Otaku USA Magazine
Will Death Note Solidify a Home for Anime on the West End?

Death Note is coming to the West End!

Next month, the Death Note stage musical will be performed in concert at London’s Lyric Theatre. This West End venue has been home to all sorts of legendary shows since it opened in 1888. Now Light and L will tread the same boards as characters ranging from Hamlet to Bertie Wooster. This comes in the midst of other anime classics—two from Studio Ghibli in particular—making a similar journey.

Stage shows based on beloved anime and manga are in ready supply across Japan. Seeing them come to such prestigious playhouses is far less common. Could this mean even more anime-related shows coming to the West End… or further west still? Let’s take a look.


Legacy Shows

My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro made an absolute splash at the Barbican, becoming its fastest-selling show to date. It’s an even more prestigious title than Death Note, with a mainstream fanbase and decades of loyal viewers. Plus, it’s got two more things going for it that make it a sure-fire hit: it’s a spectacle, and it’s family-friendly.

Neither of these are to undercut the fact that it’s good. Audiences aren’t going to cheer for an adaptation of a beloved classic unless it’s done well. But the more a show has going for it, the more people it will draw in. Ghibli fans? Check. Families looking for a day at the theatre they can all enjoy? Check. Lovers of big special-effects musicals? Check again. While the core of its attendance will almost certainly know the movie, it has layers. And so does the next Ghibli hit coming to London.


A Broad Reach

Spirited Away

The Spirited Away musical is already certified fresh, as it were. With stagings around Japan and a cinema release in the U.S., we already know it’s top tier. So bringing it to the London stage is another sure-fire winner of an idea.

These spectacular Ghibli-inspired musicals are both extremely safe bets for a relatively experimental move. So what if we push the move a little more experimental? What will it take for continued success?


Risk and Reward

Death Note stage

Frank Wildhorn’s Death Note musical has seen success around the world. Originally released as a concept album in 2014, it’s gone on to receive stagings in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Moscow. Now, London audiences will get to see it performed in concert. But what are its odds of success?

Fortunately, two demographics are already locked in: anime fans and modern musical fans. The former is an obvious one. The latter, however, is thanks to Wildhorn’s CV. The composer for Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel has plenty of die-hard fans, and he knows how to elevate a psychological battle of wits into a musical masterpiece. Plus, Light and L’s

So does this mean anime musicals have a future at the West End and beyond? Some likely do. In the end, it will always be a matter of choosing musicals that have that multi-demographic appeal. A good musical adapts where necessary to meet its audience in its new medium. If there are other anime that can do that, then maybe we’ll see more familiar faces gracing the boards in London.

Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. She is a contributor to the celebrated Black Archive line, with many other books, short stories, and critical works to her name.