The Japanese Actor Behind Tokyo Ghoul Live-Action’s Kaneki Ken

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  • Reports about Masataka Kubota playing the lead character, Monkey D. Luffy, in a live-action movie for One Piece started circulating and perturbed the fans of the long-running popular series. But they heaved a sigh of relief as Shueisha Inc. and Toei Animation totally debunked the claims of a Chinese company buying the copyrights to have a One Piece live-action movie in the works. Not long after, another barrage of casting news went around confirming Masataka Kubota as Kaneki Ken for Tokyo Ghoul‘s live-action film. I didn’t want to believe it but this time, it’s for real.

    Tokyo Ghoul

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    Tokyo Ghoul is based on the manga series of the same title by Sui Ishida. With 14 volumes, its original run in Shueisha’s seinen manga magazine Weekly Young Jump started on September 8, 2011. It tells the story of Kaneki Ken, an average student whose life changed after his encounter with Rize Kamishiro. To save his life after an accident, he underwent a surgery that required some of Rize’s organs to be transferred into his body. Problem is, Rize is a ghoul. Hence, the procedure made Kaneki a half-ghoul. He may have gotten his life back but it was never the same as ghouls need to feed on human flesh to survive. Anteiku, a coffee shop run by ghouls, soon became Kaneki’s home as the ghouls tried to help him manage his half-ghoul struggles and adjust to his new self.

    With millions of copies sold, Tokyo Ghoul has been one of the best-selling mangas in Japan since 2013. Since this is an extremely popular series, the expectations are high and the pressure is on.

    Masataka Kubota

    Masataka Kubota was born in 1988 and has been an actor under Stardust Promotion since 2006. The first time I saw him was in the 2010 movie 13 Assassins. Directed by the prolific Takashi Miike, 13 Assassins is a remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 black-and-white film of the same name. How’s that for a first impression? I’ve always been a fan of the richness in culture, the glimpse of history, and the scale of epicness that jidaigeki (samurai period dramas) movies have. Masataka Kubota plays Ogura Shoujiro in this film that received mainly positive reviews and critical acclaims.

    He played a lot of supporting roles thereafter, and in 2012, he bagged a couple of Film Festival Awards for the film Fugainai Boku wa Sora wo Mita (The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky). I recognized his acting abilities even more when he played Shinji Naruse in the 2014 drama N no Tame ni that also starred Eikura Nana and Kaku Kento. He received well-deserved Best Supporting Awards for that role.

    And then there was Death Note. In 2015, the Japanese tv series based on the popular manga premiered on Nippon TV. Amidst the apprehension of longtime fans of the series, Death Note kicked off with a rating of 16.9 percent in the Kanto region and Kubota’s performance exceeded all expectations. His portrayal of Yagami Light earned him the Best Actor Award in the 86th Television Drama Academy Awards in 2015.

    I remember that I have read in an interview a long time ago that even Fujiwara Tatsuya admitted that playing the character of Yagami Light is extremely difficult because unlike L Lawliet, Light doesn’t have any distinct physical features and peculiar behavioral habits. But Masataka Kubota delivered his version of Yagami Light with such pathos, that even though he has a twisted sense of justice, there were times when I actually found myself somewhat rooting for him. He was the perfect anti-hero.

    Masataka Kubota as Kaneki Ken

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    Having said those, I believe Masataka Kubota will do a good job as Kaneki Ken. Tokyo Ghoul creator Ishida Sui himself mentioned that he has already imagined Kubota as the perfect actor long before the details of the live-action cast have been decided. It was reported that he realized this after seeing Kubota in the movie Bokutachi wa Sekai wo Kaeru Koto ga Dekinai. But, we wanna build a school in Cambodia. (We Can’t Change The World But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia.).

    However, not everyone is happy with this choice. As I’ve read on different sites, a lot of people have strongly expressed their various thoughts about this casting news. Some of them commented that they wish Kanata Hongo play Kaneki Ken instead which is understandable since the guy looks super cool with blonde hair. (Check him out in Akagi. He also played Ryoma Echizen in The Prince of Tennis and more recently, Armin in Attack on Titan.)

    From one live-action boy wonder to another, some are also rooting for Kamiki Ryunosuke. I cannot imagine him with Kaneki hair but I’m pretty sure he would rock it, too. And he has both acting chops and live-action experience since he played popular characters such as Seta Soujiro in Rurouni Kenshin, Amaya Takeru in Kamisama no Iutoori (As The Gods Will), and Akito Takagi in Bakuman.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the fans just commented that they are happy the movie did not cast Yamazaki Kento, Fukushi Sota, or anyone from Johnny’s Entertainment. I personally have nothing against the actors I’ve mentioned. We all have different preferences and we all have our reasons for our choices. I’m 100 percent on Team Masataka Kubota anyway.

    Live-Action Tokyo Ghoul

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    The Tokyo Ghoul live-action will be directed by Kentaro Hagiwara. Unfortunately, I have not seen any of his previous works. When I checked the films under his belt, they were mostly shorts. This gives me an even bigger thrill since I have no idea about his directing style. Actress Fumika Shimizu will play Toka Kirishima aka Rabbit, a ghoul who works as a waitress in Anteiku. They have started filming last July 2016 and Tokyo Ghoul will be released some time in summer 2017.

    We can never really tell how a live-action movie will turn out to be until we see the final product. A lot of people have doubted Rurouni Kenshin before its release, but Sato Takeru and Otomo’s team surprised them with awesomeness. A lot of people have anticipated Attack on Titan‘s live-action, but sadly, many were disappointed. Right now, I’m just both excited and worried about Tokyo Ghoul since you know… the torture scene.

    How about you? How do you feel about the upcoming Tokyo Ghoul live-action film?

    Tokyo Ghoul Live Action Website *Japanese only

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