Story: Tatsuya Matsuki
Art: Shiro Usazaki
Translation: Camellia Nieh
Touch-Up Art & Lettering: Eve Grandt
Design: Yukiko Whitley
Editor: John Bae
Publisher: VIZ Media
Hollywood is rife with stories of actors who have become so immersed in a role that they go mad, hurting themselves or others in the pursuit of becoming their part. They claim that method acting has a way of taking over all of their common sense, driving them to do things they would not normally imagine doing. Though it is probably best to consider these stories with a healthy dose of skepticism, the notion is a deliciously dramatic one, the rumors passing from person to person in a game of gossip telephone until they hit the tabloids, another part of the mythmaking of moviemaking.
In the Shonen Jump series Act-Age, lovely teenage acting newbie Kei Yonagi uses method acting without realizing she is doing so. Abandoned by her father after her mother’s death, and with young twin siblings to feed and raise, Yonagi must pursue work. A lover of cinema, she decides to try her hand at acting. Though her initial auditions do not go well, it is not because she is talentless; on the contrary, despite her relative inexperience, her ability to draw upon her life experiences to become her role is almost frightening to the casting crew. Her younger siblings, too, find their big sister’s ability to “reset” her emotions troubling, insisting that she must become an actor, otherwise she’s just scary.
Despite her failure at the audition, director Sumiji Kuroyama is impressed with her, and wants to mold her into the perfect actor for his next film. Kuroyama is not well known in his homeland of Japan, but he has had great success overseas. He’s hoping to nab a rare talent, and in the pursuit of training Yonagi to be screen-ready, puts her in various situations that force her to draw upon her own memories. But Yonagi often gets so far into a role that she can no longer separate fiction from reality, and Kuroyama is beset by those who seem concerned about Kuroyama’s hard-love tactics, as they feel that constant exposure to extreme emotions may eventually break the young, inexperienced Yonagi.
Though the premise seems heavy, especially considering the fact that Yonagi needs to grow up too fast in order to keep her little family going, writer Tatsuya Matsuki includes plenty of little gags to balance out the more psychological aspects of Yonagi’s journey. Artist Shiro Usazaki is adept at representing the various extremes of emotion that Yonagi must portray. The first volume ends with Yonagi at a large audition for a part in a movie with a big star, introducing new characters who are certain to become either rivals or best friends, and ensuring more drama to come.
Volume one of Act-Age will be available in print through VIZ Media starting July 7, 2020. For those who are interested in a sample of this cinema tale, you can read some chapters through Shonen Jump or the Manga Plus website. The second print volume is set for release in October of 2020.