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Mao Inoue's new leading role a 'professional challenge'

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By Alexandra Homma

Popular actress Mao Inoue, 23, is making a bold move -- she is turning her back on happy ending romance stories and is embracing a solemn, confused and lonely character in Izuru Narushima’s newest movie "Yokame no semi" (Rebirth), based on author Mitsuyo Kakuta’s 2005 best-selling novel of the same title.

Inoue plays Erina Akiyama, a young woman who was abducted and raised until the age of four by her father’s mistress Kiwako Nonomiya (Hiromi Nagasaku). When Erina eventually returns to her real parents following Nonomiya's arrest, she struggles with the conflict of her real identity and grows up to become unfamiliar with trust, family warmth and self-assurance. The plot evolves into Erina having an affair and getting pregnant with a married man, when she begins doubting that her own life is following Nonomiya’s steps.

“Playing the role of an abducted child was a major challenge for me,” said Inoue during a promotional event with other cast members and the director. “I was uncertain on how to act out Erina’s inner feelings and emotions.” The rest of the cast, Hiromi Nagasaku, 41, Eiko Koike, 31, and Yuko Moriguchi, 45, echoed Inoue and unanimously said that "Rebirth" was a professional challenge.

The movie, like the book, is roughly divided in two parts: the four years of Erina's abduction, and the life of the already grown up Erina. Inoue and Nagasaku said they regret having no scenes together. Koike, who plays a determined reporter writing a book on the abduction, said she could not resist taking the role after she received the offer: “The movie’s depth and level of difficulty made me hit many walls as an actress, but I really appreciate the opportunity to play Chigusa Ando."

The movie constantly plays with the all-time abstract opposites vice and virtue, love and hate and strength and weakness, while it subtly addresses the concept of the nature of motherhood and human abilities (and/or) inabilities to face, accept and go against their destiny. The Japanese title "Yokame no Semi," which literally means, "The Cicada’s Eight Days," is a play of words too: a cicada is said to live only seven days. One day more means more experience, more knowledge, and more light -- just what Erina experiences in the search of her true identity. But do these bring happiness or could it be the opposite? Those are the questions the film examines.

“Yokame no Semi” was adapted as a television drama on NHK in 2010, and aired again in February, starring Rei Dan and Kii Kitano. The film opens in theaters nationwide on April 29.

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Mao Inoue’s new leading role a ‘professional challenge’

She has played in different TV dramas and feature movies; she is one of my favorite actresses in Japan. This movie can be her professional challenge. But I believe Japanese audience will respond positively and heartfelt-welcome.

In the atmosphere of tsunami and quake aftermath, "Rebirth" is easily absorbing people's minds. From the outline of the movie story, Mao Inoue can deliver a MESSAGE of Identity and Happiness in anyone's life - a woman and man. Challenging, struggling and self-confidence can rebirth one's destiny in reality.

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Is Inoue your first or last name? Please clarify me as I get confuse with certain names sometimes. Good luck. Ganbatte!

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dirisaya>> Mao - first name, Inoue - last name.

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