We went to a Bunraku play at the National Theater. It lasted four hours (and they only performed excerpts from the complete play). The story dealt with samurai, ronin, fake identities, fights, kidnapping and murder in the Edo period. It was like viewing a "live" action anime. Each (very realistic) puppet is handled by the puppet master (whose face you can see, but it' amazing how they manage to express, to signifie absolutely nothing) and his assistants (who use a black mask to signifie that they are invisible). The story is told by several singers that take turns and that do a sort of sprechgesang (they middle point between singing and talking), accompanied only by a shamisen (sort of a three stringed banjo) player. As Roland Barthes says, the perfomance is devoid of hysteria: the players do not try to show off their art but to dissapear in the play.