染谷将太 Sometani Shota 2015

I watched three Sometani Shota movies last weekend; all of which were released last year.

Strayer’s Chronicle is based on the novel by Takayoshi Honda, author of Five Minutes to Tomorrow; distributed by Warner Bros. and included in the 9th Japan Cuts: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema. I was excited to see Masaki Okada and Sometani Shota together in one movie but I didn’t set high expectations since the trailer simply looks like an X-Men rip-off. Their characters Subaru and Manabu lead two opposing teams of teens with special abilities acquired from experimental mutations. Much like the conflict between Professor X and Magneto, Subaru protects peace while Manabu protects the mutants. But they eventually work together when they found out about their past, discovered the side effects of being genetically engineered and so they tried to stop the rapid genetic mutation that could cause their death.

This movie is written by Kohei Kiyasu of the critically acclaimed The Kirishima Thing and is made by the production team of Death Note and Gantz live action films, but unfortunately, director Takahisa Zeze’s Strayer’s Chronicle didn’t live up to the hype. The trailer looked action-packed but the movie is all mopey, and is full of teenage characters who are constantly repeating the fact that they have to die so young.

Months before Strayer’s Chronicle, Soredake was released in theaters. Directed by Gakuryu Ishii and featured in the 39th World Film Festival, the film ranked number 7 in the 25th Japan Film Professional Awards’ Best 10.

Sometani Shota plays Samao Daikoku. While searching for his lost identity, he stumbled upon some important piece of information contained in the hard disk that he found in a locker.

Just like Strayer’s Chronicle, Soredake‘s trailer looked promising but the entire film failed to meet my expectations. It has the whole sepia-toned indie vibe, an energetic intro with action cameras in shaky running scenes, and blaring Bloodthirsty Butchers song in the background. Soredake succeeded to present the aesthetic of its urban backdrop failed to establish a coherent plot the same way Strayer’s Chronicle failed to develop its sci-fi world with one too many super powered characters.

The first half of Soredake includes unnecessary torture scenes with unrelatable evil characters and the second half simply turned into another clichéd revenge action film with a questionable ending.

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All Esper Dayo! cover.jpegEiga Minna Esupa Dayo is Sometani Shota’s 8th movie in 2015,prolific director Sion Sono’s 5th for that year and their 3rd time to collaborate in a movie.  They worked together 5 times if we’d include the Minna Esupa Dayo‘s live action series and SP. The film is based on a Japanese sci-fi comedy seinen manga series written and illustrated by Kiminori Wakasugi, author of one of my favorite comedies, Detroit Metal City.

Shota Sometani plays Yoshiro Kamogawa, a typical awkward hot-blooded teenager, whose life changed when a cosmic phenomenon occurred in the middle of one lusty night. Hence, he acquired the ability to read people’s minds: a super power that he initially used in trivial situations but he later on learned to utilize to find the girl of his destiny and save the world from evil ESPers.

The actors from the series reprised their roles except Kaho who played Miyuki Hirano was replaced by Elaiza Ikeda. I think Kaho is definitely the better actress but it seems that this movie doesn’t really require acting skills from its supporting cast, so I guess Elaiza’s curves would suffice.

Eiga Minna Esupa Dayo, also known as The Virgin Psychics, is like a compressed version of the series- just cheesier, racier and totally unapologetic. I’ve seen Sion Sono’s previous works and Shota in a comedy is quite a rare sight. The series was actually quite funny but Sono went overboard with the upskirt and hard-ons in the film. And while the series was able to flesh out its main ESPer characters, the movie’s focus is on panties more than substance. None of the ESPers weren’t even able to use their powers against the main villain whose motives were also unclear. There was just too much raunchy mess going on that has taken away my appreciation for the endearing moments in its final act.

At 22 years old, Sometani Shota has already appeared in 50 films; but just because he makes a lot of movies, it doesn’t mean that he accepts just any kind. He is included in the cast of Bakuman, the Number 1 film in the 25th Japan Film Professional Awards’ Best 10. His role as the young genius mangaka, Niizuma Eiji, earned him a Japan Academy prize nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  He was named Best Actor in the 25th Japan Film Professional Awards for his role in Kabukicho Love Hotel, a pink film directed by Ryuichi Hiroki that was shown in several film festivals including the New York Asian Film Festival where Sometani’s 2014 Tokyo Tribe movie directed by Sion Sono was also included in the New Cinema for Japan category. At the same time, Sometani Shota received his Screen International Rising Star Award. 2015 was definitely one remarkable year for him.

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