March 18, 2012

Milk Lariat vol. 4, Osaka

Milk Lariat 4 flyer

Ever since the holidays ended, my free time had been zilch to thanks to work obligations and a recent real estate purchase. However, a 2 month work assignment to India has proven to be a blessing. With a strictly enforced 8 hour workday, a live-in housekeeper, and a shortened commute, I've suddenly come into much more time for sleep, tourism, anime, and blogging. So I decided I should finally take the time to write a report. Though I attended Kawada Mami and Kalafina events after ANIMAX, I decided I should skip ahead and write about Milk Lariat vol. 4 which I attended on 11/27 last year. After all it was the primary driver of my trip.

Also because I actually still have notes I took on the plane trip home from that time, so I can still recall a lot of what happened. It was a uniquely exhausting experience that pushed me to my physical limit more than any other event I've been to in years. The set list is even longer than Animax, consists of mostly high bpm game songs, and the hall has no seating. I was already warned of this by Gin who went last year, so I got a long night of sleep and took the latest possible Shinkansen from Tokyo to arrive with minimal waiting time. But even with these preparations I was totally beat by the end.

Studio Partita

First off, location: Studio Partita is a ways from the city center, all the way out on the docks nestled between some run down warehouses, not entirely unlike certain parts of Manhattan along the West Side highway. I half expected to see some bodies getting dumped by the mob. Once I passed through the gates, I got ushered to a fenced waiting pen with fans. There was a separate goods line, but I didn't see anything in particular that I wanted so I stayed put and conserved energy. When the live was scheduled to start, the staff called ten ticket numbers at time. I was 200 so I managed to get a decent middle-forward position in the crowd.

The hall is much smaller than Club Citta with no otagei area (it's banned), and just one floor without balconies or private seating areas. Luckily, the space issue wasn't too bad - I actually had a good amount of space to myself in front and behind. Additionally, the stage was set lightly higher so you could see the performer's full bodies for the most part. As for sound quality, it wasn't great. Loudness is always a problem, but the bigger issue was the ridiculously exaggerated bass boost. I could actually hear the distortion over the speaker for certain songs. It didn't RUIN the concert for me, but it negatively affected some songs when I had to struggle to hear the vocals over the rattling of my ribcage. On the video side, all video came from came a projector mounted in the middle of the ceiling and generally just showed a fixed wide shot of the stage and front half of the audience. It was fairly weak when there were any lights on, but made sense since the performers were in the direct field of projection themselves. During the breaks, they'd darken the room and play promotional videos from Sakakibara Yui, Kitamura Eri, ave;new, and YuruYuri (huh why YuruYuri?) in a loop. Oh and of course Chiaking's scandalous Chupa Rico PV every once in a while for good measure.

The announcer this year was Joy Max, a muscle-bound cross-dressing guy with an aged complexion and big hair, and apparently one of the higher ups in Nitroplus. When going over the rules, he very specifically highlighted a no otagei rule, which lead me to recall some horror stories about guys getting dragged out last year along (with innocent bystanders). Luckily there didn't seem to be any major drama like that this year. He also warned us on the length, advising everyone to remember to leave the hall if necessary to eat, drink, and take breaks. Supposedly there were multiple cases of fainting at prior events.

Sakakibara YuiFirst up was Sakakibara Yui, backed by her dance crew. I started following her work in 2006, but never saw her in person before. While I liked her music, looking back at old posts, my first impression of her live performance as it appeared on DVD was actually kind of bad. But in more recent live recordings, and especially this time live, Yui was in top shape. The dance choreography was much improved, vocals were much less shaky, and the clothing choice (an animal print witch-like dress and hat combo) was good too. On the crowd side, hardcore Yui fans were numerous and easily identified by the special heart shaped wands they brought in from previous concerts. Yuinyan calls were very loud, very coordinated, and drew me in very easily. I was also lucky she played most songs that I was familiar with, including several favorites such as Soshite Boku Ha and Koi no Honoo. Seriously, Koi no Honoo is a blast live.

02.Blue mind
04.Love is Love

Yui gets a bad rap among some concert goers because of an out-of-context blog post where she trashed obstructive otagei, but at no point in time did I feel like she disliked the high power output of this crowd. The fans certainly didn't seem muted at all. Overall she did a good set, fun MC, and really harnessed the audience energy like a pro. I know I was completely tired out at the end from all the jumping.

After Yui left, we were subjected to YuruYuri ads again until a lanky nervous looking girl in stylishly torn white T-shirt came out and introduced herself as Prico. She asked if anyone knew her from the game DearDrops - which by the way just came out officially in English. There was a good show of hands that seemed to relax her a bit. I never played the game though, so I was mostly lost for this set. The songs had lots of screaming that made it seems like her voice would give out a few times so I wasn't really into it, but list was short since she didn't have many songs to draw from in the first place.

11.Be Loud!
13.No music, No future

Kitamura Eri After the crowd gave a respectful but decidedly "normal" reaction to Prico, Kitamura Eri came on and suddenly the whole room exploded in blue lights and really really loud cheers. The difference of power was insane.

Side story that I never blogged about: Back in 2010, a few of us were at an AX guest breakfast to see Asakawa Yuu and Horie Yui. At this time, Hocchan hadn't shown up yet and Asakawa Yuu's table was packed so we decided to circle around other tables first. To use time effectively and of course to not look like assholes we also visited various other Japanese guests even though we didn't know them that well, and got to meet some cool guys like Masakazu Morita (turned out to be awesome), Hiroe Rei (gunchat all day long, tenton can attest to this), and Benny. After we made those rounds, there wasn't really much else to do except wait our turn for Asakawa. The only other guests left were English VAs, which we didn't follow at all. Plus they were packed with local US fans so it's not like they needed us.

So we decided to just hang around and not bother anyone until Yuu was free. Our little group of 5 found a mostly empty table with one other guy and a cosplayer and plopped down for a break. We paid no attention to that cosplayer for a good while - that is until she suddenly started talking to us. "Hi I'm Kitamura Eri" OH SHIT! Cue our entire group backpedaling and shooting her desperate "Ohhhh, yeah, we knew that!" looks. Luckily, our group was seiyuu inclined enough to know KitaEri roles (even though we couldn't recognize her) including a few niche ones, and were able to turn it around a little. We winded up sticking around through two rotations with her to make up for wasted time since there was absolutely no line behind us. So KitaEri being this massively popular at Milk Lariat was actually kind of eye opening to me - in my mind she was this quiet Virgil-like character. I doubt we'll ever be able to get that kind of ridiculously open access given her fame now. Just ask omo - you can even find a photo of him on her blog.

Anyway, back to her at Milk Lariat, I just cannot overstate how ramped up the crowd got. One guy in front of me who had his arms crossed the whole time suddenly whipped out blinding blue penlights and flipped out, nearly causing a fight with the guys next to him. A group shoved him toward more open space, diffusing the situation. I personally didn't follow much of KitaEri's singing career but by the time she came on we were forced to watch her Be Starters PV so many times during the breaks that I pretty much knew the song. Turns out she's not bad on the microphone and displayed some live singing skills. Upon seeing her outfit I also found out KitaEri can do an extremely high level of ZR - a critical trait hidden by her way more conservative outfit at AX. Her MCs were rather good, and she was doing things like getting the crowd to suggest which color penlights should go with her next songs (mostly blue, one song purple). Surprisingly, during her entire set she did not get the "KitaEri Kita" call, so I guess that trend has already expired in Japan huh?

14.Be Starters!
18.Be A Diamond

After KitaEri's set was over, I saw a strange thing happening in the crowd. The crazy guy who almost started a fight in front of me...left! And so did several other people in the crowd. And then I looked at my position, and it dawned on me that that I was a good 10 rows closer to the stage than I had been at the beginning of Yuinyan's set. The KitaEri-only crowd was significant enough for me to notice, but actually after every performance I was gradually being pushed forward as various fans left the crowd and new arrivals filled in the back. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but the performance schedule had actually been posted that afternoon and rather than suffer an entire 7 hours, many people were sacrificing their position in the crowd to selectively attend events instead.

nao Next up was nao. Despite me being a fripside nao fan back in the day, it actually took me a good while to recognize who the hell was up on stage. She had no introduction and her blond twin tails look is a lot different from what I remembered on the covers of old fripside singles. But her voice hadn't changed too much, so during the first song I was going "hey I have no idea who this singer is, but she REALLY sounds a lot like nao." I wasn't up to date on nao's solo work so I didn't really have much reaction to any of the songs, but I still appreciate the privilege of hearing a voice I used to listen to very often as part of fripside. Kihihirake Glazy Star at the end was definitely good. nao's MCs were actually kind of short so I can't remember much of what she talked about.

21.happy shining days

yozuca* By yozuca*'s turn, I had shifted up another few rows. She wore gigantic earrings in the shape of music notes that looked really heavy. So heavy in fact, that in the middle of her set, they fell off. She looked a bit embarrased but quickly scooped it up and held it in her hand for the performance. Seeing Yozuca was a big win for me, since I was aiming to go to her live at least once after seeing her good friend and frequent musical partner, rino, a few years back. Yozuca has a strong voice that resonated well in the small room, and I ended up enjoying it even though I only knew the Da Capo songs. During MC, yozuca talked about her upcoming solo concert as well. Though I wouldn't be able to attend that one, I decided if there is ever a chance to see her solo that overlaps with a future trip I'm doing I'll make an effort to attend.

During the break, another chunk of the audience left and I moved up yet again. In a way, crowd shifting felt a bit like a referendum on the artist. The fact that people leave after your set means you were their exclusive draw, so the more people who left, the more "power" you could say you had. Though it might seem rude to the artist coming after, the constant stream of new people from the back pushing everyone forward ensured a packed house.

yozuca's giant earring that fell off
Said earring which fell off. Source image from Repotama

24.No ruLe

Itou Kanako Next up was Itou Kanako. For once, she was wearing pretty normal clothes and her hair was all neat and proper under a black felt hat - which was a big contrast for me since I only remember her "cat lady" look from Anisama. During MCs, she was one of the few artists who had a go at imitating Osakan accent. She talked about how much she liked visiting the city and her tour spots. For Kanako, the audience broke out the UOs for multiple songs, but I only knew Steins Gate stuff. Just as well, because by this time I was dying. During the last song, she pulled out an acoustic guitar which was another nice touch. Normally, I'd be excited for acoustic corner even when I don't know the song, but the six hours of standing and jumping had taken its toll on me that the slower pace was actually tiring me out.

32.Another Heaven
34.Hacking to the gate

ULTRA-PRISM Then, ULTRA-PRISM appeared. To be honest, I did not care much about that group, and I was already at my physical limit. So, little did I know, their humble little act would turn everything around. They were, without question, my favorite performance of the night. Koike Masaya - damn I forgot how much that guy owns. I saw him at Uzumasa last year, but there were key differences this time. There he was just the third guy in MOSAIC.WAV, while here the songs emphasized his guitar much more strongly, and he even had a chance to perform several long guitar solos where he shredded to hugely positive reactions. Most importantly, last year he merely had some jeans and some shades, but tonight he was wearing...THE COAT. You know the one. I cannot overstate the power of THE COAT now that I have seen it in person. It multiplies his coolness factor by at least 10 and even though it's now white with short sleeves, it definitely brought back old memories of UNDER17.

Speaking of UNDER17, I have accepted ULTRA-PRISM as its spiritual successor. Aside from the obvious connection with Koike, ULTRA-PRISM's vocalist Tsukimiya Usagi has good stage presence. Usagi's live-singing is less polished than Momoi even at the start, and her MCs aren't nearly as "deep", but she does a few things very well. First is the strong connection with the audience - she makes good use of space and devoted attention to each area of the crowd, leaning into corners, making eye contact, doing big exaggerated motions, singing directly to people at times, and teaching special moves for certain songs (teaching moves always wins points with me). Second was the sense of legitimacy in her otaku-pandering, in part fostered by her long history as a cosplayer. I could at least see that at work in the super frequent costume changes. There was a new outfit for each song: a cheerleader uniform, a maid costume, rabbit outfit, and school uniform.

Plus the songs are just plain catchy. The calls for each were intuitive and I was able to match the crowd exactly even as a first-timer. During ULTRA-DATE, we were taught special moves beyond the standard calls during the "Ultra power make-up" chorus, and also practiced doing a coordinated wave during the "kono big WAAAVE" part of the song which was a blast: almost as fun as doing mero~n at Yukarin concerts. For the last song, Shinryaku no susume, Tsukimiya came out and the temperature rose 10 degrees as everyone cracked UOs and started jumping at max height. As expected, Tsukimiya performed the last song in full Ika Musume cosplay.

An hour ago I was about to collapse, but now the pain was gone and I was 100% recharged. It was uphill from now on.

37.Princess a la mode

Sakura Saori Finally, Sakura Saori from ave;new came out. It's funny, just a few years ago, one of Shaori's charm points was the strong gap-moe vibes which come from being a such a plainly ordinary looking girl who had such an insanely cute voice (much like the lovely Jun-nyan). But recently she has been putting on tons of makeup and changing her image to be more glamorous and adult-like. It's a goal she declared on LoveLoveLovable and has been working hard on ever since. So she comes out in this outfit, dolled up and showing lots of leg.

Not that I'm complaining. By this time, I had been pushed up to the 4th row so I got a full view of that goodness. But you can only go so far with an adult image when you sound the way she does. Then again, I guess that still qualifies as a kind of gap-moe. I looked to my left: dude with ave;new shirt. Looked to my right: dude with ave;new shirt. Tacitly acknowledging our adjacent ave;new brethren, we cracked open our white lights and held them up.

The set list, oh god the set list. It went by so fast. I remember the synchronized waving to "Baby Baby," the harmonic calling out of "NAMIDA", the furious orange fever time of "Naisho Mea," the hilariously mismatched hoarse and nerdy sing-along to "Pure my voices," and the white waves of cyalumes during "snow of love."

But the strongest impression was "OH! Too Core Lion." That song cannot truly be appreciated until heard live. Actually, prior to Milk Lariat, I even disliked it. Now I think it is THE BEST EVER, and her performance of it is what won me over. During each repetition of "otoko ha lion," Saori would point to a guy in the audience, so we all jumped SO hard to try and get her attention. When she shot a finger in our direction, it was too hard to tell who it was so we all just assumed "OMG SHE POINTED TO ME!" As a result, the energy was unbelievable and even when I listen to the song now I remember those good times. Later on her radio show, she told listeners that the brilliant pointing idea was suggested by her vocal teacher. Good job, Teach!

Sakura Saori
Lookit dat. Source image from Repotama

42.Baby Baby
44.Vivid Affection
47.OH! too☆Core Lion!!
49.Pure My Voices
50.snow of love

Still, I was a little sad that Rierin didn't show up for Osaka since I'd love to have seen some Twin Angel songs, or at least Kimagure Tsundere~ta . But that just means I'll have to come back to Japan again. Acording to Saori, during the Tokyo show Rie was really nervous about popping the Australia question to the audience, because she was afraid they would just stare blankly back at her in confusion. (The correct call response is "Canberra datteba!")

Momoi After Saori, it was already almost 8PM and I had been standing for 6 hours, but thanks to ULTRA-PRISM and ave;new, I was still at max energy. I knew I'd have enough juice for the next act, which by process of elimination had to be Momoi Halko. Sure enough, she showed up and suddenly I could see all the Momoi branded penlights appear. She came in wearing a striped lolita dress and fur hat. I could guess she had picked it up in Russia at J-CON just one week before, and she confirmed as much in her MC. Though she admitted it is rather hot wearing it on stage. Having the most international con experience of all the singers there, she talked a lot about the recent Russia trip and the other countries she's been to.

Montreal left me starved for jumping to up-tempo Momoi songs, but I ended up getting a different surprise instead - the gift of rare songs. So we put away our UOs and enjoyed songs like "Figure ni naritai" from the U17 days, "Ruuji Guuji" which I have never heard live, "Video Killed The Radio Star" which I haven't heard since AX 2007, and even "Life is free," which she originally wrote for Shintani Ryoko several years back. She closed off the evening with the very appropriate "Live no ato ha samishii na" which was the perfect ending.

56.Life is free -momoi-i version-
58.Video Killed The Radio Star

When Momoi was done, Joymax came back up and thanked us all for coming, especially those who stayed the entire 7 hours (there were quite a few). Outside, I met up with ULTRA-PRISM members at the goods booth and got to talk with them for a while. Usagi was initially kind of quiet and didn't say much, but somehow Aniki got right in, talking casually and shaking my hand which got her to start talking more and asking me how I felt about their act. I told them it was one of the best shows I've seen. I guess Koike noticed my accent, and then suddenly remembered me as the guy from the Uzumasa concert last year and shook my hand again, which prompted Usagi to do the same. I was really impressed, I guess producer-types who network so much are good with remembering faces, even just random fans.

After visiting ULTRA-PRISM, I also saw Itou Kanako hanging around her goods booth so I went over there too. While in line, Joymax was standing around and we ended up chatting a bit. He was surprised I came over from the USA since MLT is a very niche event, but I told him about Gin before me the previous years and he was even more surprised. When I got to Kanako she was about as warm and friendly as can be, much like my first impression of MELL a few years ago. She had a big firm handshake, lots of questions about the USA, and teased me by pronouncing my name over and over. She even called her manager over to meet me. Kanako has been abroad before and met international fans before, so I reckon she has some experience talking to fans like us and making us feel all special. Overall very cool person. After Kanako, it was getting late. Unfortunately ave;new did not set up shop, and there weren't any other artists to meet so we booked it downtown to grabbed some okonomiyaki as post-live dinner.

Goods for the day:
Milk lariat 4 goods
Milk Lariat flyer, ULTRA-PRISM keychain and pamphlet, and autographed CDs from ULTRA-PRISM and Itou Kanako

Concert shots from the sets of all the artists appearing that day can be found at Repotama

Posted by Paranda at March 18, 2012 12:40 PM


dude you always write the best reports!

7 hours. wonder if i could have survived. chaos party club event with ave;new was of similar length, but much much more "dead space", but i definitely experienced the power surge feeling when ave;new came on.

my experience at milk lariat tokyo was that many fans would duck to the back after their artist was done out of courtesy. it might seem a bit rude at first glance, but often they are making room for the more hardcore fans to move up. i had people wave me forward all the way to the front when momoi came on, then hop back in place when she was done.

no surprise there, since they ended up performing at a later milk lariat event. yuru yuri has music by U and ARM, so a good overlap with the fans at milk lariat i'd say.

i'm gonna see ultra prism live for the first time finally at the start of next month in their 2 man live with trying not to have them overhyped since nothing can live up to under17 to me, but i am a fan of them anyway and i trust your judgement!

anyway glad to see you are enjoying your time in india one way or another!

Posted by: Anonymous at March 18, 2012 1:42 PM

oops. that was me!

Posted by: mandi at March 18, 2012 1:42 PM

Thanks, hope you enjoy ULTRA-PRISM live. I've been listening to Rulebook and ULTRA-DATE constantly ever since that day.

btw I'm wondering now, at Milk Lariat Tokyo...did the Rierin end up doing the Australia capital question and if so, did she get the response she expected?

Oh yeah the whole audience cycling thing did make a big impression on me. I was supposed to meet up with some ave;new fans, but when I asked them where they were in the hall...they texted me back that were gonna hang outside smoking instead until ave;new starts. Then suddenly when ave;new starts, guys with ave;new shirts suddenly showed up beside me lol. Guess they cycled up.

And I forgot who tweeted it (possibly kiriwari), but I remember being amused that he didn't even show up at the event hall until 7pm just in time for Momoi.

Posted by: paranda at March 18, 2012 2:50 PM

Yes she did ask, and yes she got a good response! ave;new was probably the best received out of all the artists there. They were selling goods / doing autographs afterwards and there was a constant long line. Meanwhile poor Itou Kanako had a guy who kept announcing she would do autographs but still no one lining up ( ; _ ; ) Not the right kind of event for her I guess. I felt bad but I didn't have the money to buy her album (>_

Posted by: mandi at March 20, 2012 7:20 AM

Man, you always make these events sound so good. ^_^

When you're talking to the man who created Black Lagoon, if you don't talk guns, it's kind of a waste, no? :P

As for KitaEri at AX, I knew she wasn't just a cosplayer, I just couldn't for the life of me figure out who she was. I believe I went "she's kinda cute, why not, we have nothing better to do". Then, when she introduced herself, I hope there wasn't a look of shock on my face, because I felt like a big failure at that moment. ^_^; Couldn't attempt to shift my expression fast enough.

(and I know it seems like so long ago, but it was 2010 that they all came to AX; the lose over a million bucks AX. It hasn't been quite that long. :P)

Posted by: tenton at March 20, 2012 6:00 PM

I got my Sunao role impression, so I'm happy enough with what went down, but thinking back, I only even knew to ask her for that because I ninja'ed up her cast credits on my phone.

Not even 2 full years ago...the popular actors sure do change quick

Posted by: paranda at March 21, 2012 5:06 PM

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