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Creator / Takarazuka Revue

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Some members of Moon Troupe in 2014. Left to right, all front-facing: Nagina Ruumi, Seijou Kaito, top star Ryuu Masaki, top musumeyaku Manaki Reika

The Takarazuka Revue is an all-women Japanese musical theatre company operating out of Takarazuka, in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan. Established in 1913 and based upon the original casting format of Kabuki Theatre, Takarazuka productions stand out for having highly-trained female actresses play all of the roles. The company is divided into five troupes: Moon (Tsuki), Flower (Hana), Cosmos (Sora), Star (Hoshi), and Snow (Yuki). Outside of these, there are also senka (lit. "professional") actresses who belong to no one troupe (used to, though), are older/more experienced, and are cast in more "seasoned" roles.

The company is popular with female audiences, as the performances are usually very melodramatic and elaborately designed, with loads of gorgeous costumes, and handsome male characters who are masculine without its worst traits (such as coarseness or over-sexual behaviour). Actresses are required to be trained for two years at a special (and very prestigious) in-house school. After their first year of training, the class is split up into two specialisations: musumeyaku (woman's role) and otokoyaku (man's role). The latter are groomed to play the Cross Cast Roles: during this time the actresses cut their hair short, wear pants rather than skirts, and speak with masculine pronouns. Musumeyaku and otokoyaku are almost exclusively cast in their designated roles, though some otokoyaku can also play female roles and musumeyaku are often cast as young children regardless of gender.

Within the troupes, there's a strict hierarchy that the actresses work towards being promoted upwards in. The head of the troupe is the top star (highest-ranked otokoyaku) - the "leading man", so to speak, who plays the principal male role, is the troupe's representative, and responsible for keeping order in the troupe. Her partner is the top musumeyaku, who plays the principal female role (usually the otokoyaku's love interest, but not necessarily). The second-highest-ranked otokoyaku is the nibante, third is the sanbante, so on and so forth. It usually takes about ten years for an otokoyaku to work herself up to a coveted rank. That being said, not all otokoyaku aspire to or achieve being a top star, as it's a very stressful position that requires a lot of interpersonal skills, talent, willpower, and energy.

While the shoujo concept of Bifauxnen is more or less derived from this, it's interesting to note that both roles are extremely popular with younger fangirls (apart from the main audience of women in their 30s to 50s). The obvious implications are not lost on people; many shows will make an overt joke on the tastes of said fangirls, although officially the company tends to avoid commenting on the phenomenon.

Also of note: Anime pioneer Osamu Tezuka's hometown is also the base of the Revue; Tezuka was a fan all his life, and wrote a clause into his will that left a small portion of his fortune to the company to help finance future productions. In turn, Takarazuka produced a musical based on his Black Jack in 1994. The revue also features prominently in the 1957 Hollywood film Sayonara, where one of the main characters is a performer who falls in love with an American soldier.

For more information, including an extensive list of actresses and shows, see TakaWiki.

Common tropes include:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Despite the Ace Attorney musicals they did being in Japanese, the revue ended up using the American names for the characters instead of their original Japanese names (Phoenix Wright instead of Ryūichi Naruhodō, Maya Fey instead of Mayoi Ayasato), marking the first time their localized names became used in any official Japanese Ace Attorney media.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Actresses can have one or more aishou (愛称): "pet name," "nickname," or "term of endearment". This is a confusing aspect of Takarazuka fandom and may take a while to get used to, as often their nicknames sound nothing like their stage names. The nicknames can be based on the actresses' real names, some quirk of their personality, or incidents behind the scenes. The actresses refer to each other using the nicknames on a daily basis, even in interviews.
  • The Beautiful Elite: To become a Takarazuka actress, you have to check most of these boxes: rich and/or influential family, physical attractiveness (though not always conventionally so), and talent in acting/singing/dancing. Even getting into Takarazuka Music School, which trains young girls for a career in the Revue, is a tall order that requires your family having the resources to send you to Takarazuka prep school in the first place. Actresses whose family aren't elite are the exception rather than the rule. That being said, the high standards of TMS and the Revue in general seems to have weeded out any rich Spoiled Brat types with no or little talent.
  • Becoming the Mask: Some retired otokoyaku have spoken about having difficulties in presenting as their actual gender and unconsciously lapsing into otokoyaku behavior (sitting with their legs spread, etc.). note 
  • Bifauxnen: It's in the otokoyaku job description.
  • Costume Porn: If it's not glittery, it's not Zuka.
  • Curtain Call: Productions (specifically shows that take place at the Grand Theater and the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater) typically end - even depressing ones like Elisabeth - with an out-of-context lavish finale in which the cast dress up in trademark sparkly outfits and entertain the audience with remixes of the songs in the show. Depending on the production, number types include (but are not limited to): a Chorus Girls kickline, a musumeyaku (female role actress) dance, an otokoyaku (male role actress) dance, a duet dance (duedan or duendan) between the top star and top musumeyaku, and some kind of mixed group number. The parade always ends the show, with the actresses in (one of their) in-show costumes descending the Grand Staircase in ascending order of ran within the troupe, with the étoile (a promising young actress singing a short solo) first and the top musumeyaku and top star (the leading actors and highest-ranked actors in their categories) dead last. They sing an upbeat medley of prominent songs in the show, and wave goodbye to the audience. In contrast, small theatre Zuka shows usually only have the curtain calls typical in "normal" musical theatre.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Worn by the top otokoyaku at curtain calls.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: Not part of shows themselves, but during Takarazuka finales (just prior to the duet dance), the top star note  would exit in the middle of the previous otokoyaku dance, have a quick change in the wings, re-enter unobtrusively by descending the Grand Staircase note , and then reappear, to audience applause, under a spotlight, wearing a gloriously sparkly costume. The entire company also do this (with the spotlight and camera focus on the étoile note ) at the very end of the show, which is called the "parade".
  • Historical Fiction: They've performed many original musicals (as well as adaptations of existing shows) with historical settings. Shows set in ancient Japan are so common they have their own name: nihonmono (日本物), meaning literally "Japanese thing".
  • I Have Many Names: Actresses typically have their geimei (stage name), fan nickname or aishou (some even have multiple aishou) and their real name or honmyou. Fans typically use the geimei or aishou to refer to the actresses, as the honmyou is kept private out of respect and protection.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: Stock-in-trade, usually done with hands, to cover the fact that the actresses' lips aren't actually touching (due to Zuka's "pure, proper, beautiful" credo).
  • Lighter and Softer: When they adapt an originally dark show (like Elisabeth) they usually take this route (in non-Zuka versions Elisabeth discovers Franz Joseph's affair because he gives her syphilis; in Zuka versions she's shown a photo of him kissing another woman).
  • Melodrama: The acting style is highly stylized and dramatic for both otokoyaku and musumeyaku roles.
  • The Musical: Zuka has done a healthy variety of in-house adaptations, productions of existing shows, in-house original shows, and revues.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Despite having "Revue" in their English name note , revues aren't all that they perform. Those go after one-act shows, and (copyright issues permitting) are released on disc along with the shows they accompany.
  • Open Secret: Many of the aspects relating to the Revue are this to the fandom: for example, the actresses' real names. The names are published in official Takarazuka material, they're just not used by fans out of respect for the actresses' privacy. Unless the actresses used their real names after graduation. For example, Wao Yoka is referred to interchangeably as Wao (her aishou) and Takako (her birth name - she has "Call me Takako" on her Instagram bio).
  • Peacock Girl: "Finale feathers" worn by top stars (and even top musumeyaku and nibante in some shows - but the top star's feathers will be the biggest and most luxurious).
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Period musicals are done frequently, and costume designers will not miss a chance to add extra sparkles, ruffles, and embroidery to musumeyaku. Finale costumes are pimped-out by default, regardless of role type.
  • Promoted Fangirl: Having been founded in 1913, the Revue has amassed enough of a following for generations of actresses to have auditioned for the Takarazuka Music School because they were fangirls. Amusingly, there are videos of Takarasiennes note  fangirling over another: Ichiro Maki (Snow top, 1993 - 1996) bounced delightedly in costume upon meeting Asami Rei (Snow top, 1980 - 1985), for example. Kanou Yuuri admitted to walking down the staircase of her middle school like it was the Grand Staircase. Some actresses chose their stage names as a reference to Takarazuka, or to other actresses. It would possibly be easier to list actresses who aren't Promoted Fangirls.
  • Quitting to Get Married: Because the actresses are not allowed to date during their time with the Revue, many of them have quit to get married. That being said, the founder of the Revue has said (way back in the 20th century) that he expects all actresses to become "good wives and wise mothers" after their retirement. This attitude has relaxed somewhat, as many actresses have left the Revue because they felt burnt out, wanted to pursue new directions in their career, or just wanted to go back to "civilian" life. This doesn't stop people (colleagues and interviewers, etc.) from asking the actresses whether this trope is in play.
  • Setting Update: A very common format of adaptation is "The Musical of X set in Y". There's postapocalyptic Hamlet, Sweet Little Rock'n'Roll is Much Ado About Nothing in an American high school in The '50s, Manon Lescaut was transposed to French Indochina instead of early 18th-century France, etc.
  • Showgirl Skirt: The kickline invariably has the actresses wearing this.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Very, very common. A look at the cast list of the majority of shows will reveal at least one or two "Young X" roles. For example, Elisabeth (one of their most popular offerings) has young and adult Rudolf played by two actresses.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: When they perform shows based on history they never aim for historical accuracy.
    • The Prince of Lan Ling (2018) has the title character fall in love with a woman who tried to assassinate him, and ends with the two of them faking their deaths. Historically there's no evidence Gao Chang Gong ever had a relationship with an assassin, and instead of faking his death in battle he was poisoned by his own cousin.
    • Dimitri (2022) portrays Ghias ad-Din/Dimitri and Rusudan's marriage as a Childhood Friend Romance. Historically she was twelve years older than him and their marriage was arranged for political reasons. There's also no evidence Jalal al-Din ever proposed to Rusudan.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Otokoyaku are this of sorts - it's in their job description to crossdress as male for their performances. And, considering the popular Bifauxnen "effeminate boy" image they helped spread, they're very successful at looking wholesome.

Shows they have performed:

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    Anime & Manga 



    Live-Action TV 


    Video Games 

    Real People 

    Original Productions 

References to them in fiction:

    Anime and Manga 
  • Anpanman has Shiratama-san. Despite being human-looking, she's actually a shiratama, a kind of rice cake used in fruit salad, which she has a tendency to give to new people. She's very dramatic, seeing the world as a stage. She always has a new idea for a show with her as the dashing lead, and has a tendency to try and rope other characters into performing with her. She's also one of the few people that doesn't see Baikinman as a villain. Instead, she thinks of him as a fellow actor, playing the villain role. She naturally wants him to be the villain in any of her new plays, but he wants nothing to do with her.
  • Case Closed has a case involving Heiji and Kazuha feuding over whether to go to a baseball game or a Takarazuka show. The manga showed the Grand Theater during Kazuha's explanation, a finale kickline as Kogoro's actual reason for rooting for the Zuka side, and two actresses dressed as Oscar and Andre from The Rose of Versailles after Kazuha throws the contest so Heiji can go to the game.
  • In the manga version of Dear Brother minor members of the Sorority are based both name- and looks-wise on top Takarazuka actresses of the time.
  • Doraemon has the children putting on a play of The Emperor's New Clothes, with Shizuka wanting to be an otokoyaku.
  • Kaoru Asagi, the androgynous Chick Magnet star of the drama club in Kabukibu!, is modeled after Takarazuka otokoyaku. She even mentions zuka by name in the second episode while discussing the possibility of a woman playing a male role in a kabuki production.
  • Kageki Shoujo!! takes place at Kouka Music School, where girls learn to become actresses of a theater company that's definitely not anything like the Takarazuka Revue.
  • One episode of Kimagure Orange Road opens with Kyosuke and Madoka watching a troupe that is clearly Takarazuka (or the in-universe equivalent) performing Gone with the Wind (last scene). Frankly, it's kind of bizarre.
  • In the anime version of Lucky Star, Hiyori likes putting Minami and Yutaka in Takarazuka otokoyaku and musumeyaku roles.
  • One of the main characters in Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is Yuu Kashima, a tall, short-haired Bifauxnen teenage girl who is known as the "prince" of her school's drama club and is clearly based on the typical otokoyaku in Takarazuka productions. She exclusively plays male roles in the drama club's productions, and has a huge group of female admirers as a result.
  • In Only Yesterday, Taeko mentions in her narration that her older sister Yaeko was completely in love with a Takarazuka actor. In one of Taeko's childhood flashbacks, her other older sister Nanako suggests that Taeko could join the Takarazuka revue if her acting career takes off.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: The Host Club's rivals are the Zuka Club from Lobelia Girls' Academy, which is basically a school club version of the Takarazuka Revue. Tamaki's spiritual counterpart, the hilariously overdramatic Bifauxnen president Benibara, is naturally Genre Savvy enough to immediately notice Haruhi is actually a girl and suggests she join their school instead. Naturally, Tamaki does not enjoy Benio's interest in Haruhi. Benibara's own name is also a pun on the nickname of the most popular Takarazuka show, BeruBara. Other than the overt references, the show also makes various gags and fandom inside jokes that invested Takarazuka fans may immediately recognize.
  • Penguindrum, from the same creator, features a character named Yuri who's part of an acting troupe that's similar to but legally distinct from the Takarazuka. Their signature play is very similar to the Takarazuka's version of The Rose of Versailles, and her co-lead Tsubasa is very similar design-wise to Lady Oscar.
  • One chapter of Pop Team Epic has a joke about the Takarazuka Revue doing an adaptation of the manga. An adult actress with tons of makeup on is shown portraying Popuko while singing dramatic renditions of the manga's jokes.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena is heavily influenced by this cultural phenomenon, from the military-esque outfits the duelists all wear to nearly every duel being accompanied by a musical number. Especially interesting on the meta-level when you realize the world of Ohtori is a stage.
  • Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) and Michiru Kaioh (Sailor Neptune) from Sailor Moon are essentially Takarazuka ports: Haruka is flirty, handsome, and extremely boyish note  while Michiru is mysterious, beautiful and willowy. This origin is lampshaded during a conversation in the first anime where Rei points out that Makoto's recent interest in Haruka seems a little overenthusiastic. Usagi quickly pulls a book from under Rei's bed, and a Freeze-Frame Bonus reveals that it's a "Oh! Female Musical Group Photo Book". The book resembles an yearly publication of stage photos from Takarazuka, as well as the name riffing off "Oh! Takarazuka", the theme song of the company.
    • In the 20th-anniversary staging of Sera Myu, Haruka is played by former otokoyaku Shuu Shiotsuki, and Michiru by former musumeyaku Sayaka Fujioka. Former Takarasiennes are also prevalent in the casts note , including Mamoru played by Yuuga Yamato/Tani, formerly of Cosmos and Moon troupe. note .
    • Tiger's Eye in Amour Eternal complains that Tiger’s Eye does not know their gender, they just plays the part of a man (using the exact word otokoyaku). Their actress is actually a retired otokoyaku.
    • In what may very well be an homage to Neptune and Uranus, Cure Chocolat and Cure Macaron from KiraKira★Pretty Cure à la Mode are based on a Takarazuka otokoyaku and musumeyaku, respectively. Bonus point that Chocolat’s VA, Nanako Mori, used to perform in Takarazuka Revue as an otokoyaku.
  • The premise of Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight is heavily inspired by the Takarazuka Revue; more specifically, Seisho Music Academy is based on the Takarazuka Music School, right down to having very similar uniforms. The military-esque uniforms the girls wear during stage combat are also typical of the kinds of costumes common in Takarazuka productions, and the dramatic direction of the "auditions" calls to mind the melodrama that characterizes Takarazuka productions. It's worth noting that Akiko Kodama, who currently directs the Revue Starlight stage musicals, was part of the Takarazuka Revue for almost a decade.
  • Bifauxnen Lesbian Jock Jun Ōtori from Stop Hibari Kun is the daughter of an otokoyaku actress. Jun's debut chapter is even titled "Campus Takarazuka."
  • The first volume of the Wandering Son manga has a class put on a production of The Rose of Versailles with numerous references to the Takarazuka original — appropriate when you consider the series is all about gender issues.

    Film - Animated 
  • The last scene before the credits of Steven Universe: The Movie shows the main characters on a Grand Theater-esque stage while singing the final song, complete with staircase and finale feathers. Creator Rebecca Sugar drew Pearl as an otokoyaku in the artbook.

    Video Games 
  • The heroines of Sakura Wars perform as a Takarazuka troupe in their Secret Identities. The series contains several Shout Outs to the famous Takarazuka Revue which popularized this trope. For instance, in the second OAV, action hero Shounen Red's motto is said to be "purely, properly, beautifully" — not exactly fitting, but it is the motto of the Takarazuka Revue. A number of the shows the Teikoku Kagekidan girls put on are also serial-numbers-filed-off versions of Takarazuka shows — Ai Yue ni (Because of Love) is at least partly based on Rose of Versailles, for example.
  • Takarazuka seems to get a mention in Trails of Cold Steel III: the party are outside a theatre in the town of Raquel, and have this conversation:
    Musse: It puts on a variety of performances even outside the operettas it's known for. Their most recent musicals exclusively star women, as it happens.
    Ash: They dress up as dudes, right? I'm not sure why it's such a hit with young girls and old ladies.
    Juna: I never knew a genre like that existed.
  • Grand Stage is a series of Otome audio dramas revolving around a fictional all-female acting troupe that is very obviously based on the Takarazuka Revue. The Audience Surrogate is a new musumeyaku who has just joined the group, while the potential love interests are all otokoyaku. Said love interests are mostly voiced by actresses best known for voicing male characters, like Megumi Ogata or the above-mentioned Mitsuki Saiga.

Alternative Title(s): Takarazuka