Interview: Bishonen on SHONENTACHI 2023: is Showing Enthusiasm for Overseas Performances

"We were able to create such a great piece in Tokyo, and would like to do that in various places."

By: Nov. 13, 2023

Bishonen: Ryuga Sato, Taisho Iwasaki, Hidaka Ukisho, Yuto Nasu, Issei Kanasashi, Naoki Fujii - a group of six with an average age of 20, formed in 2017 with current members. In the past, they had also appeared in the stage production “SHONENTACHI" and achieved their first solo lead role in “SHONENTACHI 2023: Through The Darkness” (Click here to see Review: "SHONENTACHI" 2023) in October of this year. SHONENTACHI has been continuously evolving since its first run in 1969 and remains connected to the present day. Despite being pre-debut, Bishonen has engaged in various activities, including stage performances, commercials, dramas, and variety shows, gaining attention as a rising young group. Notably, Yuto appears on "Ah, Minna no Doubutsuen(嗚呼!!みんなの動物園)” on NTV, Hidaka joined the main cast of "Gifted (ギフテッド)Season 1 & 2” on WOWOW and Tokai TV, Taisho and Yuto appear on, "Cho Tayosei Talk Show! Naresome(超多様性トークショー!なれそめ)” on NHK General, and NHK Radio 1’s "Radirer! Saturday" features rotating members every week. Additionally, they are set to perform in a spring production at the Imperial Theatre supervised by Koichi Domoto.

In your third performance in the play “SHONENTACHI” this year, you took on the challenge of your first solo lead role. Could you share your feelings when you were being cast as the lead, the most challenging aspect during rehearsals, and your overall experience in this production?

(Hidaka) It was really exciting.

(All) Yeah.

(Hidaka) Until now, we've been doing "SHONENTACHI" with another group, but when we heard that we could do it alone, we were genuinely happy. Of course, I was nervous, but the feeling of "Let's do it, let's do our best" was stronger than that.

(Taisho) Director (Hikaru) Iwamoto was also there, so that was reassuring. It was our first time, but we worked hard on it while relying on him a bit.

(Naoki) Until now, we had been doing it with a confrontational structure between two groups, so I wondered what would happen this year. But when I heard that Mr. Iwamoto said, "'SHONENTACHI' involves conflict, reconciliation, and cooperation, and I want to continue the structure,” and I heard that he kept that structure of 3 vs. 3 within one group, I felt relieved. It was impressive that he kept the familiar form of "SHONENTACHI" intact.

Interview: Bishonen on SHONENTACHI 2023: is Showing Enthusiasm for Overseas Performances
Bishonen performing "Flicky." ​​​​Choreographed and 
​​​​​the costume designed by Hikaru Iwamoto​​​

(Ryuga) Mr. Iwamoto designed the costumes for our new song (“Flicky”), which the taste of the song is very cool and he also created choreography that only he could do. The nuances were challenging, and we practiced a lot.

(Hidaka) That's right.

Did Mr. Iwamoto also design the costumes?

(Ryuga) Yes. Each one has a different design. He consulted with us, saying, "Doesn't this suit you? How about this?" He made cool black-based costumes.

It has a military feel, like Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us.”

(Ryuga) That's right.

(Yuto) SHONENTACHI" has been performed by two groups, even when watching seniors. We also recognized it as a confrontation structure between two groups until the second year, so when we heard that we would do it with one group, we thought it was a really innovative challenge and exciting. Actually doing it, we received a lot of opinions from various stakeholders and fans, and many were satisfied. I feel like we were able to put the energy of two groups into one group. I'm really feeling a sense of accomplishment now.

(Hidaka) Yeah, yeah.

Looking back on the past, being a single group is really rare.

(All) It's the first time, we heard.

(Issei) This time, it was the first time for Bishonen to perform a solo lead with only six members. Of course, there was a sense of responsibility and pressure, but many juniors also appeared. Since we, Bishonen, were in the forefront this time, we led the juniors from the rehearsal. We approached each day of practice with care, and I think we were able to create a good stage for the performance.

How was your experience working on the production with the "director" Iwamoto (Click here to see Interview: Hikaru Iwamoto) from before the start of production, during rehearsals, and after the performance?

(Taisho) He has a sweet side, but he was like a strict prison warden.

(All) He was strict, yeah. Lol

(Taisho) Overall, it was a stage that required a lot of physical strength, but on top of that, he added pressure and drove us to the limit. We faced rehearsals and performances with full force, but then he gave us this advise, "I want everyone to leave with a feeling of 'I wanted to do a little more' on the last day.” He was interesting person.

(Hidaka) I've worked with Hikaru before in a movie called "My Boyfriend in Orange" where we played a firefighter, and he was like a big brother, giving advice and teaching me about acting. When we talked about this play, he mentioned that “I wonder when everyone will realize that I am the real prison warden” I was like “He’s got a point.” He was strict, but at the same time, he would think about us and provide various advice, so he’s more like a role model to me.

(Naoki) His advice was very clear, even during dance rehearsals. He would explain how he wanted things done while demonstrating and using examples. As he had performed in “SHONENTACHI” before, he could convey his feelings and thoughts very clearly. It made things much easier for us.

(Hidaka) Definitely.

(Ryuga) At first, he seemed like a scary senior, but during the rehearsal period, he was incredibly kind, encouraging us to speak our minds. So, it was easy for us to express our opinions. Also, except for Issei, who is still underage, we all received expensive champagne on the closing night.

(Naoki) Issei got a soft drink.

(Ryuga) It looked quite expensive. I was like, "I would fall in love with him!”

(Naoki) He’s cool.

(Hidaka) Really.

(Yuto) I thought Mr. Iwamoto was excellent at using the combination of the carrot and stick effectively. Every time after the full rehearsal, he would definitely recognize some good points and say, “This part was excellent. That’s why, strive even harder on this one”

(Hidaka) Exactly. Lol

(Yuto) He must have said it about a hundred times. He recognizes and encourages us to strive for improvement. I really felt he was a great mentor in guiding juniors.

(All) Yeah, yeah.

(Naoki) Initially, he asked, “Which do you want to hear first, the good parts or the bad parts?”

(Hidaka) He did say that! Lol

(Issei) Hidaka has worked with him in a movie before, and while it was others’ and my first time interacting with Mr. Iwamoto, I felt that he was very disciplined. He doesn't praise often, but when he does like “It was so good!" it really hits home. It was incredibly satisfying to hear, and it motivated us to strive for more. Having him as the director for “SHONENTACHI" was a precious time of growth for all of us. I'm really glad he joined us.

(Hidaka) As he mentioned, Hikaru praises the good aspects, but he also points out where it's lacking, so that was easy to understand. Even when he says it's not good, I felt that he's watching over us and thinking about us. I find it quite challenging when someone tells me something is not good, but he conveys everything so straightforwardly. I was moved by that kindness. I'm grateful, truly.

(Naoki) What left a strong impression was that he came to see the last day. After each performance, the staff and we would discuss how the performance went and what could be improved. However, on the last day after the afternoon performance, I wondered why Mr. Iwamoto didn't say anything. When I asked, he said, "I didn't say what I wanted to do differently because the atmosphere on the last day, with the applause from the audience and everyone's feelings, is different. I didn't want to say what I wanted to change but wanted you to cherish that atmosphere for the last day." I heard that and thought, "Oh, he's considering even that aspect." I was really happy.

(Hidaka) It was surprising.

Interview: Bishonen on SHONENTACHI 2023: is Showing Enthusiasm for Overseas Performances
Bishonen in the costume of "SHONENTACHI" 
(Ryuga, Hidaka, Taisho, Yuto, Issei, Naoki)

Could you share your favorite scenes from this "SHONENTACHI" and any aspects you would be pleased if the audience paid attention to? Mr. Iwasaki, you had a scene where you fall from a height onto your back at the end, and I heard you're not a fan of heights…

(Taisho) Oh no, that scene is already a super favorite of mine. At first, it was really scary, but with each repetition, the fear completely disappeared. Strangely, the audience applauds the moment I die by my beautiful fall. Lol

(All) Yeah, that happened. Lol

(Taisho) That's my favorite part.

(Hidaka) But really, with each repetition, I started to think, "That was good!" I felt like, "Humans can grow." You overcame it.

(Naoki) For me, I really put emphasis on the part where I confront the warden, asking for "my brother's surgery." From rehearsals, Mr. (Hiroki) Uchi gave me advice like, "Confronting for your brother, showing how much you care about him, that's the key." So, I thought about my brother every time and performed with that in mind. Actually, I don't have a brother, though. Lol

(All) Lol

(Naoki) I do have an older sister, though. Lol From there, creating the feeling of “We're going to escape" in the scene where we build up to the overall escape was something I was quite particular about.

(Hidaka) Honestly, I've been struggling a bit to pick a part because in my mind, when you think of "SHONENTACHI," "Rival" is deeply ingrained as a conscious theme. Singing "Rival" together with Yuto in this production was really gratifying. It may not be the representative song, but it made me very happy. I hope it becomes one of the highlights.

Was that scene significant for you as well, Mr. Nasu?

(Yuto) Yes, it was. Narratively, "Rival" is the beginning of disclosing information about what happened to these kids. It gradually reveals their past, so I recognized it as a crucial scene. Mr. Iwamoto also treated it with great importance. He did "Rival" when he was in "SHONENTACHI" previously. So, he had an request of how he wanted it done. It wasn't a forceful request, but considering that, Hidaka and I performed it.

Overall, there were many challenging stunt scenes. There were fight scenes on stairs and other intense moments. Was it tough?

(Ryuga) It was tough! Lol

(All) Lol

(Ryuga) Jumping down, doing stunt scenes – we've been quite involved in them, and it's starting to feel a bit good at it  now. Lol

(All) Good at it, sure. Lol

(Ryuga) But understanding how to present it well has finally become clear. It feels like we've become able to show it in a cool way.

(Issei) Scenes like "Love" (the song from this play ) where the scenes with Ryuga, we practiced acting a lot during the rehearsal period.

(Hidaka) The scene where you attempt suicide?

(Issei) Yes, where the prison warden points the gun. Acting in that scene was quite challenging, and during the rehearsal period, I had no idea what to do. But as we practiced, I finally started to understand. It was difficult, but I'm glad I was able to do it.

(Hidaka) That scene has a line I love. When I hear about that during the rehearsal period, I feel like crying. It's a really good line. The one where Ryuga says, “At least you're alive…”?

(Ryuga) “As long as you're alive, good things…”

(Hidaka) “…will definitely happen.”?

(Ryuga) That’s right.

(Hidaka) “As long as you're alive, good things will definitely happen." I'm really moved. I was a bit unsure about calling it a highlight, but I really love that scene.

Before your first appearance in "SHONENTACHI," after your first appearance, and now, for the third time with a solo lead, have there been any changes in your thoughts and impressions regarding peace?

(Naoki) Especially in this time, there's a line at the beginning where I say, "Some of the people in my phone's contact list are deceased." While war might be perceived by Japanese people as something from the past, a historical thing, realizing that "oh, this is what it would be like if it happened now" was quite impactful.

(Taisho) Even when I appeared in the past, there were stories about war, but it felt somewhat distant. In Japan, it's considered something from a long time ago. Even though I understood the brutality of it, it was more like "I know it as knowledge," and it felt somewhat distant. With so many geopolitical crises happening around the world right now, it feels quite close. So, for me, in "SHONENTCHI" this time, the timing was significant, and it made me think and change my perspective in that sense.

(Ryuga) In the ending, I deliver a line that used to be said by Mr. Iwamoto in the previous "SHONENTACHI": "No matter the era, people are consumed by conflict. Throughout the long history of humanity, war has..." Mr. Iwamoto advised me, saying, "Say it more carefully. It's good to convey your true feelings, but try to express it with precise words while holding back. Experiment with it on your own." When delivering that line, there were moments when my emotions were so heightened that I felt like crying. As Taisho mentioned, just because it's Japan doesn't mean we can feel secure, and seeing what's happening in the world, saying that line made me realize, "Oh, really, things like happiness are not taken for granted." I faced the reality of war, pondered various things, and delivered that line while savoring its meaning.

(Issei) My character is a child soldier, and although I haven't actually experienced war, when performing, I interpreted it with a real sense of determination, like, "I won't lose." I conveyed the intensity of the will, like "I have that much determination." If that conveyed even a bit to the audience, I would be really happy. Through the play "SHONENTACHI," because it's completely different depending on the country, saying things like "Japan is a peaceful country" has no relevance. It became a very good time for us, so even though it's our third year, I thought, "Yeah, it's really a great play.”

(Hidaka) How much of a blessing peace is, you might not notice it while you're in it. We've never been present at such scenes, never lived through war, so we think of it as normal. But the moment when "normal is not normal" is when you feel the most basic happiness. I felt like I wanted to live each day appreciating it.

(Yuto) In the opening scene, there's a line where I say, "There are no winners in war. Everyone is a loser..." I think that's really profound. Certainly, there may be winners and losers in the end, but what they're doing is losing, or that's exactly right. I think people who got involved and died were killed by people who didn't know their names, had no acquaintance with them, and were probably indifferent to them. Thinking about that makes me feel really helpless.

How would you like to apply this experience in the future? Have you discovered anything new you'd like to challenge?

(Yuto) It was the first time for all six of us to take the stage as solo leads, we do have experience in dramas, but I thought I'd like to try something solo on stage again, maybe something original, that lasts at least two months.

(Hidaka) Yeah, a month didn't seem to be enough this time, for us.

(Yuto) Definitely.

(Hidaka) Usually, when we do it for a month, we feel like, "Oh, we did it!" but this time, in a good way, it still feels like we can go on. We still feel like we want to do more.

(Taisho) I want to do performances in regional areas.

(Naoki/ Hidaka) Yeah, we want to.

(Taisho) Since we were able to create such a great piece in Tokyo, thinking about that, I'd like to do that in various places. I hope we can deliver it.

(Naoki) It was really fast, like, "Huh!? It's ending this week already!?”

(All) Yeah, yeah!

(Ryuga) Actually, I really want to try doing it overseas!

(Hidaka) I want to try.

(Naoki) Oh! Me, too!

(Hidaka) English version?

(All) Well…Lol 

(Ryuga) Well, I'll do my best. I'll do my best!

(Hidaka) English version of "SHONENTACHI"! But it sounds interesting, a lot.

(Ryuga) I really want people to watch it. People around the world.

(All) Yeah, yeah.

Could you give a message to the overseas fans of Bishonen?

(Taisho) Our global guy, Naoki, will do it.

(All) Lol

(Hidaka) Is that so? Are you in charge of global? Lol

(Naoki) Well… Meeting face to face might be difficult, but through YouTube and such, you write a lot of comments, and seeing that, we feel how many different languages there are. It could be challenging for you to come and see us, so we want to become a big-name enough to go to you.

(Hidaka) That's a goal.

(Ryuga) But it's nice, during concerts, we have people saying, "I came from Thailand," "I came from Korea," and I think, "Oh, that's so nice!" So, even just greetings, I want to learn them properly.

(All) Yeah, yeah.

(Naoki) In each country.

(Ryuga) That's right!

(Hidaka) We can find those things.

(Naoki) It's really nice.

Mr. Fujii, I heard you'd give a message in English…Lol

(All) Lol

(Hidaka) “You can do it!”

(Naoki) “I wanna meet you and I love you.”

(Hidaka) That's a wrap. Lol

(All) Lol

Anybody else would like to share anything in English?

(Yuto) Here we go. “We will be stars.”

(Naoki) That's good! That's good!

(Taisho) “We have to go abroad.”

(All) Yeah! (applause)

(Hidaka) But honestly, I feel stimulated to study English again, especially when I come to places like this. We did mention overseas performances, and if we did everything in English, it would help improve our English skills. Since it's a universal language, I think it would be cool if all six of us could speak fluently when we're put on the spot like now. So, keeping that in mind, I want to do my best.

(Ryuga) We'll do our best!

Photo Credit :[N/A]