2017 and beyond appear to be promising years for Kento Yamazaki, Shota Sometani, Takeru Satoh, Taishi Nakagawa, Ryosuke Yamada, Masataka Kubota, and Ryunosuke Kamiki. The same applies to Tao Tsuchiya, Fumika Shimizu, and Hana Sugisaki. 

Why is that? Well, the biggest casting buzz in 2016 represents projects with them -  either as the main role or playing major characters of movies set for 2017, 2018 releases. For me, a major buzz in Japanese TV dramas are not as prestigious as being part of, say, the latest Sion Sono Nobuhiro Yamashita, or Hirokazu Koreeda movies, but these TV dramas may serve as 'launching pads' for new actors. However, being the new lead in an asadora or major roles in NHK's taiga drama are essential for a young actor's resume. 

Here is the biggest casting news in 2016! 

Donten ni Warau (Laughing Under the Clouds);

Fullmetal Alchemist;

Teiichi's Country;

RE: Life;

P and JK;

I Want To Eat Your Pancreas;

Tokyo Ghoul;

Jojo's Bizarre Adventures;

Ajin: Demi-Human;

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.;

March Comes In Like a Lion;

Ku-Kai;

Hyouka.


I'm impressed with the kind of visual promo that Donten ni Warau has done already. The film's official website introduces the cast by doing mini-interviews and showing lots of photos. 

Of course, we have to remember that Sota Fukushi is never a dramatic actor and that his role as Tenka requires a personality with plenty of humor. If he can muster a bubbly, upbeat character while showing a 'dark' side, then he can do justice to such a role. He has plenty of practice when he played Gentaro Kisaragi in Kamen Rider Fourze. He lost his 'on-screen confidence' when they started casting him for dramatic roles, something that is just too hard for him to do. He's an eye candy with some potential, they should have realized that, but Fukushi is an investment, he needs to work for Ken-On to get their returns.

Anyway, it's the second brother who takes the spotlight in the anime. Having a Johnny's - Yuma Nakayama - playing such a major role can either backfire or work well for the film. Nakayama shows plenty of grit when he played a kabuki stage actor in Pinto Kona, but that's only a TV drama. As Soramaru, he has plenty of work to do - acting-wise:

Soramaru is the second eldest of the Kumō family. His elder brother, Tenka, entrusted him with the family's twin swords, which he practices with everyday. Even throughout combat and practice, the swords remained in their sheath. Soramaru also struggles with the fact that he is weaker than Tenka, not being able to be recognized as a strong man who is worthy of protecting his household. He suffers from memory loss due to the childhood trauma of witnessing his parents' murder and nearly being strangled to death. This experience also causes him to develop an extreme aversion to having his neck touched. After Tenka's alleged death, Chutaro's disappearance and Shirasu's betrayal, Soramaru's negative feelings causes his mental state to deteriorate and he eventually turns into the real vessel of the Orochi. [ source ]

The supporting actors are what made me excited about the film. Imagine Yuki Furukawa and Junya Ikeda reuniting after Litchi Hikari Club. Ikeda, in particular, is an extremely talented theater actor. He has an enigmatic presence and is as fearless as Masaki Suda.

Here's the storyline:

In 1878, the Meiji Restoration occurred. Because of this, the country faced many criminals, such as samurai rebelling against their fallen positions. Many were arrested, but they soon broke out of their jail cells and rampaged across Japan. Therefore, the government did their best to prevent this by building a giant prison in the middle of Lake Biwa. However, to get these criminals to the prison, they needed a form of transport. In this way, the Kumō brothers were given the responsibility to take these criminals to their final resting place.

Cast:

  • Sota Fukushi - Tenka Kumo
  • Yuma Nakayama - Soramaru Kumo
  • Kirato Wakayama - Chutaro Kumo
  • Yuki Furukawa - Sousei Abeno
  • Ren Kiriyama - Shirasu Kinjo
  • Shunsuke Daito - Seiichiro Takamine
  • Masaki Kaji - Zenzou Inukai
  • Junya Ikeda - Hayakage
  • Ryuya Wakaba - Kiryu
  • Eita Okuno - Raiga

 


Fullmetal Alchemist comes on the heels of Ryosuke Yamada's latest TV drama - Cain and Abel - showing dramatically poor ratings. Well, to have Kenta Kiritani as your co-star can be hard for Yamada who is just starting to learn the ropes of drama acting, so to speak.

I also wonder why people would even consider Assassination Classroom as a candidate for 'Film of the Year' when it was so obvious that it suck. Let alone Grasshopper where Yamada solidified his position as one of Johnny's #deadfisheye. 

However, watching the trailer for the live-action adaptation may sway this author (and even a few critics) that perhaps this project may be Yamada's salvation.

One plus point for Fullmetal Alchemist is director Fumuhiko Sori. 

Sori made such films as Ping Pong (starring Yosuke Kubozuka and Arata) and Ashita no Joe (with Yusuke Iseya and Yamapi playing boxing rivals). Both films showcase amazing visual effects and are two of the best sports-oriented Japanese movies I've seen.

"I want to create a style that follows the original manga as much as possible. The cast is entirely Japanese, but the cultural background is Europe. However, it's a style that doesn't represent a specific race or country." Regarding the faithfulness of the adaptation, which has characters of non-Japanese ethnicity, the director said, "There will never be a scene in which a character says something that would identify him/her as Japanese." [ read more ]

Yamada's box office pull is reasonably strong. One cannot underestimate the power of his followers. But the big question here is: Can Yamada play a convincing Edward Elric?

On the surface, Edward displays an immature sort of personality. He is decidedly stubborn and strong-willed, frequently letting his pettiness and vindictiveness get the better of him (it is this stubbornness that contributes to Führer Bradley's decision to codename him "Fullmetal," as "Hagane" (literally meaning "steel") is a term in Japanese that denotes someone of obstinate disposition). He is somewhat selfish and remarkably self-absorbed, generally acting more out of self-interest than any sort of philanthropy as well as taking several opportunities to stroke his own ego or flaunt the governmental power and monetary license of his military position. He is largely hostile towards figures of authority and feels little incentive to follow orders with which he disagrees, earning him the distinction of being a loose cannon of sorts. Edward is also rather quick-tempered, resorting more often to steel-fisted violence than calm negotiation to settle disputes. He has a reputation for being foul-mouthed and is an incurably sarcastic cynic, only too happy to bluntly and harshly relieve others of their comfortable delusions regarding god, reality, or their own self-importance. 

However, for those few people who have made an impact on him, Ed shows his deeper nature to be one of marked selflessness, unflinching loyalty, and great compassion. [ read more ]

Quite a complex character, don't you think?

Cast:

  • Ryosuke Yamada - Edward Elric
  • Tsubasa Honda - Winry Rockbell
  • Dean Fujioka - Roy Mustang
  • Yasuko Matsuyuki - Lust
  • Fumiyo Kohinata - General Haruko
  • Misako Renbutsu - Riza Hokuai
  • Ryuta Sato - Maes Hughes
  • Natsuna Watanabe - Maria Ross
  • Natsuki Harada - Glacier Hughes
  • Jun Kunimura - Dr. Marcoh
  • Yo Oizumi - Sho Takka
  • Kenjiro Ishimaru - Cornello
  • Kanata Hongo - Envy
  • Shinji Uchiyama - Gluttony

Pretty solid supporting cast, especially Fujioka, Matsuyuki and Hongo, among my favorites. I hope Tsubasa Honda will do her best. She competes with Kasumi Arimura as Japan's most boring actresses.


Teiichi's Country (Teiichi no Kuni) live-action is as star-studded as it could get. The Masaki Suda-Shuhei Nomura team up is proven many times already. 

Here's the complete cast:

  • Masaki Suda - Teiichi Akaba
  • Shuhei Nomura - Kikuma Togo
  • Ryoma Takeuchi - Dan Otaka
  • Shotaro Mamiya - Rorando Himuro
  • Jun Shison - Komei Sakakibara
  • Yudai Chiba - Okuto Morizo
  • Mei Nagano - Mimiko Shiratori
  • Kotaro Yoshida - Josuke Akaba

This project is Akira Nagai's latest following If Cats Disappeared From the World, and it is a big departure from the dramatic Takeru Satoh film. 

Akaba Teiichi is beginning his student career at an elite private boy's high school, which was originally renowned for producing many excellent naval officers. In its current incarnation, his school regularly turns out many important politicians and bureaucrats, and networking starts from day one. Teiichi is determined to become the school's student council president, a position which will help launch him into the political sphere after graduation. He has run his life so far by maintaining a perfect image, while never neglecting the darker side of politics. He has plenty of help to reach his goal. Teiichi's father, who is now an important bureaucrat, lost the position of student council president during his high school years, and that loss has continually hindered his career. He's determined to support his son's success in any way he can. Teiichi also has his loyal best friend and second-in-command, Koumei, helping him with strategy. On the side of emotional support, Teiichi has his little sister and mother, in addition to his girlfriend Mimiko. However, an unexpected force may rise against his ambition. An idealistic new teacher, Kurosaka Reiko, is determined to use her power to undermine the corrupt political traditions of their school. Her first step is to push a well-liked, highly intelligent, but poor student named Otaka Dan, who is not from the elite feeder middle school, into the political world. Will Teiichi be able to use the existing political system to achieve his goals, in spite of Kurosaka's efforts to upset the status quo? [ read more ]

Ryoma Takeuchi and Shotaro Mamiya are pretty much solid actors. I'm not impressed with Shison but his latest TV drama Kimi wa Petto looks promising.

As Dan Otaka, I say Takeuchi takes one of the most challenging supporting roles. 

 

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