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.
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.
As much as I wanted to make this into a Top 5 like I did for the Yamabuki Team Live, I ended up with a list of six and they were all such amazing moments that I couldn’t bear to narrow it down, so I decided to leave them all here. I also couldn’t decide which of these amazing moments I liked the best, so there’s no actual ranking this time. Again, if you want to watch them for yourself (which you really should) you can download them here.
The first thing I have to say is that when this play was first announced, I was really really surprised and excited, for two reasons:
The first reason is that my degree at University was English Literature, and throughout that and having previously studied a lot during school, I really fell in love with Shakespeare’s plays. My University dissertation was also written about Shakespeare, and this play was one of the ones I referred to a lot. This was however, my first time ever seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage.
The second reason is that back when I went to Izaki’s birthday event at the end of January, my gift to him was a book about the UK which I’d added various notes to. There was a page about Shakespeare and the Globe Theater, and one of my notes had been me hoping that maybe one day he could perform in one. Although I’m in no doubt that it was pure coincidence that this happened not long afterwards, it still still felt like my dream had come true.
I’m not going to go over the plot of the play since there are about a thousand places you can probably find something like that, so let’s start by talking about the reason I was there. As soon as this play was announced, I just knew that Izaki was going to be playing Puck. There is no role in that play more suited to him than that, and he proved that on stage. Izaki has an unlimitless amount of energy and agility that meant he made running, jumping and hopping around the stage and theater look easy. He spoke to members of the audience and was able to flawelessly adlib in character based on their answers. And when he was on stage, even when the scene wasn’t his, he was often there somewhere watching. I tried not to let him distract me when he wasn’t the focus of the scene too much because I really wanted to enjoy the play as a whole, but it was really hard because his movements and facial expressions when he was watching everything unravel were gold.
Note: I was unsure whether to use the Japanese or English names in this report as I know people are generally familiar with one or the other. I decided to go with the Japanese names but I included the English names in brackets the first time I mentioned them, except for the ones that were original to the stage play.
Generally, when I go to stage plays or musicals I go because there is an actor I like in them, rather than because I like or am familiar with the source work. Sometimes though, something that I really like gets a stage play, and this was one of them. Besides being vaguely (I say vaguely because I’ve only seen him a little in Tenimyu before this) familiar with Wada Takuma, all of the other cast of this show were completely unknown to me. I am however, a huge fan of the Gyakuten Saiban/Kenji series and so I couldn’t resist going to watch this. It’s not the first stage in the series, but the first I’ve been able to see.
Being a stage based on a game I really really love, I had pretty high expectations of this play, and I’m happy to say that they were met from the moment they introduced the first scene with the date, time and location being projected onto the backdrop like they do in the games. They also used a lot of the game music as background music, which added to the atmosphere of the game.
On June 25th, I headed to Osaka to watch the stage play Shunkin-sho. Originally, I had decided not to go and see this. Having done my fair share of going to shows that weren’t really for me for the sake of one actor, I didn’t really feel like doing it again. And then the visuals were released and my plans went to hell and I immediately went out and bought a ticket. The power of Izaki Ryujiro and his face.
Upon entering the venue, we were immediately guided to another line to be given the free bromide we got due to getting the ticket through Izaki’s special general sale. This would be the first of many photos, because I then went to the goods stand and bought both of his photosets, along with 10 of the random bromides to try and trade for Izaki’s. I was lucky and got two of his myself, but the rest had to be traded. In the end, I ended up with five of his. It had been calculated that he had six, so that wasn’t bad at all. What was nice about going to the Osaka shows was that Wada wasn’t there, so there was a nice spread of fans of everyone else, which made trading much easier. What didn’t help was that I didn’t know any of the other cast member’s names, so asking people who they were searching for was a bit of an issue.
After trying and failing to see the actual show three times, I finally managed to see this show in the form of a live viewing on March 26th. Unfortunately my two close cinemas had both sold out of tickets, so I had to go to one further out. I was wondering what the atmosphere would be in a cinema so far out of the city, but the moment I walked towards the doors I saw groups of girls taking pictures of the sign outside the theater, and this one girl had a giant plushie of Iwatooshi. I figured then it was going to be okay.
I’d already watched the trial performance so I had an idea of what the show was going to be like, but it was a long time since I watched it and I had decided not to watch it again just before the show so I could get a mostly fresh view on it. Although there was a lot I remembered as it went along, there was also a lot I forgot as well, so I can mostly base this review on the new version only.
The stage set up for this musical was one of the best I think I’ve seen. With a few simple steps, a few doors and a couple of walls and panels, they created a limitless number of locations and situations all by projecting images onto the stage. It’s not the first stage I’ve seen with projections like that, but it was the first I’ve seen it used so extensively to portay different places without the need of props. Sometimes looking it at, especially the indoor scenes, I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t real. Another thing I liked was the little effects they also projected, for example to show someone swiping their sword, or someone being hit.