*Post adapted from an original Livejournal post
Kamenashi Kazuya, better known as Kame, is a Japanese actor, singer and TV host. He is one of the most widely known, admired, and successful Japanese performers of his day.
Kame is a member (the “K”, specifically) of uber-popular boyband KAT-TUN. He is also a drama actor whose has acted in 9 dramas and been the lead in 8 of them (not including cameos and specials and one-episode appearances). He also works as a talkshow host, sports broadcaster, and does oodles of the promotional stuff that comes with being one of Japan’s most well-known stars.
Before he ever got famous, Kame appeared in a drama called 3 nen B gumi Kinpachi Sensei 5 in 1999. I know nothing about the drama and he had a minor role in it so we’re gonna move on. In 2001, Kame was picked up by Johnny’s Entertainment, one of Japan’s top talent agencies, and joined a band called KAT-TUN. Between 2001-2004 the group became more and more popular, though it didn’t officially debut until 2006.
Meanwhile, Kame was cast in his second drama ever (6 years after the first) with Gokusen 2 in 2004, for which he won 2 best supporting actor awards for his performance in one of the hinge roles in the drama. In 2005, he took the lead in his third drama, Nobuta wo Produce, which was a smash sensation and established him as an actor. He also formed a special two-member band called Shuji to Akira with Yamashita Tomohisa, his co-star in Nobuta and a member of boyband NEWS, and the two performed together. Six-member boyband KAT-TUN then debuted and went on to become wildly popular. I believe Kame is considered the leader, though I could be wrong about that (I don’t really follow KAT-TUN, which may be shameful for a Kame fangirl but which I’ll explain later). They debuted in 2006 and ever since then every single one of their single, album and music DVD has gone straight to #1 on the Oricon chart (Japan’s main musical chart). They’ve even broken a record or two along the way (Guinness Book of World Records, for one). They’ve toured both domestically and internationally and participated in everything from TV commercials to talkshows to dramas. Suffice to say: they’re huge – one of Japan’s most famous groups.
Meanwhile, Kame’s acting career took off after Nobuta wo Produce. It became a sensation, and is to this day one of the most revered and popular Japanese dramas. Kame played the role to perfection, shooting him into the big leagues acting-wise (he’s been the lead in all his dramas since), and won Best Actor.
Nobuta wo Produce is one of the most famous, universally loved, and often-recommended jdramas – it became an instant classic upon airing and is often recc’d to jdrama newbies along with Hana Yori Dango and Nodame Cantabile, two of the other huge hits and classic dramas(I actually disagree with this as Nobuta I think is not necessarily good for jdrama newbies and I heartily disliked Nodame Cantabile, but that’s a story for another day). Be that as it may, Kame’s role in this was the most complex of his roles thus far and he turned in a nuanced, deeply compelling, pitch-perfect performance – he was Kiritani Shuji, to an extent I’ve never seen in any other role. His character was essentially a cross between Ferris Bueller and Jim Stark and won the Japanese equivalent of an Emmy for his lead role in this magical, classic coming-of-age drama.
Since then he’s been in a drama every year except for 2007, when he appeared in one episode of Tokkyu Tanaka San Go. He’s also won 3 more Best Actor awards and is one of the most sought-after actors, having that much-desired combination of genuine acting ability and mainstream popularity.
As an introductory Kame drama, I recommend Tatta Hitotsu no Koi, which is probably his other most-loved drama, and which I’d recommend seeing before Nobuta if you’re new to either Jdramas or Kame or both, as it’s a much more accessible drama. TattaKoi is essentially a Japanese take on Romeo and Juliet, about a ship mechanic and a rich girl who fall in love. It’s giddily romantic, well-written, and lovely with a superb soundtrack and is one of the most beautiful and well-shot dramas I’ve ever seen.
Download Nobuta wo Produce with English subtitles here
See also Kamenashi Kazuya Dorama Round-Up from The Little Dorama Girl, where she sorts, categorizes, and reviews his dramas (note: I do not by any means agree with all or even most of her opinions about his dramas – I loved Yamata Nadeshiko Shiche Henge, for instance – but I do agree with her opinions about the schizophrenic divide between his acting personal/style and his pop star persona/style).