May 28, 2010

Fanime day 1

Ongoing blog post for Momoi stalking activities. This will by text heavy version when I want to do a bigger text dump instead of spam twitter via @paranda_update

11:30 AM
Momoi sound check earlier today around 9AM. I didn't see it, but I heard it (was stuck in line). Only so many people would sing "God Knows" with that kind of voice. Suspicion confirmed after I ran into ochawan and genman while I was waiting in the pre-reg line who did get to see it in person.

A short wait. I heard people were waiting for an hour yesterday during pre-reg pickup but I went through in about 20 minutes. Got my Momoi Quest stamp card. You might recognize the unique art style from mandichan.

Unfortunately, maybe due to time constraints or other reasons, the stamp cards were actually not cards at all. Seems to be printed on regular A4 white paper - no reinforcements, no lamination, and it's not cut evenly on the line - some peoples' corners were probably chopped off. Momoi's own card is actually a pretty good representation, which you can see here. As you can see, she traveled to the future and got all the events stamped.

I'll have to take good care of it, or it might just rip if somebody sneezes on it. Staking out stage zero now. Still several hours to go before Momoi's next scheduled appearance, but she's known to appear randomly. It's been pretty slow now and "club music" is REALLLLYY not my style.

But, tenton and catsspat should have rendezvoused with Japanese crew at the airport by now and are heading back so things will pick up shortly.

4:00 PM
Just returned to the hotel after a good 1st performance. This will be brief since I am about to leave again for the panel.

Be sure to follow yoshisawa who will probably broadcast all the events live.

5:15 PM
An early dinner for 10. Now onto the panel for real this time.

11:00 PM
Day 1 is now over. Two quest events were held today, a short mini-live (Quest #1) and a panel (Quest #2). Met some new faces like Silli, an awesome dude who came over from Germany, plus some old school forum goons from my earlier SA days.

Momoi did 3 songs for Quest #1. The set list was God Knows, Butterfly, and Akihabalove. It was off to a good start. Two out of three songs are UO-type songs, and one was a popular cover which I hadn't heard live before. During Akihabalove, Jun-chan and a Komugi cosplayer appeared as surprise guests.

After, we headed for stamps and goods table. Nice to see that the stamp design is also by mandi. The Right Gauge shop inventory contained No Answer No Live wristbands and phone straps, and a new set of Spring 2010 T-shirts in white, lime, and orange colors. There were no CDs on sale this time around.

Since nobody ate all day, we ended up cramming in a really early dinner with everyone before heading to the panel. In line, we discover there will be no shortage of camera angles. Momoists love gear. Yoshisawa provided streaming again, and autolooper was taping a higher def version for youtube which he will probably post in a few days.

Unfortunately, the panel forgot to announce the hint for the next quest location. Luckily, Momoi's manager let us know at the goods table: Karaoke room 11:00 AM tomorrow.

We headed to FLOW just in time to see the encore, then went for a big supply run at a local store. I'm really tired now so I'm going to turn in now that I've uploaded the rest of my stuff to Flickr. Tomorrow will be karaoke, Fanimaid concert (Momoi appeared last year and cheered with us in the audience), Momoi panel, teaching at the call workshop, and then rushing off to autographs. Big day ahead!

Posted by Paranda at 2:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2010

Fanime 2010 approaches

Only two more weeks to go. This year, Momoi will be doing a novel questing format for her appearances. According to the Fanime news post, you can follow her around to several events and accumulate quest points for a prize, with each subsequent location being revealed. If this is true, it's possible that performances will not be limited to stage zero. Will we see Momoi go back to her old street performer days, doing stuff right out in the open supported only by a boombox and a crowd? It's not unworkable, as we learned very well last year.

Other assumptions:

  • Momoi will probably be in cosplay the whole time. We already had Anise last year, so it's anybody's guess we'll get this time but probably RPG related.

  • Glowsticks will be ineffective in well lit open areas. Alternatives could be uchiwas, towels, and light wands that you can switch off. This year, we will probably be primarily using uchiwa, and LD20s with separate Momoi attachments.

  • Street-style performances will involve crowding around in a circle. There will be little space or opportunity for photo taking. Despite just buying a brand new 70-200 for my camera, it may be wise to leave this in the hotel safe on certain days or just bring a point & shoot backup (I wonder if the Canon SD4000 will be out soon?).

  • Audience interaction and participation will be at a much higher level this time around. Know the concert calls. Of course reading material is always supplied and fans will be teaching anybody who wants to learn. Momoists are not elitists!

I'll also be changing my preparation based on this information. Last year, I went a little overkill with the powerglove, two glowstick belts, backup light pouches, multiple towel attachments, and enough armbands to look like sleeves on both sides. It's actually embarassing to see the old photos, so this year I will go in low profile with just my trusty lights and uchiwa. Kigurumi is also recently more common with Momoi events, but they are usually animal themed. While fine in Japan, in the US, this has unfortunately been co-opted by a very different subculture.

While writing this, I did get reminded that I never actually talked about what happened last year. In fact my last post on it was this. Well to put it simply, it was worth it, so anyone who is thinking about attending should definitely go. To put some closure to that and to finally get it off my plate, I'm going to post a really fast version of that went down last year. Short because I can't remember much aside from it being a euphoric blur.
Day 1
- Pick up people at airport via glowstick signalling system
- Hang around with people as they come in. One Japanese fan brought Momoi artworks which he then signed and sent off to the art show
- Cheer Momoi at Opening ceremony

- Attend 1st panel

- Buy lots of merchandise

- Follow a hunch that Momoi might show up at open karaoke. She didn't so we just cheered anybody who did a Momoi song

Day 2
- Autograph 1. Momoi shows up as Anise. Get stuff signed. Then loiter around the back door.

- Attend Fanimaid performance
- Find Momoi at the same event. She jumps in and starts doing calls with the crowd on the side. Then she jumped on stage with the maids.

- Attend 2nd panel. It got broadcast live on Nico. Unfortunately Momoi lost her scrapbook at this event and whoever took it never gave it back >:(
- Attend Call Workshop and give away UOs for everyone so they can do the synchronized UO thing during LOVE.EXE.
- Go to dinner. Sounds not Important, but then we had this short exchange. Approximately...

Group thought process: Hey we're going out to dinner. Let's see if Priz is done shopping with Momoi yet. Let's call him!

So I do.

Me: hey where are you?
Priz: I'm having dinner with Momoi. Hang on a second
*A few seconds later*
Momoi: "HELLLOO"

Fuck! Momoi is on the phone!. Trade a few words. Then...we eye the groggy japanese fans who were totally dead from jet lag. This ought to wake them up...

Handed over phone to confused fan without saying anything. Never saw anyone stiffen up so fast and switch to instant polite mode. We huddle around a tiny phone straining to hear with speakerphone while Momoi gives a pretty long pep talk.

Then as a favor, she left a voice mail (major major props to priz for this). ~Mail Me~ in real life!

Day 3:
- Attend Fanimaid cafe on Momoi rumor. No show, but we got good service because the people who ran the cafe liked Momoi fans :)
- Unwrapped a zillion glowsticks and delivered them to concert staff to hand out at the door
- Wait in line for a long time. One Japanese fan went in hobostyle 8 hours early with a cardboard sign
Attended concert. Momoi walks right off the stage and into the audience like it's no big deal (momoi owns).
Bunch of fans joked about joining her up on stage just like in Hawaii. Turned out it actually happened.
Discovered the weakness of cheap bulk UO - they turn yellow and go out much sooner than cyalume brand UO!

Day 4
- Get more stuff signed. The artist decided to let us keep these after the art show was over. Top center frame now sitting on my desk :)

- A reward for loitering this time: Momoi group photo! Almost a tradition now
- The actual tourist part of the vacation: go visit some places Momoi talked about visiting while she was here. Winchester House for example.
- Amusing sidestory while en route to Winchester: we went with some of the Japanese fans who had yet to have the classic AMERICAN DINER experience. Luckily, the place we went to just happened to be one of the most stereotypical places ever (gator motifs, booths, mobster-like setting, and huge HUGE portions). One guy got a massive bowl of pasta bigger than his head for $8.

Pretty awesome itinerary if I do say so myself. Needless to say...there's lots of incentive to go again, and I'm really looking forward to Fanime this year. Probably a lot more impromptu crowd stuff like the maid performance incident.

Posted by Paranda at 11:31 PM | Comments (3)

May 11, 2010

Thinking about 1980 birthdays

The following ladies are about to be eligible for the 17 club this year.

Arai Satomi
Chihara Minori
Itou Shizuka
Kadowaki Maii
Sakakibara Yui
Ueda Kana

They'll be joining Endou Aya, Kaida Yuuko, Kobayashi Sanae, Mizuka Nana, Morinaga Rika, Noto Mamiko, Sakamoto Maaya, and others for 2010 inductees

Actually this year probably has the most people ascending to the next level that I can remember in recent history. For shows that I've watched at least...

It's a good year for 30s. One of these days I'm going to plot the ages of all the seiyuu I like against some arbitrary perceived favorability point system to see the distribution. If a tenuous link to ageism can be made at all, it actually seems to work in reverse in this industry - at least up to a point. Or of course, the other explanations being experience, "paying your dues", likelihood to land breakout role are probably better indicators.

Then again I can just write everything off as a stubborn refusal to admit there are people younger than me in the work force. I only graduated a little over two years ago dammit I'm still a kid and I want to watch my cartoons without feeling guilty! 24+ or bust!

Posted by Paranda at 3:06 AM | Comments (0)

May 5, 2010

Yukarin's average skirt length gets shorter every year

I said that aloud when I flipped my calendar today to see this May/June 2010 page.

Since I was thinking about it anyway, I decided to go back through some old concerts to take a look. Results...







There is clearly a trend as the hemline begins creeping above knee length. But of course we must be objective observers. Before we draw conclusions, how do we know it's not just random or if Yukarin is merely representing an overall larger trend? Well we'd have to compare it to a benchmark. Unfortunately, with my weak Google-fu I could not find year-over-year average skirt length data in Japan. So I used the next best thing. Normalized Nikkei 225 prices pulled for all of the concert dates. Why substitute a Japanese equities index? For the sake of this post, let's just make the completely ridiculous assumption that Hemline theory holds and that whatever tracks this mythical hemline has a beta of one.

So with that, if we consider the index to be reliable, it can be shown conclusively that KTS (knee-to-skirt) spreads on Yukari have been widening drastically since 2006. We can only conclude Yukari is clearly diverging from the trend with skirt length reductions which cannot be explained by overall shifts in the skirt fashion trends. Thus there is a strong possibility these changes are intentional and will continue further.

So... with Princess a la mode about to ship in a month, do we have to prepare for nosebleed levels?

Posted by Paranda at 2:22 AM | Comments (0)

May 3, 2010

Pencil Live 2010 thoughts

Well I've had a long sleep deprived day now I'm finally home again

When Pencil Live 2010 advertised Momoi, Sakakibara Yui, KOTOKO, and others...I was sort of expecting Pencil Live to use them as key acts between a variety of artists and that ultimately we'd only see 3 - 4 songs from each performer. It turns I was wrong - this event was completely dedicated to them. The only unlisted performance was a special number by Sanch who flew in especially from South Korea.

What a combo huh?

The feed went up at 16:30 as promised (3:30 for me) and they started playing a lot of recognizable game music. A couple of death screams were heard, but all around the crowd was pretty subdued, maybe they warned them not to be rowdy. Of course whatever reservedness they had was filed away as the countdown started.

I always forget that in Japan, concerts actually start punctually and not 55 minutes past the billing time like in the U.S. Within half a minute on the turn of the hour, a guy came out to do a short intro and Momoi jumped in immediately after, dressed in full Tsurupeta cosplay. Intentional or not, the costume's style, accessories, and hat called strongly to her old UNDER17 outfits.

Momoi gave us a very impressive set list with a great mix of old favorites and newer songs, with the majority being from Pajamas Soft's series of Prism ____ games.

1. Shokuzai no rhapsody
It's a good opener that highlighted her singing abilities, with a lot of comments just remarking on her vocal mastery. But only after this track the moe song fan service begins.

2. Kyouryuu shoujo
Pencil's website telegraphed it was coming, but I still got overcome with nostalgic feelings form this wonderful callback to the UNDER17 era. When singing it, Momoi still sounds exactly the same as then. During MCs, Momoi spotted a guy with the T-shirt and towels from her old concerts with that unit.

3. Chiccha na bouken
Next was a blatant nya~nya~ track to get the comments box flooded with exclamations of cute. One of her rare cutesy songs in the last few years. Have not heard anything like it since Utamaru Ekaki Uta.

4. Majokko Tsurupeta Magical
Momoi also came armed with a brand new song from the new Prism Magical game, showcasing a warm airy tune that combined orchestral instruments with computerized bleep-bloop.

5. Naito de Naito
uuuuuUUUU HAI! Fast paced...UOs...the best kind of track for a live house.

6 Opera Fantasia
Another Shikura Chiyomaru track. Opera Fantasia is pretty standard Momoi fare which is reliant on strong vocals.

7 Yuuen no Amulet
A fan favorite. There were LOTS of UO lit up for this one, and an especially loud crowd coordinated perfect PPPH and stealth romance. This was a fitting closer that left everyone satisfied, tired, and thankful of a big break to come. (there was also Momoi singing about 30 seconds of Saisho to saigo no mahou but we won't count that officially)

So, did the Niconico format work? Overall, it was worth the $20. For one, psychologically just knowing something is in real time already provides a greater enjoyment similar to how we enjoy watching sports live rather than taped. Plus there's the running commentary from the viewers. But, even beyond that, there is a surprising bit of participation, which while at face value sounds incredibly lame, actually does provide a pretty unique and amusing experience. For Nico viewers, synchronized comment spamming fills in for cheers and color coded text fills in for coordinated glow stick coloring.

On criticisms, my main complaint would be to improve the stream quality. For $20, we had the feed get cut twice, and while the audio was good, picture-wise we got some grainy video that looked like it got uploaded from some guy's cell phone set on a tripod. The other is not directed to Niconico but to Pencil Live itself: don't waste the lineup! You're putting Momoi, Sakakibara Yui, and KOTOKO together and NOT doing a collaboration? When there was no encore I was incredulous. It's not like there's a shortage of songs. I mean there's even a Momoi and Yui duet already in Pajamas Soft's library (Prism Knight ~nijiiro no kioku~). Just jam KOTOKO in there and be done with it!

I do hope they made good sales on the web cast though. Dwango has a good thing going on here, and one that is sure appreciated by those of us who live on the opposite side of the world without the means to attend multiple events per year.

Other stuff I want to say (in order of appearance):

On Sanch-san.
She's a cute but really REALLY quiet girl who made her first trip to Japan from Korea. She got a big welcome though, maybe even a little too big. I didn't know the song she sang, but everyone else there did and their cheering was so intense sometimes the crowd actually drowned her out. A lot of comments were just cheering her on and asking her to throw herself into it more. I can understand the nervousness though. There are big fish there. Actually I would kind of like to know what song she did because it was pretty good, and she did a good job. That kind of soft-spoken voice was not a bad fit for the tune after all.

On Sakakibara Yui
I think Yuinyan's anti-otagei reputation is a bit overblown - when she appeared people were wondering if the audience would be banned from doing PPPH. Come on she's not that scary! I'm pretty sure she just dislikes the extreme stuff since some dude actually launched a glowstick onto her stage in the past, but regular jumping and cheering hardly falls under this umbrella. She looked absolutely welcoming of the crowd support. In terms of singing, Yuinyan always seems to be the most artificial to me. Her voice is very heavily processed and half the time I feel like it's actually just a recording in the back, especially since her dance moves are so incredibly hard - it seems nearly impossible to sing properly with that level of activity. Luckily to make up for it she has an excellent arsenal of songs, an absolutely fantastic "おk" which resulted in a zillion comments being posted gushing over it, and also the awesome Soshite boku ha which could have only been improved if she showed up in her skimpy nun costume. Ultimately, she is a good performer with a great repertoire even if all of her singing is prerecorded.

When KOTOKO did her MC, it really hit me that every that Momoi, Yui, KOTOKO...they are hardcore veterans with 10+ years under their belts. They know what they are doing. KOTOKO just really ruled the end like an iron fist dictator. Her command over the music and the crowd was just so complete. Just look at dis coordinated EEEEEEEEEHHH when she announced her last song.

And with her projection, she really is the one who earns the moniker utahime the most. Despite her gangly appearance, tongue-tied mishaps, and cutesy hairstyle, we all know the massive experience she has stowed away under all of it. Plus, everyone knows there are two KOTOKOs. The cute one we see here who forgets the names of her own songs (Genzai no Prism...uh I mean....Requiem), and the stone cold LED sunglasses wearing white haired alien space lady who shows up in videos like epsilon and Re-sublimity. Somehow she expertly plays both two images with minimal dissonance.

Posted by Paranda at 11:26 PM | Comments (4)

May 1, 2010

Let's watch Momoi in Pencil Live 2010

On May 3rd, the sold out Pencil Live 2010 will feature Momoi, KOTOKO, and Yui-nyan celebrating exactly what made them legendary in the first place back in the day. Erogame music.

Given that it's probably the first time those three ever stood together on one stage, It's already a powerful combination and persuasive argument to attend the live event in person, but this time there IS a second best alternative. The very interesting thing about this event is that there will be a live broadcast. If you participated in the (failed) live feed of Momoi's concert, or even just twittered concerts with Yukarin and really had fun for that, then this may worth looking into. Although it's a pay broadcast, 2 of the major international credit cards (Visa & Mastercard) will work with Nico's point system.

Mercifully, the concert time translates to 4 AM EST for me, so I can wake up early and watch the whole thing before I book it to work (any later than that and I'd miss it like I've missed every Momoi radio broadcast in the last year). Let's meet on the day of the live and cheer virtually! If you've got a broken sleep schedule and a spare 2000 yen burning a hole in your pocket what better way to spend a Monday?

I documented the points process in case anyone is new to this system. I know it took me a few tries and a call to my bank to clear up some automatic fraud detection flags. People who know Nico inside out can just skip this.

First things first, if at any point in the purchasing process you see this page, that is basically Dwango telling you that it does not give a shit about you, a customer who is trying to give them money, and you need to fuck off and try again later.

Basically before you can buy the online ticket you need to set up your NicoNicoPoints account from Scroll down and click through the disclaimer and you should see this page. From hereon out I'm just going to circle everything to click and hopefully by some miracle, it will work the first time and you won't have to see that enraging "we're too busy" page mentioned above over and over.

It's pretty straight foward. Get 2000 points. 1 yen is 1 point. Of course as a dirty foreigner you'll wind up paying more than 2000 yen after various credit card fees.

Click for credit card.

Input credit card number, enter date, hit next.

Confirm the purchase

If you see this page, it means you succeeded. If you DON'T see this page, then it means your credit card got rejected and you now have to call customer service for your card and explain to them that you are trying to buy access to a Japanese video site, while casually throwing in the fact that Dwango is a legitimate Tokyo Stock Exchange listed public corporation to distinguish it from 99% of other unwholesome internet transactions involving online video.

Now you can head over to the ticket purchase page and hit the big red button. Be prepared to try a zillion times.

Eventually, you'll succeed and see this glorious page. Save the serial code, you'll need it later. It also goes to your email address, assuming you provided a real one when you signed up for your nico account so you can use that as well.

On the day of the live, go to the lobby and put your serial code in the box to join the feed.

Seating begins at 16:30 JST. Be there or be square.

Thanks to mandi who diligently keeps us all up to date on Momoi's Niconico activities.

Posted by Paranda at 1:13 AM | Comments (1)

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