yukinojou: (Saryan)
[personal profile] yukinojou
The review's a bit late (though not as late as the Elisabeth one!), so to make up for it, I added pictures :) Life's been crazy since I got back.

This was another show with a plot famous for confusing people. I'm rather proud of myself - with rudimentary Japanese and no knowledge of the original Korean drama, the only part of the plot I wasn't able to follow was the actual Four Gods thing, and that was the one thing I'd read up on before. Overall, this was a gorgeous show - perfect cast, perfect energy, gorgeous visuals and engaging characters. I'll be buying this one on DVD!

Compared to the Flower version earlier this year, they dive straight into the present-day story. The reason this show works is because of Damduk and how much the viewer can identify with him: there's a real character journey from aristocratic playboy to fearsome warrior, and he has clear, energised relationships with the rest of the cast. You have to admire someone who sees a fight between half a dozen ruffians, steps in with a sword to knock them all on their backsides, and ends up acquiring a posse of fanboys and fangirls.

There is a lot of plot here, but the show is good at making it be about dramatic, emotionally charged interactions. There's no filler scenes - for example we go straight from Yeong Hae and Damduk being best friends (and I love the way soldier!Yeong Hae clearly teases Damduk for being a lily-handed courtier), to Damduk meeting Kiha and being warned about someone poisoning his father, then the scene where he confronts Yeong Hae's mother about the poison and she kills herself, cursing him. In less than 20 minutes, one of the central conflicts is entirely set up in a way that provides momentum for the rest of the play.

Above: Kiha and Damduk at Damduk's father's bedside, Asahi.com

And for a show that relies a lot on magic and curses, they've come up with a very effective way of portraying them. Throughout the play, the set has several columns on each side that seemed built out of LCD screens, changing projections to match the scene. So whenever Kiha goes "by the way, I can blow you all up", the rising flames are a very effective counterpart. I also admired the way the transformations were done - Sou Kazuho as Beulgil changing in age was very smooth (multilayered wigs for the win), and whats-his-face the cursed warrior - the way they took apart the blue makeup/mask in single scales was seriously impressive.

Above: Pillars and generally gorgeous sets, Asahi.com

I was anxious about the fight choreography, because it's difficult to do convincingly (see, Versailles, Rose of). Those were the best battle sequences ever @.@ The amount o training that must have gone into 60 people all with swords, shields and spears fight-dancing like this... no wonder Teru was so exhausted she broke her foot, especially when her first scene as Yeong Hae had her jumping down from a three-metre-tall wall.

Above: Pretty, pretty fights! Asahi.com

Then there was the dancing. Not much in the show, but the revue made up for it in spades. The highlight was the Mortal-Kombat-like otokoyaku dance, in which several times the others stepped aside and panted frantically while Chie kept dancing and dancing and dancing. I'm sure that girl has a wind-up key on her back.

Above: Best revue number ever, Asahi.com

It's Takarazuka, so the costumes were gorgeous, and for once there were remarkably few ridiculous ones. They outdid themselves on the armour, especially Damduk's, which changed with the progress of the show to reflect the transition and maturity of his character. His followers all ended up having their armour reflect their individual personalities, and the robes when people were in civillian wear - half the silk in China, at least, especially since every higher-up was in at least 5 layers of it.

Above: Damduk in so many layers I'm not sure how Chie could move, Asahi.com

(The only thing I would object to visually was the amount of moustached men with long dark hair and official-looking robes. The robes were gorgeous, but apart from Beulgil, it sometimes took a while to realise who's speaking.)

The number of strong female roles in this show is impressive. Lieutenant Gak Dan (Aono Yuki), the head of the bodyguards, had great rapport with Damduk and basically stole the end of the first act with her Death of Drama. I already mentioned Yeong Hae's mother, who got a powerful death-scene of her own. The priestesses were clearly not to be disobeyed. There were no less than three well-defined female characters in Damduk's band, including the girl vagrant so protective of her younger sister - I loved the scene where she gave in and told Jumuchi he could marry her sister, and then the ex-blue cursed warrior cleared his throat in a way that managed to convey "can we get going and kill people before everyone ends up sniffling?". And then Miya Rurika as Sujini: the cutest of pocket-sized tomboys, so much all over the place, and narrating a lot.

And then there is Kiha. It's the first time I've seen Nene in a major role except snippets of Winds of Buenos Aires, but she's strong. Young, surely, and needs time to find her emploi, but she's got the acting skills, the voice and the looks to be stellar. She reminds me of a cross between Toono Asuka and Maki-era O-Hana. Plus, Kiha gets to burninate people something like ten minutes after giving birth. This, my friends, is the new definition of hardcore.

Above: Also, her costumes are hardcore. Asahi.com

The trouble with Star Troupe is that they have too many good people, really, and in Legend the breadth of the cast means they all got not only speaking roles, but whole scenes to themselves. I can't not mention Ema Naoki in yet another double-role, and the wonderful tag-team her Hyeongo made with Sujini. Alas, I still haven't figured out blue cursed warrior's name, but whoever the actress was, she was stellar. Suzumi Shio as Beulgil was just having way, way too much fun being evil. Ayami Haya was great as the general, very strong and just the right kind of quiet, powerful presence.

Above: Damduk's ragtag band, Asahi.com

I also have a new person to really, really keep an eye on. Yumeno Seika played Saryan, Beulgil's blond henchman. This was the definition of star power - she'd come onstage, and just stand there, or hand Beulgil implements, or bar Kiha's path so that she couldn't escape, and yet I couldn't take my eyes off her. She's very young, and yet she was the choice for Teru's replacement as Yeong Hae when it looked like Teru's injury would take her out of the play entirely. I can see why, and oh, I want to see more of her. Like the 2008 Star Troupe Anna Karenina *eyedart*

Above: This would be the blondie in question, Asahi.com

Mind you, my binoculars were on Chie (Yuzuki Reon / Damduk) and Teru (Ouki Kaname / Yeong Hae) half the time. First show as Top Star for Chie, first show as nibante and in Star altogether for Teru, and looking at them you'd think they'd been together for ages. The chemistry's definitely there, and the flame, and the friendship and mutual fangirling. The show called for high drama - it's a Legend, it needs storybook heroes - and they rose to the task. Chie's character journey was phenomenal, each moment of it clearly defined, and Teru with the difficult role of not-quite-villain managed to rivet my attention even when she was just standing quietly at the edge of the stage. I knew Chie had good chemistry with Nene, but Teru surprised me - Yeong Hae didn't get many scenes with Kiha, but when they were even just standing next to each other, they sizzled. And the voices don't hurt - between Chie and Teru, it was a surprise that the sound system remained intact. Chie's voice is an otokoyaku version of Yuichiro Yamaguchi's baritone, with vibrations that send shivers down your spine.

Above: Exhibit A: Teru and Nene, Asahi.com

Of the Ridiculous Takarazuka Ideas department, there weren't many, but alas this time the bug hit the props and stage design department. Damduk got a Patent Reversible Lightsaber that only glowed on one side of the blade, and the ending was rather ruined by the contraption they got to elevate Damduk and Kiha for the Elisabeth-like grand finale - it looked like a tank with a platform grafted onto the cannon, or the unfortunate offspring of an elephant and a rhinoceros. Fortunately the latter will probably be invisible on the DVD.

Above: Patent Reversible Lightsaber, Asahi.com

And yes, I'm getting this DVD. Soon. Especially since the night we were there, they were doing test filming for it, on top of Matobu Sei being in the audience, together with what looked like a sizeable contingent of Flower Troupe (which resulted in demachi being cancelled in favour of Takarasiennes pouring into backstage rather than out). We also got the experience of an onstage talk show that consisted of Ema Naoki leading Ayami Haya, Aono Yuki and two underclassmen in teasing Teru rotten :) Poor Teru couldn't even sit down in her armour, and then got named favourite character by everyone except Aono Yuki, probably aided by the fact that three of those present were part of Yeong Hae's army. At one point the underclassmen had a fight and decided that they wanted Teru to sit between them, but she declined on account of armour trouble. Clearly she fits in well, and all of Star Troupe both adore Ema Naoki and are slightly terrified by her. (I would be, too. She smiles too much! It's not human!)

Legend was a great ending to a great trip, even if we didn't get to see Chie at demachi :) And I have so, so many letters to write once I have a moment. Chie and Nene and Teru, certainly, and Yumeno Seika, Miya Rurika and Aono Yuki. Star is definitely my second troupe now, after Snow.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-21 08:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] breakism.livejournal.com
The warrior you were looking for is Makaze Suzuho. I call her mini-Mizu.
Edited Date: 2009-07-21 08:20 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-21 08:42 am (UTC)
winter: (fandom - evil never looked so good)
From: [personal profile] winter
Thankee :D She definitely resembles Mizu, and looks like I have a new baby to keep an eye on - for one so young, she was stellar, grabbing the spotlight like anything.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-21 08:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] breakism.livejournal.com
Oh, and do realize that I am very much in love with you right now. ♥

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-21 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenebi.livejournal.com
Thanks for the review! I can't wait to see this! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-21 03:23 pm (UTC)
winter: (neil gaiman)
From: [personal profile] winter
I'm sure you'll love it :) It's in the tradition of best recent Star shows. I really admire them for having so many talented people and using them all in one show.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-22 06:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amanuensis1.livejournal.com
Wow, this is BEAUTIFUL.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-22 07:07 am (UTC)
winter: (Rising Stars - Fearless)
From: [personal profile] winter
This would be why I adore Takarazuka doing traditional stuff (even if it's Korean rather than Japanese this time) :D Especially since they tend to do such simple sets. Every still from that show was a masterpiece.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-24 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arlecchinic.livejournal.com
Aha! Not to sound like a stalker, but I think I saw you! (Sorry, followed you here from your comments on Jen's journal.)

Second floor? Probably around row 10? Was that you, or was there just an abundance of gaijin fans around that day? ;)

I'm really, really glad you liked the show so much ♥

(But the underclassmen soldiers in the talk show aren't underclassmen. Mishiro Ren's an 84th, so she's two years above Kaname, and Tsurumi Mayuu's only one year below. They're both just so incredibly sweet and shy that they come across as about five years younger.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-24 03:34 pm (UTC)
winter: (portraits - purple)
From: [personal profile] winter
Nope, that was [livejournal.com profile] ladyoz :) [livejournal.com profile] fyrie and I were closer, in row... two, I think, since I remember being ticked off with the first-row people leaning forward before the show until I realised they were staring at Yuu. I look like this icon and am almost six feet, while Herself is a pocket-sized blue-eyed Celt.

They surely fooled me! My Japanese is painful, so I didn't catch their names when they introduced themselves, and I wrote this review before I found the talkshow snippets online. They giggled wonderfully :)


yukinojou: (Default)
Beth Winter

January 2012

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