Fans across the globe stayed glued to their TV screens this January 27 when news about Japan’s top all-male pop idol group Arashi’s decision to suspend their activities on December 31, 2020 made international headlines. The idol group, which formed in 1999 when members, Jun Matsumoto, Kazunari Ninomiya and Masaki Aiba, were just 16 years old, Sho Sakurai was 17 and leader Satoshi Ohno was 18, has grown to become one of the most successful Japanese pop groups of all time. Over the 20 years since the group formed, Arashi have left dozens of multi-million hits, won multiple awards and forever stole the hearts of millions of fans in Japan and abroad. Over the span of their career, Arashi’s members have also appeared in a number of TV dramas, movies, commercials, have hosted their own variety shows on TV, done radio shows, news programs and acted as the main hosts for some of Japan’s most watched live events.
While it will be a major loss for the Japanese entertainment world when the group eventually parts ways, they have left us enough material to hold on to whenever we feel the emptiness of their presence. Here, we look at five of the most memorable on-screen appearances each of the five members of Arashi have taken part in.
1. Laplace’s Witch (ラプラスの魔女), 2018
The latest movie title for Sho Sakurai, Laplace’s Witch is a captivating mystery drama based on the 2015 novel of Keigo Higashino of the same name. Sakurai plays Shusuke Aoe, a young geochemistry professor who is assigned the difficult task of assisting the police in solving two suspicious deaths caused by hydrogen sulfide. As his research develops, Aoe meets Madoka (Suzu Hirose), a mysterious girl who seems to hold the key to solving the murders. The two begin helping each other, which leads to a number of new discoveries — and dangerous enemies.
Perfectly fitting Sakurai’s “intelligent and persistent” image in Japan, this movie is as thrilling as it is captivating and will leave you completely puzzled until the very last minute.
Cast: Sho Sakurai, Suzu Hirose, Sota Fukushi
Director: Takashi Miike
2. Girl in the sunny place (陽だまりの彼女) 2013
Master of romance dramas, Jun Matsumoto (‘Matsujun’), the Arashi member whose lead role as Domyoji in the franchise Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) helped the group sell thousands of copies of theme songs Love so Sweet and One Love, is taking us through another heartwarming romance in Girl in the sunny place, the love story of Kosuke and Mao. Sweethearts in junior high school, the couple parts ways when Kosuke moves to a new city. Ten years later, however, both now working adults, the two reunite in a fortunate setting neither of them had anticipated. The reunion leads to a start of a new and initially very happy relationship until Kosuke discovers that Mao has kept a deep secret from him.
One of Matsujun’s strongest film performances to date, here we see a very different romantic figure than his famous overconfident Domyoji character in Boys Over Flowers. In this movie, Kosuke plays a soft, even rather passive romantic character, yet his performance is equally solid in presence on the screen. Be prepared to be moved to tears!
Cast: Jun Matsumoto, Juri Ueno
Director: Takahiro Miki
3. Nagasaki: Memories of my son (母と暮せば) 2015
With 18 movie titles and dozens of TV drama and stage performances on his portfolio, including many lead roles, of all five Arashi members, Kazunari Ninomiya is the one who concentrated on film and dramas the most outside of his idol career. Many of his film works explore serious themes, including social inequalities, personal battles, war, peace and family bonds.
Nagasaki: Memories of my son is one of Ninomiya’s most acclaimed roles to date and one that got him two prestigious Best Actor awards in 2016: at the 89th Kinema Junpo Award and the 39th Japan Academy Prize. Set in Nagasaki in post-war 1940s Japan, the movie follows the story of Nobuko (Sayuri Yoshinaga), a midwife who has lost her husband and two sons in the war. Three years after the atomic bomb which killed her youngest son Koji, his ghost appears before her. While confused at first, Nobuko rejoices the encounter as she is finally able to put her loneliness behind. The two begin retelling stories of the past as they happily embrace their second chance together until they gradually begin to return to reality to realize that this “miracle” is only reminding them of their greatest losses in life.
Though at a glance a personal human drama about one family’s battle against solitude, this masterpiece is essentially a borderless and timeless work about the grave losses humans suffer at times of war.
Cast: Sayuri Yoshinaga, Kazunari Ninomiya, Haru Kuroki
Director: Yoji Yamada
4. Miracle: Devil Claus’ Love and Magic (MIRACLE デビクロくんの恋と魔法) 2014
Based on Ko Nakamura’s romance novel, Miracle: Devil Claus’ Love and Magic is a heartwarming love story set in modern-day Tokyo about four young people chasing a Christmas miracle romance. Masaki Aiba plays Hikaru, a bookstore employee by the day and an aspiring manga artist at night who can’t give up his dream of becoming an artist. His childhood friend Anna (Nana Eikura) has always been supporting his lifetime passion since they were small kids, secretly hoping that she and Hikaru would one day become more than just friends. But to her greatest disappointment, Hikaru only has eyes for his coworker So-Young. Yet, it’s Christmas, the time of the year when miracles happen the most…
Cast: Masaki Aiba, Nana Eikura, Hyo joo Han
Director: Isshin Inudo
5. Kaibutsu-kun: The Movie, 映画 怪物くん (2011)
The long-awaited live-action adaptation of Fujiko A. Fujio’s manga and anime series Kaibutsu kun (Little Monster), the movie takes viewers on a wild roller coaster of action, adventures, multicolors, superpowers and tons of spectacular 3D visuals. Arashi leader, Satoshi Ohno, plays our main protagonist, the boisterous Kaibutsu kun, prince of Monster Land who is set on a journey to the land of humans together with his monster entourage to prove that he can become a king. But while he is supposed to land in Japan, he ends up in India, where he is mistaken for a hero who must rescue a beautiful woman who has been kidnapped.
Kaibutsu-kun: The Movie became a huge success upon its release in Japan in 2011, earning 3.14 billion yen in box office revenue. While Ohno is usually perceived as a somewhat reserved character in real life, this movie shows another side of him which we, as an audience, don’t get to see every day: the wild and carefree one.
Cast: Satoshi Ohno, Umika Kawashima, Ryuhei Ueshima, Hong Man Choi
Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Missing Arashi already? Pin those movie titles to your collection and the group’s members will stay with you timelessly!
Text by: Rose Haneda