It's not only the men who suffer from "second lead syndrome." In fact, this 'acting phenomenon' is also prevalent among the females. A good example is the Rurouni Kenshin casting where #deadfisheyes Emi Takei takes top billing over the more talented and more appealing Yu Aoi. The current industry practice of mixing idols with pure acting talents is also one major factor why looks take over talent in many movie productions.

Before our final part (where the remaining top contenders are discussed), we take a look at some outstanding young actresses who suffered from this casting syndrome.

I saw Yuina Kuroshima in a CM for telephone giant DocoMo, and she has all the attributes of a star. Her supporting role in Aoi Honoo (headlined by Yuya Yagira) has explored her comedic talents as well. Co-star Mizuki Yamamoto also made some lasting impressions in that series. If you have seen Black Butler (featuring the comeback of Hiro Mizushima ) then you may remember Yamamoto as the maid turned gun-totting sidekick. In Tokyo Refugees, Yamamoto proved she can also play dark, sinister characters. I'm also anticipating good performance from Kuroshima via Ashita ni Nareba.

The Deputy Chief of Mission of the US in Japan, Jason Hyland has something to say about Toto Nee-Chan:

I am fascinated by the latest NHK Morning Drama, “Toto-ne-chan.” I am especially intrigued by the saga of three of the women leaders in the story, the owner of “Aoyagi Shoten” trading, the imposing Takiko Aoyagi, the unique teacher Chiyo Todo, and our heroine, Tsuneko Kohashi. As women rightfully assume more and more leadership positions in business, in government, in academia, in all sectors, I see the question raised again and again – What is the most effective leadership style for women? I think the answer, based on the many, many role models out there, is that there is no single answer. Toto-ne-chan has her own unique way of engaging people. The often stern Takiko-san (but with a heart of gold) on the other hand runs her business in a more traditional style, and definitely gets results. And then there is the eccentric Chiyo Todo, the teacher who told her never to give up. Just in this one drama we have three different leadership styles by three different women.   As I watch this drama, I am reminded of some of the extraordinary female leaders I have encountered in my own life, all with their own distinct ways of achieving their goals. [ source ]

Mitsuki Takahata was that annoying restaurant staff in one of the year's best doramas - Mondai no Aru Restaurant. Her character is as complex as that of Fumi Nikaido and Mayu Matsuoka, but she has the additional challenge to convince dorama audience that she can be villainy and then become the object of everyone's sympathy. In Yuya Ishii's The Vancouver Asahi, Takahata proved she has what it takes to shine in spite of the star-studded cast led by Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kame and many others. As the private tutor of one of the richest Canadian families in the period drama, Takahata's character - Emmy Kasahara - symbolizes the aspirations and dreams of young Japanese girls living abroad. Her short but effective speech to rally support for her brother and friends in their final baseball tournament is both inspiring and endearing.

Don't be fooled by the fragile, sweet young girl look because Hana Sugisaki can play rough, sensual roles filled with angst and desperation. I first saw Sugisaki in Mysterious Transfer Student (Nazo no Tenkosei) followed closely by a smaller yet high-impact role in MOZU and then in Gakko no Kaidan, but it was in Kaseki no Hohoemi and Pieta in the Toilet that Sugisaki soars in yet undetermined but amazing acting heights. 

Perhaps fans of the 17-year old young talent may only worry about her current agency, Ken-On - known for heavily promoting Sota Fukushi to desperate heights, while the likes of Mirai Shida and perhaps Sugisaki herself are subjected to casting waiting games. 

Let's see. There was a time when Hikari Mitsushima and Sakura Ando were just starting to make a name for themselves in the Japanese movie industry (watch Sion Sono's Love Exposure to get an idea.). Then there was Chizuru Ikewaki wowing audiences in Josee, The Tiger and The Fish and of course who can forget Mao Inoue in Hana Yori Dango, one of the ultimate J-drama ever! Other big names include Takako Matsu who made waves on the international scene via the school-thriller Confessions and Erika Toda capturing a different set of audience as a top female detective/agent in SPEC. Previously there was Ryoko Hirosue in the Luc Besson-produced Wasabi and the Academy Award-winning Japanese film Departures. 

But more than anyone, it will always be Sayuri Yoshinaga who will best exemplify the Japanese actress ideal.

Yoshinaga Sayuri was born in March 1945, five months before World War II came to an end. She is a movie star whose career can be said to have followed the footsteps of postwar Japan. Although she will soon reach the age of 68, she still projects a youthful image and has an active career as an actress, performing the lead role in a film every two years or so.

Thus far Yoshinaga has acted in more than 100 movies and has fans of all ages. She has won four Japan Academy Prizes for the best actress in a leading role, more than any other actress, and in 2010 she was designated a Person of Cultural Merit, one of Japan’s highest cultural honors. Both in name and in reality, she is one of the foremost stars in the postwar world of film.

[ read more: Last of the Silver Screen’s National Heroines ]

Finally, this list will not be complete if we fail to mention Fumi Nikaido, who at the age of 20, has been nominated for Best Actress already. (She won a major acting award in Venice at the age of 16)

There were many others, but in today's popular drama and J-movie scenes, we have a completely different set of names competing for high-profile roles. In Part 1 of this 5-part series, we're putting the spotlight on three who have the greatest potentials.

There was an article posted at Taste of Cinema listing 20 'famous' Hollywood actresses as the ultimate examples of bad acting. The said list includes:

Megan Fox (which I agree wholeheartedly);

Paris Hilton (yes!);

Sienna Miller (no, she's amazing!);

and Keira Knightley (WTF, no! no! no! She's great!).

While calling someone a bad actress (or actor for that matter) is subjective, I think you know without having to explain who is and who's not. For me, it boils down to a lot of things:

Dialogue delivery: If you've watch Fumi Nikaido (as Keiko) in Himizu, one of the most amusing scenes is when she got tossed in the river, and she began a tirade informing Shota Sometani (Yuichi) of his many sins and that she 'treasured' them as pebbles in her pocket. She talks at a very fast pace, yet you can feel the pain of her rejection. 

A most potent scene was evident in My Man.