This paper examines 2.5-Dimensional musicals, or theater adaptations of anime/manga/videogames. As the genre has been gaining popularity in Japan since around 2007, criticism on the genre began to appear. What they uncritically assume is that the pioneer of the genre was the theater adaptation of Prince of Tennis
first produced in 2003, and the unique mise-en-scène that attempts to recreate the “world” of the original, including the characters, setting, and the characters’ extreme skills of tennis, is a hallmark of the genre. However, such a view fails to consider the fact that these are actually merely characteristics of a subgenre of 2.5-Dimensional musicals represented by Prince of Tennis
and other similar shows. This paper argues that another show, namely the theater adaptation of the videogame Sakura Wars
, first produced in 1997 and continuing to this day, actually presents a number of important questions and viewpoints that are useful and necessary to critically discuss the genre, such as how two-dimensional characters are materialized on stage, which role audiences play in that process, how 2.5-Dimensional musicals can be contextualized within conventional theater genres rather than a part of “media mix” strategies, and tension between the local and global in their production and consumption.
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