GENDER GYMNASTICS: Performing and Consuming Japan's Takarazuka Revue, by Leonie R. Stickland. Melbourne, Australia: Trans Pacific Press, 2008, 282 pp., with five plates (I through V). A$49.95 (cloth)

The Takarazuka Revue is one of the several entertainment anomalies of Japan. It is an all-female presentation, one that — in the words of the author of this interesting account — "consists of a large stage, numerous cast members, bright lights, huge sets, colorful costumes and spot-lit stars."

It is also a spectacle in which "gender mimicry is the very essence of the performance on each and every occasion." The all-female cast is divided into two major roles. The otokoyaku is, as the name suggests, the female who imitates the male. The musumeyaku is the female who imitates the female.

Since girls and women constitute at least 90 percent of the Takarazuka audience, their major interest is in the otokoyaku. She has been called the "ideal male" because of her innate understanding of the problems of being female. But she is also an "ideal female" as well, since she has managed, in this male world of modern Japan, to rise to the top of her profession.