By Takamichi Asakawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer“Bungo Stray Dogs” is a manga series about battling characters with super powers who are named after literary greats. The popular work, which is currently being serialized in a magazine, has finally been adapted for the stage, following on from an animated version released in 2016.
Yuki Torigoe, a big fan of the manga, plays the lead character — based on Atsushi Nakajima (1909-42) — in “Bungo Stray Dogs On Stage.”
“I like both the manga and its anime adaptation,” the 26-year-old actor said. “My dream has come true by playing Atsushi in this show.”
“Bungo Stray Dogs,” written by Kafka Asagiri and drawn by Sango Harukawa, has been serialized in Gekkan Young Ace, a monthly magazine published by Kadokawa Corp., since its January 2013 issue. Fourteen volumes in book form have been published so far. The stage adaptation is based on the 2016 anime version.
Set in Yokohama, the story starts with a battle between a detective agency made up of people with super powers and a group called the Port Mafia. The franchise has drawn enthusiastic fans for its exciting plots and sharp style of drawing.
The characters’ personalities are related to the authors they are named after, and their supernatural abilities are also similarly connected. For example, Osamu Dazai is somewhat detached from the real world, while his super power, named after Dazai’s seminal novel “Ningen Shikkaku” (No Longer Human), is the ability to nullify other people’s super powers simply by touching them. Akiko Yosano’s super power, called “Kimi Shi ni tamou koto nakare” (Thou shalt not die), is the ability to completely heal critically injured people.
“All the characters have distinctive personalities, adding depth to the story,” Torigoe said. “This makes ‘Bungo Stray Dogs’ more fascinating.”
Atsushi’s super power is “Gekkaju” (Beast beneath the moonlight) — inspired by Nakajima’s book “Sangetsuki” (The Moon over the Mountain) — which gives him the ability to transform into a tiger.
However, he is usually an indecisive character. “I’ve played cheerful characters up until now,” Torigoe said. “But Atsushi is different. He’s not tough, but he is compassionate. It’s rewarding to play such a character.”
On the day of our interview, the cast and crew for the stage adaptation had their first meeting, which was also attended by Asagiri and Harukawa, according to Torigoe. “The two [creators] told us the thoughts they put into the work,” he said. “The backbone, they said, is simple: A brave man goes out to rescue a princess. That’s why the story is exciting, and their accounts encouraged me even more.”
The production is directed by Norihito Nakayashiki of the Kaki-Kuu-Kyaku theater company. He is known for his action scenes. The choreography was devised by Takuro Suzuki from the popular Condors dance company.
The show kicked off at a theater in Yokohama, where the story is set. The array of specialists involved and the initial venue indicate how eager the production team is about making the manga’s first stage adaptation a success. “I can tell a lot of love is being poured into every detail of the production,” Torigoe said. “I feel great pressure, but I hope I’ll play the role while enjoying the pressure.”
Torigoe, who is from Osaka Prefecture, has loved tokusatsu sci-fi action superheroes since he was a small child, and this eventually inspired him to pursue an acting career. He made his stage debut in 2010 and has performed in a number of “2.5-dimensional works,” a term that refers to drama and stage adaptations of popular manga.
In a stage adaptation of “Yowamushi Pedal” (Weakling pedal), a manga about high school students competing in cycling races, Torigoe played the same character for more than four years.
“The exciting thing about 2.5-dimensional works is that they draw out different appealing aspects from the originals while the actors and their characters both develop.
“Atsushi is naive and shy, but has various faces. I’m sure he can grow further,” he added. “I already want to perform in the second stage adaptation.”
“Bungo Stray Dogs On Stage” will be staged on Jan. 12 and 13 at Morinomiya Piloti Hall in Osaka, and from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 at Aiia 2.5 Theater Tokyo in Shibuya, Tokyo. The production will be screened live in movie theaters nationwide from 6 p.m. on Feb. 4. Please visit bungo-stage.com for details.Speech