Lately, stage drama adaptations have become quite popular, especially among female fans. To be honest, not all manga fans enjoy live action movie adaptions. I was one one of those fans. One day, I was so enthralled by a stage drama that I forgot how I despised the idea before. I went from ‘manga characters played by a real person… nah…’ to ‘manga characters played by a real person…HELL YEAH!’
Are you wondering what’s so charming about this 2.5 dimension world? Let me introduce you to this wonderful cosmos with some popular stage dramas!
●The prince jumped from the screen! The pioneer of the boom, The Prince of Tennis Musical!
The Prince of Tennis is one of the most popular manga series, published in Weekly Shounen Jump and Jump SQ.
It got adapted into a musical for the very first time in 2003, and it still continues to offer live action stages, while of course recasting its members, for over ten years now. Its catchy music, the high-quality reproduction of the characters, and the staging (it really feels like the characters are playing tennis on the stage) made the musical unexpectedly popular. It is now considered the pioneer of manga stage adaptations, and you can’t really talk about the 2.5 dimension stage world without mentioning it. Famous actors including Takumi Saitou, Yuu Shirota, and Kazuki Katou and popular voice actors such as Mamoru Miyano and Toshiki Masuda, all made a name playing in this musical! Now, musical adaptions are considered a gateway to the acting profession.
I was shocked when I first watched the show. The tennis ball is actually a spotlight, and the actors swing the racket as though they were playing for real! This beautiful new approach moves me every time I watch it. I am guessing that each one of the actor is now at least an amateur tennis player, their swinging forms are beautiful!
The songs in between are sometimes cool and other times funny, but they never bore you out. Many female fans used to shout ‘Atobe-sama descended in the real world!’ when the musical was first played. [laugh]
●Bicycle manga without bicycle? Yowamushi Pedal on Stage
When you have a stage drama about a famous cycling manga, it’s only natural to ask, ‘how are the actors going to ride the bicycles on stage?’
Just like in The Prince of Tennis, the direction was novel. The actors showed up with just the handles and imitate the race by running around the stage. However, they are not just running without thinking; they make an effort to make it look like a real bike race. They use different angles, illusions, and various stage sets. For example, an actor playing for Makishima has to show his nature of ‘Peak Spider’ biking and he keeps on jumping from side to side while in race.
It’s such a unique show and the audience is busy being surprised, moved, and made to laugh at every strange approach the actors employ to make the show as realistic as possible. Many are moved to tears during the last scene despite the fact that we all know the story. It’s hard not to be moved when you see the actors all sweating from trying hard. You get so immersed that it feels like you start seeing the bicycles that aren’t there.
Even though many people complained about the bicycle drama appearing on stage, once you watch it, you’ll love it. It has a heat that captures you and draws you in.
After the stage, they usually show the Love Hime (Koi no Hime Hime Pettanko) dance, and characters who never danced it in the original, dance it on stage with Onoda-kun. Many fans fall for it; it’s incredibly cute.
●New stage with full use of modern technology! Fly High! Hyper projection drama Haikyuu!!
Haikyuu!! is now the signature manga series of Weekly Shounen Jump.
Hinata and Kageyama’s duo Henjin Sokkou (Super-quick hit), Oikawa’s Killer Serve, and the many different characters’ fascinating skills and the relationships between them, are the perfect example of Jump’s traditional themes: effort, friendship, victory. The show continues to increase its fanbase all over the world. The anime adaptation is known for its high quality, and that’s the main reason a lot of people expected the same level of quality from the stage drama as well.
The stage drama uses projection mapping. It projects manga flames on stage to bring in the original air of the title. This new and innovative approach has gained more positive reviews than expected before the premiere. The title ‘Next Generation Stage Drama’ felt appropriate and not just a marketing ploy. It really convinced the audience that this was indeed a stage show that brought a new approach to the genre.
They also succeeded in reproducing the characters accurately on stage! It made me feel like I was really watching high school students Hinata and Kageyama jumping onto stage from the manga. I would really love to see the stage become as popular as the anime. It has a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to see what it holds for the future.
●Can this be!? Nobody expected a stage drama of this title: Osomatsu-san on Stage!
Do you know Osomatsu-kun? Osomatsu-kun is a super popular comedy manga series by Fujio Akatsuka. Osomatsu-san is the 2015 anime by Pierrot, based on that series. There was a huge controversy when it was adapted into anime, and merchandise sales have always been a bother among fans, but you just can’t hate the 20-year-old jobless sextuplet. This series is also adapted into a stage drama!
Osomatsu-san is a slice-of-life with comedy with no discernible plot or story. A lot of fans were worried and claimed that the series can’t possibly be adapted in a two-hours stage drama. They were wrong. It turned out to be a great stage drama that reproduced the anime series accurately. The humor was tailored to the live-action part of the drama and it was something you couldn’t possibly experience with the anime.
All the worries turned into cheers and smiles, and its positive reputation is spread wide on the internet.
It’s a drama but it’s also a slice-of-life. If you enjoyed the anime series, you will most likely enjoy the stage drama as well. Ichimatsu fans will certainly enjoy his extreme fan service!
●It’s super-hard to obtain tickets for this show! Touken Ranbu on Stage
Touken Ranbu is a very popular browser video game developed by Nitroplus. There isn’t much of a plot (typical for a browser game) and the players become masters of anthropomorphic swords and use them to protect history and fight against an evil that wants to change it.
The stage drama features Nobunaga Oda, Mitsuhide Akechi, and the swords they used, at the center of the castle. The setting of the story is very detailed and it succeeded creating the IF story of Nobunaga Oda in history. It features stories untold in the game about each of the swordsmen holding their own conflicted feelings towards their previous master (their original owner in history). I’ve seen a lot of fans crying quietly, moved by these individual confessions.
Gorgeous actors play the characters and both their acting and looks are good. Hiroki Suzuki plays the protagonist. Tickets to this stage drama are extremely hard to buy. There is another performance planned in December, but the tickets went sold-out in a flash!
The stage is set on the game’s Honnouji Arc, and fans are already asking for different areas featured on stage. I never had any strong emotion when playing the game, but after watching the stage play, I often find myself crying.
Touken Ranbu has a musical stage play as well! This is a completely different stage, but it seems to have attracted lots of female fans. They have a musical part and a concert part, and fans can bring in cheering fans and glow sticks. The best part is that you can show your excitement together with the swordsmen on stage. There is a performance scheduled for the end of the year at Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima.
The 2.5D world comes to life in front of your eyes
Are you still wondering what’s so charming about the 2.5D world?
It’s the passion that comes from having human actors and not just voice actors. It’s their sweat and tears, and their feelings for creating something unique on the stage. It’s that tingle you get when you see your favorite stories on a different format, and the feels of crying to the same scenes.
It’s the realization that the excitement and sensations you have so far only experienced in manga, TV, and cinema, is now available on stage as something more realistic. Sometimes you feel like you are actually part of the story.
If you’re still not sure, just give it a try. Maybe it’s a lot different from what you imagined.
Do you have a favorite stage play? What do you think of them? Let us know in the comments below. You can also check all our Otaku Articles!
I'm a good-for-nothing otaku who works as a freelance web writer.
I live in Kyoto, Japan, but I am so often in Tokyo for anime-related cafes and products that people frequently misunderstood that I live there. Yowamushi Pedal helps me overcome all difficulties. I'm also a huge fan of Touken Ranbu! In order to deliver to you the latest otaku info and trends, I'll keep dwelling in the 2-D world. Thank you very much!