It’s been two years since the tragic death of Haruma Miura. The popular actor, known for movies such as The Eternal Zero and Attack on Titan, was taken far too soon on this day in 2020. A multi-talented individual, he also performed as a singer, releasing his debut single a year before his passing. In this month’s Spotlight article, we look back at Miura’s distinguished career and pick out some of his most memorable roles.
Miura was born on April 5, 1990 in Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Encouraged by his parents, he joined the Tsukuba Actors’ Studio at the age of four and made his first television appearance three years later in the NHK drama Agri. During his time at the studio, he established the dance group, Brash Brats with two fellow students. When the studio closed, the three of them signed with Amuse, one of the biggest talent agencies in the country.
Miura’s silver screen debut came aged nine in Masato Harada’s political flick Jubaku: Spellbound and not too long after, he landed his first movie starring role in Masao Kawai’s film, Mori no Gakko (Forest School). With the teenager’s acting career going from strength to strength, he didn’t have enough time to focus on Brash Brats so the group went on an indefinite hiatus. After that, Miura’s reputation continued to grow thanks to standout performances in dramas such as Fight, 14-Sai no Haha (Mother at 14) and Gokusen.
Teenage Years: Sky of Love and Bloody Monday
The film that took his stardom to another level, though, was Koizora (Sky of Love). Playing Hiro, a former delinquent with bleached blond hair, he falls for Mika (Yui Aragaki) after finding her cellphone in the school library. He then pretends to lose interest after discovering he has cancer. Miura and Aragaki both picked up Newcomer of the Year awards at the 31st Japan Academy Prize for their performances in the film.
A year after Koizora, Miura was selected for the starring role in the TBS drama, Bloody Monday. Based on a popular manga series, the story centers around Miura’s character Fujimaru, a genius high school student and hacker who gets drafted by Third-I (the Japanese equivalent of the CIA) to help stop a group of terrorists’ intent on hitting Tokyo with a biological weapon. It was one of Japan’s biggest television hits of 2008.
Early 20s: From Me to You and The Eternal Zero
Miura was now very much a man in demand, particularly when it came to productions targeting young women. He was the natural choice to play Shota in Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You), a romantic drama based on Karuho Shiina’s manga of the same name. An outgoing and popular high school student, he falls for the class outcast, Sawako (Mikako Tabe). However, their relationship is soon threatened by Ume (Mirei Kiritani), an admirer of Shota. The movie was a huge hit with female viewers who outnumbered their male counterparts by a ratio of 22:3.
Proving he was far more than just a heartthrob, Miura won critical acclaim, and a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Japan Academy Prize for his performance as Kentaro, an aspiring lawyer who discovers his maternal grandfather was a Kamikaze pilot, in Takashi Yamazaki’s controversial war film, Eien no Zero (The Eternal Zero). Though warmly received by audiences in Japan, the movie was criticized for its nationalistic message. Hayao Miyazaki felt it was “just continuing a phony myth,” about the war.
Mid-20s: Five Minutes to Tomorrow and Attack on Titan
Expanding his horizons, Miura’s first foreign language-speaking part came in Isao Yukisada’s Japanese-Chinese production, Mayonaka no Gofun Mae (Five Minutes to Tomorrow). The romantic suspense film centers around Miura’s character, a clockmaker named Ryo and his relationship with a pair of mysterious twins, both played by Cecilia Liu. Miura, who started learning Mandarin a few months before filming, was commended for his acting and Chinese accent. As a result, he garnered a legion of news fans across the sea.
In terms of international appeal, however, it was the two Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) films that had the biggest impact on Miura’s career. He took on the role of protagonist Eren, who joins the scouting legion in order to get revenge on the enormous humanoids known as titans after they kill everyone in his town. Based on one of the most successful manga and anime series of all-time, the movies garnered a lot of attention around the globe, though received mixed reviews from both critics and fans.
Late 20s to Early 30s: Stage and Music Career
Away from the cameras, Miura also impressed audiences with his stage presence in musicals and plays. He won the Haruko Sugimura award for his starring role as Lola in Kinky Boots in 2016, a part he reprised in 2019. That same year he was cast as Rodion in the theatrical production of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel, Crime and Punishment. Arguably the deepest character Miura ever played, Rodion is a nihilist who justifies the murder of pawnbroker Alyona (and her disabled sister) on utilitarian grounds, claiming he released a “louse” from society. As the story develops, though, an internal struggle takes place in the antihero’s soul.
Also in 2019, Miura released his debut single, “Fight for Your Heart.” It featured in the Japanese version of the Korean series, Two Weeks, which he also starred in. On his 30th birthday in April 2020, Miura told fans about his second release, “Night Diver” via an Instagram live-feed. The single debuted at number two on both the Oricon and Japan Hot 100 charts. Part of the proceeds from the song went to Lao Friends Hospital for Children. The donation was made via Friends Without A Border Japan, a nonprofit organization that assists the charity event ‘Act Against AIDS,’ which Miura supported annually.
Miura’s Death and Legacy
Tragically by the time “Night Diver” was released, Miura had passed away. The multi-talented star was found hanged in his apartment on July 18, 2020. The police concluded that it was death by suicide. He was just 30. Some online sites, e-books and social media posts called on authorities to reinvestigate his death, believing he didn’t take his own life. This has been strongly denied by Amuse. The talent agency listed some of those spreading the unfounded rumors on its website.
Productions featuring Miura continued to be released after his death, including the second feature film in the Confidence Man JP series, Episode of the Princess. Yuko Takeuchi, who passed away two months after Miura, also made an appearance in the movie. In late 2020, the Kinky Boots team released a special 21-minute video dedicated to Miura. It begins with a tribute from Cyndi Lauper: “Haruma will forever be an important part of the Kinky Boots family. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. He will be so missed.” His army of fans no doubt wholeheartedly concur.