On March 17th, 2014, it was announced on Only Love Hurt’s (née Omokage Lucky Hole) official website that their body of work would be utilized in an upcoming musical. I honestly had no idea how to feel at the time, but since it was something involving my favorite Japanese X-Rated-funk-R&B-Showa-ballad-Noir band, I thought I had to take a look. However, with tickets priced at 90 bucks, and me being unstable employment-wise at the time, I didn’t count on seeing it. On the initial flyer, it paraded names like Koizumi Kyouko, Furuta Arata, and Taguchi Tomorowo (who I incidentally caught sight of in my neighborhood once), giving the production a certain pedigree that made it worth seeing. Flash forward to months later: Tickets are on sale, I’m employed, have a big bonus coming up, and purchased a ticket for a balcony seat at a Yokohama showing. By the time I attempted to get my hands on a ticket, all the Tokyo (and Saitama, for some reason) showings were sold out, and all that remained were so-so seats in Yokohama. Jump forward a bit more: It’s January 10th of 2015, and I’m making my way to Yokohama to see the 6pm showing of Iyaounashi Ni.
Welcome to the blue-collar town of Ebina, Kanagawa. Furuta Arata and Koizumi Kyouko are a couple who just opened a shop specializing in stewed guts rice bowls. Their first customers: a bunch of hoodlums who enter with the intention of fucking the two up from day one. Leading the pack is Furuta’s captain from his high school baseball club–Taguchi Tomorowo. Back in high school Furuta made a scene, beating up a bunch of yankii after they raped his girlfriend (Koizumi). As a result, him and his team were unable to go to Koushien, and his captain has resented him ever since. Elsewhere, Furuta and Koizumi’s daughter, Takahata Mitsuki, (the youngest in the family–the older brother has gone missing) is manager of her high school baseball team who also, incidentally, have their sights set on Koushien. Takahata also happens to be a slut, and doesn’t think twice about accepting the many sexual advances she receives from club members. Meanwhile, the baseball club’s adviser, Yamanaka Takashi, isn’t happy when he hears his kids talking grown-up stuff. He gets in a fit over it, but only because he has a thing for his student Takahata himself. Back at the store, one of the part-timers, Takada Shouko, is involved in an abusive relationship with Miyake Hiroki–a former boxer; current bum. The production focuses around these three couples, the fucked up interpretations of love they possess, and how it leads to tragedy.
The show employs O.L.H.’s songs to very good effect. Act 1 front-loads Ore no Sei De Koushien ni Ikenakatta, Suki na Otoko no Namae Ude ni Compass no Hari de Kaita, and Annani Hantai Shiteta Otousan ni Beer wo Tsugarete to explain the initial plot, and the tragic events that haunt the main couple to this day. The opening number sets the Koushien story going, while the following emphasizes the raped Koizumi’s profound love for Furuta (his name is written on her arm with a compass needle, after all), with song three explaining how Koizumi’s parents objected to Furuta knocking her up, and their eventual acceptance that results in Koizumi’s dad pouring Furuta a glass of beer. While the songs all contain disparate stories, they are woven into the main narrative seamlessly, resulting in a deranged cast of characters who all have the pleasure of shouldering pasts portrayed by O.L.H.’s heavy lyrics. Lyrics are modified to service the story, but for the most part, O.L.H.’s music is used to staggeringly potent effect to propel the show. Iyaounashi Ni also features an original song–titled after the show–sung in the grand finale, and in stark contrast to the show’s funk/R&B/hip-hop motif, sounds like a typical number from a musical.
I had never seen modern Japanese theater before, so I had no idea what to expect. Some of the language was quite difficult, but I could more or less get a hang of the story. While it’s a darkly comedic and foul affair from start to finish, it was hard to know where to laugh at times because I was unable to comprehend the punchline at several points. Outside of the language, the show relies on a lot of slapstick. People (mostly Furuta) punch each other a lot, and there is a slew physical toilet and sex jokes. This was my first time really seeing somewhat mainstream Japanese media do these sorts of things straightforwardly, so while I was misunderstanding lines, I was also in awe at people dry-humping on stage, and fake-pissing their pants. Whether or not a lot of that stuff made me laugh is another story, but I did get some nice chuckles–I just think they laid it on too strong. I could complain about the show failing to be clever, but since I missed a good portion of the spoken lines, it may well have been more clever than I thought.
One hilarious scene involves Furuta, coaxed on by Taguchi, to rob from the register at his own store, the two of them sporting hilarious masks and soundboards on their phones so they can speak while concealing their voices. However, the soundboards malfunction, resulting in guffaw-worthy absurdity. Other humorous bits involve Koizumi’s sexual fantasies that get aroused every now and again, represented by cheesy mood lighting and a group of men wearing hilariously suggestive outfits who chant “oku-san.” One good line that my Japanese capacity could handle involved Yamanaka mentioning that teachers never enter society–they go to school just go back to school. This hit home, being a former-teacher in this country.
Back to the main couples: Furuta and Kyouko, Takahata and Yamanaka, Takada and Miyake all more or less meet some unfortunate end or circumstance as the story reaches a sordid conclusion. The show approaches love from its most twisted and fucked up angle–the same way most O.L.H. songs approach it, incidentally–and takes that concept to its logical conclusion, utilizing the three main couples.
Takahata and Yamanaka end up shacking up after Yamanaka seduces Takahata away from the horny baseball club she serves pussy to every day. However, their forbidden love is found out when the baseball club tail Yamanaka back to his place, which results in Yamanaka escaping on a bicycle in his undies with Takahata riding on the back. They proceed to get hit by a car, killing Yamanaka, and putting Takahata in the hospital. Meanwhile, Koizumi ends up with Furuta’s baseball captain, Taguchi, in a love hotel. She finds out he’s gay when he can’t get it up, and he attempts to kill her in order to get revenge on Furuta for ruining his chances at making it to Koushien. She hits him with an ashtray, subsequently murdering him in the process. While she ends up at the police station for questioning, Furuta sneaks in as an officer, and the two run away from town, their hearts at ease knowing that their slut daughter is alive in some form at the local hospital. Takada and Miyake have the weirdest conclusion, where Takada decides to put up with her husband’s absuse (because she thinks she deserves it?) leaving Miyake confused and unhappy, the two facing an eternity of anguish and emptiness. Meanwhile, halfway through the production, Koizumi and Furuta’s son shows up as a transvestite working at the local Philippine pub. With Taguchi harboring the bizarre desires to plastic-surgery himself into a 17-year-old to enter Koushiken as well as assassinate Furuta for ruining his dreams, Furuta’s son offers the man tips on how to surgically change his face, as well as on assassination.
On a technical level, the show employs a two-level set, with the bottom level a turntable that allows for a smooth transition between scenes. All of the sets–from the store the main couple owns, the Philippine pub, Sugamo, to love hotels–looked lovingly detailed from my far-away seat, and did a good job of establishing the seedy atmosphere the material demanded. The top part of the set was mostly used for musical numbers that required the whole stage, with an LCD monitor under it that would display the lyrics of the songs with corny graphics, in case the whole affair wasn’t lowbrow enough. Icing on the cake were the curtains, which featured giant legs in high-heels and stockings, that hilariously spread out when the curtain opened.
While a lot was lost on me, and there was perhaps too much slapstick, it was an eye-opening experience to see Japanese theater for the first time, as well as see O.L.H.’s songs used in front of a full house of regular theater-goers. With a huge line of people at the merch table that was carrying the band’s best of album, I hope O.L.H. is starting to get the attention they deserve.