Yuya Yagira on the Themes and Symbolism of Hulu’s Japanese Horror Series ‘Gannibal’

Gannibal, streaming on Hulu in the U.S. and Disney+ in Asia, is one of the most watched series in Japan. Based on the popular manga of the same name, Gannibal has hit the U.S. market and is ready to blow your minds. 

Written by Takamasa Ôe (Drive My Car), the horror drama stars Yuya Yagira as Officer Daigo Agawa, a police officer who transfers to a rural village that holds a dark secret, one that includes conspiracies, secret rituals, and cannibalism. Yagira knew he wanted to be part of this film due to his appreciation for Ôe’s work and wanting to work with director Shinzô Katayama. Not to mention, he loved the story beyond the horror aspects. 

“At the beginning of the story, there’s this very loving relationship between the family,” said Yagira through an interpreter to The Nerds of Color. “I like those kinds of stories [of family] and we expressed that throughout the series.”

Besides being a police officer, Daigo is also a loving husband and father. His daughter Mashiro is mute due to some past trauma, which Daigo blames himself for. Yagira, who also has a wife and a daughter, understood Daigo’s intentions regarding protecting his family from threats. 

“I know each family has their own themes in the film,” Yagira explained. “Daigo wants to secure his family. He wanted to make his family bond when he came to this village. I could relate a lot of things with Daigo. I want to protect my daughter as a father. It was an advantage for me to play this role.”

Yagira admits he’s not a fan of supernatural films and was happy that this series doesn’t fall into that genre. Instead, the horror aspect is of the ghost-like figure named “The Man” based on actual science and a more human-level story. For Yagira, “The Man” represents the past of the village and the old (and sometimes outdated) traditions. 

“Like the manga, ‘The Man’ will represent the history and symbol of the culture of this village,” he said. “He creates his atmosphere of the history of this village.”

Then there is Keisuke Goto (Shô Kasamatsu), the new head of the Goto family, the most powerful and feared family in the village. They are protecting “The Man,” but it seems like the young new leader is beginning to sway away from these rituals. 

“[Keisuke] is running the [family] business and keeping the village’s economy afloat,” Yagira explained. “Keisuke represents the world evolving.”

Yagira hopes audiences will watch the series and reflect on their own lives and traditions and are able to move forward and not backwards. Hopefully, if given a second season, Daigo and Keisuke can form a partnership to grow past the old traditions. Yagira is ready to film again if called, but he recently just got out of the negative headspace from filming the first season. 

“Everybody just happened to be friendly and positive,” Yagira recalled. “They were good at switching between the friendly mode and serious mode. Sometimes, everybody was in a Gannibal mode outside the serious time. It has been five months since the series finished. Now I am getting to my normal mode — out of my Gannibal mode.”

It wasn’t always serious on set. Sometimes Yagira and his castmates would go to the local Japanese BBQ place to eat — despite just filming some bloody, cannibal-based scenes.

“After filming,” he laughed, “we would joke with each other about eating meat.”

The entire first season of Gannibal is available on Hulu now.