Sunday, December 28, 2014

Usagi Yojimbo, realistic and educational play

Today, I went to see the play "Usagi Yojimbo."

Usagi Yojimbo is a series of comics originally written by Stan Sakai. It describes the life of samurais in Edo era in Japan, with many personified animal characters. The hero of this story is Miyamoto Usagi, inspired by Miyamoto Musashi, a legendary swordsman. Usagi means rabbit.

This series is so famous that many stories have been published in the US. I do not know how many issues have been released. Usagi Yojimbo

This time, I got an opportunity to see the straight play of Usagi Yojimbo at Southwark. So, in advance, I read some episodes via Kindle. As a Japanese descendant, the author seems very familiar with Japanese culture. The descriptions in the comic book were precise in detail. Some Kanji characters were present in it.

The theater was small, jointed to a tavern. The stage was surrounded by audience' seats with the three sides.

Southwark Playhouse presents: Usagi Yojimbo

The play focused on the adolescence of Usagi. He was grandchildren of a great warrior and dreamed to be an honorable samurai. But he was expelled from his home by mother, to have to enter a school of swordsmanship. On the way to a school of samurai, he met Katsuichi, a retired swordsman. He decided to study under Katsuichi, to learn about samurai spirit.

In this play, some Japanse culture were introduced without artificiality. Usagi had not been taught about swordsmanship unless he gained patience. His master told him that the essence of samurai was in faithful and industrious daily life. This concept is widely believed in Japan. He had to learn about many things other than fighting skills, such as gardening, calligraphy, and tea ceremony. Katsuichi said, "Fight for honor, not to revenge."

Having grown up, Usagi encountered his old friend, Kenichi, who had been a student of a famous school of swordsmanship. He was to fight with Kenichi at a championship tournament held by Mifune, a powerful lord.

By the way, Mifune is originated from Toshiro Mifune, a famous Japanese actor who played a samurai in film many times. In Western countries, "Mifune" represents a samurai lord. Actually, I have no Mifune in a real name of samurais.

This work was played by only five actors. Each of them played various characters. Fighting scenes were exciting. Additionally, clothing, items, and projecting objects were also realistic in replicating Japanese traditional culture.

Furthermore, there was another staff playing the drum set behind the stage. He hit several oriental drums and played the flute. The music had Japanese taste, quite attractive.

Japanese culture is sometimes misinterpreted in some American films. But Usagi Yojimbo completely replicate the atmosphere. The original comics are admired for its educational effect. I enjoyed it very much.


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