Fans were on the edge of their seats, counting days to this long-anticipated moment. Ever since the announcement in June 2023, enthusiasts have been snagging tickets to witness the beloved manga JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (ジョジョの奇妙な冒険) come to life on stage.
Picture their disappointment upon learning that this won’t happen for seven consecutive shows. Unexpected cancellations are not a common occurrence in Japan, which is why this one has taken everyone by an even greater surprise.
Anticipated by many, attended by few
Widely beloved in its manga form, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood” was set to conquer Tokyo’s stages from Feb. 6 to 28, then onto Sapporo in March and Kobe in April. The majestic Imperial Theatre promised an epic premiere night in the capital.
Yet, February’s lineup faced an unforeseen cut. The last-minute cancellation of four consecutive shows, from opening night to the 8th, left fans in disbelief, flooding SNS with criticisms.
Prompted by questions surrounding the sudden change in plans, the production’s official website on Feb. 6 provided more information to explain the decision. Allegedly, production schedules experienced delays, impacting rehearsals and leading to a performance that deviated from the original plan. As per the official notice, the debated decision stemmed from the pressing need for extra preparation time and dedication to ensuring the staff’s safety.
Attempts to minimize the fallout seemed to fall short. On the 8th, Toho Co. delivered another blow to the audience, dropping yet more disappointing news — shows slated for the 10th and 11th joined the growing list of cancellations.
While shouldering the blame, the company acknowledged production shortcomings and promised to turn this setback into a valuable lesson for the future. The tally of canceled shows now stands at seven, leaving the organizers in a precarious position in the eyes of the audience.
Evergreen manga favorite
Originally serialized in 1987 by Weekly Shonen Jump, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” spins its tale through 9 compelling chapters. Boasting a global fanbase, this tale has shape-shifted into movies, anime, dramas, games, and art exhibitions. We previously discussed the recent TV anime adaptation, featuring Fairouz Ai, a Japanese-Ehyptian talent, in Jojo’s part.
Despite its international success, its first stage appearance brings it back to Japan, where it all began — where Araki Hirohiko’s pen first breathed life into the characters and their intricate story.
Centered on the epic clash between Jonathan Joestar (Jojo) and his step-brother, the fated rival Dio Brando, the narrative weaves human themes of pride, love, and courage — resonating with diverse audiences. This profound human touch likely contributes to the manga’s immense success, boasting over 120 million copies in circulation and achieving worldwide acclaim.
Picked from nine chapters, the visually splendid setting of 19th-century aristocratic England in the first chapter has rightfully claimed its spot for the series debut on stage.
It’s not unusual for widely-loved manga to find new life in live musical adaptations. Some face criticism for inaccuracies, while others garner positive feedback. With Jojo, the prestigious venue stirred hopes for a stage triumph. Yet, for those holding tickets to the initial seven shows, this experience will remain an unrealized dream.
Public discontent erupting on social media
Amidst profuse apologies on official sites and social media accounts, Toho pleaded for public understanding, citing emergency circumstances as the driving force behind this unprecedented decision. Despite their plea, public sentiment proved less forgiving. The issue rapidly became a trending topic on X, with people voicing skepticism regarding the true reasons behind the cancellations. Some even cast doubt on the credibility of the Imperial Theatre, whose longstanding fame appeared at odds with the evident lack of preparation. Here are a few voices from X:
“At the historic Imperial Theatre, just two days before the opening of a Toho Musical, they declare, ‘We won’t be ready in time, so we’re canceling the performance.’ Can they really get away with tarnishing the brand built over many years, causing a significant loss of trust? Where is their professional pride? We don’t need uncertainties in entertainment… creating such a precedent comes with a heavy consequence.”
“A god seat ticket turned into trash. I’ll be lamenting this for the rest of my life.”
Some were more lenient, reading between the lines of vague explanations, and sensing that a last-minute, drastic decision hinted at something seriously amiss.
“The Imperial Theatre is handling this quite decisively. They’re not pointing fingers at any staff and have laid out a response plan. Judging from the wording, it seems like they’re prioritizing the safety of the performers concerning the operation of the stage equipment. Given the theatre’s involvement with elaborate stage setups, canceling without a valid reason seems unlikely.”
In the midst of it all, the Imperial Theatre, fully aware of the potential critique headed its way, embraced a variety of opinions and empathized with the perspectives behind them.
Full plan refund: A first in Japan?
While the sudden cancellation caught the public off guard, the Imperial Theatre went above and beyond in its response. Not only did they issue a sincere apology for any inconvenience caused, but they also ensured that ticket holders were not burdened with any costs for a show they missed out on.
“We will bear not only the ticket prices but also the ticket handling fees, system usage fees at the time of purchase, and cancellation fees for transportation and accommodation booked prior to the cancellation. For those unable to cancel, we will cover the transportation and one-night accommodation fees.”
This refund strategy, hailed as a rarity in Japan, has certainly caught attention. Typically, in the face of performance cancellations due to reasons like natural disasters or organizational glitches, only the ticket price gets reimbursed.
As per the Japanese Civil Code, customers pay for the joy of a performance. This obligation is violated when the organizer falls short. This legally entitles them to demand ticket refunds, preventing organizers from unjustly retaining earnings.
But what about last-minute cancellations with added costs for the audience? In that case, the Civil Code would likely deem it appropriate for organizers to offer a 360-degree refund. And truth be told, this scenario isn’t new. Consider a past incident at the New National Theatre where a show was canceled due to a performer’s scheduling misunderstanding. That serious lapse prompted coordinators to cover transportation costs and ticket purchase fees.
However, Toho’s exceptional response evoked diverse reactions, with some expressing surprise at its unconventional approach. However, others, like this X user, argued that such a response should not be lauded for its uniqueness but should instead set the standard.
All is not lost
This news dealt a major setback to the show, yet there’s still hope upcoming performances will win back fans’ hearts. Those who missed out won’t get a live redo, but the Imperial Theatre is contemplating gifting them free streams of future shows. A compromise that’s not quite the same but still worth tuning in for.
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