The Year in Review: Who Made the Biggest Headlines in 2015 Among Leading Japanese Actresses?

2015 is a big year for women in Japanese movies. Aside from Koreeda’s Umimachi Diary (starring Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho and Suzu Hirose), there’s Hikari Mitsushima and Erika Toda in Kakekomi, a historical movie dealing with divorce and the Tokeiji which is a Buddhist temple where women seek comfort from their husbands and undertake the process of separation. 

There were also a good number of TV dramas were the spotlight centered on strong (yet challenged) and authentic female characters – Yoko Maki, Miki Nakatani, Mayu Matsuoka, Anne, Tao Tsuchiya, Mitsuki Takahata and Mao Inoue, played such parts in these shows. 

The overlapping broadcast of the two asadoras – Tao Tsuchiya’s Mare [まれ] and Haru’s Asa ga Kita [あさが来た] – also paved the way for more opportunities to discuss young women regarding their relationships with their families, lovers, and friends as they seek to fulfill personal ambitions and goals. NHK’s taiga drama, Hana Moyu is all about Mao Inoue’s Fumi.

Just like our list of leading Japanese actors, we have an equalizer for the actresses.

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Haru, who grabs one highly coveted role in the asadora, Asa ga Kita, is also one of the year’s biggest newsmakers, though her acting remains inconsistent, with a new movie (Before a Falling Star Fades Away) looking incredibly cheesy. Japan’s biggest #deadfisheyes Kasumi Arimura, who topped the Oricon survey of ‘breakthrough’ actresses is a big joke.

Also making waves this year were Mitsuki Takahata (especially in Mondai no Aru Restaurant), but her ascent to the top is hampered by the lack of a follow-up project that can showcase more of her acting. A big year for Fumika Shimizu, with a lot of decent and credible acting in Mare and Kounodori (where she plays a young pregnant single Mom). 

But like Masaki Suda who dominated both the movies and dramas, Tao Tsuchiya made the biggest waves in 2015 with an asadora, a box office winner in Orange and the ability to maintain (and sustain) excitement via new projects coming in. The duo in Mondai no Aru Restaurant (together with Takahata), Fumi and Mayu also remain at the forefront, with Nikaido a consistent player in Japanese cinema, while Matsuoka revels in showcasing her versatility via TV dramas. Some viewers may find Suzu Hirose’s ranking of 4 as being too low, with Chihayafuru almost on the horizon, but her acting remains tentative compared with the others on the list. Nana Komatsu rounds up the list with a convincing performance of a scandalized celebrity in Yume wo Ataeru, and an exciting casting scoop, via Distraction Babies (with Yagira and Suda).