After Starring In Pacific Rim, Will Japan Finally Adore Rinko Kikuchi?

After Starring In Pacific Rim, Will Japan Finally Adore Rinko Kikuchi?

In the upcoming Hollywood flick Pacific Rim, actress Rinko Kikuchi is Mako Mori, one of the film’s lead pilots to battle the dreaded kaiju.

Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro’s big love letter to Japanese monster movies like Godzilla and anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion. Too bad Japan isn’t exactly in love with Kikuchi.

The actor made a big splash internationally with her role as Chieko, a deaf high school girl. This didn’t only put her on the map in the West, it did the same for her in Japan. Nobody really knew who the heck she was.

Kikuchi didn’t make a name for herself like many Japanese celebrities and actors typically do, which is either by appearing in numerous TV dramas, variety shows, or in a string of commercials. The Japanese film industry is a shell of its former self. TV is king.


Even though she did appear in a few dramas, such as Liar Game, prior to Babel, and she did some car ads, Kikuchi never was really able to parlay that into becoming a huge star in Japan.

After Kikuchi was nominated for an Academy Award, the first Japanese female to get an Oscar nod in 57 years, and became the face of Chanel, Japanese success remained elusive. She did top an opinion poll about who Japan was most proud of internationally, but that seemed to flitter away. The TV commercials dried up, and she didn’t appear on variety or talk shows. Thus, people just kind of forgot about her.

A Livedoor News article from 2007 talked how in the wake of her international success, Kikuchi wasn’t exactly in demand back at home and wasn’t popular with Japanese housewives. When you don’t have a fan base, being a talented actor isn’t enough in Japan.

On 2ch, Japan’s largest bulletin board, a thread talked about why Kikuchi hadn’t become popular in her home country. The thread is fairly brutal (actually, it’s really brutal), and some say her looks aren’t appealing to Japanese, while others commented about the graphic nudity in Babel. Some didn’t even know who she was.

But one of the main issues seemed to be how in Japan the mass media and the country’s entertainment complex work in tandem. Her success was achieved outside of that realm. And then when she actually did appear on Japanese TV, she seemed somewhat awkward and not exactly quick with quips — a necessity to survive in mainstream Japanese show business. For many Japanese it’s perhaps baffling why she, out of all the Japanese actors, has been successful abroad. For Americans, it’s probably akin to when particular entertainers become far more popular in foreign countries than in Hollywood.


Since Babel, Kikuchi has done mostly foreign film work (though, she did do voice acting on two Mamoru Oshii anime). Next year, she’ll be appearing in two major films, 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves and the previously mentioned Pacific Rim. This one-two punch could help her finally achieve widespread popularity at home. Or, more likely, those films will add to an already impressive resume.

菊地凛子はなぜ人気が出ないのか [2ch] The End of Gyaku-Yu’nyū [Neomarxisme]

Culture Smash is a regular dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome — game related and beyond.


  • She was brilliant in Babel. The entire film could have been about her character and world, and I wouldn’t have missed the rest.

  • What I want to know is are they controlling the robots inside the robot? or from some control room far away? Also If inside the robot, then why two pilots?

    • GDT answered this question. They are neurally linked to the robot inside and one controls the left side, one controls the right.

    • well if it does its no surprise, it was the most influential anime to come out of the 90’s, at least to the giant robot genre.

  • Being different can work against you in Japan. If she isn’t willing to play a certain
    Role on TV-and by role i mean dopey vacuous guest brought in to answer trivia questions , or coo at food or monkeys that ride dogs – she may find Japanese success continues to elude her. But does she need it?

  • You failed to mention that she played a large role in Norwegian Wood, which was a movie of reasonable critical acclaim in Japan. She’s awesome in it- brutal story- intense stuff by Haruki Murakami

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