Gekidan Shinkansen’s Rock n’ Roll Odyssey with Fortress of Skulls Coming to Theatres (Canada-wide)

The choice isn’t hard on which version of Gekidan Shinkansen’s Fortress of Skulls is worth watching. The one now playing across Canada at select cinemas is shorter.

Fortress of Skulls Film PosterIn select theatres Jan 26 and Jan 28 across Canada (ticket link)

Anyone who doesn’t want to watch the nearly three-hour version of Gekidan Shinkansen’s Fortress of Skulls (Wind mix) on Netflix now has an option! This gorgeous production has been edited down to a tighter work, and it’s now playing across Canada at select cinemas.

This theatre company delivers quite the experience when you can see one of their shows live. There, the seating moves with the action (more on this later), but for others going to see it at a movie theatre, the performance has a different feel. While we don’t get the sensation of the stage in motion, we will be assaulted with other terrific bits to make us feel like we’re in the play’s environment. Not only do we get a rousing score that blends rock and roll with traditional music, but also find the lighting design is straight out of a heavy metal concert.

Many cameras are used to track the action with this updated take. One is locked off to frame the entire stage, and the rest are located at strategic spots to nail specific instances, and rest roaming one to nail close-ups. Had this been aired live, the director has to be on his A game to call the camera change. With up to twenty that can be used in total, that’s a lot!

The taped performance is almost perfectly edited and all I have to say is wow. Aside from one whoops where I saw the sword doesn’t hit, despite the victim reacting, a slip up is forgivable. The added use of Dutch angles helps emphasise some chaos going on, and this style of cinematography does not differ from how some anime films are produced. The only difference is that the approach is rarely used in historical dramas.

Fortress of Skulls Cast

The story written by Kazuki Nakashima (Batman Ninja) concerns a coming Civil War. After Lord Oda Nobunaga passed away, Toyotomi Hideyoshi made a power play, and not everyone was pleased. Elsewhere, Tenmao is rallying his forces to fight this transition, and to defeat him won’t be easy. He’s tougher and fiercer than Skeletor from Masters of the Universe, which hints at why storming the Fortress of Skulls is important to this tale.

However, I liken him to Sauron from Middle Earth because of that helmet and Spanish Armour he wears, but as for how easily he can be taken down depends who is will challenge him. There’s three figures– Sutenoske, Jiroemon and Ranbei–who have their individual agendas against this foe, and all these figures have some history with one another!

There are even other theatrical bits to appreciate in this work’s design. And after watching the taped show, I really want to see it live. The original performance was from 1990, and has seen many updates every seven years to tighten the narrative and improve upon to make it this theatre troupe’s de facto show to see. On this list includes who is cast into the roles, which includes hiring trending actors, updates to the set and new costumes.

Fortress of Skulls - Publicity Image

The last live production was back in 2017/18 year, and I’m fairly sure this was taped with the “Stage Around” feature, where “the audience is 360° surrounded by the stage and its seating floor rotates.” The wording is unusual, but I think it’s an advancement to the ancient style of theatre in the round. It’s hard to notice but when considering no cameras are allowed on stage during the combat sequences, to see how it all moves in person furthers my interest.

This troupe won’t be coming to America and as for when they’ll perform live next, seven years have passed since this play’s last show. As for whether the plan is to give to the world these cinematic screenings instead of another live tour, only the latest information from their official website can tell.

For the latest updates, please visit

About Gekidan☆Shinkansen

In November 1980, members consisting mainly of seniors (Shu Kogure, Hidenori Inoue, etc.) at the Osaka University of Arts Theatrical Arts Department launched the troupe by playing “The Atami Murder Case” by Kohei Tsuka. The name of the troupe “Shinkansen” was decided by the reason that the members used a bullet train, known as Shinkansen, to go back home during that time. This troupe became popular because they copied Tsuka’s work and became the centrepiece of the theatre boom among college students in the Kansai region. The genre of the play shifted from the copy of Tsuka’s play to an original entertainment full of comedy, rock, and action. Currently, it is subdivided by series such as Inoue Kabuki and Shinkansen R, and these unique characteristics are established as “Shinkansen-ism.”

Gekidan☆Shinkansen’s greatest number of recruitments took place during the 2012 winter performance “ZIPANG PUNK ~ Goemon Rock III”, recording over 130 thousand people. In 2015, Gekidan☆Shinkansen reached its 35th anniversary.

Playing in:

  • Toronto (Cineplex Cinemas, Yonge-Dundas)
  • Montreal (Cinéma Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin)
  • Ottawa (Cineplex Odeon South Keys Cinemas)
  • Vancouver (Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas)
  • Calgary (Cineplex Odeon Eau Claire Market Cinemas)
  • Edmonton (Cineplex Odeon South Edmonton Cinemas)

Seven Souls in the Skull Castle (2013 Presentation) (Fortress of Skulls)

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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