Mackenyu, who played Roronoa Zoro in Netflix’s live-action adaptation of One Piece, has won the hearts of fans all around the world. His cool demeanor, coupled with impeccable swordsmanship, brought Zoro to life perfectly. Born in Los Angeles with the legendary actor Sonny Chiba as his father, Mackenyu has made a name for himself thanks to his solid, geeky filmography.

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If Henry Cavill has been known for snatching iconic roles from Western media, then his closest contemporary would be Mackenyu. He has starred in adaptations of seminal works from his father’s homeland, from tokusatsu icon Kamen Rider to the recently released One Piece. With a growing fanbase and a promising future in the entertainment industry, new and existing fans of Mackenyu should definitely check out his previous work.

10 ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ (2018)

pacific-rim-uprising-mackenyu-social-featured
Image via Universal Pictures

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a sequel to Guillermo Del Toro’s original where, once again, Earth is under the threat of Kaijus, and giant robots called Jaeger, now piloted by a new generation, are called to action. The movie stars John Boyega, Cailee Spaeny, and Scott Eastwood in the lead roles.

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In his first appearance in an American production, Mackenyu starred in a minor role as Ryoichi Hatayama, who co-piloted Saber Athena, a sleek Jaeger with twin blades as its main weapon. Pacific Rim: Uprising wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, but it gave Mackenyu one of his first breaks in Hollywood, leading to meatier roles in the USA and Japan.

9 ‘Knights of the Zodiac’ (2023)

Mackenyu stars in knights of the zodiac
Image via Stage 6 Films

Knights of the Zodiac is a live-action adaptation of the popular manga and anime series Saint Seiya, created by Masami Kurumada. The movie follows an orphan who discovers he wields the responsibility to be the Pegasus Knight, a warrior for the mystical goddess Athena. Famke Janssen and Sean Bean round up the cast led by Mackenyu.

The movie was under-marketed and underseen, making it an unfortunate box office bomb in 2023. It might not be among the best live-action manga adaptations, but Knights of the Zodiac boasts impressive visuals and a solid cast. More importantly, it’s a huge stepping stone for Mackenyu as he leads his first studio film.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar is the second live-action adaptation of the beloved Fullmetal Alchemist, widely considered among the all-time best anime series. The movie was released on Netflix and stars Mackenyu as the titular Scar, an adversary to the Elric Brothers. A third movie, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Final Alchemy, was released shortly after.

The movie adaptations of Full Metal Alchemist were not well-received by critics and die-hard fans. Criticism was also directed at Mackenyu’s casting as Scar, as he was deemed too young for the role. However, the actor does a good job with the material he’s given, especially in the action sequences, which should satisfy even the most staunch detractors.

7 ‘Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable’ (2017)

Hirohiko Araki’s manga series was brought to life in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. The movie follows high school students with supernatural abilities as they battle against powerful enemies. Adapted from the fourth story arc, this movie was directed by Takashi Miike and stars Kento Yamazaki in the lead role.

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Mackenyu stars as Okuyasu Nijimura, one of two brothers who became friends with the Joestar family. The film received strong reviews, with particular praise for the visual style and action sequences. However, some criticized its slow pace while actively simplifying the famous story arc.

6 ‘Peach Girl’ (2017)

Peach Girl is a teen romantic drama comedy that follows the complicated love life of Momo Adachi, a high school student whose relationships are marred by secrets and misunderstandings. The movie was adapted from the popular eponymous shojo manga that ran for 5 years and stars Mizuki Yamamoto as Momo.

Mackenyu stars as Toji, a guy Momo has a crush on despite the rumor mill claiming otherwise. Breezy, light and cheesy, Peach Girl is arguably the Japanese equivalent of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Audiences familiar with the source material will find more entertainment value in this.

5 ’12 Suicidal Teens’ (2019)

Mackenyu (right) in 12 Suicidal Teens

Based on a novel by Tow Ubukata, 12 Suicidal Teens is a psychological thriller that follows twelve teenagers gathered at an abandoned hospital trying to find a killer amongst them. As tensions rise, they are forced to confront their pasts and decide their fates. The movie co-stars familiar faces Kotone Furukawa and Kanna Hashimoto.

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Mackenyu stars as Shinjiro, a moody teen who wants to kill himself just like the others. 12 Suicidal Teens was well-received for its intriguing plot, suspenseful atmosphere, and thought-provoking themes surrounding life, death, and personal redemption. It stands among Mackenyu’s most sobering efforts, offering a new side to his acting persona.

4 ‘Overdrive’ (2018)

Brothers Atsuhiro Hiyama and Naozumi form a racing team to conquer the local rally series and qualify for the World Rally Championship. However, they are constantly at odds until a manager joins the team. Overdrive was directed by Eiichiro Hasumi, who previously helmed the Assassination Classroom live-action films.

Mackenyu plays Naozumi, the hot-headed driver of the team. Despite being set in the racing world, the action takes a back seat as the movie prioritizes the drama and tension between the brothers. Recently, thanks to One Piece’s popularity, the movie received a much-deserved popularity boost!

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3 ‘Our 30-Minute Sessions’ (2020)

A fantasy romance film, Our 30-Minute Sessions follows Sota, who finds a mysterious tape left by recently-deceased musician Aki; when the tape is played back, Aki and Sota can switch places for 30 minutes. The movie is filled with terrific music and a plot line guaranteed to make audiences weep.

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While the movie has a body-swap element seen before commonly seen in smash hits like Your Name, Our 30-Minute Sessions goes for a deeper approach. It not only talks about closure – as Aki tries to bring his girlfriend some peace – but also agency – as Sota takes risks and jumps into new opportunities. Mackenyu delivers one of his most soulful performances in the film, and, yes, he also sings.

2 ‘Chihayafuru Trilogy’ (2016 – 2018)

The Chihayafuru movies are based on the popular eponymous manga and anime. They revolve around the competitive world of karuta, a traditional Japanese card game that blends elements of poetry, strategy, and quick reflexes. The movies feature an ensemble cast led by Suzu Hirose, who previously starred in a couple of acclaimed movies by director Hirokazu Koreeda.

Mackenyu got his big break in Japan through the first film, where he played Arata Wataya, a karuta prodigy. He received positive notices for his role, winning the Newcomer of the Year award in the 2017 Japan Academy Film Prize ceremony. Chihayafuru marked a significant step forward in Mackenyu’s career, proving his talent and versatility.

1 ‘Rurouni Kenshin: The Final’ (2021)

Chronologically, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final is the conclusion of the series. The movie pits the legendary swordsman Kenshin Himura with his toughest foe yet, Enishi Yukishiro, played by Mackenyu. The movie was followed by a much more personal prequel titled Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning, released just over two months later.

Mackenyu’s chaotic Enishi serves as a direct opposite to Kenshin’s calm and composed character. He excels in the villainous role, blending charisma with wickedness. The movie also features some of the best sword-fighting in modern cinema, which must have been useful for Mackenyu as he portrayed the equally skillful Zoro in One Piece.

NEXT: The 10 Best Anime To Watch if You Love Netflix’s ‘One Piece’

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