Battling first-timer nerves, we take a seat at the renowned Takarazuka theater.

The Takarazuka Revue was established in 1913 as an attempt to revive interest in stage plays. Almost 110 years later, the Takarazuka Revue has legions of adoring fans and a host of incredible performances to its name, and it’s one of the most prestigious acting credits that a female stage actor can have to her name.

And our Japanese-language reporter K. Masami has never attended a single performance. She lives in Kansai, the home of Takarazuka, but she honestly assumed that her life would pass her by without ever once watching them perform. And it’s not as though she wasn’t interested—on the contrary, she was intrigued by the dramatic posters and theatrical flair. But you see… Takarazuka, to her mind, is something intended for diehard fans. A novice like her wouldn’t know how to comport herself, and so she kept putting it off.

But then her friend, a guy in his forties, begged her to go with him. He really, really, really wanted to see the new Takarazuka adaption of City Hunter but he was too nervous to go alone. And Masami, a huge fan of City Hunter herself, could hardly turn down such a golden opportunity.

▼ This is like catnip to any hardcore City Hunter fan.

She invited another friend (a man in his thirties), bought herself tickets, and then eventually drove down to Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture. She was startled as soon as she entered the city district that surrounds the Takarazuka Theater. It had a strangely isolated vibe, almost like something out of a theme park like Disneyland.

▼ Clean, classy, and cultured.

The long lines of attendees for the performance were similarly resplendent in fashionable outfits, flawless makeup, and perfectly coiffed hairstyles. Masami looked down at herself. She was wearing a City Hunter T-shirt that she had bought especially for the occasion. See, this is what it’s like being a Takarazuka novice! Ugh!

Fuming at her lack of preparation, she waited for her friends. That was when she caught sight of a gentleman who looked just like Umibozu from the City Hunter manga, complete with the dangerous aura of someone who was about to set about sweeping the streets of Tokyo. Her friend was here! Fantastic.

▼ Mercenary and coffee shop owner Umibozu, as he appears in the anime.

Once she and her friends were all united, they took some photographs—again, belying their obvious newbie status—and headed inside the theater.

The stage was much smaller than Masami had imagined and the general atmosphere was surprisingly intimate, in keeping with the warm and generous reputation that the Takarazuka Revue and its fans have enjoyed over the decades.

▼ Masami getting wild at the theater.

Without going into plot details, Masami was tremendously impressed by the high quality of the production. Every one of the Takarasienne performers was incredibly cool from the tops of their heads to the tips of their beautifully buffed fingernails. The character voices were on point, the singing and dancing were amazing, and the music and stage production was top-notch. Masami and both of her friends were so enraptured by the events unfolding onstage that they kept leaning forward in their seats and had to be cautioned by staff to be mindful of people sitting behind them.

Don’t tell anyone else, but Masami wasn’t aware that they held an intermission between the acts—so she and her friends were about to get ready to go home when the second act started and blew them away all over again. It’s seriously incredible value for money! (tickets for this show start at 3,500 yen or US$31.82 for the cheapest seats).

Her male companions were delighted by the experience too. Her friend in his thirties said, “it was so cool and I had a great time! I wanna go see another show!” while her friend in his forties praised the ingenuity in how the troupe used rotating platforms and the space under the stage to transition between scenes.

The Takarazuka Revue has the impression of an almost entirely female fanbase, but Masami noticed men scattered here and there throughout the crowds. It helped her to appreciate fully that Takarazuka theater fandom transcends gender, and those who are hesitant to go view their first performance should just jump in and give it a try! She’ll definitely be watching more shows by the troupe in the future…though she probably won’t wear a City Hunter T-shirt next time.

Images © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]