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7 Anime About the Performing Arts

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Last week's column was all about women flexing their athletic muscles, so this week we're looking at the other side the coin: performing arts. The traditional Western performing arts include music, theatre, dance, comedy, and opera. In the East, performing arts expand to include traditional storytelling forms and puppet and shadow theatre.

7. Intrigue in the Bakumatsu - Irohanihoheto (Kabuki)Kabuki is Japan's ancient art of musical theatre that might be best known to Western audiences because of the dramatic make-up. Mercenary Yōjirō Akizuki finds himself tagging along with a traveling kabuki troupe after he meets them during his pursuit of Hasha no Kubi, an object that brings great calamity. The troupe itself is headed by Yuyama Kakunojō who uses the traveling performances as a cover for pursuing her parents' murderer. Overall the series focuses more on action and supernatural aspects, but the Kabuki elements add an interesting flavor to the show

6. Puppet Master Sakon (Bunraku)Bunraku is a very specific form of Japanese puppet theater that emerged in the 1600s. The performances usually include three parts, similar to Greek plays, where there are performers but also a chorus (in this case chanters) and shamisen players. Puppets range in size, can be intricately dressed, and interact with sets and props. Puppet Master Sakon follows one puppeteer who is incredibly shy, and uses his puppet Ukon as a sort of buffer to interact with those around him. In this case "interact" means solving murder mysteries around Japan. Sakon also utilizes his ventriloquist abilities to confuse suspects and capture criminals.

5. Princess Tutu (ballet)Ahiru (Duck) is a girl attending a dance school where she admires Mytho, a fellow ballet dancer. Their world is filled with strange occurrences, like a cat that teaches the class and Ahiru's mysterious ability to transform into Princess Tutu. Junichi Sato (Sailor Moon) directed the series but replaced traditional magical girl attacks with ballet performances. The show really excels in its characterizations though, and enjoys playing with what audiences expect from a typical shojo romance.

4. Your Lie in April (classical music) Classical music could easily be its own column as plenty of anime and manga focus on the subject like Nodame Cantabile, Tari Tari, La Corda D'Oro - primo passo, and Piano. Your Lie in April ups the ante though when savant Kōsei Arima is no longer able to perform due to traumatic blocks left by his abusive, deceased mother. He meets the vivacious Kaori Miyazono, a violinist who's determined to teach him how to enjoy the piano again. The series features a wide array of classical compositions from Chopin to Beethoven and enough emotional drama to keep any kind of music fan intrigued.

3. Hanayamata (yosakoi) As far as art forms go, yosakoi is relatively new. It only gained a foothold in Japan in the last 60 years. The dance form utilizes large teams to perform highly energetic, choreographed performances. Hanayamata follows a timid girl named Naru as she enters the world of yosakoi after meeting an American girl named Hana N. Fountainstand who loves yosakoi. Hana resolves to form a yosakoi club with anyone she can get to enlist, including the shy Naru. It's a coming-of-age story for Naru, as she develops confidence in her abilities and expands her horizons beyond fairy tales.

2. Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū (Rakugo) Rakugo is a traditional form of Japanese comic storytelling. Not unlike modern-day stand-up, rakugo performers tell a story describing multiple characters differentiated only through the performer's pitch and mannerisms. The entire performance is done in a seated position with no props except a cloth and paper fan. "Yotaro," as he's called by his teacher, decides to dedicate himself to the art under rakugoka Yakumo when he's released from prison during the Showa era (1926–1989) in Haruko Kumota's manga and corresponding anime. He also meets Konatsu, the daughter of a deceased rakugoka who also shares the same dream. However, rakugo isn't open to female performers, a problem that's barely changed in the last 90 years.

1. Glass Mask (theatre) Suzue Miuchi's manga about a 13-year-old up-and-coming actress debuted in the very first issue of Hakusensha's Hana to Yume magazine in 1976. It's still running although supposedly it's heading towards its climax after 40 years. The story follows Maya over the course of her long acting career after a reclusive actress takes her under her wing to become the next biggest star. Maya ages with the series, deals with a difficult romance and faces her rival Ayumi who has an easy way into the industry thanks to her famous parents. The two approach acting differently, with Maya being a method actor and Ayumi being more technically trained. The manga was adapted into two anime series, once in 1984 and again in 2005. The latter was licensed by Sentai Filmworks but never fully released stateside.

The new poll: If you were an anime character, what would be your special move?

The old poll: Last week we asked which what Winter 2015 anime was the best? Death Parade was the huge frontrunner with 23.4% of the vote. Here's the full results (entries under 1% omitted):

  1. Death Parade 23.4%
  2. Yuri Kuma Arashi 9.1%
  3. Maria the Virgin Witch 8.6%
  4. Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend 7.6%
  5. Assassination Classroom 7.5%
  6. Durarara!!×2 6.8%
  7. Tokyo Ghoul √A 5.4%
  8. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc 4.9%
  9. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! 4.8%
  10. Kamisama Kiss 2 3.2%
  11. Aldnoah.Zero 2 3.1%
  12. Kuroko's Basketball S3 3.0%
  13. Tsukimonogatari 2.4%
  14. Kantai Collection -Kan Colle- 1.5%
  15. Fafner EXODUS 1.3%
  16. The [email protected] Cinderella Girls 1.1%
  17. The Rolling Girls 1.1%

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her son on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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