[From June Issue 2015]
In March, 2015, AiiA 2.5 Theater Tokyo opened in Shibuya, Tokyo. It is the world’s first theater dedicated to “2.5-Dimensional Musicals,” that is theatrical productions based on manga, anime, and video game titles that faithfully recreate the original’s atmosphere and characters.
Recently 2.5-Dimensional theatrical productions are increasingly being staged in Japan and audience numbers are growing too. In 2013, about 1,600,000 people attended a 2.5-Dimensional performance. In 2014, the Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musical Association Secretariat was established and began its activities, performing tasks such as compiling and sending out information on all performances both within and outside Japan. The association also opened the dedicated theatre.
There is an English page on the association’s official website, and it’s possible to purchase tickets from outside Japan. In addition, subtitles are available through a wearable terminal at the theatre. Audiences can choose from a maximum of four optional languages, though the subtitle languages available do change depending on the performance.
“When the popular musical ‘Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical,’ was staged, 20 to 30 percent of the audience was from outside Japan. When this dedicated theatre was opened, in the hopes of getting more foreigners to see our shows, we installed a subtitle system,” says TODA Naomi, head of PR. “Since it is wearable, it’s possible to read the subtitles without taking your eyes off the actors.”
In Japan, in 1974, works like “The Rose of Versailles” were adapted into musicals, since then there have been theatrical productions of original manga and anime. “There is a long history of manga and anime being adapted into theatrical productions. But the genre only started to gain wider recognition when the ‘MUSICAL THE PRINCE OF TENNIS’ was staged in 2003,” says Toda.
This musical was well-received by fans of the manga, for its skillful recreation of the original work’s atmosphere. It also went down well with theatrical fans for the production effect of showing the movement of a ball with a spotlight. “It was a good example of how the world of manga could be successfully adapted for the stage,” says Toda. As the appreciation of both manga and anime rose at home and abroad, the number of adaptations that stayed faithful to the original increased. This resulted in the birth of the so-called “2.5-Dimensional” genre.
“Rather than mimicking characters, actors play these parts by trying not to undermine the image of the characters in the original work. The director also does his best to recreate the world shown in the original work on the stage. And that’s why the audience’s imaginations are stimulated to fill in the blanks, thus enabling them to visualize the original work on the stage,” says Toda. The 2.5-Dimensional Musical, “Live Spectacle NARUTO” is scheduled to be staged in Macao, Malaysia, and Singapore. Plans to promote this genre to the overseas market are advancing.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo