Haikyuu!! Winners and Losers Review
Last night, I was lucky enough to get the chance to see “Haikyuu!!: Winners and Loser” on opening night. I’ve never seen Haikyuu!! anywhere besides the AIIA theater, and scored a cheap standing-room ticket to this one at the last minute. The view from the second balcony was spectacular, and gave me the chance to see the entire show at a fabulous vantage. Here are some of my first impressions.
This show was a delightful one for me personally, as I love the Aoba Jousai vs Karasuno arc of the manga. Act 1 was very much focused on Kageyama, on what he’s learned from Oikawa, and about what shaped him in middle school to turn him into the dethroned King of the Court that we know today. Act 2 was essentially from Oikawa’s point of view, fleshing out the parts of his flashbacks that we got to see only in passing in Act 1. Fans of Yamaguchi will be thrilled, as he gets a whole 15-minute sequence devoted to him learning how to serve from Shimada, and the actors do a fantastic job of compressing a mentor relationship into a short period of stage time.
The cast hasn’t changed much if at all since the replacement of Iwaizumi and Daichi during the second run, and you can tell they’re extremely close-knit by now. It was my first time seeing Kondou Shouri and Nagata Takato as Kuroo and Kenma, and they were a DELIGHT. They’re both extremely athletic and flexible, and got to show both off in many high-speed dance sequences. Also, they spend about 80 percent of the play in drag as Oikawa’s screaming fangirls, so that was a fun surprise.
Of particular note here on Aoba Jousai are Asuma Kosuke and Kohatsu Allen, who finally have a chance to not just shine for their cute chemistry and athletic ability, but also their ability to play serious acting roles. Oikawa’s regret over how he’s treated Kageyama, his frustration at his own lack of natural genius, and his determination, really shine through. Iwaizumi gets his own chance in the spotlight, as part of Oikawa’s flashback, and shows that he’s more than just an incredible physical presence. Akira Kunimi also has a good chance to show off, with his own backstory flashback.
On Karasuno, the focus was mainly on Kageyama, and Kimura Tatsunari was perfect as usual (this author is biased and adores him). He has total command of the stage, and his energy is limitless. He also got to give the cast talk with Suga Kenta (Hinata) at the end, and they did a cute little manzai routine. It was just wonderful to see the usually-stoic and frowny Kageyama brought low by his mentor and his own memories, haunted by the mistakes he’s made in the past, and his gritted determination to not let any of it happen again.
Another actor who got a surprising amount of time onstage was Yamaguchi Kento, who played Shimada Makoto, Yamaguchi’s teacher in the Float Serve. Not only did he spend quite a bit of time with him during the flashbacks, but he also took on the role of teaching Oikawa’s fangirls (Kuroo and Kenma) about the sport of volleyball, trying to convince them to love them game and not just the beautiful boys playing.
This stage was far more focused on music than previous iterations. They played music during most every scene, and the choreography was far more tight and dance-focused. They even played an image song over the finale, and the whole cast pretended to be a marching band during introductions. It worked very well, but makes one wonder whether they regret the decision not to make the stage a full musical.
I saw Haikyuu!!: Winners and Losers at Tokyo Dome City Hall, which they completely sold out, including Standing Room. This should say something about the popularity Engeki Haikyuu enjoys in Japan, as their previous theater had only 800 seats, and the new one has over 3,000.
I really enjoyed Winners and Losers, and the final scene, where the dethroned Karasuno goes out to eat, was done so well that the scene alone would have made me want to see it again. I have hugely high hopes for the next stage, as I believe it will be focused on the training camp, and I’m also looking forward to the Nekoma stage DVD far more, after getting a taste for how wonderful Kuroo and Kenma are onstage. Fans of Haikyuu!! and of Aoba Jousai in particular are going to ADORE this stage. Look for it on DVD in a few months, and check back soon for news about the next release!