Sometani Shota (染谷将太) is still young, but he has already appeared in more than 60 films, worked with some of the most prominent directors and married with a child to a famous and internationally recognized actress.
Also called “Someya” by his fans, Sometani Shota was born in Koto, Tokyo on September 3, 1992. He said he was three years old when he saw a black and white silent film and found it fascinating. Charlie Chaplin was the person who inspired him to pursue acting.
He was nine when he first appeared in the horror comedy Stacy in 2001. A year later, he played the innocent-looking 10-year-old Tezuka Mamoru (手塚守), the witness in the first season of the television series Aibou (相棒). From then on, he continued to appear in more movies and several television series. But, unlike other young actors who hope to be the next action hero or romantic drama prince, Someya prefers to play some emotionally scarred and complicated characters.
He revealed that his hobbies include photography and filmmaking. His special skills are table tennis, magic tricks, and pantomime. Other than that, he prefers to keep things private and uses his site only for important announcements, such as the confirmation of his marriage in December 2014, his wife’s fifth month of pregnancy in May 2016, and the successful delivery of their child in October 2016.
His wife, Rinko Kikuchi (菊池凜子), is not your average movie star. She is the first Japanese actress in fifty years to be nominated for an Academy Award; it was for playing a deaf-mute in the award winning Alejandro González Iñárritu film Babel with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
She is known for her role in the movie Norwegian Wood based on the famous novel by Haruki Murakami (村上春樹). She also starred in Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi action monster film Pacific Rim, the samurai adventure 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves, David Zellner’s drama film Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, and, most recently, she made an appearance in Takashi Miike’s (三池崇史) live-action movie Terra Formars.
Sometani Shota is 11 years younger than his wife but he certainly doesn’t fall behind in acting accomplishments. It would be difficult to discuss his entire filmography considering the number of projects he has made through the years. Here are just some of his career highlights.
In 2009, Sometani Shota earned the Best Actor Award at the 11th TAMA New Wave Festival for his portrayal of a troubled teen with an abusive father in the independent film Nora. He followed this up with the post-World War II period film Pandora’s Box (パンドラの匣), where he played a young man who falls ill with contracted tuberculosis. The film was included in the 22nd Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival (ゆうばり国際ファンタスティック映画祭) for the East Japan Earthquake Stricken District Support.
In the 2010 movie Yuriko’s Aroma (ユリ子のアロマ), he was a high schooler named Tetsuya (徹也) who had some sexually awakening encounters with Yuriko (ユリ子), an aromatherapist in his aunt’s salon.
Sometani also won the 65th Japan Broadcasting Art Film Rookie of the Year.
2011 was an amazing year for him. He starred in A Liar and A Broken Girl (嘘つきみーくんと壊れたまーちゃん) and received the Sponichi Grand Prix Newcomer Award at the 66th Mainichi Film Awards. He also received the 3rd TAMA Film Festival Best Emerging Actor.
The movie Tokyo Koen (東京公園), starring Miura Haruma (三浦春馬) and directed by Shinji Aoyama (青山真治), where Sometani played Hiro Takai (高井ヒロ), competed at the 64th Locarno International Film Festival and was awarded with a Golden Leopard Special Jury Prize.
He then took the lead in Himizu (ヒミズ), which is based on the manga of the same name written by Minoru Furuya (古谷実). The director, Shion Sono (園子温), decided to alter the script following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster that had just struck Japan that year. Sometani plays Yuichi Sumida (住田祐一), whose only dream is to live an ordinary life but the emotional and physical abuse he experienced, with the earthquake aftermath on top, pushed him to his limits and to a violent madness. Himizu competed at the 68th Venice International Film Festival where Shota Sometani and the equally talented female lead, Fumi Nikaido (二階堂ふみ), won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor and Best New Young Actress.
Sometani also won the 3rd Japan Staff Theatre Festival Rookie of the Year Award and the critically acclaimed Himizu continued its inclusion to several film festivals around the world until 2015.
In 2012, Sometani played Keisuke Hayami (早水圭介), one of the students of the attractive but two-faced psychopath teacher, Seiji Hasumi (蓮実聖司). Lesson of the Evil (悪の教典) is based on the novel by Yusuke Kishi (貴志祐介), directed by Takashi Miike (三池崇史) and starring Hideaki Ito (伊藤英明).
In 2013, Sometani had around ten films which include his very own short, Similar But Different. He co-wrote this movie with A Liar and a Broken Girl writer, Natsuki Seta (瀬田なつき). He starred in it with Rei Hirano (平野鈴) and he impressively directed it himself.
Sometani reaped the rewards of his hard work in the previous year as he received two Rookie of the Year awards from the 2013 Elan d’or Award and the 36th Japan Academy Prize.
2014 was a year of reunions. Sometani reunited with Lesson of the Evil co-star Hideaki Ito for a lighter role in the endearing rural comedy, Wood Job. Based on the novel Kamusari Nana Nichijo (神去なあなあ日常) by Shion Miura (三浦しをん), written and directed by Shinobu Yaguchi (矢口史靖史靖), the movie premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival.
He also got commended for his acting in the war epic Eien no Zero (永遠の0) based on the novel by Naoki Hyakuta (百田尚樹). This film eventually bagged some major awards at the 38th Japan Academy Prize in 2015, including Picture of the Year, Director of the Year, and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Junichi Okada (岡田准一).
He worked again with Shion Sono, this time as the narrator in the live-action film for Santa Inoue’s (井上三太) Tokyo Tribe. The legendary rap battle movie was featured in various Film Festivals including Toronto, Busan, Göteborg, New York, Neuchâtel, and more.
Once again, Sometani’s character did not get a happy ending in a Takashi Miike-directed movie when he starred with Fukushi Sota (福士蒼汰) and Kamiki Ryunosuke (神木隆之介) in the bloody youth death game As the Gods Will (神さまの言うとおり). His appearance may have been short, but he definitely left the biggest impression. As the Gods Will is included in the 44th International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Reuniting with XXXholic co-star Masahiro Higashide (東出昌大), Sometani proved how in-demand he is when he was cast as parasite-infected Shinichi Izumi (泉新一) in the live-action adaptation of the famous manga, Kiseijuu (寄生獣; Parasyte). He displayed his acting skills by convincingly playing a role which required him to literally talk to his hand and transform from an average student to a strong, serious fighter. The movie received mixed reviews but Parasyte’s huge fanbase gave the film its box office success and added Sometani Shota’s name to the list of popular modern live-action heroes.
In 2017, Shota received the Grand Chariot Rookie Award at the 3rd Nippon Theater Staff Film Festival.
In 2015, Sometani starred in eight films, including the underwhelming concluding half of Parasyte live-action, the Bloodthirsty Butchers-inspired Soredake (ソレダケ; That’s It), the X-Men-like action sci-fi Strayer’s Chronicle, and another Shion Sono collaboration, the comedy Eiga Minna Esupa Dayo! (みんな！エスパーだよ！; The Virgin Psychics).
The R15 pink film Kabukicho Love Hotel (さよなら歌舞伎町), directed by Ryuichi Hiroki (廣木隆一), was first screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in Japan in 2015. Sometani Shota received the 2015 Screen International Rising Star Award at the New York Asian Film Festival and another Best Actor Award at the 25th Japanese Professional Movie Awards for his portrayal of Takahashi Toru (高橋徹), the manager of a love hotel in the infamous Kabukicho area.
Bakuman (バクマン) was created by popular Death Note duo, Tsugumi Ohba (大場つぐみ) and Takeshi Obata (小畑健). The slice-of-life live-action movie stars Rurouni Kenshin’s (るろうに剣心) Sato Takeru (佐藤健) and Kamiki Ryunosuke as young aspiring mangakas, Moritaka Mashiro (真城最高) and Akito Takagi (高木秋人). Sometani Shota plays their eccentric genius rival, Niizuma Eiji (新妻エイジ). Director Hitoshi One (大根仁) was constantly praised by critics for this film. Bakuman received the Popularity Award at the 39th Japan Academy Prize and also won the Outstanding Achievement in Music and Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Despite being in an all-star cast and having only appeared in a few scenes, Shota still stood out as he brought Eiji to life and he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Japan Academy Prize.
Sometani Shota has also lent his voice to some animations. He was the voice actor for Mr. Tanabe (田辺) in Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (おおかみこどもの雨と雪; Wolf Children), the second-highest grossing film in Japan on its debut weekend. The film won the 2013 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year and Best Animation Film awards at the 2012 Mainichi Film Award at the Tokyo International Anime Fair.
Bakemono no Ko (バケモノの子; The Boy and The Beast), where he voiced one of the main characters, Kyuta (九太), was number one at the Japanese box office during its opening weekend and was released internationally with positive reviews. The film won Animation of the Year at the 37th Japan Academy Prize.
Sometani Shota has not appeared in as many dramas as he has in films. A couple of series he led were the live-action series for CLAMP manga XXXholic, and the seinen comedy Minna! Esupa Dayo! directed by Shion Sono. Fans were satisfied with the beautifully filmed XXXholic and its lead actors’ performances, especially the bromance between Watanuki (四月一日) and Domeki (百目). While Minna! Esupa Dayo! is a bit silly, but engaging and funny enough to be made into a movie.
Sometani joined two novel-based series: the Netflix drama, Hibana (火花; Spark), starring Hayashi Kento (林遣都) and Kazuki Namioka (波岡一喜), and the historical drama, A Man Called Pirate (海賊とよばれた男), reuniting him with the Eien no Zero director, Takashi Yamazaki (山崎貴), and lead star, Junichi Okada.
He is also included in the cast of two novel-based films: The Actor (俳優亀岡拓次) starring Ken Yasuda (安田顕), and Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow (聖の青春), starring Kenichi Matsuyama (松山ケンイチ).
In 2017, Sometani will once again play Kamiki Ryunosuke’s rival in the live-action movie, March Comes In Like A Lion (3月のライオン). He is almost unrecognizable in a body suit as he transforms into Nikaidō Harunobu (二階堂晴信). He will also star in Parks with Parasyte co-star Ai Hashimoto (橋本愛). The film, written and directed by Natsuki Seta, is made in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Inokashira Park (井の頭公園) in Tokyo, Japan.
Sometani shocked fans with pictures of his new look for the 2018 Sino-Japanese movie, Kukai / Yao Mao Zhuan (空海; The Legend of Cat Demon). It is based on the novel series Samon Kukai Tou no Kuni nite Oni to Utagesu (沙門空海唐の国にて鬼と宴す) by Yumemakura Baku (夢枕獏).
The film will be under the direction of the award-winning, eminent leading figure of the fifth generation of Chinese cinema, Chen Kaige. Shota will play the role of a Buddhist monk who was sent from Japan to the Tang Dynasty. There he meets the poet Haku Rakuten (白楽天), and together they unravel the mysteries behind the supernatural occurrences in the capital.
Filmed in Xiangyang City of Hubei Province in China, the movie reportedly took five years of planning and a production budget of 15 billion yen.
Sometani Shota’s passion for movies reflects in his work; no wonder many renowned actors, directors, critics and award giving bodies recognize his innate acting abilities whether he appears in indie gems or mainstream films. But it doesn’t take an expert to know that he is a gifted actor. I have seen him many times in supporting roles and guest appearances and after watching him in Himizu and Eien no Zero, I became a dedicated fan. He may have played a lot of angst-ridden characters, but he showed his versatility when he led the comedies, Wood Job and Minna! Esupa Dayo. And I can’t wait to see him in Kukai as it is his first overseas movie where he will be speaking in Chinese the entire time.
With more than 60 films, Sometani’s a veteran at 24 and has achieved so much both in reel and real life. For this talented actor, age is indeed just a number.