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AWG’s Nagisa Shiotsuki in “The Holy Sword of Laugh’s Altar”

1 year ago

AWG’s Nagisa Shiotsuki in “The Holy Sword of Laugh’s Altar”

By: Jeff Brown
Featured image photography by Masahiro Kubota
Special thanks to Nagisa Shiotsuki for translation assistance

The Arche Asagaya, where the Red Frame Factory performs, is nestled in an alleyway in Asagaya, with a nondescript sign on the outside. It is one of those places a person has to be actively searching for or they will miss it altogether. Next to the door, a small sandwich board advertises the play “The Holy Sword of Laugh’s Altar”, and that is the only real clue that this is the venue. You walk down a few flights of stairs as you are going below ground, cell service was lost at the bottom of the staircase. From there you are greeted to the entryway decorated with old artifacts on display before heading into the theater itself where Monthly Puroresu would see the other side of an Actwres girl.

READ: Monthly Puroresu visits the Coelacanth YouTube Studio

Entering the theater is like being transported back to medieval times, with lute music playing along with various wild animal sounds, some perhaps mythological. Nagisa Shiotsuki is in character as Fina onstage, working the ticket booth in the Laughing Village, which doubles as the actual ticket booth for audience members when they arrive. The same goes for the merchandise stand run by Canelé (Narumi Saito) on the other side of the stage and the altar with the sword, where audience members are encouraged to get their photo taken by Ramel (Kaoru Yuikawa). It is quite a simple but creative way to maximize their limited space in the theater by having the audience walk through the set pre-show. As show time draws nearer, characters wander the theater and take their places around the stage; some cast members even enter among the audience, filling in.

A bell sounds, and the house lights dim as the world of the Laughing Village comes to life.

The main takeaway from this plot is that Fina and her crew are grifting various travelers to the village; they pay a fee and are allowed a few seconds to pull on the sword. It is all done very comically, with a boombox playing dramatic music and the lights going down to set the mood. Once their time is up, the music abruptly ends, and the stagehand Migu (Yumesakino) violently tosses them backward in the most unnecessary and over-the-top way possible. The stage darkens as the transition to night is complete, and the crew closes up for the evening. Fina is drinking from an oversized bottle of booze as she unwinds, and the others are eating snacks and blowing off steam after their day’s work.

A man named Bon (Masato Nei) staggers out from under the stage, half awake or inebriated. When the scene ends with 8-bit or chiptune lute music and the next scene opens, the front of the stage has its paneling removed so the audience can see the man under there holding the sword with gloved hands so it can’t move.

The Village itself was rid of its monsters 200 years ago by a hero named Victor who defeated the demon king. The Village of Laugh while in a time of peace saw its youth venture out to larger cities and the population and economy dwindled. To try and offset this the village chief devised a scheme with the fake holy sword to make the village a tourist destination. However a traveler named Grief (Daisuke Kurihara) entered the village, Grief was burdened with a curse and could not age.

He had fought alongside the hero in the days of monsters and the demon king. Upon the Kingdom’s knights discovering the village was cheating people, Grief proposed a vote to decide their fate. These were desperate people in desperate times and without spoiling the whole plot, perhaps it was fortuitous that Grief discovered the fake sword as he met some important people while in the village. Weighing everything it was decided that to not punish the villagers and Grief presented them with the real holy sword.

As with her performances in the ring, one of Nagisa’s strengths is her facial expressions and timing. During the chaos, when her crew is about to be found out to be the crooks the audience knows them to be, she conveys many emotions with subtle changes. Still, she is not afraid to be flamboyant and demonstrative when the situation demands it. Even though her character is a cheat, she can garner sympathy with exasperated looks, nervous energy, laughter, stall tactics, and on-the-fly thinking, reminiscent of an episode of Fawlty Towers. While this is a lighthearted affair, underneath is a very real and tragic tale of a group of people desperate to save their village and their identity.

When the monsters were defeated, instead of a golden age of prosperity, the village became a ghost town, an acceleration towards a dark fate they fought to change. So with a jaded, cynical heart, the villagers decided to become a bit monstrous themselves, and they no doubt hated looking at themselves in the mirror. In the end, they had moments of grace that proved their redemptive worth and ultimately were granted a stay of execution with a chance for the Laugh Village to prosper.

Overall, it was a very fast evening of laughs and slapstick comedy that a non-native speaker can easily enjoy because of the strong visual storytelling on display at the Red Frame Factory. As a bonus, audience members were encouraged to look out for Sebastian, an owl hidden in the theater, for each performance. Fina may not be the same upright person portrayed on an Actwrestling show, but Shiotsuki is a multidisciplinary artist, and Monthly Puroresu could see a broader range of her talent as she stretched out and became a new person for the evening. Shiotsuki actually told Monthly Puroresu that same morning during our interview at the Coelacanth Factory that her goal was to pick roles that would allow her to transform into new people and be challenged by that.

The common theme throughout the week is that Shiotsuki creates art with a group of like-minded artists, be it on stage, on Youtube, or in a wrestling ring. Being an Actwres girl does not begin and end in the ring; most of the roster also performs on theater stages or soundstages across Japan, and that helps make them one of the more unique Joshi companies today.

A recording of “The Holy Sword of Laugh’s Altar” will be available on DVD soon at Red Frame’s webshop.

READ: Ones To Watch – Nagisa Shiotsuki

Written by:

I mainly focus on making music, while writing on the side. After graduating high school, I studied guitar in the Seattle area. Music reviews really got me started with blogging and journalism. Meantime, I watched ‘90s AJW and Gaea throughout the 2000s & parachuted in for Ice Ribbon, Stardom, Actwres Girl’Z. I live in Edgewood, WA and am a proud member of the Duwamish tribe.