|Okada Masaki's Haiji in the Ningen Gowasan ads in Morinomiya Osaka|
Update 15 July 2018: Since Ningen Gowasan has ended the show in Osaka this afternoon, I have now uploaded the plot at the end of this post. Enjoy!
I’m still tokidoki after watching Ningen Gowasan 「ニンゲン御破算」2018 live. I do believe I’m so blessed that I’m allowed to squeeze some money and time to fly to Osaka to watch Okada Masaki live (three times, no less!)... and I still feel that tingling sensation when I saw him for the first time in my life, 10 m ish from me, emerging with his gorgeous white hapi, the white overcoat his character Haiji worn.
How do I express the tokidoki I feel? Upon listening to his voice reverberating in the Morinomiya Piloti Hall Osaka, and also in my heart?
Here’s a guy I fell in love with in 2012, and that was through an Edo-time movie (Raiō) he played in 2010. Then I backtracked watching his portfolio until 2007 and moving forward again, and I’m in love with that kakkoi and kind boy.
But now, he is not a boy anymore. He’s a man. A gentle man, whose gaits show the pure confidence that doesn’t even go near the line of arrogance. A young man whose career is displayed in front of him through his fine choices of work and excellent work ethics.
And Ningen Gowasan is one of them. A fine example of how Okada Masaki has progressed from his days of “Hana Kimi”, being the cute idol in “Boku no Hatsukoi wo Kimi ni Sasagu” and “Otomen”, getting through his first period drama as a Tokugawa Shogun's son Narimichi (which made me love him), going through modern dramas (God, Yamada Haruhiko is still in my mind as a prime example of Masaki's talents)... but never forgetting how good he is, how in element he is, when he’s in period drama context (Minamoto no Yoritomo, anyone?).
And then, adding one more layer: the theatre. Which cements Okada Masaki’s fine acting skills. For one can be a good actor for TV and movie medium, but not so much for theatre. Because for theatre, you’ve got to give more than all. A theatre show plays almost every day but one off day per week. In these everyday interactions, there’s no room for mistakes. They just have to wing it when there are mistakes. In theatres, an actor’s voice has to be projected as such that the viewer at the back of the room can hear you well, your emotions must be conveyed such that these viewers can see them even from a distance.
In theatres, an actor gives 200% or more of his all.
And Okada Masaki does that. He amplifies his commitments he displays for dramas and movies in theatres and he does the three of them well. And he still projects that humility despite it all.
God, I love him.
I also love Ningen Gowasan 2018.
And I want to share as much as I can share with you now here, because I realise how rare it is for overseas fans to watch Okada Masaki live. I do realise it, and I am honoured to be one of the rare representatives for Masaki, though he of course didn’t realise I was there, that I flew to Osaka just for him. But since Ningen Gowasan is still showing in Osaka, I have to be very careful with the spoilers. This post is thus spoilers-free, until the last day of Osaka play on 15th July, where I can finally release the major plots of the drama. Not that I would be able to tell the whole story anyway with my rudimentary Japanese....but still, after watching it three times, I believe I understand the major plots.
Okada Masaki’s performance
I still remember the time I saw him live for the first time last Saturday. A tall figure in white kimono overcoat appeared from the left audience entrance. I was sitting on W48, one of the farthest corners of the Hall, and my Tasco binoculars were the only and most important gadget that I have that helped me finding details in the show. But that moment, I didn’t need my binoculars. This person’s height gave him away. It was Masaki-sama. His voice confirmed it, it was him indeed. He took my breath away and I almost cried, because I never thought that I could make it to see this show.
Then he spoke for the first time, and I was mesmerised by his voice. His voice is baritone, so he couldn’t go bass, but he went as low as possible with a belly voice, projecting his voice to be heard by all audience, including those standing at the back of the seats. Of course, Masaki and others wore clip on microphones well-hidden underneath their wigs, but still, you can hear the quality of his voice.
Several Tweeter fellows said that Okada Masaki was glowing on stage. They were right. Masaki glows on stage. It’s not just the limelight. It’s his essence that truly enjoys the stage, the theatre, his totality on stage that brings out the light within him.
Then Okada-sama readied his katana in an attacking stance. Then, a flashback. A sword fight ensued. When Masaki crouched the way a samurai would when commencing or anticipating attack, I caught my breath. When he deftly deflected two sword attacks from the back, I lost my breath.
(okay, of course the three actors – Masaki and his two attackers – had to time the attacks and deflection perfectly, but that says it all about their preparations!)
Masaki then swung his katana here and there, and lost his sword at one point. But then he managed to dismantle an enemy and deftly caught the flying sword…and I hyperventilated.
It was. Beautiful.
Okada Masaki is tall. At 180ish cm, he’s 10 cm taller than average Japanese men. For that, I often unconsciously thought that he’d not be agile enough for any traditional fights, despite his history of kendo in Otomen 2009 and judo in the recent Himitsu Top Secret 2016. But man, I was WRONG. In Ningen Gowasan, Masaki proved that he was an able swordsman. His moves are fast and light. He would jump from one spot to another, from one step to the next one, lightly, nimbly, with such agility that betrays his height. This jumping moves somehow reminded me of Kamiki Ryunosuke’s moves in Rurouni Kenshin 2.
Also, in one of the last sword scenes, Masaki deftly threw his own katana into the air and caught it before slashing his enemy. I can see how he enjoyed the moment.
Bottom line: NG 2018 proves that Okada Masaki is actually very good with katana. He just has to have more roles that foster this hidden, relatively unexplored, skill of his.
I related these thoughts to Tweeter fellow ARJ and she said that, with a proper training, Masaki would fit the role of Enishi for Rurouni Kenshin. I love the idea. With Enishi’s emotional baggage and tall posture, Masaki would fit the bill to the T.
Okay, that’s the fights. Emotion-wise, Masaki displayed a range of emotions that are very interesting. I originally thought that Haiji would be akin to the Bakumatsu Yamada Haruhiko going bad. But I was wrong. Haiji was a rascal, a happy-go-lucky, and a rather irresponsible but very irresistible samurai. There was only one moment near the end of the story where Haiji had to display regrets and mixed emotions that Yamada or Aoki Ikkō regularly displayed. However, in general Haiji’s range of emotions are very interesting and entertaining. His voice alternated between the deepest shades of baritone to the highest falsetto and his expressions ranged from that of a spoilt child (or brat) to a regretful person.
I have to stop there, lest I spoil the plots before the show ends next Sunday. However, let me just say this: Okada Masaki is a grown up actor now. He will grow more, but at the moment, watching and listening to this fine man acting are pleasing to the eyes and ears.
Oh, and speaking of senses, I once wondered how we fans would never be able to savour Masaki’s – please don’t get me wrong – scent, for we only see and hear him in media, and rarely in person. However, tonight, on the 3rd day of my viewing NG, Masaki passed by several times along the aisle next to my seat. As he ran, walked or flew passed by, my nose caught a whiff of faint fragrance emanating from him.
Perhaps it was his freshly laundered kimono, because I noticed Tabe Mikako (“Okichi”) also had that scent when she passed by next to me. But still… tonight I caught a whiff of Okada Masaki’s scent, despite his sweating a lot.
Call me a stalker. (and you wait until I tell you what happened at the taxi rank after the show…)
Oh, speaking of sweating, I just realised that Masaki REALLY sweats a lot. For instance, tonight, he sweated a lot. Sweat beads dripped down his fine, well-defined jaws, damping his navy kimono. Once or twice, sweat beads also fell off the tip of his nose towards his white chest, adorning said chest with rivers of silver sweat. Yes, I’m very into details.
By the way, some Tweeter friends asked me if Okada Masaki is beautiful IRL. Yes. He is beautiful in real life too. His skin is glowing (what skin product is he using??). I thought he’d be skinny in life, but skinny is not the right word. “Lean” is more applicable for him. When he walked or ran past me several times, I realised how impressive his tall frame is. He’s definitely not bulky, but I find his lean figure aesthetically pleasing. Oh, and kimono and hakama truly suit him, which is why I’m so excited for his new role in the NHK Rakugo series in a few months’ time.
|The entrance of Morinomiya Piloti Hall tonight, where Ningen Gowasan plays|
General show performance
Right, after fan-girling about Masaki whilst ignoring my age and husband, I need to state this: all my gushing about Okada-kun does not take away my admiration towards the Ningen Gowasan 2018 production in general. I think Director Matsuo Suzuki is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G for being able to orchestrate such a massive production.
Details, everyone. Details. Matsuo Suzuki and his production team are experts of details.
From the orange butterflies Haiji tried to catch to the splashing water to the chopped hands and heads, from the blue ocean to the whales and octopus, from the lip-sync to Masaki’s “ru-ru-ru-ru!” (I’ll tell you next week), from the background dancers to Masaki’s white briefs (next week…), NG 2018 is full of details. And those are just a few details that I, with my rudimentary Japanese, could catch.
Then of course I cannot leave out Abe Sadawo, Tabe Mikako, Arakawa Yoshiyoshi and Hirata Atsuko, to name a few. I’ve never seen Abe Sadawo acting, though I just recently realised he and Masaki had paired up in “Gogo Boys, Gogo Heaven” in 2014 (also helmed by Matsuo Suzuki). But man, Abe-san was amazing! He was very funny; he somewhat reminded me of Ralph Fiennes in the Grand Budapest Hotel. Again, I cannot say more because I will spill the beans, but suffice to say Abe-san is definitely the main actor, though Okada Masaki definitely delivered as the main supporting actor (the last scene was icing on the cake, but we have so many Masaki moments in NG that is worth repeat-viewing).
Last but not least for the moment, the 音楽, the music was really good. It was almost musical, which does remind audience of Gogo Boys (cos it’s almost a musical). The almost-musical NG 2018 is filled with “Secret Agent Man” (original by Johhny Rivers, but I love Char's version), “Fly Me to the Moon” and some really good music of which names I do not recognise. Kudos to the musical team for their collaboration.
Well, kudos to the whole team, full stop. Theatres are not easy. There is no room for mistakes, theoretically at least, but if there are mistakes, you just have to wing it. Matsuo-san winged it this evening when his fan fell off his kimono; on cue, Abe Sadawo just waited until Matsuo-san picked up his fan and moved on with his lines. Masaki delivered a line a few seconds too early this evening, hence his voice was drowned by music that was still playing, but kudos to him, his expression remained at it should be. A tray of dishes was thrown away almost off stage this evening, but Masaki deftly caught it, preventing it from hitting an innocent viewer. A few seconds later, he threw out another tray towards Hirata Atsuko, it hit her shin, and she just screamed out loud because it was obviously hurting, but might as well just make it funny.
I’m sure there were other mistakes, but the team just moved on. They acknowledge mistakes happened, they need to move on. They accept mistakes and move on. And the team becomes stronger and more resonant because of that.
Ningen Gowasan 2018 rocks.
Ningen Gowasan Plot
Well, the plot ends up with someone losing plot, pun-intended. However, let’s put this sign up first:
Okay, that should do it. You proceed with your own risk.
I’m not sure how similar the Ningen Gowasan 2018 is with its 2003 predecessor. However, upon reading the last pages of the novel (I bought the novel at the Morinomiya Piloti Hall), I realised that the novel’s ending is similar, if not very much the same, with the 2018 show. It's likely that NG 2018 is faithful to its source.
The plot involves a very skilful Edo samurai Yoshiwara Sunosuke (Abe Sadawo) who just wanted to be a stage play writer. In his journey, he met Kurotaro (Arakawa Yoshiyoshi) and Haiji (Okada Masaki), two ronin (or at least samurai wannabe) who wanted to further improve their samurai skills. Adding bento seller Okichi (Tabe Mikako) and another Edo family (not sure what the name) to the mix, we have a funny love triangle and conflicting interests that often colours a Bakumatsu story.
The first scene opens with Okichi selling her bento amidst the chaotic Bakumatsu Edo and some Shinseigumi soldiers trying to disband some defiant commoners (including matriarch Hirata Atsuko – will check on the name of her character). In the impending riot, a voice called out to stop the Shinseigumi captain from abusing the peasants. The owner of this deep voice is Haiji, our very own Okada Masaki, wearing a large straw hat. The Shinseigumi captain and Haiji were about to have a lethal clash when the captain realised that the samurai with the large straw hat was actually Haiji. His anger diminished, Haiji was very happy to see the captain, who was actually Kurotaro, his aniki (big brother), and vice versa.
Then, the flashback.
We had Yoshiwara Sunosuke chasing a play writer sensei (Matsuo Suzuki-san), begging the sensei to have him as a student. The sensei originally refused, probably because Sunosuke hailed from the famous samurai clan Yoshiwara. Afterwards, I’m not sure if Sunosuke was retelling a story or he was experiencing it after talking to the sensei… I think it was a flashback.
Okay, so while trying to convince Sensei, Sunosuke retold how his family wanted him to be a top samurai to lead the clan etc etc, and his mother always rebuked him for reading dramas/novels/play scripts. Sunosuke also recalled how his mother married him to his 4th wife, a rather deranged woman who carried a knife in a fake attempt of suicide while her parents also threatened suicide if Sunosuke didn’t marry the woman. Anyway, so Sunosuke married his 4th wife, but he still kept his dream to be a play writer.
Not sure if Sunosuke convinced Sensei to accept him as a student or not, but next Sunosuke, Sensei and Sensei’s assistant (who doubled up as a cleaner to mop some water splashes – Edo canals and rivers I suppose…) saw Kurotaro and Haiji. I think the two rascals were chased by some men, God knows what they did actually. This is where we saw for the first time Haiji’s fine skills as a swordsman; he easily deflected two back attacks. Haiji also decapitated one of the attackers; limbs (props) and head and brain (props as well) flew around. Sunosuke delighted in the scene, and kept referencing it to the Sensei even after Haiji and Kurotaro left.
Later, it was Kurotaro and Haiji who spotted Sunosuke. This time, he was visiting another wealthy Edo family and out of the blue killed three eminent members with just a few slashes. Haiji and Kurotaro were – I think – on the rooftop when they saw everything. They were amazed at how easy Sunosuke killed the three samurai. When Sunosuke caught them watching him, the two brothers asked him to teach them the proper bushido. I don’t think Sunosuke really said yes, but he might say that he’d give it a thought or so before he vanished into the night.
Next, Kurotaro and Haiji bumped into the cute bento seller Okichi. I think Okichi was about to be abused by some men when the two brothers rescued her. Haiji drew first blood and dashed off immediately to chase Okichi’s other abuser. Okichi took an immediate liking to the handsome Haiji, while Kurotaro was like a fish out of the water, mesmerised by Okichi’s beauty. After the rescue, Okichi was trying to get closer (like, physically inching closer) to Haiji, while Haiji kept indicating to her that his aniki took a liking of her.
Later, the trio met Sunosuke again who was chased by the Edo family whose members he had killed a moment ago. Sunosuke’s chasers cornered Kurotaro, Haiji, Sunosuke and Okichi onto the Edo shore, but Sunosuke’s mother rescued them by killing one of the attackers with a long glaive. Then, somehow Sunosuke killed his mother (I think accidentally). Despite his regrets, the quartet had to still escape the chasers by jumping off the cliff.
The unlikely quartet were separated at sea. Sunosuke and Haiji found a log and drifted for a while before being rescued by Bob and Uncle Tom, two African-American who somehow reached the Japan inshore waters with a teenee-weenee boat. Sunosuke did wonder where Kurotaro and Okichi were, but Haiji dismissed his concerns. I think Haiji said that he knew Kurotaro would be able to take care of himself and, with him, Okichi.
Haiji was right. Kurotaro and Okichi found another log (how convenient) and drifted back safely to the Japan shore. Kuro was rather irked because Okichi kept looking for Haiji, but the girl was just oblivious to Kuro being besotted by her.
From here on we have two separate plots (they will meet again, of course): Kurotaro-Okichi and Haiji-Sunosuke. The stories intermingled with another plot from the Edo family who was searching for Sunosuke. Let’s get the latter first. So, this Edo family (let’s call them the “anti-Yoshiwara” clan) was looking for Sunosuke “everywhere”, but they couldn’t find the killer. During the search, we have a funny scene where the five clan members visited a spectacled guy (who has a funny speaking habit with his tongue going in and out all the time, making baby noises) to ask for advice about defeating Sunosuke. While one of them was telling the story to this guy, the light dimmed and Sunosuke appeared with his katana, slashing here and there, red limelight upon him. Basically, it’s the way Matsuo Suzuki telling a flashback scene in a funny way. Then after receiving wise (or unwise) words from this spectacled advisor, the five clan members continued their search for Sunosuke (but not before having a very upbeat musical number about how they were going to defeat Sunosuke).
Oh yeah, the musical number was very funny. The clan leader suddenly used his stick as a microphone and sang; his voice was really good; deep bass and all. But then, we found out that he was just lip-syncing, cos the real musician was just hiding 2m away from him behind a shoji. The shoji opened slightly to reveal the musician, but then one of the samurais closed the shoji and shoved the musician away. Basically, telling the musician to just sing behind the shoji and let the clan leader pretended he had a musical talent.
Meanwhile, Sunosuke himself arrived back in Edo with Haiji. I’m not sure which one happened first, Sunosuke took the complaining Haiji to the Yoshiwara house or he took the young man to a brothel. The brothel scene was very funny anyway, so I’ll tell about it.
So, Sunosuke and Haiji went to a brothel. Haiji somehow got some money (or was it salt blocks?) that showed that he was rather well-off to pay the prettiest girl in the brothel. Sunosuke left Haiji to talk to his Sensei again. In the brothel, the mama (Hirata Atsuko) showed three girls to Haiji, yet none of them he liked (although he did smooch one of them and attempted to lower the kimono of another). Finally, the brothel mama said she’d give him her best girl ever, just wait here.
Haiji waited impatiently for his final girl while Sunosuke was still talking to his Sensei. We had two scenes on the same stage, just with different lightings and talking moments to show they are two different scenes.
Anyway, after a while, we had three girls in kimono doing a background a capella singing, presumably to induce romantic ambience in the brothel. But the impatient Haiji just barked,
“Lalalala! Lalalala! Shut up! Just get me the girl!”
Or something like that. It was funny. Haiji said “Ru-ru-ru-ru! Ru-ru-ru-ru!” for “lalalala” and it was very funny.
Okay, so then the final girl finally arrived. Her voice was very high pitched, but Haiji was too excited to notice. He impatiently opened the shoji and screamed because he saw the brothel mama there dressed as a prostitute.
Frustated, Haiji was about to leave when the brothel mama’s guards prevented him from leaving. Then, somehow, there was fire (Edo Bakumatsu seemed to have a lot of fires…) thus the mama told Haiji to leave the brothel. But Haiji had paid for his entertaining time, so he eventually decided the heck with it – he was going to enjoy the moment!
So he plunged into the room and had dadada with the brothel mama while fire was encroaching the brothel.
Later, after doing his business, Haiji ran towards Sensei’s house and complained to Sunosuke about something (about the fire? About the mama? About everything? Haiji was a complainer…). Brothel mama appeared, saying it was the first time she had whatever, and Haiji (or rather, Okada Masaki) made a very funny manhood gesture that made the audience burst into laughter.
Then we had Okichi and Kurotaro arriving back in Edo (or at least nearby Edo) where they observed some fire. Perhaps the same fire that almost engulfed Haiji? Okichi and Kuro met some members of another important Edo clan and somehow Kuro was recruited by them. It’s possible that this Edo clan was actually part of the Shogun household, but I’m not sure. During this scene, Okichi seemed to finally considered that, while Haiji was nowhere in sight, Kuro wasn’t bad at all, for he practically worshipped her.
Okichi and Kuro arrived back in Edo where they saw the vibrant city once more. In a corner, they saw two men embracing each other. They were surprised, but this was Edo, so perhaps it was normal. Kuro inferred again how he wanted Okichi, and this time Okichi blushed. Kuro’s new employers barked at them to follow, so they did.
Meanwhile, the two embracing men pulled off. Rather, one of them screamed in annoyance and pushed the other man away. They were Haiji and Sunosuke. I think they were just chatting about something, about Edo etc, when Haiji said something that made Sunosuke grateful for his friendship. Sunosuke hugged Haiji, but because he was much shorter than Haiji, he had to stop the hug, walked two steps up and hugged Haiji again, before Haiji shoved him off for hugging too long. It was funny.
So anyway, during this hugging, Okichi and Kuro saw them but didn’t realise that they were Sunosuke and Haiji.
I’m not sure about the scene after this one, a bit blurred. I think Okichi had to work again as a bento seller while her “husband” Kuro worked in the Shogun household. During this time, Kuro was brainwashed into thinking that foreigners were bad, that all foreigners had to be expelled from Japan.
Also during this time, Haiji met Okichi again. I think Haiji started to think often of Okichi, hence he was rather pleased to see her. Okichi was besides herself and hugged Haiji upon laying her eyes on him. This move created a sensation in Haiji such that his kimono was lifted to reveal his (or Okada Masaki’s) famous white briefs…covering his fine – ahem – family jewel.
It was an LOL moment. Of course an extra (wearing black) lifted Masaki’s kimono from the back to reveal the white briefs, but it was still funny. And of course, もちろんだった、the act of revealing the white briefs invited a collective gasp from the female audience...
Okichi inquired what that thing was, because briefs were apparently a new thing; Haiji proudly said it was a「ブリーフ」。 Later, Okichi told Haiji that Kuro was working for the Shogun (this is my assumption; Kuro could be working for yet another Edo clan), and that Okichi was forced into selling bento again, but all profits went to her employer. Haiji was irked (not sure for Kuro or for Okichi). When he saw how Okichi’s samurai employer verbally abused her (she fought back verbally as well, she was no damsel in distress), he was super annoyed, such that he chased that samurai and killed him on the spot.
After the killing, Haiji declared war to the clan who employed Kuro.
The next scene is in a restaurant, I think, where Sunosuke and his colleagues were talking about ambushing one of the Shogun’s generals at Sakuradamon (Sakurada Gate) of the Edo Castle. Right in the next room, Kurotaro was rebuked by his employers about something. Then suddenly, a man whose face was bandaged came into the room where Kuro and his employers were talking. The samurai said that he had a slight accident with his face, but all’s good. So, what’s the plan, guys?!
So, this samurai with the bandaged face was of course Haiji. He took the identity of the samurai he killed earlier to usurp a meeting between Kurotaro and his employers. In a very funny scene, Haiji kept indicating that Kurotaro should speak to the wall instead of to his employers. In the room next door, Sunosuke recognised Haiji’s voice and took the cue. The three of them (Sunosuke, Haiji and Kurotaro) revealed to each other what the plan of the Shogun’s general was. Later, to wipe out his trails, Haiji revealed himself as Haiji, killed Kuro’s employers and recruited Kuro to be part of the Team Sunosuke.
The next scene was the Sakuradamon (Sakurada Gate) attack where Sunosuke, Haiji, Kurotaro and some men attacked and killed the Shogun’s general. It was a funny scene. The ten or so samurais who would commence attack were hiding and started to prepare attack commencing stance. Haiji’s katana stance was beautifully displayed (get Masaki on the next Rurouni Kenshin, pronto!). The other samurais displayed the proper samurai stance too with their katana.
But Sunosuke! Sunosuke took the stance and revealed his weapon: a Microphone!
The audience burst out laughing again.
Thus, during the attack, when “Fly Me to the Moon” was romantically playing, Sunosuke took the role of a commentator, interviewing some samurai on what was happening. Later, after Haiji took the head of their target, Sunosuke jumped to the side stage and sang a song in the “Fly Me to the Moon” tune in Japanese. Masaki (I mean, Haiji) was barely able to contain his laughter as he and the other samurais danced a very funny katana fighting dance. The last line “I love youuuuuuuu!!!” was sang by all remaining samurais and the audience applauded again.
After the Sakurada Gate Attack, Haiji and Okichi stayed at the Yoshiwara house where it was inferred that Haiji often (or at times) communed with Okichi. Here we see that Sunosuke started to lose the plot. Haiji commented how recently Sunosuke’s mind seemed to wander off, but Sunosuke didn’t make any sound response. Oh yeah, Madam Brothel (Hirata Atsuko) also stayed in the Yoshiwara House, becoming a matriarch there it seemed. She dotted Haiji more as a mother now, LOL (but seriously, it's difficult not to like Haiji!), and he liked to lay on her lap while she cleaned his ears. There was a funny scene when Mama asked Sunosuke to clean Haiji’s ear instead, but because Sunosuke’s mind wandered off, he pierced Haiji’s ear until the latter screamed out loud.
Meanwhile, IIRC, Kurotaro was captured by the Shogun. I’m not sure what Haiji et al did to retrieve him, though, because the Yoshiwara Clan was under attack again, this time probably because of the Sakurada Gate fiasco.
The Yoshiwara clan welcomed the attack. Haiji, who was by now a definite member of the household, chased around some Shinseigumi samurais (this is where on the 3rd day of my viewing, Okada Masaki threw his katana into the air and deftly caught it again before slashing his enemy gleefully). Okichi helped Sunosuke escaping the Shinseigumi. However, Sunosuke was definitely losing the plot; he wanted to kill Okichi instead. The girl was saved by Sunosuke’s 4th wife, who in turn asked Okichi to help her killing Sunosuke. Okichi funnily shoved Sunosuke to his wife, who was about to deliver the killing strike, when wife fell down and screamed.
Because she just realised that Sunosuke had grown some boobs.
So, it seems Sunosuke had come to believe that he was a woman. Possibly his mind was off after the Sakurada Mon attack, or because he regretted accidentally killing his mother. Sunosuke had an imaginary conversation with his mother, and he finally found his peace. He still thought himself as a woman, though, so when the Shinseigumi found him, he tried to appeal to them using his boobs.
This part of the story ended with Haiji still chasing the Shinseigumi. It seems that he had made Shinseigumi his enemy; probably like Katsura Kotarō in Gintama. Befitting, no?
We then returned to the beginning of the play where Haiji was facing his aniki Kurotaro in a heated conflict, and he just realised that Kuro was now a Shinseigumi. Their reunion was cut short by Okichi, who voiced her displease upon seeing both men.
Apparently, it had been one year since Sunosuke was captured. Okichi now had a baby she carried around while selling bento, and she wasn’t sure who the father was. There were two candidates: Kurotaro or Haiji. Okichi couldn’t contact any of them, because Kuro was recruited by Shinseigumi and Haiji went underground, fighting against the Shinseigumi. Thus, Okichi had been raising her baby herself.
Haiji looked very remorseful, not sure whether because he left Okichi alone or that he bedded his aniki’s former women, or both. Kuro punched him, Haiji punched him back, Okichi screamed at both men to behave. She scolded them again and both men went silent.
Then, the story jumped 20 years ahead in the Taishō Era (Miss Modern anyone?). Yoshiwara’s enemies now dressed up in fine western clothing. Madame Brothel was now the matriarch of the Yoshiwara family. We had one of the Yoshiwara’s enemies returning from America in a fine western suit; he left Japan with Uncle Bob in a small boat. One of the former Yoshiwara enemies was reading newspaper and praised the fame of the Yoshiwara Kabuki team.
What, what, what???
Then, entered a young girl wearing Miss Modern Haikara-san’s hakama dress. She declared her mother entering the hall. Her mother (an older Okichi with an Edwardian dress) entered the hall, totting “Grandmother” Sunosuke with her.
So, Sunosuke now considered himself a woman. She was now the second matriarch of the house, wearing round black glasses, teeth black.
Then entered Haiji and Kurotaro – dressed in Kabuki costumes. Haiji was the himesama, the Princess (complete with the headdress, white face, painted red lips and bright red kimono), while Kurotaro was the samurai (complete with the white face, scowling look and frowning eyebrows). In a normal male voice and normal samurai gait, Haiji said something about how they were going to do their last performance, let’s make it great!
Then, with a high falsetto voice, Haiji asked his aniki to hold his hand and demurely walked away off stage, along the aisle… passing me by, who was mesmerised by Okada Masaki’s commitment to his role.
One of the remaining actors on stage said, “Those two are idiots, aren’t they?” – to which Okichi only confirmed it with “Yeah…” – 「ええ。。。」。
Then Grandmother Sunosuke said something funny. The limelight was shone onto the audience, and the audience clapped as the remaining actors clapped back at them.
I always did the standing ovation during the first calls. I’m glad that on Monday 9 July evening, the audience followed suit on the second curtain call. Some people also hollered “Bravo!” several times (me too). On Monday night 9 July, Abe Sadawo hollered “Bravo” back, Masaki laughed out loud in his princess costume and echoed Abe…
And I was filled with love and warmth in my heart. For never even in my dream I dared to imagine that I could see Okada Masaki live, particularly with such an amazing theatre team.
Thank you, Universe…