By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
North American or Japanese, musicals must be seen live. When it is not possible to attend either due to location or cost, sometimes the next best thing is to see it at the movies. Whether that’s with a remote broadcast or adaptation, these shows rarely disappoint. When paired with a pop culture phenomenon, especially Sailor Moon, visions of New York Radio City’s The Rockettes style performances come to mind. Just do not tell the Sailor Senshi. They may go on a tirade. This particular series is retelling the manga by Naoko Takeuchi and they been playing in Japan for over two decades. The story arcs are expanded upon and even goes into bold new directions. Not every Japanese pop culture enthusiast may know this subgenre. To keep track of everything from Japan means having both ears to the ground. Officially, only the soundtracks exist and bootleg videos are a grey area. The first overseas performance was in 2015 in Shanghai, and the North American premiere of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical—Le Mouvement Final, presented as a pre-recorded performance, started late last month. Screening made its way to Cineplex Theatres Canada last week.
I am very thankful CineLife Entertainment for overseeing an international distribution; more screenings are being added, and I suspect this video tour is still rolling out.
Other shows like Bleach, Pokémon and Saint Seiya are adapted to musicals and not all of them will have an international appeal. Finding bootlegs is not the best way to go, and to have a company confident in offering international releases may well mean home video is next.
The cinema broadcast is great at showing the scale of these productions. These Sailor Moon musicals are ambitious one-set glam rock shows. To see these Sailor Senshi come to life will have many a fan smile. Even though the performers are wearing those candy coloured wigs and are hamming it up, they clearly have a love for the material, otherwise, they would not be singing their heart out. After the curtain call, Yuga Yamato hams up her Tuxedo Mask numbers, complete with all the prerequisite winks and rustle of the cape sound effects!
The personas this twenty-three person troupe have to play are spot on. Even though I have not seen the anime in years, I remember! It’s hard not to forget the overzealous hyper-activeness from the animated series.
In theatre, to nail laser style special effects means the use specially developed props with fog machines and trick lighting. With this latest show, spotlights and projection give the illusions of the Sensei’s powers coming to life instead of focusedHotaru Nomoto light beams from sticks. Suspension of belief is required and in theatre that’s easy to do.
The best voice is Kaede who plays Sailor Jupiter. Asami Okamura (岡村麻未, Princess Kakyuu) is amazing with her operatic numbers, showing this musical is a blend of different styles of music than mostly J-pop. In the back of my mind, I was wondering if Bubblegum Crisis can be next as a stage production. Riona Tatemichi (立道梨緒奈, Sailor Star Maker) has the look to pull off being Priss.
Hotaru Nomoto (野本ほた) is even perfect to play the lead, Usagi. She’s the third actress to play this title character, and competition must have been tough to find successors in this musical’s long 20+ year run. She takes a little getting used to and as the story expands to show what this character embodies, this actress proves her worth. Her story is at the forefront. After witnessing the ‘death’ of Mamo-kun (Yuuga Yamato), part of her soul gets locked away. Very quickly, in the wake of this trauma, a new threat appears on Earth to steal Usagi’s and her friend’s crystals. The Shadow Galactica is led by Galaxia (Coco Isuzu). The fact this series stays true to the themes from the series makes this production shine. Love and compassion will save all; the future is revealed and the big question is where will this series go from here? Is this the end?
Although a small group of fans attended this one time show at the Cineplex theater, the talk heard afterward show the fandom is alive and well. In Vancouver, BC, an evening festival will take place on June 30th at the Holiday Inn & Suites. The Sailor Moon Van Expo 2018 falls on Usagi’s birthday and more information can be found here.
The market can be fickle when considering when and where these presentations are offered. I was told from an inside source the attendance numbers were not impressive for Shin Godzilla in Nanaimo and Drunken Master during Cineplex’s Flashback Film Festival; My hope is that this chain in Canada does not give up. Not all theatre-chains have the stay positive attitude. As word of mouth spreads about what they are willing to bring in, the fans will come.