by BrightestStar, July 28, 2016
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I’ve been meaning to write this article for a long while, but I’ve just been too lazy to gather my thoughts. This stalker guide is about a celebrity I have been following for years and have tried watching anything I can get my hands on. I’m talking about Nagase Tomoya, youngest member and primary vocalist of the JPop band TOKIO. I have to say, it is not that I find him one of the best actors out there, but that he has roles that he excels in portraying, and makes it a lot of fun to watch.

Born on November 7, 1978, he was a fan of Johnny & Associates bands like SMAP from a very early stage, when he was recruited by the talent agency and accepted. At first, he worked with fellow members as a background dancer, until his group debuted in 1994. Since then, he has also appeared in many dramas and landed his first leading role in 1996 in Hakusen Nagashi.

Like many idols, Nagase took some time to adjust to acting and chose roles that not only suit him but also bring out the best in him. I have to admit I didn't like some of his dramas, or his portrayal of some characters, but I also ended up loving many of his dramas and other roles he played. He is one who progressed pretty well as time went by. Nagase is the type of actor who overacts in most of his roles and really seems to enjoy it. The reason he succeeds is that he knows how to choose the roles, and the dramas, where overacting is not only permitted, but actually required.   

 

Just like many other Johnny idols, most of Nagase’s dramas have songs either performed by his band or him in collaboration with other bands. I don’t usually follow anyone’s music career, but I have found that most of those songs are fun to listen to and have found myself to be quite obsessed with some for a while. Even now those songs give me a nostalgic feeling and remind me of his dramas which I have enjoyed watching.

So without further ado lets me introduce you to the dramas that made me love this guy. I'll be going in chronological order.



Ikebukuro West Gate Park (2000)

So first of all, EVERYONE should watch this drama. It embodies everything I love about older Japanese drama. It’s raw, it’s dirty, and it’s full of fun. It has many odd characters and tackles many issues. It is a comedic but not a comedy, mysterious yet we can’t call it a mystery. There are many tragedies happening, yet it’s not too tragic and stays light. What's odd is that, it is about gangs and gangsters yet our hero refuses to belong to any gang. I feel that it is in this drama that Nagase discovers himself and the type of character he’d like to play.

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He plays Makoto, a young adult living in Ikebukuro, helping out his friends and the locals by day, and hanging out with his best friend Takeshi “King” (Kubozaka Yosuke) the G-boys leader at the sauna by night; all this while trying to solve the mystery behind the murder of a friend he had met recently.

In this drama, you will find a number of actors who are stars now, household names and so on, including no other than Watanabe KenSakaguchi KenjiSato RyutaTsubamuki SatoshiYamashita Tomohisa, among many others. Written by Kudo Kankuro, it’s an excellent drama. I cannot recommend it enough.

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Mukodono! (2001)

This drama is more easygoing, and not as wild as the previous one, yet I found it to be very enjoyable to watch and worth recommending.

Before getting into the drama, let me explain, “mukodono” means a man marrying into the woman’s family. That alone would explain the premise of the drama. However, there is another twist. The warm and clumsy husband is also a famous singer, has a cold and distant persona, and his marriage has to be kept secret.

Playing his wife is the lovely Yuko Takeuchi, and together they share a sweet on-screen chemistry. I quite enjoyed this drama, the family, and how the relationship evolves. Despite all the tropes, it is mainly a family drama. There is also a 2003 version of this drama. Both are family focused and are good, but I enjoyed this one more and the latter felt unnecessary.


Big Money! (2001)

This drama may not be for all, but if you’re interested in business or would like to know the basics, then it is a fun watch. It also has various interesting characters.

The story follows Shirato Norimichi, a young adult trying to fit into the corporate world and learn to be independent. As the job hunting doesn't go smoothly, a mysterious older man recruits him and introduces him to the investment and trading world. He begins to understand how people can easily be cheated into investing in the wrong place; be cheated out of their insurance and how the right knowledge can help him find stability, and also save others from failures and loss. He learns how to control greed and not let it take over.

Since I work in the investment field, and though the theme of investment, here, is very introductory, I really enjoyed their approach to it.


Tiger & Dragon (2005) 

Sharing the screen with fellow Johnny member and singer/actor is Okada Junichi. This drama is a great introduction to the traditional form of Japanese comedy called Raguko.

In here, Nagase portrays a yakuza member who dreams of improving his sense of humor by forcing an indebted Raguko performer to teach him. The said performer’s son wants to leave the world of Raguko behind and follow his passion for fashion, though he has terrible taste. It's really great to see to characters trying to challenge themselves and recreate their path. The two inevitably cross paths, creating through envy and empathy, a fun sense of friendship and rivalry.

Once you know it’s from the same writer as Ikebukuro West Gate Park, you wouldn't be surprised at the number of themes getting bundled together. Another drama with great comedy as the characters go by, create disasters, and in turn find their rightful place in this world. And with that, a funny story to tell at the end of the day.

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My Boss My Hero (2006)91MbwWOL_09f4a0_f.jpg

Based on a Korean movie of the same name, Nagase portrays yet another yakuza character here, Makio, with a different type of twist. He portrays a character who appears to be stupid causing his father, the yakuza leader, to doubt his effectiveness as the next leader after him. He is ordered to go back to school and get his high school diploma if he wishes to ever lead the gang after his father. Now not only does he need to focus and learn again, Makio also needs to hide his age and the fact he is part of the yakuza in order to be able to continue going to school.

Now I haven’t seen the original movie, but I was completely satisfied with this version. What I found most interesting is how Makio managed to immerse himself in the high school culture. It shows that the experience of going to school really isn’t just about the books and your grades, but about the relationship built, activities, and learning different skills like effective leadership and teamwork.

I know this isn’t anything special compared to other school dramas. The twist of the secret identity, and the fact that he’s older than his teacher, that makes it fun. This is the type of role Nagase excels in, and his presence here is what made this drama so fun to watch. The main theme song of the drama "Sorafune" is pretty popular, and I myself found it addictive. Here's an MV of the drama with the main theme song. It can be a bit spoilish, but will give you an idea of the fun the drama has to offer.


Utahime (2007)

Another favorite of mine, and one that is greatly underrated. I watched this drama many years ago, and to this day, every time I think about it, I get overwhelmed with emotions. A beautiful tale about love and loss, inspiration and art, all set in a small village during the 1950s, Japan. Nagase shares the screen with the underrated Aibu Saki, and both had so much chemistry together, they were lovely to look at.

The story starts out in present day Japan, as a young man travels back to a small village to watch the closing of a movie that is set in that village, and through which we get to watch the misadventures of Taro, an ex-soldier who has lived in this town for 10 years since the end of the war. He suffers from amnesia and has yet to regain his memory. During that time, the 10 years old Suzu has grown into a beautiful young woman, who wants him to acknowledge her as a woman.

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The drama is very much about the simplistic way of life of in the village in that era, as well as about growth and self-discovery. The main couple here are adorable, and as we see how sweet he was with her when she was a kid, you can’t help but understand why he hesitates to reciprocate her feeling, even though we know how much he cares for her. Just look at how cute they are in the short video below. It's their signature move.

Nagase’s acting here is subtle when compared to other roles he plays. His enactment of all the sides of Taro’s personality and struggles is constant, as Taro tries to hide his fears, uncertainties of his past, and what he truly feels. 

Again, this is a drama worth checking out, if only for the heartwarming setting. Also, the theme song SEISYuN by TOKIO is another favourite of mine, though for me it was more of an acquired taste.

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Unubore Deka (2010)

A drama with a tag line “I sentence you to marry me” you can imagine how hilarious it would be. The drama is about a conceited detective and a hopeless romantic. A young man who dreams of finally settling and getting married ends up falling in love with women involved in his cases. As he tries to prove their innocence, he ends up finding them guilty and gives them a choice of either marrying him or being arrested. You can guess what their choice would be.

What makes this drama fun is the fact he is a part of a group of young men, the conceited five, who meet every evening to talk about their romantic lives and give each other advice. His father also intrudes his home and ends up writing stories based on his son’s experiences. His writing gets adapted into a drama led by one of the Five, an aspiring yet incapable actor.

So many diverse and colourful characters, synced perfectly to bring out the most entertaining value, penned again by Kudo Kankuro. You can tell Nagase really gets along with that writer. He also manages to overact to his heart’s content with the characters written by this guy, especially here.


Nakuna, Hara-chan (2013)  

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A concept many are now familiar with, although here it was explored in a particular way. A comic book character comes to life, enjoys the new experiences of this new world, and falls in love with its creator.  As he goes back and forth between worlds, he brings in his new knowledge to his friend in the small world, and in the meantime teaches those in the “real” world how to appreciate the little things in life.

The synopsis might seem simple, however, there were so many heartwarming moments, as we start seeing the world anew through the innocent eyes of Nakuna. What makes it intriguing for me is the otherworldly theme subtly explored. As in, what makes one world real and the other world not? What if our own lives are the imagination of someone else? It doesn't explore all the details but just opens up all the possibilities. And that is what I love about fiction and fantasy, the possibilities that could exist.

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Kurokochi (2013)

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This drama was WOW! I seriously did not know what to expect either of the drama nor of Nagase himself, when I started it. I was also very doubtful of Gouriki Ayame’s part in it. However, after watching just the first episode, and after knowing who has written the work from the drama was adapted, I knew I could trust it and would enjoy it. Well you see, this drama is based on a manga of the same name, written by Richard Woo, which is actually the pen name of Nagasaki Takashi. Nagasaki is best known for his collaboration with my favourite Mangaka of all time, Urasawa Naoki. Together, they have written some of the best mysteries, including the current Billy Bat. I love the way they present their mysteries and conspiracies, and I totally loved how it went on in this story as well.

This is mainly a mystery drama, exploring conspiracies of an actual event that happened back in 1968. We follow the eccentric inspector Kurokochi Keita, a detective trying to solve this mystery, wanting to find out why anyone who gets involved somehow ends up dead. He doesn't think twice about getting his hands dirty, as long as he can get to his goal. He gets assigned a new partner, who is actually used as a tool to explain things to the viewers and as a narrator. The drama itself is pretty dark.

I have to say, this is my favorite type of mystery. Taking real life events, researching it thoroughly and then adding their own interpretation of things. That’s basically how history is told. The way Nagase portrays the character here is flawless. Annoying at times, you just can never guess what he’s up to next. And I’m pretty sure by the end of it, you’ll have this habit of saying “SEEEKAAII” often xD

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Just a side note, the drama Police Dias is also based on a manga by Richard Woo.



Nagase hasn’t appeared in many movies. He has done a couple of them. I’ve only seen Heaven’s Door. It was nice and breezy, nothing too memorable. He did the voice over for the lead role in the anime movie called The Sword of the Stranger. The next movie is one I’m VERY looking forward to. Co-starring with Kamiki Ryunosuke, written and directed by Kankuro Kudo, you cannot believe how much I’m dying to watch it. I’m pretty sure it’ll be insane and full of fun! And that movie is: Too Young to Die!

With that upcoming movie, I’m hoping more will come in the near future.

There are many of other dramas of his that I’d love to watch. Some I just haven’t had the time and the right mood to do so, but a good number of them are just not available with subtitles yet. Or just not available at all. One example is DxD, an older drama with Okada Junichi as well. There’s the mystery drama My Life After Her Death, that has an intriguing synopsis, I’d love to watch. And although not really my type of story, Love & Eros being a drama from the 1990s can be a fun watch.  Subtitles for his 2016 drama FRAGILE stopped being available, but honestly, I wouldn't say I was too sad about it. Nagase was holding back too much, Takei Emi and the rest of the cast were boring, with the exception of Kato Koyuki. Nagase is at his best when he’s not held back.

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As I said earlier, I wouldn't call Nagase Tomoya one of the best actors out there. What differentiates him from others is that he knows his range, and chooses roles based on that while trying to push his range a little bit further with every new work. He plays characters he enjoys, and that is something I sense while watching his dramas. He also happens to cooperate with some in the industry, namely Kankuro Kudo, among others, more than once. It is a wild guess but it gives me the impression he’s pleasant to work with, especially when trying to go for something uncommon.

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For all those reasons, Nagase Tomoya is an artist I respect, and definitely needs to be more in the spotlight. I understand if many don’t know much about him, he hasn't been active much since 2013. Luckily this changed this year. I just hope he becomes more active from now on. He’s still at the top of his career. He just needs the right script and a free reign. 

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I hope this guide helps introduce the actor to most. Also if anyone of you have watched any other of his dramas that you liked, please do mention it. 


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 Aya97 about it.


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