A few J-dorama watchers and friends have recommended that I review Tenno no Ryoriban (The Emperor's Cook - 天皇の料理番), the TBS drama that won Best Actor for Takeru Satoh at the recent TV drama awards, and lucky for me, I did! I followed his career since 2010, watched him in Beck and then the first of the 3 Rurouni Kenshin movies in 2012. While he did spectacular action sequences in the samurai/action movies, he was clobbered by Masataka Kubota in The Liar and His Lover, who only played a supporting role, but had fire in his eyes all throughout the movie. A lackluster performance from an inept and boring movie, Real, followed.

By this time, I'm only interested in seeing Rurouni Kenshin since I think of him only as an action star. But The Emperor's Cook changed all that. I think he has started to develop his own acting style - not really an established or signature style (like Yuya Yagira's expressive eyes or Sometani's angst and emotional voice-over or even Ryunosuke Kamiki's fast-paced monologues), since there is still room for improvement, but he has shown a lot of growth as an actor.

Updates: After a qualified "leak" or slip or whatever (Casting scoop was in the 26th issue of Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump), Japanese entertainment sites officially revealed the cast - Masataka Kubota, Kento Yamazaki, Mio Yuki - confirming earlier reports.

Insiders mentioned that the drama series - to be aired by NTV every Sunday starting July - differs from previous movie adaptations where the main characters battle it out as young professionals. In the new drama, both Light Yagami and L are college students. (Not really sure if both have scenes inside the school or if one of them is as "eccentric" as previously depicted) I think the biggest drawback of the movie was portraying Yagami immediately as being corruptible hence it was not entirely convincing how an idealistic young guy who is passionate about the law and ethics could easily succumb to the temptation of the death note and start killing criminals.

The powerful production committee - unknown business executives - who are clueless about movies, drama and anything that has to do with the artistic process in live action adaptation does it again! This time in the Death Note drama series scheduled for airing this coming July 2015. While the casting of Masataka Kubota as Light Yagami is perfect regarding quality and credibility, Kento Yamazaki as L is a pleasant surprise and something to speculate. Mio Yuki as the relatively unknown Near (for those who are not familiar with the manga) is the most shocking of all.

In our previous article discussing the launch of the drama series, fellow J-dorama watchers speculated on the cast, and Kento Yamazaki was mentioned as - perhaps - a viable candidate to play one of the characters. Yamazaki, who is getting quality roles of late is a capable and intense dramatic actor as anyone from his generation (except Masaki Suda, of course, which is entirely on a different level). Previously played by Kenichi Matsuyama, the character of L is the most colorful and intriguing among the Death Note players. Playing L is not easy especially for #deadfisheyes actors, but Yamazaki had demonstrated his dramatic abilities way before anyone took an interest in him (Control Tower is an excellent example of how good he is). I don't know how good Yamazaki is on playing such a unique character because when Kenichi played L, he was both charismatic, geeky-nerdy and the movie series' class act.

Casting Kento Yamazaki is probably the biggest draw for the drama series, and I'm one of the most excited for it.

Kento Yamazaki (who is already making waves in both movies and drama series) grabs the lead in the 2014 edition of the Satomi Hakkenden saga - considered as the "greatest samurai novel in Japan".

He is to play Inuzuka Shino-Moritaka, previously portrayed by Hideaki Takizawa in the 2006 TBS broadcast version.

Japanese drama addicts are probably looking forward to the July 2014 broadcast of Young People (Wakamono Tachi) starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Eita, Hikari Mitsushima, Masami Nagasawa and Yu Aoi among its star-studded cast. The fact that the cast is not only "stars" but talented and critically acclaimed actors make all the difference. Can it duplicate the success of the 1966 original drama? Will there be deviations to the original story? Will the characters be altered to suit the modern times?

These questions will have answers soon, but let's focus on one issue here: How was the on-screen chemistry between our talented cast? Have they been together before in a drama or a movie perhaps? What sort of roles did they play together?

Award-winning dramatic actor Satoshi Tsumabuki will join forces with Hikari Mitsushima, Eita, Tasuku Emoto and Shuhei Nomura in the upcoming drama "Wakamonotachi" (The Youngsters). The five stars will play siblings who lost their parents early in their childhood, and together they struggle to live - with several emotional clashes due to their different dreams and aspirations. These emotional confrontations and their various relationships will be the focus of the drama first aired in 1966.

 

Tsumabuki and Mitsushima were in the award-winning movie Villain (Akunin), which won for Tsumabuki, the Best Actor trophy at the Japan Academy Prize back in 2011. Mitsushima was also in the award-winning drama Soredemo, Ikite Yuku, this time with Eita as the leading man. In essence, we have three of the best dramatic actors working in Japan together in this drama which will also commemorate FujiTV's 55th anniversary.

The show is reported to be ready for broadcast this coming July. Also in the show are Yu Aoi and Ai Hashimoto, Yu Aoi also figured prominently with Tsumabuki in Tokyo Family.

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