Team TokuNet contributor and Kaiju Kingdom podcast host, Chris Eaton, shares his thoughts on the latest Fujiyama Ichiban live action stage show held at the beginning of January 2017.
In Japan, there’s a large subsection of live stunt shows based around various tokusatsu properties, including Ultraman and nearly the Super Sentai series. Audience members attend with their families, buy a bunch of merchandise, and sit down to watch what amounts to a live extended episode of one of the shows that said property is based on, and everyone has a good time.
We’ve covered Fujiyama Ichiban in the past. Created by professional stuntman and previous suit actor for Saban’s Masked Rider, Michi Yamato, Fujiyama Ichiban initially began as a bi-monthly magazine distributed to select businesses in Southern California. It grew into its own live stage show soon after. Then, in 2014, it began filming as a series on YouTube. I actually had the pleasure to see a demonstration at Power Morphicon in 2016 and happily attended its latest show at the beginning of this year.
Fujiyama Ichiban Festival IV is the fourth installment of its live show iteration hosted at South End Health Club in Torrance, California. The festival is comprised of two performances of the same show: one in the morning and one mid-day.
Inside the Club’s ball room, I was greeted by a small merchandise table and a room jammed packed with families. I had decided to attend the second show hoping that it would have a modest crowd, and my expectations were exceeded. There was a big turn out of young kids, which should be a given as deep down, tokusatsu is aimed primarily at that age bracket. Taking my seat in the sea of white foldout chairs, only moments before the show started, the now nearly standing room only crowd were given a brief introduction by an MC.
After that, it was lights out as we were shown an edited version of Fujiyama Ichiban first season on YouTube. The screening ended and gave way to the real show with the villains of Fujiyama Ichiban barging into the room, setting off the live performance. As they make their diabolical intentions known, the Fujiyama Ichiban crew shows up to fend them off. What played out was a “Cliff Notes” version of the film we had just watched, but I’ll say that in many ways, was far better judging by the pure joy palpable from the audience.
It was pure tokusatsu, as the heroes and villains clashed for nearly 40 minutes with new monsters arriving through the audience to add to the fight. Here, you could get a great look at the work that went into the suits and get a real appreciation for production that goes into these sort of things. During the mid section of the show, the main bad guy brought up a group of children from the audience to play a few games for prizes, including a variation of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The game left the group of 5-year-olds a little confused but kept their parents chuckling. Once prizes where given out, and the stunt performers got a second wind and cooled off, we made way into the finale. Finishing up the performance with big climatic battle that had the room cheering. Once the performance ended, the show runners began the meet and greet which was basically getting your picture taken with the costumed heroes.
As an adult in his 30’s, I have to say this was a massive blast to watch. Worth its weight in the small admission fee that delivered on so much more. When done right, a live stunt show can be near magical. It’s kind of hard to describe the sensation, but it’s sort of a child-like glee. Overall, Fujiyama Ichiban Festival 4 was a fantastic show.