If musical theater and the morbid anime Bleach seem too far afield to ever be included in the same sentence, you must be willfully ignoring the parade of lively music videos that double as intros for the show. No bones about it, Bleach is the goth rock opera in that echelon of top-tier anime that also includes blockbusters like One Piece and Naruto. Its hero, Ichigo, is an emo frontman if ever there was.
Bleach starts out as what you’d get crossing Constantine with The Sixth Sense. The disaffected teenager Ichigo can see ghosts and speaks on behalf of the spirits of his hometown, until he enlists as a “Substitute Shinigami,” or Soul Reaper. From that point onward, Bleach steadily escalates into a superhero epic on level with Green Lantern. Imagine the GLC as a more heroic Black Lantern Corps–battling demons and officiating spiritual matters–and that’s basically how the Soul Reapers of this outfit operate.
Ichigo and his compatriots have similar uniforms, but each has a signature approach to style and combat. That lends to colorful and multi-faceted team battles, and also presumably works well for group dance routines and chorus lines. Here’s a glimpse of such an ensemble, from the “Another Above Ground” show which will be running in Tokyo and Kyoto throughout the summer.
Now, anybody thinking these pics look way, way more like publicity stills for a Bleach live-action movie than cast photos for a Bleach theater musical should acquaint themselves with the level that comics-based stage shows operate on in Japan. This isn’t even the first Bleach live show, either. There have been enough iterations, in fact, that the series has its own Rock Musical Bleach branding. The craziest part? Each shows adapts a specific arc from the manga. So, like, imagine if Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was followed by Spidey musicals specifically dedicated to “the Death of Gwen Stacy” or “Clone Saga.”
Get a taste of Bleach set to a beat in this clip of “The Manly Dance” from the Live Bankai Show…
Would you fly to Japan just to watch Rock Musical Bleach up close? What arcs work best on stage? What other anime would you want a musical of? Hit the talkback with your thoughts and dreams.
Photo Credits: Studio Pierrot