Resident Evil: The Stage is a cool, if bizzaro entry to RE lore
Finally, a chance to watch this thing with subtitles!
I had been hoping for the chance to watch the canon, in-universe stage play BioHazard: The Stage (or Resident Evil: The Stage for us Westerners). The play was only performed in Japan, so the entire cast (and performance) is Japanese, which meant that those of us that can’t speak it had to wait for a video version with subtitles. Importing it’s DVD release is incredibly expensive, so I’ve been waiting with bated breath for it to become available for streaming. Wonderfully, some kind person uploaded the entire thing to YouTube, complete with subtitles. So, here are my thoughts, unless of course you want to just go and watch it for yourself here.
The Stage, which is set in between the events of Resident Evil 5 and the excellent manga series The Marhawa Desire, follows a T-Virus outbreak that ravages an Australian university. While it features returning characters Chris Redfield and Piers Nivans, it wonderfully brings back Rebecca Chambers, in her first appearance canonically since the original Resident Evil, and finally some confirmation as to what happened to her after the Mansion Incident. Rebecca is now in her early 30s, and working as a temporary instructor at the university. It also features a cast of all new characters, from the university’s students and faculty to a new BSAA member, Sophie Home.
Obviously, the first question pretty much everyone I know has about The Stage is, how the hell do you turn the explosive, violent, mutant filled world of Resident Evil into something as low-tech as a live stage play? Well, I was skeptical as well, and while the show certainly has a few kinks, overall they did a very impressive job bringing the game to life. First off, the set is incredibly clever, made up of mostly blank walls and a staircase that can be slid back and fourth across the stage, with a screen behind the set and several more that can be lowered at various places (including directly upstage). The set, and all of the screens, can have images projected onto them to create the environment, and it looks cool as hell. Anything on stage can double as multiple locations as the image is changed, and the screen in back can be used to create imagery that wouldn’t be possible (like Chris and Piers driving a BSAA hummer, or a giant mutant). They even use the screen to recreate memorable game elements, like the door opening loading screens, and the opening prologue’s information regarding the history of the RE universe. Probably the best (and coolest) moment is a flashback to the original Resident Evil, where the actors playing Chris and Rebecca don the REmake versions of their costumes with the mansion displayed in the background.
As far as the story goes, it’s very similar to The Marhawa Desire, with a complicated web of interconnected characters and motivations, with the returning characters just sort of draped over top of it. Flipping back and fourth between the BSAA trying to handle the situation, the students fighting for their lives as they are forced to fight their friends turned into monsters, a crooked detective who’s taking bribes to keep the viral outbreak quiet, and a number of family fueds involving the university president’s adopted son, and the biology professor and his (thought dead) son. It can be a little hard to follow at times, although the janky subtitles I was stuck with might be making it more difficult than it actually is. Overall, the characters emotions are put front and center of the show, and for the most part it works well. There’s some questionable stuff where Rebecca has difficulty killing zombies because they where once her students, but no more so than idiot Leon in Resident Evil 6. The story presents itself as a tragic horror story, and I appreciate that. Well, except for a few glaring exceptions that kind of drag the whole show down.
One of the recurring characters is the school’s security guard, who for whatever reason is played almost exclusively for laughs. Breaking the fourth wall, and generally being a distracting goof ball, he feels like something you’d see in a corny anime rather than a grim entry into Resident Evil lore. He even tweaks his nipples at length at one point, while Chris and Rebecca stare on. It’s cringe inducing, and gave me flashbacks of the awful comedic relief characters from Revelations. The only thing that’s possibly worse in the show is a highly choreographed dance number set to some J-Pop, where the heroes fend off dozens of zombies as strobe lights flash to the beat of the music. I’m not kidding.
The performances are fine, certainly closer to the source material than the live action Resident Evil films. Rin Asuka brings Rebecca to life in a way that made me smile, and Seijiro Nakamura’s super-serious Chris Redfield was all business. The show is almost stolen, however, by Asuka Kuramochi, who plays one of the university’s students, Mary Grey. Without wishing to spoil anything, the character suffers something of a breakdown at one point, and her performance is so memorable that I genuinely wish more of the show had been dedicated to that sequence.
Overall, I was very impressed by the show, and hope that we’ll get more from this part of the universe soon (the play ends with a “To Be Continued” teaser). It could have been a trainwreck, and it amazingly wasn’t. It does have some weirdness, like the J-pop song and a”guest” monster that honestly looks kinda… bad, but considering what they had to work with, they created a pretty good show that satisfies me as a Resident Evil fan, and as a fan of live performance. The subtitles available on the Youtube version aren’t amazing, but they’re better than nothing, and the show is definitely worth the time of any RE fan who’s waiting for more from the universe, especially if you’re a fan of Rebecca Chambers. Give it a look, you might be pleasantly surprised.