Pictures from a new Japanese production of J. M. Barrie’s Broadway hit musical Peter Pan have hit the Internet. HoriPro’s show Peter Pan 2012 stars a clutch of name actors and musical luminaries, including two members of girl group AKB48, so it will doubtless play to packed houses until it is replaced onstage in August by the musical version of The Full Monty. (“More hilarious, more moving than the movie… The perfect musical for the modern age!” No, I am not making this up. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that cannot be converted into a musical.)
My eye was caught by Captain Hook. Shinji Takeda, who has made his name in a string of movies since his debut aged 20 in 1992’s Shichi-nin no Otaku: cult seven, is compared by the panel in this Japanese TV clip to Johnny Depp. Since Takeda almost stole the screen from the edibly gorgeous Ryuhei Matsuda in Gohatto, this is not altogether a puff too far.
Takeda is also, in my humble opinion, a BIG improvement on the available Captain Jack Sparrow dolls from Medicom and Hot Toys. (We will not even mention the Barbie version from Mattel. That’s so clean, so neat, so – playline, however loudly the packaging screams “collector”. Ken just isn’t Captain Jack. And the Tonner version – well, I’ve seen less bouffant hair on Dolly Parton.)
I love both Medicom and Hot Toys dolls. I even own a couple. But in my opinion, they didn’t get the most important thing about Jack. The hair.
Jack Sparrow’s hair is a living thing. It probably had its own contract and its own trailer. The hair on the dolls is moulded. You can’t even take off the bandana. This massively reduces the options for customisation, not to mention the sheer fangirl fanfic fantasy of running your fingers through Jack Sparrow’s hair.
On the plus side, the costumes on both dolls are really nice,though Medicom edges ahead on detail and on the clever choice of cloth weights. With doll clothes, cloth weight is everything. It’s the difference between something looking like real clothes that just happen to be made 1/6 or 1/4 or whatever scale, and a doll’s outfit.
The huge success of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Disney tendency to licence and merchandise the heart and soul out of everything in sight meant that a slew of character dolls were inevitable. The niche manufacturers were bound to do a better job than the mass-market playline creators, and Japan has a history of making absolutely knockout male character dolls. But in this case, at least, life has outdone art, craft and marketing.
But Takeda’s pirate, like Johnny Depp’s, is a transient creation, a costume and hairstyle assumed for marketing purposes. Dolls are, in their small way, more reliable. Like actors, they exist only to embody the dream of a moment, but unlike actors they can be tucked into your closet or trunk and kept permanently accessible without fear of arrest or complex care arrangements.
I want a Shinji Takeda 12″ pirate doll. But he must have a removable hat and bandana and proper styleable hair. Anything less is just not acceptable.