Was out with the anime buddy all of yesterday so didn't see the Oscars telecast last night which I stopped caring about after seeing the rather dismal show hosted by Seth MacFarlane a few years ago. Still, congratulations to Guillermo del Toro and "The Shape of Water" for earning him Best Director and Best Movie honours last night. Also, nice to know that the movie was filmed right here in Toronto.
Speaking of my ol' city, del Toro also made a movie here back in the early part of this decade. It was far from being in the Oscar conversation, aside probably from special effects, but it was entertaining enough as a genre piece. "Pacific Rim" (2013) had one of its scenes done on Elizabeth Street in old Chinatown just behind City Hall. I was working in the area temporarily and I did see its transformation into a destroyed Tokyo street. The scene in question was the memory of Rinko Kikuchi's（菊地凛子）Mako Mori character as a young girl terrified out of her wits by the invading Kaiju.
Well, that young girl was actress Mana Ashida（芦田愛菜）, and from what I've read on the comments for the video above was that she was arguably the best thespian of the bunch in the movie. Perhaps there may have been some snark behind those comments (personally, I did like Idris Elba as General Pentecost) but Ashida did make gold out of her brief time on screen.
Thing is, when I saw "Pacific Rim" and that scene, I internally went "Whoa! Is that her?" The reason was that Ashida had already gained a lot of fame a couple of years before her Hollywood debut when she and fellow child actor Fuku Suzuki（鈴木福）put out a song under their unit name of Kaoru to Tomoki, Tama ni Mukku (薫と友樹、たまにムック。...Kaoru & Tomoki, and occasionally Mook) back in April 2011 (both were around 6 years old at the time).
"Maru Maru Mori Mori!" is an adorable kiddy tune that could have easily been part of any of the NHK-3 educational programs but it was actually the theme song for a Fuji-TV comedy-drama titled "Marumo no Okite"（マルモのおきて...Marumo's Rule）. The show was about orphaned siblings Kaoru and Tomoki and a wayward (talking?) dog named Mook who become part of a single working fellow's world. Apparently, the show did pretty well (Ashida herself earned a Best Actress prize at the 2011 Tokyo Drama Awards) and the theme song also basked in the spotlight.
The love for "Maru Maru Mori Mori!" was certainly there. It soared up to No. 2 on Oricon and ended up as the 8th-ranked single for 2011. The song also went Double Platinum and earned Ashida and Fukuen the distinction of being the youngest group ever to hit the Top 10 according to an article on the Oricon site. The duo also made it onto the 2011 Kohaku Utagassen as the top batter and on the same night, received a special prize at the Japan Records Awards.
I don't know what Fukuen has been up to in the years since, but last week, there was an NHK documentary on work-life balance in which Ashida was providing voiceover work. Plus, a few weeks back, Kaoru to Tomoki, Tama ni Mukku showed up on one of the music shows to perform "Maru Maru Mori Mori!" once more.
In any case, Ashida can say that she not only got herself a huge hit song but also has now worked with an Oscar-winning director. Come to think of it, I think one of the Arashi（嵐）boys also has that distinction.