Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Report: Hyper Projection Engeki - Haikyuu!! The Winners and The Losers

So what should you expect from a Haikyuu stage play? Volleyball? Not a bad start. Over dramatic adult men playing high school students? Of course. Actual boyband Aobajosai? Apparently. Kuro and Kenma in drag? Yes.

A friend and I went and saw Hyper Projection Engki Haikyuu!! stage play this past weekend and it was a life enriching experience. 

Getting tickets: 

So for this show, we tried getting tickets through the Japanese release and failed messerably beause they sold out rapidly. Luckily, there is a special international ticket release that has a few tickets for lucky gaijin to purchase. We had a bit of a difficult time getting them still because the website was frustrating and would not read my American cards, so my friend had to buy them and her American credit cards worked. It was just strange. And since these tickets are largely intended for visiting foreigners in Japan, we could not get them printed at a combini and they were waiting for us at will call. 

Getting to the show:

The show was in a building called Tokyo Dome City Hall. This name might be a bit confusing because is not a city hall in the since of government business, but as in Tokyo Dome City’s Hall. It is continently located right in front of Tokyo Dome City Attractions, which had a Yowamushi Pedal collaboration earlier this year. 

There was also an exhibition for the stage play going on next door, so that was confusing. 
The one inconvenient part about finding it is that Tokyo Dome City does not have the entrance clearly marked so we wandered around a little bit before finding a bunch of people who appeared to be getting ready for the Haikyuu show. We were right. The only thing about that was that our tickets were at will call, and the ticket counter was closed. Luckily I speak enough Japanese and feel brave when I have friends with me, so I was able to ask the staff that appeared to be checking tickets were we could pick them up. He pointed to a table that was appeared to be behind the entrance point and we went and picked up out tickets with no hassle. Even though I have a tremendous amount of anxiety when it comes to asking for help from others, I always seem to be able to rise to the occasion when I have a friend with me. I am grateful for that trait. 

Before the Show:

Like a lot of events, there is a period of time between when the doors opened and before the show started. Right when you walked in they had an area to pre order the stage play DVDs and Blurays for the show before you even saw it. A lot of people were preordering it. Past that, they had tables set up where you could purchase merch. The interesting thing about these stage plays is that they often do not bother with bags for your merch, and if they do it’s only for the small things like buttons. If you plan on going to a stage play, it is worth it to bring a bag that can fit an A3 sized (standard piece of Japanese paper, slightly larger than American paper) magazine comfortably. I tend to buy a program whenever I see a show and any bag that can fit that without bending it will be able to fit whatever other merch you buy with the exception of large posters. 

One thing that struck me about this stage play was that there was no blind merch, probably because most of the characters are popular enough that they do not have to worry about only selling one character. 

After we bought our merch we got our seats.

My friend and I were confused and sat in the completely wrong level of the theater, only to have some Japanese girls say we were in their seats. Oops. We compared tickets and saw our mistake, I felt slightly guilty because apparently we actually got super dope seats and they were practically in the nose bleeds. Sorry guys. 
We ended up sitting behind the tech crew on the first floor, so it was easy enough to see, but not in range for actor interaction and the lights from their screens could be slightly distracting. 
The Play:

So as you can imagine, there are no photos allowed during the performance! 

My previous Japanese stage experience was all the Daiya no A lives, and the production values of this Haikyuu play sadly blow the Daiya lives out of the water!

The stage itself was really impressive, and I just kept thinking about how exhausted the actors must be. They put the court on an incline to give the audience a full view of both sides and there was a rotating circular stage in the middle. This meant that the actors were running up and down, jumping, and dancing all over the place for the entity of the show. The amount of constant movement in this show was enchanting and overwhelming. I’m sure after three hours of running, diving, and dancing, the actors legs are about ready to fall off. 

This live was the Aobajosai vs. Karasuno match from the end of the first anime season, which is personally my favorite part of Haikyuu. There was a huge conductor theme throughout this live, and my friend and I were not sure if it was a part of all the Haikyuu lives or something special since they tended to emphasize it during this match in the actual story, but I loved it. My favorite part was that we got to see Aobajosai the actual boyband, because I love I cannot stop my love for Oikawa Toru if I wanted to, and why would I want to stop loving that perfection? 

There were a couple of weird things about the play that stood out to me a lot, one of which was that it felt like they went out of their way to literally not employ a single female actress. While Haikyuu is a shounen sports anime focusing on an entirely male team, there are a few female characters with meaningful speaking roles. The most obvious one is Kiyoko Shizume. The stage play only vaguely mentions her in passing for a gag involving Nishinoya and Tanaka’s love for her. There are two other nameless female characters that actually end up having more lines than Kiyoko does, and those are the two Oikawa fangirls. 

Now I know not including nameless female characters might not seem like a big deal to anyone, but these girls are the veical through which the audience gets the rules of volleyball explained, and therefore a pretty important thing to leave out. So they actually did not cut them from the show like they did with Kiyoko. They dressed Kuro and Kenma in drag and had them play the two fangirls. 

Kuro and Kenma. So for some reason, they included these two characters in the show even though they do not appear in this arc at all. I am pretty sure it’s because Kuro’s actor is hot and they wanted to make some cash money from that, but it was still strange. Since they did not really have a canon role in this arc, they ended up joining random scenes for flashbacks to the training matches, making announcements to the audience about turning off cellphones, and dressing in drag to play Oikawa’s fangirls. While it was very entertaining and maybe one of the most memorable parts about the show, it was really odd and it seemed like they went out of their way not to include any female actresses. Probably the most relatable part of the show was when Kuro and Kenma came out on stage at the end of the first intermission to tell us to sit down, turn off our phones, and stop talking, and Kenma asked Kuro why they were even there and Kuro basically said “I don’t really know either.”

Other than that, I really enjoyed Kuro and Kemna’s performance, and I kind of hope they find more ways to include them in future stage plays!

I will say that one thing that I particularly did not like was how they handled the Oikawa/Iwaizumi/Kageyama “he’s gonna hit him” flashback. First off, they did it three different times. Once from each point of view. But other than changing the narration, the audience does not really see a different perspective so it got really dull really fast. The other thing I did not like about it was that Oikawa’s actor did not get anywhere close to actually touching Kageyama. Iwaizumi stops him about halfway across the stage, and while I appreciated the shifts in lighting and in music, the tonal shifts cannot carry the since of danger or the threat of violence alone. I know that there can be the excuse of “well it’s a stage play and they did not want to risk someone actually getting hurt,” but they do a lot more risky things with their bodies in the show, and they have their choreography down enough that they could come closer to an actual hit without risking anything. 

I felt like that scene was a really formative moment for Oikawa, Kageyama, and Iwaizumi as characters, but because they did the same scene so many times and they pulled the actors away from each other, the impact of that scene was lessened.  

The only other thing that I found disappointing was the ending. Spoilers, they Karasuno loses to Aobajosai, but I’m guessing because they have not cast Ushiwaka yet.


Other than that and a few costume preferences, I really enjoyed this show. I want to dig up copies of past ones and give those a watch and I also plan on going to any future productions as long as I’m here in Japan! I would definitely recommend this stage play, even if you’re not super into Haikyuu, because the quality of the show was just utterly stunning. I watched a recording of the first stage play, and I will say that this one had far more dancing in it and seeing it live in person is just so much better than watching a recording. 

28 out of 10, would gladly see again.

What's next?

If you are interested, they have already announced the next stage play! It looks like it will be the training camp arc from the second season and Shimizu and Yachi will be in it!

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