Friends & Cameos
Even after all these years, Kanata still ends up surprising me. If it isn’t with random statements, then it’s with people who end up being his friends one way or another. Think Narimiya Hiroki. The guy eight years his senior, who didn’t only play a classmate in Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, but also ended up being close to Shin as Nana’s Nobu, or what about seeing him as a bar owner in Saigo no Bansan’s special episode? But also think Okada Masaki, Kanata’s classmate in Seito Shokun!, who also probably made pretty much all of us cringe during Mirai Nikki – though I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that wasn’t entirely his fault alone. Think Chiba Yudai, who pulled him into Shirato Osamu no Jikenbo, or Sakurada Dori, Suzuki Katsuhiro, and agency-mate Yamazaki Kento, who came over to his place after having starred in Yowakutemo Katemasu together. And… apparently leaving a huge mess. Think Gackt, who has been some kind of older brother figure to him since way back in Moon Child.
“Gackt and I became good friends ever since I played the younger version of his character in Moon Child. After Moon Child was released, Gackt held his concert tour. One of his songs had the same title as the movie, and it was during the performance of it that I got to imitate his moves on stage. I got to join him during the whole tour in different parts of Japan.” (Zatoo Vol.3 2009)
But there’s also Sometani Shota, for instance. While they haven’t ever acted as leads together, they have made a variety of cameos in each other’s works. Think Shota in Seito Shokun! and Yankee-kun to Megane-chan. Or Kanata in Minna, Esper Dayo! as well as the more recent Strayer’s Chronicle. Small fun fact though: they both graduated from the same high school.
And then, at the end of it, the biggest name on the list should be easy enough for any of you to remember. Kamiki Ryunosuke. Ryu for short, apparently. Or what do you think of his nickname for Kanata, Kanatty. While this is a friendship loved and cared for not only by the guys themselves but the fans as well, I think most of us are still just waiting for them act together again. It’s been ten years since Aikurushii, and about eight since Kanata’s cameo role in Tantei Gakuen Q, for which Kamiki was a lead. Don’t you think a new joint project is long overdue?
Real Life Anime
Whether you like it or not, a big part of the Japanese movie and drama industry is still dominated by animanga adaptations. Hongo Kanata’s filmography isn’t any different, though it doesn’t seem like he actually cares. On the contrary, I’m sure he loves it. There’s Nana’s Shin, Prince of Tennis’ Echizen Ryoma, GOTH’s Kamiyama Itsuki, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan’s Gaku Izumi. I’ve noticed through the years that whenever Kanata gets the opportunity to act a role in an adaptation, it feels like he makes the character his own. It’s no doubt that the roles – let’s not talk about the finished products for a bit – are some of his best ones.
“I read the script repeatedly and had meetings with the director. I also ended up watching movies recommended by him, and looked at picture books about corpses to understand Kamiyama’s world as much as possible. I felt slightly pressured but I think that more difficult roles help me improve, so I did my best.” (Kanata on GOTH, Zatoo Vol.3 2009)
I clearly remember GANTZ’s casting being revealed, for instance. Kanata was asked to play Nishi Joichiro simply because “no one else would be able to play it.” And well, let me just say they didn’t exaggerate. If any role in his career was written for him alone, it’s probably this one. Kind of in the same mindset of Kamiki being Seta Sojiro in Kenshin, or Ninomae in the SPEC series. It would just not fit for anyone else. The more recent role of the titular character in drama Akagi is also a perfect example of that. A role which was apparently so much to his liking that he was convinced to not only dye his hair grey, but also act a smoker. Something he’s mentioned multiple times to be a thing he’d never ever do.
“Among the people in the film, Nishi is the hardest to sympathize with on first impression. Because the character is a bit strange, it left an impact on me, and I wanted to try the role. Nishi was also a character I liked in the original work. I wanted to erase any hint of his human kindness and weakness to create a character that people would be frightened of.” (GYAO February 2011)
But at the same time we all end up confused with some role choices, wondering how the hell they came to be in front of a certain person. Kanata, however, has had this happen himself. The actor revealed earlier this week that upon receiving an offer for Attack on Titan it seems he assumed that it was “finally going to be Levi.” You, me, and pretty much everyone else who heard of his casting expected this to be the case, until no word of Levi remained and the only name appearing right next to Hongo Kanata was the one of Armin Arlert. A little less threatening and intense, but at least he was fun to watch.
Also, let me admit I forgot about a friend in the previous category. A more recently revealed friend who I’d never have thought of if Kanata hadn’t mentioned it himself. Ishida Sui. Yes, that Ishida Sui. The mangaka of Tokyo Ghoul and its sequel. The one who drew Kanata in-universe at the end of last year, and had everyone wonder why the actor had been chosen to get a personalized drawing. Let that same drawing, and the kind of ambiguous message of Kanata himself, be what still makes me think a live action of the series will show up soon enough. I mean, how nice and fitting would it be for him to play Kaneki Ken? (Maybe Kamiki as Suzuya? Please?)
“Tokyo Ghoul‘s mangaka Ishida Sui drew Hongo Kanata (me)! Because I’m a fan of the original work, and have read all of the volumes, I’m not only extremely happy, but really surprised as well. It’d be nice if it’s featured in the original work… Rather, it’d be nice if Tokyo Ghoul gets a live action…” (Hongo Kanata – Diary Entry #17 2014)
Knowing all this, is it a surprise that Kanata has shown up in the anime business as well? No, not really. I’m actually rather surprised it took till 2012 for him to dive into it. Btooom! was what you’d call a survival series in which the lead guy ended up being put in a real life version of the online game he’d been addicted to. Nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing too amazing, but it was a start. At least I’d assumed it would have been one. Just a year after, it was revealed that Kanata had also secured a small role in Gundam Built Fighters, a spin-off series of the Gundam franchise. While his role ended up being nothing but what could be called an extra, I’m sure he was ecstatic having been able to take part in a universe he loves so much. But that’s where it ended. For now at least. I’m not sure if there’s been any talks of him continuing this side-career of his, but I’ll have to admit that I was rather disappointed not to have seen his name pop up on the cast list for the currently airing Gundam series. But at the same time I’m fairly sure he’d jump straight at it if Gundam would ever do an official live action version, and I’d probably be very wary of the whole project if he wouldn’t manage to snatch a role.