September 30, 2010

Starry Candy Stripe in Sendai

For Sendai, I won't go into songs since the set list was the same as Niigata which you can read here. I was hoping to catch Koiseyo if Yukari was going to mix up the encore, but looks like all the tracks are going to be identical for each live. Still, there are some interesting experiences to mention, because the MCs are different and the fans are different.

Sendai Sun Plaza Hall was very cozy, and even though it seated more people they felt closer to the stage. Since I had no pressure to buy limited goods this time, I came only one hour before the live thus skipping all the lines and arriving fresh with maximum energy. When I went to the goods table, I was surprised to see the limited Sendai-only t-shirts hadn't sold out so I bought one. It must be the unappealing green color and weird drawing on the back this time that killed the sales. After I got into the hall, I found that my ticket, originally thought to be 6th row center based on a seating chart, was actually third row again since the hall was using a compact layout. My section was a tiny little patch roped off by cords way in the front and the best seats in the house. Wow that's lucky! When I sat down this time, all the fans in the area around turned around and said "yoroshiku", a little bit of camraderie building that was repeated for everyone who entered the section. Since people were being really chummy in this section, I introduced myself to the fan next to me and he showed off a Nanoha costume that he put together himself for the "Cherry" puppet. I'd have taken a picture, but the staffers were being very strict about cameras even attached to phones and I didn't want to get kicked out for any dumb reason.

Yukari has been in Sendai before so the tone of her MC was kind of like that of a reunion. She remarked this time that people looked like bugs with all the green t-shirts, and what was up with that? The audience went "EEEHHH? This is your own T-shirt!" Well she was totally taken aback "WHAT? That's the gentei shirt? Sorry, I really didn't know. I'm serious I really didn't see it before!" In the middle of talking she noticed the ropes that were sectioning off the different zones, and said it really looked like a cats cradle. We got called the dangerous section since we were roped off from all sides. When she followed the lines, she also found that left and right sections' seats come to a single point. So she rallied up cheers for the people who had solo seats on the tips. Never trust Yukari's kindness though, because she continued "How come you're sitting alone? Don't you have any friends?"

She followed up by asking how many people came to Sendai the same day like her, so I and a big group of people rose their hands. Then she asked who came in the day before, and another small group rose their hands. Finally she asked who was in Sendai about even before that? Another big group rose their hands. "What? Why? What did you do before?" Fans yelled out "Well we live in Sendai" to explain, but she shot that down with "Oh, if you live in Sendai then shut up I don't wanna hear you." She revealed that she herself was part of the first group, and that she actually didn't come to Sendai until that morning. So what about that tweet she posted the previous night about eating gyutan (Sendai's local specialty)? "Actually I had that in Shinjuku lol." Another huge "EHHHHH" from the audience. Oh Yukarin...

In the second MC, Yukarin joked that everyone probably staked out at the Sendai Animate for nothing, since she only just came to Sendai today and the only thing she did was go to eat ramen. She said the full name of the restaurant, but I don't think anybody knew where it was.

In the third MC right after acoustic corner where she had changed into her frilly skirt, the audience coordinated claps and she got really interested and wanted to try. She became de-facto clap leader. It started out innocently but of course with Yukarin, it ended up with her trying to fake out the audience with surprise claps and odd patterns. Yukarin asked who came from Niigata and some fans cheered. Then she asked who was coming to Sendai for the first time, which was the majority. She said she was disappointed. "Did you check online to see what the set list and stuff was gonna be?" Fans replied yes, so she said "Ok then, quiz! What dance did I do in Niigata?". She proceeded to once again do that ridiculous dance (only halfway this time though).

She was in the middle of talking when a staffer tried to move from one side of the hall to the backstage area. Unfortunately, he wasn't stealthy enough as he caught Yukari's attention when he was hunched over. Since his shirt was riding up, Yukari yelled "Ahh I can see his underwear!" as he embarassedly scuttled away. Then she debated whether it was boxers or briefs. As she was on the topic of underwear, she suddenly asked the audience "know what I have on underneath this?" For this dress, she implied she was wearing something that wasn't safe to show to keep the form (not bloomers) and teased lifting up her skirt but then said "I'm definitely not showing you." Since she brought it up, it was fair game for the audience to keep calling for it. I didn't quite understand the exchange after, but somehow Masanyan and the drummer Hatabou ended up taking the blame for the fan reaction, and Yukarin loudly exclaimed "The H in Hatabou stands for HENTAI." It became a running gag for the rest of the evening that the drummer wanted to see Yukarin's pantsu and the rest of the band tried to assist him with this like positioning his seat directly under the big staircase where Yukarin stands to perform. They also joked that he had a camera hidden in his shoe when he was standing awkwardly near her.

The Sendai travel video was less interesting than the Niigata one, probably because she only had one day to shoot it. She went to Sendai station to buy some omiyage and had some noodles at Tanaka. Actually the most interesting part was just when she was sitting in a car trying to guess what HDTV stood for (HAADO, no, HAI...HAI...DISSOLUTION? DIMINITION? DEBANATION, DEFEENEESHON? HAI DEFEENEESHON *whips out portable english dictionary* DE-FUH-NI-SHUN. DE-FUH-NI-SHUN. HAI DEFUNISHUN TEREBI SETTO!). The engrish was cute, but her attempt to imitate the american accent in her dictionary was just so damn funny. But I guess the humor is lost to non-english speakers - I was the only person laughing at the final "correct" pronounciation.

During MERON time, Yukari tried to find her staff but this time they wised up and were nowhere to be seen. Angry and disappointed, she resorted to using just using band members to demonstrate this time. She also meroned the girl holding the camera (during which we suddenly became aware that unlike Niigata this event was being taped). Then she turned to the audience. Since this hall had balconies, she did meron and reverse meron starting from the 3rd floor down to the arena. It was standard fare for the 2 balconies, but when it came to our turn in the arena, she froze it, and froze it way longer than last time. Then she went to get water, and everyone in the arena, still frozen in back bridges, managed to force out strained "omizu oishii" yells. She thought it was funny how painful the calls sounded and did an impression of it. "Even though your'e meromero, you'll still yell that?" She threatened to start the next song without releasing meron.

Aside from unique MCs, the live mostly went the same as the one in Niigata but I had as much fun the second time as the first time around, and I gained a further appreciation for just how wonderful the acoustic corners are.

Goods for the day: just a green "mushi" T-shirt


Yukari fan spotted on the Matsushima island cruise.

Posted by Paranda at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2010

MOSAIC.WAV Jouraku Live in Uzumasa

On 9/25, I attended the MOSAIC.WAV Jouraku Live in Uzumasa

I've been to Uzumasa's movie themepark in 2008 before, but since MOSAIC.WAV was performing this time I decided to make the trip to Kyoto once again. Their "Jouraku Live" was part of Uzumasa Sengoku Matsuri, which is a Sengoku themed event held annually at Toei Uzumasa Eigamura since 2006. The the mascot of the festival Karasu Tengu Uju is voiced by MOSAIC.WAV's lead singer MI-KO, and her images songs are created by the band.

I arrived at the park in the afternoon with nyol, though we felt a bit out of place with all the fujoshi cosplayers there for COS-PATIO. But once 4PM rolled around, MOSAIC.WAV fans started filling the area and we soon met up with some Kansai Momoists. For obvious reasons, there is plenty of overlap between UNDER17 and MOSAIC.WAV so it wasn't unusual to see them there. Seeing as they also carried ave;new straps, we got along pretty quick.

Fan engineered "light claw" held together with rigid bar reinforcements and plastic fasteners

Before the live started, I went to the goods table and got some Uju tea, Uju Maccha candy, and the latest Uju image song CD. The tea purchase included a special card from Uju's illustrator nanamin (designed like a playing card), and the CD purchase included a numbered autograph lottery ticket.

At 5PM, we started lining up outside the Nakamuraza theatre, a big building that doubled as a meeting hall in old samurai movies. Though my number was 197 to get in, I was able to get pretty close to the stage and there was plenty of space to move around.

Nakamuraza Theatre, way overexposed (sorry)

While waiting for the event to start, the stage projected videos of interviews with Uju's creators and artist. Close to showtime, cosplayers (same girls pictured here) officially acting as Uju and Enmusubi Tengu Ai came on stage to prep the crowd and members of MOSAIC.WAV followed shortly. MI-KO appeared in a festival getup, Kayamori showed up in a classy looking top hat with rabbit ears, and finally Koike aniki, who pretty much looks the same as from the UNDER17 days only he's traded his trademark black coat for a wool skullcap and ripped jeans.

MI-KO started talking oddly and in a thick accent, which I assume was Kyoto dialect which got some laughs from the crowd. The band started with Ujutama Ujurinpa Kyoukotoba version a slow song which makes use of Japanese instruments and Kyoto dialect, but used the closing to transition seamlessly into the fast paced original version like it was one big song. The effect was enormously successful.

Next song was the 2009 Uju single, Tenshinranman Nyubabababa-n (aff. links). It was so incredibly upbeat I fell into the rhythmn immediately. This is one of those songs that fits classic MOSAIC.WAV's mold of old school denpa exactly, and many parts of it were pretty much crafted specifically for calls (BABABAAN, GOGOGOGO, etc) so by the end I was completely exhausted from getting so into it.

Then the band continued with Katamichi Catch Ball from the most excellent anime Potemayo. Since I haven't been keeping up with MOSAIC.WAV in the recent years, I was originally worried I wouldn't know much of the set list. But after this, those fears were put to rest. So far they played 4 songs in a row that I knew and liked, and hey after hearing something like Katamichi Catch Ball at an Uju event, I think I can accept whatever else they throw at me. People were spinning all over during "guru guru mawaru planet" and generally having a good time. This is just such a happy and uplifting song.

Uju, Suzuhime, and Ai. They were greeting as you went into building. They are NOT the cosplayers who danced on stage though (see link above)

Next was Sennou, Sakushu, Tora no Maki, another supremely fun song from their Superluminal AKIBA-POP album. MI-KO lead the chorus chants and provided hand motions for everyone to follow. Same deal with Zensekaiteki Touch Panel. Touch Panel was the first song I didn't know, but no worries because we got a whole room miming touch panel actions with UOs MI-KO conducting up top as the queen bee Post-live research says this song was released during this year's C78, and is now likely to enter into heavy rotation on my upcoming playlists.

During MC, Koike asked if there was anybody from Australia (I guess he must have gotten mail from somebody saying they would be there). But, it was a no-show. Then he asked if there was anybody from overseas, so I yelled New York. I was hoping to fish out some engrish conversation from them, but they asked me in Japanese if I was here specifically for this event. Of course I said "yes" though technically, I'm here for a lot of lives, but yeah I'm in Kansai specifically for MOSAIC.WAV. Fans did the whole "ohhhh" thing and clapped.

After MC, they did Yuri Seijin Naoko-san. Since I don't know the song and it wasn't that interesting I'll skip it in favor of the mega surprise she threw next. Even hardcore fans next to me went nuts when MI-KO started chanting AKIBA-POP, and then the tune hit. Bliss to my ears. This ranks up there with hearing Popotan at A-North. Goddamn it's We Love AKIBA-POP!!, a song that I have probably looped 8 zillion times when I first got interested in MOSAIC.WAV. I never thought I'd hear this at an event in 2010 and I was totally stunned at my excellent luck. "A. K. I. B. A. AKIBAPOP, YAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!" during the song's swell is the most fun chant to do in the world. That's right, if we just go word for word, it's more fun than even any Momoi or Yukarin chant.

Finally MI-KO announced the last song for the night, their newly released single Nou Nai Sai Sei ~Ecphoric Dance~.

Like Momoi, MOSAIC.WAV has a unique encore chant of "A. K. I. B. A. AKIBA POP!" instead of the typical "EN-KO-RE". During the chant, even the stage crew got into it and flashed the spotlights between pauses. The encore session was very short, and the band reappeared after only a few minutes.

During the encore MC, they made fun of themselves for how fast their songs are (measured his average BPM at 230). When Koike said he did work on the new Ikamusume anime, he said "this time it's a slow song. Only 180BPM" which got "uh that's still pretty fast" response from the audience. They also brought back the cosplayers for the encore, where they would stay as background dancers (just doing really simple dances). During their intros, Uju and Ai would each come up to the stage, spin around, and fans would scream kawaii (for Uju, MI-KO also did a surprise voice-over from behind). Fans called for MI-KO to do the spin too, but she got embarassed and wanted all the MOSAIC.WAV members to go up with her. So everyone went up and crowd screamed kawaii. Before MI-KO could reply though, Koike took the mic and and said "thanks" much to everyone's amusement.

The encore tracks were Uju's 2010 theme song Jintori Batoru! (sp?) Marutake Ebesu and Dennou Kassen X Uju no Jin, two very fast paced songs that burned the rest of the crowd's energy and UOs.

After the live, we stayed around to wait for the autograph raffle results. The uju cosplayer started picking drawing numbers and I got called as the second winner. I went up to the stage to get autographs and handshakes with the band members. When I got to Koike, he asked if I was native Japanese living in NY, which I denied. Kayamori didn't say anything, but he's a silent kind of guy so it was expected - looking back I really regret not saying something to him. Anyway, he had a big friendly grin and had a firm handshake. When I got to MI-KO, the first thing she said was New York must be cold and did an exaggerated shivering. Then she asked if I was flying back that day. In the spur of the moment, I just said yes (even though I've got another week) so she gave me a good luck wishes on my journey back.

Signed copy of latest Uju 2010 image song CD

Out of all the events I've been too so far, MOSAIC.WAV audience energy is probably the closest to Momoi's style. The chants and movements are heavily coordinated, and the cyalume policy is pretty much a choice between max out lights or ultra orange.

Final goods for the day: Uju CD, maccha candy, Uju tea, and Uju collectible cards. No picture because I packed them real deep in my suitcase and don't wanna unpack them now

Posted by Paranda at 12:26 AM | Comments (4)

September 28, 2010

Starry Candy Stripe in Niigata

On 9/23, I attended Tamura Yukari's LOVE LIVE 2010 Starry Candy Stripe in Niigata

I arrived at 5 AM and there were already about 30 people in line, probably from the night before as they were clearly in for the long haul with folding chairs and thermoses. More people showed up around 7AM and the line grew very quickly after that. Looking at the line, most people were wearing Yukari shirts from the previous year's fanclub event or live, and a lot of girls were cosplaying as Yukari. I guess it's kind of easy to replicate since a lot of her wardrobe is from Baby, The Stars Shine Bright line, but a few fans went the extra mile and duplicated costumes such as her bunny outfit from Love Live Chelsea Girl (aff. link). This wasn't a great day to wear expensive clothing though. Niigata was cold and wet. It rained the whole day, very heavily at times, so by the time the goods booth opened at 12:00, almost everyone was totally drenched even though they had umbrellas.

After entering, there was a big prop sign welcoming people and speakers playing Citron no Ame album tracks in the background. Multiple tables were able to process people quickly. The most popular goods were obviously the limited stuff, but especially the Chibi Yukari doll - virtually every single person in line bought one. Gentei shirt this time was an orange T-shirt with onigiri drawn on the back (rice being a specialty of Niigata). The hoodie was also a popular choice, and even though it wasn't limited it sold out pretty quickly. Pink wristbands, pink towels, and pink shirts were also selling faster than their other colors since it's the official Yukari Kingdom colors. I got everything I needed, but when I went back to check on the booth at around 4pm, all of the above were sold out. After goods, I played gacha to try and get the special prize. I ended up winning on my fourth try, and turned in the winning ticket for a leather Yukarin pocket book. I decided to keep playing gacha anyway though because I wanted to see what other stuff came out. Exhausting all my 500 yen coins, I ended up with some neat stuff like mint tins, tiny dolls, and a bunch of posters (many extras). I've got Poster A x 3, Poster B x 2, and Poster D x 2. I'm happy to give away the extras, but will gladly trade for a Poster C if you got it (trades get 1st priority).

Fans waiting in the rain for goods

After gacha, I just chilled on the couches in Niigata TERRSA's lobby with other Yukari fans until they started letting people into the hall. When we were walking in, some fans gave out callbooks which looked pretty professional and had full color pages.

I found my seat in the third row and immediately noticed that the stage was very close - about only 3 feet away from the front row's do-not-cross line. The rows were also close together, so I'd judge that the stage was probably about a total of 12 feet away from me. Not only that, but I was sitting on the inside corner towards the center of the stage so it was a great unobstructed view. Around starting time, people started taking out the Yukarin happi coats and tying headbands. I had mine with me but I decided it was too hot and just stuck with T-shirt. I'm not that hardcore of a fan anyway to go in uniform.

Around 6pm the lights dimmed and there was a brief countdown before Yukarin stepped out of the mist and came down the steps. Her first outfit was a spotted red & white top, a poofy dark blue skirt with white frills, and white lace-up boots. She launched a strong opener with Heavenly Stars, then Chelsea Girl. I probably watched and memorized various performances of Chelsea Girl about 200 times across different DVDs so often it was really hard to fight the urge to copy her movements, since I should be harmonizing with the fan calls instead. Looks like some fans next to me had the same problem, and were trying to decide whether to copy Yukarin or just go with the crowd actions and would switch from one to the other and back again. Next was Oshiete A to Z, another recent favorite with its own unique synchronized clapping.

After she finished there were lots of very loud "YUKARI" screams. She opened up her first MC asking if anyone actually knew the full name of the venue. Nobody replied, so she read out the concert hall's incredibly long english name "Niigata Town Employee Relax Refresh Social Amenity" (Niigata TERRSA) and its introduction. When she went to get water, some dude yelled out "omizu oishii" which became a main focus of MCs later on.

Niigata TERRSA

The next song was Kamisama Rescue Me!!, a tropical sounding tune with steelpans that was choreographed with hula hoops held by each dancer. When this song started, Kusundeneko and Kusundenaineko, who I didn't notice were missing for the first few songs popped out onto the stage. She tore off her blue skirt to reveal a frumpy pair of short red bloomers. Following was Goody & Happy with a very jazzy feel to it, and Little Wish ~first step~. It was pretty surprising to hear Little Wish so early. This is a fan favorite which everyone in the audience knows and loves, so all the calls and hand motions were practiced to perfection. During the final chants, she went behind the stairs to change costumes while a video narrated by Donna Burke played to introduce the band members and dancers. When she came back, she had changed into a short cyan dress and matching slippers. Then, she did Shooting Star and Suna Ochiru Mizu no Kyuuden before she took another break to talk to the audience.

This was a fan teasing segment, as Yukarin started to talk about how she got creepy messages on twitter where people said they licked her thighs in her pictures. Secretly, she's actually quite proud of it. Since she was wearing that really short dress, she teased hiding her thighs by crouching down and turning to the side. All the upper rows started going "eeeeeeh" and yelling "let us see!" When she was gloating to most of the audience, she suddenly looked in our corner's direction and went "Ah, even though they can't see, you guys have a nice position right?" Yeah Yukarin, lined up a pretty open view for the bottom left side from that angle. If this were an anime, it would the part where the entire row shoots nosebleed fountains.

Lobby just as they opened doors into the live hall

When she got back up, unrelated to any topic at hand, she did this incredibly stupid looking dance out of nowhere which looked like a sumo prep routine but with more stomping and flapping your arms. After she did it once, the audience started chanting "mouikkai" but she became embarassed about it and refused to do it unless everyone else did it too. So we did! The entire audience started doing the same ridiculous looking dance while she lead on.

Next was Hadashi no Princess. She went ran back and changed into a red dress with fringes and an elaborate skirt that folded around the back but left most of the front open to show off her legs before coming out to do Tomorrow. The song included some pyrotechnics, so there were flames shooting out from parts of the stage. Next was Cursed Lily and Love Sick. During Love Sick, the audience tried to do motsu's parts. I barely knew this song so I just mumbled gibberish - you can't tell the difference during a live anyway. But, it didn't seem like too many people knew the parts in my section either. It must be too new. Yukari's dance for this song was nice though, and it had her doing a lot of interesting steps outside of her usual predictable idol moveset. She was really moving around a lot for it.

There was another break for costume change. We watched a video of the cats trying to wake her up. They starting with yelling, then escalated to banging pots and pans, tickling her with cattails, and throwing ice on her. At one part, they came out in Yukari Happis and started doing Yukari PPPH which got the entire crowd to follow along. This woke her up, but she told everyone to shut up and went back to sleep. After a long time, she finally woke up and the cats put on her new outfit and stepped toward the screen. Real Yukarin synchronized her exit onto the stage in the same outfit, an elaborate pink lolita dress with ribbons. During the video, the band members had swapped out all of their electric instruments for acoustic ones to do Namida no Loop. For the song, Yukarin came really close to the audience and sat in a chair to sing the ballad supported only by these instruments. Everyone stayed pretty quiet and just enjoyed her singing voice. Acoustic corners are one of my favorite moments because there's no pressure to do any calls, and the complete silence from the audience allows you to just sit there and really take in the atmosphere and focus 100% of your attention to the singer on stage. You could listen to all the intricacies of the singing and it was really nice. I never really listened to this song much on albums, but it sounded really great live. I guess she uses corners like this to remind people that yeah she's actually a good singer and it's not all about idoling and cheering.

During MC, she showed off her changed costume. Fans yelled out that the ribbons were cute so she told them jealously if they liked ONLY the ribbons so much they should just marry it. Continuing the theme of the evening, every time she went to get water, or even reach for water, people yelled "omizu oishii." She tested it out with other band members and had the same thing happen to them. Then she had every band member drink from their water bottle while the crowd cheered, and asked them "omizu oishii?" When they said yes, the crowd exploded into way overly enthusiastic celebration. IDGI I guess Yukari fans are really easily amused?? After all the band members had water, she asked if everyone in the audience also brought water, and people held up their water bottles. What happened next was crazy: she went to each section (middle, left, right) and picked a random person in the first row. Then she went over and sat REALLY close, like legs dangling over the stage close, leaned into them, made them drink and asked the same question. As a bonus for our section, when the guy started drinking she started panting really heavily and said in this totally deep ero voice like " water good?" Even for us in the third row, it was the best and closest view of Yukarin all night. In another segment, she asked fans what specialty should be eaten in Niigata, and the prevaling answer seemed to be yakisoba with meat sauce. Gotta try that when I'm back in Niigata next week.

She announced her next song Sugar Tune, which got a loud crowd reaction and also made people bring out the koiseyo puppets. The song also has its own hand motions which had to be copied, so it was a good thing I watched some concerts beforehand and followed along. Then, Metausahime came. If there was any UO song, this was it, but from what I've seen Yukari concerts only accept one color: pink. During the "hizamazuke" line, the ENTIRE crowd just went down quickly and it was an awesome sight to see. The "Haaahaaaaaa" chants also involved throwing yourself down in a bow, immediately followed by scrambling back up again to yell out "Hime, hime, hime hime hime." In all, it was pretty intense and definitely one of the highlights of the night.

Another break this time. She played a clip where she went to the animate store in Niigata the day before. At the store, her goods were selling at the end of one aisle so she hid around the shelf to see if anyone was buying it. She was really disappointed when nobody was looking at her goods so she tried to hide close to where customers were standing, yell a really quick "AHEM~SELLINGYUKARIALBUMSHERE" in a disguised voice, and then duck away. When the people ignored it, there was a huge EEEHHHHHH from the audience. After a lot of tries, someone finally came over and Yukari happily ambushed the surprised customer. When he revealed he bought the album, she signed it for him and initiated a handshake. This got a huge reaction from the concert hall. She did this with a few more customers and was then asked by animate staff to sign her name on one of animate's store posters. She couldn't spell the kanji for Niigata so she was trying to copy some tiny text on the bottom corner of the poster, but messed up with a hilariously ugly looking 潟 and had to write "niigata" in hiragana on top of it to clarify - if you go visit animate in Niigata you'll find this amusing mistake still displayed on the wall for all to see.

After the video, Yukarin came back in a white sailor (officer style, not the school kind) blouse, layered checkered skirt, and knee high white boots. She did one more song Koi no Time Machine before it was Meron time. The fans pre-empted the great reveal because they saw Meromero stick on the counter and called out for it while she was still talking about other stuff, so she had no choice but to cut her MC short and bring it out. For the usual demonstration, she caught several staff members (trying to flee) and lined them up execution style alongside the band members and meroooonnned them all. Then she said "I wonder if this works in reverse" and waved them back into standing position while going "nrooomeeee~". She tried the same thing with the audience, MERON and then reverse NROME. On the second pass, since we were all expecting backwards meron everyone froze after doing the meron wave but she just cut it off after meron and went "wtf are you all doing?"

After we got all got our fill being zapped with meromero, she did You & Me. There was a lots of hype for this song since everyone was pumped to do the motsu rap part. Yukarin feat. kokumin was a great success and very very loud. During the rap, Yukarin looked like a kid who just made a huge heist from the cookie jar with that smile on her face. I guess she had a good time getting everyone to yell out such long segments. Then the band immediately transitioned into Fancy baby doll. There are two kinds of people in this world, people who have yelled out "Sekai ichi kawaii yo!" during a live FBD performance and people who haven't. The latter is missing a vital life experience, which I'm glad to say after years of waiting I finally got. She also continued the usual tradition of throwing out usagi dolls randomly into the audience. Before the final sabi, there was a segment to introduce band members and dancers. When the song resumed at the climax ("and I'm Tamura Yukari, 17 years old") the crowd just went into insane overdrive. The next few songs had almost no breaks, but there was just so much energy I think we all forgot to be tired. She went through Love love baby happy star, a song from the new album which will probably become one of the most fun and energetic live pieces in her repertoire, and candy smile. In the middle of candy smile, she removed her top and skirt to reveal a tiny orange one-piece. For the last two songs, Gratitude and Love me now, a ton of people busted out pompoms that they must have kept from FC events earlier this year (recall Love me now PV). Also during the Gratitude climax, there was a big pop and gold ribbons dropped from the ceiling onto the audience. For the rest of us without pompoms, we just continued to use pink penlight or ribbons that we caught. Again, Love Me Now had a special dance that was taught to fans during the FC event so you couldn't just rely on usual call instincts. Luckily the dances have a certain predictable pattern to it, and I was able to copy easily.

During the encore, I took time to turn around and fully absorb the feeling of an entire mountain of people behind chanting and waving pink penlights. Yukarin quickly came back in a pink concert t-shirt, miniskirt, and Chibi Yukarin doll attached to her hip. She thanked everyone for the encore and launched into Douwa Meikyu, which always ranks very highly during the FC events. Next was Super Special Smiling Shy Girl which was so much fun with fans singing part of the chorus and yelling "SUPER SPECIAL SMILING SHY GIRL" together.

During the last MC, she was supposed to blow a dinky little trumpet and surprise everyone while GOD (saxophonist) secretly busted out a sax solo from behind, but she missed the cue and messed up the timing causing everyone to laugh at her.

For the final song, she sang My Wish My Love, an appropriate track to wind everyone down for the night. At the end, she held hands with everyone on stage and asked everyone in the audience to do the same to take a huge bow. Some guys were hesitating, but she used some reverse psychology which appears to have worked. She said, "if you don't want to do it, just shake off the person's hand like this" while doing a disgusted throwing motion. After that, everyone started reaching across even between the aisles until all the lines were connected and then the whole audience took a huge coordinated bow with Yukarin leading.

I thought there would be a second encore, but Yukarin signaled it was the true end and stood on the stage to wave at people for a long time - like a really long time. She moved really deliberately from each aisle to aisle and made direct eye contact and waved to every single person who attended, which was pretty cool - you could just see her eyes moving across each row slowly, waving, and doing a smile. Whenever she reached a new aisle, the aisle coordinated a big "Se-no, YUKARIN" yell that she enjoyed getting each time. Finally after almost half an hour of waving she gave one last actually sincere sounding "thank you" and left the stage while blowing kisses. When the lights came back on, fans led the post-concert chant and everyone did the clap-clap-clap-HEY thing that you see in at the end of DVDs all the time.

Goods table

Outside in the lobby, they had tables that were selling a ton of Yukari CDs and DVDs, including some really older ones like Sugar Time Trip. They were giving away special items for purchases over 2000 yen, so I picked up a B Gata H Kei vocal album in order to get a clear file. I also talked with the fanclub staff near the Yukari passport stamp counter for a bit, but unfortunately they said they had no way of handling overseas addresses (Momoi spoils us so good).

Even at 9:30 PM, it was still pouring outside, but as I stepped into my cab I could only think about the overall fantastic set list, with more of my favorites than I could have hoped for. Her MCs were a lot closer to her radio personality this time too given how dirty some of them were, maybe because Niigata isn't being taped. Performance-wise, Yukari and all of her costumes are totally adorable up close, and her live singing is the real deal. My only wish is that I could have heard Yukarin-solo version of Koiseyo (only heard Yukari x Nana version at Anisama 2008) but it's a minor complaint considering how many good songs I did get.

Final goods for the day:


Close-up of super limited Chibikko Yukarin doll (only one per person)

Next, MOSAIC.WAV and Yukarin again in Sendai.

Posted by Paranda at 2:41 AM | Comments (3)

September 22, 2010

KOTOKO live in Sapporo

Though I've only been to a few places in Japan so far, I feel like Sapporo is going to stay up there as one of my favorite cities. It's like the perfect modern city - clean, spacious but not barren, and most notably, laid out to make sense to anyone with an ability to interpret coordinates. (Or maybe I've just been successfully bribed by their food)

Downtown Sapporo is designed as a grid so it's quite similar to Manhattan. But it does better, because Sapporo actually bases its origin on a logical city center of Odori and counts North/East/South/West from there. So, if you get an address of 2 North, 2 East you just remember where Odori is and count 2 streets north, and 2 streets east to find it. In New York, if you get an address of "East 45th Street", even if you know the system you might still need a map to know where to go and where you are at any given point. In Sapporo, I arrived with my phone battery dead and not a single map, but managed to find my hotel right away by just following the street signs.

The goal of the day was to attend the KOTOKO concert, so as soon as I checked in I followed the grid over to Sapporo Cube Garden on foot. Cube Garden is an extremely small club house that's very easy to miss, especially since it's next to Sapporo Factory, a huge former brewery now converted into Sapporo's primary shopping mall.

Upon arriving, I noticed there was no crowd. Initially fearing a "Budokan" mixup like with JAM the day before, I was only calmed after spotting KOTOKO's fanclub van parked outside the small venue. I guess I was still in the TGS mentality of "huge crowds, limited spots" so I was surprised to see nobody around even though the concert was only 3 hours away. After milling around in the Factory for a while and returning, it was reassuring to finally see a small group waiting around the area.

Everyone got through the goods line in just a few minutes, and the rest of the time was just spent hanging out in the parking lot until showtime. The Sapporo group was very tight knit and every time someone came out of a taxi or walked in, the core group waiting in line recognized them.

Squeezing into the floor was a very difficult ordeal. Once entrance time came, we filed into the live house. Although there were only about 300 people, the small space meant you were elbow to elbow with someone and uncomfortably close. Luckily, like Momoi fans, KOTOKO fans are also quite friendly. Since I wasn't familiar with the new style of wristbands, the guy next to me helpfully volunteered to show me how to fold it, which really broke the ice. And taller fans would constantly turn around and check for shorter people and rotate them up front even though they originally entered the hall based on ticket number.

Then lights dimmed and, KOTOKO LIVE TOUR 2010 Natsu da, Raibu da, Zenkoku Angyu Matsuri! in Sapporo began. KOTOKO ran onto the stage wearing a matsuri themed costume of designer yukata and rope headband which held her huge ponytail in place. Since I missed my chance to see her at AX a few years back, I was knocked back with a huge rush of "OMG KOTOKO in real life". The kind of impact these "first time sightings" cause is always pretty great, and as a fan for almost 8 years, this particular incubation period was even longer than Momoi (who I saw after only 5 years of fandom).

First up was two songs from her latest BLAZBLUE single, Hekira no Ten e Sasoedo and Digital Snail

Unlike JAM Pro, I actually do keep up with newer KOTOKO songs so I was able to cheer for this. The crowd was still trying to adjust to the tight space and we weren't sure whether we should use glowsticks or not given the crampedness. Some people put away their stuff and just used hands, myself included.

During MC, KOTOKO got massive cheers of "Okaeri" as she tried to pump the crowd. She explained one major premise of the Matsuri Live was fan participation, including the selection of the set list. Many of the songs which would be playing tonight weren't limited to her latest album or promotion, and would instead come from popularity polls she conducted on her website prior to the live.

She continued by going into Ao Iconoclast which is a song she did under her Kotoko name.

By this point, we were really exhausted as I don't think anyone had anticipated how hot the room would get, especially with so little space or ventilation. To give us a break from the blistering heat, she went into a slower selection of songs like
La Clef ~meikyuu no kagi~
Imaginary Affair
flow~mizu no umareta basho~

KOTOKO pointed out flow was a very nostalgic song from very long ago, and branched out into an MC asking how many people in the room were new fans or old fans. A lot of 10+ year fans rose their hands, but KOTOKO focused on people who said they were newer fans and went to great lengths to explain her older songs to them, like what album they were from or games (she was very tongue-in-cheek with explaining the game content).

At this point, KOTOKO pulled out an iphone with a sound level meter and explained that to further increase interactivity with the crowd her next songs would be decided by live vote. She would give us the song options, and then sing one based on cheering loudness.

Between Allegretto and Leaf Ticket, Leaf Ticket won the vote at somewhere around 113 decibels.

Second choice of the night was between
Face of Fact and Restoration ~chinomku no sora~

We voted for Face of Fact which she gladly obliged. Satisfied with the voting minigame and anticipating the now heightened nostalgia, KOTOKO then launched into Love a Riddle and won major points with the crowd. The floor predictably erupted in cheers, UO, and whispers of "Ontei" at last.

Another old favorite
β- Nendo no Wakusei

For every song played, KOTOKO would also tell us the year it was released, making the whole live feel kind of like a career celebration. She continued with more voted songs, like jihad and Collective, during which she put on a ridiculous headbanging display and started whipping her pony tail around, causing everyone in the crowd to follow suit.

Then, without any warning, she launched into Re-sublimity which I figured would be a final song. UOs flared up everywhere and the whole room pretty much exploded with synchronized calls. With no MC break, she continued with Shooting star (where we all learned new hand motions to follow), and then transitioned into Wing my way. Basically, 3 of my favorite KOTOKO songs in a row.

This was KILLER. As each track was reasonably upbeat, we were all dehydrated and practically dying from heat stroke from jumping the whole time. But there was no mercy, as she followed up with Oboeteteiiyo and even included a special request that everyone sing the choruses. It seemed like the finale was about to come.

Finally, she closed with the top voted song Onaji sora no shita de.

Cue almost 20 minutes of encore chants until she came back. KOTOKO apologized for taking so long to come back for the encore and asked if the guys chanting for so long were OK - because if they were, then this next set should finish them off. As it is well known, KOTOKO's encores almost ALWAYS go into her claim to fame and this time was no different. She announced her final weapon: moe kyoku.

Before the mercy blow though, she introduced the band members and did a final MC asking if they visited anywhere in Sapporo. In an amusing segment the drums guy said some flirty stuff, and KOTOKO shot him down hard ("I'll punish you for that remark later") and told the crowd not to believe his lies. Another guy, maybe the same guy, said he went to Susukino and KOTOKO asked why guys always seemed to enjoy it. "Oh, I guess for reasons I can't mention" (implying he went there for red light districts).

Seishun Rocket

The interaction in this was insane. 300 people singing the chorus and chants in tune is truly something else. All the otagei in the world doesn't beat a well executed chant which actually works with the vocalist parts.

She then teased with Just as time is running out which was another round of calls and responses, with her enthusiastically throwing the microphone in our direction several times.

Sadistically to eliminate anyone who was still clinging to life she announced the true last song for the night Bumpy Jumpy.

At the end, the band members came in with giant sign congratulating her on 28 concerts well done and she teared up for the final MC, repeatedly thanking everyone for coming and hoping to see them again next year.

When we filed out of the hall, you could see everyone completely soaked from top to bottom. As soon as you got out of the room, you got hit by what felt like a blast of cold air (actually just room temperature). We crowded around the goods table which was now selling CDs after the live. KOTOKO came out to meet fans. I didn't get anything signed since all my stuff was in a locker but I got a handshake instead. My memory is fuzzy after this but I remember looking at the clock when I got back (almost 10pm) and remarking how incredibly long it was. To be honest it only felt like an hour to me, but I guess that's just a testament to how well she managed the pacing of the live. KOTOKO is a true concert master.

Final goods for the day:

Towel, 3 shirts, charm, pamphlet, 2 coats, and a wristband

Posted by Paranda at 9:17 AM | Comments (4)

September 19, 2010

Tokyo Game Show day

Tokyo Game Show takes place in Makuhari Messe, which is about half hour away from Tokyo Station. When I got there at 8AM, the line was already stretching around the convention center and 20 people wide at the thickest parts. The line wasn't the problem as much as the weather - it was incredibly hot. People who brought umbrellas to block the sun had the right idea. Surprisingly, the line moved pretty fast once doors opened at 10AM and I got in within the hour.

Once you enter, you are given an opportunity to queue up for special event tickets. Unfortunately, you are forced to choose between diverging lines, so I had to rule out attending Idolmaster as I made a direct route for the Milky Holmes agent. Despite coming in so late, I got a ticket # of 252. Guess they aren't too popular. Fine, it means closer seat to the stage for me!

I don't really play too many games, except the occasional bit of StarCraft I/II and the Bethesda/Bioware western RPGs that get mega hype every few years. So, I didn't really know where to go, and relied on suggestions from @tentontim and @cowboybibimbop. Headed over to the SEGA booth to try out Valkyria Chronicles 3 and grab some goods. I never tried any of the VC games, but it interesting. Seems sort of like a mix of tactics RPG, but with 3rd person shooter element to it. Rolling up to a footsoldier in a tank and then blasting him point-blank with a cannon was stupidly fun. My own infantry girls died though because I couldn't figure out how to crouch behind cover.

Official Valkyria cosplayers

There's about a 20 to 40 minute wait to try each game, so by this time, it was already noon and most people had gotten into the convention center. This meant an incredible crowd, on an entirely different level than any US convention I've ever been to. There were so many people that you had to squeeze into streams of traffic and ride it like a conveyer belt until you got where you wanted to be. It was literally impossible to turn around. Since it was so hard, I only had the patience to try one more game called Dance Evolution. I didn't know the song being played, so it put my furicopy abilities to the test. Clearly, they need to release an otaku version of this game with fan favorite songs and cranked up difficulty levels.

Once I slipped out of the exhibit halls, I met up with @chibtech outside in the cosplayer alley. He's doing well these days and moving high up in his game company, but since it took us so long to find each other we were only able to hang out for a little bit before I had to line up for Milky Holmes. The waiting pen was directly outside the live stage, and we could hear all the imas stuff going on right next to us, but they put up temporary dividers to prevent you from looking inside. I was kind of jealous as everyone posted about the live show while I was THERE and unable to see it, but I had clear priorities for Milky Holmes.

Merchandise Display

Huge 12 ft tall Milky Holmes wall mural

The first time I ever saw them was watching the live broadcast during this year's Anisama 2010, but I instantly liked them for their outfits and cute catchy performance so I decided I must see at least one live. Managed to snag a sixth row seat center stage. Coordinated cheering for Ame Agari no Mirai was great. Since MH is such a new act, they barely had any songs so they needed to bring in guests otherwise the concert would be over as soon as it started. So, we got Faylan who performed, and Nanjo Yoshino to help during MC. During Yoshino's MC, they asked if there were any overseas attendees so I threw up my UO. Nanjo's first response to me was like this skeptical "Eh? Really?" Damn, I wish I looked more foreign lol.

Also met jouttex here for the first time, who I have a lot of good things to say about (later). After, I ran over to SEGA for Miku but it was a total disappointment and I left to check out other parts of the exhibition hall.

New Castlevania PV at the Xbox booth

SEGA hired lots of cosplayers for every corner of their booth

While walking around, I accidentally stumbled on a surprise Tanaka Rie appearance at the Capcom stage, and then caught an Iida Mai performance over by the iREM stage to close out the day.

After TGS, I decided to stay in Akiba and kill time until Anisong Index started at MOGRA. Revisited Yukari *the restaurant* in UDX again for their seafood okonomiyaki (seems like overseas Momoists always like to go to this one eh?). When prepared, the okonomiyaki was huge and two of us could barely finish one. I remember finishing one off by myself in 2008, but this time I had been subsisting on sugar from vending machine drinks for the past 2 days and my stomach probably wasn't prepared. Two guys at a table next to us were eating 3 of them!

Originally since I had no plans, I was gonna go line up for MOGRA in order to get to the front and wave to the ustream crew on camera, but since it was so early and jouttex was also there we ended up visiting some stores and then going to a karaoke place. Did a bunch of Yukarin songs, including You and Me (eh why am I doing the Yukarin parts?), FBD, Koiseyo, Honey Moon. Couldn't find Meron theme unfortuantely. Then transitioned into Momoi and Nana songs respectively (easy to predict the direction this was going). MOGRA event started at 11PM, but by that time the consensus was just "fuck it, another hour please!" to get through more songs we wanted to do, including a horrible rendition of fripside (what the fuck only my railgun is sooo hard). Major props to jouttex for hanging out even though she didn't sleep the night before. She's a fun person with insane stamina.

By 1AM, Akihabara was getting kind of barren as everyone went to catch the last train. I remembered @mandimandi's warning that MOGRA was incredibly hard to find so I relied on my freshly charged phone GPS to find it. Walked a good 10 minutes and had to turn into some dark alleys to find the place, which is basically a door advertised with a single tiny picture of their logo. The place was totally packed and there was absolutely NO WAY to make it up to the front at all. I talked with the bouncer who spoke a tiny bit of english. He says the event nights are usually like this. I got some coffees, but I was really tired needed to crash, so I left after 2 hours before making my way for emergency sleep a capsule hotel in Kanda. Unexpectedly, it was full.

Thinking I may have just fucked myself, I wandered around Kanda to find a 24 hour net cafe as an alternative. Oh god the area near Kanda station after midnight is shady as hell...there were drunk guys stumbling all over the place, streetwalkers who followed you around, and generally crazy dudes who yelled unintelligible stuff. Luckily, I spotted a manga kissa called Manboo and beelined for it. I stayed there just drinking coffee after coffee until the sun peeked out. On my way back to Akiba, I saw a ton of people who had missed the train just sleeping out in the street - like 20 to 30 people just grouped together with their luggage to one side. Brave? Or just supremely confident in Tokyo's public safety. By 6AM, I was in Haneda Airport and ready to board the morning's 1st flight to Sapporo.

Goods for the day

Milky Holmes brochures, postcards, and wristbands

TGS pamphlets. I have no use for these, so if you want it it's free. SEGA book and Valkyria case file already claimed by someone.

Sapporo Food Autumn Festival and KOTOKO concert next.

Posted by Paranda at 8:31 PM | Comments (4)

September 17, 2010

Busy first day

Usually when planning stuff, I take amount of estimated time, and triple it to get how much it will actually take. Unfortunately I didn't have that luxury since in my greed to squeeze in JAM Project 10th Anniversary tour, I was forced to bank on zero delays.

Obviously that fell apart. I got to Narita around 2:15. Took an hour to get through immigration and customs, deliver baggage to Sapporo, pick up my cell phone, and head over to JR office to buy a NEX+Suica pass. Got on NEX by 3:45 and was in Tokyo at 4:45. Plenty of time to get to Budokan right (they open doors at 5:30 and begin show at 6:30)? Wrong.

Took 30 minutes to find my hotel because it got a name change and I ended up plugging the address into GPS and waving my phone around like a dowsing rod until it looked like I was going in the right direction. I didn't get checked in and everything sorted out until almost 6. Then it was off to the concert. Of course, in my haste, I plugged in "Budokan" into a net search and took whatever directions it gave me. This eneded in major failure as I was led over to "Tokyo Budokan", not "Nihon Budokan". Upon seeing the Tokyo Budokan

Err I appear to be walking in the middle of nowhere down a side alley.

*Sees Budokan*

Hey this doesn't look like the one in concerts.

*Gets closer*

Man it sure is sparse. There aren't any crowds, but I'm a bit late, maybe everyone went in.

Gosh it sure is quiet, and I can't find any merchandise stands or even signs. Let's ask this old friendly looking dude where the entrance is.

Security guard takes a glance at my ticket and goes "Actually this is a ticket to the Nihon Budokan".

Uh oh...

Well my mind is blown. He sends me off to my destination with a "good luck, hurry!" and I start rushing back to the station to get to Nihon Budokan.

At this point, I'd just like to say that Hyperdia is a fucking godsend. Security guard just told me my final station and I was able to get over there pretty quickly thanks to the directions provided by this tool. My only complaint? It overestimates human walking speed. Why yes, I will indeed take this 600m walk from Shin-ochanomizu to Ogawamachi up and down several flights of stairs, two sets of ticketing gates, in under 4 minutes. You know, 600m in 4 minutes translates to 9km per hour. That's 1km below the average human running speed. Even if I knew the station inside out without looking at signs, that's kind of stretching it.

Anyway I get to Budokan around 7:30, and this one looks like the proper building I see in concert DVDs all the time. Skipped all the merchandise and headed straight for my seat in East Wing, 2nd floor.

Budokan is decently big, but nothing like the huge Saitama Super Arena so even though I had 2nd floor seat way in the back it was actually a really cozy feeling. The hall has a house atmosphere where everyone faces each other with the performers nested in the middle. There were a ton of people beneath me and you could see the whole crowd, including the people way on the opposite West Wing pretty clearly. The stage itself also felt pretty close and you could actually see the performers instead of relying only on the jumbotron for far-away seats.

I managed to catch Sakamoto Eizo's intro and MC, and they started going through of songs. There was also this buff Brazilian guy who I didn't know, and he seemed decently well liked. But the crowd wasn't really fired up until Mizuki Ichirou came in and got massive MASSIVE Aniki chants. This dude is so senior, he calls Kageyama as Kagechan.

I don't actually follow JAM Pro all that much so I didn't really recognize many songs until near the end starting with Breakout. For the encore, they had a montage that included a lot of pictures they took with overseas fans during their world tour in 2008.

In the second encore, they broke out the classic GONG to ultra-extended SKILL transition that always ensures arm/leg death for majority of people. During GONG they put the lyrics up and had the crowd sing everything and it was awesome.

I had a good time as a casual fan, even if I did miss the first third of the concert. When coming out, I noticed Budokan has really steep stairs. It's not obvious going up, but coming down, each time I stepped I had almost freaked because there's a big drop where I thought I missed the steps. Leaving the hall was also like herding cattle, with people flowing slowly through penned enclosures and an ad-hoc traffic sign directing people to go or wait. Not many fans got on the Shinjuku line so I thought once on the train I'd had all my excitement for the day. Transferred to Chuo Line and headed back to the hotel to call it a day and write up a blog.

Well apparently not. Somebody tell me what the fuck is in Suidabashi, because when we hit that station a massive human wave just crashed in through the doors. Probably more packed than any train I've ever been on in NYC (even including that ride that caused my e train rant). This was just some hammerspace shit on a different level. I had about a dozen hands pressed to my ass and started getting a bit paranoid about pickpockets jacking my wallet with a ton of cash in it, but I couldn't turn around or even bring my arm down to check. The uncomfortable condition persisted until at least Ryogoku when finally a huge swath of people left and we went back to being a merely "crowded" train car. Overall it was a unique experience, but not one I'd like to repeat. Note to self, avoid riding Chuo Line through Suidabashi at 10:30PM at all costs in future.

Now back in hotel room safe and sound. Going to get some rest and wake up early for TGS tomorrow, if I can successfully fight the jet lag.

Posted by Paranda at 11:49 AM | Comments (2)

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