Some actors are known for studying their characters and looking for ways to understand them up close and personal. Satoshi Tsumabuki says of his role in Villain:
I don’t want to have any fixed limitations or expectations regarding my selection of work, and I want to try any roles offered to me that arouse my interest. The role of the hero, or antihero, in “Akunin” (“Villain”) directed by Lee Sang-Il, was one of the most important jobs in my career. As I got deeply involved in playing Yuichi, a lonely outcast who murdered a woman and was on the run with a social misfit named Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu) who he’d met through an online dating site, I thought about the character every moment of the day and I was totally burned out when the filming finished. [ read more ]
Masanobu Ando made similar remarks:
No matter what role I play, I try to devote myself to it completely, and it’s that focus that is the reason for those side effects. I am attracted to more difficult roles, parts that are quite heavy psychologically. Probably I enjoy the experience of devoting myself to the character entirely. That’s how I feel that I’m truly playing that character, it’s where I find the satisfaction in my job. Also, I want to return all the love that the director gave me when he chose me for the part. [ source ]
Quotes above bring us to the last part in this series. While it’s almost academic that Shota Sometani and Yuya Yagira will play major, vital movie roles in future Japanese films, the same can be said of the actors we have in this final part – let’s start with Sosuke Ikematsu.
– – –
Sosuke Ikematsu started his movie career via Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai where he plays Higen, that young boy who is also the nephew of samurai leader Katsumoto played by Ken Watanabe. More movies and dramas followed but his role as the ambitious diver co-starring Junpei Mizobata and Kento Hayashi in Dive!! is most probably the next movie he is best known.
Since 2013, Ikematsu’s casting buzz remains consistent -Our Family, Love’s Whirpool, When I Sense the Sea, The Vancouver Asahi, Pale Moon, SetoUtsumi, and Death Note represent a big chunk of his acting resume, where he play major, significant roles. He is also known for his dual characters in the drama-thriller Mozu.
Top 3 Performances: His first movie role in The Last Samurai, Love’s Whirpool and the drama-thriller Mozu.
He has been cast mostly in adult dramas where sex scenes are part of his role. Love’s Whirpool and I Sense the Sea come to mind, plus the upcoming Pale Moon where he is supposed to romance an older woman played by Rie Miyazawa.
– – –
With his share of challenging, controversial roles, Eita’s younger brother Kento Nagayama deserves a place in this list.
Nagayama made waves as the older brother of Mao Inoue in the asadora Ohisama and continued his winning streak via Glass House and the Ryoko Hirosue crime-drama-thriller Seijo where he plays the actress’ lover. But his work in Tv dramas represents half of his acting career. He also did some amazing performances via The Cowards Who Looked Up to the Sky – romancing an older woman (just like his current drama Seijo) in the person of Tomoko Tabata, who coincidentally co-stars Nagayama in the same drama and Shield of Straw where he plays a rookie detective.
In 2011, he already won the Rookie of the Year award at the Japan Academy Prize.
Top 3 Performances: The Cowards Who Looked Up to the Sky (definitely worth the watch as one of 2012’s best Japanese movies), Ohimasa and Seijo (Woman Saint). Special mention is his short, yet noted role in Takashi Miike’s Shield of Straw.
– – –
Versatile is the word associated with young actor Kento Hayashi – an aspiring Olympic diver in Dive!!, a gay prostitute in Parade, a rebellious teen in Blazing Famiglia; a samurai turned merchant in the drama Ginnikan – he has played such a wide range of roles that such term suits him well. With more than a dozen movies and drama series to his credit, Hayashi will next be seen in the Zombie comedy-drama Tamagawa Kuyakusho of the Dead.
He’s the lead in Netflix’s Hibana (Sparks), a show highly recommended.
Hayashi is also a recipient of the Rookie of the Year award, having won the said trophy for newcomers back in 2008.
Top 3 Performances: Parade and the sports-drama movie The Battery. Also notable are dramas Ginnikan and The Brothers Karamazov.
– – –
You either love him or hate him, but mostly the latter since Masataka Kubota is usually the guy who torments the likes of Takeru Sato and Kento Nagayama in the movies. With an equal distribution of movies and dramas, Kubota can be said to be in the same league as Kento Hayashi when it comes to versatility. His role as one of the 13 Assassins in Takashi Miike’s samurai movie proved he can compete with the best Japanese actors and gain his share of raves. He has also won 2 acting awards for his supporting role in The Cowards Who Looked up to the Sky.
Top 3 Performances: 13 Assassins, The Cowards Who Looked up to the Sky and the drama Death Note, where he won numerous acting awards.
– – –
Finally, the rankings. It would seem unfair to rank them all together, so a sort of Senpai and kōhai status is used to separate the senior actors from the juniors. – with a one-word description!
The 30-something (more or less):
1. Satoshi Tsumabuki – Dramatic
2. Ryuhei Matsuda – Sincere
3. Kenichi Matsuyama – Seriously funny
4. Eita – Complex
5. Kengo Kora – Charming
The 20-something or less:
1. Shota Sometani – Deep
2. Yuya Yagura – Intense
3. Masaki Suda – Fearless
4. Ryunosuke Kamiki – Spontaneous
5. Sosuke Ikematsu – Bold
We’ll have Vol 2 of this series of articles, featuring Japanese actors of yesteryear and the up and coming.
We have yet to talk about Kento Yamazaki, Shuhei Nomura, and many others.
— Psycho Drama (@_tMF) August 22, 2016
Have other names in mind? Let us know what you think!
– – –