October 14, 2013

Ryoko Yonekura


To paraphrase Dirty Harry in Magnum Force: "An actor's got to know her limitations."

Ryoko Yonekura has carved out a niche playing tsundere characters: intelligent, competent, and indifferent to her own looks, presenting a brusque exterior to the world. Think Thirteen mindmelded with House.


Recent roles include a tax inspector, a SWAT negotiator, and a surgeon (currently scheduled for a second season), pretty much the same only different.

Though in 2012, she appeared in the Broadway production of Chicago. She's not just a pretty face, but she is picky about her medium of choice. She does a lot of television, some theater, but few feature films.

Actually, this is something I applaud. Actors who fit a particular character type and are comfortable playing it do much better in their roles than those who feel the incessant need to "act."

There are accomplished actors like Hugh Laurie who can so completely become a character that the brain struggles to connect them to previous roles (Bertie Wooster), and even to the real actor himself.

Ever since House, my initial reaction to seeing the Hugh Laurie on a talk show is: What's he speaking in a British accent for?

David Boreanaz isn't a "great actor," but he's more convincing being the latest version of a David Boreanaz character than, say, Meryl Streep, who's never anything but Meryl Streep pretending.

Kate points to Cary Grant as "the only actor I can think of, off the top of my head, who both utterly vanishes into his roles and who one never, ever ever ever ever forgets is Cary Grant."

I'm not a big Brad Pitt fan, but I believe he accomplishes this in Moneyball. Every now and then it occurred to me: Oh, yeah, that's Brad Pitt. And then I completely forgot who he was again.

Anyway, this year, Ryoko Yonekura goes back to high school in a series appropriately titled: The 35-Year-Old High School Student (Nippon Television).

"You gotta problem with that?"

This isn't Never Been Kissed. She's exactly what the title says. Except that, as with the House-like surgeon she plays in Doctor X, nobody knows who she is or what she's doing there.

It's a setup for an "issue" series: every episode deals with a "ripped from the headlines" issue about public education. From the flashbacks, Yonekura's character has (or had) every single one of those "issues" too.

This lends every episode a repetitive, "After School Special" vibe. And, frankly, if the only way you can deal with your mid-life crisis is by going back to high school, boy, are you ever screwed up.

The simmering pot of melodrama boils over in the two-part finale. A borderline sociopathic kid freaks out, the class bully gets his commupance (and repents), and everybody's issue gets resolved big time.

Think of all the angst and moralizing from all four seasons (so far) of Glee (minus the music and the comic relief) compressed into eleven episodes. That kind of thing.

But the writers can get away with it because, you know, it's Ryoko Yonekura. Honestly, I was impressed by how well she pulled it off. It takes real talent to sell such a preposterous premise.

Update: now streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Comments:

# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
I totally agree about Brad Pitt. Moneyball is the movie that confirmed for me, "Oh, yeah, this guy is a much better actor than his ex-wife or current wife." I thought it was downright impressive how much he inhabited the Billy Beane role.

I also agree about Boreanaz. Boreanaz reminds me of Jonathan Frakes who, when asked, said basically, "Are you kidding me? Who wouldn't love to have the career of a Star Trek icon?" Give me work-a-day actors any day over artistic sensibilities.
10/14/2013 1:22 PM