At the time of posting, the Touken Ranbu Musical franchise, based on the original game, has performed 7 original musicals, three reruns, and a host of group and solo live shows, beginning with the original Trial Performance back in 2015. Over five years, 30 actors have stood on the stage playing Touken Danshi, with both established actors and newer faces having the chance to appear in one of the most popular franchises in the 2.5d industry.
But which of these actors wins in terms of popularity according to the international fans of the musicals? I surveyed fans on their top five actors from the franchise and their reasons for their choices, and from 30 people who answered, scored and ranked the names most commonly featured.
After receiving all the surveys, I scored the actors by ranking, with 50 points for a first place ranking, moving down to 10 points for a 5th place ranking. I then totalled each actor’s score to find the top ten most popular actors as ranked by the fans.
Here are the results. I wonder if you can guess who came in at first place?
10. Sakamoto Shogo (Horikawa Kunihiro)
Just making it into the ranking with 180 points, Sakamoto Shogo was the second actor to play Horikawa Kunihiro in the musical, making his debut in the 2018 musical Musubi no Hibiki, Hajimari no Ne in the spring of 2018. Shogo is a long time stage actor who before this was best known for his role as Echizen Ryoma in the 1st Season of the Prince of Tennis Musicals, but Touken Ranbu was seen as a comeback stage for him after a long absence.
It seems like the international fans like his singing voice, and love of music, and enjoy his interpretation of the character.
Some of the specific reasons listed for choosing him were:
- “Adorable as Horikawa and great singing voice, also really talented with musical instruments. I like his interpretation of Horikawa – the balance of doting on Kane-san and determination of doing his best too.“
- “Awesome voice! Fits the role of Horikawa perfectly. Really loves music so much, it shows on stage.“
- “He sings very well.”
- “I like his voice, and his movements; he’s a good actor for Horikawa…. I prefer him to Ogoe Yuki even if I like him too.“
- “Beautiful singer, very cute.”
9. Kiyama Haruki (Tomoegata Naginata)
Taking the 9th spot with 190 points is Kiyama Haruki who, like our 10th place actor, debuted in Musubi no Hibiki, Hajimari no Ne in 2018 as Tomoegata Naginata. As an actor who moved to the USA at the age of 14 to pursue his dreams, he has a deep connection to the international fan community and also speaks English fluently, which makes his appearance in this list all the more appropriate.
It seems that everyone has fallen in love with Haruki’s eccentric personality and his off stage antics, and its contrast to his portrayal of the “sword without a story” that is in contrast to his real life persona.
Some of the specific reasons listed for choosing him were:
- “Skilled dancer, actor, refreshing personality.“
- “Seems like a really fun person to be around. His ability to switch on and off on stage is great!“
- “His singing and dancing are both great, and his poise gets me every time. He has a great sense of when to ham it up without undermining the character.“
- “He convinced me to like the fancy bird in the musical, and I’m so glad for his chaotic energy.“
- “All you have to do is take a glimpse of his Twitter or Instagram and be completely charmed by Haruki. The guy is literally nuts, but in a charming way. His take on Tomoe is a pure delight- Tomoe’s “naginata without a story” and naive and rather straight-laced style is amusing when you know that the personality behind that character is a wild, flamboyant being. His acting and vocal talent are also formidable and combined with his dancing background, makes Haruki among the top performers in Toumyu.“
- “Truly embodied Tomoegata’s character motivations and traits in MusuHaji, not an easy task given how the character is written. He also brings his unique Haruki flair to Tomoe’s onstage presence in the idol portions and is a delight both in the higawari and backstage footage. Bought the entire MusuHaji cast ugly tracksuits. Uses emojis in his tweets. Worked the house down during Dare No Mono track. What a man.“
- “His eccentricity. The way he portrays Tomoe with an elegant and divine personality, how that is somehow mixed with innocence (since Tomoe is a sword without a past he’s constantly learning and making new memories) in regards of human life. I mentioned his eccentricity first, because that’s the first thing I recall when I think of the actor, since I’ve watched the backstages, I saw that he’s very playful and full of energy for messing around. his dancing skills are impeccable, it shows his trajectory and professionalism in the musical world. also, I like how he delivers a coquette attitude without falling into vulgarism or bad taste.“
8. Ohira Shunya (Imanotsurugi)
Coming in at 8th place with 210 points is one of the earliest cast members to appear in the musical, Ohira Shunya who has played Imanotsurugi since the Trial Performance all the way back in 2015.
From the comments, it’s obvious that Shunya has not only stolen the hearts of the fans in character, but that people love him for his friendliness and supportive attitude backstage as well.
Some of the comments included the following:
- “Adorable presence as Imanotsurugi, but he also brought me to tears every time I watch his performance near the end of Atsukashiyama Ibun. His SNS posts are adorable, he’s friendly with everyone.“
- “He’s really sweet as Imanotsurugi.”
- “His dynamic with Daichi [Iwatooshi] is perfect. His acting also was so good. And his way to show Imanotsurugi’s character development from Atsuibun to Tsuwamono … I was flashed! He did a great job and I enjoy his Imanotsurugi so much!!!“
- “He’s very supportive of everyone and is very energetic.“
- “He’s the cutest ray of sunshine, on stage and backstage and a he’s a very good dancer specially since 2018’s Atsukashiyama Ibun.“
- “His Imanotsurugi is very convincing and his voice control is good.“
- “On top that his character is very difficult (he’s a tantou that behaves like a small child. man, that’s a heavy duty) it also feels like, somehow, he also is in charge of firing up/ keeping the spirit alive during the idol parts. he manages to pull that out and boy, do we love him for that.“
7. Ota Motohiro (Sengo Muramasa)
At 7th place with 260 points is Ota Motohiro, who played Sengo Muramasa in Mihotose no Komoriuta in 2017 before reprising his role for its rerun and then Kishou Hongi in 2019. I would tell you more, but let me direct you to an interview I did with one of his fans instead. If you want to find out more about him, you can do so here.
Some of the reasons for choosing him were:
- “Mokkun’s take on the not well known Sengo at the time was mind blowing, his acting and mannerisms gave us a reason to love him. And his scenes with other swords are always fun to watch.”
- “Picking this purely because he breathed SUCH LIFE into Sengo, with a take that was entirely his own and made me fall in love with this reading of Sengo in an entirely different light from all other TKRB media.“
- I love his interpretation of Sengo on stage…also leggy…“
- “It is thanks to his performance of Sengo that Sengo is one of my favorite characters.“
- “The moment Mokkun sauntered on stage as Sengo and threatened to strip, he literally shook the entire Toumyu franchise and set a new standard. Most of the roster of characters up to that point were rather straightforward. Mokkun dared to take his character and make people pay attention with his strong vocals and stage presence. To watch him improve upon Sengo with each version of Mihotose and finally with Kishou Hongi, was a pure delight and a testament to Mokkun’s impressive abilities.“
- “He’s really good singer and I think, more than anybody else, brought more depth to his character.“
- “I’ve followed Mokkun for years, almost since his Tenimyu days, so when he was announced for Toumyu I got really excited! And then I saw him grow and I saw Sengo grow too, and I began to like Sengo because of Mokkun’s interpretation of the role, so he’s definitely earned a favourite spot, while still managing to keep the good old stripping a fun part of the character!“
- “Mokkun, like Arayan, is another senior that works hard to help his juniors and other co-actors that need help with roles that are new and need a lot of work put into them. He is very down to earth and talented at his craft.“
6. Arisawa Shoutarou (Izuminokami Kanesada)
Taking 6th place with 270 points is Arisawa Shoutarou who has played Izuminokami Kanesada since the Bakumatsu Tenrouden musical in 2016.
Shoutarou has been active in the entertainment industry since 2015 and stands at an impressive 184cm tall which makes him perfect for the role of Kane-san. Playing such a popular sword comes with a lot of pressure but it seems like everyone thinks he’s doing a great job — that and, he has a lethal smile.
Here are some of the specific reasons for choosing him:
- “His performance really personifies my beloved ‘Kane-san’. His comedic, cocky moments are fantastic, and his vocals have really improved since he first started playing the character in Toumyu.“
- “When I try to describe game Izuminokami it would be: a sword that thinks he is cool but he actually is a big (dumbass) baby that needs his babysitter aka Horikawa. When I would try to describe Arisawa’s Izuminokami I would use the same words. His Izuminokami is so on point! (I also like to see how much he grew with this role and it’s so nice to see!).“
- “His skills have grown so much over the years and he is cute.”
- “His grin is so lethal and then he went and smashed my heart into a million pieces in MusuHaji.“
- “Kane-san bias, but then seeing him in other shows he can really switch from his usual self and then into each character is spot-on.“
- “He’s a good singer and dancer and obviously has a lot of fun playing Kane-san.“
- “Improved in leaps and bounds between Bakumatsu Tenrouden and MusuHaji in his portrayal of Izuminokami, it’s heartwarming to see him grow in confidence and skill alongside his character! His vocals are memorable and the way he carries himself truly brings Izuminokami to life.“
- “I discovered him by Izuminokami and I loved his smile, his voice, his way to play him…and his everything! He is the perfect one to play Izuminokami. Glad that it’s him and no another one! He is cute… I love him with all my heart.”
5. Kuroba Mario (Mikazuki Munechika)
Coming in at 5th place with 290 points is Kuroba Mario who has played Mikazuki Munechika, the poster boy of Touken Ranbu, since the Trial Performance back in 2015.
Mikazuki is the image character of the Touken Ranbu Franchise, giving Mario a lot of pressure to perform well but as an actor with roles in grand musicals, he definitely had the skills to meet expectations, and a lot of fans talked about how much he grew as an actor from the start of TouMyu up until now.
Some specific comments from people filling out the survey were:
- “Jiji, a diva and a moon gramps. A real nice blend of multilayered acting.”
- “I chose him because I think his acting is just fascinating. I’ve been following him for 4 years now and the progress he made is amazing, it’s visible how much he improved in acting. His facial and body expressions and the way he’s using his voice became so natural and relaxed. Also his singing improved a lot too, no wonder he got a role in Elisabeth. The hard work he’s doing all the time is really inspiring. It makes me want to work hard too. Also I love him as a person too, he’s caring and a gentleman. He’s a rare type of person who can bring Light in people’s life. I’m grateful for that to him. I hope I can thank him one day personally.“
- “He’s so young and yet his Mikazuki is all willowy elegance and the careful poise of the weighted history and roles he’s had to shoulder up until now!!! THE SHEER BEAUTY.“
- “As the icon of the franchise he has a lot on his shoulders to be the face of the musicals.“
- “It’s a pleasure to see his mikazuki growing in complexity on stage, also he fried my brain with a smile I’ll never forget!“
- “His singing has improved a lot over the last few years.“
- “The pressure must have been immense when Mario was cast as the poster boy of the Touken Ranbu franchise, the most beautiful of all the Tenka Goken. He not only stepped up to that pressure, but improved upon his performance each time. It was hard to take your eyes off of Mikazuki in Itsukushima and Tsuwamono. He is a pretty face with talent to back up his performance.“
- “His mikazuki feels like a god to me. very ceremonial. In the idol concert his image is always like he’s so up in the sky you try reach for his light.“
4. Araki Hirofumi (Nikkari Aoe)
At 4th place with 320 points is Araki Hirofumi who started playing Nikkari Aoe in the Mihotose no Komoriuta musical in 2017.
Araki is the oldest cast member playing a sword in any of the musicals and has been in the entertainment industry since 2004, making him also the most experienced of all the cast. He has had a long stage and music career which began when he played Seigaku’s Inui Sadaharu in the 1st season of the Prince of Tennis Musicals.
It seems a lot of people have followed him from his Tenimyu days, and here are some of the comments that were made about him:
- “He brought nikkari to life, from mannerisms to voice. You can tell he’s experienced with acting, very hardworking too based on the BTS.“
- “Because his Nikkari was so good I legit felt it in my bones.”
- “Been following since tenimyu, his progress has been incredible to watch. The dedication to fans is very endearing. Some saying his sleep & eating habits are signs of a genius and I can believe it.”
- “I followed him since Tenimyu days and watching his glow-up in 2.5D has been such a trip, Nikkari isn’t even one of my favorite swords but damn Araki can get it.”
- “Arayan has been my favorite for 3 years now and I fell in love with how dedicated he is to performing, he has perfected the role of Nikkari with each show he has done and has appreciation for Japanese and overseas fans. He is a respectable senior to all of his juniors with his many years in the industry and advice that he can give to new and upcoming actors.“
- “His face is absolutely lovely and perfect and I love his inflection. Perfect Nikkari.”
- “He portrays Nikkari perfectly in both story and live portions of the shows. His singing voice in the live also suits the character.”
3. SPI (Tonbokiri)
Coming in at 3rd place with 330 points is SPI, who has played Tonbokiri since the Mihotose no Komoriuta musical and reprised the role for the recent Kishou Hongi musical.
He is the second actor in this list to have a foreign connection, with his father being American and his full name being William Spearman Worthington 4th. It’s no wonder that the foreign fanbase have grown to love him!
SPI is known for having the best vocals out of all of the cast and it seems like everyone agrees, with many of the comments mentioning how his singing voice makes them feel.
- “I fell in love with Spi the first time I saw him play Tonbokiri. Not only does he play the character extremely well, but his singing voice is phenomenal. Since the musical I’ve gone and purchased his EP’s just so I can hear his voice more!”
- “Beautiful voice and beef. I enjoy his cool seriousness on stage.”
- “Okay. It’s Spi. There’s a lot to say of this man.”
- “His singing voice is amazing and is what drew me into being his fan.”“
- “Amazing voice… nice tits.”
- “A voice so amazing I forget to breathe often during his SRS solos, and exactly my type of dorky and sexy, specially since Kishou Hongi had more various scenes.“
- “While Mokkun shook up the Toumyu franchise with his daring take on his character, Spi set the bar higher for pure vocal talent. Spi was born to play Tonbokiri. His appearance with his larger physique, combined with his mannerisms and voice fits the spear to a T. It’s no surprise that the strongest lives in Toumyu are the ones that Spi’s amazing voice is featured in.”
- “Goddamn his voice. Also really love how he brings out both the huggable teddy bear aura and the fierce loyalty of Tonbokiri. His soran line during SRS18 can impregnate me through the screen.”
- “Spi is such a handsome actor and his vocals are out of this world, he is such a teddy bear! I wish I could see more of his works but I’ve only seen Toumyu for him so far.”
- “His absolutely beautiful singing and a bit of a cute version of Tonbo.”
2. Kitazono Ryo (Kogitsunemaru)
Just missing out on the top spot with 350 points is Kitazono Ryo who has played Kogitsunemaru since the very first musical but unfortunately had to be replaced in one of the Atsukashiyama Ibun reruns after having eye problems while in Paris.
It seems like “Kogizono” himself has made the character into a very popular one amongst the fans (even giving him that nickname) and the fact that he only just missed out on being number one in this ranking shows how loved he is.
Here are some of the comments people made about him:
- “Kogizono is love, Kogizono is life.”
- “The way that he performs Kogitsunemaru is exactly how I imagined the character would be on stage. I also thoroughly love the sound of his speaking and singing voice.”
- “His dancing and singing really brought Kogitsunemaru to life on stage, as well as his interactions with the other characters made me believe like “wow, it’s him in the flesh.”
- “It’s been a joy and delight seeing him improve in leaps from stage to stage, and his performance in Uta Awase felt like reaching a pinnacle; it was so magical and incredibly rewarding and moving to reach that point.”
- “His dedication and love for the stage really showed when he had medical problems and couldn’t perform.”
- “At first I just thought he was very handsome, but he’s has grown so much and is a great actor/singer/dancer in his own right.”
1. Sato Ryuji (Kashuu Kiyomitsu)
And we finally come to the actor you voted as the most popular in the musicals. With an amazing 370 points is Sato Ryuji who has played Kashuu Kiyomitsu since the first musical, and has appeared in all three performances of Atsukashiyama Ibun, Bakumatsu Tenrouden and is the only actor whose character has had multiple solo tours including an Asia tour.
Having started his career in the 2nd season of the Prince of Tennis musicals, Kashuu is by far his biggest role, but he became popular through the Naruto stage plays and also has a successful music career with his band The Brow Beat.
Having appeared more times in the musicals and lives than any other actor, it’s no surprise that he has come to perfectly represent the character, and it seems like a lot of people agree.
Here are some of the comments received about him:
- “One of the highlights of the toumyu for me, his Kashuu was great and made me feel bad for not levelling him up enough.”
- “He’s a monster!!! Won’t stop dancing and singing even after hours without a real break.”
- “Genuinely talented Actor/singer/dancer that obviously puts a lot of effort into his performances. But I couldn’t help being drawn to him since Kashuu is also my favorite sword.”
- “I love Kashuu and Ryuji is perfect as Kashuu.”
- “I started watching the musicals without knowing who any of the actors were, and he was the one who grabbed my attention… and my heart. He fleshes out what makes Kashuu so interesting and lovable as a character, and watching him as Kashuu really does feel like Kashuu has popped out from the game into our world.”
- “He captures the essence of his character very well, he sings and dances well.”
- “My friend is a huge Ryuji fan, so at first I paid attention to him because she liked him. But he seriously works so hard and has given us so much as Kashuu, it’s really not hard to love him for who he is.”
- “First time I saw the photos, I thought he was the perfect Kashuu. I still love him because he went far beyond my expectations.”
Do you agree with the choices? What other franchises would you like to see a popularity ranking for? Let me know in the comments!