Most people who know me know I’m as much a Broadway junkie as well as I am an anime junkie, as the reference to Billy Elliot in one of my initial posts may have suggested. I come from a family of Broadway fanatics who travel to New York City every other year to check out new shows. However, I’d like to point out that I am in no way an expert on Japan’s musical theater culture, so If I make any errors, I encourage people to please feel free to correct me.
A bronze statue of Oscar and Andre on Hana no michi (Flower Avenue) in Takarazuka, Hyōgo. (Wikipedia)
While discussing the New Code Geass Project in the February 2010 issue of Newtype, Code Geass producer Yoshitaka Kawaguchi mentioned in passing that he and director Goro Taniguchi would be interested in adapting Code Geass as a stage musical. It’s far from a definite thing, but it wouldn’t be a new concept. Anime-themed musicals have been around as far back as 1974, when Takarazuka Revue, a group of all-female acting troupes, made a name for themselves with their adaption of Rose of Versailles. The troupe has since done multiple different adaptations of Rose of Versailles and continues to perform it today. The actresses are split into five troupes depending on their style and skills: Flower Troupe performs big budget, operatic shows, Moon Troupe does modern musicals and dramas, Snow Troupe specializes in traditional Japanese dance and opera, Star Troupe is known for having actresses who play strong otokoyaku (male) roles, and Cosmos Troupe is more experimental. Each troupe has done at least two adaptations of Rose of Versailles. The video below is from a 1989 Snow Troupe performance focusing on the relationship between Oscar and Andre, with Andre as the lead.
Other manga adaptations by Takarazuka Revue have included Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack and Phoenix. Last year, the troupe came out with an adapatdation of Phoenix Wright.
Osamu Tezuka, who grew up in Takarazuka, inspired Princess Knight off of elements from Takarazuka Revue plays he’d seen, and Princess Knight later went on to inspire other series with females in traditionally male roles, such as Rose of Versailles and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Sakura Wars was heavily inspired by Takarazuka Revue, and the Zuka club in Ouran High School Host Club is a loose parody of the troupe. A 1997 stage production of Revolutionary Girl Utena, “Comedie Musicale Utena la fillette révolutionnaire,” featured a Takarazuka-style cast.
Flyer from the 2004 Musical (Wikipedia)
Better known in the West is the Sailor Moon musicals, more popularly known as Sera Myu. The musicals spanned 12 years and three “stages” used to define the central casts and themes of the show at that time. You probably won’t ever see it on Broadway or the West End, but there are amateur productions floating around the West.
The performance below features second stage actress Miyuki Kanbe as Sailor Moon. Kanbe died of heart failure in 2008.
The number of anime-themed musicals have increased in the past decade, with three Hunter x Hunter musicals from 2000 to 2002, several Princes of Tennis musicals from 2003 to 2007, an ongoing series of Bleach musicals that began in 2005, and a one-shot Air Gear musical in January 2007.
So what’s the chance on any of these shows getting the Broadway treatment? Right now I’d say slim to none, but animation isn’t foreign to Broadway and comics aren’t far off. Shows like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and even Shrek have been phenomenal hits. An adaptation of The Addams Family based more on the original comics from The New Yorker than anything in the TV series, cartoon or movies will be making its Broadway premiere in March. Julie Taymor, the creative mind behind The Lion King musical, is currently working on getting Spider-Man to the stage. So, who knows?
Until that day comes, please enjoy this commercial for the short-lived Pokemon Live!
Takeshi Kaga, who played Soichiro Yagami in the Death Note live action movies, but is probably better known for playing Chairman Kaga on Iron Chef, got his start playing Jesus in the original Japanese production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
True story. When I was little I totally believed Chairman Kaga and the backstory on Kitchen Stadium preceding every episode of Iron Chef was real. I can see more ludicrous things that a bazillionaire would spend his money on then a televised kitchen auditorium where competitors compete against professional chefs of varying areas of expertise to cook a mystery meal for a panel of judges in front of a live studio audience. Allez cuisine! The Japan Girl