KAWAGUCHI Matsutarô's novel Tsuruhachi and Tsurujirô (1934) gained popularity after it was adapted into a play and then into a film. This paper examined how the novel was received. In addition, it also clarified the fluid nature of Matsutarô's text by examining the problems of its adaptation and relationship to the Japanese performance art genre “geidômono.”
The main characters of Tsuruhachi and Tsurujirô are the performers of the Shinnai musical performance art. Together with The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums that follows Kabuki actors, Tsuruhachi and Tsurujirô has generally been considered the performance art genre's representative work. The performance art genre “geidômono” refers to the group of works that depict a world where performance holds a supreme value beyond any particular person. Undeniably, this work and the theatrical production of its predecessor The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums functioned as the impetus creating this genre. Nevertheless, this investigation has shown that while both of these works were treated as similar stories in their historical contexts, their structures greatly differ. Furthermore, Tsuruhachi and Tsurujirô has been considered an adaptation of the long-time Hollywood film Bolero. Clearly, portions have commonalities with Bolero, for instance, the setting, but Tsuruhachi and Tsurujirô's structure and character models differ distinctly from Bolero.
This paper first addresses the general academic inertia in the research on Japanese theatre during the Fifteen-Years War (1931-1945). A few shingeki-centered studies have emphasized the government's repression of theatre, but more detailed, evidence-based examination (rather than emotionally charged accusations based on limited experiences on the part of “victims”) will reveal the complex and complicated situation in which Japanese theatre was bogged down from 1931 through 1945.
Second, it redefines Ozasa Yoshio's argument that the “National Theatre” (kokumin engeki) concept was not a detestably successful example of the nation's cultural control but a failed enterprise broadly supported by theatre practitioners who were encouraged by the nation's first attempt to support theatre. The National Theatre concept was so abstract and vague that government official, critics and scholars, shingeki people, and production companies could put their different ideals and plans on it, with the result that it failed to provide a unified vision of the National Theatre, whether it was based on shingeki or kabuki.
Third, it proposes a new perspective on mobile theatre. The “uncontrollability” of theatre arts was most tellingly reflected in the realities of Japanese mobile theatre during World War II. These realities should be further examined not only by excavating unfound documents told by the performers and the leaders of the mobile theatre, but also by exploring the experiences of audiences in villages and factories.
Lastly, the paper concludes that unlike the Nazi Theatre, which Japanese government official and scholars set an example of, Japanese theatre during the Fifteen-Years War was not so organized or unified that the government could control its broad activities. Although research on the influences of the Nazi theatre policies on Japan's National Theatre concept should be continued, they are expected to be limited ones.