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Between the huge success the One Piece franchise has found in comics, animation, video games, and associated merchandising, you wouldn’t think there’d be too many more avenues for it to expand into. And honestly, it doesn’t have to, as Eiichiro Oda’s manga, the starting point of the tales of pirates, treasure hunting, and friendship, is still going strong, with its 76th collected volume being released later this month.

But just like the Straw Hat Pirates don’t have to embark on grand adventures, but choose to do so anyway, One Piece is about to head into uncharted waters, as the anime and manga franchise is set to become a kabuki play.

In recent years, a number of popular anime have gotten stage adaptations, often in musical form, including Sailor Moon, Prince of Tennis, Macross, and the soon-to-open Naruto. Going back even further, the all-female Takarazuka acting troupe has long been associated with the group’s lavish productions based on classic shojo manga The Rose of Versailles.

Anime crossing over into kabuki isn’t something you see every day, though. In October of 2015, though, kabuki actor Ennosuke Ichikawa will take the stage as One Piece’s protagonist, Luffy.

“Since the original work is loved by so many people in Japan, and really all over the world, it will be a challenge,” said the 39-year-old Ichikawa. “But I thing it’s definitely something worth doing, and you could say it will be my great adventure.”

▼ We imagine Ichikawa’s preparation for the role will involve reading back-issues of the manga and tons of ab work.

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Oda says he had had never seen kabuki live, but after entering into talks about the possibility of converting his manga into a play, went to watch a performance. He came away deeply impressed by the beauty of the art form, and after meeting personally with Ichikawa, feels at ease entrusting the production to him.

While no specific details have been released, it’s likely the One Piece production will have more lavish set design that ordinary kabuki plays. It’s been specified as part of the Super Kabuki II series, a continuation of the original Super Kabuki series started by Ichikawa’s uncle, also a kabuki actor, which infused the Japanese acting tradition with contemporary flourishes.

While the One Piecce manga has been published in over 35 countries, the kabuki version is something you’ll have to come to Japan for, as the play is scheduled to run from October to November of 2015 at the Shinbashi Enbujo in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Further details, including the supporting cast, are expected to be announced this coming spring.

Source: Sankei News via Alfalfalfa
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