Takarazuka Review - A Critique 宝塚評

I remember watching a documentary about Takarazuka Review in high school Japanese class, and thinking I must see this! Unlike more traditional forms of Japanese theatre such as kabuki and noh in which men perform male and female roles, Takarazuka is an all-female group. It is notoriously difficult to get into, you must be good at singing, dancing and acting to enter the school, where students study for two years before being allowed to perform on stage. I taught a student a few years ago who dreamed of getting into the school. She had been taking ballet and singing lessons since she was a child, and had the straightest posture I had ever seen for a 15 year old girl, but had failed the auditions twice already. Hearing her talk about her dream, and also seeing several former Takarazuka stars on variety TV made me even more curious to see the show.
日本語の授業で宝塚のドキュメンタリーを見て、高校の時からずっと本物を見たいと思っていた。歌舞伎や能楽のような伝統芸能と違って宝塚は女の人だけの歌劇団だ。入団するのが非常に難しいのが有名だが、歌やダンス、演技も優秀な人だけが入ることができる。ステージに上がる前に、2年間宝塚音楽学校で学ばないといけないです。数年前、教え子の中に宝塚に入りたがっている子がいた。子供の頃からバレエと歌のレッスンをやってきて、姿勢もよかったけど、2年続けて残念な結果だった。彼女の夢を聞いたり、バラエティ番組に出る元宝塚スターを見ていたり、すると、ますます興味をそそられる。

I never imagined that Takarazuka would play in Miyazaki. Hardly any shows or concerts come here; we don’t even have the bullet train. Usually, we have to go to Fukuoka, which is about 4 hours away by bus, to see the most popular ones. Then one day my friend sent me a message saying that the all-Japan tour would be stopping in Miyazaki, and would I be interested in seeing the show. Yes please, I replied enthusiastically. I guess Miyazaki is on the map after all!
まさか宮崎で見られるとは思わなかった。有名人が来ることもなく、新幹線もない。行ってみたいコンサートは、だいたい4時間離れた福岡であるから、バスで行くしかない。でも、ある日、宝塚の全国ツアーが宮崎に来ると友達からメールが来た。もちろん行く!と返事した。宮崎も日本地図に載っているね。

Obviously, I had really high expectations for the show. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. The dancing, the costumes, the singing, were all fantastic. I didn’t know a person could wear that much glitter, or feathers for that matter. I was dazzled and wooed from start to finish, even if I couldn’t understand all of the Japanese that was spoken. However, at the end of the evening I was left with some niggling criticism.
言うまでもなく、期待大だった。もちろん、大好きだった。ダンスも衣装も歌も全部凄かった。スターの羽が大きく、キラキラ輝いていた。日本語がよく分からなくても、最初から最後まで目を離すことが出来なかった。しかし、終わった後、ちょっと気になることがあった。

First, I didn’t feel like it particularly empowered women. Before the show I was under the impression that Takarazuka would be somewhat of a flagship for Japanese feminism. Instead, I found the entire show to be based on the familiar patriarchy that is still present in real world Japan. The lead character was male, and the story was very damsel in distress. I don’t consider myself to be a very active feminist, but one thought that I had after the show is that given all the effort they make to create a fictional world, and since they are an all-female group, would it not be the perfect opportunity to embrace female-centered storylines and non-traditional hierarchies? I for one am dying to see a powerful Japanese woman who is not playing a male role steal the show.
まず、女性を力づけるとは感じられなかった。見る前、宝塚は日本のフェミニズムの象徴のようなものだと思っていた。でも、実際は男尊女卑がまだ残っている現在の日本社会に基づいていると思った。主人公は男性で、ストーリーも「女性を助ける」という古い考えが中心だった。私は活動的なフェミニストじゃないけど、パフォーマンスが終わった後、せっかく夢の世界を作ろうとしているし、女性だけの歌劇団だし、女性中心のストーリーや故習に囚われない世界を表すいい機会じゃないのかなぁと思った。男役じゃない力強い女性をみてみたいなぁ。

Second, it was more Japanese pop-culture centered than I would have liked. This is just a personal preference, but when I go to the theatre, I would like some depth. I want to get caught up in a story, fall in love with a character, and be completely carried away to another world. Perhaps I have been spoiled in the past, having seen West Side Story on Broadway and Wicked back home in Brisbane, but Takarazuka seemed to be a little more shallow to me. There were some points throughout the show when I felt I was at a J-pop concert watching AKB48 perform on the stage. Ok, that’s a bit harsh, the dancing was far superior to AKB, but the story was definitely your characteristic J-drama; I can summarize it in a sentence. The main character is caught in a love triangle, but little does he know that his true love is actually his half-sister. Wow, didn’t see that one coming at all, not! This is the basic plot line for over half of all Japanese dramas. I would have liked something just a little bit less stereotypical.
また、大衆受けを狙いすぎていると思った。自分の意見だけだけれども、劇場に行く時、感動したい。話に酔いたい、キャラクターと恋に落ちたい、夢の世界に浸りたい。ニューヨークのブロードウェイでウエスト・サイド物語を見たり、地元のブリスベンでウィケッドを見たり、した経験があるから感じるのかもしれないけど、今回見た話はちょっと浅いと思った。観劇中J-popコンサートでAKB48を見ていても同じだろうなと感じた時もあった。まあ、ダンスはAKB48より上手だから、ちょっと言いすぎかもしれないけど、ストーリーは日本のドラマっぽっかった。一つの文書でまとめることができる。三角関係の中で、主人公が愛している女性は実は姉妹だった。ワンパターンだね。日本のドラマの約半分は同じストーリー展開だ。もうちょっとユニークなストーリがみたいなぁと思った。

Honestly though, even with these two critiques, I would still probably go to see Takarazuka again. Why? Well, I would love to see the troop perform on their home stage in Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture. I am sure the atmosphere would be much more spectacular than that of the tiny bunka hall in Miyazaki. Also, I would love to see a different story, so that I can have a wider perspective of the world of Takarazuka. I live in hope that all of their stories aren’t centered on overdone plots. One of the pamphlets that I picked up at the show advertised Rurouni Kenshin which is playing in the Tokyo theatre next year. Rurouni Kenshin is one of my favourite Japanese movies, and I would love to see what they do with it on the stage. Tokyo trip anyone?

正直に言うと、今回不満を二つ述べたけど、もう一回宝塚を見に行きたいと思っている。なぜかと言うと、兵庫県にある宝塚大劇場で見てみたい。小さい宮崎文化ホールより雰囲気が絶対いいでしょ。そして、宝塚をもっと理解するため、違う劇を見てみたい。よくあるストーリーだけじゃないと期待したい。玄関で貰ったチラシに東京劇場で「るろうに検心」が上演されるとあった。るろうに剣心の映画が大好きなので、どうやって舞台で表現するのかを見てみたい。東京に行きたい人?!


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