The Ensemble Stars! idols have graced Hong Kong with their presence in 2018 C3AFA HK!
Ensemble Stars! is undoubtedly one of the most successful virtual idol franchise on earth. Some say what looks good in anime should stay in anime – because when the characters are portrayed by real actors in the three-dimensional world, there is only disappointment left.
But Ensemble Stars! on Stage has proved it wrong. The musical had its first show in 2016. The box-office records was overwhelming, making it last two years with four seasons. Rather than saying the franchise itself is already popular enough, we would say the actors who pour everything into the show, as proven in our short conversation, are the key factors.
▍Disasters that audience never knew
A successful stage play should be almost flawless, right? It is funny how the four actors – Ikkei Yamamoto (Hokuto Hidaka), Naoya Kitagawa (Tsukasa Suou), Chihiro Okutani (Kaoru Hakaze), and Kaito Hori (Kanata Shinkai), were so eager to share what embarrassing things happened on stage and back stage.
“My costume was on the verge of being torn apart at the back during a performance.” Hori had it worst among the four boys. “My head was completely empty.” The entire accident was something “as comical as what is on TV”, which he never expected to happen.
Okutani had a “costume accident” as well, but he was luckier than Hori. “I left a costume on stage during a scene, and I forgot to take it with me afterwards.” Yamamoto added, “don’t let his hardworking side fool you! He got nervous easily!”
Contrary to his casual, playboy-ish character Kaoru, Okutani is in fact a serious, dedicated person. He has a unit with Hori and another actor from the show. They would often have “heated discussions” on how to making their performance more interesting. He also likes to come up with fresh freestyle moves and self-evaluate these moves later on.
To Kitagawa, the most memorable thing is how he found out his fellow actors actually couldn’t make it to their assigned positions on stage in time. “The audience might not know what happened, but we all knew!” He laughed, “since there were so many actors on stage, no one could ever spot our mistakes.”
Indeed, everyone is too indulged in their singing and flamboyant looks to notice any mistake. To fans, their performances are flawless anyway.
Despite their love for the characters they portray, the actors were tempted to do different roles.
Yamamoto was interested in the legendary student union head, Eichi Tenshouin, for how dominating this character is. “I want to dominate others!”
Kitagawa, on the other hand, meant business with his desire to be Leo Tsukinaga. The Knight’s leader seems to understand himself very well. Kitagawa thought it might be beneficial to analyse other characters from his point of view.
Okutani liked Kaoru to a point where he wanted to create an unique Kaoru. “He is my complete opposite, but through understanding our differences I could portray a Kaoru that develops based on me.” Okutani chose Keito Hasumi, a tsundere, to be his favourite. “Although he is not the main character, I appreciate how he provides a lot of support to his group.”
Hori wanted to be someone entirely different from Kanata. “Kanata brings me joy for how he can always enjoys himself despite not knowing what he is doing.” However, Hori thought self-conscious Chiaki Morisawa would suit him better. “Chiaki is a passionate leader, which I aim to be.”
▍Last But Not Least
It may be the worst for actors to be cast as an animated character. Criticisms such as “you don’t look like him”, or “your hair color is too bright” are inevitable. The four stars admitted that they always felt unsettling before a show, especially performance overseas. After this show in Hong Kong, Yamamoto claimed proudly, “we want to do Ensemble Stars! on Stage outside Japan!” Their dedication is further confirmed by gamer Okutani.
“I didn’t even take my Switch with me because we spent most of the time preparing!”
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