If you want to be a successful Japanese star, rather than going after movies, your agent should be booking you for TV or commercial opportunities, since the local culture is much more television-centered. Take 19-year-old Maki Horikita, a rising Japanese star keeping busy in TV, film and radio.
Her career took off after appearing on TV drama series “Nobuta wo Produce,” playing a shy student who gets a popular makeover. She also entertained bigscreen offers, most notably a major role in acclaimed period drama “Always: Sunset on Third Street,” for which she won the Japanese Academy’s newcomer kudo. The sequel landed her a best actress nod earlier this year.
But it was Horikita’s turn in a TV series based on the popular gender-bending “Hana Kimi” manga that catapulted the young actress to fame. Playing into younger auds’ appetite for androgyny, Horikita plays a lovestruck schoolgirl who enrolls in an all-boys school to get close to a cute guy.
Vulnerable and innocent, Horikita has an “ochanoma” quality (or living-room appeal) that goes over well with local TV viewers. “I noticed her striking talent the moment I met her,” says casting director Masashi Yamaguchi, who has worked on such films as “Ju-on: The Grudge.”
But fame can be fleeting for young performers in Japan, where girl-next-door types tend to appeal more than out-of-reach stars, and there are always more around the corner. Still, Horikita fits the expectations on a young Japanese actress — pretty, demure, pure — with just enough spice to set her apart.
For example, her role on the hit show “Atsuhime” positions Horikita as a girl locked in competition with her mother-in-law Atsuhime. The young actress holds her own, able to undercut the show’s eponymous princess with a single glare.
Recent breakthrough: Her commercials for Fujifilm and Lotte led to acclaimed roles in films such as “Always: Sunset on Third Street.”
Role model: “Halle Berry”
What’s next: “Innocent Love,” set to air Monday nights in Japan, the most popular timeslot for TV dramas.