Actors and actresses of the Onmyoji musical pose for a photo during the first stop of its national tour in Shanghai on June 16. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
A musical adapted from the mobile video game Onmyoji is touring China, creating waves both online and offline among loyal players and proving profitable at the box office and the merchandise stand.
After concluding five performances at the tour's first stop, Shanghai PG Theater, on June 16, the musical has started to tour seven other Chinese cities, including Zhengzhou in Henan province and Chengdu in Sichuan province, playing at weekends through August.
Developed by Chinese IT company NetEase in 2016, the role-playing game takes place in Japan.
It is set 1,000 years ago during Japan's Heian period and is based on the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji, telling the story of a mythical war between human magicians and evil spirits. The word Onmyoji means "master of yin and yang" in Japanese.
Adapted from part of the game's script, the current show is a sequel to the first edition of the musical, which debuted in Tokyo in 2018 and received good reviews.
This second edition has a young Japanese cast, under the stewardship of director Nobuhiro Mouri, composer Sahashi Toshihiko and choreographer Shinnosuke Yamamoto.
A full house at the PG Theater in Shanghai for the performance. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Dressed in a traditional Japanese style that draws on elements from the Kimono and Samurai armor, the actors dance, sing and fight, bringing the game characters to life.
The songs and dialogue of the musical are performed in Japanese, but Chinese translations are projected onto screens beside the stage.
During the musical's Shanghai performance, the majority of the audience were devoted gamers, including people who had traveled from Japan, with some cosplayers attending the performances as their favorite characters.
Xiao Yugan, 23, is a graphic designer in Shanghai, and playing the game is one of her favorite pastimes. She usually plays Onmyoji for two to three hours after work, and spends more than 1,000 yuan (US$145) per month on the game.
"When I knew the musical was coming to Shanghai, I bought my ticket as soon as online sales began," she says. "I didn't get the best seat, however, because they sold out almost straight away."
Japanese actor Kento Muto plays one of the main characters in the musical. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
The ticket price ranges from 180 to 1,280 yuan and Xiao paid 980 yuan for a front-row seat. "Many of my online friends also came to watch the musical," she says, adding that those who bought the tickets were given codes to redeem limited-offer character "skins" in the online game.
Hundreds of fans have left comments on the musical's official Sina Weibo account, many begging the organizers to bring the show to their home cities. Some say besides paying for tickets, they are also buying high-speed train tickets to travel to watch the show.
Fans are also snapping up the exclusive and limited-offer merchandise such as stuffed toys, caps and badges carrying the likenesses of the game's characters, that are being sold at the theater before and after each show.
Music critic Guo Zhikai says compared with game-adapted films and animation, game-adapted musicals are still a small genre, but their strength lies in their ability to create a stronger impact and offer more intimate interaction, which is why the Onmyoji musical has proved very popular with fans of the game.
"However, commercialization must be supported with an excellent entertainment product," he says. "It is a test for musical creators - good performances are essential."
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