Nippon Wars was first performed in 1984, set in a dystopian future it opens with a soldier leaving for the front saying farewell to his girlfriend proclaiming although he is young he will fight for the United Capitalist Republic of Nippon, (UCRN), another man appears at the back of the stage on an elevated platform firing a gun into the air, banners unravel proclaiming developments in the war with Calgaria, he explains he joined the Rebel Canary, another banner explains the intensification of the war, UCRN forms an alliance with Amerigo, the war turns to total war, the man's nausea grows, close to vomiting he observes - History is making me sick!, firing in the air slips of silver paper begin to fall, (an editor's note explain that these represent aka-gami, Japanese conscription notices). The scene shifts, the man is regaining consciousness, someone explains that he is coming around after being shot with the anaesthetic Algin Z, he finds himself amongst a strange group, he can hear the distant sound of waves, Welcome to the blue whale room!, they all greet him, he learns from them that from now on his name will change to 'O', as a deserter of the Rebel Canary he'll train for two and half years before being sent to the real front, one of the group reveals that he is inside a giant whale and that there are other similar animals in existence being used for similar purposes, the group is made up of both men and women and are named in the play with single letters, J, B, M, P, K. The others in the group display a variety of extraordinary powers, fragments of O's previous life begin to return to him, one of the others observe that, 'you must have some kind of special power if you were sent to this room', O begins to question where he is again, mockingly another says, 'Hey, bro. We already had that where am I stuff in the last scene. Lay off that hero shit. What are we actors?', abruptly they receive a surprise visit from General Q accompanied by Miss Right and Miss Left and a bacchanalian party begins in the middle of which Miss I returns, her previous whereabouts appear to have been a mystery. Lessons begin, as they count through they come to Lesson 100: conversation, Q explains - This is communication. You exchange your own ideas. But you cannot use any existing language. It becomes apparent that the exercise is being overlooked by a higher intelligence than themselves, which is represented in the form of a floating brain called Sue Ellen, using Neuro Kinetic Energy the group inadvertently blow up an enemy sub that had strayed to close, this realization that they possess this power arouses their curiosity in their situation, and through the conversation and questioning Miss I poses the question, 'Do you have the memory of being loved?', which produces a blank within the group. Sue Ellen informs them that the whale is on course for the coast of Calgaria, this news is interrupted by the announcement of news of the war's further intensification, martial law has broken out in Tokyo. As they near the coast the ensuing panic is represented in a dance and the characters begin to recall moments from their previous existences, they come under enemy attack and at the same time O attempts suicide. After the wave of the attack has passed O is operated upon, during the procedure Q explains that the UCRN had manufactured microbe bombs and androids to help the war effort, the only problem they had were emotions, the realization that they are androids sweeps through the group and that the memories of their previous existences were implanted in an attempt to help give them more of a human like identity. The ending of the play sees an attempted power shift and rebellion but this too could be an event that was pre-ordained by the total brain. The title play from this collection transcends beyond being a story of malfunctioning androids and obviously carries a comment about society at large and offers an apocalyptic vision of a dystopian society, although reading a play you are only exposed to a limited appreciation of it's overall power and scope, reading Nippon Wars you realize it has lost none of it's ability to provoke thought. The plays presented here also come accompanied with photographs of productions of each of the plays.
Read synopsis of Aoi and Komachi at Performing Arts Network Japan
Nippon Wars and Other Plays is published by Seagull Books
T Factory (in Japanese)