As a true anime otaku, it’s only natural to want to experience your favorite anime in every possible medium. While many anime series are turned into movies, manga (if a manga wasn’t the source material for the anime), spin-off novels, and now even musical plays.
Many may not be aware of the fact that there have been many popular live-action anime musicals, mainly in Japan, and now in 2022 and later in 2023, we can expect more anime musicals to come to the US and London. .
Popular anime series like Naruto, Bleach and Blue Exorcist were some of the few animes lucky enough to get a musical adaptation, but older shows like The Prince of Tennis and Saint Seiya also had musicals. If you are a die-hard anime fan, you would probably find it hard not to sing along to the songs in these musicals.
My Top 10 picks of anime musicals are the musicals that I thought brought out the true essence of the anime, captured its spirit and brought the characters to life with the best performances and vocals. Two of the musicals on my list haven’t opened yet, but because of the extreme hype for both plays and the huge fan base of those animes, they ended up on this list.
10. Hunter X Hunter
Hunter X Hunter took the old “kids adventure trope” and ran off the cliff with it, so it’s no real surprise that it would be turned into a musical that’s a little “distant”. The musical is set between the Yorknew City Arc and the beginning of Greed Isaldn Arc, and features an original story not featured in the original anime.
Gon and his friends are hired to track down a group of missing musicians. As you’d expect, it’s packed with adventure and of course our favorite (most feared?) clown, Hisoka, is thrown into the mix. The actor who plays Hisoka was able to portray his eccentric personality perfectly, and his costume is completely accurate.
9. Black Butler
The story of Black Butler revolves around Ciel, a young aristocrat who is forced to make a deal with a demon named Sebastian to get out of a tricky situation. Sebastian agrees to help Ciel get revenge on the people who killed his parents and will get Ciel’s soul back according to their contract. Black Butler had four musicals: That Butler, Friendship, Musical Black Butler: The Most Beautiful Death in The World – A Thousand Souls and The Fallen Grim Reaper, Lycoris that Blazes the Earth and Black Butler: Noah’s Ark Circus.
8. Sailor Moon
It should come as no surprise that the popular anime Sailor Moon had 31 musicals performed more than 800 times since 1993! The plays were originally performed by Bandai and were performed three times a year. Their show times matched the Japanese school schedule so the high school students could go and watch it. They were held at the Sunshine Theater in the Ikeburo neighborhood of Tokyo. Currently, the production has expanded, and now the actors are touring all over Japan and even performing in China from time to time. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Sailor Moon Cosmos musical hits the stage soon.
Rock Musical Bleach, nicknamed “BuriMyu”, are rock musicals produced by Studio Pierrot and Nelke Planning. The musicals closely follow the storyline of the Bleach manga and anime, but add original music. The plays have been going strong since 2015 with their most recent performance in 2016. The costumes are extremely accurate and the rock music gives the musical a dark atmosphere, befitting the world of Bleach where Shinigami, or “Soul Reapers”, track down evil spirits called ” Hollows”.
It’s surprising, given Pokeman’s massive fanbase that there is only a musical so far called Pokemon Live. The musical ran from September 22, 2000 to January 19, 2001. It had a unique plot, but featured the unforgettable duo Team Rocket. Team Rocket genetically evolves a Pokemon called MechaMew2 and as you can guess chaos ensues.
The piece featured songs from the Pokemon 2BA Master and Totally Pokemon soundtracks. There have been mixed reviews for the game, but for diehard Pokemon fans I’m sure they’d find it a fun nostalgic trip.
Death Note has had several adaptations: multiple live-action movies, a TV drama, a US Netflix adaptation, two spin-off novels, and a musical. Death Note: The Musical was scored by Frank Wildhorn and received positive reviews in Japan and Korea.
The play was performed only in Japanese, although it was actually written in English. You can search YouTube and find all the English soundtracks for the piece. The songs are great! It’s interesting to note that a change in the plot is that L is the one exposing Light’s true identity as Kira. The two musical scores are what sets this musical apart from the others and it the 5 . to givee spot on my list.
4. Fruit basket
The stage adaptation of the anime/manga series Fruits Basket The Stage became available outside of Japan in May 2022. It ran from March 4, 2022 to March 13, 2022 at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall in Tokyo. The best thing about this musical is without a doubt the casting. torun is Toru and Ko is certainly Ko. The costumes are also very accurate.
You can watch some highlights from the play Fruits Basket The Stage here:
Naruto is one of the most popular animes in the world and has hosted three musicals that are sure to follow. Live Spectacle Naruto: The Akatsuki Investigation opened in 2017 and featured music, dance and acrobatics (martial arts). This particular adjustment seems to be the most accurate at bringing Naruto’s ninja world to life. The costumes are accurate, the acting on point, the vocals very good, and the plot is very close to the original anime. The music stands out because the music from the anime has always been very distinctive. Toshio Masuda wrote the score for Naruto’s original soundtrack and used traditional instruments such as the shamisen and shakuhachi, as well as modern instruments such as the guitar, drums, bass, piano and vocals.
2. My neighbor Totoro
The number two on my list is the musical My Neighbor Totoro, which hasn’t opened yet, but this place is winning because of one thing: the composer. The Royal Shakespeare Company in London has teamed up with multi-award winning composer Joe Hisaishi to create a stage adaptation of Miyazaki Hayao’s whimsical 1988 Studio Ghibli film My Neighbor Totoro.
Joe Hisaishi has been associated with animator Hayao Miyazaki since 1984 and has composed scores for all but one of his films: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle in the sky, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro and more! Joe Hisaishi’s music scores were full of whimsy and helped set the mood in these fantasy films.
You can read more about the upcoming My Neighbor Totoro musical in my article here. My Neighbor Totoro by Miyazaki Hayao will have a musical at London Stage in 2022
1. Spy X Family
Another musical that hasn’t opened yet is the Spy X Family musical, but it takes first place because of the huge hype this production has received. Due to the rising popularity of Spy X Family for its intriguing plot and lovable characters, it has been announced that plans for a musical adaptation of the anime/manga series are in the works.
Toho Stage, the production company behind the stage adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, plans to release the musical adaptation of Spy X Family sometime in 2023. This will be the first musical that Imperial Theater has produced. The plan is to stay close to the original story and Toho Stage is already excited to unveil its vision of a Spy X Family musical to the public.
You can read more about the upcoming Spy X Family in my article here: Spy X Family 2023 Musical Theater Adaptation Has Auditions For Live-Action Anya Forger