Episode 5 of the S.Q. (Solids & QUELL) Stage ran from February 20th March 1st 2020 in Tokyo’s Hulic Hall, a theatre with a capacity of around 900 people. The cast from the first four episodes reprised their roles again for this show, minus Higano Sho who appeared only through videos due to his current commitment to the Engeki Haikyuu Stage. The regular cast were joined by Tanaka Kyohei, Hagiwara Naruya and Oobayashi Motoko, who played other characters.
As Higano Sho’s character Takamura Shiki could not appear in this stage, the story centred around his disappearance. The members of SolidS and QUELL find a letter on the table one morning from Shiki. It states that he’s in a slump at work and is going on a journey and that if they are interested they can follow along. As they are taking in this news, Shiki’s brother Keito visits by chance, and they decide together to follow the clues revealed in the letters. With each clue, they go to new places, meet unique people and learn more about Shiki and themselves.
I watched the matinee show on February 28th. It was a shame that we were unable to watch the show in its original form, due to the virus fears causing them to make alterations to have the entire show performed on stage with no audience interaction, but not knowing what we were missing out on made it easy to handle the changes. Despite this, the show still had the same magic that I’ve seen in previous S.Q. Stages.
Part One: Story
In comparison with the dramatic episodes 2, 3 and 4, episode 5 brought us back to the slightly more laid back and humorous style we had in the first episode. Although the story involved one of their group members going missing, it was less tear-jerking and warmer, as we learned more deeply about the relationship between the members and the places that were important to them.
Despite Higano Sho not being able to appear as Shiki on stage, he still played a huge role as each letter was read by him in a video projected onto the back of the stage. Even though Shiki is not one of my favourite characters, it was somewhat weird to not see him on stage after having him there as such a big presence in the previous episodes. Although it was unfortunate that he couldn’t be there in person, I think his fans will be happy with what they were able to do to make him a part of the stage.
My personal highlight was the section where Shiki’s letters brought the members to the bar the SolidS members first met in. The bar itself was really nicely created on stage, with the members being stuck behind shutters when they tried to enter, and the projections onto the stage mixed with an actual bar table and seats. In this section, not only did we get treated to a special by cafe-turned-bar-owner Horimiya Daichi, the real bar owner was a breath of flamboyant fresh air who amused the audience far more than he amused the boys on stage.
The final part of the first half was a game corner. The eight members (3 SolidS members, 4 QUELL members and Takamura Keito) were split into four pairs to compete in the game, and the ending of the stage would depend on the pair that won on that particular show. This gave an interesting competitive edge to the end of the show, and with that would also give people a reason to want to see the show more than once.
I heard there were several different games played during this section but for our show, they played a Jinryo Game. I’ve seen several shows where this has been done but it’s always enjoyable because you never quite know what is going to happen or how it is going to end.
This version was especially fun because although they were playing in character, it was sometimes hard to know where the character ended and where the actor themselves came out. They all want to win and will do whatever it takes to do that. Kyohei (who played Shiki’s brother Keito) was particularly manipulative and smart in his actions, which left poor Kenya (Eichi) in a corner with no one believing that he was innocent.
Part Two: Live
As always, there were two different versions of the live show. I watched the “Red” show, with the following setlist:
- KARA DA KARA
- Toki wo koete
- End of Night
- Shout it Out
- Akaku somaru sora
- Phantom Drive
- Chisana Sekai
- Doubutsu no Saga
- Double Shooting Star
As a replacement for Shiki, Keito joined in the group SolidS songs in Shiki’s role, but unlike all of the other members, did not sing a solo. The show this time was very lively, with even QUELL singing their more upbeat songs this time, and we were treated to full versions of all of the solo songs rather than the medleys they’ve done in recent shows, which made it a very full live show.
I’m very biased, but I originally fell in love with Seto Keita’s Okui Tsubasa from his solo performance in episode 2, and seeing his performance in this show of Shout It Out made me remember why. Tsubasa’s songs are always great in general, but this rock track was so powerful and Keita’s performance of it was perfect. The highlight for me was the music break in the middle where Tsubasa collapsed to the ground and fought back to his feet. As with the first time I ever saw Keita perform as Tsubasa, I was so focussed I barely even moved my penlight.
Bias aside, another performance I always enjoy is Eichi’s Niji. If you are in a bad mood or feeling down, this is the song to watch. Kenya’s smile is so infectious and the song and routine are so cute that you can’t help but join in and smile too. At the end of the song, Eichi is joined by his fellow QUELL members and then the SolidS members to finish, and seeing this big family all on stage together waving their arms is definitely a highlight.
Although on a whole, I think I’d like to go back to the more drama-filled plots of the previous stages, this was a nice break and fun — just as they wanted. If you weren’t able to see it in person, please look forward to being able to watch it after the release. You can already pre-order the BluRay at Animate.
Were you able to watch this show in person? How did it compare to the previous shows for you? If you didn’t get to watch it, which of the previous shows do you like best, and which characters do you like? Comment and let me know.