Funny (really) how time flew when we were just raving about Satoshi Tsumabuki, Mao Inoue, Hikari Mitsushima and Masanobu Ando way back in 2012, and now three years later, we are celebrating the young acting careers of boys and girls who are so much younger than Tsumabuki, et al.

2015 saw a lot of breakthrough actors in the Japanese movie and drama scenes that it's hard to narrow it down to 10, but then again, we'll be seeing them very soon as they all seem to be grabbing upcoming projects sooner than later. Hoping that their talent agencies are as committed as these young guys and gals!

2015 is a big year for women in Japanese movies. Aside from Koreeda's Umimachi Diary (starring Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho and Suzu Hirose), there's Hikari Mitsushima and Erika Toda in Kakekomi, a historical movie dealing with divorce and the Tokei-ji which is a Buddhist temple where women seek comfort from their husbands and undertake the process of separation. 

There were also a good number of TV dramas were the spotlight centered on strong (yet challenged) and authentic female characters - Yoko Maki, Miki Nakatani, Mayu Matsuoka, Anne, Tao Tsuchiya, Mitsuki Takahata and Mao Inoue, played such parts in these shows. 

The overlapping broadcast of the two asadoras - Tao Tsuchiya's Mare [まれ] and Haru's Asa ga Kita [あさが来た] - also paved the way for more opportunities to discuss young women regarding their relationships with their families, lovers, and friends as they seek to fulfill personal ambitions and goals. NHK's taiga drama, Hana Moyu is all about Mao Inoue's Fumi.

Just like our list of leading Japanese actors, we have an equalizer for the actresses.

I find it funny that Oricon would consider Masataka Kubota as having a breakthrough year, since, in all aspects, Mr. Kubota is already an accomplished actor who have been playing in movies and dramas since 2006. That means he's in the industry for more than nine years already. You consider someone was having a breakthrough year if he is only 'involved' in the biz for two years or less. The term "breakthrough" may apply to the likes of Kentaro Sakaguchi or Mackenyu Chiba, or even to the more established Taishi Nakagawa - all three had a breakthrough year in 2015. [ that's a separate post here, with an equalizer for the girls as well ]

There is always this 'loss in translation' issue when it comes to Japanese to English. Take the case of AoT (Attack on Titan, which should be Attack of the Titans) or the Takashi Miike movie Lesson of the Evil (with the totally inappropriate use of 'the'). 

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Let's have a short recap. Last year, it was Sosuke Ikematsu who topped our list, followed by Shota Sometani, Masaki Suda, Masataka Kubota and Yuya Yagira. This year, it's all about grabbing those high profile roles in cinema, as well as, the biggest TV dramas! 

Compared to last year, 2015 appears to be lackluster when it comes to Japanese movies. While I have not seen Bakuman and Haha to Kuraseba yet, I can certainly say that Himizu (2012), Tomogui (2013) and The Light Shines Only There (2014) have more substance than some of the movies on the 2015 hitlist.

Of course, you may not agree with me since there are also a few gems on the list below, and I'm fairly certain you have other movies in mind aside from the 10 you'll see here...

You may listen to what I have to say about April Fools, or you may ignore my raves and listen to the bashing from more prominent film critics. But the thing is, while the stories are generic and even predictable, the characters can be quite endearing and memorable. It's all about love and self-identity and family matters - 7 stories, among which the gay couple (Masato Yano-Masataka Kubota), the old (royal) couple (Kotaro Satomi-Sumiko Fuji) and the sex addict - janitress (Erika Toda-Tori Matzusaka) stand out for me. The Japanese royal pretenders are particularly sentimental because my parents who I remember so fondly, with my Mom particularly fashion savvy in the same vein as Sumiko Fuji's character.

Unpredictable, concise, exciting - these are some of the adjectives most often used to describe Japanese dramas.  I often smile when I read that someone who has left the J-dorama scene and went over to Korean dramas would exclaim that they have been "far removed" from such shows that they felt elated and happy to be back. On the other hand, those who left the scene (for good) would often complain about the lack of originality and the over-acting of most Japanese drama performers. I guess we have to follow what we like and never settle for anything less. 

Spring 2015 Japanese drama list is one filled with many notable (and otherwise) titles and the case of loving (or hating) as describe above continues.


Psycho Drama list of 100 favorite Japanese films through the years.