Let’s get this out of the way to begin with. I must be honest and say that I went into this musical on the first day with completely the wrong attitude, which I feel a little bad about now. Even with all the understanding in the world for the reasons behind it, I was very upset when the Hyotei musical was announced and I found out that Akutsu was not going to be a returning character but that the rest of Yamabuki would. I think it would have been easier for me if none of them had returned, but knowing that they would be there when he wasn’t put me on a negative right from the beginning. I had grown to love both character and actor so much during the Yamabuki run to the point where he had almost become Tenimyu for me, and thinking of him not being there was tough. I couldn’t bring myself to be excited about new characters or new songs, even when people around me were excited, and I couldn’t even bring myself to be sad over the announcement about Seigaku’s graduation. I feel bad for the people who had to suffer through my endless complaining on Twitter.
So, the first show. I went in there in a somewhat bitter mood expecting not to enjoy it. At first, my fears were somewhat confirmed. After the first intermission, Yamabuki have a song as a team, and I was so used to seeing Akutsu in their group songs that I almost cried when he didn’t come in halfway through and ruin their happy melody. Then during Taka’s match with Kabaji, Akutsu’s voice suddenly echoed through the room. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it shocked me so much that I actually did cry a little. After that though, I felt better. Even though he wasn’t there, he still was, in a way. Even the second time, and every time after that, it really got to me, but I grew to look forward to hearing his voice. Even though I still can’t quite accept it without him there, I really did grow to love a lot about this musical, so I’ll forget the bad feelings now and move onto that.
Did they really have to begin the musical with the intro to Lucky Sengoku? That’s just a personal feeling given my dislike of the character and that the song makes me want to punch someone in the face, but really now. As if I wasn’t already on enough of a downer (don’t take me too seriously by the way). However, I do really like the opening by Yamabuki and the random little changes they made to it depending on the show.
I’m not so fond of All for Tennis as an opening song as I am of previous ones, but it was intense and worked well and Kazuki sings the title solo at one point and I could listen to that part over and over. And the Trio’s performances was one of my favourites so far even though I kept expecting one of them to drive their desk right off the front of the stage. The control they had over those things was pretty impressive.
I’ve heard several people say that the first act dragged a lot. Not much happens, I’ll admit. Actually, not much happens and yet a lot happens because the whole first act is almost all short scenes back to back and sometimes even two at once. One of the parts I liked most in the first act was the part where Kaidoh is in the background practicing with the towel in the water, and during this time they have several short scenes with most of the other characters. I loved that they used what Kaidoh was doing in the background and his gradual improvement to show the passage of time throughout the week, I felt like it allowed them to do a lot but not waste too much time.
Of course, we also get the first glimpse of Hyotei in this act and it was as overly dramatic and weird as I expected. The moment their stands kind of rolled forwards and parted at the shonichi, everyone laughed but really everyone just wanted to see what they were like. There’s also the scene with Shishido and Taki, and I had that song in my head for the longest time without remembering where it was from. The song is memorable, the scene not so much. And the guy who plays Shishido looks awful in that long wig. I didn’t feel like the scene added much to the whole musical in general, though.
I laughed a lot when Shun did Oishi’s solo in the St. Rudolph musical because he had to move a lot and he cannot sing and move at the same time, but when just being able to sit there and sing this time he sounded amazing and got a huge applause to match. Him and Reo did a great job with harmonising too. The first time I heard it, I teared up because it sounded nice and everyone’s reactions were incredible. And of course, Oishi is my second favourite character and so it’s always nice to see him getting some spotlight.
The first act ends with Hyotei’s second song. The stage set up is super creepy like Hyotei is some kind of haunted house and I’m not really sure where they were going with that. But the song is decent enough and Miura Hiroki’s ballet skills are to be greatly admired. I couldn’t stop watching him so I have no idea what anyone else was doing.
The second act is where everything really gets started and it is basically jammed full of tennis from beginning to end. Though the drama and reasons behind everything was far more interesting to me than any of the actual tennis.
First we had Golden Trio vs Gakuto and Oshitari and god Gakuto needs to shut up and stop being such a diva. But of course the biggest diva of the day goes to Oishi Shuichiro who managed to stupidly injure himself and yet somehow still manage to steal the spotlight (like literally, he even got to stand above everyone else on a block). The most genius moment was them using the backdrop to give Oishi a whole street to run down on his way to the match. It was so funny and I laughed every time. I was really glad that they kept the song too since everyone had been saying how much they wanted them to keep it. And it really is a good song.
Then, we get the second of the doubles matches. I decided early on that my favourite character in Hyotei was Shishido. Before the musical I had two different people tell me he was the one I would probably like, and I did. And because they’re basically joined at the hip I also grew to appreciate Chotaro a lot too. Though, I found their actual match a little boring at times. Sometimes I just want to tell Inui to stop with all the math and just get on and play some tennis. And I didn’t really care for Kaidoh flailing all over the place so that Inui could do his thing. The one thing this match had going for it was it’s lovely doubles song which was in my head forever afterwards. It was nice to have a doubles song that didn’t involve the Golden Pair.
Taka vs Kabaji was my low point of this act. I have better things to do than watch two guys have a fist fight with tennis balls and scream at each other. It got to the point where I didn’t even care about the outcome of the match, I just wanted the floor to stop vibrating from all the smashes. That’s all I have to say on that one.
But my surprise was with how much I enjoyed Fuji and Jiroh’s match which was the last of the 2nd act. As a character, I don’t have any particular feelings for Fuji either way, but I love it when he plays tennis. His match with Mizuki from Seigaku vs St. Rudolph is one of my favourites, and it was nice to watch him play singles again and do all his awesome genius stuff, no matter how little sense it makes to me. I enjoyed Jiroh’s reactions to it all, especially when he was looking down his t-shirt for the ball, and also enjoyed watching the rest of Hyotei, especially Gakuto, gradually losing the will to live over his antics. Out of the four matches in this section, this one was my favourite.
One of the main things that disappointed me in general with this musical is that I didn’t really find most of the actual matches very interesting. And then, in the third act we get Atobe vs Tezuka which made it into my favourite matches after I saw it only once. So, Atobe. Let’s talk about that dude. I expected not to like him and in a way I don’t. He’s not the kind of character I like at all with all that arrogance. However, possibly thanks to Miura Hiroki who is 100% beautiful, I do appreciate watching him on stage (especially when he’s dancing) and I enjoyed watching this solo far more than the previous ones. I think I have the same relationship with him as I do with Echizen Ryoma. I can appreciate them despite not liking them because their actors play them so well. Not that I like Hiroki like I like Kazuki (does that even make sense?)
Anyway, apparently I like my tennis matches full of drama and tension and intensity, and this match has it in bucketloads. We were lucky enough to have second row seats for the last show in Nagoya, and seeing the intensity on both of their faces was amazing (as was watching the two Atobe fans in front of us almost having a heart attack every time he came to the front of the stage). I love the songs performed during the match. Atobe’s solo was enjoyable enough, but their duet/singing over each other starting off with the acapella part gave me chills and is one of the parts I’ll most be looking forward to on the soundtrack.
I also gained appreciation for Tezuka as an actual human being. I love Zaiki a lot, but I’d never been able to find anything in Tezuka that I liked, but I really felt for him watching him suffer on the court for the sake of his team. Zaiki played it really well and I could see the pain on his face through the entire thing. I was really impressed by his acting. It’s been pretty hard to judge in the past since Tezuka doesn’t have much variation in facial expressions.
Then after all of the matches it comes down to Ryoma to win once again. The whole match is so abstractly done compared with the structure of the others, which was kind of refreshing actually. There was no net and no stands, just the two of them battling it out on stage while singing and having others join them. It was nice that everyone, including Yamabuki, got the chance to perform in that section. It hit me when I was watching it that this would be the last time I would see Kazuki as Ryoma playing a match on stage, and so I spent the whole match just watching him. As much as I’m really not fond of Ryoma as a character, Kazuki is amazing to watch on stage and he made the character bearable for me. Also, on an unrelated and more shallow note the actor who plays Hiyoshi is really pretty.
The last three songs of the musical (before the encore) at the Nagoya senshuuraku were basically one big sob fest, Tomorrow for You and I and then Do Your Best, followed by Seigaku’s Graduation Song. Half of us in the audience were in tears by the end and so was Kazuki on stage. I hate to think how much worse it will be at the final song. The graduation song has such sad lyrics but it sounds really nice and I’m looking forward to hearing it again (if they can actually manage to sing over all of their tears).
Finally, the usual encore song Shakariki Fight-o Bunbun. I have to say my luckiest show was Nagoya’s Saturday night show. We were sitting one row back from one of the centre aisles, and we happened to be sitting behind all of Miura Hiroki’s relatives… who all left as soon as the curtain call finished (which I thought was kind of rude, but whatever). Which basically meant we had a perfect view of the aisle where a bunch of them stopped. Thinking about it I don’t actually remember who stopped there, but we had a great view of whoever it was. We also had a great view of Sana happily bowing to all of his own relatives who were in the next block.
When I left I really didn’t want it to be my last time seeing the Seigaku boys on stage, so I’m probably going to attempt tojitsuken on the day before the last show when I’m in Tokyo anyway. Maybe I’ll get to see them one more time after all.