One Piece's Mackenyu Arata Is the Son of a Legendary Japanese Actor and Martial Artist
Talent sure runs in the family of Japanese star Mackenyu Arata, who returns to the limelight as Roronoa Zoro in Netflix’s hit adaptation of the manga-anime One Piece. As newer fans flock to his side, a potentially little-known fact might pop up after a quick Google search: Mackenyu actually comes from a renowned lineage, being the son of legendary actor Sonny Chiba.
Before Mackenyu came into the scene with hits like Over Drive, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, and the recent One Piece, the Japanese filmmaking industry had Sonny Chiba, an actor who earned renown as a martial artist in the ’80s and ’90s.
Known as Shinichi Chiba in Japan but born as Sadaho Maeda, the legendary star first found his footing in gymnastics, winning the National Sports Festival of Japan in his third year of high school. According to reports, he was a potential contender for a spot in the Japanese Olympic team before a back injury had halted it as a possibility.
His acting career kickstarted in the 1960s, after starring in tokusatsu superhero shows, a.k.a. live-action TV series that made use of heavy practical effects. The actor gained his first black belt under the Kyokushin Karate master Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama, who he portrayed in a series of films, starting from 1975’s Champion of Death.
Sonny gained international fame in the 1974 film The Street Fighter, playing the protagonist Takuma Tsurugi. Due to the blood and violence depicted in the movie, it was the first film released in America to earn an “X” rating. The actor’s trademark violence in his filmography would later inspire classic arcade fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
Before his retirement, Sonny also appeared in Hollywood films. This included the cult classic Quentin Tarantino-helmed Kill Bill films, where he played sushi chef and swordsmith Hattori Hanzo.
In 2006, he made his way to The Fast and The Furious franchise in Tokyo Drift as Kamata, the head of the Yakuza.
As for his personal life, the actor had wedded actress Yoko Nogiwa in 1973 and gave birth to a daughter, actress Juri Manase in 1975. The two later divorced in 1994, with Sonny marrying Tamami Chiba in 1996.
Their marriage, which lasted until 2015, gave them two sons–actors Mackenyu (born Mackenyu Maeda) and Gordon Maeda. The legendary actor passed away at the age of 82 in 2021, due to complications from the COVID-19 Delta variant.
Following in the footsteps of his father, the 26-year-old Japanese-American actor holds a diverse set of film credentials, ranging from classic action to romance films. Like his dad, he even made his mark in Hollywood in 2018’s Pacifim Rim: Uprising.