Unlike other kids his age, freshman Kurogo Kurusu finds his true passion in kabuki, a form of classical Japanese dance theatre. When he finds out his school doesn’t have a club dedicated to it, he enlists the help of his best friend Tonbo to make one. They'll need at least five members to get things started, however, and together they'll have to win over an unlikely roster that includes stage actors, martial artists, and band members who aren't into kabuki at all.
Source: Sentai Filmworks
I decided to write a review for this show because it is something of a hidden gem. I must warn you though that this isn't for everyone. You won't like this show if you want a lot of action and explosions. There are no panty shots or aliens. The story moves rather slowly. Think slice of life. If you have an appreciation for the arts or want to learn about classical Japanese culture, this is the show for you. It's about kabuki, a performance art sort of like opera. The show is partly educational but I didn't find it boring. I was swept away by the MCs enthusiasm and love for the old art form. I sort of got the impression that it's an art form on the wane because they use archaic language that few people understand. Think Shakespeare, but Japanese. The club puts on performances of kabuki, which are part of the episodes and those are my favorites. The first couple episodes are uneven. The last episodes that feature the performances are the best. This is a fun, relaxing introduction to a wonderful art form and I finished the show in one night.
To the point, I never liked grand opera, seeing it as stuffy and unrelated to reality. I do not sing and gesture as I conduct my affairs, so opera never clicked with me. Remember this as you view Kabukibu, one of those anime of the 'cute girls cool boys doing stuff' genre. Not that Kabukibu doesn't have cute girls (they have master actress Kaoru, kabuki wannabe Riri, and seamstress supreme Maruko [while she claims to be ugly and has fears about being overweight, the bespectacled Maruko is a cute little ball of fire!]). It's just that kabuki was performed by all-male casts, female parts going to men. And it is for a better understanding of kabuki that this series of twelve episodes was created. If not, kabuki could be up down there with grand opera in my narrow opinions. Kabukibu is a story of two boys and their grandfathers. Kurusu learned to love kabuki from his grandfather, a regular fan of the 400 year old form of theater. Ebihara comes from a family of kabuki actors, knows the art well, and resents Kurusu for foisting some inferior form of kabuki on their high school. Ebihara's grandfather is an icon in the theater, but his father lacked the courage to perform, and Ebihara himself is rather lukewarm in his performances. That is the key difference. Ebihara sees kabuki as a revered form that is his way of business. For Kurusu, kabuki is fun. So Kurusu tries to create a kabuki group/club at his school. Immediately he has his detractors. Kabuki is staid, boring, undecipherable, too weird. Ebihara sees this effort as token disrespect. Even Kurusu knows more about kabuki than the teacher slotted to be the advisor. But Kurusu is determined. He has the support of his friend Tonbo, an organizational genius with a laptop ... but no kabuki actor. Still, the work behind the scenes is crucial in kabuki. Kurusu tries to scout Kaoru, an actress from the Drama Club who gently reminds Kurusu that traditional kabuki was all-men actors. Then Akutsu, a talentless rocker fatale who hates kabuki (no, not really, but he has a complicated backstory ... one of those CLAMP gems), but as a natural exhibitionist he's a nature kabuki-ka. Niwa is a traditional dancer who has identity crisis where he wishes to be seen as more masculine. All refuse, but Kurusu's persistence lands them into his kabuki group. The series is a story of three performances which studies the problem of kabuki. Seen by the young as stuffy and boring, Kurusu works to change that image. First, by focusing on the fun aspect, he gains new members in perky Riri and shy Kazume. The second performance explains the art of kabuki in two acts, one a modern version of three thieves robbing a prostitute, then the real version of kabuki telling the tale of "Three Thieves.' Much like performing scenes of Shakespeare in Elizabethan and modern English, using modern settings to promote The Bard. Then a performance of "Five Bandits' to attract the new first-years to extend the kabuki group to a recognized kabuki club. The friction is developed by Kurusu's vision of kabuki and Ebihara's. Ebihara would never stoop to join such an amateur production, but when he causes Riri to come down with the flu the day before the final, crucial production (leaving a possible 'Four Bandits') ... a crisis of conscience! Kabuki allows form elaborate, colorful animation sequences. Even the static scenes of enraptured audience members ... the animators remember the tiny details of blinking, smiling, and turning to the person in the next seat to nod approval. Granted, the effect of kabuki actors projecting in that odd rhythmical cadence, it was Kabukibu's challenge to explain the nature, history, and basics of this timely art which Occidentals could find bizarre. But Kurusu's victory in gaining kabuki's acceptance at his school is a dynamic tale told. Simply enjoyed the theme songs 'Flying High' (a neat rock-rhythm that would appeal to Akutsu … just don’t get him to sing) and 'O Edo!' which captured the spirit of the theater developed four centuries ago to entertain the masses. Filled with technical information on kabuki, the series offered reasons why people should be interested in this declining art form. Now, does this mean I will go out and take in a kabuki performance? These things don't happen a lot in the land of Wisconsin, but should I see one, I will not go in as a complete newbie.
Though I gave the show a fairly low score, this is an anime that I've come to adore. I honestly don't know what it is about it, i just don't agree with any of the negative things I've been reading. I'll admit that the characters are kind of basic and the sequence of events is very similar to most "LET'S MAKE A CLUB" type animes, but that doesn't really diminish the quality of the show itself. I've never heard of another anime besides this one having anything to do with kabuki. I've only seen one live kabuki show in my life and I have to say it's a beautiful art-form. SO getting to watch an anime about it makes me really happy. Our protagonist (Kuro) is so passionate about the ancient art and it really gets to me. It's obvious with any show that the foundation of a character (at least in these types of shows) has to be their interests, but that doesn't necessarily make Kuro generic. I agree that the characters aren't fully developed, unique people, but they're still lovable. We see a lot of cliches for personality, but that doesn't make them the same people as someone from another show that fits into their character's type. For example, we have Tonbo. He is the quiet, nerdy type that usually stays in the background, but is always there for our protag. I'd say that Kenya Kobayashi from Erased could also be summed up that way. Since they're in drastically different shows and situations, though, they're roles and actions are different. Yes, they both meet the same trope, they are vastly different people. They same goes for everyone else in Kabuki!. I've seen a lot of people call his show boring and I think part of the reason (whether they realize it or not) is because of the genericness of a lot of its elements, but I don't really see that. Yes, it's not as fast-paced and action-packed as something like the mainstream shounens (BNHA, Tokyo Ghoul, SNK, etc.), but I'd never go as far as to say that this anime is "boring". No, it is not suspenseful, but that's because it's not supposed to be. I'm saying that this show is entertaining because there was never a single moment where I felt my time was being wasted. There is no fluff. The story is continuous and never stops for a second. That's what makes a show worth it. I would understand people calling it bland and monotonous if they spent entire episodes with just filler, but Kabuki! doesn't do that! Everything you see is useful to the plot, and that's what makes it interesting. Plus, there are things you don't expect, which also adds another layer of... I guess you could say anticipation. Examples being when Kuro passed out and Shin took his place or when they did the two different versions of The Three Kichisas. Those things make me want to see what the characters will do next. There's also the dilemma of Ebihara and whether or not he'll ever warm up to the idea of the kauki group. These things and more are what make the show fun to watch. I think it's anything but dull. There isn't any argument that someone can make that can change my mind, because it really does all come down to opinion. I usually do like psychological thrillers, horrors, and mystery, so me falling in love with this anime was something I never expected, but it happened. I really enjoyed Kabuki! and I will stand by my reasonings, of which there are many I didn't mention. The score I gave is relatively low and that's because I'm able to recognize the weaknesses in the anime, but they didn't take away any pleasure I got out of watching it. Yes, the plot is basic. Yes, he characters are tropes. Yes, it's sometimes predictable. But I will 100% watch this again and again and again because it is a very endearing show and I really wish it would reach more people.
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