like Yuri?
Shori Sato: I don’t believe in ghosts. If I could speak to them, I would like to try it.
Have you read the manga that Aono-kun is based on? What did you think of it?
Shori Sato: I always read the original story before I get involved in a work, and this time was no exception. At first glance, it might seem like a shojo love story manga, but when I gave it a chance, I realized that it draws out the horror in human relationships very well. It’s a great manga.
Is there a book (or manga or light novel) that you’d like to see get a film or TV adaptation so you could be in it? What kinds of stories are you drawn to?
Shori Sato: I’d like to try playing a heinous criminal. Actors hope that their own experiences can be useful in their roles, but I think that a role that the actor has absolutely no personal experience in would be a worthwhile challenge. As for stories, I like realistic ones. True stories resonate with me.
The manga for Aono-kun is currently ongoing. If you could decide on the way it will end, what would you want to happen?
Shori Sato: The story in the manga comes first, but I think it would be neat if Aono-kun comes back to life.
What do you hope viewers will take away from the TV series?
Shori Sato: I hope that you can treasure the important people who are in front of you right now. You don’t know what will happen in the future, so I hope you can treasure each day as it comes.
The manga for Aono-kun is translated into English; would you like to see the TV series also be translated and broadcast for foreign audiences?
Shori Sato: I Want to Hold Aono-kun So Badly I Could Die has its sad moments and sweet moments; it’s a story where the tone fluctuates a lot. I hope you can watch it and experience a rollercoaster of emotions!