It’s taken me a while to get to this stage because as I got to know more members, the list kept changing. But now I know every single member of Bancho Boys, I feel like I’m ready to rank my top five members. I made the decision to only include official Bancho Boys members in this ranking, but scroll to the bottom for a little extra. I’m afraid I talked quite a lot about each one but I really wanted to consider my feelings and reasons for liking them properly, and it was nice to put them into words.
5. Chiwata Yuhei
Yuhei has been 3/4 Bancho Boys stage I’ve watched live. In the first, Give Up Dance, he played a failure of a manager and I saw him cry real tears when his scenes got emotional. In Mannequin Life he was a mannequin with an “urusai kao” who got put in every unfortunate pose you could imagine but still kept a smile on his face, and in Amaku wa nai ze was sickeningly cute and flaily and made every scene he was in super fun.
But really, it was when I saw him move away from the cute failure roles and watched him play “muscle man” Nome in B Project that his place in my top 5 settled. Although each of his roles were different, I was impressed he was versatile enough to pull off someone completely unlike what I had seen him in before. When I finally met him for a two-shot during Amaku wa nai ze, he was calm and friendly and very thankful, and it was a pleasure to talk to him.
4. Yashiro Takuya
Takuya was amongst the first of the Bancho Boys I knew, and his portrayal as Rokkaku’s captain Aoi Kentaro in Tenimyu made the character shoot up to second place in my character ranking (when I finally get round to rewriting it). I have a lot of respect for actors who can make me love characters I didn’t previously pay attention to, and no one can deny his enthusiasm in-character and his calmness in his speeches outside of character. At the Bancho Boys Live in February this year, he was the one familiar face amongst a group of trainees who performed the first song, who were then announced as the new group Gingadan on that day.
And although other members of their group pushed their way ahead of him within the group, he’s remained a firm favourite in Bancho Boys in general. I managed to meet him once or twice during the Gingadan release events, and he was really surprised to see me going to him, and really shy when he thanked me. But watching how patient and kind he was to other fans (in particular one who took twenty-five pictures with him in a row) made me respect him even more. Takuya is not particularly great at taking pictures of himself which is a shame because in person he is such a beautiful kid and there have been times where I just couldn’t stop looking at him.
3. Futaba Kaname/Futaba Yuu
It may be cheating a little to include both of them in one rank, but the truth is that I just really like the Futaba twins when they are together. The first I knew of was Kaname, after he came close to my seat during the Osaka shows of Tenimyu’s Seigaku vs Rokkaku, but I very quickly became aware of the fact that he had a twin brother. For a few days after that realisation, my Youtube played little else other than their Twin Paradox videos and really grew to love their voices and their music. Above all I was just amazed that two people that beautiful could exist, that it’s like magic that there are two of them and not just one.
I finally got chance to see them perform live at the Bancho Boys Live in February and although I had begun as a Kaname fan, when I saw them sing together and saw them interact on stage as brothers I really began to like them both not only as individuals but together. It’s rare to see brothers interact on stage and they mock each other like brothers do, even have arguments in the middle of the stage but amongst all of that it’s obvious how close they are and how much they support each other. Both of them are very open about the difficult times they’ve gone through in the past and it’s really nice to see that their bond is so close. If you’ve ever watched any of Yuu’s livestreams, it would be impossible to keep count of the number of times he talks about his brother. He couldn’t even get through Amaku wa nai ze 2 without mentioning him in the middle of the stage.
I met Kaname for the first time at Give Up Dance where he smiled his wonderful smile at me and told me my Japanese was good, and Yuu for the first time at Mannequin Life. Yuu had seen me at various events by then and he gratefully told me, “thank you for always coming”. In those stage plays, both of the boys were amazing in very different roles but both with super emotional scenes which showed off their skills. 2.75 was a different thing altogether and we got to see that infamous kiss that they say regret ever doing and never want anyone to mention ever again. My hope for the two of them is that Yuu can get a role in something as big as Kaname has in Tenimyu, because they both deserve it as much as each other.
2. Kihara Rui
When I went to my first Bancho Boys stage, Give Up Dance, I went knowing very few of the cast, and the name “Kihara Rui” meant very little to me at the time. In Give Up Dance, Rui plays an obsessed fan of the group the story is about. Although he doesn’t have a huge amount of time on stage, he has one main scene where the group’s manager and producer visit her to find out what the appeal of the group is. What follows is this amazing scene in which his character Serina talks 90% of the time with very few breaks, displays every emotion you can imagine, and eventually settles down into this story of what the group did for her and why she is their fan. I watched this 18 year old kid who was only doing his second stage ever pull off an amazing performance despite being dressed as a girl and despite having so many lines to remember, and I could have watched it over and over again.
On the last day of the shows, Rui made a mistake on stage and was so apologetic over it that he cried during the end speeches. His seniors in the agency reassured him that it was forgotten already and talked about how amazing he had been and how hard he had worked. When I left the theater that day, I had already fallen in love.
In contract to all the emotion and confidence on stage, Rui is actually a very awkward and dead-pan guy who is also very much unable to hide any feelings he does have on his face. I saw the disappointment in his face when so few people watched their first release event, the desperation in his voice as he encouraged the few people watching to show their support, and I watched how comfortable he grew the more people who came to watch through the month they held events for. I saw that despite his outer attitude, he cares genuinely about working hard and doing well, and cares greatly about the other members of Gingadan and the others in Bancho Boys.
1. Yasui Kazuma
Kazuma was the first Bancho Boy I became a fan of, and I’d go so far as to say that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into Bancho Boys at all had I not become his fan. I followed Kazuma on Twitter at the same time as I followed all of the Ensemble Stars stage cast, and in all the spare time he had before rehearsals started, he would live stream almost every night. I fell in love with his voice, and even if I had to go to bed early I would leave it playing just to listen as I was falling asleep. Sometimes I’d wake up a couple of hours later and he’d still be there. I loved how he wasn’t afraid to sing songs he didn’t know well, even if he ended up mumbling or making up his own lyrics or just giving up altogether. I loved how he was forever disappearing to his fridge for drinks and how it was always something different, and I loved how embarrassed he got every time his father came home from work and ended up in the camera shot.
When the Ensemble Stars stage finally began, I was returning from England on a plane while the first show happened. I arrived at the airport in Japan super exhausted and opened my Twitter, and the first thing I saw was a picture Kazuma had posted of himself in costume. I knew from that moment that I really had become his fan. After seeing him in that stage, I went on to see him at two other Bancho Boys events. Not only that, I would regularly watch and comment in his livestreams and reply to him on Twitter constantly, and had the amazing privilege of being sang to by him on my birthday. I was finally able to meet and talk to him during Bancho Boys 7th stage Mannequin Life. I was so nervous but the moment I stepped on stage, he called me by my name and he was so warm and friendly that I was immediately able to relax. I met him again at another handshake event and again I was so relaxed and he was so lovely. I consider him one of the friendliest actors I’ve ever met, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his fan.
Kazuma is a person who has been very honest about his harsh beginnings in the business, singing on the streets of Nagoya and doing part-time work while commuting regularly to Tokyo by bus to go to auditions. He’s very grateful for being given the chances he’s had by becoming a Bancho Boys member and also being a member of Dress_No and I’m so glad that he’s doing so well because he really deserves the success if only for his amazing voice and love of music. He’s extremely grateful and somewhat amazed by having the support of fans, to the point where he’s almost apologetic when people actually spend money on him. He’s a very firm favourite and good friend of many Bancho Boys members, his fellow Ensemble Stars cast members, and the other members of Dress_No.
Honorable mention: Sawada Yu
An honorable mention NOT because he would have been 6th but because I only included official Bancho Boys members in the ranking. If I had included trainees then Yu would have been 2nd, so I thought he was at least worth talking about.
Yu was in fact, not the first Gingadan member who I noticed. That title goes to Taisei and his perfect face because he was the only one I remembered when I saw the Bancho Boys Live where they were announced as a group. When I got home I looked up all of the members on Twitter and followed them. Yu had posted a mini profile and in it he had mentioned that he had been learning English since he was 2 years old. It made me quite intrigued. Between then and my next chance to see him live, I got to know him more by keeping up with his Twitter and looking through his Instagram photos which were 80% pictures of him as a kid dressed up in various different costumes. I was very much won over by his cuteness and when Gingadan were the opening act for Give Up Dance I got a cheki with him and met him for the first time. I had been wary of speaking to him in English because I didn’t know how skilled he was but the moment he said “Hi!” to me I knew he was going to be good. I could tell he was nervous, but he was so gentle and friendly that from that day on, I really loved him. Yu is soft spoken, gentle and such a genuinely kind person. He’s sometimes overshadowed amongst his confident, loud and sometimes rude (although I don’t mean that in a bad way) group mates, but they always say that he is the stoic one who keeps them calm. Yu is currently balancing his work with Bancho Boys and Gingadan with being a full time University student, and even when he’s really busy, he still keeps that adorable smile on his face and even manages to find time for the occasional live stream even if it is from on campus in his lunch break.
I’ve met Yu many many times now. When Gingadan did their release events for their single Galaxy Cluster, I went along to almost every one and I got a picture with him every time. I saw his confidence in speaking to me grow and grow but he still remained that cute, somewhat shy and sweet kid that I’d grown to love. During their final release event, while trying to fill time while the staff fixed their mikes, I watched Yoshinari trying to get Yu to say things in English for him to translate. He looked so uncomfortable and I was torn between wanting him to get over his nervousness and just go for it, and wanting Yoshinari to stop making him look so terrified. When I met him afterwards, he told me how nervous he had been. I told him, “I know, but I really want you to do your best. Your English is amazing.” He smiled so brightly and told me thanks, and I really hope he gains more confidence.
When it came to Amaku wa nai ze, I had no hesitation in buying tickets for all five shows, and no hesitation in ordering him flowers. I also had no hesitation in having four photos taken with him, meeting him four days in succession. I really want him to do well because he deserves it so much, I just want him to always be happy.