Eiji Okuda doesn’t fit into any of the usual boxes for actors in Japan — or anywhere else for that matter. He’s had his share of leading roles over a three-decade career, often as a world-weary cop or gangster, but he’s not what the local industry considers a star.

Despite his many TV drama credits, he studiously avoids the broad emoting standard for TV-trained actors. Instead, he usually plays down, even depressed, while stoking his character’s inner fires. When the fires roar to the surface, as anger or passion, his slight, slump-shouldered frame flows with expressive power, be it in the form of a sudden punch or an explosion of tears. In the next scene, though, he is back to his baseline persona: A man lonely and strange, but at the same time canny and fearless.

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