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Event Report: Universal Studios Japan's Jump Summer Attractions

posted on by Crystalyn Hodgkins

Universal Studios Japan (USJ) has had great success in the last few years. Starting with opening The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in July 2014, the theme park has been raking in the attendance numbers. The park also has been hosting anime- and game-related events in recent years, including "Cool Japan" attractions and a "Jump Summer" attraction. Last year, the Shonen Jump exhibitions brought in 1.63 million visitors in August alone, an increase of 15% over the figure from August 2015. The month was also the second-highest attended month in USJ history. As of August 2016, USJ has managed to top its previous August attendance figures for six years in a row.

This year's "Jump Summer" attractions feature 4D attractions for Dragon Ball Z and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, a water battle, two restaurants, and a stage play for One Piece, and a talk show for Gintama. The park also has other temporary themed attractions such as "Dragon Quest The Real" and "Yo-kai Taiso The Real," based on Yo-kai Watch.

Check out our video and photo gallery below of this summer's attractions, and our extensive report on each of the exhibits, plus thoughts on the park in general.

For more impressions about the park, you can check out the writeup Mike Toole did last year.

4D Attractions - Dragon Ball Z and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

The Dragon Ball Z and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure attractions this year are the "Dragon Ball Z The Real 4-D at Super World Martial Arts Tournament" CG short and the "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The Real 4-D Dio World" CG short. The shorts share the same theater throughout the day, with Dragon Ball Z playing in the morning and early afternoon, and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure playing in the afternoon and evening.

Both attractions start out the same way. Visitors are huddled into an open area inside the 4D theater where they pick up their 3D glasses and wait for instructions. The walls are decorated in the theme of the work, and viewers watch a 5-7 minute anime video explaining the situation. Visitors are then brought into the theater itself to watch the short, before exiting through a gift shop.

The 4D experience itself seems older technology-wise. The experiences will feature rocking chairs, wind and water effects, lights, and strobes. The chair rocking is exceptionally jolty, however. The experiences are fun, but the theater could stand to use an upgrade.

Dragon Ball Z

For the Dragon Ball Z experience, the introduction video before the 4D experience was in regular anime format. In the video, visitors are introduced to a "Super World Martial Arts Tournament." The tournament is in its penultimate round, and Piccolo, Krillin, Vegeta, Goku, and Great Saiyaman are all competing against each other in the round. The winner will fight Mr. Satan in the final. Mr. Satan confronts Goku before the round starts and reminds Goku of his promise to let Mr. Satan win if Goku wins the penultimate round. The video also reveals that Mr. Satan has stolen the Dragon Balls that Bulma has gathered.

Visitors are told that they're sitting in a special Capsule Corp. audience pod that Bulma is piloting. The 4D video itself is in CG, although the CG is of really good quality (previous 4D shows for past summer attractions for Evangelion and Attack on Titan also had really good quality CG). The round starts, and Vegeta obviously goes after Goku first, leaving the other three to duke it out amongst themselves. Krillin throws Gohan out of bounds after distracting him by taking off his Great Saiyaman sunglasses and exposing his true identity to the audience. As Piccolo then has Krillin on the ropes, Android 18 shows up out of nowhere and offers Piccolo a drink (she is selling concessions). Krillin uses the distraction to escape and knock Piccolo to the ground, causing him to be out of bounds.

Suddenly, Broly appears from a nearby body of water and the tournament is halted as all five participants and Android 18 fight him. Vegeta and Goku immediately go into their Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan forms, but are sent away by an attack. Broly is then about to attack the audience and Bulma in their audience pod, but Goku goes to block the attack. Audience members see a white screen and then see Goku miraculously unhurt by taking the attack. It turns out Vegeta had jumped in front of Goku to take the attack all on himself, as he was worried about Bulma. Vegeta then falls to the ground, and Goku is later hit by a devastating attack by Broly. As it seems all hope is lost, Mr. Satan summons Shenlong, and asks Shenlong to defeat Broly. Shenlong says he can't do that, but tells Goku he can use "that technique." Goku nods and asks the audience to put up their index fingers so he can take their energy. Goku then fuses with the audience, showing a form with both blue and black hair, and the audience now sees the rest of the fight from a first-person Goku perspective. Goku and the audience together perform a Kamehameha attack, defeating Broly. All of the fighters descend back to the ground, but land outside of the bounds of the tournament. Mr. Satan alone is still in bounds coincidentally, so he wins the tournament.

The Dragon Ball Z merchandise was pretty expansive, from Dragon Ball Radar cushions, to Super Saiyan wigs, fusion earrings, T-shirts, accessories, mugs, and much more. Oddly all of the merchandise featured cringeworthy spellings of some of the characters' names, including "Gokou" and "Klilyn." An area in the gift shop with Goku's poster above it featured a light-up Kamehameha display that visitors could use as a photo op.

Dragon Ball Z also had some impressive and fun food options, including Dragon Ball shrimp meat buns, an orange slushie drink, a Frieza drink holder, and a Dragon Ball radar jelly drink.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

The JoJo's Bizarre Adventure 4D experience featured the story of the last few episodes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc and the final fight of Dio vs. Jotaro. The CG/anime hybrid introduction video tells the audience that they are an operative for the Speedwagon Foundation who are working as backup to help Jotaro. The 3D goggles allow the audience to "see" Stands, and in the CG short the operative has a UV ray gun to help destroy the vampire Dio. The operative also has a wristband that allows the audience to see parts of the fight from Jotaro's perspective. As Jotaro finally is able to stop time himself and defeat Dio, the audience-operative shoots Dio with the UV ray gun and Dio explodes into the audience (with water spraying on the audience at the same time).

The CG in the short is akin more to the CG in the recent video games, or in the opening theme animation for the recent anime adaptations, with a bit of a quality bump.

The JoJo merchandise was also fun, featuring signature Jotaro hats (that blend into the wearer's hair), Iggy plushes and drawstring bags, T-shirts, and even an Oingo Boingo book with souvenirs inside. There was no JoJo-themed food though unfortunately.

Gintama

Unfortunately, the Gintama attraction was the hardest one to get into, and I was unable to attend. The "Gintama Live Talk" show lasts about 30 minutes, and has the highest barrier of entry for non-Japanese speakers. A sign at the entrance warns in English and Japanese that the attraction would be a talk show only in Japanese and would feature audience participation with audience members being asked their names throughout the performance. In true Gintama style, the instructions also warned that there would be crude and possibly offensive language in the show as it reflected the world of the original property.

The talk show took place in a building decked out to be the "USJ Branch Office" of Yorozuya, and those waiting in line for the attraction also received a double-paged flyer about the event.

Gintama also had the least amount of merchandise at the park, with a T-shirt available in two different colors, a tote bag, and some clear files. Poor Gintama. If the characters had attended the theme park, they'd probably have some choice words for Shueisha about the lack of merchandise despite the franchise regaining popularity with the recent live-action film.

Gintama did have one menu item though, an Elizabeth-themed dessert.

One Piece

One Piece was by far the most represented Shonen Jump property at the park this year. A few of the main One Piece-related events at USJ cost extra and usually need to be booked in advance.

An event held yearly with the summer events is Sanji's Pirates Restaurant, where fans can sit down and have a One Piece-themed course meal provided by staff dressed as One Piece characters. The event this year is going from June 2 through October 10, and is held five times a day. Tickets for the event cost 4,980 yen (about US$45) for adults, and tickets for the entire event have been sold out for months.

Luckily, fans can still appreciate getting some One Piece grub without needing to book anything in advance. The restaurant in the Jurassic Park area of USJ is transformed each summer into the Straw Hat Crew's Feast Restaurant. Here, the inside of the restaurant is revamped to feature One Piece imagery, and the food, drinks, and desserts are all One Piece themed.

The main menu is usually the same each summer: a set menu featuring "meat," chicken, or fish. Visitors can also buy a One Piece special mug.

The desserts change each year. This year the two desserts included a "Bone-in Meat Roll Cake" and "Ace's Hat: Passion Fruit and Mango Mousse." Other One Piece food is scattered around the park, this year in the form of a Marine-themed curry dish.

Also, One Piece has the most decorations in the park. The entire area near the Waterworld attraction (which hosts the One Piece Premier Summer show each year) is decked out in a World Government theme.

Also held in that area is the One Piece Water Battle, a combination of a short stage play and a water fight. Those who want to watch the event are roped off in an area that is a wet zone. On the stage One Piece characters appear and fight, with each move featuring water being sprayed on the audience. Visitors can also buy water guns at the park and the whole event climaxes with a huge fight where everyone with a water gun shoots at the members on stage, at each other, and any innocent bystanders who happen to be in the way.

One Piece Premier Show 2017

This year the One Piece Premier Show marks its 10th anniversary. The show is held in the Waterworld attraction area, and tickets must be purchased separately to a park entrance ticket. Some days the entire show is sold out in advance, but that is rare. Most days you can buy tickets on the day of, as long as you get to the park early and don't mind possibly paying more as the cheaper seats often sell out the fastest. Tickets range in price from 1,980 yen ($18) to 4,980 yen ($45) for adults. I've sat in expensive and cheap seats and I can say that it really doesn't change the experience all that much to sit in cheaper seats. But beware, those sitting in front row wet zones will definitely get soaked at some point during the performance.

The costumes are campy and the plot is usually pretty silly (and are always movie-style original stories that aren't canon), but the shows are technically impressive. The show uses lights, water, fireworks, other pyrotechnics, acrobatics (more than one person will fall from a great height into the pool), projections, and sometimes 3D effects (some shows in the past have viewers wearing 3D glasses) to mimic all of the signature moves of the One Piece characters. There's some song and dance, audience participation, and the characters wind their way through the rows of the audience during the performance and at the end for high fives.

The show features a lot of fanservice, goofy moments, and One Piece staples for fans to enjoy. Brook will make a skull joke or lean at a certain angle, Franky will lead the audience in a round of "SUPER" or will bust out his Nipple Light move, there will be fart jokes, Zoro and Sanji will bicker at every chance they can get, Chopper will have a Kung Fu Point moment, and popular characters will appear for no real reason at all to raucous applause and screams. With this year being the 10th anniversary, the end of the show featured a parade of characters who didn't actually appear at all in the main show, including Trafalgar Law, Hancock, Doflamingo, Sabo, Koala, and more.

The One Piece voice cast also provide all the dialogue for the shows, with the stage actors simply lip-syncing to the dialogue throughout the show. The stories are usually exciting enough that fans who can't understand Japanese will at least have a blast watching the characters perform their signature moves, or enjoy all the water stunts and technical aspects of the performance.

Pictures are strictly not allowed before or during the performance, but fans can take pictures of the empty stage after the performance has ended.

Story

This year the original story was related to the Marineford Arc of One Piece. In the story, an original character named Hakuto was once a subordinate to Ace's 2nd Unit of Whitebeard's crew. He was at the Paramount War on the day of Ace's death, but was unable to save him. In the past, Ace had saved Hakuto's island from pirates, and had lit a fire at the peak of the island, proclaiming that as long as the fire burned, he would protect the island.

However, after the Paramount War underlings of Blackbeard have been hunting down the remnants of the Whitebeard pirates. One of the subordinates is a pirate captain named Graycie. Graycie has eaten the "Shoot Shoot Fruit," and has the power to turn his body into guns. He hates anything white, and adores anything black (he loves black coffee and hates white daifuku). He dresses all in gray, has gatling guns for hands, and he highly respects "Admiral Teach."

Two years after the Paramount War, after Luffy's crew has reunited, they arrive on Hakuto's island, and they run into Hakuto and help him as he fights off intruders. Luffy and Hakuto discover their mutual connection to Ace, and bond over memories. Hakuto tells Luffy about Ace's fire protecting his island, and the island being under Whitebeard's protection.

Graycie and his crew show up on the island, with the aim of wiping out Hakuto and the island's inhabitants. The fight is going well, but one of Graycie's underlings has a power that turns the entire crew very obese and slow, causing them to lose the fight (although Brook is happy about his new look). Franky saves the day by getting everyone to exercise using his classic "RIGHT LEFT RIGHT LEFT" routine, and the group take on Graycie's crew once again. However, Jesus Burgess arrives on the island. He has hired Germa 66 footsoldiers to aid Graycie's cause. Luffy and crew, with Hakuto, are about to save the day, but Graycie takes out Ace's protective fire. Graycie reveals his Awakened devil fruit power and has turned the entire island into guns. As Luffy is seemingly defeated, he remembers the moment Ace sacrificed himself to save him (this part of the play actually featured Akainu punching through Ace with prosthetics), and he and Hakuto work together to defeat Graycie and relight Ace's fire. The play ends, inevitably, with Luffy screaming "Let's have a banquet!"

Dragon Quest The Real

"Dragon Quest The Real" started in March and runs until September 3. The walk-through attraction is definitely worth the wait, and was more fun than most of the Jump Summer attractions. This attraction was also easily the most accessible for those who don't speak Japanese. While waiting in line, visitors get an instruction pamphlet (available in English) on how the attraction works. Visitors get to choose between one of four jobs: warrior, mage, priest, or martial artist. Those who hold express passes can also be a sage or gladiator. Visitors will then input their job choice, nickname, and dominant hand on a tablet (this also was available in English). Visitors are then put into parties of four people, and staff use the tablets to program a handle, which visitors use to fight with during the attraction. Each job had a specific skill set, which usually involves swinging the handle in a circle to charge the attack, then swinging up or down to release the attack. Other classes could heal party members or hit multiple enemies. After getting their handle, visitors stand in front of a screen to see in virtual reality what their chosen weapon looks like based on their class (a sword, staff, etc.) and can practice their skill set.

Parties are then taken from room to room, where they stand on emblems on the floor and attack familiar Dragon Quest enemies on a screen in front of them (some rooms also feature animatronic enemies). After each battle everyone levels up. Then, it's time to fight the final boss, who also happens to be impossible to beat, and parties are knocked out usually in one big attack. The party is then led to another room where the king (a real actor in cosplay) expresses his sadness at the party's demise but says good job, and ends the attraction.

Of course there is lots of Slime merch to be had as well.

The Park

USJ is at its best when it's hosting cool Japan-only attractions, but the park has other things to offer. Of course there's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is a must for fans, but the park is a bit smaller than the one in the U.S. and features the same shops and rides. There are also some main rides and attractions that are the same as the Universal Studios in the U.S.: Jaws, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Backdraft, and Waterworld. However, sometimes just hearing all the dialogue for the attractions in Japanese can be worth double dipping on familiar rides.

Japan has also gone absolutely Minions crazy, so it's no surprise that the latest attraction area based on one in the U.S. is focused on the characters. The attraction replaced the recently closed Back to the Future ride, and opened in June.

For thrill rides, the park has two roller coasters: Hollywood Dream and the Jurassic Park-themed The Flying Dinosaur, the latter of which just opened last year. Hollywood Dream lets visitors choose to go forward or backward on the ride, although the line to go backward is usually twice as long and isn't worth the wait unless you catch the park on a slow day. You can also choose from one of 4-5 J-pop songs or Western tunes to listen to during the ride. The Flying Dinosaur features riders in a Superman-style flying pose the whole ride, and is a blast. The ride winds its way through many other areas of the park.

The kids area is mostly Snoopy, Hello Kitty, and Sesame Street themed. As Japan is a culture obsessed with souvenirs, the merchandise shops alone can entertain visitors for hours.

The park has hosted an annual Halloween event in recent years with a Resident Evil theme. At night, zombies roam the park and scare guests. Those who buy special light-up necklaces also get "attacked" by the zombies. It's a truly surreal experience that's absolutely hilarious and I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good scare.

And of course, the upcoming Super Nintendo World attraction should be opening by the time the Olympics come to Tokyo in 2020. The expansion will include rides, interactive areas, shops, and restaurants. I'm sure USJ's popularity is only going to continue to grow in the future.

Photographs and video by Matt Hodgkins.



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