In this segment, I’ll be featuring some Japanese actors and actresses, recommending some of their filmography for those who are curious or wanted to know more about certain actors they saw on-screen. Of course, this is not going to be complete but I’ll try to include as much as possible or what I know about them, mostly based on dramas/movies I’ve watched.
I decided to kick off with Ueno Juri since she has an ongoing drama, Alice no Toge which makes it easier to connect to if any of you are watching it. I’ll most probably continue with Eita next xDD
If there’s one drama you have to watch by Ueno Juri, make sure this is in your list.
She’s most well-known for the famed musical comedy, Nodame Cantabile (2008). This drama in my opinion basically propelled her into stardom. I guess most people became fans during that era. I was one of them. Prior to the drama, I didn’t know who she is. I watched it for Tamaki Hiroshi. While I love Tamaki’s Chiaki Senpai there to bits, it was definitely Ueno Juri’s Nodame that stole the spotlight.
Although there was a lot of over-acting involved in the drama (considering that was how it was supposed to be), it all seemed very natural for Ueno Juri to get into Nodame’s character. In fact, she looked exactly like the character literally jumped out of the manga and came to life.I normally get annoyed easily when I see a very childish character who pouts his/her mouth and do selfish things. But when it comes to Nodame, you can easily forgive her. I find myself enjoying it more whenever she goes out of control, angers Chiaki in a hundred different ways, being silly and cute at the same time.
This drama was so successful that it continued to release two movies (year 2009 and 2010) – both of which were filmed in France, notably Paris. I truly enjoyed this show. Ueno Juri’s performance was quite flawless here. Nodame is made just for her imho.
At the same year after Nodame, she went on to take on an entirely different role in Last Friends. I was quite surprised when I first saw her hair cut short and all the more when the character was supposed to have gender identity disorder. Quirky, childish Nodame turned into a boyish gal? Totally didn’t see it coming. But again, the conflicted Ruka only proved her versatility as an actress. In fact, from what I’ve read, a lot of people become fans too during this period of time.
The only complaint I had with the drama though was how it focused too much on the Domestic Violence that took up almost 80% of the whole plot and it kind of deviates from the original theme. Then again, Ruka’s role is as memorable as Nodame as far as I’m concerned. You wouldn’t think they were the same actress. I’m most amazed by how she was able to change her body language, the way she speaks and facial expression to fit Ruka’s image. While in Nodame, she used a higher pitched and somewhat…smooth and sweet voice, when acting as Ruka, those were totally gone. Her voice was also deeper and husky. Her natural voice is husky to begin with but you can hear the different intonation. Ruka was a challenging role so I’m glad she took it up. People were generally very impressed by her performance here.
In 2010, she teamed up again with Eita (who actually co-starred with her a total of 8 times!) in a Twitter drama – Sunao ni Narenakute. While I was excited she finally paired up with Eita again, and as a couple this time, it didn’t turn out very well for me. I didn’t quite enjoy this show as much as I wanted to. Her role, Haru, wasn’t as interesting and very indecisive. Her constantly wavering character was a bit annoying sometimes. But as for the performance, I think she did what she could for the role. Basically, there’s only so much you can do for a poorly written role.
However, if you’re a fan of both Eita and Ueno Juri, like I am, then this is a must watch – just for the sake of watching lots of screentime of them. If you’re more concerned about plot, you can basically…skip this.
In year 2011, she was picked for NHK Taiga drama, Gou~Himetachi no Sengoku, which runs all year long. It’s considered a huge privilege to be given the chance to lead a taiga drama from what I know. The taiga drama usually features either an actor or actress as historical figures in Japan.
I don’t watch taiga dramas at all before this but I finished this. That said, it’s the first Taiga drama (46 episodes in total) that I completed. I thought the plot was quite interesting and I got to know about the Shogun and all. However, for the first time, she received criticism for the lower than average ratings that a taiga drama usually gets. It was mainly because she also acted as the young version of Gou (9-10 years old). For me, it was not her fault when whoever did the casting should be held responsible for the poor decision. I did see some Nodame-ish character in the young Gou (who was supposed to be childish and selfish as she was the youngest anyway). She did the best she could for a 10 year old character imo. In fact, they should have cast a young actress of the right age to play Young Gou instead of forcing her who is already 24 years old.
It did start off rocky. However, I did enjoy this taiga drama. I thought for the later part, she did quite well for the role of Gou. You’ll see a mature, feminine but also a strong-willed character here. To me, she nailed it towards the end. So it wasn’t as bad as everyone made it sound like.
Since Gou finished and the ensuing criticism, she took quite a long break. I’m not entirely sure whether it was directly due to Gou’s rating, but she didn’t appear in any drama or movie until 2013. If it was true, then maybe the short hiatus was so that people can forget about those negative news. Again, I don’t think the blame should be put on her alone because the casting was bad initially to begin with and the script was at times, poorly written. In fact, I quite enjoyed Gou’s character because you can see the growth from a childish girl to a mature woman, also a loving mother.
Year 2013 came and finally, she was back in the spotlight. This time, she’s paired up with Arashi’s Matsumoto Jun in a love story – Hidamari no Kanojo. Generally, everyone was excited both for her return and also the fact that this is MatsuJun’s movie in 5 years.
I’ve written a detailed recap and review of the movie here. Hence, I’ll keep it brief. Mao’s character is perfect for Ueno Juri. Like Nodame, it felt like it was written just for her. The movie generally received positive reviews and even MatsuJun’s fans felt that they make such a good pair, despite their first time working together. I felt like this a good comeback for Ueno Juri after the hiatus. Her performance as the slightly quirky, cheerful and whimsical Mao was on-point all the time. She was indeed lovely to watch in the movie.
So it seems that the comeback means we’ll be seeing her more often now (hopefully). She also returns to small-screen this year with Alice no Toge as a dark heroine seeking for revenge. I was just watching Alice the other day and then Hidamari. Watching the transition from the bright and cheerful Mao to a dark Asumi was quite thrilling and surreal. I think this just proves again, her ability to adapt to her roles and make it as real as possible.
I think the hair styling and dying it back to black colour makes her character look smart and more serious, like she means business. One thing I absolutely like about her character is the cold stare or glare she gives to the villains, especially behind their back xD She looked like she wanted to kill them >.<
We’re only halfway through this drama so I’ve yet to really give any verdict on her performance but so far, all I can say is, she’s doing a hella good job as a dark heroine!
Now, we’ll move to some of her earlier works and most likely, not as well-known to all but still worth mentioning.
For example, Swing Girls (2004) was the movie where she won Best Newcomer. It was a hilarious movie about a group of students with no prior experience in music setting off to create a jazz band. She’s such a natural in comedy, even before Nodame! Trust me, just give this a try and you’ll know why.
Rainbow Song was another movie in 2006 which she co-starred with Hayato Ichihara. It was quite touching in the end.
Naoko (2008) was also quite nice. Miura Haruma was in this too, so if you’re a fan, be sure to watch it.
MY FAVORITE PAIRINGS
So what is my favorite pairing when it comes to Ueno Juri? Over the years, she’s been partnered with quite a few actors. I’ll rank my top 3.
My ultimate favorite pair is definitely with Tamaki Hiroshi in Nodame Cantabile. Although their characters are polar opposites of each other, they still look so compatible and perfect. When it comes to chemistry, this pair gives the best vibe. To be honest, they look like they’ll make such a lovely pair in real life. I was disappointed they never dated though. But in the hearts of many fans, including me, they are the best.
This is my second favorite pairing. Can you believe it? She has worked with him for 8 times! And yet, I’m still hoping for a real serious love story for them. The only drama they got together (during the end) was Sunao ni Narenakute but they spent too much time wavering there, so nothing very romantic at all. As a huge fan of Eita, I’m still waiting for the day to come. Although for me, unlike the kind of chemistry with Tamaki Hiroshi, Eita feels like he’s the ‘best friend’ type for her. Maybe because of the numerous times they’ve co-starred and worked together, they’re already too comfortable with each other that it doesn’t give the ‘romance’ vibe any longer. Which is also the main reason why they’re my favorite in Last Friends.
I didn’t see this pairing coming at all. It never crossed my mind to see her in a movie with MatsuJun, because both of them have nothing much in common, not in terms of drama/movie genre and the characters they play are different. So I wasn’t convinced initially that this pair will work, in a romantic movie, no less. But boy…I was so wrong! They’re now in the top 3 of my favorite pairing. They have so much chemistry and if not for my biased love for Eita, this pair would’ve easily been 2nd best.
These are some of my favorites. I thought the e-hyphen adverts were mostly amazing. They even went to Paris to shoot.
I think mid-length hair suits her most. But I’m hoping she’ll leave it long for any drama/movie in the future. She should also wear glasses, it fits and gives her a nerdy image ^^
Just wanna take this opportunity to point out that Juri-chan is quite talented. Most people already know that she learned piano from young and played most of Nodame’s pieces in the drama. She also composed some songs on her own (according to the Ao Akua DVD). Besides having the aptitude for music, she’s also got the flair for painting. I didn’t know this and I think most people won’t know unless they’ve watched her DVDs or read interviews and such.
She painted this on the spot in Hawaii by the beach. That board was huge!
She also went to India for some charity work.
I’ll be doing a feature on Eita soon!!!