Actors' Bias

The ‘Formidable’ Nikaido Fumi: Actor Bias Series [Part 1/3]

Nikaido Fumi’s long overdue ‘Actor’s Bias’ article is here! It’s not just a single article, but a series that can go as many as 5 parts. We’d like to begin with some history and come up with a profile that takes account of her early beginnings until today. 

In Part 1, we’ll talk plenty of Himizu, and a few more movies. Plus her role in Mitsushima Hikari’s drama Woman and why every Nikaido Fumi fan must watch (or re-watch) these gems.

How is her filmography up to 2013?

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013) – Michiko
Mourning Recipe (2013) – Imo
Brain Man | No Otoko (2013) – Noriko
Lesson of Evil (2012) – Reika
The Boy Inside (2012) – Kie [with Suda Masaki and Matsuzaka Tori]
Himizu (2012) – Keiko [Winner Best New Actress at Venice International Film Fetival]
Looking For A True Fiancee (2011) – Emi
The Warped Forest (2011)
Ringing in Their Ears (2011) – Michiko Narita
Toad’s Oil (2009)
Sorasoi (2009)

The fact that we’re covering Himizu, Brain Man, and many others just for Part 1 is a growing testament to her formidable acting. Plenty more to come, including My Man – her first Best Actress nom at the Japan Academy Prize.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Young actress Nikaido Fumi has played some nasty, evil characters of late that you have no choice but to hate her! Of course, she’s so good when it comes to acting that it’s hard to separate the real Fumi from the characters on the big (and small) screen.

Nikaido Fumi
Nikaido Fumi is Noriko in The Brain Man. (C) TOHO. All Rights Reserved.

I had the chance to view Brain Man (No Otoko) and is slowly watching every minute of it – she’s in some of the scenes and Ikuta Toma is having a great performance here. I want to slowly watch it and not finish in one sitting. Anyway, Nikaido was reported to have been very engrossed (and angry) while making the film. She looks different, not glamorous, but scary!

Nikaido Fumi

The most surprising and shocking episode from the process of making the film was revealed by young actress Nikaido. She mentioned that she actually fainted in the middle of filming a certain scene.

Nikaido portrays a serial bomber in the film and the said incident happened after the protagonist finally managed to get a hold of the girl. Ikuta was supposed to act like he was strangling her, when she suddenly lost all of her strength. He commented, “The director told me to do it a little stronger, so I put more strength into my grip, but Fumi-chan suddenly fainted and dropped to the floor… Doing something like that to a 17 (now 18) year-old girl caused quite a trauma for me.”

The young actress commented on the filming in her typical blunt and merciless fashion, “I just wanted them all to drop dead.” Director Takimoto also asked her to lose a lot of weight for her role, which didn’t exactly make her become his biggest fan on the set. She spoke up, “I’m still in my growth period, so it’s hard to lose any weight! ‘Please let this filming be over soon,’ I thought. I wasn’t even allowed to eat rice let alone any sorts of sweets.”

Takimoto admitted that he must have been pretty harsh on her and joked, “I was probably on the top of her list of the people she wanted to die. I could see it in her eyes, ‘I’m gonna kill you’.” [ read more ]

On the drama Woman, Nikaido once again plays evil (or notorious, take your pick). This time, she’s tormenting her own mother and the show’s main character Koharu played by Mitsushima Hikari. I believed that many times, Hikari has been regarded as the great actress of her time, but Nikaido is definitely also in a class of her own.

In both TV show and movie, Nikaido made use of her eyes to express a variety of emotions – In Brain Man, her evil and sinister ways as a bomber is made even more chilling because she’s incredibly good. Some of the more popular Korean and Japanese actresses love to overact by using too much body movements, but Nikaido is different. She is almost immobile with only her face doing most of the action.

Nikaido Fumi – Asian in NY. Photo credit Xue Liang. All Rights Reserved.
Nikaido Fumi – Asian in NY. Photo credit Xue Liang. All Rights Reserved.

Who is Nikaido Fumi?

Nikaido Fumi was born on September 21, 1994 in Naha, a southern coastal town on Okinawa Island, the largest island in the Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. At age twelve she was scouted by Sony Music Artists after her picture appeared in an Okinawa edition of ‘Picture Book of Beautiful Girls’, a free regional publication that features local amateurs as models.

This early discovery created the opportunity for her to work as a model and television actress while still in her early teens. Nikaido began to appear regularly in prominent fashion and lifestyle magazines and her ‘girl next door’ look quickly helped her garner roles in television campaigns for companies ranging from Tokyu Electric Railway (2007) to Koikeya Potato Chips (2009/2010), among other nationally distributed advertisements.

As she became more widely recognized, Nikaido also began to appear as an actress in popular television dramas. Her first role was in the ANB Friday Night Drama “Atami no Sousakan” in 2010, in which she played a well-regarded regular role. Around the same time, she made her film debut as Horie Hikari , a principal supporting character in Yakusho Koji’s Gamo no Abura [Toad’s Oil]. The film was well-received in Japan, and Nikaido quickly began to play more expansive roles, appearing regularly on the NHK BS Period Drama “Tempest” throughout 2011 and CX Saturday Drama “Mirai Nikki Another : World” in 2012.

At the same time, Nikaido was invited to play her first starring role in a feature film: conflicted high school shogi (Japanese chess) player, Michiko, in Yu Irie’s rock drama Gekijoban Shinsei Kamattechan Rock ‘n’ Roll wa Nariyamanai [Ringing in Their Ears] (2011). The film, which centered on the concert preparations of real-life rock band Shinsei Kamattechan, was a critical and commercial success, and Nikaido’s performance was especially lauded, earning her the “Best New Actress Award,” along with several others, at the Tokyo TAMA Film Festival.

Coming off that success, Nikaido starred in Sono Sion’s large-scale dystopian drama, Himizu. It was set in Japan dealing with the direct aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

The film made its international debut at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in 2011. Nikaido and her co-star, Sometani Shota, won the Marcello Mastroianni Award, the festival’s highest prize for emerging talent. It was an honor never before received by a Japanese actor. 

Nikaido Fumi and Someytani Shota in Himizu. (C) Third Window Films. All Rights Reserved.

Himizu is a scalding critique of those from the Japanese “baby boomer” generation who blame younger generations for their own financial and moral incompetence. Director Sono Sion draws on historical (World War II) and contemporary (the Fukushima nuclear disaster) examples to illustrate his point. However, while our failures are collective, the decision to succumb to or endure these hardships remains a personal choice.

Powerful and haunting, Himizu is scary at times and also gloomy when our young protagonists face off with their parents. This movie is not your typical slice of life, youthful drama. The ending, in my opinion, is something else. 

Sometani and Nikaido went on to co-star in Lesson of Evil, and in The Brain Man as well. 

In Part 2, we’ll explore more of Nikaido’s more recent films, with an extensive discussion of My Man (her movie with Asano Tadanobu).