What makes an amazing actor? What causes an ordinary moviegoer to become an ardent, hardcore fan? Are good looks enough in today’s almost cutthroat competition to create the next great Japanese actor? Are talents really being recognized, and are fans mature enough to embrace the really talented ones? And the biggest question of all: who are the hottest, most talented young Japanese actors today?
It was exactly 5 years when I initiated the hitlist of the 50 hottest young actors, and now – the focus is on the Japanese movie scene. Why? Because the Japanese make some of the best movies in the world and all moviefans need to know these guys!
So let’s see who made it to the final top 10 list after the jump!
Spotlight Movies: Catch A Wave, Sky of Love (Koizora), Tokyo Kouen, From Me to You, The Eternal Zero
The Buzz: Which actor can make you cry? Many would probably mention one name – Haruma Miura. In Sky of Love (Koizora), Miura is like a meteor who lights up the sky with his intense acting, and just like his tragic character, the lights went out and he is no more. It was a tour-de-force performance from the young actor who grew up in the movies. From the moment he starred in Catch A Wave to his role as the aspiring photographer in Tokyo Kouen, Miura has maintained his on-screen charisma unlike any other actor of his generation.
Spotlight Movies: Letters from Iwo Jima, Gantz, Yellow Tears, Platina Data
The Buzz: Before he amazed us in the Gantz series, he played one of the most memorable roles in Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima. Says Nino:
I was very proud when I was given the role of Saigo, and to work with Clint was a great opportunity. It was an excellent chance for me to progress further, and if I have the chance now to do new things I don’t know about, I will just continue and do my best. [ source ]
He may not have won an Oscar for his role, but he was recognized by many critics for giving one of the best acting performances in that year. Coming up is a scifi thriller Platina Data, will Nino continue to amaze us?
Spotlight Movies: Azumi, Drop, Bakamono- The Idiots, Lala Pipo, Ace Attorney
The Buzz: They say it’s hard for an actor to make his audience cry, but it’s even harder to make them laugh. Aside from his unique fashion sense, Hiroki Narimiya is the kind of actor who needs no license to unleash his unique brand of talent. He made us cry in Bakamono, but he also made us laugh so hard in Lala Pipo that you simply have to give it to the guy. His on-screen persona and acting resume is not like any other Japanese actor.
Spotlight Movies: Monsters Club, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Dear Doctor, The Silver Season, Last Friend, Memories of Matsuko
The Buzz: When you’re cast by the best Japanese directors, it only mean one thing – talent. Eita Nagayama is the kind of actor who can play supporting parts (and win awards) and play leading roles (and get critical acclaim). From the terrifying brilliance of Monsters Club where he played a recluse with a horrible plan to his tragic portrayal of Motome in Harakiri: Death of a Samurai to his charming performance as a young Physician in Dear Doctor, Eita’s appeal goes beyond mere good looks.
Spotlight Movies: Crow Zero, Crow Zero 2, Boys Over Flowers, Kisaragi, The Woodsman and the Rain
The Buzz: Actor, idol, director, superstar – all of them describe Shun Oguri one way or the other. With his smashing good looks, no one can deny his effect on young fans as he play the usual sugary roles designed to titillate and seduce. But he is no ordinary actor willing to be typecast. After the sucess of Boys Over Flowers, he went on to challenge the convention and played diverse characters in movies such as “Sakuran”, “Kisaragi,” and the Crows Zero series from prolific director Takashi Miike. But acting is not the end-all for Oguri, just 2 years ago he went on to direct his first feature entitled Surely Someday.
Spotlight Movies: Thirteen Assassins, Ikigami, MW, The Letters, Crying out Loud in the Center of the World, Crow Zero, Crow Zero 2, Ushijima the Loan Shark
The Buzz: He can kick your ass and throw you to a bottomless pit. If looks can kill, then he can massacre. Such is the power of Takayuki Yamada. But not everything is about power acting for the 29-year old actor. In Crying out Loud, a critic commented:
The acting was outstanding for a Japanese drama and the whole series was well-cast (the older Saku could’ve been a little more likable though). Special honors go to Takayuki Yamada for his portrayal of 17-year-old Saku. Yamada has to be one of the best dramatic actors in Japan. Overall, this is one of the best dramas to come out of Japan.
Spotlight Movies: Taboo, Suicide Song, Tada’s Do it All House, Big Bang Love Juvenile A, 9 Souls, I’m Flash
The Buzz: 34 movies in the span of 13 years. Ryuhei Matsuda is one of the most versatile actors in Japan today. From the time he played the young and naive Samurai Sozaburo Kano (Taboo) in 1999, to his portrayal of Jun Ariyoshi in Bang Bang Love Juvenile A seven years later to his upcoming portrayal of a body guard in I’m Flash, Ryuhei is already iconic in the collective minds of Japanese moviegoers.
Spotlight Movies: Battle Royale, Death Note, Kaiji 1 and 2, Parade, I’m Flash
The Buzz: It’s very amusing to read MSN movies describing Tatsuya as “slightly scruffy, rough-cut actor“. I would not even describe him with less than 4 superlatives to show just how much I regard him as an actor. But then again, some writers from the West would like to believe that they got the best actors. With the likes of Andrew Garfield, Robert Pattinson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ryan Gosling dominating the scene, it’s hard to imagine that this “slightly scruffy, rough-cut actor” can play roles that would give them a run for their money.
Spotlight Movies: Death Note, Gantz, Norwegian Wood, Bunny Drop, My Back Page, Kamui: The Lone Ninja, Detroit Metal City
The Buzz: Compared to some of the more popular guys on the movie scene, Ken’ichi Matsuyama looks ordinary, but this ‘ordinariness’ can be quite deceiving. Can anyone else play L in the Death Note series? Let me see: no one. There is really nothing ordinary about L and Matsuyama’s take on the character. Then there is Detroit Metal City. If Hiroki Nariyima can play sex-comedy with flair, Kenichi Matsuyama can do comedy with aplomb. In My Back Page, he pitted talents with Satoshi Tsumabuki and was able to hold his own. Some would even say, he surpassed Tsumabuki in their only movie together. I have come to believe that actors are either good in drama or comedy. In the case of Ken’ichi Matsuyama, he excelled in both.
Spotlight Movies: Villain, My Back Page, The Haunted Samurai, Tears For You, Dororo, Smuggler, Waterboys, No Boys No Cry, For Love’s Sake
The Buzz: It would seem unfair to compare actors, but in this case it’s simply unavoidable. Satoshi Tsumabuki’s considerable performance as Yuichi Shimizu in Villain (Akunin) is well deserved of the Best Actor he received from the Japanese Academy Awards – a performance that is at par with the likes of James McAvoy in Atonement or Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson. I find the idiocy in the fact that he’s described as the “Exceedingly Handsome Guy” in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, while actors of lower calibre talent (sic) get top billing.
How do we justify Tsumabuki’s number one ranking then? We don’t – it’s as simple as that.
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Get to know the 20 other actors on the list!
Who are your favorite actors in the list above? What are some of your favorite movies that star some of these actors? Let us know what you think!