Hit manga ‘One Piece’ to be adapted as kabuki

It’s like putting old wine in new bottles.

The popular manga “One Piece” is to be adapted for kabuki and performed next year.

Fans will see the story about pirate captain Monkey D. Luffy interpreted by classical actors in a theater where classical dramas are more usually staged.

The publisher made the announcement during the Jump Festa 2015 expo at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture this weekend and confirmed details to a reporter Monday.

The producer will be movie company Shochiku, whose “Super Kabuki II” series was shown at Tokyo’s Shinbashi Enbujo theater. The performance of “One Piece” is slated for the same venue.

Featuring popular kabuki actor Ennosuke Ichikawa IV in the leading role, the producers hope the project will appeal to everyone from steadfast kabuki fans to those who view the art form as archaic and unapproachable.

“Even we staffers cannot imagine how the mash-up, mixing kabuki and the popular manga series, will end up,” said Shochiku spokesman Hiroshi Masakawa. “But we are thrilled to depict the ‘One Piece’ world on a kabuki stage to make something interesting for all audiences, including overseas visitors.”

“One Piece” is perhaps Japan’s most popular manga series. It appears in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump and is written by Eiichiro Oda, who will supervise the kabuki adaptation.

Since the launch in July 1997, the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy have enthralled readers young and old. Total sales surpass 320 million comics, including more than 60 million overseas.

Although the details are yet to be determined, Masakawa hopes affection for the manga will introduce more people to the world of kabuki and make it a more familiar place for everyone.

“I think for many people this will be their first kabuki experience. . . . I hope not only current kabuki fans but also many newcomers will find it entertaining and become regulars,” he said.

The project may also be seen as a challenge for the nation’s conservative entertainment industry, shaking up its assumptions about borders in art by mixing the traditional with modern stage techniques.

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