When it comes to choosing the first Japanese actress as "Spotlight of the month," I had a hard time because I like a lot of them - Fumi Nikaido, Mao Inoue, Haru Kuroki, Tao Tsuchiya, Mitsuki Takahata, Hikari Mitsushima, Chizuru Ikewaki, Hana Sugisaki... But I settled for Yu Aoi because I think her acting career also needs to be celebrated in as much as the other names on my list.
I first saw her in Honokaa Boy (featuring Masaki Okada), and I did not like her, probably because she plays the role of a spoiled brat, and that she was extremely effective playing the role. Then it's time to see her dance the hula in Hula Girls and what an awesome performance it was! She's a natural dancer, and she is always intense. Her role in the Sang-il Lee award-winning film features a lot of dramatic scenes with Sumiko Fuji (who plays her strict Mom) and Yasuko Matsuyuki (who plays the dance trainer), and she was never left out when it comes to the performance. In fact, she was nominated and won some awards for her role.
My fascination with her continues in The Lightning Tree ( a reunion of sorts with Masaki Okada) and once again, Aoi showed why she could be considered one of Japan's most alluring actresses. Her role appears to be that of a "wild child" as she roams the forest and when she met Narimichi (Okada), there were immediate sparks. This period drama-romance could quickly become boring and predictable, but for the performances of the leads.
In Kiyoshi Kurosawa's WOWOW TV series, Penance, I adore her even more! I can still recall many of the scenes where she plays the wife of a domineering man. The title of her episode is "French Doll" and you can imagine what sort of story it was!
Many of you who are "late" in discovering Aoi may think of her as Megumi in the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, and I cannot blame you. I think playing a supporting role has not diminished her stature as an actress. In fact, it made her more versatile and to think that the leading lady of the movies (Emi Takei) is a less talented actor further makes my declaration more valid and more believable. Special mention should also go to Tokyo Family and her team up with Satoshi Tsumabuki, who is also her leading man in the drama Wakamonotachi.
I'm still discovering more of her movies, and I am so looking forward to watching her in Azumi Haruko wa Yukuefumei and Over the Fence, but I want to see her once again in Hana and Alice. I think that's one of her best performances yet!
How about you? Are you a fan of Yu Aoi? What are some of your favorite Yu Aoi movies and dramas?