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The tenacious trio set to rule Japanese cinema in 2018

by Kaori Shoji

Contributing Writer

Most of the actors I’m looking forward to seeing on screen in 2018 have only managed to make waves in the Japanese entertainment industry fairly recently, which, of course, just adds to the buzz they’re likely to see this year.

One of my new favorite actors is Issey Takahashi. The 37-year-old made his cinema debut at the age of 10 and has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows since, but he had never quite landed on the A-list until last year. As of December, though, his name was the most-searched on Yahoo, apparently dethroning the country’s reigning heartthrob, Masaharu Fukuyama.

We can look forward to watching Takahashi rise higher this year as he is set to appear in at least five major titles. First up will be the Kazuhito Nakae-directed “The Lies She Loved” (Japanese title: “Uso o Aisuru Onna”) on Jan. 20. It’s about a young woman (played by Masami Nagasawa, another talent I’m looking forward to watching) who discovers that everything about her live-in boyfriend of five years is untrue. Based on an actual story in which a woman discovered that her husband of many years had fabricated his entire identity, “The Lies She Loved” lets viewers bask in the acting prowess of both Takahashi and Nagasawa.

Nagasawa takes on the role with her usual vibrant energy, but it’s Takahashi who quietly steals the scenes. He plays the sort of man the actor himself has spent years honing to perfection: a mild mannered gentleman with a barely visible streak of cruelty, who may or may not be hiding something. This enigmatic personality is also currently in vogue in the Japanese dating scene, and I’ve seen young men describe themselves as dead ringers for Takahashi on their online dating profiles.

Opening just after “The Lies She Loved” is “Blank13,” which hits cinemas Feb. 3. Here Takahashi has been paired with Takumi Saitoh, who mutes his usual red-hot sexuality to get behind the camera — the film also marks his directorial debut. The story centers on a family that deals with the death of a patriarch (played by Lily Franky) who has been absent from the family for 13 years. Takahashi plays the morose middle sibling, whose hatred for his father manifests in a contemptuous gaze and eloquent silences. Early reviews out of the Vladivostok Film Festival are good, and the trio jointly won the top prize for acting there in September.

Takahashi also tends to draw praise from his female co-stars, and Nagasawa has said in interviews that he “seems to know everything about a woman’s feelings.” But it’ll be Takayuki Yamada that she pairs up with in “Gojukkaime no Fasuto Kisu” (“50 First Kisses”), a remake of the Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore movie “Fifty First Dates,” will open in June.