By Deanna Nguyen
A spotlight shines on stage and five young men appear, costumed and poised. Their expressions hint at a backstory waiting to unfold and resonate with the audience.
Emotions run high from start to curtain drop, but they convey sincerity and vulnerability. The actors deliver a performance worth remembering, taking a bow as applause makes their dreams come true!
We’ve seen groups of young men take the stage in anime, but more so as idols. A3! (Act! Addict! Actors!) invites you into the world of theater, where different personalities come together, both onstage and backstage.
Instead of connecting with the audience through music and dance, the actors perform through the delivery of their lines, chemistry with one another and their love for theater. But where to begin with this anime adaptation? Let’s jump in.
What is A3!?
A3! is a franchise that began as a mobile game and released in 2017 in Japan and 2019 in English. Shortly thereafter, an anime adaptation debuted titled A3! Season Spring & Summer. As you can guess, the first season focused on the Spring and Summer Troupes in the series, while the currently airing second season, A3! Season Autumn & Winter, covers the next two.
Main character (or player insert, if you’ve played the game) Izumi Tachibana visits her father’s theater, Mankai Company, and encounters a yakuza who demands she pay the company’s debt or risk seeing the building get demolished.
At Izumi’s refusal, the yakuza, Sakyo Furuichi, offers her one last chance to save the company: by recruiting a troupe and putting on a show that sells out on opening night. Izumi searches for potential members right away, and as one meeting leads to another, she manages to form the Spring Troupe.
Izumi naturally takes on the role of the director and coaches the aspiring actors to reach their full potential. Whether they’re naturally talented or have no experience, it doesn’t matter, as long as their love for theater is strong. And, of course, with every new troupe comes new plays!
Before we dive into the members of each troupe, it should be noted that A3! is not an otome game. Given that it’s a female-targeted game and show with a dominantly male cast, the mislabeling is fairly common. Otome games are a sub-genre of joseimuke content, which is basically work that targets a female audience. The distinction is that the player or heroine of otome games and anime typically pursues one of the male characters as a love interest and partner.
For joseimuke content, there is no “endgame” with any of the male characters, and the story doesn’t break off into separate routes. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any romantic elements or undertones, but games and shows like A3! and Ensemble Stars focus more on how the player or heroine can help the characters grow while learning more about them. The running storyline is also characteristic of the aforementioned titles, so again, no “endings” with any of the characters.
So, who are the members of each troupe? Let’s meet them!
As the first troupe that Izumi assembles, it’s only natural that it starts with spring, as the season symbolizes new beginnings. The leader of the Spring Troupe is Sakuya Sakuma, a hard worker who has loved theater ever since he was little. Masumi Usui is the second actor to join after Sakuya, mainly because he falls in love with Izumi at first sight and wants to get close to her, but he eventually comes to like acting.
Next up is Tsuzuru Minagi, who not only acts but writes all of the plays that each troupe performs. Then there’s Itaru Chigasaki, who appears to be a mature salaryman, but is actually a completely different person at night. Finally, there’s Citron—a foreigner who’s interested in learning Japanese culture and theatre, but has an air of mystery to him.
The Spring Troupe performs a revised version of Romeo and Juliet called Romeo and Julius.
Heating things up for Mankai Company is the Summer Troupe, which Izumi casts members through a proper audition, unlike Spring Troupe. Tenma Sumeragi leads the troupe and was born and raised to become a movie star, now wanting to try out theater. Next is Yuki Rurikawa, who ends up being in charge of costumes for all troupes.
In contrast to Tenma’s veteran status in showbiz, Muku Sakisaka doesn’t have much experience with acting and struggles with confidence onstage. Misumi Ikaruga is the whimsical character who’s fascinated by triangles but has a natural talent for acting. And lastly, Kazunari Miyoshi completes the troupe as the trendsetter who needs to go beyond surface-level acting to reach the audience.
The Summer Troupe performs a comedy version of The Thousand and One Nights called Water Me!
The third troupe that Izumi forms is the Autumn Troupe, which consists of strong personalities and peacemakers. The leader, Banri Settsu, is good at almost everything and originally joined the company just to get revenge on Juza Hyodo as a rival. Juza doesn’t have a foundation in theatre but is passionate, despite his lone wolf status.
Taichi Nanao yearns for attention and self-validation, but always tries to settle fights among the troupe alongside Omi Fushimi. Omi is also a photographer and often cooks at the dormitories, but he later reveals through his portrait performance about his delinquent past.
Last but not least, a familiar face enters the fray: the yakuza, Sakyo Furuichi. He’s quick to lose his patience but helps Izumi rebuild Mankai Company while also reigniting his passion for acting.
The Autumn Troupe performs an action-packed play about mafias called The Roman Episode.
The last to join Mankai Company is the Winter Troupe. They collide with the company’s rival, God Troupe. Tsumugi Tsukioka is the leader of Winter and originally auditioned for the God Troupe, but failed. His self-esteem plummeted, but he returns to theater in hopes of acting with his childhood friend again, who happens to be Tasaku Takato. Tasaku is a former God Troupe member and joined the Winter Troupe because of the former’s questionable methods.
A young man of few words, Hisoka Mikage suffers from amnesia but is skilled in acting despite not knowing who he was before his memory loss. Homare Arisugawa is a poet with an interest in the arts, so he naturally joins the troupe for the artistic value. Azuma Yukishiro is the final member—a mysterious man who quits his job to become an actor.
The Winter Troupe performs a dramedy called Sympathy for the Angel.
A3! showcases different dynamics among its characters and divides them into troupes so that each one has their moment to shine! Instead of the usual singing and dancing idols, we get a cast of actors with different levels of experience—but they all share an interest or love for theater.
A3! introduces characters at a steady pace and shows off their strengths and weaknesses according to the troupe that they’re in. Whether you have a favorite troupe or you simply love them all, you can’t help but witness their character growth and give them a standing ovation in the end!