Taking a look at each member individually, there is an apparent increase in television drama and movie roles. They show a different side apart from their variety show persona, expanding their range of fans.
As the entire group rides its boost of fame, Maruyama Ryuhei, playing the part of the "natural (airhead)" on variety shows, also earned a rise in interest after his well-received work in the drama Freeter Ie wo Kau (Fuji). In January and February of this year, he also took on the challenge of his first starring role in the play Gilbert Grape. Activity-wise, this past year has certainly been a very aggressive one for him.
After an increase in regular (shows) in Tokyo and individual member activities this past year, I have definitely felt our field of work expand. Depending on the program, there are some differences, but one thing I can say for sure is that we always stay "natural." In Bouken Japan! (TV Asahi), we sometimes start things off by gathering information from the locals where we're filming, and in Onegai! Ranking (also TV Asahi) we even get slapped for real (laughs). There are some differences depending on the show, but I have a feeling that every single one of our shows will never be fake. Instead, we put priority in expressing the raw emotions we feel that very moment. I aim to convey such real emotions, not as a TV personality, but as a single human being.
There's a strong sense of awareness that Kanjani8 grew up doing live concerts, so the fact we were able to have our very own countdown concerts two years in a row since '09, has given a big boost to our confidence. Last year, for the first time we were able to release a single as a band and that was also a very big deal to us. We debuted with "enka," but (playing band style) was something we've always done. Our single "Yellow Pansy Street" to be released in April, is also performed as a band, so I think Kanjani is gradually solidifying its shape this way.
An obsession with getting only "one chance"
This was way back in our Johnnys Jr. days, but we never had the chance to stand on stage unless our senpai came to Kansai for a concert. That's why I believe the importance of not letting your one chance slip away in order to survive, means a lot more to us than any others (laughs). It's like, "In order to make something ours, we'll take anything they throw at us!" (laughs). I feel people have picked up on this style of ours, and as we've been given the opportunity to do so in variety shows, our boundaries also continue to expand.
Maruyama in person is a "fun and nice guy" just as he appears in photographs. His image as seen in variety shows is similar in many ways with his portrayal of Toyokawa Teppei in last fall's drama, Freeter, Ie Wo Kau. It was from this hit drama of 2010, starring Arashi's Ninomiya Kazunari, that surely many people came to know of Maruyama.
When I first received word of this drama I was so happy! I kept thinking about how I had to some way leave a lasting impression. The moment the director told me, "Teppei is a really great guy," I was able to understand enough. People around me who had read the original book also told me, "He's very Maru-chan-like," so I enjoyed thinking about how I should portray him while acting.
At the filming locations, I would constantly, discreetly watch every move of my senpai actors (laughs). Ninomiya-san doesn't give off the impression of acting at all. Without showing signs of transforming into some other person, he so naturally slides into character. Previously, when I acted alongside Ohno (Satoshi)-san, he was also like that. You don't see them do anything to prepare getting into a role before filming commences. Yet despite that, by simply being there, their role has already taken shape and they have such presence. By witnessing it up close, I was able to think, "So that's another way to do it."
In that drama, a young man called Teppei harbors one-sided feelings for a woman, which struck a chord with many people. Attention towards Maruyama spiked; however...
Responses from the drama...? (with a troubled face) ...I try not to notice. It makes me happy when people tell me, "You did well!" but my suspicious thoughts just seem to get in the way. When I was little, the only things I was praised about was how energetic I was, and that I could run a little fast. Other than that, it was always, "Let's try a little harder next time" (laughs). I'm the type that goes, "What the heck!? Dammit!" when someone whips me into shape and tells me I need to do better.
He continues to persist, "It was the drama that was great! Please, let's leave it at that!" He apparently can't handle praise well at all, despite the fact that idols are products that thrive on being constantly told, "You're doing great!"
I believe that the most important thing in life is to satisfy yourself. If you yourself aren't satisfied, no matter how highly regarded you may be by others, it's meaningless. I'm still in the middle of studying (acting), so I'm not at the stage to even evaluate if I did well or not. At this point, all I can do is work at it until I can shake it off (laughs).
To better understand the meaning of individual projects
Last year, (member) Ohkura (Tadayoshi)-kun was in a movie (Ooku), and the way I saw individual activities, which had increased recently, began to change. Personally, I've finally only started getting more chances to act, but for the first time, I thought about how other members must have had to experience this over and over again up until now. I finally understood the meaning of having individual projects a little better. That's why I feel more strongly now than ever, that I would like to bring back and contribute to the group what I've gained outside of it.
Here he confesses, "Every year, I grow to like Kanjani more and more." It's a phrase he repeats over and over again without shame or hesitation. His appearance is that of a soft, "herbivorous boy," but judging from the love he has for his group, Maruyama Ryuhei's true face is solid and passionate.
The Great East Japan Earthquake struck right in the middle of our interview. The way he appeared at that very moment was proof that the responses he gave in this interview were not simple "textbook answers."
He's not particularly bad with words--just "bad at using words to express things, so (he) strives to put (his) words into action." If you happen to see this person in media hereafter, it may be a good idea to pay attention to his every action.