Adapting anime to live-action is an extremely difficult venture. It’s not impossible, though, and one of the few icons of Japanese animation to make the transition smoothly is Himura Kenshin, hero of samurai saga Rurouni Kenshin.
The swordsman with the scarred face and soul has three successful live-action films under his belt, and this winter Japan’s all-female Takarazuka stage troupe will be raising the curtain on its own Rurouni Kenshin musical. Opening night is still a ways off, but the first photos of the cast in costume have been revealed, and gender-flipped or not, it’s hard to imagine a closer likeness for Kenshin himself than Takarazuka’s.
Takarazuka has five divisions, and it’s the Yuki-gumi, or Snow Troupe, that will be putting on Rurouni Kenshin: Tale of the Great Meiji Swordsman (Rurouni Kenshin Meiji Menkyaku Roman Tan in Japanese). The title role has been awarded to actress Seina Sagiri, who certainly looks the part in the official poster.
Kenshin is only one of the many memorable characters from the series, Onstage, the kind-hearted warrior will be joined by, in clockwise order from the right half of the poster, Shinomori Aoshi (played by Kanato Tsukishiro), Sagara Sanosuke (Dai Hosho), Takeda Kanryu (Sho Ayanagi), Kano Sozaburo (Futo Nozomi), Kamiya Kaoru (Miyu Sakihi), Saito Hajime (Sakina Ayakaze), and Takani Megumi (Seshiro Daigo).
If the mention of a character named “Kano Sozaburo” has you flipping through your collection of Rurouni Kenshin manga or scanning through your DVDs of the anime to find the scene he appears in, you’ll be wasting your time. Sozaburo, a member of the Shinsengumi special police force, was newly created for the musical. He’ll serve as a rival to Kenshin for Kaoru’s affections, providing the romantic tension that Takarazuka fans have come to expect in the theatre group’s productions.
The presence of Kaoru, by the way, is a sign that the Rurouni Kenshin musical will be set in the stage of Kenshin’s life after he pledges to never again take a life with his blade. As such, the audience is unlikely to see an appearance by Kenshin’s tragic lost love Tomoe, or a scene in which the hero kills an opponent in a duel. Still, it looks like there’s going to be at least some action happening on-stage, if Tsukishiro’s in-costume fighting stance is anything to go by.
The Rurouni Kenshin musical opens February 2 at the Takarazuka Grand Theater (home of the opulent Takarazuka restrooms) in Hyogo Prefecture, where it will run until March 14. It’s Tokyo’s turn starting April 1 when the show moves to the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater until closing on May 8. Advance tickets run between 3,500 and 12,000 yen (US$29 to $101) and can be ordered online here.