Manga is often adapted to and from many other mediums, such as anime, light novels, visual novels, video games and, in this case, musicals. Many famous works in these mediums have been adapted to musicals, most notably, Sailor Moon. The Sailor Moon musical franchise consists of 31 installments that have been running since 1993. Last Thursday a friend I went to see the latest release, Amour Eternal, at the AiiA Theatre Tokyo. I am no theatre critic but I shall do my best to comment on the show both subjectively and objectively.
The first thing we did before entering the theatre was hire subtitle glasses. I feel the need to talk about this because the idea of subtitle glasses is just awesome! Although I have seen shows here in Japan without subtitles and mostly understood, the option of 100% comprehension is very appealing. In theory these are perfect but in practice they need some tweaking. Inside each lens is a clear computer screen with the subtitles projected onto them. You could adjust the position and size and language (between Chinese and English) of the subtitles with a small handset. The problem with these lenses is that if the subtitles weren’t placed over a dark area they were very difficult to read, which sometimes made it hard to focus on the acting. Also very occasionally the subtitles weren’t aligned well between the two screens which led to seeing two overlapping images instead of one. I couldn’t tell if this was a calibration issue or if it was because I repositioned the glasses. The weren’t exactly very comfortable either. Overall these are mild complaints and the benefit outweighed the problems I had (and they made me look fabulous). I think it’s a service that should be offered at more shows.
The musical itself was about 3 hours long with a 15 minute interval. The entire cast was played by female actors, including the male and gender ambiguous characters. The story is based off the Dream Arc, the fourth arc in the original manga. It was fairly cliché at a lot of points but enjoyable regardless. The costumes were very bright and colourful and the acting was dramatic and captivating. The special effects weren’t groundbreaking and often didn’t have the desired effect if you weren’t viewing the stage from straight ahead (like my friend and I) but they definitely added to the show. The music was a catchy cross between anime music and stage music. The dancing was energetic and incorporated elements from the anime and manga such as the battle stances and special attacks or each of the Sailor Senshi. The show was by no means a theatrical masterpiece but it was certainly a unique experience and I loved every minute of it! It had a different atmosphere from western musicals and was definitely an enjoyable experience, particularly if you are a big fan of the Sailor Moon franchise. I would highly recommend going to see a Sailor Moon musical if you have any interest at all and the opportunity to do so.
Before the curtains dropped for the final time there was an encore performance of the show’s main number and of ‘Moonlight Densetsu’ for a dose of nostalgia. When the lights came on again after the show I took a moment to look around. The audience was almost entirely comprised of adults (the gender ration was quite even as well). Whilst most people consider Sailor Moon to be for little girls it was nice to see the adults who grew up with Sailor Moon there to appreciate the show. On the way out we passed the actresses who played the Inner Planet Senshi waving, smiling and thanking the audience for coming. After vacating the premises we stopped at the merchandise stall and probably spent way too much money before heading home. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.
Now to quickly summarise by answering all the important questions. Was it overpriced? Probably. Was it cliché? Definitely. Were the subtitle glasses a cool idea? No doubt. We’re they practical? Not quite. Was it the show the best thing I’ve ever seen? By no means. Did I have way too much fun? Yes. Did I lose it when Tuxedo Mask winked at the audience? God yes! Did I spend way too much money on merchandise? Maybe…
And most importantly, despite its flaws would I do it all again next year? Absolutely!