Kou Shibasaki Fandom

To say that Kou Shibasaki is a popular celebrity in her native Japan is an understatement. She is the very epitome of the multi-faceted Japanese superstar for the 21st century. Films, television, music, and advertising are all areas Kou has made her presence known.


Kou Shibasaki's breakout role was in Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale (2000). Despite the fact that the film didn't even list her as a main character in the credits, she played by far the most complex and controversial personality in the ultra-violent cult masterpiece. Her convincing portrayal of Mitsuko Souma as the misunderstood junior high student who just "didn't want to be a loser anymore" instantly distinquished her from the other lightweights in the film. Because Battle Royale became a runaway blockbuster in Japan, Kou emerged from unknown obscurity to become a hot property instantly. Her next film, a horror named Kakashi didn't register with audiences but what followed was a string of sucesses, both commercially and critically. Out of these, none was more acclaimed than Go (2001), a film about a Korean boy's struggle to live and love in xenophobic Japan. Kou's performance as the Japanese "girl next door" that the Korean boy falls in love with earned her spades of awards (Best Supporting Actress: Award of Japanese Academy, Houchi Movie Award, Kinema Junpou Award, etc.). After sweeping the awards circuit, Kou went on to star in Kewaishi (2001), Soundtrack (2001), Drive (2002), and the unforgetable Yomigaeri (2003). At the start of 2004, Kou teamed with horror/extreme maestro Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) to thrill audiences with Chakushin Ari. Her most recent film, "Sekai no Chushin de, Ai o Sakebu," is based on a best-selling book.

Battle Royale



Kou Shibasaki has an enviable film career but if you believe that she owes her popularity to cinema, you would be mistaken. In Japan, television is king and Kou is ubiquitous on the small screen with prolific roles in Let's Go Nagata-cho (2002), Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi (2002), Yume no California (2002), and others. If those shows only gave her strong name recognition, then Good Luck (2003) and Dr Kotoh Shinryojo (2003) made it clear that she has conquered the television medium. Good Luck is noteworthy not only because it shattered ratings and is considered by many to be the "best drama of 2003," but it also demonstrates the pull of her very powerful management company, Stardust. By placing Kou as the romantic interest of Takuya Kimura (of super pop group SMAP fame) in this airline drama, they exposed her to Kimura's legion of female fans, who grow weak-kneed just at the mention of his name. To understand what a coup this is for Kou, you have to understand the incredible estrogen draw of Takuya Kimura. Thanks to Kimura, the first episode of Good Luck had the third highest rating of the decade. Only Hero and Beautiful Life, two other Kimura dramas, had better ratings. The show's popularity became so widespread that ANA (All Nippon Airways) detected a surge in job application submissions to the airline. Not content with success, Kou returned to the small screen in 2004 with perhaps her toughest role yet. Orange Days is anything but a typical campus drama as Kou's character is deaf. Despite the show's unconventionality, it finished the Spring 2004 season at #1 proving that sign language did not turn away viewers.

Good Luck

Dr. Kotoh


No one doubts that Kou Shibasaki can act, but can she sing? In 2002, she put that to the test with the release of her first maxi-single. The debut peaked at only #50 but did not preclude another try. In early 2003, Kou offered her sophomore effort, RUI - Tsuki no Shizuku, in pace with the release of the film Yomigaeri (Kou played a character called RUI in the film). Whatever doubts her record label, Universal Music, had in her vocal talents disappeared when the single hit #1 and spent a shocking 49 weeks on the charts. Three more maxi-singles were quickly rushed out and all entered the top 10. In February 2004, Kou's first full album finally reached stores. Although it was a compilation of previously released songs and there was little promotion supporting the album, it nevertheless entered the chart at #2. Similiarly, Kou's sixth maxi-single released in August 2004 also landed at #2.



As if success in film, television, and music is not enough, Kou Shibasaki is becoming increasingly popular as a "CM Queen." Although a concept foreign to most Americans, commercials are a key ingredient to any celebrity's success in Japan and Kou has a privileged group of sponsors. Epson (projector), Glico (Pocky snacks), Kose (cosmetics), Alcon (contact lenses), and countless others have all aired Kou Shibasaki commercials but it's consumer electronics giant Sony that really shames the rest. In their most recent campaign, Sony proved that "over-exposure" is not in their vocabulary as they continue to plaster Kou's Sony poster ads all over Japan. There is no escape from Kou Shibasaki for Tokyo commuters as subways crowd with her face.


Success and the Call of Yuki Yubari

The quick ascent of Kou Shibasaki is dizzying. Three years ago as Battle Royale stormed theaters, she was an unknown Tokyo teen, now she stands at the nexus of film, television, music, and advertising as Japan's "it girl." How can the world be more perfect for Kou? How about inquiries from an American director to star in Hollywood? That's exactly what happened in 2001. After watching Battle Royale, Quentin Tarantino specifically wrote two Japanese schoolgirls into his next project, Kill Bill. He wanted Chiaki Kuriyama and Kou Shibasaki to be his Go Go and Yuki Yubari, assassin bodyguards in O-Ren Ishii's yakuza gang. Fortunately for Tarantino, his strong friendship with Kinji Fukasaku, the director of Battle Royale, gave him an advantage in his quest to cast Chiaki and Kou as the Yubari sisters. For more than ten years, Fukasaku always visited Tarantino whenever he was in the U.S. and vice versa. By 2001, the old gentleman Japanese director and the young American auteur have developed a deep respect for each other. When Fukasaku learned how much Tarantino loved his latest work, Battle Royale, and was inspired to write two BR kids into his new script, he was very pleased and promised to arrange meetings for him with Chiaki and Kou. In interviews, Chiaki herself has stated that Fukasaku took her to meet with the young American director at a Tokyo restaurant. Whatever happened at the meeting, Tarantino must have been duly impressed by Chiaki Kuriyama because soon after, he began to praise her nonstop. Kou as Yuki Yubari however was not to be. Her increasingly packed schedule simply did not allow her to commit to a Hollywood film that would take months to shoot. Chiaki had no such qualms as Go Go's screen time was minimal. Remember, Yuki's Revenge was a very elaborate chapter in the original draft of Kill Bill. Kou was simply not ready to trade her comfortable roles in Japanese films and TV dramas for the long sweaty training and production of a hard-core American action film. Did she make the right choice? It hardly matters now as Kou Shibasaki sits at the epicenter of Japan's world of pop and enjoys the adoration of millions of fans.

Kou Shibasaki
Battle Royale Set

Kou with Fukasaku
Battle Royale Set

Chiaki with Fukasaku
Battle Royale Set

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