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Mizuki Yamashita Stars in Musical “Sailor Moon” : Nogizaka46, “Reincarnation” to the future

Mizuki Yamashita Stars in Musical “Sailor Moon” : Nogizaka46, “Reincarnation” to the future

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“Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” is a story of memory and has attracted attention throughout the world as a comic and anime representative of Japan in which “Reincarnation” is a major motif.

From June 8th, 2018 to June 24th the Nogizaka46-version of the musical “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” was performed at the Tennouzu Ginga Theater.

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Ten of Nogizaka46’s current members were selected as part of the project for the 25th anniversary of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon”, and two teams “Team MOON” and “Team STAR” have attracted attention by appearing in W cast. Most notably, Mizuki Yamashita (18), who joined Nogizaka46 – a group now crowded with popular members due to their status as a national idol group – as a third-generation member tasked with carrying the group into the next generation, was finally cast in “Team MOON” in the lead role of Usagi Tsukino.

Mizuki Yamashita

Mizuki Yamashita

Mizuki Yamashita is one of Nogizaka46’s third-generation members who were selected from among more than 48,000 applicants during auditions in 2016. Due to her interactions during handshake events and her high awareness as an idol she gained a lot of popularity from fans; she was first chosen for Nogizaka46’s recent 20th single “Synchronicity” and is employed as a front member.

First generation member Sayuri Inoue was chosen to play the role of Usagi Tsukino for “Team STAR”. Compared to Inoue who has seven years of performing experience with the group, Yamashita has only performed in “3nin no Principal” and “Migoroshi Hime”, both of which were third-generation-member-only performances. Being chosen to play the lead role in her first performances in the full-fledged play and the musical despite her relative lack of experience was certainly a significant choice.

“Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” began broadcasting as a TV anime in 1992, in conjunction with the start of the run of the series in the girl’s comic magazine “Nakayoshi”. It tells the tale of clumsy cry-baby and altogether average middle school student Usagi Tsukino as she meets a mysterious cat named Luna, gains the power to transform, becomes friends with the other Sailor Scouts and defends the peace of the world, and fulfills the mission of finding and protecting the Moon Princess.

The content was transformative for japan; in a sea of works like Ultraman and the Kamen Rider series which is told from a boy’s perspective, “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon”, in which “girls who fight” is a major theme, was not just popular with children inside Japan, but also gained explosive popularity with adult men and women – referred to as “Big Friends”.

In addition, it drove the popularity of Japanese culture on the world scale through cosplay as pioneer in character business, and the sequel anime series “Sailor Moon Crystal” has been translated into more than 12 languages and distributed worldwide.

In Nogizaka46’s version of the musical “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” the first arc of the work set in the Dark Kingdom was adapted to two acts at a total of 2 hours and 50 minutes long.

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For the 5 Sailor Scouts, in addition to the lead role played by Yamashita & Inoue, Team MOON consists of Riria Ito, Kazumi Takayama, Ami Nojo, and Hina Higuchi, and Team STAR selected Miria Watanabe, Ranze Terada, Minami Umezawa, Kana Nakada. The group contains first, second, and third-generation members who were selected due to their reputation for skill in acting and singing.

Against the backdrop, the deliberate selection of Mizuki Yamashita as the lead role was an unusual and significant decision for Nogizaka46, which shows the magnitude of her manager’s expectations for her. In the play “3nin no Principal” mentioned above, practically no time after joining the group Yamashita won the lead role of the dignified protagonist at the same audition open to the public, which shows a high degree of expressive skill. In the play “Migoroshi Hime” she played the role of Sagiri – the role which is said to have had the highest number of lines and appearances. While raising expectations as an ace candidate in the new era of Nogizaka46, which is strongly influenced by theatrical expression such as the production of personal PVs, her variety of facial expressions and expressive power and the quality of her distinctive voice has raised her reputation as an individual.

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Her role as Usagi Tsukino in the “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” musical is certainly a reward for her. However, in truth it appears strongly through the public performance that it was quite a harsh trial.

It was announced after hard training of more than a month according to GenePro interview material on the day before the first day performance. Evaluation on the net after the media information ban was no easy task. Yamashita’s first musical assignment was “singing ability”. There is always an instability in her voice when singing due to her delicate and unique voice suited to theater. Above all, as Sailor Moon boasts worldwide popularity and the same role was formerly played by Keiko Kitagawa, the musical will certainly be under tough scrutiny from fans of “Sailor Moon” and the original Sailor Moon the Musical.

However, for theatergoers there is something different to see and experience. The main character Usagi Tsukino in “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” has a different feel in the manga and the anime. The Usagi Tsukino played by Mizuki Yamashita is unmistakably the anime version. Rather than the emotional side portrayed in the manga, Yamashita portrays the clumsy, cutesy, cry-baby Usagi Tsukino that she saw so often on TV at a young age.

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There was something else to feel in each performance. In Nogizaka46’s version of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” the musical the transformation sequence is especially a highlight. The first act in which the 5 Sailor Scouts meet up is a vivid reminder of “Seven Samurai” – a landmark achievement of Japanese cinema, but in that “transformation” “Make-Up!” scene the stage is absolutely bursting with “cool” and beautiful staging direction – with the music, visuals, and of course the Nogizaka46 members’ style. Sailor Moon the Musical had the highest quality and reputation of the time, and viewers were deeply enthralled by the coolness of the dialogue during the transformation sequence. More importantly, it is the moment when the switch of each speaker is turned on. Regarding Yamashita, it seems that even singing instability will only appear in songs after the first “Make-Up!” scene. In that moment, the girls who become the Sailor Scouts begin the action that is the Nogizaka46 production of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” – a work that can only truly be enjoyed on stage.

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Fortunately, other members with experience in a variety of genres securely hold down the supporting character roles. Mikako Ishii, who played the role of Sailor Pluto in the 2014 production of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” the Musical, was cast as Tuxedo Mask. This casting change is a happy one for fans of Sailor Moon the Musical. The antagonist role of Queen Beryl went to Nami Tamaki, a name very familiar to fans of anime, and the role of the fourth general and leader of the Four Generals Kunzite went to Chihiro Ando of Takarazuka Revue Company. Enjoying the beautiful music of Sailor Moon the Musical together with the girls’ beautiful voices is a unique way to enjoy the 25th anniversary project.

I personally believe that the story of the musical will be well regarded by original fans of Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon the Musical. The 2 hour and 50 minute performance is studded with several beautiful, famous lines from the original “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” comic and anime. The story is about the Dark Kingdom – particularly the popular Four Generals – and the romance between the generals and their Guardian Soldiers. Although it is an independent production based on a new interpretation, is also satisfying for original fans.

As a purely musical work the more you see it the more you can understand the fun of the enjoyable character development in the musical – the heartrending dance scene between Nephrite and Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Venus’s concern for Kunzite, the relationship with Queen Beryl and the destruction of that relationship – similar to situations in the world of Romeo & Juliet. Moreover, in the showtime after the show, there are scenes in which the four pairs of the Four Generals and the Guardian Soldiers will hand over things like love letters, and various other scenes – you would not want to miss even a moment of the action. They were scenes in which you could feel the perfectionism surrounding the work.

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On June 24th at Team MOON’s June curtain call leading actress Mizuki Yamashita looked back on the performance.

“I do not have much acting experience, and I do not have a lot in common with Usagi, so at first I wondered why I was chosen. My fans told me that it was because my name is Mizuki, so I guess that’s how it was chosen.” [The name “Mizuki” contains the character for “moon”]. “Then I started becoming really forgetful. I kept losing my cellphone every day – kind of like the real Usagi, so I started to really like the role. Without this name I never would have been able to meet such a nice cast. It will be lonely to live as an ordinary human from tomorrow on, but I will do my best to make this performance even more powerful to make everyone happy during the September performances.”

With a unique expression that gained popularity on the blogosphere, she finished her performances. She felt bewildered by the fact that she was chosen to be the leading role as she was in front of her seniors – first generation members Takayama, Higuchi, and Nojo – but there were no tears from her.

It is true that Yamashita established her image with images such as “the moon” and “Usagi” through various messages and original works right after joining Nogizaka46. In particular, she tackled this role by watching the anime version of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” many times over. It was even a full moon the day she was born. There is a line in a scene in which the Sailor Scouts decide to head to the moon.

“A full moon seeking a vision for the future”

These are indeed the expectations held for Mizuki Yamashita.

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In the second act Mai Shiraishi – a first generation member who is said to be the face of Nogizaka46 – appears as the role of Queen Serenity. As third generation member Mizuki Yamashita plays Usagi Tsukino, an incarnation of Princess Serenity, the setting becomes mysteriously similar to a mother-daughter relationship in which genes are passed down from generation to generation. In other words, there is no doubt that the resonance of the two musicals and the “Reincarnation” theme of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” make for a performance full of future expectations of Nogizaka46’s image.

Nogizaka46, a group that fires off hits and reached the summit of idol success by the success of their performance at the Tokyo Dome, will see the graduation of the group’s symbol – Rina Ikoma. Recently, there has been much multi-faceted activity among popular first-generation members, and idol generational change has become a hot topic for fans.

With members like Yamashita, who performed the lead role wonderfully and will firmly remember her memories from the June performances as she looks towards the September curtain call, as well as Riria Ito, a 15-year-old third generation member on Team MOON with Yamashita – I want to keep an eye on the future growth of Nogizaka46 as it enters the new generation.

The September performance will take place at TBS Akasaka ACT Theater from September 21, 2018 to September 30.

http://sailormoon-official.com/stage/nogizaka/


Related Links

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 25th Anniversary project official site (Nogizaka46 ver.):http://sailormoon-official.com/stage/nogizaka/
Nogizaka46 Official site : http://www.nogizaka46.com/
Nogizaka46 Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/nogizaka46
Nogizaka46 Official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nogizaka46

Written by Yama Junta

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