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Sunday April 20, 2014

The 100 Best Contemporary Japanese Movies - Psycho Drama is launching an ambitious yet invigorating project to compile 100 of the best modern-day Japanese movies from the last 2 decades or so - that features the best young actors of their generation - from Joe Odagiri, Takako Matsu and Tadanobu Asano, to Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Mao Inoue, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shun Oguri and Masanabu Ando to the current crop of exciting young talents - Shota Sometani, Yuya Yagira, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Fumi Nikaido and Ai Hashimoto.

We have started with Sway (Yureru) | Confessions (Kokuhaku) | Josee, the Tiger and the Fish, with more to come!

What makes an amazing actor? What causes an ordinary moviegoer to become an ardent, hardcore fan? Are good looks enough in today's almost cutthroat competition to create the next great Japanese actor? Are talents really being recognized, and are fans mature enough to embrace the really talented ones? And the biggest question of all: who are the hottest, most talented young Japanese actors today?

The 2013 rankings are up!

Are your favorites still in the top 10? Who are this year's movers and shakers? Get to know them after the jump! (Last year's ranking is here ).

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Age: 31

Previous Ranking: Top 3, down by 7

Spotlight Movies: Battle Royale, Death Note, Kaiji 1 and 2, Parade, I'm Flash, Shield of Straw

The Buzz: Apparently, Fujiwara is on the downside, even with his latest movie (Shield of Straw) competing in Cannes, the over-acting is becoming very obvious. He's still in the top 10 though...

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Age: 30

Previous Ranking: Top 7, down by 2

Spotlight Movies: Monsters Club, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Dear Doctor, The Silver Season, Last Friend, Memories of Matsuko,  Tada's Do-It-All House (Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benriken)

The Buzz: When you're cast by the best Japanese directors, it only mean one thing - talent. Eita Nagayama is the kind of actor who can play supporting parts (and win awards) and play leading roles (and get critical acclaim). From the terrifying brilliance of Monsters Club where he played a recluse with a horrible plan to his tragic portrayal of Motome in Harakiri: Death of a Samurai to his charming performance as a young Physician in Dear Doctor, Eita's appeal goes beyond mere good looks. 

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Age: 20

Previous Ranking: Not ranked in Top 30

Spotlight Movies: Into the Far Away Sky, Little DJ, The Kirishima Thing, SPEC: Heaven, Summer Wars (Voice), The Borrower Arriety (Voice)

The Buzz: There are three new entries in the top 10 who will probably stay for a long time. One of them is Kamiki Ryunosuke. Grabbing the top spot in the 20 Most Promising Young Actors list, Kamiki Ryunosuke stands tall among his contemporaries. He is nothing short of phenomenal - gritty, nerdy-geeky, menacing, strong-willed, idealistic - such wide range of acting no one can match, except perhaps Shota Sometani...

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Age: 27

Previous Ranking: Top 2, down by 5

Spotlight Movies: Death Note, Gantz, Norwegian Wood, Bunny Drop, My Back Page, Kamui: The Lone Ninja, Detroit Metal City

The Buzz: Compared to some of the more popular guys on the movie scene, Ken'ichi Matsuyama looks ordinary, but this 'ordinariness' can be quite deceiving. Can anyone else play L in the Death Note series? Let me see: no one. There is really nothing ordinary about L and Matsuyama's take on the character. Then there is Detroit Metal City. If Hiroki Nariyima can play sex-comedy with flair, Kenichi Matsuyama can do comedy with aplomb. In My Back Page, he pitted talents with Satoshi Tsumabuki and was able to hold his own. Some would even say, he surpassed Tsumabuki in their only movie together. I have come to believe that actors are either good in drama or comedy. In the case of Ken'ichi Matsuyama, he excelled in both.

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Age: 30

Previous Ranking: Maintained position at #6

Spotlight Movies: Crow Zero, Crow Zero 2, Boys Over Flowers, Kisaragi, The Woodsman and the Rain

The Buzz: Actor, idol, director, superstar - all of them describe Shun Oguri one way or the other. With his smashing good looks, no one can deny his effect on young fans as he play the usual sugary roles designed to titillate and seduce. But he is no ordinary actor willing to be typecast. After the sucess of Boys Over Flowers, he went on to challenge the convention and played diverse characters in movies such as "Sakuran", "Kisaragi," and the Crows Zero series from prolific director Takashi Miike. But acting is not the end-all for Oguri, just 2 years ago he went on to direct his first feature entitled Surely Someday.

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Age: 20

Previous Ranking: Top 18, up by 13

Spotlight Movies: Himizu, Lesson of the Evil, A Liar and a Broken Girl

Why he's on the top 10: At the age of 20, he has achieved more than some of the more established young actors on this list. With more than 20 movies to his credit, Shota Sometani is already a 'veteran' of sorts. Grabbing the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor at the 68th Venice Film Festival is his biggest accolades so far.

There is definitely a rivalry (of sorts) between two of the youngest actors on the list (Kamiki and Shota), having met only once in the acting arena via a TV movie (Kokoro no Ito), with Kamiki taking the lead role, while Sometani provided support, but they nevertheless pit talents during all the scenes they were together ... Satoshi versus Kenichi (Part 2?) 

Read a profile of Shota Sometani @13oys and m3n!

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Age: 30

Previous Ranking: Top 5, up by 1

Spotlight Movies: Thirteen Assassins, Ikigami, MW, The Letters, Crying out Loud in the Center of the World, Crow Zero, Crow Zero 2, Ushijima the Loan Shark

The Buzz: He can kick your ass and throw you to a bottomless pit. If looks can kill, then he can massacre. Such is the power of Takayuki Yamada. But not everything is about power acting for the 29-year old actor. In Crying out Loud, a critic commented:

The acting was outstanding for a Japanese drama and the whole series was well-cast (the older Saku could've been a little more likable though). Special honors go to Takayuki Yamada for his portrayal of 17-year-old Saku. Yamada has to be one of the best dramatic actors in Japan. Overall, this is one of the best dramas to come out of Japan.

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Age: 29

Previous Ranking: Not ranked in Top 30

Spotlight Movies: Love Strikes!, The Drudgery Train, A Chorus of Angels, Crying Out in the Center of the World, Fish on Land

The Buzz: Moriyama has that unique acting magic that glows - he can do comedy with spontaneity and drama with power and vision. Just like Ryuhei Matsuda, he excels in both supporting and lead roles. He was awesome in Love Strikes and even better (if that could still be possible) in The Drudgery Train, and he was as effective in A Chorus of Angels, playing a supporting role.

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Age: 30

Previous Ranking: Top 4, up by 2

Spotlight Movies: Taboo, Suicide Song, Tada's Do it All House, Blue Spring, Big Bang Love Juvenile A, 9 Souls, I'm Flash, Phone Call to the Bar (1 and 2), The Great Passage

The Buzz: 38 movies in the span of 13 years. Ryuhei Matsuda is one of the most versatile actors in Japan today. From the time he played the young and naive Samurai Sozaburo Kano (Taboo) in 1999, to his portrayal of Jun Ariyoshi in Bang Bang Love Juvenile A seven years later to his upcoming portrayal of a body guard in I'm Flash, Ryuhei is already iconic in the collective minds of Japanese moviegoers. The Matsuda magic continues in The Great Passage and the sequel to Phone Call to the Bar.

You may also enjoy this profile of Ryuhei from my Drama Tea!

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Age: 33

Previous Ranking: Maintains number 1 ranking.

Spotlight Movies: Villain, My Back Page, The Haunted Samurai, Tears For You, Dororo, Smuggler, Waterboys, No Boys No Cry, For Love's Sake, Tokyo Family, Fly With the Gold

The Buzz: It would seem unfair to compare actors, but in this case it's simply unavoidable. Satoshi Tsumabuki's considerable performance as Yuichi Shimizu in Villain (Akunin) is well deserved of the Best Actor he received from the Japanese Academy Awards - a performance that is at par with the likes of James McAvoy in Atonement or Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson. I find the idiocy in the fact that he's described as the "Exceedingly Handsome Guy" in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, while actors of lower calibre talent (sic) get top billing. How do we justify Tsumabuki's number one ranking then? We don't - it's as simple as that.

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Who are your favorite actors in the list above? What are some of your favorite movies that star some of these actors? Let us know what you think!

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Essential Sites & Blogs

Asian Addicts Anonymous - Comprehensive reviews and recaps of exciting Japanese drama, including interesting post on Asian music and movie news.

D-Addicts - Great and insightful discussions about Japanese dramas, English subtitles of the latest and previously released dramas, and torrents.

Dorama Doll - a new blog that will feature recaps of selected Japanese dramas, most probably related to Johnny & Associates talents, with some great recommendations on what to watch if you're new to the J-drama scene.

Genkinahito's Blog - Reviews, news, box office results & some amazing insights into Japanese films, including manga and anime.

I see, Ikemen - Promoting the awesome and talented young Japanese actors, with lots of screenshots and insights into the careers of top and upcoming young talents. A new blog 13oys and Men incorporates most of the actors' profiles and more!

My Drama Tea - Honest and insightful reviews of Japanese drama, also reviews of Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese dramas, with music news and movie reviews.

OtherWhere - Excellent and varied trailer showcase, insightful reviews of Japanese movies (both indies and mainstream), and a great resource for news on Studio Ghibli too!

Twitch Films - Extensive coverage of film events, with an amazing spotlight on Japanese movies.

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