This post ended up being really long. I don’t want to break it up into several posts, so instead I’ll just clearly mark out three different sections.
I went to the 4th Fukuoka performance of the play Nemuri Kyoushirou. I got a seat on the right side of the 9th row. I’m going to assume that many of the people who read this blog aren’t avid fans of GACKT nor old samurai movies that didn’t get major attention in the States, so I will briefly explain about Nemuri Kyoushirou in general before talking about the play.
The character of Nemuri Kyoushirou has been around for over 50 years. He was introduced in period novels written by Renzaburo Shibata. Nemuri is a master swordsman conceived through the rape of his Japanese mother by a Portuguese man during a Black Mass. From what I’ve read, the original Nemuri is an antisocial drifter who kills people using his special technique, the “Engetsu Sappo,” which usually gets translated to English as “Full Moon Cut.” I haven’t seen any of the original Nemuri Kyoushirou movies (some were released in the States as Sleepy Eyes of Death) but from what I gather, GACKT’s Nemuri is a much nicer person.
I didn’t catch the names of all the characters, and I don’t know the readings of their names as displayed on the cast page of the GACKT × Nemuri Project Website, so I will give this incomplete dramatis personae, listing the cast as was present at the Fukuoka show:
Nemuri Kyoushirou (played by GACKT): The main character, orphaned as a young boy.
Opium Dealer (played by Watabiki Katsuhiko): A man who has grown wealthy smuggling and dealing opium. He (apparently) thinks Nemuri would get in the way of his business and wants him dead.
Opium Dealer’s Crony (played by Tsutsumi Daijiro): exactly what he sounds like.
Kazuma (played by Yamamoto Shouma): A young samurai whose father was killed one year ago. He is told Nemuri was the killer.
Ayano (played by Tatsumi Natsuko): Kazuma’s younger sister.
Long-faced Swordsman (played by Shimada Kyusaku): He instigates Kazuma’s drive for revenge.
Wise Old Dude (played by Tanaka Ken): exactly what he sounds like.
Mihoyo (played by Anzu Sayuri): Nemuri’s Love Interest, who bears a resemblance to his dead mother.
Older Lady (played by Arimori Narimi): A friend of Nemuri’s. This is one of those no-nonsense yet comical characters.
Kinpachi (played by Kodo Taya): A young man who looks up to Nemuri. A comic relief type character.
Tachikawa (played by Furumoto Shinnosuke): An older rakugo teller, friend of Nemuri. Also provides much of the comic relief.
Now, I didn’t know most of this when I went to see the play. I’d been too busy to know anything other than a little bit about the character of Nemuri himself. But, I was able to understand the story, if not the characters’ names and all of their motivations. However, it’s pretty easy to tell things like who’s the villain, who’s the real villain, who are the good guys, etc, in works of fiction, so my lack of fluency in Japanese didn’t get terribly in the way of my enjoyment of the play.
Alright, now, just in case, I should say: SPOILER WARNING!
There was an audible intake of breath when the curtain rose, revealing Nemuri standing majestically on the bare stage with a spotlight on him while tripped out music played. He unsheathes his sword and begins to shadow fence gracefully. There’s a screen at the back of the stage; the lights on it follow the movement of Nemuri’s sword. The effect, while common in video games, seemed cheesy in a stage play, but oh well. The final big slash of this sequence brings the play’s title up on screen, then the curtain drops. I start to feel like I’m watching a play and a movie at the same time.
When the curtain rises once more, we see Opium Dealer and his Crony plotting to take care of Nemuri. At this point, I had thought they were daimyou. It was obvious from the set that they were wealthy, their cackles let us know that they were Bad Guys, but I didin’t know that they were actually in the drug trade, so I had absolutely no idea why they wanted Nemuri dead. The stage goes dark while Opium Dealer laughs.
The stage remains dark, but then a light comes on: it looks like someone holding a flashlight under their face. He yells something out that made me and half the room jump. He then apologizes for surprising us, the lights come up, and we see he is a rakugo teller, performing on the street. His little sign tells us his name: Tachikawa. He leads the audience in a special clap/chant of the Hakata region, which makes the audience happy. I’d seen this clapping thing at an enkai before, but didn’t know it was special to Hakata.
Now, I don’t remember the order of the scenes very well, but we are soon introduced to Kazuma and his younger sister Ayano. He seems to ask Opium Dealer for permission to take out Nemuri as revenge for his father’s killing, and Opium Dealer agrees. When Kazuma confronts Nemuri, Nemuri tells him that he has no recollection of killing his father. Kazuma attacks anyway, but is easily repelled. After that, Long-faced Swordsman spars with Kazuma, and tells him he is too gentle to carry out the “katakiuchi,” which I rightly guessed meant “revenge.” So, they all come up with a new plan: have Ayano gain employ in the house of Wise Old Dude, where Mihoyo is also staying, in order to get close to Mihoyo and use her as bait to lure Nemuri into another fight.
So, Ayano goes to work in Wise Old Dude’s house. One night, while making preparations for moon viewing, Ayano gets a thorn in her finger while trying to pick a rose. Nemuri pulls the thorn out with his teeth and wraps Ayano’s hand with a bit of cloth torn from his handkerchief. Ayano is moved by his kindness, and tells him that she’s heard he’s killed many people, but that she can’t believe someone so kind could be a murderer. He tells her not to get the wrong idea.
Then, Ayano leaves and Mihoyo comes with some sake. She pours Nemuri a cup, he takes a sip, then tries to hand it to her. Since she hesitated to take it back, I assumed that there was still sake in it and he wanted her to drink it. I took this to be a gesture of affection; indeed, she drank from the cup without having to refill it, so I guess her hesitation indicated surprise at the gesture. Then, as Nemuri and Mihoyo are about to kiss (and everyone in the audience is swooning), Wise Old Dude walks in.
*Ahem* Anyway, he informs Nemuri that he suspects Opium Dealer has something to do with Kazuma. Nemuri deduces that Ayano is Kazuma’s sister and that it’s no coincidence that she’s there. However, no one yet seems terribly fazed by this.
Ayano tells Kazuma of Nemuri’s kindness, and her doubts that he is the one who killed their father. Long-faced Swordsman, who was listening nearby, enters the room to say that Nemuri was certainly the killer.
I think it was here that there was a scene with just Nemuri on stage looking
emo dramatic. He slowly walks across the stage, teary-eyed and intense, while a video showing the Black Mass plays on the screen behind him. A voiceover tells us his father’s name: “Ferunando!!!” I mean, Fernando. I really didn’t see the point of showing this, but it was a bit hard for me to hold in my laughter at hearing GACKT say a name in katakana Spanish as if it were the dirtiest thing in the world. Near the end of this short scene, GACKT is shown on screen (that is to say, there’s a camera capturing him live), staring intensely into space. I thought it was a cool effect. It’s something you see in concerts, but I’d never thought something like that would be done in a play. (Then again, I’ve been to very few plays in my life.)
Then there was a plot point I really didn’t understand. Opium Dealer gives his Crony something very small but very important. Crony wraps it up in his furoshiki and says he will be careful. Now, Kinpachi and Older Lady had been snooping around (because they’ve got Nemuri’s back like that). They find out about this item and steal it. Crony goes to Long-faced Swordsman and says Opium Dealer will kill him if he finds out the Item has gone missing. Long-faced Swordsman says he will take care of it. It seems he knew that it was Nemuri’s friends who were behind the theft, as he kidnaps Older Lady. Nemuri shows up, gives back the item, and saves her.
I believe it was around this time that there was intermission. I went out to the goods tables, picked up some items to give to friends, as well as some presents for myself. Of course I got the clear files! ^o^
After break time, the play picks back up with another rakugo performance by Tachikawa. He reenacts a fight, loses, and pretends to bleed mentaikou (spicy fish eggs for which Fukuoka is known). Then, he goes out into the audience, greeting those seated in the Premium Seats, and stopping at one girl in the front row. He asks her name and if she’d go on a date to Canal City with him. She says yes. He’s surprised, but says that unfortunately, there’s no time. I don’t remember how, but he segued this into singing the refrain of GACKT’s song “kimi no tame ni dekiru koto”! The audience starts clapping in time, but this goes on for just a few seconds before Tachikawa says goodbye and runs off backstage. The curtain rises to reveal Wise Old Dude, Kinpachi, and Older Lady. Still in the comedy mode, they (for some reason I didn’t catch) bust out some Niwaka masks (little red masks that come on boxes of a particular brand of senbei from the Hakata region).
Then it’s back to the story. Ayano begs Kazuma not to go through with his revenge, but as he won’t stop, she asks him to at least not harm Mihoyo when they kidnap her. So, Ayano gets Mihoyo to leave Wise Old Dude’s house with her. When everyone realizes Mihoyo and Ayano are no longer in the house, they go out to look for them. Meanwhile, Ayano confesses everything to Mihoyo, who reveals she already knew because Nemuri had figured it out. She then states that she’s not worried because she knows Nemuri will come rescue her. (At this point I gag and roll my eyes. ^_^;) Ayano, moved by Mihoyo’s magnanimity and her faith in Nemuri, feels awful about everything. Then Opium Dealer’s men come and take Mihoyo away in a raggedy palanquin.
Several things happen leading up to Kazuma finding out who really killed his father. Long-faced Swordsman betrays the Crony and kills him. When Kazuma finds the dead Crony and sees the wound on his body, he recognizes it (?) as the same one on his father’s corpse. It seemed to me that he had some way of knowing that Nemuri hadn’t been to the one to kill the Crony, because when he reaches the clearing where Long-faced Swordsman, the female hostages, and the Dealer’s men are, he asks Long-face how he can be sure that Nemuri killed his father. The jig is up, and Long-face fights Kazuma, injuring him severely before Nemuri shows up, pushing Opium Dealer along at sword point. Dealer’s men threaten to kill the women, to which Nemuri responds, “I don’t care if you kill those women, but I’ll kill him.” The Opium Dealer is groveling, scared out his mind (which the audience found exceedingly funny), and orders his men to release the women. When they do, Nemuri lets him go. Nemuri orders Kazuma to run away with Mihoyo and Ayano. They do so. Then, a bunch of ninja attack Nemuri.
When I say “a bunch of ninja,” I mean a whole lotta ninja. I think this fight scene lasted at least 5 minutes. Think Zack fighting off the Shinra troops near the end of Crisis Core, just that Nemuri wins (and lets his kimono open a lot in the process). Then its time for the showdown between Nemuri and Long-faced Swordsman.
At this point, the previously humble sparkles that followed Nemuri’s slashes Leveled Up into a Red Sparkle Beam. Long-face’s slashes were accompanied on screen by a Blue Sparkle Beam. Think of the light saber fights in Star Wars, or the magic beam fights in Harry Potter. I could’ve done without this effect, but it was easy not to look directly at it since my eyes were glued to GACKT. XDDD Nemuri’s winning the fight, and it’s time for the death blow, the Engetsu Sappo. This move consists of Nemuri slowly making a circular motion about himself with his sword, before there’s a flash of darkness and the sound effect representing someone getting sliced up pretty painfully. When the lights come back, Nemuri and Long-face are standing opposite where they had been. Long-face topples over, then takes 5 minutes to die, laughing the whole time. After the fact, I understood that as a swordsman, his motivation was to witness the Engetsu Sappo.
At the play’s conclusion, Kazuma begs Nemuri for forgiveness. He asks why Nemuri didn’t tell him straight out that he hadn’t killed his father. He asks if all this time, Nemuri had been watching over him, guiding him to find the truth “by his own heart.” Nemuri (who had said precisely this earlier, that he wanted Kazuma to find the truth out “by this own heart,”) in typical Bad Boy With A Heart of Gold fashion, denies doing something so nice, and says that someone like him would never care so much. He coolly walks off stage, and Kazuma is left in awe.
At the very end, Nemuri comes back out on the bare stage. There’s a voiceover where he’s talking about himself, and then the camera shot comes back behind him. He suddenly looks dead into the camera. This was extremely intense, since the shot was a live close-up. I felt like he could see through everyone in the audience! The lights go out, the curtain drops, the end credits are projected onto it. Finally, the play’s logo comes back up. The house lights come on, and an announcer states that it’s the end of the performance. The people in the Premium Seats get up to leave, and I’m confused. No curtain call?
So it was. As I was walking towards the train station I overheard a woman say, “I felt like I was watching a movie. They could’ve at least come out to greet the audience at the end.” I must say, I agree. GACKT’s concerts, the ones I’ve been to anyway, end with a 10-15 minute “talk down,” so to speak, to put an end to the show. So for a play to end with rolling credits on the screen and no curtain call was pretty weird.
Overall, I enjoyed the play. I understood most of it, and it’s always a pleasure to watch GACKT doing anything. ^o^; But, the story itself was simplistic and predictable (I knew Long-faced Swordsman was the real villain by his second scene). The sets were well done, the music was good, and I liked the use of live shots in the play. The only thing I would definitely take out, or at least tone down, is the Sparkle Beams. Sparkle Beams do not belong in the theater! >o<
Now, for the adventure that helped put holes in my memory of the play.
THE GREAT DETOUR
I was unlucky getting back home from the play! There was an accident that shut down the Nishitetsu trains and it took me two hours to get home (normaly it takes 20 minutes). The accident happened just one minute after the train I was on had left from Nishitetsu Tenjin Station. (Nishitetsu is the private rail company; its Oomuta Line runs nearly parallel to Japan Railways’ Kagoshima Line). At the second stop, we sit on the track for a while, then an announcement comes that said something about a Limited Express train. I was on the Express, and while it’s common to let the Local trains sit in the station so that the Limited ones can pass, I’d never seen an Express do that. Two minutes later there’s another announcement and we have to get off the train. It switches its sign to “out of service” and I’m confused as hell. Oh well, whatever, I’ll just get on the Local that’s sitting across the platform, I think. I stand in that train for some 3 minutes before an announcement kicks everybody off of that train as well. ^_^;
After 30 minutes and two packed trains from Tenjin letting off all their passengers and switching to “out of service,” I get worried and since I don’t understand train terminology for things that don’t happen every day, I couldn’t really understand the announcements. The station master was busy trying to refund fares and answer questions. So, I asked another passenger waiting on the platform what was going on. She said she hadn’t been listening, and asks these older dudes, who explain there was an accident somewhere between where we were and Kasugabaru Station. They ask me how far I’m going, and as it turns out the woman is going to the same station as I, she proposes we share a cab down to Kasugabaru Station, as the trains going down should be moving from there.
So we get a cab, and the woman tells the driver to take us to “Kasugabaru.” I thought that was strange given that that’s the name of both the city and the station, but thought maybe it was just one of those things that gets understood from context. The driver asks, “There was a train accident wasn’t there, so the trains aren’t moving?” The woman doesn’t answer. He asks again. Silence. So I said, “Yes, I think so, but…” thinking the woman just didn’t want to chit chat with the driver. But then, after 15 minutes of silence, the woman asks the driver if he knew anything about the train accident! Then he asks her where exactly he should be taking us. The woman answers “Kasugabaru,” the driver is confused, so then I’m confused. He asks her three more times, slightly rephrasing his question, and all the woman says is “Uhhhh…”
I was like @_@? Is she actually not Japanese and doesn’t understand? Or is she deaf? The driver seemed worried, so I piped up, saying, “I thought we were going to Kasugabaru Station because maybe the trains are moving from there.” The woman says “Oh yes!” and the driver is relieved.
Unfortunately, the trains weren’t moving from there either. So the woman says to me, “we’re going to have to go to JR.” So, we walk for about 10 minutes to get to JR Kasuga Station.
Once there, the woman spoke to me freely, and I noticed that she talked a bit strangely. I’m used to how Koreans and Chinese speak Japanese, and this was different. So, I wonder if maybe she just has a slight speech impediment and so avoids talking to Japanese people, but felt comfortable with a foreigner.
In the end, everything worked out. I parted ways with my unexpected traveling companion once we reached our station. I got home at 11PM.
TO ADD ICING TO THE CAKE OF SUCKINESS
Friday morning, I told my supervisor about the whole adventure, and she told me she’d seen on the news that a car had been in the railroad crossing in the path of the Limited Express, but she didn’t know whether it was that the car had stalled, or the person had stopped on purpose. If it was on purpose, the guy accomplished his goal. Perhaps jacking up the trains was a final “F.U.!” to the world. ^_^;
Also that morning, the teacher who thinks it’s infinitely hilarious that I’m a GACKT fan engaged me in this conversation:
Teacher: So how was the play?
Me: Oh, it was good! I could understand the main points of the story and enjoyed seeing GACKT.
Teacher: I was talking about you to 3-1 yesterday.
Teacher: I told them you were a miihaa.
Me: *Thinking of the Spanish word* Mija?
Teacher: Miihaa. Do you know this word?
Teacher: *Laughing* Look it up in the dictionary. *Laughing*
Me: Okay. … “Lowbrow”!?!
Teacher: ミーハー! *Runs off laughing*
So, my Mac’s dictionary tells me it means “lowbrow.” Rikaichan says “poser,” as does Jim Breen’s. Eijirou says “groupie, fangirl/boy.” The Japanese Wikipedia says “someone who follows trends and is easily influenced.” These are all different in significant ways, and I’m not sure which to believe. I wasn’t amused about the teacher having this conversation with students I don’t teach. Even if the connotation of “miihaa” is not so disparaging as “poser” or “groupie,” it feels like I’m being made fun of, and for what? What do the students learn from that? That it’s funny when foreigners are big fans of Japanese artists? It just left me confused.