Japanese people love to find something new and follow trends. Their keen eyes are also on new celebrities including singers, bands, actors, actresses, models, and comedians.
You might have seen on Japanese TV programs or in Japanese magazines news on newcomers who give shy smiles to the audience. On the other hand, due to the rapid cycle of the Japanese showbiz world, it is also true that although a celebrity may have been famous a few years back, their popularity dwindled and you don’t see them as often as before.
Despite this harsh environment, there is one Japanese actor who constantly displays his great acting skills in TV dramas and in movies, as well as maintaining the interest of audiences with his good sense of humor. His name is Toma Ikuta (生田斗真), a 32-year-old actor from Hokkaido (北海道). He is a member of Johnny’s (ジャニーズ事務所), which is a very popular talent agency in Japan. Arashi (嵐), SMAP, Kanjani Eight (関ジャニ∞), and Hey! Say! JUMP are famous Johnny’s groups.
Toma is outstanding among other Johnny’s performers because he is not a singer or a dancer, and neither did he belong to a group after his formal debut. In Johnny’s, performers can make a debut when they have been signed as a group and find success with selling one or more songs. It solely depends on Mr.Johnny (ジャニーさん), who has the decision-making power over the agency and its performers. Understudy performers, called Johnny’s Jr., are longing for the day when their names are announced by Mr. Johnny. Toma was one of them.
In this sense, Toma is one of the very few Johnny’s members who made a debut as a solo actor. There are two main works of Toma that are my absolute favorites. You will see how talented he is as an actor and how kakkoii (cool; かっこいい) he really is!
This is a TV drama series based on a same-titled comic by Hisaya Nakajo (中条比紗也). It was aired from September 2007 to December 2007 on Fuji channel and had a good viewing rate.
This is a high school romantic comedy. Mizuki (瑞稀), played by Maki Horikita (堀北真希), is a female student who disguises herself as a male student and enters a male boarding school in order to be friends with Sano (佐野), played by Shun Oguri (小栗旬), because she wants to encourage Sano to try the high jump again. Mizuki once saw Sano doing the high jump in a competition and was very impressed.
Sano happened to help Mizuki when she was approached by bullies after the competition. He got injured from it and, as a result, gave up high jump. Mizuki thought it was her fault, which motivated her to transfer schools and be a “boy” while she stayed at the boarding school.
What caught the attention of the audience is the comedy-touched funny episodes played by good-looking guys (ikemen イケメン). The sense of humor is quite intellectual and with a good tempo. Toma plays Nakatsu (中津), a very funny, positive-thinking boy who has a crush on Mizuki. Later, he finds out that Mizuki is a girl and that she likes Sano. He is upset, but Nakatsu stays friends with Mizuki and supports her first love.
No one can hate Toma’s Nakatsu. He is such a nice guy who is loyal to his friends and to Mizuki. It is Toma’s acting skill to make Nakatsu charming and friendly to both male and female audiences. I became Toma’s fan through watching this drama.
In addition to Toma and Shun Oguri, who are currently two of the top Japanese actors of their generation, there are other kakkoii but serious actors who became popular after this drama. For example, Hiro Mizushima (水嶋ヒロ) plays Nanba (難波), who is a leader of the dormitory and takes care of Sano, Mizuki, and Nakatsu. In 2010, Hiro received an award for his first novel, KAGEROU, as an author. He also co-produced Kuro Shitsuji (黒執事), a Japanese movie based on the comic in 2014. He is now recognized by his acting, novels, and producing skills. Masaki Okada (岡田将生) plays Sekime (関目). Although he does not appear on-screen as often as the other main characters, Masaki’s presence at the drama brings a sort of comfort and peace. You will see what I mean if you watch Masaki’s movies such as Honokaa Boy (ホノカアボーイ) (2009) and Space Brothers (宇宙兄弟) (2012).
No matter whose fan you are, you won’t be disappointed by Hanazakari No Kimitachi E. It is not a merely comic-based drama. I guarantee that this is the best quality of Japanese dramas played by good-looking but seriously skilled actors!
This is a romantic movie inspired by a Japanese love song called Hanamizuki by Yo Hitoto (一青窈). It was released in the summer of 2010 along with the sales copy of May You and Your Loved One Stay Together For Another 100 Years, which is a part of the lyrics from Hitoto’s song.
What makes this movie spectacular is that the story develops in a 10-year span and at four different locations, starting at Hokkaido (北海道), Tokyo (東京), New York, and Nova Scotia (Canada). Kohei (康平), played by Toma, is a high school student from a fishing family in Kushiro (釧路), a city in eastern Hokkaido. Sae (紗枝), played by Yui Aragaki (新垣結衣), meets Kohei on the way to her mock exam for university. They are stuck on the train because of a minor accident and Sae is desperate to get to the exam venue on time. She asks Kohei if he can give her a ride. That’s how their story moves forward.
In the beginning, they do not get along well, due to the different background and futures they are dreaming for. However, the more they know each other, the better they understand each other. They get attracted and start dating as a couple. This phase is very charming and touching, because it is nostalgic of innocent love in our youth.
Their relationship shifts after Sae moves to Tokyo for her study at university. Despite the distance, Kohei tries to keep their relationship and look for a way to be together, but Sae can’t hide her strong desire to go abroad, which has been her dream since she is a child. As the story moves on, each settles in their own place with their own people. Sae in New York, and Kohei in Hokkaido. The story develops further with unexpected turnouts, which carry the two young people to their final destination. The bond between Sae and Kohei magically makes their paths cross once again and leads to a heartwarming ending.
Toma shows his gifted acting skills here as well, which never bores the audience. Kohei is a bit of a rough high school boy who is not good at studying. Toma nicely depicts Kohei’s kind side as well as his fragile side, which bring more character into Kohei and makes him attractive as a person. His range of emotion is also worth watching. When he gets angry, he really is angry. When he is sad or down, yes he is indeed. We can feel Kohei’s emotions through the screen and Toma’s acting. Toma has a great ability to perform inner fighting and growth of character even in a complicated setting. I believe that’s the reason why Toma is successful and his work is always well received.
In addition to co-starring Yui Aragaki (新垣結衣), one of the leading Japanese actresses nowadays, there are other actors and actresses who bring spices into this movie. Osamu Mukai (向井理) plays Junichi (純一), an aspiring photographer who goes to the same university as Sae and inspires her. Hiroko Yakushimaru (薬師丸ひろ子) plays Sae’s mother, who supports and encourages Sae when she faces difficulties. Stubborn Kohei’s father is played by Yutaka Matsushige (松重豊), who leaves a big impression on-screen and becomes a key person in the story. The beautiful shooting locations go perfectly well with this pure love story.
This is one of those stunning Japanese movies with great actors and actresses, a touching story and music, and picturesque locations. I highly recommend this movie not only to Toma’s fans, but also to anyone who likes finely structured movies with beautiful landscapes.
For those who are interested in more of Toma’s starring movies, you can find him in Bokura Ga Ita (僕等がいた) (2012), Nou Otoko (脳男) (2013), Mogura No Uta (土竜の唄) (2014/2016), Yokokuhan (予告犯) (2015), and Himitsu (秘密) THE TOP SECRET (2016).
To find out more information about Ikuta Toma, visit Johnny’s Official website, which is available in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean.
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