The names Nino gives him regardless, Jun is also known by the characters he has played onscreen–whether on the small or silver screen.
If you look at old videos of Arashi, you would probably find it easy to guess which year it was based on Jun’s looks. He is known to change his looks–particularly his hair–depending on the role.
Bokura no Yuki – 1997
His first appearance on a TV drama was in this show headed by Kinki Kids. J was still a chubby-cheeked kid then and he did this drama a year after he joined Johnny’s at the age of 12 (known as an elite since he did not go through an audition).
Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo – 2001
Gone are the chubby cheeks and people start to notice the thick eyebrows that would become his signature feature. He reprises the role of the young detective in season 3 (previously played by senpai Domoto Tsuyoshi) alongside Suzuki Anne, who was the hottest young actress during her time (sad she did not sustain it though). Kindaichi is an iconic role that was made into an SP in 2013 with HSJ’s Yamada; it is such a well-known drama among kids that a non-Arashi fan once told me: “Oh I know him, he played Kindaichi!”
Gokusen – 2002
Perhaps this can be considered as his breakout role. Many until now remember Sawada Shin with fondness, and were in fact baited into the Arashi fandom through this school drama. This was also the beginning of Jun’s “rebellious” phase and he would famously throw his Sawada glare in their variety shows back then.
Kimi wa Petto – 2003
Who can forget Momo, the human pet of Sumire, played by Koyuki who will marry Matsuken many years later? Jun was such an adorable and charming Momo with the curly hair, and absolutely no trace of the rebel student Sawada.
Hana Yori Dango – 2005
Perhaps his most iconic role, and the drama that helped create international awareness for Arashi. HYD in itself is already a famous manga and with Taiwan doing its own version, naturally people were curious about Japan’s new version–and I was one of them. The rest is history, for fans, Jun and Arashi.
Bambino – 2007
Jun went from the DoS Tsukasa to the bullied Italian chef wannabe Ban Shogo. It was quite a change, and quite painful to watch, too. But perhaps he thought this was necessary to shake off Tsukasa, otherwise, he faces the danger of being stereotyped.
Smile – 2009
Imo, his most outstanding drama choice so far, where he played a Japino (Japanese-Filipino) who was wrongly accused of a crime and had to serve jail time. The drama tackled sensitive issues like how children like him are treated in society. He also tanned his skin to fit the role. But more than his physical transformation as Vito, it was how he played it that made an impact.
Natsu no Koi wa Nijiiro ni Kagayaku – 2010
Many felt his role as Taiga is the character that resembles him the most among his onscreen personalities. Taiga is a second-generation actor who tries so hard to overcome the shadow of his famous dad and in the process bumbles his way through life. He is endearing and none of the kakkoiness that J, the actor, is known for though. He also stars opposite Takeuchi Yuko (sorry Nino).
Lucky Seven – 2012
This is J’s most physical role to date. He gets to brawl Eita’s Nitta onscreen in a scene that’s kinda Fight Club-esque, struts around in a leather jacket and even goes undercover as a gay lover as Shuntaro, the newbie detective. His onscreen bromance with Eita got more attention and for once, J had no romantic interest.
Hajimari no Uta – 2013
This NHK drama SP is so simple yet so poignant, about a man who left his hometown to pursue his dreams in Tokyo, only to return years later, his dreams crushed and his future bleak. It’s one of those roles that you won’t expect J to take but he did with lots of heart in his portrayal.
Shitsuren Chocolatier – 2014
Everyone had a love-hate relationship with Sota, the chocolatier in this drama commonly known as “ChocoJun”. Sota was extremely delusional (a good textbook guide for fangirls) about his one-sided love and he poured his heart to his chocolate creations. Sota though had one thing his previous characters did not have–love scenes (a bath tub scene with Kiko to boot)–that made his bandmates feel embarrassed about watching.
This list does not completely cover all his drama roles nor does it include his film characters like Bon (Pikanchi/2002, 2004, 2014), the boy with the strange taste in women who went on to become a chef plus his random English i.e. Jayzuz!; Koji (Tokyo Tower, 2004) with Okada where they played boy toys of older Tokyo women (I had quite a shock seeing J in this role quite early in his career when I expected him to be in fluffy romantic comedies); Yori (Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru, 2007), another dark drama about a boy who was in love with his twin sister; Takezo (The Last Princess, 2008), a labourer who had to transport a princess to safety; and Kosuke (2013), a salesman who meets a high school classmate and falls in love with her but discovers her secret later (meow).
And now, if rumors are to be believed, J will next appear in a medical drama n Fuji next year — as a pathologist — based on the manga, Fragile Pathologist Kishimiyako Ichiro Findings.
Who’s ready for Dr J?
So, what’s your favorite J role? Mine would be a toss between Shuntaro and Vito.
And to the real J: Happy 32nd Birthday Matsumoto Jun! Stay fabulous beyond the screen and the script.
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