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BWW Blog: Should Anime Be Adapted for Broadway?

You’re laughing. Andrew Rannells poured his heart out as Team Rocket’s James in ‘Pokémon Live!’ and you’re laughing.

BWW Blog: Should Anime Be Adapted for Broadway?
My Hero Academia

The time within quarantine has no doubt made people more nostalgic for the older, 'normal' days, leading to the rediscovery of old favorites. People were reminded of their Glee phases, their favorite Pixar movies, the old flash games they used to play online after school. For me, quarantine has brought back my repressed middle school anime phase in full force. I spent a hefty portion of my winter break revisiting old animes that shaped who I am today and discovering new classics in the making. Considering this is a theatre website and not my Dungeons & Dragons discord forum, I'll spare you the details. But while John Cena is posting about anime himself, I thought I would shed light on the wondrous world of theatrical anime adaptions.

BWW Blog: Should Anime Be Adapted for Broadway?
Demon Slayer

We've had jukebox musicals, book and film adaptations, even comic book adaptations, but could anime be the next New Medium to explore new stories for the stage with? Japan thinks so. Theatrical performances based on anime have been going on for decades. In fact, an adaptation for the stage usually indicates a property is a huge success. Much like how successful films have gotten the musical treatment like 'Legally Blonde,' successful animes have received the stage play transformation. A more recent example was the announcement of the 'Demon Slayer' stage play, based on the manga serialization. The story follows a young boy training to become a demon slayer while trying to find the cure for his younger sister, who just recently transformed into a demon. For people in the know, this isn't crazy news, considering the Demon Slayer movie just recently became the most successful film in Japan of all time. A personal favorite of mine, the recent popular series 'My Hero Academia' (a series about high schoolers attending school to become superheroes) also developed a musical adaptation in 2019.

BWW Blog: Should Anime Be Adapted for Broadway?
Andrew Rannells as James
in Pokémon Live

While anime stage productions are typically only available in Japan or on DVD, some shows have already crossed seas and reached American stages, as a matter of fact. The most well-known show is 'Pokémon Live!,' a national show that traveled the states from 2000-2001. The production is most notable for the involvement of Andrew Rannells, but it generally was considered a success. Unfortunately, critics were not fans and questioned the authenticity. After all, with songs reminiscent of American musicals like 'Annie' and 'The King & I,' it's not far-fetched to wonder whether changes were made to appeal to American audiences more and if that was the main reason for success.

'Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon The Super Live' didn't find a home at a Broadway theatre, but it did make a weekend appearance at the PlayStation Theater on Broadway in March 2019. This particular adaptation of the crime-fighting magical girl anime was mostly centered around acrobatics and extensive dance choreography rather than dialogue and song heavy, probably since it was developed with an international, non-Japanese speaking audience in mind. Interestingly enough, 'Sailor Moon' is a powerhouse franchise that has spanned roughly 31 musicals in Japan, ranging from concerts to fully original musicals. Personally, I wonder if one of these more fleshed out pieces could be presented on an American stage almost like an opera to preserve the original form, or if a fully translated version would be best.

BWW Blog: Should Anime Be Adapted for Broadway?
Sailor Moon

Something important to mention is that, not unlike Broadway, controversy is no stranger to the anime stage adaptation business. For example, frequently trending on Twitter anime 'Attack on Titan' was supposed to see a stage play adaptation back in 2017. The anime, currently premiering its final season, is about the last of humanity's fight against man-eating monsters named Titans. Despite the popularity, the stage play was canceled after tragedy struck. During the pre-production stage, aerial supervisor Kazutaka Yoshino fell 30 feet after testing some equipment. Yoshino had previous experience working on a 'Naruto' stage show and Cirque du Soleil, and the 'Attack on Titan' stage play was also meant to feature a Cirque du Soleil style. The production was canceled in Yoshino's honor. This could potentially scare people away from anime adaptations, but I think that's unfair judgment. I'm sure we all remember the controversial, tragedy infested 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.' Broadway has definitely learned and grown from that production, and I don't doubt they can apply the same expertise to an anime stage play. They certainly did so for the 'Paramour' Cirque du Soleil production in 2016.

Other popular anime stage adaptations include but aren't limited to 'Hunter x Hunter,' 'Bleach,' 'Death Note,' and 'Black Butler.'

So who knows! Will anime be the next venture into the unknown for theatre? We've had Ratatouille, TikTok is developing a Bridgerton musical I hear... maybe we'll see a real-life theatrical production of Avatar the Last Airbender a la the Ember Island Players one day!

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From This Author Student Blogger: Isabella Gonzalez