A new generation is coming, and they’re grabbing all the attention they can take (Part2)

The curiosity continues as more and more new faces and names make their way to TV and movie projects alike. Sometimes it starts to feel like a Gotta Catch ’em All but we also know we’d not live long enough to do such.

It’s taken a while but here’s our second batch of up-and-coming young actors, including 10 names of which the popularity has only been growing and growing! As with the previous one, the actors included are kept to those born in-between ‘96-’00. Older ones generally already have their name out to some degree, while the younger ones obviously still need to find their way around. And let’s be honest, this age-bracket is full of guys with skills worthy to be put on your fave lists.

Sano Reo (’96, GENERATIONS – LDH)

ModelPress’ Next Break list featured GENERATIONS member Katayose Ryota, but I think people sometimes forget the main vocalist isn’t the group’s only actor. GENE’s youngest, Sano Reo, actually started acting earlier, joining – that other acting groupmate – Shirahama Alan in the drama adaptation of manga Sugarless way back in 2012.

In the acting world, though, Reo is probably more known for his role in HIGH & LOW as he portrayed Takeshi – one of the Rude Boys members – in multiple of the series’ episodes and movies. My personal favorite, on the other hand, is also his first proper leading movie role. In 2018, Reo starred as Hashiba Natsuki in the Nijiiro Days adaptation. Though it might not have been completely true to the source, it did a great job at trying to maintain the kids’ personalities. This was without a doubt also partly, if not near fully, because Sano Reo, Yokohama Ryusei, Nakagawa Taishi, and Takasugi Mahiro made an amazingly fitting team for its four main boys.

More recently the 24-year-old was cast in Hanalei Bay – based on a Murakami Haruki short story – as well as the installments of Prince of Legend, where several of his group’s members were part of the cast.

Sato Kanta (’96 – Gekidan EXILE/LDH)

We’re staying in LDH/EXILE quarters for a bit with Sato Kanta. After passing the model auditions for Fukuoka, Kanta tried the LDH vocal and performer auditions, but sadly failed both. He eventually became a trainee at the company’s theater department, and joined Gekidan EXILE in 2015.

Just as with Reo, the guy’s most known role is without a doubt HIGH & LOW‘s Tetsu (aka Tetz). The issue is – in my case at least – that when you get used to his looks in that project, you barely end up recognizing him in anything after. Let’s just blame his haircut.

After a few HIGH & LOW installments, Kanta jumped to a whole different already existing project as, starting in 2016, he took over the lead role of Irie Naoki in Itazura na Kiss. Furukawa Yuki played the role from 2013 till 2015.

Since the start of the year we’ve seen the actor show up in drama series as well as theater shows here and there. His next role will be as a part of Nakamura Tomoya led Bishoku Tantei Akechi Goro, a drama adaptation of a manga of the same name. It starts airing in April.

Kaneko Daichi (’96 – Amuse)

I’ll admit it straight off the bat, Kaneko has been on the PD radar for a while now – all thanks to some well-taken promo pics and some good teaser tension. But of course that’s not what I’m going to talk about for his whole section.

The now 24-year-old actor got into Amuse through its 2014 audition. He wasn’t alone, however, since that same audition is also responsible for the careers of Kiyohara Kaya and Hotta Mayu, among others. Keeping that in mind, it was no surprise that both Kaya and Kaneko were selected to join agencymate Nomura Shuhei in the 2015 anime movie, Taifuu no Noruda, resulting in their proper debut as actors on the Amuse roster – even though it wasn’t exactly a regular onscreen role.

As of his latest appearance in Sato Takeru and Kamishiraishi Mone’s Koi wa Tsuzuku yo Doko Made mo 2020 drama, Kaneko Daichi has accumulated a variety of 22 drama and 17 movie appearances, as well as a voice acting role and some theater shows. Currently on the schedule is GTO prequel Shonan Junai Gumi! which started airing on February 28th. He co-stars with Kanichiro.

ModelPress listed him as one of their top 10 “break” predictions on their 2020 hitlist.

Nakao Masaki (’96 – Watanabe)

Nakao Masaki is another one who’s been part of various Next Break prediction lists, and has been popping up somewhat regularly in the past year or two.

Though definitely not the sole ex-Sentai or Kamen Rider on this long list of young actors – Yokohama Ryusei came first in our previous article – Nakao had his acting debut through Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger in 2016. He’s likely gained the most attention from his inclusion in 2019 hit Anata no Ban Desu, where he played a recurring character by the name of Kakinuma Ryo.

Nakao had his first notable leading role in a drama through the adaptation of Kakafukaka (’19), but already experienced the same position for Ichirei Shite, Kiss (’17) as well as Cheer Danshi (’19) – the latter of which he shared with Yokohama Ryusei.

This D-Boys member – yes, the troupe still exists! – hasn’t much revealed yet when it comes to his 2020 plans, though he has joined Yokohama Ryusei – yes, again – for an episode of ShiroKuro earlier this season.

Morinaga Yuki (’96 – SMA)

Morinaga is, well, a unique one on this list. He’s not exactly up-and-coming – I’d kind of feel bad calling an actor with a near 20 years long career up-and-coming – but in a way he’s really been making his name known in the past few years. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t seem to be promoted along the lines of his peers, or maybe it’s just because of the types of projects he takes. All I know is that the difference in English language info between him and other ’96ers is pretty clear: there just isn’t much of it.

The young actor had his first roles when he was in kindergarten, then took a break for a few years and finally made a return when he was about 9. Counting all those projects and roles since, makes for an incredible list of 55 drama appearances, 20 movies, and two stage plays. 46 of which in the past five years. If you haven’t heard of him by now, you certainly will sometime soon.

His role in Chihayafuru, for instance, is one of those that put him on the map of solid young actors to keep an eye on. Possibly also his most known from the past years. Morinaga’s latest movie projects include Sano Hayato’s Chiisana Koi no Uta and Yokohama Ryusei’s Ao no Kaerimichi. Earlier this year he appeared in Zettai Reido 4 as well as drama special Sabu which he led alongside Sugino Yosuke.

Okada Kenshi (’99 – Spice Power)

In contrast to Morinaga Yuki, Okada Kenshi’s filmography is fairly empty so far – he only made his debut in 2018’s Chugakusei Nikki after all. His name, however, has been spreading easily. Next Break lists also seem to favor adding him, believing he’ll certainly continue garnering as much attention as he’s been doing for the past two years.

Spice Power’s new it-boy ended 2019 with a leading role in drama Follow Saretara Owari, alongside Nakao Masaki, Yuutaro, and many others. Movies Yayoi, Sangatsu: Kimi wo Aishita 30nen and Doctor Death no Isan: Black File are set for a 2020 release. He joins Haru and Narita Ryo, as well as Ayano Go and Kitagawa Keiko, respectively.

When it comes to drama series, Kenshi is already cast in two for the year. His next drama, MIU404, starts in April, while he’s also leading the Itoshi no Nina adaptation this spring.

Itagaki Mizuki (’00 – Stardust)

The youngest of this batch, Itagaki Mizuki, has been acting for about 7 years now. As a part of Stardust – and EBiDAN – it’s no surprise the now ex-M!LK member has had his fair share of acting roles, and with 11 movies, and 16 drama appearances so far, Mizuki steadily keeps adding to his growing resume.

He has been a part of productions such as Hibiki – led by Hirate Yurina – as well as Hot Gimmick, where he stars alongside Hori Miona, Mamiya Shotaro and Shimizu Hiroya, but it is likely that a lot of people still mostly know him from 2015’s Solomon’s Perjury. The two-part movie was based on a novel by popular writer Miyabe Miyuki and is known for its solid young cast including Fujino Ryoko, Mochizuki Ayumu, Tomita Miu, and, again, Shimizu Hiroya, among others. Mizuki received a newcomer award for his portrayal of Kanbara Kazuhiko in the movies.

Normally there would have been a shiny M!LK added to his name but as it stands, Mizuki decided to leave his group in favor of a full-time acting career. Fellow member Miyase Ryubi made the same decision while Sano Hayato – and in a lesser amount Yoshida Jinto and Yamanaka Jyutaro – continues combining the two.

Hirano Sho (’97, King&Prince – J&A)

Does one of J&A’s current favorite boys need an introduction? Hirano Sho is mostly known as being 1/6th of King & Prince, an idol group which debuted in 2018. His proper acting debut, however, dates back to a few years before that, when he was cast as the lead character of JE-talents-filled drama Shark. 

Looking at the rest of his filmography, it’s back to 2018 we go as the idol’s first music release went hand in hand with his first big role – next to Nakagawa Taishi and Sugisaka Hana – in Hana Yori Dango sequel series Hana Nochi Hare. Live action adaptations of Ui Rabu and Honey, or last year’s Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai, pulled him towards movie releases. Currently Hirano is preparing for promotions around his Midnight Runner drama, which he’s double leading alongside agencymate and Sexy Zone member Nakajima Kento. This includes not only promotional events but also things such as variety shows, MC gigs, and their own twitter account.

He might not be the sole member of his team to go into acting, but he’s without a doubt the most known one.

Hagiwara Riku (’99 – Topcoat)

Compared with the star power of the current Topcoat roster of Arata Mackenyu, Suda Masaki, Nakamura Tomoya, and Matsuzaka Tori, among others, Hagiwara Riku can appear to be a fledgling – their next poster boy, perhaps – but appearances can deceive as the actor’s career spans a whole 12 years by now. Would you know he’s been acting longer than most of them?

From his debut in 2008 with Tomica Hero Rescue Force to his supporting roles in 3-gatsu no Lion, and Chihayafuru, among others, Riku’s list is filled with 28 drama appearances and 23 movies so far. 2019 probably marked his biggest popularity spike yet, with supporting roles in the 3 Nen A Gumi drama and 12nin no Shinitai Kodomotachi movie. Lead roles for both projects were taken care of by Riku’s agencymates Suda Masaki and Arata Mackenyu respectively. Riku also led Denei Shojo -Video Girl Mai 2019-, a sequel series to Denei Shojo -Video Girl Ai 2018-.

When I started compiling this list it wasn’t exactly my intention to put him together with Fuju, but since they’re currently starring in the same drama, Nibiiro no Hako no Naka de, it’s all the more fitting.

Kamio Fuju (’99 – A-Team)

Where to start with this one?

Last time I had to write a thing about this kid, he was probably not even half as known as he is now but I’m sure his surge of castings has something to do with that. The young actor has already piled up about 20 drama series and five movies since his debut in 2015, nine of which saw their release in 2019 alone. So far Fuju already has six projects for 2020 – three drama series and three movies – and I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of him yet.

The 21-year-old is currently acting in drama Nibiiro no Hako no Naka de – or perhaps we should rename that one Fuju Kisses People: the Drama. Hagiwara Riku and Mochizuki Ayumu are also part of the main male cast. Ii ne! Hikaru Genji-kun and Guilty: Kono Koi wa Tsumi Desuka drama adaptations start in April – Chiba Yudai and Shinkawa Yua will be leading those respectively – while Fuju took the lead role in the Mairunovich series which is set to air sometime later this year. Moviewise, we’ll be seeing him in not just a supporting role for Korogaru Bidama, or a lead in indie Ura Ka, but also in the clearly highly anticipated Watashi ga Motete Dousunda LA adaptation.

My wish for him this year? A proper starring role alongside close friend Onodera Akira. That should be fun.

Just as with Kaneko, ModelPress listed him as one of the top 10 “break” predictions on their 2020 hitlist.


Hagiwara RikuInstagram // Profile

Hirano Sho (King & Prince)Profile

Itagaki Mizuki (Ex-M!LK) – Instagram // Profile

Kamio Fuju – Instagram // Twitter // Profile

Kaneko Daichi – Instagram // Profile

Morinaga YukiTwitter// Profile

Nakao Masaki – Instagram // Twitter // Profile

Okada KenshiInstagram // Profile

Sano Reo – Instagram // Twitter // Profile & Profile (Group)

Sato KantaInstagram // Profile


Up next: Do we need more rookies? I guess we always need more rookies. Next batch includes a few personal favorites – Bando Ryota, Super Dragon’s Furukawa Tsuyoshi, and Onodera Akira, to name a few – but also some slightly familiar names and faces – think Yuutaro, Mochizuki Ayumu, or K&P’s Nagase Ren.

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