When an actor successfully transforms himself into a character - not only showing different physical attributes but also displaying a distinct personality, moviegoers are in awe. Of course, credit goes to the makeup and special effects artists who helped in the transformation. But still, the actor gets a round of applause for pulling it off. 

Shota Sometani - Movie role transformation

Most movie bloggers mention Christian Bale (The Machinist), Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers' Club) and Charlize Theron (Monster) among the most notable, but there are a great number of Asian actors who have made impressive transformation themselves. There was even a Chinese actress who pulled off her teeth to make a performance as realistic as possible.

Tadanobu Asano, one of Japan's best actors, play some high-profile roles that require equally difficult transformation - as Kakihara in the ultra-violent Ichi, the Killer, as Temudjin (Genghis Kahn) in Mongol and as Samurai Hyozo Tashiro in Gohatto, among others.  

It seems someone was quite "prophetic" when she predicted that Hiroya Shimizu [清水尋也] will one day make it big in Japanese movies! That was 2012 when the young actor was given a supporting role in the drama (youth-thriller) Koko Nyushi (High School Entrance Exam) top billed by Masami Nagasawa and stars fellow young actors Reiya Masaki and Mahiro Takasugi (who also stars in Hiroya's career defining movie The World of Kanako).

 Hiroya Shimizu - Japanese actor, photo by KENTA SAWADA PHOTOGRAPHY

While Masaki and Takasugi grabbed the spotlight earlier than Shimizu, it was the 15-year old aspirant who trailblazed his way into the spotlight by the visually arresting movie from Tetsuya Nakashima. Nakashima also paved the way for Yukito Nishii, Ai Hashimoto and Kai Inowaki in the director's previous movie Confessions.

Welcome to our first Talkback! In here we talk about up and coming Japanese talents - from the ones 'on the verge' to those already making waves in the J-Ent scene! In Part 1, we're putting the spotlight on Mackenyu. Is he the next big Japanese star?

Jayi: I have heard about Mackenyu for quite a while. Seeing his performance in Chihayafuru, I have a strong feeling he will be huge someday.

Jed: I can't agree with you more. I have seen him in both Chihayafuru movies, and while some may say Shuhei Nomura is excellent in Part 1, I think Mackenyu made a tremendous impact in Part 2. It's the kind of performance that gets noticed soon enough.

Jayi: I am moved when he cries or sulks - I also notice how the usual tendency of many of his actor peers to overact is something he (thankfully) didn't have. He has an acting style, and he manages to transform, I have since tried to see snippets of his acting in his other projects...the boy CAN act.

Our Idol Project articles are getting a much-needed update, with a focus on Kame, Yuto Nakajima and Ryosuke Yamada coming up soon! In this article, we celebrate the acting careers of Nino, Junichi Okada and a look at Jin Akanishi. The "short introduction" posted much earlier related to this series of articles, is like a litmus test. I mean, the names on the list should "pass" and get the stamp of approval from the idol fans and they did - with flying colors. But we'll get back later to the 10 idols we're putting the spotlight into.

In Part 2 of this series, we'll do a more "detailed" introduction.

1. A Variety of Talents - What it takes to become a Japanese male idol. 

2. The "Acting" category - What it takes to become an accomplished movie and drama performer. The case of Kazunari Ninomiya.

3. And the Winner is.... - The Journey of Junichi Okada into the acting "hall of fame" Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at Japan Academy

4. Fan Service - "The kissing and hugging on the stage is nothing but fan service!"

5. The Rebels - "I got molested, so I am filing a complaint..." "I am already a star, I don't need an agency..."

So you want to be an idol? Sorry, but that is not the question we are going to answer here. Firstly, I'm not an expert, nor am I interested in telling you that "you have what it takes to become a J-pop idol and conquer Japan". Anyway, let's define what a male Japanese idol is.

It seems many who are new to Japanese movie and drama wanted to get an idea of actors who made names for themselves. If Part 1 is about the current 'IT' boys, let's go back in time to know the great actors of yesteryears. Of course, it is not easy to classify them according to generations - since many of our favorite artists may be of the same age but started early (or more recent) in doing movies (or dramas for that matter). 

Toshiro Mifune, who recently became part of the Hollywood walk of fame started his film career in 1947 with Snow Trail. For those who have been familiar with classic Japanese films, his great collaboration with iconic Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa produced some of the most famous movies from Japan to be recognized around the world. These films include Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1958). Mifune was born in 1920 and died in 1997, but still made a movie two years earlier entitled Deep River, Japan's official entry to the Oscar's Best Foreign Film.

Ken Takakura, generally regarded as Mifune's successor, was born in 1931  and made his first movie in 1965 entitled A Fugitive from the Past. Said movie is viewed by Kinema Junpo as one of the greatest Japanese films ever made. Takakura is also the holder of 4 Best Actor trophies from the Japanese Academy, the most for any actors. He gained international recognition after starring in the 1970 war film Too Late the Hero as the cunning Imperial Japanese Major Yamaguchi, the 1974 Sydney Pollack sleeper hit The Yakuza with Robert Mitchum and is probably best known in the West for his role in Ridley Scott's Black Rain (1989). 

The prestigious Kinema Junpo has made their Top 10 list, shown below:

1. Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997)
2. Yujiro Ishihara (1934-1987)
3. Masayuki Mori (1911-1973)
4. Ken Takakura (1931-2014)
5. Chishū Ryū (1904-1993)
6. Ichikawa Raizō VIII (1931-1969)
7. Tsumasaburō Bandō (1901-1953)
7. (tie) Shintaro Katsu (1931-1997)
9. (tie) Kiyoshi Atsumi (1928-1996)
9. (tie) Hisaya Morishige (1913-2009)
9. (tie) Yorozuya Kinnosuke (1932-1997) 

My introduction to Japanese cinema, and perhaps many of this blog's readers, started much more recent, so let me start with the ones some of us are more familiar with...