The Takarazuka Revue took a big step forward into their 101th anniversary on the first day of the year with Lupin III / Fancy Guy! by Snow Troupe. This performance is also the début of the troupe’s new top star (leading male role performer) Sagiri Seina and top musumeyaku (leading female role performer) Sakihi Miyu.

When it was announced in late summer last year, the mention of such a collaboration sparked many curiosities. While this is definitely not the first time for Takarazuka to make stage adaptations of manga/anime, Lupin III is an overwhelmingly popular series loved by many generations in Japan (and abroad) even today. Moreover, with the release of the 2014 live-action film, along with growing anticipation for the new blue-jacket anime series coming our way very soon, the musical is sure to make it to the headlines fast.

And it has.

I had the opportunity to watch it three times at the Grand Theatre in Takarazuka city, and I really enjoyed it. Here is my review for it.

~ Leonnie

Lupin and his team break into the Palace of Versailles in France, where an exhibition of ‘The Queen’s necklace’ is to be held. Inspector Zenigata manages to catch up with them, and a brief moment of chaos ensues. But when Lupin finally lays his hands on the necklace, all five of them are thrown back in time to the 1780s, just before the French Revolution.

Much of the story then focuses on Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko finding a way of returning to when they came from. They seek Count Cagliostro’s help and hatch a plan to gather several items required to send them back to their present time – one of which is a treasured jewel known as ‘Maria’s Tear’, which now happens to be in Queen Marie-Antoinette’s possession.

As Lupin approaches the young queen in hopes of stealing it, though, he warms up to her and makes a grand decision that would change history.

… Meanwhile, in case you’re wondering what happens to Pops, I assure you he’s pretty much doing what he does best as always, no matter what the situation.

The musical is about one and a half hours long, and has a rather similar feel to a typical Lupin TV special or film, especially in terms of the structure – for example, it starts with a few minutes into the story, then at some exciting point (in which Zenigata discovers our thief at work and begins the classic chase) the orchestra plays the famous theme song, and the main characters are ‘introduced’ to the audience.

History plays an important role here too. The events surrounding Lupin and his team, along with their plans, actions and consequences, are closely involved with the infamous Affair of the Diamond Necklace in history, hence the subtitle. And although the official website has translated it to “In Search of the Queen’s Necklace” in their English page, I believe “Chase after the Queen’s Necklace” is a more accurate translation. Lupin in fact literally runs after the necklace in one scene.

Overall, I am very impressed with the cast. They have succeeded in bringing the characters to life on stage, taking great care to be in-character while also including their own personal touches to their respective roles.

Sagiri Seina’s likeness to the world’s most wanted thief on-stage is in many ways charming and astonishing. She imitates his speech patterns and behavioural quirks – even the way he walks – very well. I like her sense of balance between the comical and the cool in Lupin.

Sakihi Miyu first appears as though she has stepped out from a picture book. Pretty, poised, majestic. Her Marie-Antoinette, an original character for the musical, is presented with a refreshing, comical stroke but deep inside there is longing for freedom and a friend to understand her. While the presence of this role symbolizes a representation of the Takarazuka Revue world, she seems to fit right in with Lupin’s world, quite like any female guest character who appears in a TV special.

Yumeno Seika and Inspector Zenigata are meant for each other. Her energy, her flair for comedy – all these qualities have helped to bring out the best in Pops, just the way we know him from the anime. (Note that she and Sagiri Seina were classmates at the music school they attended in order to join the company, which gives her the advantage when it comes to Zenigata’s interactions with Lupin and their rivalry dynamics.)

[Photo source: Asahi Star File]

As for the others, Daigo Seshiru’s portrayal of Mine Fujiko is very much spot-on, with an extra bit of spice. And yes, she does betray the team. As usual.

Ayanagi Sho particularly impressed me with her stage presence, standing out from the rest as she moves and behaves just like Goemon, but also blending with the background due to her scarcity of dialogue and calm delivery.

I have mixed feelings about Ayakaze Sakina’s Jigen. I like how she executes some in-character miming in the background, and the way she handles the revolver. On the other hand, I wish there were more things for her to show and do, to stand out more – which I am afraid is not possible due to the present troupe hierarchy system.

… is not exactly the antagonist as I had first expected.

To be honest, I find it difficult to determine just who the real antagonist is. There may be none at all, at least in the sense of a truly twisted or wicked antagonist.

Unique to the musical, he has very little connection – if any at all – to the character in Hayao Miyazaki’s 1979 film. What is clear about this Cagliostro is that he is directly based on the actual occultist who was arrested for possible participation in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace.

Imagine the surprise and delight I felt on my first day when I listened to the orchestra playing very familiar Yuji Ohno music, from the opening theme to various soundtrack favourites such as Tornado, You are Like Breeze, and Love Squall!

The original songs are great too. It’s nice for a change to see the characters sing.

Another hot topic about the musical is the surprisingly generous degree of ad-libbing freedom granted to the stars. Ad-libbing is quite common in Japanese popular theatre, particularly reserved for certain scenes and on the last day of a performance run.

But what makes Snow Troupe’s Lupin III so special in this aspect is that they have been coming up with new jokes and clever improvisations for every performing day. There are plenty of determined scenes where they can give the audience a good laugh. It’s not often we’d get to see this much freedom in any Takarazuka musical. Nevertheless, it’s fun to watch.

Some of their ad-libbing included Lupin and his team doing Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance while trying to break through the palace’s security system, and making fun of Cagliostro’s name (“Caglios-Totoro”, for example).

Through their attention to detail, Snow Troupe succeeds in presenting a gorgeous and comical blend of both worlds. I would highly recommend Lupin fans to see it when it comes on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Whereas the 2014 live action film starring Shun Oguri splashes in great attention to technology and effects, making it a sensational hit for international screens and contemporary audiences, the musical adaptation by the Takarazuka Revue is a lot closer to home, while still able to maintain its own essence.

It’s great that both Monkey Punch and Yuji Ohno are very pleased with the results. The troupe truly deserves it.

Lupin III / Fancy Guy! will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 28, at 10,800 yen and 8,640 yen respectively. More details to come when links for pre-order sales on Amazon and other sites are available.

For my take on the revue show Fancy Guy! then go here.

If you are interested in a slightly more detailed review of the musical from a Takarazuka fan’s perspective, I suggest you go here.

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