Yuichiro UmeharaAya HisakawaYuko KaidaKengo Kawanishi
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2017: K
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2017
Director: Kazuhiro Yoneda
Writer: Yoshiko Nakamura
Original creator: Yuuri Eda
Actor: Aya Hisakawa, Ayaka Asai, Kazutomi Yamamoto, Kengo Kawanishi, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Ryota Ohsaka, Taichi Ichikawa, Tomoaki Maeno, Yuichiro Umehara, Yuko Kaida, Yumi Uchiyama
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=18691
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 23 October 2018
I really enjoyed that! It's a lovely little show, albeit also a light piece of fun that's not really trying to do much more than entertain. It wants to make kabuki more popular, I suppose.
Kabuki is a super-weird kind of Japanese theatre. (Yes, even more so than other weird kinds of Japanese theatre like Noh and Kyougen.) You paint your face in wacky designs, wear amazing costumes and deliver all your lines in a sort of elongated singing howl. You're also posing throughout. It's probably about as far as theatre can get from naturalism. It's also hard even for Japanese people to understand, because everyone uses archaic language and it's not easy to make out what they're saying anyway. Imagine Shakespeare performed by wolves.
It looks extraordinary, mind you. It's an experience and a unique cultural tradition. However the storylines can be a bit offbeat and to be honest the ep.12 finale piece in this anime struck me as a bit boring. The bit in the middle is just everyone just lining up and taking turns to howl their monologue. That said, though, a fun performance can really lift it (as again demonstrated in ep.12, reflecting the personalities of the characters involved) and I definitely enjoyed most of the kabuki in this series.
This show is about a kabuki school club ("-bu" meaning club), except that it's not a proper club because they don't have enough members. Kurogo Kurusu is a schoolboy who loves kabuki, which is unusual. (It's not exactly hip and trendy. He got it from his grandfather.) Kurogo's the kind of boy who's capable of going into kabuki declamation mode as he's walking down the road with you, yet amazingly his friend Tonbo is so stoic that this doesn't make him curl up and die. Together they go off to recruit kabuki-lovers! Their victims might not have realised it yet, but they're going to perform some kabuki together on stage, which is so mental that it's brilliant. (Surprisingly, though, Kurogo himself can't participate as an actor. He can talk the talk and walk the walk, but not both at the same time. Put him in a costume on a stage and he'll fail his sanity check.)
The supporting cast are a fun bunch. Their best actor is a complete idiot and drama queen who's great on stage because he's got no self-awareness and just has fun. He made me laugh, as did his little nemesis, Maruko, who's rude to him at every opportunity and is clearly destined to marry him. Other club members will include the tall, handsome ladykiller Kaoru (initially assumes she can't do kabuki because she's female) and the adorable Niwa (masculinity issues). I wonder if some people didn't watch this show because kabuki is traditionally all-male and so this might have looked likely to be another Cast of Pretty Boys anime (with CLAMP character designs), but in fact there's a good gender mix and even some of the kabuki performers are girls. It's only a school club. Why not?
The most interesting character is Jin Ebihara, who's a bit of a dick. He's a professional actor. He's still at school, but he's from a famous kabuki family and he's been on stage since he was a child. Thus he's got some superiority issues and tends to look down on amateurs trying to do kabuki. He certainly doesn't think he could learn anything from them, or that there's point in participating in or even watching their shows. At one point (ep.6) he even says that if someone was bored by kabuki, that's their fault for not studying enough and kabuki doesn't need audience members like that. He's not a bad person, though.
It's a warm show. It's happy. Just seeing these people rehearse kabuki made me smile, while sometimes I'd find myself closely watching and listening to a performance. Kurogo has cool ideas for helping people understand and enjoy kabuki. This show made me fond of both kabuki and its characters, although ep.12 made me wonder if the art form perhaps isn't for me. I still wildly approve of it, though. It's so bizarre that the mere fact of its existence makes me happy. This show does too.