On January 28th, I was finally able to sit in the theatre and watch Ensemble Stars on Stage: Take your Marks. I was so excited for this stage. I was so invested in the cast, fell in love with every single one of them while keeping up with them from the beginning of rehearsals and even before. All I wanted was to be in that theater seeing them live on stage. Two weeks ago, I took a weekend trip to Tokyo to attempt to get same day tickets for all four shows that weekend, and came away having not seen it at all due to the sheer number of people trying the lottery.
Although I tried to put a positive spin on it (I bought all my goods orders, traded for all the random photos I wanted, and was able to have time to go and try the stage collab at Karatetsu) it honestly hurt a lot. It was cold, and so disheartening standing outside in a huge line knowing there was probably no chance of a ticket. It hurt standing in line surrounded by people who had already seen the stage and were talking about it while trying to get another ticket, when I just wanted to see it once. It hurt when I could hear the show going on inside when I was buying goods. When I went for my last round of karaoke on the final evening after failing for the 4th time, I was crying singing ballad songs that weren’t even from the show. So yes, no matter what I might have said, it hurt. It hurt so much that I spent a lot of money on a resale ticket for one more Osaka show, just so I could see it twice.
So, finally having those tickets in my hand and knowing I didn’t have to wait in an impossible line, made it the best day for me before I had even gone inside. Before heading into the show, I bought my remaining goods orders as well as finally getting my own goods, picking up the pamphlet and clearfile I got for having a premium ticket, and handing over all of the gifts I’d received from the fan project. I was at the gift table a long time because they had to check the names were on everything, but it was so nice to be handing them over knowing I had made this happen and that the cast would be getting letters from all over the world. I’m so grateful to the people who took part (which I’ll post later on the Tumblr). I also handed over my own letters and gift for Kazuma and Akira.
My first seat was on the 23rd row, 3 seats from an aisle. I didn’t expect the cast to come all the way up there, but they did, so I had a great view of them in that aisle! My second seat was a premium seat on the 8th row right in the centre of the theater. Although I was right in the middle of the block, I could see both aisles really well and they use that part of the theater a LOT when walking around. It was worth every yen of the huge price I paid for the resale ticket. I have no regrets.
While the first stage followed Trickstar coming together as a group, training and improving themselves and managing to get some success, the second stage is a lot more emotional and follows what happens when the group fall apart. After their win at the Dream Festival in the first stage, they receive a note calling them to Eichi’s school council office where Eichi tries to convince them that they’d be better off disbanding and each joining already successful units, rather than having to work so hard to make their dream come true together.
The stage follows three of them struggling with what to do and eventually deciding to try out the other units, while Subaru tries desperately to keep the four of them together. Hokuto goes off to see what life is like with Fine, while Mao heads to Akatsuki and Makoto to Knights. The story is basically a conflict between the other members and Subaru and them figuring out what it is that they want. Actually the end is kind of ambiguous, which means I’m expecting a continuation..
- The stage set-up was a little similar to the first one, but the stairs were fixed in place. The background on both levels could open up to reveal hidden areas behind. As before they used projections onto the stage to show the setting of the scene.
- The whole theater and the audience was used much in the same way to the first stage. They’d walk through the aisles, talked to audience members (yes, Subaru asked about three different people for money) and generally treated the whole room like their stage.
- Before each show, a different cast member would do the announcements through a mike from backstage. For the two shows I saw it was Ryo (Chiaki) and Ren (Subaru).
- When the intermission started there was this recorded message from Wataru talking about what an amazing performance it had been so far. You could hear it all over the theater even in the lobby… and in the bathroom, which was where I heard it from.
- There were two original stage songs in this play! One was a ballad sung by Trickstar called Wish upon a Stars which was so beautiful and the way it was performed was amazing (each of the members were alone, but were singing together). The second was a song for Fine called Perfect World which was also a great song! Aside from those songs, they repeated the unit songs for Trickstar, 2Wink, UNDEAD and Akatsuki from the first stage as their introductions, as well as giving them each a new song as well. By the way, I don’t know if anyone watched the video for the dance for the encore song, but it was so difficult! I tried to do it all but I gave up halfway through.
- For the ending Ren would choose a different cast member each time to make a speech. We got Shoichi (Midori) who is absolutely useless at speeches and had Taiga on his arm helping him to do his best. Then the evening show was Ryo (Chiaki) who was far more confident.
What made this stage extra special to me was that I took the time to really get to know all of the cast beforehand. I’ve never watched a stage where I’ve known every single member of the cast that well, and it was really nice. Because of this, I feel like I’m able to talk about each one of their performances individually.
Ozawa Ren (Akehoshi Subaru)
Firstly, Ren’s voice is so loud compared with the rest of the cast. Even when he was making his announcements from backstage through the mike it sounded ridiculously loud. I don’t see this as a bad thing, but I was shocked how much louder it sounded in person even from hearing him on DVD. I think Ren had a harder job in this show, because there were less smiles and a lot more emotion to play, but he did it with all of the passion I would expect from him. He had some really emotional scenes with the other members of his group and also with other units as well, and all of them were played really well, especially the one he did with Ikkei (Hokuto) which I talked about below. There was this moment where he got so serious with him he actually called him Hokuto instead of Hokke and that’s when you knew things were bad. I loved these guys so much.
Yamamoto Ikkei (Hidaka Hokuto)
Ikkei’s Hokuto was one of the highlights of the first stage for me, and he definitely didn’t disappoint this time round. The amount of over-acting and different faces this guy can do is beyond incredible and I challenge anyone not to fall 100% in love with everything that he is after watching either stage. Like Ren, he had a harder time this time, and Hokuto was one of the ones who displayed the most internal anguish about parting from Trickstar. In the most emotional scene, which had everyone in the audience in tears, Hokuto says, “Thanks to you, Subaru – no, thanks to Trickstar – I became able to enjoy being an idol a little more.” After all the stupid, funny things Ikkei’s Hokuto did up until this point, he was able to switch into this deadly serious mode, and there was no wonder everyone in the room was crying.
Matsumura Taiichiro (Yuuki Makoto)
Makoto’s first defining moment in this stage was saving the lives of his group-mates by managing to use his glasses to catch the blade of Souma’s sword. Unfortunately after that his role got a little less prominent in my opinion, mostly due to the fact that the group he was sent to join wasn’t actually in the stage. All of the Trickstar members had a lot of alone time in this stage, but poor Makoto had more than the others. His anguish over staying with Knights or focusing on his modelling career was combined with him spending most of the time hiding from Izumi.
Tanimizu Riki (Isara Mao)
I felt like Riki got a lot more chances to shine in this stage than the first one. In the first stage I felt like he was very over-shadowed by the other members of the group, but with them all split apart, he had a lot more chance to do his own thing on the stage. We got to see him in his basketball uniform, and we got to see this slightly angry more bratty Mao as he preferred to ignore Subaru and just leave rather than having to have a difficult conversation with him. My favourite surprise relationship was between Mao and Kuro. Kuro really took him in as a new member of Akatsuki, helping measure him for an outfit and protecting him when Souma wasn’t quite so happy with the arrangement.
Maeyama Takahisa (Tenshouin Eichi)
What a sneaky guy, honestly. I can’t say I like him that much as a character but he sure did a great job of messing everything up and making for a great story. I honestly don’t have much to say about him… I was watching Wataru too much to pay attention. I’M SORRY.
Yasui Kazuma (Hibiki Wataru)
My favourite, of course. What can I even say. I went into the theater 100% in love with Yasui Kazuma and I came out 10000% in love, if that’s even possible. I could have cried just seeing him there on the stage (I think I almost did). Someone told me before the stage that Kazuma wasn’t pretty enough to be Wataru, and I can confirm that is most definitely incorrect. His voice, look, and movements were all perfect to me, and he got a lot of the spotlight and a lot of laughs.
He had a mini magic show where he produced Eichi out of nowhere, and then started producing random flowers and finally just petals from all over the place. and just throwing them at people, and all anyone could complain about was the mess he was making. He also spent a lot of time stalking poor Hokuto who did not want him anywhere near him, and generally being obnoxiously fabulous all over the stage at every opportunity. When the cast left the stage at the end to let Trickstar do their final bows, he would just not go away and he was still in the corner flailing his arms around when the group had already started bowing.
I’m so excited for other people to see his ~AMAZING PERFORMANCE!~
Everyone else got one paragraph. He basically got three. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.
Nozaki Yutaka (Fushimi Yuzuru)
I have to say, honestly, Yutaka didn’t exactly get a lot to do. He spent most of the time standing beside Eichi’s desk and doing and saying nothing until Tori said something he shouldn’t when he would suddenly jump into action and clamp his hand over his mouth. However, I was impressed with his singing voice and his dancing, and there was this amazing part where Wataru was trying to get back his flowers that Yuzuru had just cleaned up and he had such a dead-pan face when he was turning away to stop Wataru’s hand from getting in his box. Yutaka and Kazuma are in the same group in real life so it was nice to see they had these little moments together.
Hoshimoto Yuzuki (Himemiya Tori)
My main surprise when Yuzuki first spoke was how much lower his voice was than I expected. I think he spoke a little lower than Tori does in the game but he definitely still had that boyish cute tone to his voice, so it worked well regardless. It just didn’t match what I envisioned with that pretty face he has. Like Yutaka, he didn’t exactly have a lot to do, but he did spend a lot of time with his head against Eichi’s chest being stroked on the head like a cat, and the rest of the time he was mostly complaining like the little brat that he is. I had a lot of people ask me about his performance and I think if you like Tori or Yuzuki or both you won’t be disappointed, but just don’t expect him to have much a focus because basically Fine was all about Eichi and Wataru in this stage.
Akazawa Ryotaro (Ogami Koga)
I really love Ryotaro and his Koga, and even though UNDEAD didn’t play as big a role in this stage as the first one, he still got plenty of moments all to himself. His relationship with Rei was as amazing as ever and there was lots of arguing over whether or not he was a puppy, and there was this moment where Rei had his arm around his neck and everyone in the audience basically went wild. There was also this amazing part where he started barking and growling at the twins and they tried to do it back but because he was far more scary, they ran off and he followed. Then from backstage there was like this tiny little puppy bark from him.
Kominami Koji (Sakuma Rei)
I have to admit that although I really love Koji, I don’t understand Rei at all and I can’t really say I’m a fan of him, he was the Rei you would expect him today. With not being such a big focus in the stage, UNDEAD had a lot more of a comedy role in this stage but he really didn’t do much except for walk around the place. Most of what he did I mentioned above anyway. I wish I had more to say about him because I know everyone loves him, but he just kind of stood there being Rei.I remember him collapsing at some point but I don’t remember why.
Okutani Chihiro (Hakaze Kaoru)
On a shallow note, I have been a huge fan of Chihiro’s face since I watched the first stage and so that was nice to see in person. On a character note, Kaoru was acually hilarious in this stage. He spent most of the time wandering around the audience and flirting with everyone, while Koga stood on stage watching him and complaining about how he didn’t understand him at all. His defining moment was forgetting Koga’s name and Koga was super mad because not only did HE NOT UNDERSTAND THIS GUY he didn’t even know his name. But all the girls love him, so~
Akira (Otogari Adonis)
I love Akira so much and seeing him on stage was one of the things I was most looking forward to in this stage. He didn’t really even have to do anything, he could have just stood in a corner and I would have sat watching him and being happy. Adonis spent most of the stage hanging out with Souma (hey, those purple haired dudes have to stick together) and god I wish he had done more because I really want to talk about him some more but he didn’t do much, so let’s just say he was perfect as always and I enjoyed watching him. Oh and I didn’t mention that I was so happy to see them perform Melody in the Dark and hear Adonis talking about protecting cute things. That’s basically it.
Ueda Kandai (Kiryu Kuro)
When I watched the first stage and didn’t really know the actors, I was a little iffy on Kandai’s face in character, but having gotten to know him I found out what a sweet guy and amazing senpai he is, and so it’s easy to overlook anything else for me now. Actually, the moment he appeared on stage was when I was finally like, “wow I’m actually here watching this stage”. He has such an overpowering presence on the stage and it’s hard to focus on anything else when he’s there. When he was in the centre of the stage at the ends of their songs I was right in his line of sight when I was in my 8th row seat, and it was really scary. In the encore song Seiya (Tetora) jumped on his back and the poor old man looked like he was broken.
Komatsu Junya (Hasumi Keito)
I find Keito a little boring as a character and all I really remember him doing was being glued to Eichi’s side. I think it would have been a little more interesting if they’d actually spent some real time together and actually talked (since they know each other so well and everything) but Eichi was way too busy ruining people’s lives to do anything like that. I really like Junya but I wish he played a more interesting character.
Higuchi Yuta (Kanzaki Souma)
If you were hoping to see more of the ridiculous, quirky sword-happy guy from the first stage then you will not be disappointed. Every single thing he did in the entire stage was pure gold. I had the privilege of being three seats away from a poor girl in the audience he decided to pull his sword on, and it really was a privilege. I’m just glad it wasn’t me. My favourite moment of his was during Mao’s scene joining Akatsuki where Souma was so unhappy about the entire situation that he decided it’d be best to kill himself with his sword. He threatened it by putting his sword against his stomach and saying he was going to do it and when he looked round at Kuro, he didn’t try to stop him so he threatened it about three more times. What an attention seeker.
Saeki Ryo (Morisawa Chiaki)
This guy has SO. MUCH. ENERGY. He was the kind of guy who would come on stage and you would feel excited just because he was so excited. He really was the typical sentai leader, kind of hot headed and wild, and Ryo suited it perfectly! He and Subaru had an awesome relationship too. He was also the only character who managed to get his own call. Morisawa! \CHIAKI!/ which was a lot of fun.
Ishii Yuki (Shinkai Kanata)
What a weird weird dude, but I can’t imagine anyone could have played him better than Yuki! He did an amazing job playing such a strange person, and I could have watched him standing there swaying around like a fish forever. RYUSEITAI in general had a huge influence on Subaru, but Kanata has this amazing little part in one of the later scenes where he really has this innocent little heart-to-heart with Subaru that makes a lot of sense to him.
Konishi Seiya (Nagumo Tetora)
Thanks to the first stage, Tetora is one of my favourite characters. This time unfortunately he was a little overshadowed by the other members of his unit, but that’s perfectly understandable given how much spotlight he had to himself in the first one. He was still his adorable self and as enthusiastic ever, and he has a really blinding smile up close. He still stands as my favourite of RYUSEITAI even with all of the other members there, and I fall in love with Konishi Seiya more and more every second.
Murakawa Shoichi (Takamine Midori)
This was Shoichi’s debut stage, and he was also the first person to step ON the stage, which is a hard thing to do. I barely knew who his character was in the game and he turned into RYUSEITAI’s highlight for me. I f you’ve seen the pictures of him backstage in character with that long-suffering look on his face, you may wonder if he could keep that face up all the time. He could, and he did. His most over-used phrase was “I want to die”. He spent most of the stage in a corner quietly complaining how he didn’t want to do it or how he couldn’t do it or how everything was just so embarrassing.
Fukazawa Taiga (Sengoku Shinobu)
This kid could not keep still and it was amazing. He was forever tense and worried about something. When RYUSEITAI members individually introduced themselves they would get into their pose and stay there. Shinobu was second to last, and Midori did not want to do his intro. Shinobu had to stay one-legged in his pose while trying to persuade Midori to come and join in and he was wobbling all over the place. He just kept muttering under his breath “this pose is tough…” Poor kid.
Yamanaka Shota/Yamanaka Kenta (Aoi Yuuta/Aoi Hinata)
I didn’t feel the need to talk about these guys individually because obviously they are basically one person anyway, so I’ll talk about them as a pair. I had their first song Sugar and Spice (used for their introduction, which was also in the first stage) in my head for the whole evening. It’s a catchy song and it was a lot of fun to watch in person, as was their other song. I’m not particularly a fan of them as a unit, but they had that same kind of cheeky presence as they did in the first stage. They particularly liked to pick on Makoto this time and sneakily gained his trust and led them right into UNDEAD. When they were performing suddenly I had to pick a twin because I only had one penlight, and blue was the first one to come up so I guess I was a Hinata fan for the day…
And that’s basically it! I’m so happy that I encountered this game and then encountered the stage. Not only was I introduced to an amazing cast and especially Yasui Kazuma who I am so deeply in love with it’s kind of scary, I was also introduced to so many awesome people through running the blog for the stage! Thank you, Ensemble Stars on Stage. Hopefully we can meet again some day.