Idolized Popular Performance: Musical The Prince of Tennis and Japanese 2.5-Dimensional Theatre

Zihui Lu


In recent years, 2.5-dimensional (2.5D) theatre has become an influential popular theatre in Japan. It is broadly defined as live theatre adapted from manga, anime, and video games. In this article, I argue that Musical The Prince of Tennis (2013–) is a cornerstone of 2.5D theatre’s history. This musical series, as well as later 2.5D works inspired by it, bears features that distinguish it from other manga- or animation-adapted theatre; one of these features is the heavy influence of idol culture. Targeted at female audiences, 2.5D plays cast idolised, handsome, but less-experienced actors who ‘graduate’ from the production after a few years. Fans of the original work, fans of the performers, and fans of the play comprise the majority of audience members. Performers maintain a paradoxically close and distant relationship with fans in order to attract them through a pseudo-intimacy that still leaves enough space for fans to create narratives about their favourite performers. Zihui Lu is a PhD candidate at the Department of Japanese Studies, National University of Singapore. Her Doctoral research focuses on the manga/anime/video game adapted Japanese 2.5-dimensional theatre.

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303