PD-RADAR: Our readers’ “NEXT BREAK” stars for 2022 have been decided

“Which young Japanese movie/drama stars do you think will get their ‘break’ in the next year?” That was the question we’ve been asking our readers since early November 2021, and now the results are here!

Yearly – and even seasonal – “Next Break” and “Hit” lists are a given these days and generally filled with young new stars. While PD has a few we keep track of every year and season, we never actually asked what our readers/followers think. 2021 will be the year that changes that, and with 265 votes and 81 up-and-coming names mentioned, it was interesting to see who’d take the crowns in PD’s first ever “NEXT BREAK” ranking.

Since the amount of votes was limited, a single vote might have changed your fave’s spot on the ranking. Despite that, the crowns – and runner-ups – for both lists, were set in stone very early on.

Please have a look and leave your thoughts in the comments!

The Winners: Female Version

5. Iinuma Ai (’03)

Iinuma Ai is probably the most rookie a rookie can be, as she was the winner of the competition that decided the lead actress for Kono Hatsukoi wa Fiction desu, a drama short that ran four days a week from October till December 2021. She took the #1 spot among 9000 applicants auditioning for the role.

Her lead role in said drama is the only thing on her filmography, so far, though it goes on to show just how she’s managed to already grab some attention. We can’t do anything but wait and see how her career will further unfold. 

The rookiest rookie actress has also revealed her own fave actresses are Kamishiraishi Mone, Hashimoto Kanna, and Hamabe Minami.

Iinuma was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for fall 2021.

4. Ishikawa Ruka (’97 – SMA)

Ishikawa Ruka was another surprise among the votes as she’s also a fairly recent debut. While she’s been modeling since 2017, and has since appeared in a series of projects, it was 2019’s film festival movie Sarugakucho de Aimashou that cast her without any experience and threw her name on viewers’ radars. The movie, in which she starred alongside Kaneko Daichi, finally saw its formal release in 2021.

It seems that Ishikawa never thought she’d become an actress, but when she was looking for something to put her mind on during her university days, she took on an acting workshop. The workshop proved to be different from what she’d expected, and Ishikawa was left intrigued at the idea of continuing.

So far she’s been cast in a variety of roles and projects, both as support and main characters. Aesop’s Game and Umibe no Onnanoko – the latter with Aoki Yuzu – are currently likely the most known ones on her filmography.

Ishikawa has mentioned Hirose Suzu, Miyazaki Aoi, and Ayase Haruka, as her favorite actresses.

3. Furukawa Kotone (’96 – Humanité)

#3 on our list likely made it to the top 5 based on some of her roles of the past year, mainly her inclusion in the leading five of drama Konto ga Hajimaru, a role next to Nakano Taiga, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Suda Masaki, and Arimura Kasumi.

Her debut goes back to a few guest and support roles in drama series throughout 2018 such as Gibo to Musume no Blues and Bukatsu, Suki Janakya Dame Desu Ka? as well as spots in 2019 movies Chiwawa – next to Murakami Nijiro, Kadowaki Mugi, Narita Ryo, and more – and 12nin no Shinitai Kodomotachi

Furukawa has been taking ballet classes since she was a child, and joined the drama club in middle and high school as an extension of that. When it became time to decide on her future, she wondered whether it would be possible for her to start an acting career. She auditioned for her agency, Humanité, from the point of view that if she wanted to act alongside actress Mitsushima Hikari, she should join the same agency as her. (Sadly, Mitsushima went freelance the year Furukawa joined the agency)

Since her debut, she has been praised for her skills, having won, and been nominated for, a variety of awards so far.

Furukawa was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for fall 2020, and spring 2021, as well as their 2021 yearly “NEXT BREAK” list.

2. Yoshikawa Ai (’99 – KEN ON)

Yoshikawa Ai isn’t as new as some people might seem to think she is, as she used to be a child actress known by the name Yoshida Riko. After retiring in 2016 to focus on her studies, the young actress made a comeback a year later, this time under the name Yoshikawa Ai.

As Yoshida Riko, Yoshikawa had her debut in 2002, and her first acting roles in 2006. She continued to be a sought-after child actress till she eventually retired at the age of 17. Despite her wanting to focus on school, she was scouted by KEN ON, not realizing she was child actress Yoshida Riko. The then 18-year-old eventually joined the KEN ON roster, and quickly picked back up where she’d left off. She grabbed her first movie role since coming back alongside Sano Reo, Yokohama Ryusei, Takasugi Mahiro, Nakagawa Taishi, and Tsunematsu Yuri, in the LA adaptation of manga Nijiiro Days

Yoshikawa has since also appeared in many other projects including 12nin no Shinitai Kodomotachi. Her most recent effort was Honey Lemon Sodaa movie in which she co-starred with SNOW MAN’s Raul.

As a child actress she looked up to Dakota Fanning. She admires Nikaido Fumi.

Yoshikawa was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for winter 2020, as well as their 2021 yearly “HIT” ranking.

1. Fukumoto Riko (’00 – Toho Entertainment)

Is it really a surprise Fukumoto Riko took the top spot in our rankings when you know she’s had about five drama roles in fan favorites such as Kakegurui Twin, Kieta Hatsukoi and Muchuu-sa, Kimi ni throughout 2021?

Fukumoto joined Toho Entertainment – home to the Kamishiraishi sisters and Hamabe Minami, among others – after having won the 8th Toho Cinderella Audition Grand Prix in 2016. She went on to get some smaller roles for the first few years before managing to join the star-filled cast of movie Murder at Shijinsou in 2019. Since 2020, however, the young actress has been finding her way into the spotlight. From movie Omoi, Omoware, Furi, Furare, alongside Kitamura Takumi, Akaso Eiji, and – the aforementioned – Hamabe Minami, over a double drama/movie with Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!, towards her 2021 drama support roles.

In 2022, so far, she’ll be joining Kamio Fuju in 20-sai no Soul as well JE Jr. and Travis Japan member Matsuda Genta in Kimi ga Otoshita AozoraBoth are movies and will be out later this year.

Fukumoto has also dabbled in singing, having released “Shoujo wa Ano Sora wo Wataruas a theme song to TV Anime Hisone to Miso-tan in 2018.

Fukumoto was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for winter 2019, and fall 2021, as well as their 2021 yearly “NEXT BREAK” list.

The Winners: Male Version

5. Suzuki Jin (’99 – Amuse Inc.)

We ended the female top 5 with a Kieta Hatsukoi actress, so we start the male top 5 with a Kieta Hatsukoi actor.

As we mentioned in one of our New Generation articles before, Suzuki Jin started off his career in the 2017 drama Reverse, and continued his search for experience with some smaller roles or cameos in a variety or drama series – think Hana Nochi Hare or Suda Masaki’s 3 Nen A Gumi classroom.

2021 is where it mainly started for the now 22-year-old, as he managed to grab the role of Ishikawa Toru in the LA drama and movie adaptation of romance slice-of-life Horimiya, followed up with his first lead role as Ritsuka in an adaptation of fan-favorite BL manga Given. He was also cast alongside Ito Marika and Igeta Hiroe for the TV Tokyo x Spotify collaboration drama Omimi ni Aimashitara, and teamed up with Takahashi Fumiya for Bokura ga Koroshita, Saiai no Kimibefore ending the year with the earlier mentioned Kieta Hatsukoi.

Suzuki was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for summer 2019, and fall 2021.

4. Michieda Shunsuke (’02, Naniwa Danshi – J&A)

Did I say Kieta Hatsukoi? I guess I did.

Naniwa Danshi’s Michieda Shunsuke was already known for his occasional acting even before he ended up leading Kieta Hatsukoi, but the latter clearly has only put more eyes on him.

The young idol first popped up in a drama when he was only 14 through Haha ni Naru. After a heavily talked about passage in episode 5 of Zettai Reido‘s third season (2018), he appeared alongside agencymates Nagase Ren (King & Prince) and Nagao Kento (Naniwa Danshi) in Ore no Sukato, Doko Itta? in 2019.

Michieda has since appeared in a few more drama series, with Kieta Hatsukoi as the first starring role after his idol group’s debut last November. He starred alongside another agencymate, SNOW MAN’s Meguro Ren.

Michieda was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for spring 2020, and winter 2021, as well as their 2020 yearly “NEXT BREAK” list.

3. Itagaki Mizuki (’00 – Stardust Promotion)

It isn’t really a surprise Itagaki Mizuki ended up in our top 5 when it feels like he’s been consistently adding on to his resume ever since he left EBiDAN’s M!LK now two years ago. But when you think about it for a bit, you realize that the actor has actually been acting for about nine years – nine years this month, actually.

Appearances in 17 movies and about 34 different drama seasons/specials since his debut probably make him the most experienced on this list as well. The now 21-year-old has been part of productions such as Hibiki and Hot Gimmick, though people who knew him before likely remember him best from his appearance as tiny Mabuchi Kou in Ao Haru Ride (2014) or his role in the Solomon no Gisho (2015) movies. Mizuki even received a newcomer award for his portrayal in the latter.

In 2021 he showed his skill in no less than nine different drama series with its most recent additions being Nihon Chinbotsu – and its spin-off of which his character was one of the main leads – as well as SUPER RICH and Unlucky Girl!.

For 2022, Mizuki grabbed a spot on the cast of LA drama HiruAkaso Eiji and Sakaguchi Kentaro lead the first and second season, respectively. He is also set to be an absolute mess in movie TWO OUT FULL BASE alongside 7ORDER’s Abe Aran. But that’s a personal observation, of course.

Itagaki was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for fall 2021, as well as WHAT’s in tokyo?’s 2021 “NEXT BREAK” ranking.

2. Takahashi Fumiya (’01 – A-Plus)

Fumiya has made an appearance on a variety of “NEXT BREAK” and “NEXT HIT” lists in the past few years, but it is probably 2021 which got his name out the most – and thus easily explains his comfy second spot on this list.

With roots in Kamen Rider as its lead boy for the year in Kamen Rider Zero One, Fumiya has been steadily building his career these past few years with appearances in a handful of drama series – such as Sensei wo Kesu Houteishiki – till 2021 came around and gave him a full schedule. The young actor went on to star in Muchuu-sa, Kimi ni as well as Kikazaranai Koi ni wa Riyuu ga Atte, and Ukiwa: Tanin Ijo, Tomodachi Miman. Bokura ga Koroshita, Saiai no Kimi – alongside Suzuki Jin – came just before he appeared on popular drama Saiai as – wait, no, that would be a spoiler. In any case, Fumiya definitely took his part of the spotlight in the drama since he seems to have been caught into quite a few people’s radar these days.

In 2022, we will be seeing him act in the third installment of Shimizu Takashi’s latest horror series, Ushikubi Mura. He will be joined by Hagiwara Riku and model Koki. Dramawise, he will be on the cast of Hamabe Minami’s Dr. White.

Amusingly, the 20-year-old is also a licensed chef. Until just right before the start of Kamen Rider Zero One, he occasionally updated his own food blog, but it’s likely he’s been too busy lately to continue.

Takahashi was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for fall 2020, and spring & fall 2021, as well as their 2020 yearly “NEXT BREAK” list.

1. Bando Ryota (’97 – Dongyu)


Our #1 boy is absolutely no surprise as people were already yelling his name at the time our rankings survey was first released. 

While Bando Ryota grabbed his first role in the drama version of Setoutsumi back in 2017, it wasn’t his first time acting. It seems that drama was a fixed part on his school curriculum, and he got guidance from a director from Tokyo after playing a read role in his own graduation performance. Bando got inspired to act, and the rest is history.

With a few smaller roles on his resume, the young actor managed his way through an audition for 12 nin no Shinitai Kodomotachi in 2019. Since then, he’s appeared in 23 drama projects, as well as 10 different movies. These projects include, but are not limited to, the likes of Toki wo Kakeru Bando, Shinhannin Flag, and the recently aired Kono Hatsukoi wa Fiction desu – with #5 on the female side, Iinuma Ai. Just as another few of the earlier mentioned up-and-coming stars, Bando also joined Muchuu-sa, Kimi ni, as well as the drama version of Solomon no Gisho, where he was cast in the same role Shimizu Hiroya played in the movies from 2015.

Early 2022, Bando’s taking the lead in Futari no Sekai, a movie depicting 10 years in the life and relationship of Yui and Shinya as Shinya struggles with gender/existence. He will also be appearing in Toge: Saigo no Samurai.

Bando was also mentioned on ModelPress’ seasonal “NEXT BREAK” for spring 2019 (Article), and fall 2021, as well as their 2021 yearly “NEXT BREAK” list.

The Rankings

Top 10 FemaleTop 10 Male
  1. Fukumoto Riko (’00 – Toho Entertainment)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  2. Yoshikawa Ai (’99 – KEN ON)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  3. Furukawa Kotone (’96 – Humanité)Instagram // Profile
  4. Ishikawa Ruka (’97 – SMA)Instagram // Twitter // Profile // Site
  5. Iinuma Ai (’03)
  6. Kiyohara Kaya (’02 – Amuse Inc.)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  7. Kubota Sayu (’00 – SMA)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  8. Makita Aju (’02 – Humanité)Instagram // Profile
  9. Kamishiraishi Moka (’00 – Toho Entertainment)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  10. Nao (’95 – Irving)Instagram // Twitter // Profile

  1. Bando Ryota (’97 – Dongyu) – Twitter // Profile
  2. Takahashi Fumiya (’01 – A-Plus) – Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  3. Itagaki Mizuki (’00 – Stardust Promotion)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  4. Michieda Shunsuke (’02, Naniwa Danshi – J&A) – Profile
  5. Suzuki Jin (’99 – Amuse Inc.)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  6. Aoki Yuzu (’01 – Humanité) – Instagram // Profile
  7. Sugino Yosuke (’95 – TOP COAT)Twitter // Profile
  8. Hosoda Kanata (’01 – Amuse Inc.)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  9. Kamio Fuju (’99 – A-Team)Instagram // Twitter // Profile
  10. Maeda Gordon (’00) – Instagram // Profile

PD’s Personal Radar

Of course, we also have our own faves at PD and it would be silly not to mention them at all when we’ve just gone through 10 (really 20) of our readers’ voted faves.

First one I can think of for the female side is probably Kiyohara Kaya (’03). Despite her age, she’s already been going strong for quite a few years now, and even has her first leading drama coming up this season. It’s probably time for her to properly break through and grab her fixed spot in the limelight. 

Furukawa Kotone (’96), on the other hand, has been on our radar since she first appeared in 12nin no Shinitai Kodomotachi. Her portrayal of the troubled VK-fangirl left its mark, and with every new show or movie that appears and has her on the cast, she polishes her skill a little more. Curious to see where her career will take her.

The same probably goes for Ishikawa Ruka (’97). While I haven’t seen much of her yet, her “If it’s not now, there’s no meaning to it!” still haunts me today – Sarugakucho de Aimashou was rough, but good. Some of her project choices so far have been interesting enough for me to keep an eye on her, and hopefully it’ll be worth it in the end.

While most viewers are out there having their fun watching Kamishirashi Mone, I sometimes feel like we can even expect more from her younger sister somehow. Perhaps it’s the roles or projects she gets cast in, or perhaps it’s something about her acting, I haven’t quite figured it out yet. What I do know is that I am anticipating more of Kamishiraishi Moka (’00) for sure.

Aside from the aforementioned, there’s also Mikami Ai (’00), Tsunematsu Yuri (’98), or Hotta Mayu (’98), the latter two of which I feel should have had more exposure by now. 

For our male #1 “NEXT BREAK” of the year, we’re in full agreement with the PD-readers, as Bando Ryota (’97) has been a fixed name on our radar since his appearance in 12nin no Shinitai Kodomotachi early 2019 – I guess we’ve got to thank that casting director by now. My personal note on that same movie review even mentioned to keep an eye on him, and three years later I can gladly say my thoughts were right.

Aside from Bando, there’s also Fujiwara Kisetsu (’93). Perhaps a bit older as everyone else on this page, and without any flashy roles at the moment to really catch attention from the mainstream crowd, but his acting’s definitely the real thing. Have a look at Sasaki in My Mind if you haven’t yet!

The one I’m somehow expecting most of, though, might be Aoki Yuzu (’01). A young one who’s mainly been hanging around more indie-ish releases, and – despite only being 20 – has managed to get Japanese reviewers to go “He’s so good it pisses me off” after watching him do his thing. If that isn’t an inkling of a promising future ahead, I’m not sure what is.

For the new year I also hope for plenty more works and recognition for Kaneko Daichi (’96) and Shimizu Hiroya (’99) as well as Stardust boys Itagaki Mizuki (’00) and Onodera Akira (’99), the latter of which desperately needs roles so I can decide whether or not he’s got the skill and growth to stay on that radar of ours. 

Source: (Female: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Male: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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