It's been a while since this blog featured something like this, hasn't it?
stage play which has just started its major advertising push, I'd be ready to declare the series officially dead.
So it was with a little anxiety that I bought my tickets and turned up at the venue, half-worrying that I might be the only person there! Thankfully, that wasn't the case. The hardcore fans are still eager to celebrate the crazy action of Sengoku Basara even during this period of deathly quiet.
First of all, to avoid any dashing of hopes I want to make it clear that these fan gatherings are just for fun. The gaming media isn't present and there are no major announcements, so this post won't secretly reveal any news about Sengoku Basara 5 right at the end (sadly). If you still want to read more anyway, please go ahead!
The Basara Club Fan Meeting 2017 Spring events were both held at Tokyo's Nissho Hall on Sunday 28th May 2017. Each ran for 90 minutes and involved four guests. I went to both (in for a penny, in for a pound!) so there are some comments about each of the shows separately below.
Security was quite tight, not so much because of global concerns right now but instead to prevent the growing problem of exclusive event tickets being resold on the black market for ridiculous profit. A last minute announcement demanded that all attendees bring their official fan club membership card along with them - thank heavens I'd packed mine in advance when I travelled out to Japan, or I would have had to miss out! The Nissho Hall is a small venue (742 seats at full capacity) so compared to the thousands of people who attend Basara Matsuri festivals this was a tiny, intimate gathering. By luck, I even had seats quite near the front of the hall both times.
I arrived later than usual since there's not much to do around the hall on a quiet Sunday in the business district other than wait around in the nearby Starbucks, and by the time I entered the merchandise queue Hayami's army of fans had already bought all of the Mitsuhide and Tenkai merchandise on offer. Even the strict purchase limits and stifling heat of the merchandise queue couldn't discourage them. I was impressed.
I was handed a set of commemorative badges on entry then took a look at the usual floral displays which always decorate the entrance hall for this kind of event. The Honnouji replica flowerpot was probably the most impressive. Please forgive anything I remember in the wrong order as I was rather excited all afternoon and it's all jumbling together the longer I take to write it all down!
Afternoon show (14:00):
Morita Masakazu (Maeda Keiji's voice actor)
Hayami Shou (Tenkai/Akechi Mitsuhide's voice actor)
Shiramata Atsushi (Chousokabe Motochika in the stage play)
Nakao Kenya (Tokugawa Ieyasu in the stage play)
Kobayashi 'KobaP' Hiroyuki (series producer)
The show kicked off with the usual warning read by the two seiyuu guests in character, where Tenkai had to explain away Kingo's absence to a very spirited Keiji. Morita and Hayami seemed to have trouble dropping character from time to time even after the introduction was long over; the two of them were clearly having a lot of fun playing characters who don't usually have a great number of opportunities to interact one-on-one.
KobaP introduced everyone as normal then the five of them sat down to chat about various topics. Nakao is a relatively new stage play cast member so everyone was interested in getting to know him better, and at some point it came out that it was recently his birthday. One of the more memorable moments involved Hayami saying they should sing Happy Birthday to him then trying to force Morita to do it instead when everyone played along. Hayami ended up singing on his own, however, and hearing Mitsuhide's dark, silken voice joyfully wishing someone else a happy birthday in song live was certainly an experience to remember. Other topics of conversation included the health benefits of tomato juice first thing in the morning and how the stage play actors train to try to replicate their characters' muscular physiques. They even demonstrated an exercise that Magoichi's actress does, since everyone in the entire audience seemed to be female.
At one point, Morita was warning everyone to perform maintenance on their air conditioners given how hot it was going to be this summer in various parts of Japan and KobaP turned to ask the audience where they were from with a show of hands. After covering east and west Japan, he jokingly asked whether anyone was from somewhere else and I nervously raised mine as the lady to my left (who had been chatting with me prior to the show) gestured frantically to get their attention. Morita was amazed and demanded to know where I was from, then made fun of how my country's summer would probably be a lot less scorching. He would refer back to this later in the show to compound my embarrassment further. Being stared at by KobaP and the other guests (not to mention the rest of the audience) was quite nerve-wracking.
The first performance segment featured a dialogue between Mitsuhide (not Tenkai, this time) and Keiji, with the former acting as though he didn't recognise the vagabond and getting him quite riled up. It was very nostalgic, with a strong Sengoku Basara 2 feel. Afterwards, the voice actors were asked to read out lines suggested by fans. These were completely silly, like people wanting Morita to wish them a happy birthday as Keiji and do various impersonations, and all of Hayami's were plain weird; Mitsuhide had to coyly ask Nobunaga whether he'd noticed that he was using a new type of shampoo, then in another he was made to request that people call him 'Micchan'.
The stage play actors weren't expected to read lines from a script like the veteran seiyuu, and instead they had to improvise two short performances together. The first asked them to play a scene from an imaginary cop drama where an experienced police detective (Motochika) has been involved in a stakeout for four days with his rookie partner (Ieyasu). They were given the first and last lines from the script and a pair of Sengoku Basara lines they had to somehow insert into the story they made up, then the rest was up to them, except they weren't given any time to plan the scene out in advance so they had to keep giving one another cues in the hope that their partner understood. At one point there was an instruction that they had to switch to performing in the style of a stage musical for a few lines which made things really silly.
The second scenario for the stage actors was Motochika acting as a bus tour guide while Ieyasu was a student on the bus. They'd settled into their roles better by this point (though Shiramata inexplicably insisted that his tour guide was a woman called 'Motochiko' and affected a falsetto voice whenever he remembered this detail). They cracked jokes about the (imaginary) characters sharing the bus with them, which allowed Motochika to tell Ieyasu off for bickering with Mitsunari.
Shiramata had some previous event experience with these improvisations but Nakao, still being new to the series, was clearly very nervous at first. They were both very entertaining to watch!
KobaP apologised for having no real news to discuss, explaining that he was working on Biohazard at the moment but not going into any more detail than that. The next segment was a series of mini games with a little audience participation!
Prior to the start of the show, everyone entering the venue had been given a sticker to place on the board in my picture. The question was which character was hiding the most secrets, with the only options being characters whose actors were appearing at today's events.
I took the picture before the doors closed so those weren't the final results, but they give a good idea of the trends. The fans suggested that Ieyasu was hiding the most secrets, followed by Tenkai and then Keiji. When it came to the game, the actors were given the names of the eight characters and had to work out which order the fans at the venue had ranked them in on that board. If they got all three right, all of the fans would receive an exclusive postcard after the show. To make it slightly easier the guests were allowed to get help from the audience who would cheer and groan according to their actions.
After some giggling about the very idea of Yukimura being able to keep any secrets at all, they removed some characters from the list entirely to try to figure out the top three. Hayami was confused at both Tenkai and Mitsuhide being options (surely they are the same person?) but he deduced that Tenkai must be hiding more because he is Mitsuhide with a mask, so he went on the list correctly. Ieyasu was worked out from the frantic gesturing of the audience alone, and seemed to confuse the cast - I suppose he did keep most of the details about what happened with Hideyoshi to himself. It was Keiji's shock inclusion which lost the game in the end, however. Morita simply couldn't believe it was true, and nobody else could believe that Mitsuhide ended up outside the top three even though his alter ego was there.
Fortunately, a second mini game offered the cast members a chance to salvage the postcards for the fans. This was a simple task where a box was wheeled onto the stage and each actor had to (simultaneously) insert their hands and identify what was inside from the way it felt. The audience could see inside the box right from the start, so it was funny watching the four men grasping around, especially because Hayami immediately grabbed Nakao's hand on purpose to startle him. They worked out the first item (a burdock root) very quickly, then the second round got sillier. The item inside was shaved ice, but the women at the front of the hall started making shocked faces and signalling warnings to the actors when they saw it wheeled on - which only served to alarm them. When Hayami tentatively reached in he was so surprised by the cold ice that he reacted as though he'd received an electric shock, which made everyone even more anxious. Eventually they managed to get over their fear and Morita quickly worked out what it was and also what flavour (strawberry), taking the time to flick clumps of ice at Shiramata inside the box before answering and ending the confusion.
It was fun to watch. The actors are all likeable, crazy people who can make even simple playground games entertaining.
After a prize draw for some signed goods and farewell messages, the first performance ended and everyone was ushered out past the merchandise table, where many items had completely sold out. The (rather expensive) oversized 'favourite character' badges and cloth bags were the only things that were still obtainable.
Evening show (18:00):
Hoshi Souichirou (Sanada Yukimura's voice actor)
Miki Shinichirou (Gotou Matabee's voice actor)
Mashima Shuuto (Date Masamune in the stage play)
Matsumura Ryuunosuke (Sanada Yukimura in the stage play)
Kobayashi Hiroyuki (series producer)
The format of the evening show was almost identical except with a completely different cast accompanying KobaP. The venue's rules were read out by Hoshi as an unusually-serious Yukimura, with Matabee grumbling over every word he said in a ridiculous way. Everyone was laughing helplessly as poor Yukimura kept battling on to get through the list in spite of the interference.
Hoshi went on to steal the show several times during the discussion segment, poking fun at how demanding he was on LINE when he was feeling glum and praising Naotora as the lead of this year's Taiga drama. Mashima was very nervous and Matsumura seemed to want to look after him, referring to him by his nickname 'Shooty' and praising their working relationship as part of the stage play team.
The highly enjoyable live seiyuu performance was an updated version of an event-exclusive dialogue that had only been performed once before, with Yukimura confronting Matabee when he tries to use him as bait for Masamune. Hardly anyone had heard the original (including myself) so for us it was new!
Next, the stage actors' skits were utterly hilarious this time since it transpires that Mashima and Matsumura have great chemistry together. The first had a very delicate Mashima pretending to be a doctor with Yukimura as his patient, and they managed to cram all of the challenges into the three minutes. Mashima really went all out when the genre switched to 'musical-style' and started singing all of his lines without hesitation! Matsumura then took the role of a female shop assistant for the second skit with Mashima as his customer. The 'Basara-style' line that Mashima had to deliver was 'It's One-Eyed Dragon!' so he went in speaking English right from the start while Matsumura stammered trying to keep up with the crazy customer. It was a very Masamune-like performance! Mashima delivered the required line several times in a booming voice and when KobaP asked the audience whose performance was the best, Mashima won by a landslide. Not bad for a first timer.
KobaP was more talkative in this session, suggesting that fans buy the latest volume of Dengeki Maoh to check out the new manga chapter then quietly saying that he wasn't able to share his next plans for the series with everyone yet but wished he could. Eh, he really does have plans? I want to know more! With Touken Ranbu having decimated the series' fandom, it was starting to get worrying.
(I'm going to guess that they've decided to let the game series lie undisturbed until the stage play is well underway to avoid splitting everyone's attention between both and give YamamotoD more time to work on things. So in that case, perhaps we won't hear any real news until summer at the very earliest?)
The mini games played out similarly to the afternoon session, except this time the fans were asked to name which character they wanted to have as their boss. Everyone knew that Masamune and Aniki were the top two, but there was a lot of debate over who was highest in the final ranking (Motochika) and the audience ended up misleading the actors! There were a lot of apologies and fortunately the guests turned things around in the second challenge, which tasked them with building a very tall replicate of Osaka Castle in the middle of the stage - a little like the game Jenga.
Everyone earned their postcard rewards once again, some fans won extra signed goods presented by the actors and then it was time for farewells. Hoshi's final speech took so long that everyone else sat down at the back of the stage and made affectionate gestures for him to hurry up for the last half; it's so good to see how friendly the seiyuu and stage actors are and how much everyone loves celebrating the series alongside its fans.
That's all for now! I have a plane to catch back home but it's been an amazing trip; I went to T.M.Revolution's mind-blowing arena show at the start so it feels as though the series is still lingering if you know where to look. I like all of his music, but the Sengoku Basara medley he performed towards the end of the show really got my blood pumping! Coincidentally Nishikawa turned up again as a surprise guest at a different concert I attended last night too, though there it was for a Kidou Senshi Gundam Seed and Rurouni Kenshin encore.
There was no TMR to enjoy at the fan meeting, but it was just as great in its own way as any other Sengoku Basara event I've attended over the years.
And of course, I ended up coming away with a little merchandise of my own in spite of my country's currency being so unreliable these days.