There are three things I associate Kanata Hongo with - geeky-nerdy coolness, mystery and successful acting transition. While there are a good number of Japanese actors who have perfected this geeky-nerdy cool like Mirai Moriyama, Kenichi Matsuyama and Takayuki Yamada, Hongo's perfect combination of geeky mystery remains unmatched. You may not agree with me but his singular dramatic-comedic performance in Nazo no Tenkosei has opened my eyes to this boy (acting) wonder. But picking up just one drama series will not do justice to his roster of memorable performances...
Lastly, not all child (kid) actors can make the successful transition into matured, adult acting. This author and perhaps many others have concentrated on Shota Sometani, Yuya Yagira, Sosuke Ikematsu and Ryunosuke Kamiki, among others, in exemplifying such feat. Admittedly, Kanata Hongo should have been mentioned among these young actors in the first place. Simply put, he is as talented as anyone else in the group.
A 2008 interview revealed just how serious Hongo is about his acting career. For someone so young, he seems philosophical and as far as being famous is concerned, he has kept his feet on the ground:
When I got in junior high, work in Tokyo increased. I started thinking I'd want to go on doing this work. At that time, I received my first lead role in the movie "HINOKIO", and that's what decided it. Until then I would just do the things I got without thinking anything, but when you get the lead role you can't do it with such a non-serious attitude. The amount of time I was in it and the number of people concerned with it was totally different than before. For the first time I understood how a single actor can influence an entire work greatly. And then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was difficult. But that's why I thought I wanted to do it.
Since then, my attitude when facing work has changed. I've come to think that I would like to do more. I've also gone to several auditions. I wasn't good at talking promptly and cheerfully, and that wasn't like me. I dealt with my flat conditions as much as I could, and soon I could gradually find jobs that suited me. I think I'm really blessed. Work is steadily becoming fun. [ Interview in Japanese @Junon translated by Suketeru @LiveJournal ]
If you've considered looking at Hongo's acting resume, you may notice a year's gap in his work. That would be 2009, and while I cannot make any specific conclusion as to why perhaps it has something to do with studies. This short gap may not be considered a hiatus (ala Yuya Yagira) but his transition from "kid" to "young adult man" is best described by his co-star GACKT.
This interview was translated 4 years ago, but the essence remains...
That cute little Kanata quickly grew up, and when I think that he's 20 now, it's a strange feeling. My niece is about the same age, and I've talked with HYDE about it a lot, "It wouldn't be weird if we ourselves had kids this age" (laughs). But because we met him when he was 12, rather than a parental relationship, there's a strong sense of us being brothers with an age gap. So, I've thought for the last eight years that rather than tell him to work hard, it's more important to set an example for him of myself working hard. I've been looking forward to his maturation, and been thinking it'll be great when we can drink alcohol together, so I'm kinda happy. [ source ]
There was a TV drama starring Ryunosuke Kamiki and Kanata Hongo, the title of which escapes me at the moment, but what I remember the most is their chance encounter during Kamiki's stay at a school bus station. Another scene, perhaps more insightful about their characters is when Kamiki went inside his room, but his offer of friendship was somewhat rejected. Kanata had this aloof reaction to Kamiki's friendly gestures and it really adds to the tension between two young kids who are actually excited to know each other, but one is simply not too sure of himself.
And yes, that drama is called Aikurushii, featuring an ensemble cast that includes Haruka Ayase and Hayato Ichihara.
Going into fast-forward mode, let's see what casting news Kanata is involved with. Obviously, his participation in the live action version of Attack on Titan is much anticipated, but there are two particular roles that many of his fans are also interested about.
Playing the mahjong champ Shigeru Akagi in the drama of the same name is not Kanata's first lead role, but it certainly is one challenging role to sink his teeth into. The story revolves around the mahjong gambling exploits of Shigeru Akagi as he got involved with a yakuza mahjong parlor and it's clientele/players.
Akagi's ultimate rival is Iwao Washizu, an old man who has made a lot of money and become one of the most powerful people in the Japanese underworld. Having built up massive funds from shady dealings in Japan's post-war era, Washizu tempts people to bet their lives for the chance to win a large amount of money. Washizu and Akagi play mahjong in an unusual way that Washizu calls "Washizu Mahjong", in which glass tiles replace most of the tiles and make the game different in many ways.
Kanata also joins Masaki Suda as the duo responsible for the folk band called Grape in the new drama Chanpon Tabeta kaa.