Every single year there’s a surge of articles about the “Next Break” or “Hit” actors and actresses from a multitude of online platforms. While ModelPress revealed their voted lists on January 1st as usual, it was WHAT’s IN? tokyo’s that caught my attention this time.
The web magazine starts off its ranking by mentioning that the past year hasn’t been easy, and that it was full of exceptions, but that many people likely found support and felt the power of entertainment while spending more time at home.
They also look back at 2020, naming Okada Kenshi, Yamada Yuki, Isomura Hayato, and Shison Jun as the clear breakthroughs of the year, and can we go in against that? Okada Kenshi has continued being on multiple rankings ever since his debut in 2018, and had no less than six drama roles and four movie projects through the past year. Yamada Yuki, too, is undeniably one of 2020’s winners with his name being all over castings for both drama series and movies in the past and coming year – though, I wonder how he managed to get three teacher roles in a row (and four high school series at that). At the same time, Isomura Hayato captivated viewers in Koisuru Hahatachi, while Shison Jun gathered a whole slew of new fans through his every day life Insta-lives.
WHAT’s IN? tokyo then continues, asking themselves what 2021 will bring. With the idea of “making a great leap forward in their career in 2021” the website’s editorial staff gathered and selected 10 names for us to keep an eye on!
Let’s take a look at what the staff decided!
#10 Ichinose Hayate (’97 – KEN ON)
After having been scouted on the way to his university’s entrance ceremony back in May 2018, Ichinose quickly made his debut through Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger where he starred as Ryusoul Red. As the series ended in 2020, he was added to the cast of multiple drama projects such as Tokusou 9, Unsung Cinderella as well as its spin-off series, and, of course, Taiga drama Kirin ga Kuru.
During the past drama season, Ichinose was part of Kono Koi Atatamemasuka next to Mori Nana, Nakano Taiga, Nakamura Tomoya, and others! The actor was mentioned in ModelPress’ Fall “Next Break” prediction because of his role in the drama.
He is currently a part of the Edomoiselle drama cast.
#09 Nakagawa Daisuke (’98 – KEN ON)
Just like Ichinose, Nakagawa Daisuke took the Tokusatsu route to kickstart his career. The young actor, however, wasn’t part of a sentai series but found his place in the Kamen Rider franchise as Jin in Kamen Rider Zero-One. Upon the series’ finale in August 2020, Nakagawa appeared in the LA drama adaptation of Gokushufudou – also known as The Way of the Househusband.
While there isn’t much on his filmography so far but several works related to Kamen Rider, it must be noted that Nakagawa somehow got himself cast as a teacher in 2019 drama Ore no Sukato, Doko Itta?. With most of the student cast being around his age, one can wonder how he ended up in front of the classroom, and not as a part of it.
During winter season 2021, you can spot him in Uchi no Musume wa, Kareshi ga Dekinai!!.
Nakagawa is also a MEN’S NON-NO exclusive model.
#08 Itagaki Mizuki (’00 – Stardust)
Stardust’s up-and-coming it-boy and ex-M!LK member Itagaki Mizuki might seem like a rookie actor, but the now 20-year-old has been grabbing roles – and spotlight – here and there for quite a few years now.
It was only after some smaller roles – including several ‘young version’ castings – that Mizuki got his shot in 2015’s two-parter Solomon’s Perjury. The movie’s release came weeks before M!LK’s debut single, and put some extra attention on the rookie group and its members. Mizuki’s acting career refocused towards supporting roles in various drama series and for a good few years there wasn’t a lot of change to be seen.
2019, though, came with a surprise, as both Mizuki and fellow member Miyase Ryubi decided to leave their group in favor of an acting career. We’re now a year after their departure, and it doesn’t seem like the decision ended up being a bad one as Mizuki has had the opportunity to appear in no less than 15 projects in the past 12 months. Included in that number are a variety of roles from band members, to high schoolers, and even a 27-year-old office worker in the Shanai Marriage Honey drama adaptation. Somehow.
More recently, Mizuki was support to Maeda Gordon in Hoshi ni Naritakatta Kimi to and is – of course – set to lead the second season of Stardust/EBiDAN’s FAKE MOTION series. He will also be joining filming for the last few months of Taiga drama Kirin ga Kuru.
#07 Matsushita Kouhei (’87 – Cube Inc.)
The name right next to WHAT’s IN? tokyo’s #7 is probably the least known for many of us, but Matsushita Kouhei isn’t exactly all that new to the scene. The actor started his career as a singer-songwriter back in 2008, releasing a variety of singles as well as his official debut before the end of the year. Barely months further, sometime 2009, Matsushita was approached to join a musical cast, and his stage debut in GLORY DAYS was the beginning of a long list of theater shows he continues to add onto even now. A few years later, in 2012, he joined his first drama series, Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai.
The actor has since joined over 30 drama projects, and has recently been able to grab the attention of viewers and casting directors alike as after his guesting on 2020’s MIU404 the road to bigger roles has seemingly opened. A good example of that is probably his inclusion on the main cast of romance drama #RemoLove the same year.
If you want to catch Matsushita at work this season, then your best bet is to check the Shitteru Wife drama. Moeyo Ken, a movie in which he plays Saito Hajime, will be released in October 2021.
#06 Machida Keita (’90 – Gekidan EXILE/LDH)
#05 Akaso Eiji (’94 – Tristone Entertainment)
Do these two even need any introductions at the moment?
With Cherry Magic still fresh on our memories, Machida Keita and Akaso Eiji are likely included in just about every 2021 ranking you might be able to imagine. WHAT’s IN? tokyo isn’t an exception, with Machida and Akaso having reached the #06 and #05 spots, respectively!
Machida Keita joined Gekidan EXILE back in 2011, after passing the agency’s audition. For a while, he was considered a possible GENERATIONS member, but he eventually decided to focus on acting instead. He quickly got around with small roles in drama series such as Rokudenashi Blues, GTO, and Sugarless – the latter alongside fellow LDH talents Shirahama Alan, Sano Reo, and Suzuki Nobuyuki – but it was probably around the time he was cast in the HIGH & LOW franchise that his name started spreading more. Cue 2020, the year he grabbed a hold of one of the Cherry Magic lead roles, and pretty much everyone who regularly follows J-dramaland has heard of him by now. And if you hadn’t, perhaps Netflix’ Alice in Borderland did it instead.
Meanwhile, Akaso Eiji’s pre Cherry Magic fame mostly came from his Tokusatsu days. The currently 26-year-old actor played Kamen Rider Cross-Z, aka Banjo Ryuga, on Kamen Rider Build. He grabbed his first few leading roles about a year later, appearing as the male lead in not only Nee Sensei, Shiranai no? but also Panic Commercial. Akaso continued taking on projects left and right, including a part as one of the main four characters in the LA movie adaptation of Omoi, Omoware, Furi, Furare next to Kitamura Takumi (DISH//), Hamabe Minami, and Fukumoto Riko. Cherry Magic was his first leading role in a drama.
Machida is set to lead the Nishiogikubo Mitsuboshi Youshudo drama adaptation alongside Fujiwara Kisetsu and Morisaki Win, while Akaso has had recent guestings in Cold Case‘s Season 3 and Uchi no Musume wa, Kareshi ga Dekinai!!.
#04 Kaneko Daichi (’96 – Amuse Inc.)
The now 24-year-old Kaneko Daichi got into his current agency through its 2014 audition, and subsequently had his debut through the release of Taifuu no Noruda, an anime movie which starred agencymates Nomura Shuhei and Kiyohara Kaya. Ever since, Kaneko has been consistently appearing in drama series and movies alike, with a guesting on the current season of Byplayers being his most recent one.
The young actor was able to have his first leading roles in 2019, with both drama Fujoshi, Ukkari Gei ni Kokuru as well as indie movie Sarugakucho de Aimasho – also known as Colorless – receiving praise. He will also be appearing in both Summer Film ni Notte, a movie which is planned for release later this year, and Oguri Shun’s 2022 Taiga drama Kamakura-dono no 13-nin.
While he’s currently focusing on theater – with back-to-back shows since end last year – an interview revealed Kaneko apparently already has other media projects in the pipeline.
ModelPress listed him as one of the top 10 “Hit” predictions on their 2020 hitlist.
#03 Watanabe Keisuke (’93 – Amuse Inc.)
Early 2020, Amuse had a new angle for a while, as they paired up rookie Watanabe Keisuke with Sato Takeru through the Koi wa Tsuzuku yo Dokomademo drama promotions. Since the two could probably pass for siblings if they’d want to anyway, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
What has been surprising though, is that in contrast to most other Amuse stars, Keisuke was heavily focused on from the get-go. He debuted through Kamen Rider Zi-O – playing Kamen Rider Woz – barely two years ago, and has basically been continuously in projects ever since the series ended.
Most people will likely remember him from the earlier mentioned Koi wa Tsuzuku yo Dokomademo, but the 27-year-old can also be found among the casts of drama series love⇄distance and MIU404. He is currently appearing in Nao-chan wa Shogakusannensei, and is a part of the upcoming Brave -Gunjou Senki- LA movie adaptation. The latter will have its release in March 2021.
#02 Takahashi Fumiya (’01 – A-Plus)
With many Kamen Rider alumni on the list, it isn’t a shock to see another one of their lead boys appear. #2 on WHAT’s IN? tokyo’s list starred in 2019-2020’s Kamen Rider Zero-One, against the earlier mentioned Nakagawa Daisuke who was one of the series’ villains.
When Fumiya was named in ModelPress’ Fall “Next Break” prediction last year, there wasn’t much on the 19-year-old’s filmography to talk about yet aside from plenty of Kamen Rider involved projects. It was around the same time he was revealed to join the cast of Tanaka Kei led high school drama Sensei wo Kesu Houteishiki. Next to acting, he has also done narration work for the KAPIBARASAN anime series.
During this current season, the up-and-coming actor can be seen among the line-up of LA drama Muchuu-sa, Kimi ni starring Naniwa Danshi member and Johnny’s Jr. Onishi Ryusei.
Interestingly, Fumiya 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 to continue. Early January 2020, ModelPress also mentioned him as one of their under 20 trio on the 2020 “Next Break” list.
#01 Miyazawa Hio (’94 – LesPros)
With the great success and widespread attention for last year’s His – for which he won multiple awards – Miyazawa Hio taking the top spot in this ranking is probably a good indication of how his career is going.
The actor started out as a MEN’S NON-NO model in 2015, and had his acting debut a year later through Otona-no Kiso-Eigo. His follow-up project was a spin-off series of Cecile’s Plot called Cecile Boys, and a few months after that he appeared as additional cast on Yamazaki Kento’s Todome no Kiss. It also didn’t take long for Hio’s name to spread through the LA fan crowd after he was cast in the popular Kakegurui LA project. Meanwhile, the general crowd got to know his face and acting skill through an appearance on last year’s Asadora Yell.
After His, Hio was cast as the male lead alongside Kadowaki Mugi for “ATEOTD”, a short movie written and directed by actor Saito Takumi. Its story is based on a song called Ichinichi no Owari ni from Ando Yuko’s Barometz album. The title of the movie is an acronym of the English translation, At the End of the Day.
Hio is also active in the theater scene. He had his stage debut through the 2018 play BOAT, and had a few shows planned last year. Some of those sadly had to be canceled. Likewise, his upcoming movie Damashie no Kiba originally had its release scheduled for 2020, but because of COVID-19 the movie was postponed till March 2021.
WHAT’s IN? tokyo also notes that they chose Hio as their #1 because they “can’t take their eyes off of him anymore”. They further mention that his one-of-a-kind presence draws people in, and his mischievous yet friendly appearance on variety shows is a hit among people of all ages.
Fun fact: because of having grown up in the US, Hio is bilingual in English and Japanese, and has a few videos online where he tries to teach people how to pronounce certain words and sentences.
At the end of the article, the magazine added that even though they didn’t make the top 10, Fujiwara Taiyu, Okudaira Daiken, and Miyase Ryubi also clearly have a bright future ahead of them! And who knows, maybe they’ll appear on their next ranking.