The Takarazuka Revue, Japan’s all-female theater troupe, has been historically difficult to access for foreigners. While they have performed around the world since the troupe’s first performance in 1914, the most recent US performance was in 1992 according to the Takarazuka Wiki. Tickets are available to purchase online for their in-person performances in Japan, but there’s nothing like the fancy subtitle glasses some shows use if you don’t know Japanese.
That’s why the livestream announcement for Cosmos Troupe’s Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond- was met with such excitement, as it marked the first time a full Takarazuka Revue performance would be streamed for an international audience. And with English, Korean, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Indonesian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Thai subtitles, at that!
The show chosen for the livestream was the farewell performance of Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond- featuring Cosmos lead members Suzuho Makaze and Hana Jun at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater. Not only was it the last time the revue performed this show, but it was also Suzuho Makaze and Hana Jun’s last show before retiring from the revue.
Of course, when the livestream was announced, I knew I absolutely had to attend. I grabbed a ticket from the livestream service Beyond Live for $27, which granted me access to both the livestreamed show and the “re-stream” held on a later date. While the re-stream only had English subtitles, as opposed to the full list of subtitle options, it was held at a much more reasonable time for someone in North America than the original livestream, so I ended up watching that.
Based on Ian Fleming’s original debut James Bond novel, Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond-‘s general plot would be familiar to anyone who has read the book or seen other adaptations, but from my basic knowledge of the original, the Takarazuka Revue version made some interesting changes of its own. In this version, the story takes place in 1968, during the Cold War. James Bond is tasked with going to Paris and using his gambling skills to cut off a Soviet spy called Le Chiffre from his source of funds and capture him alive.
Aside from the difference in time period and real-world events referenced, I believe this is generally the same overarching plot as the book. But the Takarazuka version adds the descendants of the Romanov family, who also happen to be at the Casino Royale where this all goes down, and the Romanov princess Delphine is targeted by Le Chiffre for her inheritance after he loses to Bond. Rasputin also (kind of) makes an appearance, along with a crazy Nazi scientist, Dr. Zweinstein, who laments being overshadowed by Albert Einstein.
The Cosmos Troupe is known as being the more advent-garde of the Takarazuka troupes, so I suppose this is par for the course for them, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to also get a recurring song about dolphins.
The show, which lasted over 2.5 hours including a 5-minute intermission, was still a real treat, particularly with the casino sequences and the gambling themes in decor and costuming. At one point, there was even a giant roulette wheel and table that Bond and Le Chiffre sing and dance around!
The English subtitles in the re-stream started off surprisingly strong, but I did notice some issues with the translation and editing, particularly in the second half. One memorable example was Bond saying he was “invisible” instead of “invincible”… I don’t know how the other languages fared, but a slightly higher level of polish would be appreciated, particularly since the performance would have a script to reference and work from in advance.
The Beyond Live streaming service also had a chat function, and it was awesome to see so many fans talking about the performance. I didn’t check out the chat too often, but I’m glad to know there were other people in the world watching who were equally as bemused by the dolpin song as my boyfriend and me.
As a whole, Casino Royale -My Name’s Bond- had everything I love about the Takarazuka Revue: talented women playing attractive men (nothing against the actors playing the women, aka musumeyaku, I’m just being honest about my preferences here!), enthralling musical performances and choreography, and outrageous storytelling.
While Casino Royale wouldn’t be my first to go see in person, as I’m not really a fan of James Bond stories, I’m just thrilled we got anything outside of Japan! Unfortunately, the VOD is not available for streaming or purchase, so I can’t recommend anyone go out and watch it unless you want to import the rather expensive Japanese DVD or blu-ray, which wouldn’t include subtitles. It would be great if they considered releasing the subtitled version in a more permanently watchable format in the future.
Speaking of the future, according to The Japan News, a Takarazuka Revue official stated that they would be analyzing the performance of this first livestream endeavor and then evaluating the potential for future streams. I sincerely hope they decide to do more, as it was a real treat to be able to watch the Takarazuka Revue outside of Japan.
With the Revue planning to run their version of the 2022 hit Telugu film RRR from February to April 2024, I wouldn’t be surprised if that goes to streaming services, as well. It certainly would be wonderful if we didn’t have to plan trips to Japan anytime we wanted to go see a Takarazuka Revue show!