A Stalker's Guide to Oguri Shun
It’s interesting how we become stalkers. For some, we’re enthralled the instant we come across an actor. For others, it takes a few dramas before the light bulb turns on. In the case of Oguri Shun, I’m the latter. I first watched Oguri in the usual suspects: Hana Kimi and Hana Yori Dango. But while I thought he was cute, as an older noona I couldn’t get over how young he looked in those dramas. So I [cough, cough] put Shun-kun on the back burner. That changed when 2012 brought to television one of the most adorable j-dramas of the year, Rich Man, Poor Woman. A stalkdom was immediately born. Here was an Oguri that looked like an adult and was quite honestly, HOT! As I continued watching his other works, I came to appreciate how the years had added a level of experience and maturity not previously apparent in his earlier career.
At an age when some of us are still playing with toys, Oguri was already acting. His career began at age 11 and for the next 20 years, our beloved Shun-kun has acted (dramas, movies, stage and voice), directed and reportedly even deejayed. It doesn’t hurt that performing runs in the family—his father, Oguri Tetsuya is a theater director, and his brother, Oguri Ryo is also an actor. With over 85 dramas, specials, movies and stage plays combined, not all where he plays a lead, Oguri has an extensive resume. He is gifted as an actor, his broad range of works showcasing his talent and ability. I feel that for nearly every role he takes on, he manages to engage his intended audience.
In March 2012 Oguri married actress and model Yamada Yu, whom he met during filming of Binbo Danshi. Congratulations to him and his wife!
Oguri has been in many a familiar favorite. It is likely you have seen at least one of them or if you haven’t, they are on your ‘plan to watch’ list. If however, you’re new to Shun-kun, I suggest viewing one of these more popular dramas first.
Rich Man, Poor Woman
2012 brought us this popular rom-com where Oguri plays Hyuga Toru, a wealthy anti-social internet wunderkind, with prosopagnosia—the inability to remember faces. However, although Hyuga has achieved wealth and career success, his driving force is neither of these—but rather pushing the limits of his own personal boundaries. His love interest, Natsui Makoto, is played by Ishihara Satomi, a recent university graduate who helps him grow into a more mature, socially adept individual.
I absolutely loved Shun-kun in this drama! I feel he imparted the role with the right amounts of no-nonsense entrepreneur and endearing genius. I never grew tired of watching the other character's reactions, whenever Hyuga expressed himself in his brash, forthright manner (interpret rude). For example, there is a scene where he gives an employee business cards with their own personal slogan, “Powerfully Stupid.” Just thinking about that moment still makes me chuckle. This is a great role for Oguri--he presented us with various levels of character development and remarkable chemistry with the female lead.
Another fun Oguri drama is 2007's Hana Kimi, based on the shojo manga, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e. I can’t believe it has nearly 10,000 MDL user votes! Incredible, but not surprising as this manga has inspired a cult-like following with multiple versions, including the Taiwanese and Korean interpretations, as well as a Japanese remake in 2011. The story revolves around Ashiya Mizuki, played by Horikita Maki, who begins to idolize high-jumper, Sano Izumi, played by Oguri, after she watches him in a competition. Eventually Mizuki transfers to Sano’s all-boys high school, but must disguise herself as a boy to enter.
Oguri does a nice job portraying the sensitive and reserved athlete, Sano, amidst the backdrop of random wackiness which is Hana Kimi. It couldn’t have been easy for Oguri to keep a straight face during filming, when he’s supposed to be the cool, slightly aloof guy, while everyone else is playing silly, off-the-wall characters. My only complaint is the lukewarm chemistry between Oguri and Horikita. I would have liked a bit more sizzle between them, but understand there were limitations as she was acting the role of a girl playing a boy. It certainly didn’t keep me from appreciating Hana Kimi and laughing at all of the cast’s silly antics!
Hana Yori Dango
The 2005 teen romance is based on a shojo manga by the same name and was one of the most popular dramas of that year. The story trails Tsukushi Makino, played by Inoue Mao, a student from a working-class family, and the members of Eitoku Academy’s elite, Flower Four or F4. The blossoming relationship between Tsukasa Domyouji, played by Matsumoto Jun, and Makino is the central theme of the drama. Various challenges are thrown in to threaten their courtship including Makino’s indecisive feelings for Hanazawa Rui, played by Oguri.
Oguri is the second lead, but his quiet yet complex portrayal of Rui has many of us wondering what Makino is doing with Domyouji! I enjoyed how Oguri brought to life the qualities that are Rui—introverted, distant and mysterious, but with a soft spot for his close friends. And how often have we debated who made the better Rui—the Korean, Taiwanese or Japanese version? Don’t kill me Kim Hyun Joong or Zhou Vic fans—but Shun-kun is the winner hands down!
I’m singling out three of my favorite Oguri films that I noticed didn't have a huge MDL following (gasp). So if you're not ready to commit to a 12-hour dramathon, try watching a flick.
Seriously, don’t let Oguri’s afro keep you from watching Space Brothers. It’s a prolific movie enhanced by comedic elements. It also won two awards at the 16th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in 2012. The story is adapted from a manga about two brothers who make a childhood pact to become astronauts after seeing what they think is an UFO. Fast forward 20 years later, and only one of the brothers has realized that dream. Nanba Mutta, played by Oguri, is the brother who is left behind and works at an automotive company. I appreciated that Oguri plays a character that could be any one of us. How often do we have aspirations that are put aside for the easier route in life? Through Nanba, Oguri shows us that anything is possible at any age, even when you think you’ve outgrown your childhood dreams.
The Woodsman and the Rain
One of my personal favorites, this 2011 movie is an award winner at the Tokyo International Film Festival. I can understand why, because I thoroughly enjoyed the use of subtle, and often absurd, humor sprinkled throughout the movie. Novice movie director Koichi, played by Oguri, and his crew travel to a mountain village to film his next movie. Sixty-year-old lumberjack Katsuhiko, played by Yakusho Koji, is enlisted against his will to assist them. Eventually the whole village is snagged into helping the crew.
Oguri rocks the role of an awkward and indecisive movie director. He especially complemented Yakusho’s Katsuhiko perfectly, and the bromance that develops from their relationship is endearing. In the beginning, Koichi is reserved and you’ll chuckle at some moments where he vacillates in making a decision (you’ll know what I mean when you see the scene with the socks). By the end of the movie, Oguri believably conveys that while Koichi is far from cured of his anxiety, he is a more confident individual.
Kisagari is a phenomenal 2007 comedic mystery film. It won “Most Popular Film” at the 31st Japan Academy Awards and “Best Picture” at the 50th Blue Ribbon Awards. It’s a witty story with just 5 men, one room (except for flashbacks of the crime scene) and a murder mystery. To keep it from being boring, you’re given intriguing twists that provide a new slant on the case they are investigating—the murder-suicide of their c-level idol, Miki. Oguri plays Guru, an adorkable otaku. While Shun-kun did a stellar job, it's the combined efforts and chemistry of the five actors that make this movie a gem.
Over the years, Oguri has avoided being typecast as just an attractive face (especially after Hana Kimi and Hana Yori Dango) by actively seeking a variety in character roles. I personally will enjoy the ride as he continues to push the envelope. I’m especially hoping he’ll select more quirky and esoteric roles, as well as throwing in a dollop of psychologically unhinged protagonists—all characters he is capable of.
So brief highlights in the versatility arena – in Great Teacher Onizuka, Oguri’s debut role, he plays a bullied little kid; in Summer Snow, a partially deaf boy; in Tokyo Dogs, a level-headed and disciplined detective; in Neighbor No. 13, a split personality psychopath; in Juui Dolittle, a gruff veterinarian who only cares about money; and in Gaku: Minna no Yama, an optimistic volunteer mountain rescue worker. And yes, he manages to portray a convincing character in all of these.
2014 will bring us a few more of Oguri’s projects. April promises, Border, where he will play detective Ishikawa Ango, who due to an accident, develops the ability to see ghosts. The story has been done before, so I'm interested to see what our Shun-kun will bring to the table as a ghost detective.
In August we’ll see Oguri play the master thief Lupin, in the live action film adaptation of the popular manga, Lupin III. He reportedly underwent 10 months of action training for the role and lost 8kg (almost 18 pounds) to look taller. Okay…as if that could be an issue, the man is already 6’ 0" (183 cm). I for one can’t wait to watch this, as it also includes a cast full of top stars: Tamayama Tetsuji, Ayano Go, Asano Tadanobu and Kuroki Meisa.
Sometime this year, Oguri will appear opposite Amami Yuuki in Oie-san. The series will tell the story of a general trade company called Suzuki Shouten during its existence from the Meiji into the Showa era. It will be told from the viewpoint of the company's female owner Suzuki Yone, played by Amami, and its general manager Kaneko Naokichi, played by Oguri, as they grow a sugar wholesale store to an international general trading company. This should be an interesting watch as Oguri will play a businessman skilled at engaging people through the gift of the gab (aka schmoozer), but is also admired for his samurai-like sense of duty. There's also the fact that I'll enjoy seeing him in traditional Japanese dress!
Oguri isn’t just an actor--his interests and talents also lend themselves to voice acting, theatre and directing. His first animation movie was Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. Since then he has lent his voice in various anime including Wangan Midnight as Akio Asakura, and more recently in Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin as Minakami Mario.
Oguri has been in over a dozen theatre productions, most well-known is the titular role in 2007’s Caligula (shown above) and Alex DeLarge in Clockwork Orange in 2011. This summer Oguri returns to the theater in the stage version of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, playing the protagonist McMurphy.
His first major directorial debut on the big screen was Surely Someday, which was released the summer of 2010 in Japan.
Just For Fun
Who knew Shun-kun had such a sense of humor? With some makeup and extensions he makes a gorgeous woman. While clearly these pictures are from acting and modeling engagements—I think they make him a little more human. What do you think?
If there is an actor or an actress that is worthy of a Stalker's Guide in your opinion, and you have watched enough dramas of his/hers to prove it, please contact Elisabetta about it.