It seems many who are new to Japanese movie and drama wanted to get an idea of actors who made names for themselves. If Part 1 is about the current 'IT' boys, let's go back in time to know the great actors of yesteryears. Of course, it is not easy to classify them according to generations - since many of our favorite artists may be of the same age but started early (or more recent) in doing movies (or dramas for that matter). 

Toshiro Mifune, who recently became part of the Hollywood walk of fame started his film career in 1947 with Snow Trail. For those who have been familiar with classic Japanese films, his great collaboration with iconic Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa produced some of the most famous movies from Japan to be recognized around the world. These films include Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1958). Mifune was born in 1920 and died in 1997, but still made a movie two years earlier entitled Deep River, Japan's official entry to the Oscar's Best Foreign Film.

Ken Takakura, generally regarded as Mifune's successor, was born in 1931  and made his first movie in 1965 entitled A Fugitive from the Past. Said movie is viewed by Kinema Junpo as one of the greatest Japanese films ever made. Takakura is also the holder of 4 Best Actor trophies from the Japanese Academy, the most for any actors. He gained international recognition after starring in the 1970 war film Too Late the Hero as the cunning Imperial Japanese Major Yamaguchi, the 1974 Sydney Pollack sleeper hit The Yakuza with Robert Mitchum and is probably best known in the West for his role in Ridley Scott's Black Rain (1989). 

The prestigious Kinema Junpo has made their Top 10 list, shown below:

1. Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997)
2. Yujiro Ishihara (1934-1987)
3. Masayuki Mori (1911-1973)
4. Ken Takakura (1931-2014)
5. Chishū Ryū (1904-1993)
6. Ichikawa Raizō VIII (1931-1969)
7. Tsumasaburō Bandō (1901-1953)
7. (tie) Shintaro Katsu (1931-1997)
9. (tie) Kiyoshi Atsumi (1928-1996)
9. (tie) Hisaya Morishige (1913-2009)
9. (tie) Yorozuya Kinnosuke (1932-1997) 

My introduction to Japanese cinema, and perhaps many of this blog's readers, started much more recent, so let me start with the ones some of us are more familiar with...

Yeah right, some people may be asking,

...but I only knew of Hidetoshi Nishijima, Shun Oguri, Eita, Kenichi Matsuyama and Satoshi Tsumabuki?" I don't know these new actors you're talking about!

To think that Yuya Yagira and Shota Sometani have to reach their acting 'peaks' yet (and become household names themselves)... But the thing is, the current drama trends are geared towards the next generation already, and there is no stopping this 'roller coaster ride.' But are they doing a damn good job? I'm hoping, but I'm not too sure.


The current IT boys of Japanese drama/movie scenes + the buzz on High&Low after the jump!

Some people would prefer the likes of Juri Ueno, Kou Shibasaki, Yukie Nakama, Maki Horikita or maybe Ryoko Yonekura and Ryoko Hirosue since they have played some of the most memorable (and favorite) TV characters to date. Some would have a different list that may include Miki Nakatani, Takako Matsu, Haru Kuroki, Yuriko Yoshitaka and Yoko Maki. Another set may find Hikari Mitsushima, Mao Inoue, Sakura Ando, Yu Aoi, Masami Nagasawa to be their favorites.

Whatever set of Japanese actresses you prefer, the next generation is starting to gain popularity and even acclaims. 

So, who are they - these rookies? Let's see: Part 1 [ Tao Tsuchiya, Mayu Matsuoka, Suzu Hirose ] Part 2 [ Hana Sugisaki ] Part 3 [Mitsuki Takahata ] Part 4 [ Fumika Shimizu, Yuina Kuroshima, Mizuki Yamamoto ] and Part 5 [ Mugi Kadowaki, Aoi Morikawa, Jun Yoshinaga, Mone Kamishiraishi ]

I have to say Fumi Nikaido (22) and Haru Kuroki (26) are already at a different (higher) level than anyone on this list. So, it's moot and academic that we think of them as the frontrunners.

Aside from the lead star of Bon Lin, Ema Sakura, some of the biggest high-impact performances I have seen in recent movies were that of Mone Kamishiraishi in Lady Maiko, Jun Yoshinaga in Still the Water, Mugi Kadowaki in Love's Whirpool and Aoi Morikawa in The World of Kanako.

These young actresses may not be as famous as Emi Takei, Ayame Gouriki or Tsubasa Honda, but they certainly can act and act very well. Mone is yet to give us her all; the same is the case with Yoshinaga who some believe is Yuya Yagira's counterpart. Kadowaki is, of course, Sosuke Ikematsu's counterpart - being cast in matured, bold, daring roles, while Morikawa serves as a favorite Ryunosuke Kamiki and Masaki Suda acting collaborator.

In Part 5 of this series, we put the spotlight on Japan's amazing young talents - the ones who are standouts - not the most attractive, perhaps even controversial since unlike many others, they tend to get the hardest roles.

I just hope the powers that be will give Jun Yoshinaga another project. In Kawase's Still the Water, she made such a huge impact.

It's not only the men who suffer from "second lead syndrome." In fact, this 'acting phenomenon' is also prevalent among the females. A good example is the Rurouni Kenshin casting where #deadfisheyes Emi Takei takes top billing over the more talented and more appealing Yu Aoi. The current industry practice of mixing idols with pure acting talents is also one major factor why looks take over talent in many movie productions.

Before our final part (where the remaining top contenders are discussed), we take a look at some outstanding young actresses who suffered from this casting syndrome.

I saw Yuina Kuroshima in a CM for telephone giant DocoMo, and she has all the attributes of a star. Her supporting role in Aoi Honoo (headlined by Yuya Yagira) has explored her comedic talents as well. Co-star Mizuki Yamamoto also made some lasting impressions in that series. If you have seen Black Butler (featuring the comeback of Hiro Mizushima ) then you may remember Yamamoto as the maid turned gun-totting sidekick. In Tokyo Refugees, Yamamoto proved she can also play dark, sinister characters. I'm also anticipating good performance from Kuroshima via Ashita ni Nareba.