2.5-Dimensional Musicals and Anime Songs, and the New Band Exploding in Popularity, Nulbarich!
“Tokyo International Music Market” Report Part 1

With the goal of advancing Japanese music overseas, the “14th Tokyo International Music Market” (TIMM) was held in Shibuya and Ikebukuro from Monday, October 23rd to Wednesday, October 25th. Various events were held, and business matching occurred between Japanese and overseas music companies.

This report focuses on the seminars within TIMM which caught the attention of FRI: “The Rapid Growth of 2.5D Musicals”,“Spreading Anime Songs Across the Globe”, and TIMM LIVE, where new power-house artists aiming for a global audience continue to appear.


TIMM LIVE Artist “Nulbarich”

A View of the TIMM Venue


Various Seminars were Held at TIMM

■Seminar: “World-class Musicals from Japan -the Possibilities of 2.5-Dimensional Musicals – ”

(L) Makoto Matsuda Chairman,JAPAN 2.5D Musical Association (R) Haruki Nakayama Board Member,JAPAN 2.5D Musical Association

“2.5D musical” is the generic term used to describe stage productions derived from anime, manga, and video games. They are quickly gaining recognition both in Japan, and worldwide. The speakers were Makoto Matsuda (Chairman,JAPAN 2.5D Musical Association ), and Haruki Nakayama (Board Member).

First, typical examples of works were introduced. “Prince of Tennis” (※1), “Touken Ranbu” (※2), “Naruto” (※3), and so on. One that really stood out was “Yowamushi Pedal”, which was introduced using a video. While the story revolves around bicycle racing, the performance opts not to use bikes, but to portray a fierce race through the stomping of the performers’ feet. Matsuda spoke of how 2.5D musicals are truly the result of complementing what the audience already has within their brain.


“Prince of Tennis”

“Yowamushi Pedal”

Next, they discussed history. According to Matsuda, the very first 2.5D musical held in Japan was likely 1943’s “Rose of Versailles”. (※4).
From then until 1991 was the art form’s birth period, followed by a period of growth spanning until 1997. One work from this growth period which left a lasting impression was “Sakura Taisen” (※5), the first public performance held using only voice actors. The period from 1997 is said to have been when the art form blossomed. From this point, the market began to steadily grow, but a line can be drawn in 2011 as the point when massive hits such as “Prince of Tennis” saw the market explode in popularity. 2011 saw numbers of 390,000 people, and 48 different titles, while in 2016 those numbers had grown to 133 titles, and 1.5 million people.


“Rose of Versailles”

“Sakura Taisen”

Currently, 2.5D musicals are diversifying, and displaying elements of being a “character business”. A substantial portion of earnings are being generated by peripheral businesses, such as the sale of CDs and DVDs, distribution/broadcasting, collaboration cafes, and, especially, merchandising, rather than from the performances themselves. For every performance, around 20 products are sold.

One of these peripheral businesses is live viewings. Held at movie theaters etc. on the final day of the performance, popular works can draw 50,000 people. For comparison, live viewings of the biggest idol concerts in Japan are said to draw 70,000 people, so the popularity of these live viewings is apparent.

Customer demographics show a wide age range, but with the base being guests in their mid-twenties, and with 90 to 95% of guests being female. Nakayama analyses this as being due to “male consumers spending more on material goods rather than on crafting experiences and memories, where female consumers make up the majority.”.



Expansion of 2.5D musicals into the overseas market is actively being pursued. The first foray into the foreign market took place in 2008, with performances of “Prince of Tennis” being held in Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Performances have consequently been held mainly in Asia, in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Australia. Additionally, shows were held at France’s Japan Expo, and at Anime Expo in the United States.

Measures are also actively being taken to accommodate guests from overseas. From 2015, at the “AiiA 2.5 Theater Tokyo” (※6), which is run directly by the Japan 2.5D Musical Association, subtitle glasses, which allow foreign visitors to see the Japanese dialogue translated into 3 languages, are being employed. It is also currently possible to directly purchase tickets from overseas.


“Touken Ranbu”

However, Matsuda says that the 2.5D musical industry is not without its difficulties.

First, there is the severe problem of the theater shortage within Japan. While 2.5D musicals may be flourishing, the theater industry itself in Japan is struggling, and the number of venues is decreasing. Due to this, securing a theater can be difficult, with popular venues being fully booked up to 2020 without their program being decided.

There are difficulties with overseas expansion as well.
As a business model, it is ideal to create the basic stage in Japan, and then have local actors and staff from the region perform, creating a sort of regional version. This way, Japanese performers are not required to travel, and performances can be held in several countries simultaneously.
However, as it was with Broadway musicals, when, if American actors did not perform, and the roles were instead played by, say, Japanese performers in Japan, the show would be said to be a “knock-off”, if 2.5D shows overseas do not cast Japanese performers, there is a tendency to regard these shows as being “fake”.
This is an obstacle to the enlargement of the foreign market.


Despite these hurdles which must be overcome, 2.5D musicals continue to expand their market. The current tide is for a model where, along with performances, various other forms of media such as video games, anime, and television dramas are simultaneously used. Responding to this, the project has grown to the scale of one billion yen, with further expansion and growth being mapped out.

Part 2 will report on anime songs, and the state of TIMM LIVE.

>>Part 2

TIMM (14th Tokyo International Music Market)

Japanese 2.5D Musical Association

(※1) “Prince of Tennis”
(※2) “Touken Ranbu”
(※3) “Naruto”
(※4) “Rose of Versailles”
(※5) “Sakura Taisen”
(※6) “AiiA 2.5 Theater Tokyo”

■Recommended Articles

・2.5-Dimensional Musicals Continue to Develop! What are their charms?
・Over 130,000 total visitors! Japan’s largest animation event “Anime Japan 2016”
・”Sanrio Danshi” First half – A new development for this veteran character company

(Article by: Kenichi Nakamura)

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.




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