Casting News + Scoop! [Nov 17-22] The Latest in Japanese live action adaptation [Kento Yamazaki’s Hyoka] + Shota Someya’s Kukai + Mayu Matsuoka and Revisiting the works of Kenichi Matsuyama!

The latest casting news and buzz from Japan reveal the massive shift that continues with the extended exposure of Masaki Suda and Kento Yamazaki and the rise of Kentaro Sakaguchi. But Shota Sometani steals the thunder with ‘Kukai’ – how about that! On the girl’s side, Mayu Matsuoka’s acting award at TAMA New Wave serves notice of her ascent to the top – even without an asadora to her credit. Alice Hirose who was almost on ‘semi-hiatus’ has two projects up her sleeve, eclipsing her younger sister Suzu. 

Here are the top buzzes right this minute!

Kento Yamazaki and Alice Hirose will play Hotaro Oreki and Eru Chitanda respectively in the live-action adaptation of  Honobu Yonezawa novel, Hyoka (氷菓). The said manga was turned into anime in the Spring of 2012 by Kyoto Animation, the same animator who made Beyond the Boundaries (Kyōkai no Kanata) one of my favorites. 

Hyoka is the 11th full-length film by Mari Asato who is fast becoming known for her horror movies. Fatal Frame (Ayami Nakajo, Aoi Morikawa) and The Chasing World franchise are previous projects, the latter also stars Kento Yamazaki (he plays the lead in the third film), thus the casting preference. 

Here’s a backgrounder of the manga/anime:


The story follows a lackluster teenager by the name of Houtarou Oreki who, while cursing his first year of high school, lives by his motto “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to do it, I’ll make it quick”. Nonetheless, things don’t go as planned, as Oreki becomes involved with his high school’s “Classics Club” at the behest of his elder sister. There, he meets Eru Chitanda, an apparently happy-go-lucky girl belonging to a very wealthy family who, besides having an extraordinary memory, possesses a level of curiosity far exceeding that of anyone Oreki has ever seen. Alongside the curious Chitanda, the chipper Satoshi, and the strict Ibara, Oreki will find himself pushed into using his untapped talent in solving various mysteries ranging in nature and scope throughout his foreseeable high school days. [ source ]


The video clip below is both gorgeous and exciting to watch. I’m always impressed with Kyoto Animation, and I can easily imagine why Yamazaki and Hirose were part of the cast. 

Kento’s previous roles in Control Tower (for the angst), Another (for the ‘investigative’ appeal) and Wolf Girl and Black Prince (for the ‘conservative.’ stance, lazy side) are perfect matches for the Houtarou Oreki character. Here’s the tweet from Kaye way back in April and noted by K. Loulliet:



Alice Hirose, who is more elegant than Suzu and a better actress, is also suited fine for the Eru Chitanda role. The character being “ever curious” and “happy-go-lucky” seem like a natural portrayal for Alice to do. Watch her in Silver Spoon, and you can quickly judge her appeal.


Kento’s pal, the more acclaimed Masaki Suda, may already be at the pinnacle of his acting career at the tender young age of 23. 

With recent projects including:

(1) Death Note: Light Up the New World (thriller), 

(2) Drowning Love (teen love/drama), 

(3) Nanimono (youth, coming of age) 

and upcoming movies:

(1) Teiichi no Kuni (youth, political drama/thriller) and 

(2) Ah, Wilderness (collaboration with Yang Ik-June) 

Is there any role he cannot do? 

I’m still waiting to watch Destruction Babies since I will be making a final judgment on who is better him or Yuya Yagira. 



A lot of discussion regarding Sometani vs. Yagira and who between them is the better actor, but Suda’s emergence in the past two years somehow eclipsed both careers. I still maintain that Yagira has a small edge, but after watching Sudachi in Pink and Gray, I have to hand it to the guy! Grabbing the GQ Man of the Year seems fitting for the young actor as 2016 is about to end.

Mayu Matsuoka, who maybe the only actress capable of matching Fumi Nikaido (to a certain extent) and Mugi Kadowaki (to a big extent) in the acting department, is slowly but surely making her way. 



She is certainly more than a match to Mitsuki Takahata, and Hana Sugisaki is too young to be a competition.

A recent win as Best Upcoming Actress @TAMA New Wave is a significant sign of recognition. After impressive performances in TV dramas Mondai No Aru Restaurant, Kounodori, Aquarium Girl, and She, Matsuoka wows movie audiences with her portrayal of Karuta Queen Shinobu Wakamiya. Not only did she steal scenes from Suzu Hirose, but her story may also be the subject of the third installment for Chihayafuru.

Shota Sometani’s foray into Chinese production has increased interest in the young award-winning actor. We previously reported on the casting news last October and just recently learned that Hiroshi Abe is among the supporting cast. 

I mentioned Someya’s acting resume vis a vis Yagira and Suda and perhaps the trio (with Sosuke Ikematsu, Masataka Kubota, Kento Hayashi, Kento Nagayama, and Ryunosuke Kamiki) form the backbone of today’s Japanese acting contingent.

In Kukai, Someya is a curious Japanese Buddhist monk who got entangled in a web of mystery and murder in China during the Tang dynasty. He teams up with a Chinese poet named Rakuten Haku (Huang Xuan) and together they investigate these infamous crimes.

Speaking of Someya, he is also part of the new movie Satoshi no Seishun, starring Kenichi Matsuyama. The movie was just released in Japan last 19th November. A recent article-interview by Yuri Kageyama at Associate Press reveals the actor’s preparation for his lead role:

“He confronted his life head-on, and it wasn’t about living for anyone else” said Matsuyama, who has starred in “Norwegian Wood,” the 2010 coming-of-age film based on the best-selling novel by Haruki Murakami. “Mr. Murayama always felt death close to him. That was his predicament.” 

Similar to the way boxers have to keep winning to remain champions, shogi players have to keep winning. That’s why Murayama kept delaying treatment and then goes back to the shogi board barely a month after major surgery. He is in constant pain, but he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t want to cut his nails because, he says, even nails are trying to live. Matsuyama gained 26 kilograms (57 pounds) in about three months, speeding the transformation since it ruled out other acting jobs. Gorging on ice cream and rice cakes, he gradually felt he was morphing into Murayama, that all-out physical role-building that often grabs attention — Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull” or Charlize Theron in “Monster.” [ read more ]