When I left the theatre, the thought that lasted in my mind for a long time was "wow!". The shows that Takki puts together are just amazing. Magnificent. The music, the story, the costumes, the choreography, the backgrounds and effects. I think that even if you're not a Takki fan, you will definitely be awed by his shows, and be able to enjoy them.
But as I discovered, even though I did enjoy this year's Takizawa Enbujo a lot, I couldn't help realizing that I would have had an even bigger experience if I had 1) had a better knowledge in the Japanese language so I had understood more of what they were saying, and 2) had a better knowledge of Japanese history, so I had been able to "get" more of the story. Still, the visual and musical parts of the show were enough to make it a wonderful experience, and everyone on stage did a great job!
I had an amazing seat, which I appreciate even more since I only went to one show. My seat was right in the center of the front row on the first balcony. The view from there was perfect! All over the stage there were long lilac pieces of cloth hanging.
The show opened with a musical piece so beautiful that I almost shivered. It was Goto Hiromi who played the violin. There was a short welcome and introduction by Takki, and if my memory is correct, Takki then appeared in the middle of the stage in this beautiful costume that is pink on the top and lilac on the bottom, with a cherrytree in the background. They performed the 春の踊り. Then Takki went off stage.
Many more people entered the stage and the music changed into the いにしえ, became quicker and more fierce. And suddenly Takki appeared again, in black and gold sparkly clothes, and he was flying through the theatre! He was flying right in front of my eyes! Not very close, he only reached to the middle of the theatre, but he was right on my eye-level. It was amazing to see him flying so close! And he was singing! And dancing, when he returned to the stage. I liked how the music was a mixture of modern and traditional Japanese. I have made a note saying that Takki was flying twice during the beginning of the show, but I can't remember if this was the first or the second of his flyings...
Then the juniors introduced themselves, first the members of Snow Man, then the chibi juniors (so cute!), Kyomoto Taiga and some of the others. They also welcomed us and hoped that we would enjoy the show.
The next performance I really liked! It was the song Feelin' Good, and it was a very happy song and party-like performance. Everyone was dressed in traditional-looking costumes. Takki was dressed in black and white, everyone else had black and white striped bottoms, and tops in different colors depending on which group they belonged to. Taiga was red, Snow Man were orange, the female dancers were pink, the chibi juniors were white with black crosses, and I think all the other juniors were turquoise. There was this moment during the performance which made me smile so much! Everyone had gathered together, Takki was in the middle of the group and Snow Man and Taiga were sitting in front of him. And Takki just couldn't stop ruffling the hair of poor Sakuma of Snow Man! It was really cute, Sakuma tried to get away without moving from his spot, and Takki just kept ruffling his hair! I also think that it was during this performance that they made the screen behind them become like... it was showing the people on the stage, several times, so it looked like the stage was much bigger than it really was, and that there were sooooo many people dancing.
Takki talked for a little bit about the history of Japan, saying that they would be showing some passages of Japan history in the show from now on. They started with a performance of 青い山脈 as introduction, while the chibi juniors were dancing and playing and having fun. Then suddenly the background changed to a scene of war and a burning village, and the play started. Snow Man were soldiers, and the chibi juniors performed suidice rather than being killed by the soldiers. There was one boy who was stopped by Takki, who entered the stage asking what they were doing, they were so young. But the boy still performed suicide. And (if I interpreted correctly) Takki decided that he would avenge these children who were too young to die.
Next was a pretty long narration by Takki, which I couldn't understand, sadly. Then came a very cool Japanese-style performance with many Japanese instruments, and Takki and some others did the mask-changing performance. It was very cool. They were dressed in these amazing costumes, and had masks in front of their faces, and Takki was changing his masks sooo many times. And the costume as well. They were dancing also at the same time, using huge foldable fans. In the end he stood there in a white costume.
Then they played the music-only version of a song that I know that I know, but I just can't remember the name of it without hearing the lyrics, I'm so frustrated! The performance that went along with it was very good, though. Takki was dancing with the female dancers.
Then came the taiko drum section!! First, there was a chibi junior wearing a monster mask, dancing on the hanamichi (the runway-looking thing leading up to the stage on the left side of the theatre). And then the taiko drum players were revealed on the stage. They were so many! And everyone was naked on the upper body. They looked really handsome! And Takki was in the middle of the stage, sitting by a large drum. And suddenly he switched to a giant drum, and while he was playing it, it was turning upside down! That was awesome! He was playing upside down for a while, and then they turned the drum back into the correct position again.
I just have to write a separate paragraphs about that drum section. I already knew in advance that Takki would play upside down this year, and I already knew that they would be half-naked while playing. But it was still soooo amazing to see! They are so fit and handsome, those guys. A full stage of eye-candy, now that's something! And then Takki in the middle of it all - just as fit as the rest of them! And him being quite a few years older than them, I thought it was amazing to see that he has such a great body too. Because he does have a really great body!
When Takki left that drum, he was high up on a platform, and I almost thought he was going to jump down from it! I hoped that he wouldn't because he was high up in the air. But he didn't jump. He stayed up there and put on a grey sparkly jacket and hat, and started singing and dancing. Snow Man and the female dancers entered the stage below him and danced there, and during the performance Takki's part of the stage was also lowered to the same level as them. Don't know the name of the song, but I liked it.
After this, it was time for the kabuki part of the show. Taiga and some other juniors entered the stage, some of them were chibi juniors. They told the history of Takizawa Enbujo and Takizawa Kabuki, from the start until this year. The background music was the instrumental version of My Love. It was nice to get a quick compilation of the previous shows, they also mentioned the main actors of each year (members from Hey! Say! JUMP, Kis-My-Ft2 and A.B.C-Z). The chibi juniors were really cute! They also talked a little about how they wanted to work hard and become like Takki.
While they were talking about this, Takki was sitting on the stage putting on make-up, to be dressed as his onnagata character (female character in kabuki, played by male actor).
Next was one of my favorite parts of the show. It was the song With Love, which is one of my favorite songs, and it was performed by the chibi juniors. It was such a powerful experience to hear this boy choir singing this beautiful song! Their clear voices, singing harmonies.... Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.
Then it was time for the kabuki section. After a short performance, some of the juniors introduced themselves in a kabuki-like way of talking. It was very fun to listen to them, to hear what things they told about themselves (like, what clubs they take part in at school, or what their hobby is, and so on). I think this is where they went on to do the performance with the huge dragon that they walked around with on stage while some where dancing kabuki-style.
Now Takki entered the stage. In the following segment he did a lot of character changes (and sometimes it was a double pretending to be Takki), and sadly I can't remember the correct order of all the appearances. But all the costumes were very beautiful and the kabuki performances were cool.
I remember at one time Takki was wearing this really ugly black and red wig, and he was climbing a ladder standing against the first balcony. He appeared just some five or seven feet away from me! Then he climbed down again, and they did this performance with another shorter ladder. Takki did things like hanging upside down from the ladder, and sitting crosslegged on it while the others carried him. Then when he jumped down he started chasing some guys, a sword in his hand. And the most amazing part of this performance I think was when he was standing still and a crowd of guys came running at him. One at a time they came running, but they were running so fast and so close to each other! And Takki was standing there with his sword, swinging it in between them all. That was amazing!
Then he chased the guys from the stage over the hanamichi and disappeared - but at the same time two guys entered the stage carrying a palanquin, and Takki was sitting inside it. Which means that there were Takki doubles in the show too, but I couldn't figure out who was the real Takki and who was a double - and I didn't care to try and figure it out. I liked the mystery of it all. Anyway, the character in the palanquin was a female character, and "she" was talking for a while with "her" bearers. It was very fun.
Then they left the stage walking down the hanamichi, and there was a small bridge on the stage. There was a short performance, which was done as a display of the seasons from spring through summer to fall. During the spring part, Takki was dressed in pink and kind of guarding the bridge, I think. And in the beginning of the fall part he was dressed in an amazing costume looking like fall leaves.
Then Takki appeared looking like a beggar or something. He went to the top of the bridge but fell down, but then he appeared again on the stage. And then he went down to the first row of the audience and started collecting gifts. He got a lot of things, but the most hilarious ones were a DVD with A.B.C-Z and a photo of Tsubasa! Awww!
There were some more kabuki performances with beautiful costumes on the theme of fall and winter. One of the performances was a beautiful one with water effects. Takki was an onnagata character, dancing with foldable fans and flowers from which there came water sprouting. Loved it! There was also a performance where he looked like a shaman in grey costume. Chibi juniors performed as chibi shamans. It was a really grand performance, where they again created depth with the screen in the background. So when he started running away from the stage, it looked like he just continued into the background, and continued running deeper and deeper there. And that was the end of act 1.
The second act was mainly about Yoshitsune, a legendary general during the clan wars. Since this part of Takizawa Enbujo was much like a drama I would have loved to understand more from what they were saying - especially since I didn't know the legend very well. I still managed to follow the story well enough, I think.
Takki played the part of Yoshitsune, Kyomoto Masaki (father of Kyomoto Taiga) played the part of Benkei who served under Yohitsune, and Taiga played the part of a young man/boy who went with Yoshitsune (I think he was called Shinnosuke, but I'm not sure). The members of Snow Man played the soldiers who wanted to kill Yoshitsune. I wasn't able to really remember any of the story or in what order things happened. But I do remember the performance of 恋よ. I didn't expect to hear that song in the show. I also remember that the beginning of the story was rather comical, with Benkei. Then Yoshitsune and Benkei were on the run, chased by the soldiers. They met Taiga's character while they were out there fighting.
And in the middle of it all, there was this adlib part with father and son Kyomoto. Masaki suddenly started asking questions about JE. He asked Taiga who his favorite was, and he answered "Takki". Then Masaki asked "Which is your favorite song by him?" and Taiga answered "キ・セ・キ" and sang part of the chorus. It was really funny!
There was a long fighting scene at the end. The most touching part was when Taiga's character was killed. He was just a boy... So sad! I really liked Taiga's performance, he is so talented. And he looked very good in his costume! Which I noticed now that I don't have any photos of... Anyway, the final battle. It was this amazing battle, where they were climbing on cliffs and trees and all sorts of things while fighting, and there was water water water, so they got soooo wet! Takki had this white costume, and looked so handsome! Also, the music during the fighting scene was so epic! In the sense of - sounding like music out of an epic adventure movie or something. They are really good at choosing the music for shows like this!
The show ended with Takki narrating some kind of summary of the end of the Yoshitsune tale, and then he introduced all the cast members for us to applaud them.
After the curtain call they entered the stage dressed in red costumes, and performed With Love. I love this song soooo much! I got all emotional when I watched this performance, both because it was a really amazing performance, and because I didn't know if I would be able to see Takki again before I left Japan later the same year. Yes, that was a very emotional moment.
Well, I think that's it. It's kinda sad to see how the report from the second act is so short, even though the play about Yoshitsune was so long... Well, nothing to do about that. It was still an amazing show and I'm glad I went to see it!
Ishigaki Daisuke (keyboard)
Goto Hiromi (violin)
Younger Johnny's Jr