Sanada Jyuyushi ~Bokura ga Mamori takatta mono~ is a sumarai play starring Yu Inaba, Syugo Oshinari, Takanori Shimomura, and Risa Niigaki (Morning Musume). The play is a relatively small production that is currently happening at The Galaxy Theatre in Tokyo (from December 2 till December 11). It was recently announced that the play’s final performance will be stream on Nico nama’s pay per view channel and a DVD is set to be release in March 2012.
I first heard about the play through the Hello! Project fan club newsletter. Seeing that Niigaki was in it was enough to get my attention. But even for Niigaki, I couldn’t justify traveling all the way to Tokyo for a play where I only knew one of the cast and zero about the storyline. But then I saw the promotion picture for Niigaki’s character and I was mesmerized. There was something about her fierce pose that drew me in. After thinking it through, I decided that even if I can’t understand the Japanese, there are bound to be fight scenes that I can enjoy. In the end I decided to go to the afternoon show on December 3.
The storyline is simple: the 10 samurai led by Yukimura Sanada (played by Syugo Oshinari) fight the evil lord Ieyasu Tokugawa (played by Takanori Shimomura) to protect the things that are precious to them. The actual play starts with Ieyasu giving a small speech as the 10 warriors stood in the shadows above him. The story then flashes back to 3 and half years ago, when Yukimura was still looking for warriors to join him. The first half of the play involves Sasuke Sarutobi (played by Yu Inaba) running around, recruiting warriors for Yukimura. Before each warrior was given the invitation to join Yukimura, each of them showed off their skills, personality or background story in an entertaining and dramatic way. The second half of the play contains a series of events that led to the final battle against Ieyasu and his followers. The play ends rather suddenly, almost as if they’re setting it up for possible sequels.
My favourite of the 10 warriors is the “cowboy samurai”, Jyuzo Kakei (played by Michiho Onitsuka). He fights with riffles and his character is just loud, crazy (in a good way) and full of life. Yukino (played by Risa Niigaki) is the only female in the play. She fights just as well as some of the other samurai, but at first she tried to conceal this and remain lady like as best as she can. Without giving too much of the story away, Yukino does end up being the damsel in distress. Can’t say I was surprise, though I did wish that Yukino could have avoided that fate all together.
With the exception of Niigaki, all the characters only had one set of costume. Some of the costumes have great details to them. While some of them had over the top hairstyles to match their outfit, like Yu Yoshioka’s extremely spiky hairstyle.
The entrance to the theatre was decorated with flowers that were sent to the cast. They were all very gorgeous, and many of them were even sent from fans. The theatre was surprisingly small, and there were a lot of empty seats around. The stage was small and the setup was very simple. Throughout the play lots of lighting, projectors, curtains, movable stage pieces were used to create many different settings. The play also relied on a lot of sound and visual effects to bring the play alive. For example, during the battles sound effect were timed with the movement of the cast and their swords to make it more realistic. There were a few times when the sound was off but for the most part it was fairly believable.
What made this play stand out from other samurai period productions are the crazy concepts they threw in and used, like the “cowboy samurai”. They also incorporate a lot of reference to mysterious powers, modern technologies and futuristic ideas, like a samurai who uses a cell phone and a human robot. Even though the play used many visual and sound effects to bring the crazy ideas to live on stage, a lot of the concepts still relied on the audience’s imagination. There were a few times when it took a moment for me to figure out what they were trying to portray with the sound and visual effects.
After the curtain call Niigaki, Inaba, Oshinari, Shimomura, Tatsuya Isaka and Shintaro Akiyama (EXILE) came back on to the stage for a brief MC session with a staff as the host. I wasn’t expecting this, and I’m not sure if they do this for all the shows. It was definitely interesting to hear the casts’ thoughts and stories about the production. They ended the MC session by promoting the play’s goods that were sold in the lobby and then tossed 6 of the play’s towels toward the audience as gifts.
Overall, I got to say this play exceeded my expectations. Even with my limited Japanese, it was fairly easy to follow along. Include all the battles and wacky moments, this is a very entertaining production.