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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
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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 possessiveness). 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 someotokoyaku can also play female roles and musumeyaku are often cast as young children: boys and girls alike.

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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.

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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. Because of the way homosexuality is seen in Japan (i.e. fine among young people, but inappropriate once eligible for marriage), it's commonly accepted that a young girl's first crush will be on a Takarazuka actress.

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.

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

Common tropes include:

  • 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.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Worn by the top otokoyaku at curtain calls.
  • Melodrama: The acting style is highly stylized and dramatic for both otokoyaku and musumeyaku roles.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.

Shows they have performed:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Film 

    Literature 

    Theater 

    Video Games 

    Real People 

    Original Productions 

References to them in fiction:

  • 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.
  • Ouran High School 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.
  • 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 magazine from under Rei's bed with a Takarazuka model on the cover, a nod to Rei's longstanding Mistaken for Gay meme.
    • Becomes a borderline Hilarious in Hindsight: Haruka is played by former otokoyaku Shuu Shiotsuki, and Michiru by former musumeyaku Sayaka Fujioka in the 20th-anniversary staging of Sera Myu. 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★PreCure a 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 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.
  • In the anime version of Lucky Star, Hiyori likes putting Minami and Yutaka in Takarazuka otokoyaku and musumeyaku roles.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena is heavily influenced by this cultural phenomenon. Especially interesting on the meta-level when you realize the world of Ohtori is a stage.
    • Mawaru-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 a Rose of Versailles expy, and her co-lead is very similar design-wise to Lady Oscar.
  • In Only Yesterday, the narrator mentions that one of her older sisters was completely in love with a Takarazuka "actor".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Doraemon has the children putting on a play of The Emperor's New Clothes, with Shizuka wanting to be an otokoyaku.

Alternative Title(s): Takarazuka

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