I was planning on making a Drama Preview for 2014 Spring Dramas but sadly, there are only 5 dramas that have Johnny’s in lead role, one of which have aired (Musashi Miyamoto), one is still ongoing (Gunshi Kanbee), three of which will air this April while the rest only have Johnny’s in supporting roles.
So, I decided not to make a DP for this season, not that I made one for the Winter Season, but still…
Anyway, when it comes to typecasting, Johnny’s boys are the most typecast in usual roles in different dramas. Being a Johnny might be detrimental to ones acting career as they have an “idol” image to maintain and getting a bed scene is far-fetched. However, fans are open to sexualizing their idols (Hello An An!) down to pairing them with their co-members in a group or with their male co-stars. So, it’s not a surprise that due to some limitations Johnny’s are mostly cast in these roles…
1) The Hottie
Other names: the typical lead actor, that guy that everyone has a crush on, or the popular guy.
As Johnny’s are idols, they play most of the typical leading man roles that are out there to make women swoon (even men). Kimura Takuya is the most experience in this genre, his earlier dramas had him paired with some of Japan’s excellent leading ladies. From playing a sports racer/babysitter in Engine“, ice-hockey player in Pride, a delinquent turned prosecutor in Hero, a charming pilot in Goodluck!, a hair stylist in Beautiful Life, a pianist in Long Vacation, a homeless in Priceless, and even down to a disappointing android in ANDO LLYOD. Kimura has played almost every existing leading man characters that are closer to reality than the usual leading man types who are born rich and are usually a CEO of this and that.
Sadly, there’s not much younger Johnny’s who have inherited Kimura’s “leading man” streak as there have been a shortage of romance melodramas and rom-coms in Japanese drama land. However, Takizawa Hideaki did some romance melodramas in the past starting with Strawberry on the Shortcake and Boku dake no Madonna; and there’s Katori Shingo‘s classic Bara no nai Hanaya . The most recent love dramas that starred Johnny’s, are: Yamashita Tomohisa in Summer Nude, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi in Dokushin Kizoku and Matsumoto Jun in Shitsuren Chocolatier. The three are passable but not enough to give sleepless nights (read: drama marathon). Nonetheless, there are also a string of Johnny’s second leading man type, where they usually support the lead actress. Particularly in dramas of Nishikido Ryo for 1 Litre of Tears and Zenkai Girl, Akanishi Jin in Anego, and if you could consider Matsumoto Jun‘s pet role in Kimi wa Petto.
In addition, playing the “popular guy” is abundant in Johnny’s. Most of their characters are popular because they are usually a genius, a rich kid, the Student Council president, best in sports, and solely by being good-looking. Period. Classic examples, are: princely-auras of Ninomiya Kazunari and Sakurai Sho in Yamada Taro Monogatari, rich and student leaders Akanishi Jin, Yokoyama Yu, and Junnosuke Taguchi in Yukan Club, and trying-hard to maintain appearances of Kamenashi Kazuya in Nobuta wo Produce.
2) The Student
Other names: the yankee student, the brat, the problem kid, and the leader of the gang
As most Johnny’s have youthful looks, most of them still look passable to play a high school kid despite being in their 20s and playing a student is fairly easy to portray especially for the newbies. Being the eternal bad boy is one of the most played roles in Johnny’s drama land. Ultra-popular Gokusen series started the trend where we saw Matsumoto Jun (Gokusen 1); Akanishi Jin and Kamenashi Kazuya (Gokusen 2); Takaki Yuya, Nakama Junta, and Kiriyama Akito (Gokusen 3) trying to land a punch in someone else’s faces. Furthermore and possibly the most hilarious student-yankee portrayal is none other than Nagase Tomoya in My Boss My Hero.
Let us not forget other problem-student roles of Yamashita Tomohisa in Dragon Zakura, Fujigaya Taisuke and Kitayama Hiromitsu in Misaki Number One!!, and the new generation of Johnny yankees that started with the new version of GTO (2013) where we saw Morimoto Shintaro and Takada Sho, then there’s Bakaleya6 in Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou and Johnny’s-filled-making-me-cringe gangs in “Bad Boys J“.
Ofcourse, not all Johnny’s play yankees in school, Johnny’s also produced several school-comedy dramas where they play the dutiful-yet- sometimes-troublesome-students. Examples, are: Yamada Ryosuke, Chinen Yuri, and Nakajima Yuto in Scrap Teacher; Fujigaya Taisuke and Kitayama Hiromitsu in Beginners!; Chinen Yuri and Jesse in Sprout; and you could also consider Stand Up!, which stars Ninomiya Kazunari and Yamashita Tomohisa; a perfect coming-of-age drama as they struggle to graduate as the only virgins in their high school class.
3) The Manga Hero
When it comes to manga/anime adaptations, Johnny’s seem to be the popular choice. I guess it has something to do with their shoujo-esque looks that make them perfect to play the role. The most popular is indeed Matsumoto Jun in Hana Yori Dango, the drama that launched him and Mao Inoue to stardom. There’s also Takizawa Hideaki in Antique and the triumvirate of Kamenashi Kazuya, Tegoshi Yuya, and Uchi Hiroki in Yamata Nadeshiko Shichi Henge. In addition, there’s Tamamori Yuta in Nobunaga no Chef and the genius butler Sakurai Sho in Nazotoko wa Dinner no Ato de, though the latter is based from a mystery novel. Also a novel adaptation is one of my favorites- Ikebukuro West Gate Park -which stars Nagase Tomoya and Yamashita Tomohisa that made Ikebukuro my top destination in Japan.
Aside from print to tv adaptations, Johnny’s drama land have also produced their own remake of some Korean dramas starting with Ohno Satoshi and Ikuta Toma in Maou and Tamamori Yuta, Fujigaya Taisuke, and Yaotome Hikaru in Ikemen desu ne where the latter received harsh criticisms in comparison with the Korean original. The latest remake is Nishikido Ryo‘s Papadol! based from an earlier Jdorama titled, Mama wa Idol!.
4) Just that Guy
Other names: the secondary character aka the brother, the best friend, the classmate, the co-worker, and the whoever
“Just that guy” is usually the type of role given to Johnny’s talents to play along stars with huge names. They are either an acting newbie, too young, just there to support their senpai, or mainly included so the drama production can get a ride with Johnny’s advertising schemes. I’m not saying that their roles are insignificant, but just that they can exist or not and it will not affect the story.
Examples, are: Sato Shori in Hungry!! (plays a brother), Yamashita Tomohisa in Lunch Queen (plays a brother), Yaotome Hikaru in Orthros no Inu (plays the guy who got the taste of Ryo’s power), Maruyama Ryuhei in Strawberry Night (plays one of the police officers), Fujigaya Taisuke in PRICELESS and Dokushin Kizoku (plays a regular employee and production assistant) and Nakajima Yuto in Hanzawa Naoki (plays an office guy).
5) The Police and Doctor
Other names: the detective, the intern, the sidekick, and the Doctor/Surgeon
Police and Medical dramas is an eternal trend in every Japanese drama season and Johnny’s won’t be left behind. Starting the fad with another popular manga-to-TV adaptation, Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo, which is lead by Domoto Tsuyoshi, Matsumoto Jun, Kamenashi Kazuya, and Yamada Ryosuke. Nagase Tomoya have also played numerous detective roles like in Karei naru Spy, Unubore Deka, and last year’s Kurokochi. Johnny’s also play quirky and eccentric detective like shut-in Domoto Tsuyoshi in Remote, neuro-science genius Kimura Takuya in MR. BRAIN, locked-geek Ohno Satoshi in Kagi no kakatta Heya, Aiba Masaki in Mikeneko Holmes no Suiri, Sakurai Sho in Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de, and Nakai Masahiro in ATARU who made me wish I have savant syndrome.
While some of Johnny’s-starred police dramas are a hit, some of their medical dramas are lacklusters; example are Aiba Masaki in Last Hope , Okura Tadayoshi in Dr. DMAT and Masuda Takahisa Resident 5-nin no kenshui. However, the production did it right with Yamashita Tomohisa in Code Blue, which one of my favorites; and Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Yaotome Hikaru did receive favorable reviews in 37-sai de Isha ni Natta Boku ~Kenshui Junjo Monogatari~.
6) One in the Group
Other names: An important character in a group, the groupies
Maybe because almost everyone in Johnny’s are in a group that they blend-well even in dramas-made groups which could either be a special unit in a police department, a certain group of students, or the most popular type of group—gangs.
Examples, are: the gorgeous group of Lucky Seven (Matsumoto Jun), the hilarious gang of Ikebukuro West Gate Park (Nagase Tomoya and Yamashita Tomohisa), the virgin foursome of Stand-Up! (Ninomiya Kazunari and Yamashita Tomohisa), the Flower Four of Hana Yori Dango (Matsumoto Jun), the students of Yankumi in Gokusen, the forensic pathology students of Voice (Ikuta Toma), residents of Resident 5-nin no kenshui (Masuda Takahisa), the emergency-crazy fellows of Code Blue (Yamashita Tomohisa), the college friends in Hachimitsu to Clover (Ikuta Toma), the cat burglars of Kisarazu Cat’s Eye (Okada Junichi and Sakurai Sho), and the group of otaku in Akihabara@DEEP (Ikuta Toma).
That concludes my “Typical Roles Played by Johnny’s in Dramas“, if I miss something, it means that I haven’t seen it or I just completely forgot. I’ve seen every drama I mentioned in this article and I can’t believe that I was able to graduate college since majority of these dramas are something that I saw back in college. It makes me think how I manage both without failing a grade.
Furthermore, it makes me realize that the old dramas are indeed better than the recent ones. The cinematography back then might be bad but the drama is usually engaging and addicting. The stories are more unique compared to the recycled ones nowadays. It also makes me realized how much dramas I’ve seen and these are just the ones that starred Johnny’s!
All in all, if there is one role that I wish a Johnny would play in a TV drama, that would be a villain to the point that it would make me hate him.