Act-Age: Yonagi’s Greatest Supporter Is Also Her Worst Enemy
Andrew Kim
Director Sumiji Kuroyama debuts in the opening chapter of Act-Age, the wildly popular series from Weekly Shonen Jump, and though he supports Kei Yonagi from the beginning, it becomes readily apparent that she's a means to an end. As Stars Agency CEO Arisa Hoshi points out, "You directors are all the same. You only care about the project — not the lives of the actors." Her assessment of Kei: that acting will ultimately lead to the young starlet's self-destruction.
It's a path that Hoshi knows all to well, as she's walked down it before. Under the directorship of stage director Yujiro Iwao, Hoshi suffered an emotional breakdown in the middle of a performance and never acted again. Act-Age discusses the possible dangers of acting: if they go too deep, actors can lose their sense of self and the character they portray can become a permanent part of them. This often has unintended consequences and heavy downward spirals of drug abuse and emotional distress, with no one to turn to.
In the span of just a few months, Yonagi rises from obscurity into absolute stardom. Not only does she need to compete against her fellow stars (who are notably more experienced), but she also needs to deal with the daily pressure of the paparazzi and what comes with stardom. Though the manga portrays talent to be one of the key parts of an actor, which it undoubtedly is, it also makes the reader understand just how much mental resilience is needed in order to even enter the entertainment industry, let alone stay at its peak. The number of expectations held are staggering, and Yonagi needs to meet them all.
That's not all, though. Sumiji, who acts as Yonagi's mentor, actively works against her in order to speed up her development. The Double Cast Arc is really where Sumiji first steps in and shows what his directorship can produce. To force Yonagi to improve even more, Sumiji works with her rival Chiyoko to upstage Yonagi's performance from the day before. Yonagi, overwhelmed, literally stops acting for a moment to regain her composure. All of this is to make Sumiji's dream come true — his "project" that Hoshi warns will destroy the film industry.
Sumiji knows what he's doing. He's won accolades at the Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festivals. He's found Yonagi, who's the ideal actor to star in his mysterious, unannounced work. But history all too often repeats itself, and whenever method acting is mentioned, Hoshi's tragic ending is always something to keep in mind. Given that Sumiji himself admits that he doesn't care about the well-being of the actors, it's likely he — and Yonagi — will soon come to a crossroads. Can the director support the actress to complete his dream project, or will she walk down the same sorrowful path as the CEO? And perhaps even more concerning: what's to become of Yonagi after Sumiji's done with his work?