Today I am going to talk about the Takarazuka Revue! It’s an all-female musical company comprised of five different troupes (Flower, Moon, Snow, Star, and Cosmos), and it was founded nearly a hundred years ago by the owner of the Hankyuu Railway as a means for enticing people to ride his train to end of its line in the city of Takarazuka. 😄 A kind of funny reason to start up a singing and dancing company to me, but I guess it’s effective!
In any case, Takarazuka had two peaks: the 70s and the 90s, and even though it hasn’t been as popular lately, it still has an extremely devoted fanbase made up almost entirely of women. This doesn’t really surprise me because–as a scholar of popular culture in Japan–the reasons that the safe, androgynous men of Johnny’s Jimusho are so popular among Japanese women are the same reasons that the safe, androgynous women of Takarazuka are also popular. In the productions the women perform in, because the Revue is all-female, the male roles are also taken on by women, and it is these women–the male players, or otokoyaku (男役)–who have the most fans.
In each troupe, there is a male player who is what is known as the “top star,” so I’m sure you can imagine what that means. :b She is the most popular and always gets the lead role in whichever production she participates in. There is also a “top musumeyaku” (female player (娘役)), who is the most popular female player. She would get the leading female role. There is also an obvious nibante (二番手, lit. “second player”), who is the second most popular in the troupe, gets the second highest supporting role, and usually becomes the next top star after the top star retires, though it’s not certain. There may also even be a sanbante (三番手, lit. “third player”), who would then go on to be nibante and eventually top star, though that too may change due to being moved to a different troupe or something similar. The ni/sanbante are always male players though. There is obviously a second most popular female player, but because female players are less popular on the whole than the male players, they aren’t recognized in the same way outside of the top musumeyaku.
But I’m not here to bore you to death with my academic thoughts on gender and pop culture in Japan, lol.
I went on a field trip with my classmates in my pop culture & gender classes (I’m in both, but members of both went) to see a Takarazuka show last Sunday, and it was amazing! I’ve known about Takarazuka for three or four years now, and I’ve had some interest in the company and its performers, but I never really delved too deeply into it or the fandom (though I have always loved Maya Miki!) for a variety of reasons that aren’t important. so I’m pretty sure that this is why I’m so obsessed with it now. XD; because for the past week all I’ve done is watch Takarazuka videos… which isn’t exactly saying much since I had almost no free time for the past week, lol.
but I digress. Takarazuka productions are divided into two parts: the first half of the show is about ninety minutes, and is the musical/theatre production; and the second half is more like a mini concert filled with nonstop singing and dancing, finally culminating in a grand finale complete with sequins and more feathers than can possibly be imagined. As a veteran johnny’s fan and having been armed with some knowledge of how the shows at Takarazuka proceed, I was not shocked like some of my other classmates. In fact, because I’m a johnny’s fan, that sort of over-the-top performance is right up my alley. 😄
Takarazuka shows have a lot of western influence, and many of their productions are adapted from western plays and such like Romeo & Juliet, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Casablanca, to name a few. The video at the beginning of the entry is from an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera if I’m not mistaken… They also do productions in the Japanese tradition:
And they dabble in Japanese popular culture by creating stage adaptations of the popular video game Phoenix Wright (lol kind of want to see this) and The Rose of Versailles, which was a hugely popular manga in the 1970s (among the same demographic of women who would like Takarazuka lol), so their making a play out of it helped to revive Takarazuka as well. Even now, it’s one of their more popular plays, and merchandise related to the anime is sold at the Takarazuka Grand Theater (where performances are held) amongst all the goods for the actual performers/current show/etc. cultural phenomena, yay! 😄 They also seem to be doing some contemporary productions nowadays because the next show to be held at the Grand Theater is… Ocean’s 11. yes. 😄 I am actually 98% sure I will go see this in a few weeks, so I will report back then, lol. Also on the roster is an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. o__O; I wonder how that will go… and next year they’re performing Pride & Prejudice! This isn’t exactly contemporary, but I’m actually really excited. *__* I will probably go to see my honey Toyoko. ♥ lol.
She’s not my favorite though. My favorite is Oozora Yuuhi. *__*
I went to Umeda by myself the other day just to pick up some more of her goods, haha. I was regretting not buying her single last week, so I went to the store in Umeda. Unfortunately, they didn’t have her single, but I got a live CD of the songs from Luna Rossa (from which the above, traditional clip is from, though Luna Rossa is the show part, not the musical part), so that’s good enough. haha. Anyway, Yuuhi is the singer who comes out second in the video. (: She’s going to star in another production next year, but it’s in Nagoya. ;__; hopefully she’ll do something in the Osaka area before I leave Japan because I’m almost positive she’ll retire before I can come back. (>__<) don’t make me spend $50 on a bus ticket to Nagoya, Yuuhi! lol. Although that is during winter break… hm… 😄
yeah anyway 😄 You can read up a bit on the history of Takarazuka and such here on the English wiki page! It’s actually quite comprehensive, so if you’re interested, please read! 😀
And for once, I haven’t had a chance to update flickr, lol.