In June of 2016, Morning Musume。’16 starred in the Engeki Joshibu musical, Zoku・11 Nin Iru Higashi no Chihei Nishi no Towa, based off the manga written by Hagio Moto. The musical took place in Kyoto on June 11-12, and in Tokyo from June 16-26. Also starring in the production were select members from Tsubaki Factory, Hello! Project Kenshuusei, and Engeki Joshibu, as well as two ex-Takarazuka members: Shiotsuki Shuu and Noeru Misa. On October 5, 2016, the DVD of the musical will release, and includes 4 discs: 1 DVD and 1 CD for each version of the musical.
Zoku・11 Nin Iru is a sequel to the manga, 11 Nin Iru! (They Were 11), and follows several of the characters from the original story after they’ve passed their entrance exam to the Galactic University. From June 16-22, I was able to catch several showings of the musical and witness it all in person. The following ratings are based off my observations during that time (and contain little to no spoilers).
- The relative weak point in this year’s musical. There were several parts where I mentally facepalmed at the direction of the plot, either because I found it illogical or just plain unnecessary.
- As opposed to what the promotion posters suggest, the romance of Tada & Frol is not the main story. They’re actually more of the first-tier support characters.
- The main plot, revolving mostly around Baceska and Fourth, is more about loyalty and friendship. To me, this is the much better side of the story.
- That being said, this is one of those musicals where the more you watch it, the better it gets (& the higher your chances of crying get).
- As expected of Wada Shunsuke, the man who gave us the music for Lilium and several other notable H!P musicals, the music is absolutely wonderful.
- There’s an undeniable sense of cohesiveness throughout the entire soundtrack despite the difference in sound. You can definitely just hit play and not worry about skipping around certain songs.
- Even though I find the romance parts pointless sometimes, they make for some of the best tracks.
- A lot of the choreography in this musical is based in contemporary dance. To people not used to it, it can be a bit awkward to watch since it’s kind of abstract.
- However, the style is very well suited to musicals since it naturally incorporates elements of acting.
- Even though I’m usually not big on this type of dance, I was really able to enjoy it in this.
- There were not only magic tricks, but also visual illusions to further pull you into the story.
- The magic tricks are pretty well placed, and weren’t as awkwardly forced as I thought they would be when I saw the first press coverage of the musical.
Cast (ratings per member)
- With two members playing each role, it’s hard to not directly compare them to each other. However, it’s also interesting to watch how each girl brings life to her role according to her own strengths and take on the character.
- The two ex-Takarazuka members play the same roles in both versions of the play, but are both an immensely important part in the cast. Because of their expertise, they provide a very strong pillar for the core of the production.
Fukumura Mizuki ★★★★★
E: Baceska W: Ona
Fukumura’s Baceska is arguably the most impressive character in the musical. Everything from her aura to her voice to her mannerisms are that of the king, and I couldn’t get enough of seeing her in this role. As Ona in West, she also puts on a wonderful performance, but doesn’t appear nearly as much as she does in East. If you want to see Fukumura Mizuki in her most impressive musical role yet, this is an absolute must.
Ikuta Erina ★★★☆☆
E: Red W: Ishi-atama
Her sword fighting scenes as Red are super cool, and it’s nice to see her get a crucial character after several years of not getting a role in the yearly musicals. That being said, in both East and West, her main character doesn’t appear very frequently. But if you’re watching for her specifically, you do get to see her pop out in every scene as a different background character.
Iikubo Haruna ★★★½☆☆
E: Atenai W: Loan
Despite mostly playing various background characters, she makes the most of her major roles, especially as Loan. When she does appear, she definitely makes sure that her character packs a punch. It’s honestly a waste that she normally gets passed up for musicals, or gets such small roles when she does take part.
Ishida Ayumi ★★★★☆
E: Tada W: Fourth
Ishida is the one who I noticed the most growth in during the musical. She went from being stiff and awkward to being able to show an impressive range of emotions. Her version of Fourth is especially expressive through the eyes.
Sato Masaki ★★★★½☆
E: Tomano W: Baceska
After seeing Fukumura’s version of Baceska first, I really couldn’t imagine Sato’s take on such a serious character. However, despite her constant claims of being bad at acting, she did a magnificent job as Baceska. Everything from her speaking voice to the emotions she put into her character are not the usual Sato that we’ve come to expect. As for the drunk Tomano, that was the more imaginable role out of the two, but enjoyable to watch none the less.
Kudo Haruka ★★★★☆
E: Frol W: Tada
One of the best things about Kudo’s acting is that she’s able to draw out the most charming points of her characters, and she succeeds in doing so again this year. For Frol, she may lack singing skill when compared to Oda, but she definitely makes up for it in raw emotion. Her version of Frol is cute, lovable, and just the perfect amount of annoying. In comparison, Tada is a bit more bland of a character, but with her experience in playing male roles, Kudo is able to pull it off in a natural and convincing manner.
Oda Sakura ★★★★½☆
E: Fourth W: Frol
I couldn’t imagine her in a male role at first, but her voice as Fourth is incredibly cool and surprisingly natural. As always, her singing just blows you away, no matter which role you see her in. Both characters she plays are charming in their own way, and I was really pleased with her performance.
Ogata Haruna ★★☆☆☆
E: Loan W: Tomano
Ogata’s acting has gotten better since last year, but she still has much to learn when it comes to expression on the stage. Her Tomano was very fun to watch though.
Nonaka Miki ★★★½☆☆
E: Chuchu W: Aman-hakushaku
Nonaka’s singing has always been on the decent side, but I never realized that her voice was so well suited to musicals until I saw this. The moment I first heard her sing solo, I immediately got goosebumps all over my arms. Her acting as Chuchu also really improved with each day, but Aman-hakushaku was a bit forgettable.
Makino Maria ★★★★☆
E: Ona W: Chuchu
Both Makino’s acting and singing got exponentially better with each stage, so I expect her performance on the DVD to be superb. Her visuals are perfect for the beautiful and charming Ona, while the wide range of emotions she displays as Chuchu makes the character all the more interesting.
Haga Akane ★★☆☆☆
E: Ishi-atama W: Douma
Both roles she has are so different from the little girl she played in 2015’s Triangle. She did very well given that stark difference, but there’s still plenty of room for growth.
All in all, I would highly suggest acquiring a copy of this musical. It may not be completely perfect, but is still a production that will draw you into that far-off world, pull at your heartstrings, and make you replay the soundtrack over and over.
Zoku・11 Nin Iru Higashi no Chihei Nishi no Towa