Cartoons enjoy a more normalized place in Japanese culture, what with businessmen reading comics during subway commutes and such. Apparently, though, stage musicals based on ‘toons enjoy that same place, too. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark may have had a run on Broadway, and nobody’s liable to forget Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of their Shells tour, but based on this sampling, one must conclude that anime-derived shows are staged way, way more often across the Pacific.
No matter how seemingly impractical and… weird the subject matter may be, nothing can keep these wide-eyed heroes from their moment in the spotlight. Scroll down and see your questions of “How could that ever work on stage?” get continually confounded.
Don’t they all look so tough in this cast photo? Now, picture them dancing. Granted, there’s plenty of theatricality to these junior ninjas’ smoke-and-mirrors tricks already. After a successful run throughout Asia, this adaptation of Naruto‘s first 27 volumes returns to Japanese theaters with the addition of that hot-blooded wannabe, Rock Lee. Should any readers find themselves nearby, tickets for the show are already available on the official site’s English language page. Act now, before Naruto Live! vanishes in a puff of smoke!
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Those wondering how stagecraft can handle giant mech suits should take anther look at War Horse and The Lion King. Rod puppets can go a long way, pal. Sadly, there’s only a brief promo clip of this spiral-powered saga’s adaptation online. The production’s official site does offer a plethora of spiffy cast photos, though, demonstrating how committed the crew was to crowding every single member of Team Dai-Gurren on stage.
Hunter X Hunter
This show already explores nasty subjects under the guise of a harmless kids adventure, so really, no interpretation should feel off-beat at this point. Here, the rampant child endangerment of the “Zoldyck Family” arc is set to song as Gon rescues his best pal, Killua, from the dank dungeon in which his own clan has imprisoned him. And, of course, there’s a dance number with that evil clown Hisoka which is extra creepy when you recall how much he… enjoys fighting these hunters.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Out of all the titles listed here, Sailor Moon requires the least translation to work on stage. The show continually illustrates what Xanadu would look like if Olivia Newton John were kicking the crap out of witches in between sparkly pose-downs. While appearances from the Dark Kingdom’s sharply-dressed agents suggest this is an adaptation of the first arc, it’s pretty clear nobody was overly concerned with specific plot parallels. Try to get in the mindset of the loud, delighted kids in the audience, please. Just enjoy this cute light show.
This staging of the Straw Hats’ adventures is at Universal Studios Japan. As such, it shouldn’t be any harder to wrap your head around than the Universal Studios Hollywood’s stunt show based on one of the biggest movie box office bombs. The appeal of One Piece has always been about seeing cute, Disney-esque characters suddenly turn into butt-kickers. And that’s plainly delivered when we see a performer dressed as Tony Tony Chopper kung fu fight his way through a half-dozen marines in this clip. If it’s like watching Mickey hop off the river boat at Fantasmic to give Ursula and Jafar a proper stomping then, well… that’s One Piece.
Why should Death Note be so hard to imagine as a musical? A homicidal pop idol is one of its major characters! The cat and mouse games between these assorted magical vigilantes, mastermind detectives, and death gods is actually set to music by the composer of Broadway’s Jekyll & Hyde. As such, there are English versions of these morbid show tunes floating around. We’re probably more likely to get an American movie remake than a proper run of the stage show though, sadly.
You might’ve caught a commercial for this on TV. Pokemon Live! only enjoyed a brief run. Maybe it was because it came out a year after Pokemon‘s peak in popularity. Maybe it was just too darn expensive. Actually, the latter is easy to believe, given the sheer number of performers and puppets on stage. Life-sized Pokemon don’t come cheap! Either way, an archive of grainy VHS excerpts are available on the stage manager’s YouTube channel for any fans hoping to re-capture this all-too-fleeting theatrical creature.
Did we miss any so-wacky-so-wonderful anime stage musicals here? Which shows would work much better with live actors and a smattering of jazz hands? Hit the talkback.
Featured Image Credit: Shueisha