Sunday, May 25, 2014

FRIDAY's report on why Kimura Takuya is No.1 in the most disliked actors' ranking

I don't usually read or buy FRIDAY unless they have a report or scoop which I'm very interested in. It seems like the local Kinokuniya has been selling a "cleaned-up version" of FRIDAY where the pornography or sexy shots are taken out so no wonder the price is somewhat lower than what I noticed in the past.

Anyway, what caught my attention was this small caption on the cover which was an analysis on why Kimura Takuya is disliked and what exactly about him irks people. Well, there's been a lot of analysis reports in the past about his waning popularity or the lower ratings registered by his dramas so I was wondering what kind of new insights FRIDAY had on this issue.

Before we begin, here is what spurred FRIDAY to write this report. There was a recent survey by Shukan Bunshun where they received 3,200 responses selecting the most liked and disliked actors and the following are the results with the number of votes in brackets:

Most Liked Actors
1) Sakai Masato (76)
2) Takakura Ken (59)
3) Abe Hiroshi (49)
4) Takenouchi Yutaka (29)
5) Okada Junichi (25)
6) Nishijima Hidetoshi (24)
7) Sato Koichi (22)
8) Nishida Toshiyuki / Mizutani Yutaka / Watanabe Ken / Kagawa Teruyuki (18)

Most Disliked Actors
1) Kimura Takuya (163)
2) Mizutani Yutaka (31)
3) Ayano Go / Sakai Masato (29)
5) Mukai Osamu (16)
6) Funakoshi Eiichiro (14)
7) Nakao Akira (11)
8) Nishida Toshiyuki / Takenaka Naoto / Ishida Junichi (10)

As you can see, Kimura was tops in the most disliked actors ranking with a big lead over No.2 Mizutani Yutaka. Many of the reasons given by those who chose him had to do with his acting which feels the same over the past 20 years and he's always putting on a cool front to maintain his aloof image. In relation to this, FRIDAY mentioned this incident in early May where Kimura was in Shibuya for the filming of "HERO 2" for 1.5 hour but did not acknowledge the presence of his fans who had gathered there nor even smiled at them. It was said that Kimura is never the type who is comfortable with the media's questions and would keep a distance from people. However, in the past, his aloofness might have been seen as being "cool" but of late, rankings such as the one above or another ranking from Josei Seven's double issue on 8th May placing him as the third most disliked man in Japan (1st was the Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and 2nd was TV host Minomonta), seems to suggest that this approach no longer works. Nonetheless, the report speculates that the reason why he has adopted this attitude all these years was due to his agency's president Kitagawa Johnny telling Kimura when he was a teenager that his charm was his coolness. As such, it was said that he kept this in mind to maintain his image despite being seen as being arrogant and aloof by many.

However, FRIDAY also highlighted the fact that Kimura is already 42 this year and needs to make some changes if he wants to survive in showbiz and not be regarded as an idol past his expiry date. A columnist Imai Mai puts it bluntly that Kimura is still pretending that his past fame as a young idol had never gone away and says that his acting had remained the same for the past 20 years. It was as if a former female idol who is already a middle-aged woman still wears the same frilly dress when she was a teenager. Moreover, times have changed because viewers no longer watch a drama just because Kimura is the lead actor. As such, Kimura must either bite the bullet and get over the uncomfortable thought of breaking his past image or face the consequences as a result of viewers seeking change in him.

Now, before Kimura's fans start to get defensive and angry over what FRIDAY had published, I think there is some truth in what they said although I admit that the tone of the article is quite harsh because it is meant as a wake-up call to Kimura. Maybe it wasn't Kimura's intention to put on a cool front all these years, it could really have been due to the advice of Kitagawa Johnny that he decided to adopt this approach. Especially when I've read so many interviews in the past where Kimura's co-stars would speak of him so fondly as a very nice and friendly person but his image in front of the media and fans seem to suggest otherwise. Of course, the coolness approach i.e. keeping people at a distance and being mysterious worked wonderfully in his 20s and early 30s so on hindsight, the advice was right on the spot. However, something well-intended turns out to be not so effective after a certain period of time and it takes someone wise enough to realise this and have the determination to make changes in order to adapt to the changing environment.

On the other hand, I think Kimura has tried to change by taking on roles which would previously not be associated with his usual style. However, the root of the problem doesn't seem to have been tackled at all. On the surface, it seems that he is changing but when you compare the roles in recent years, there were a lot of similarities in the way how they were played to the extent that viewers probably felt that they were just seeing Kimura in different roles with different professions. In a way, I think Kimura has yet to figure out what works best for him and he's still trying to find the best way to change without hurting his popularity. Then again, his popularity is already dented due to the bashing he suffered from his dramas' low ratings (even though it may not necessarily be his fault all the time). In this sense, I think I don't agree with FRIDAY's stand that he is in denial about the situation and will give him credit for being aware about the situation.

Conversely, he's also got to realise that the longer this drags on, people will keep thinking of him as the actor who acts the same for the past 20 years and whatever improvement or change he's made will be easily overlooked or written off. I feel that it's a pity for Kimura to be in this situation especially when I happened to watch a couple of episodes of "Asunaro Hakusho" recently and found myself impressed with his performance even though he wasn't the lead. The sensitivity he displayed then was a far cry to the recent comments you hear about him being too "shallow" in his acting that I wonder where the old Kimura had gone. He's capable of doing a good job but what will it take for him to prove to people that he can act? A tailored role? A strong script? A strong supporting cast? Or will things be better if he retreats to being a supporting role and gets some relief from the pressure of ratings so that he can concentrate on acting? However, the last option will probably be a very risky one because the media will probably have a field day talking about how he's relegated to doing supporting roles. Either way, Kimura will have a lot at stake and it's not a nice position to be in especially considering how he used to be the ratings king in the good old days.

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