Live-action cinematic remakes are rarely successful — but what about live-action stage adaptations? Following the success of the first play adaptation in 2015, the Naruto Live Spectacle is back with the sequel ‘NARUTO MUSICAL: SONG OF THE AKATSUKI’ (2017).
Luckily for Australian fans, AnimeLab recently brought this sequel to our cinematic screens (and subbed too!), and as huge Naruto fans, we were curious to see if it was worth the hype. Let’s find out!
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Directed and penned by Akiko Kodama once again, NARUTO MUSICAL: SONG OF THE AKATSUKI is without a doubt the closest thing that you will ever get to a live-action Naruto movie.
Kicking off the story with Gaara being kidnapped by the Akatsuki, we see Team 7 embarking on a quest to rescue Gaara and encountering Sasuke for the first time in years. And of course, we also get to see the Akatsuki plotting their evil plans, and Sasuke forming Team Taka to seek Itachi for revenge.
For more than two and half hours, we were surprised by the amount of content incorporated into the screenplay. Although the play is titled ‘Song of the Akatsuki’, the play predominantly focused on the Uchiha brothers and the events leading up to their fateful battle.
Just like the anime, time flies when we encounter energized action scenes, and the adrenalin slows down when the story becomes intricately convoluted. In order to meet with the runtime, the audience begins to see missing gaps in the story with the removal of battle scenes such as Naruto’s battle with Kakuzu and Team 10’s battle with Hidan. Interestingly enough, we never saw the conclusion of Gaara’s rescue despite being the introductory premise of the story.
With a total of seventeen cast members and six ensemble members, Naruto Musical: Song of the Akatsuki boasts perfect casting for every featured character. From the characters’ aura and mannerisms, all actors and actresses are on-point with their allocated characters. To see our beloved characters in the flesh, it is as if you’re watching their lives play out once again.
You can feel Sakura (Yui Ito) and Naruto’s grief (Koudai Matsuoka) and their burning desire to save Sasuke. Sai (Ryo Kitamura) was perfectly pokerface with his sly yet forsaken personality. The final battle between Sasuke (Ryuki Sato) and Itachi (Shinji Rachi) was also an absolute show stealer as they laid out their emotions and delivered the infamous scene to our high expectations.
It’s not just the acting performances that has got the audience reeling — we were also impressed by the production set and effects. With a static stage that is full of restrictions, how can a shonen anime like Naruto bring the story home? How can they portray Naruto’s Nine Tails Cloak? Or Itachi’s Genjutsu crows? Or Sasuke’s lightning?
But they did. Pulling the strings with ease, the production team utilised everything they had to tell the story. On the stage, there were man-made entrances and routes that was built in order for the actors to move freely. In addition to this, they employed a variety of visual digital effects on the screen and on surfaces of the stage to add authenticity to the story.
However, the most important question of all, did Song of the Akatsuki succeed as a stage play musical? As we know, the original soundtrack in the anime played a major component in the storytelling. Now, in the format of a musical, we were intrigued to see how it was going to translate in this different medium.
Much to our surprise-yet-not-so-surprise, this musical added many original songs to coincide with the storytelling. Not only did the songs add high-quality substance to the story, but all cast members sung live and emotionally told the story in a unique way that the anime couldn’t achieve.
We must say, it was a very amusing experience to hear the ‘characters’ sing at first, especially the villains. However, after hearing Orochimaru sing his plans for world domination and Sasuke being Sasuke and singing his hatred for Itachi, it feels very natural within the first ten minutes of the play.
Overall: Featuring drama, original songs, choreography and acrobatics, we were profoundly impressed by NARUTO MUSICAL: SONG OF THE AKATSUKI. We may have rewatched the anime many times but it was a great experience to see Naruto on an entirely different medium. The production crew did such a fantastic job on the sequel — we hope they will return with a follow-up in the near future.
We rarely get exclusive anime things in Australia, and even if we got the chance to watch the stage play live in Japan, we wouldn’t have been able to understand the dialogue (despite already knowing the story). Many thanks to Madman for bringing it to Australia!