This paper aims to investigate the body images seen in Bunroku Shishi (Toyo’o Iwata)’s novel, Ghost Story of Youth written in 1954.
Shishi was one of the co-founder of the theatre company Bungaku-za (established in 1937), but now little is known about him as a theatre practitioner because of his lack of career as a playwright. Rather, he has been famous as a popular novelist. But, in my view, his novels could be analyzed through his experience of theatre practitioner.
Chiaki, one of the protagonist of Ghost Story of Youth, is a ballet dancer. The story focuses on her unstable body. She feels uncomfortable in her female body because she is not sure she is a woman in biological term, which leads to several troubles around her. For example, Shin’ichi, her childhood friend and fiancé, suspects her sexuality and wonders if they could marry. Chiaki herself can not handle her body and her dancing practice. Finally, she is replaced her role as a prima-donna of Swan’s Lake by her rival dancer. But through performative affirmation of her sexual identity, she rediscovers her deep love to Shin’ichi and finds herself again as a woman. In this point, this story can be said an earlier statement of performative construction of gender identity, which is now a standard term of feminist theory.
Less is known how Shishi acquired this innovative point of view because he did not mention much about his writing. But it might be said that his experience as a theatre practitioner and a theatre theorist reflects on this innovative perspective.
For example, Shishi had stayed in Paris for several years in 1920’s and went to ballet performance, including Ballet Russes, frequently. He was so fascinated in the ballet world that he once intended to become a ballet critic. His concern moved towards the research of innovative directors, such as Jacques Copeau, but he seemed to continue his research about ballet and left some writing about it after he came back to Japan.
Added to that, Shishi’s daughter Tomoe’s character, which is written in some of his semi-autobiographical novels, might lead to Chiaki in Ghost Story of Youth because she is said to be less female. But it remains no more than speculation.
Since the debut of Musical The Prince of Tennis in 2003, stage musicals adapted from two-dimensional media such as manga and anime have gained remarkable popularity in Japan. These “2.5 dimensional musicals” are unique in many ways: they require a comparatively low budget, inexperienced actors, a remarkably simple stage set and demonstrate loyalty to the original material. In these ways, they are distinct from the more conventional and imported musical productions performed at major Japanese commercial theaters.
Among the unique characteristics of 2.5 dimensional musicals, one of the most distinct is its principle of the adaptation. To adapt the original material from page to stage, musicals can either remain faithful to or deviate from the original material. In conventional musicals, faithfulness to the original material is not their main purpose. Writers cut, change and adapt the original material to serve their purpose and create “original” shows. Conversely, in 2.5 dimensional musicals, faithfulness to the original material is of great importance. The name of the genre itself suggests the importance and uniqueness of the ideals of the adaptation; 2.5 dimensional musicals strive to remain faithful to the original manga/anime image and create an effect that allows the audience to perceive what they see as two-dimensional even though the performance itself is undeniably happening in three-dimensional theater space. The latter characteristic prompted the emergence of the name “2.5 dimensional” musicals.
Although its two-dimensionality has attracted notice, the fact that the performances have also been set to music and dance has been overlooked - in some cases, both musical and non-musical shows have been classified as “2.5 dimensional musicals.” To analyze the characteristics of the 2.5 dimensional musical, this study will compare Musical The Prince of Tennis with mainstream musicals such as Beauty and the Beast (1994) More than ten productions have been made of Musical The Prince of Tennis series; this paper focuses on the opening numbers of those productions. In conventional musicals, opening numbers are expected to function as an important part of the show. Opening numbers set the context, introduce characters, direct the story, present the theme, and essentially, open the show. This study aims to reveal the characteristics of Musical The Prince of Tennis and investigate how musical numbers work in those shows through comparison of the elements that characterize opening numbers.
The subject of modern Japanese “overflowing bodies” obscures the demarcation of performance order by choosing not to distinguish between “universal” or “local.” On the one hand, if we believe in the universal value of artistic activities by human beings and adopt a perspective derived from the awareness to discover what the body is and how it is represented in the context of “universal culture,” bodies and performances could not be categorized according to ethnicity though we could still admit a site-specific imagination. On the other hand, the concept of the “locality” of bodies and performances is based on an artistic approach that finds style in endemic and indigenous bodies and body movements, favoring an eccentric, unsophisticated, and premodern, local, or “rural” location. In short, “overflowing-ness” creates a tension between local and universal, national and transnational, site-specific and ubiquitous—that is, between inside and outside.
This research note focuses on the permanency or transformation of bodies and performances, (ir-)respective of their Japanese contexts by taking three examples of various Japanese bodies in European locations in a global age.
After Kosuge Hayato’s introduction, (1) Tanaka Rina engages with the relationship between the body image of an actress Ichiro Maki and authenticity in the Japanese adaptation of an Austrian musical. Secondly, (2) Miyagawa Mariko works with the matter of inheritableness of Butoh by taking some examples from the dancers who intend to copy Ohno Kazuo’s movements. (3) Hagiwara Ken focuses finally on some Japanese artists who have recently presented their works in Germany and deals with Japanese bodies in performances in the historical and contemporary context on site.
Employing the different approaches to the theme “Japanese bodies” in the various types of theater performance, interdisciplinary discussions from diverse viewpoints from philosophy, choreography, theater, and performance studies, are provided. They could not be viewed as a single, fixed concept, but rather as a transitive flow, reflecting the contemporary, historical, or site-specific context of each performance. “Japanese bodies” present as a complex hybrid that could be interpreted and created by and for each individual actor/actress as well as the audience. In this framework, the multi-dimensional transition will be tracked, and consequently, “Japanese bodies” will come to light as a result of transition and globalization.