October 24, 2012

Mikami Shiori

I wasn't planning on writing mini profiles for all 4 Gorakubu members, but since I did writeups for Rumirumi and Yukachin already I figured it's only natural to write something for Mikami Shiori. She's the one who convinced me to watch YuruYuri in the first place and plays my favorite character, Akaza Akari.

Mikashii is the kind of person who's actually kind of hard to describe, yet at the same time you can see something and instantly recognize "that's something Mikashii would do." She calls herself relaxed and easygoing, always doing things at her own pace, however it's clear she has a very strong and memorable personality. This can be seen from the fact that almost every single other seiyuu who has ever worked with her has their own variation of eerily accurate Mikami Shiori impressions, and nary a day goes by where another castmate will not namedrop, imitate, or refer to Mikashii in some way. They talk about her so much that she's the central point of most shipping rumors. These rumors are fueled by the fact that Mikami LOVES touching hands (she names "hands and glasses" her own two fetishes on her blog), and doesn't hesitate to get touchy feely with everyone.

Her bubbly kindness and strong sense of responsibility naturally attracts the friendship and respect of everyone around her. But another reason she's so popular with her peers despite her relatively short career is that Mikami skillfully inserts herself into people's way and gets to know them. Both Rumirumi and Yukachin have said that early on in their careers, Mikashii who had slightly more experience, always took the initiative in teaching them and and giving out advice as a mentor and friend. I already mentioned the story about how Rumi got forced by Mikashii to call her using her nickname, but Tsuda Minami has nearly the same story about meeting her. Mikashii simply did not accept being anything less than friends with her colleagues.

In one memorable story told by Keitai Kanojo+ director Tsukikawa Sho, he says he was originally unsure about having a seiyuu act in a live action role, but by the end of filming, Mikashii had charmed the entire cast and crew. In fact, she was a little too friendly and given her role in that production, it became a running joke that her friendliness was far too unnatural and she must have been hiding a traumatic past.

Actually, since Mikashii is so easygoing and naturally becomes friendly with everyone, she's a tempting target to tease no matter where she goes. Especially at YuruYuri events. Mikashii denies being similar to Akarin (she always complains "I'm noooot fubin na ko"), but that doesn't stop the constant comparisons. The popular saying "Mikashii Owata" (Mikami is finished) in fact comes from the famous YuruTen streaming event, where cast members competed against each other to pick names for the songs on the YuruYuri season 1 soundtrack, and scored points whenever fans voted for their name. Just as you'd expect from Akarin's voice actress, Mikashii lingered in last place all the way till the final song, leading to the nico comments being filled with "Mikashii is finished" condolences. "No I'm not!" she begged the audience as she read the screen. Eventually she looked as if she had accepted her fate and even started giving a "goodbye speech" while other members reminisced like she died, but in a surprise move she actually submitted the song name "みかしいオワタ" in a desperate comeback to break her losing streak. This of course won in a landslide, and since then "Mikashii Owata" has been engraved into YRYR lore. True to their word, PonyCanyon kept the title in their soundtrack.

In another incident, Rumirumi recalled how Mikashii disappeared at an afureco session. In Japan, afureco for TV animes are done in a group, and tends to be run in order of the scenes, so even if you only have one opening and ending line in the whole episode, you still need to be there for the whole duration. This situation of course, exactly describes several episodes where "main character" Akari is practically invisible. Mikashii originally waited with everyone at her microphone, but felt so awkward just standing for long stretches in silence that she sat down behind the group to watch them instead (her earlier attempts to adlib some unscripted lines were also shot down by the directors). The 3 remaining cast members did their recordings, took feedback, chatted between takes, and laughed together for ages until Mikashii suddenly commented "You guys seem to have having fun ;_;" from afar. "It felt like she really WAS Akari" the other cast members later recalled.

Live action acting isn't a problem with Mikashii as you can see here. Her "S" is quite cute and convincing.

Examining Mikashii's past, you can see the kind of life that helped shape her. Mikashi was born and raised in Aomori and naturally speaks her native Tsugaru dialect (she coached herself to hide the accent when she moved to Tokyo). When she was 10 years old, she watched Saber Marionette J at her grandmother's house and became interested in the series. Prior to that, she didn't really watch anime. Once she started buying magazines of the series, she learned more about seiyuu and starting getting interested in voice work. By the age of 14, she had narrowed down her future career choices to either daycare worker, piano teacher, or seiyuu. Eventually deciding on seiyuu, she started buying voice magazines like Seiyuu Grandprix, but kept it a secret because she was a little embarrassed about others knowing she wanted to pursue it as a career. In highschool, she was pretty active and played in her school's tennis club. To prepare for her voice career, she also joined the school's broadcasting club and became its president. At the start of her senior year, she attended a summer camp at Tokyo Announce and made her final decision to become seiyuu. Her parents were against the idea but she clutched stubbornly to her dreams and eventually persuaded them to let her go. To Mikami "my pace" also means "my pace, and I'll do it no matter what."

Once she graduated highschool, she moved to Tokyo and enrolled in Tokyo Announce Gakuin's seiyuu school. To avoid annoying her new neighbors, she used to practice her lines and voice drills outside in a public park. She preferred nature anyway and was a bit afraid of people in the big city. It was only after an old lady cheered her on at one of her outdoor practice sessions that she realized urban Tokyo wasn't so scary after all. At the school, she went through a full performing arts curriculum that involved not just voice acting, but also theater, and even stage fighting with wooden swords.

Within a year, she had landed at a role as a member of 7th generation assistants in the weekly radio program "Big Bang" that specialized in cultivating young seiyuu prospects. Previous notable alumni from the program include Imai Asami, Fujita Saki, and Satou Satomi. That made her pretty famous on campus and by her second year, even brand new first year classmates including Ookubo Rumi already heard of her. After graduating from Tokyo Announce Gakuin in 2009, she had a successful Seiyuu Award newcomers audition and was immediately signed by Aoni Production (rumor is that several agencies actually fought over signing her). Her first appearance in an anime was for an uncredited performance in Shugo Chara, but her hard work and personality quickly earned her more roles and more contacts. In 2010, she began hosting one day of the now popular Lady Go series along with fellow graduate Rumi. She is now that troupe's leader.

As a country girl, Mikashii is an active and outdoors type. Unlike Rumi who prefers staying home, Mikashii will go out with friends, play tennis, go shopping, driving (she has a license), eat at restaurants, or sightseeing each weekend. She says she spends a lot of times in parks because she grew up in Aomori and always gets the urge to get away from the urbanness of the city and see nature. However, she doesn't swim in the ocean without a floatation device because she had a traumatic experience where she almost drowned in middle school.

For indoor stuff, she loves cats and dreams of opening up her own kitty cafe some day once she has saved enough money. When she watches movies, she says she enjoys fantasy genre, citing Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean series as examples. On food, she says she is a huge meat eater who eats yakiniku far too often that she needs to watch her weight. She especially loves fried squid which is common in her hometown, but hard to get in Tokyo. She also likes eating desserts and prefers parfaits and chocolate in particular. She can also play piano, and hopes to get more involved in singing in her future career. Besides those interests, she is apparently officially certified as 2 kyu rank in Kanji, 1 kyu in Abacus, and 1 kyu in Mental Arithmetic.

Only 23 years old but already with a few major series under belt, and having won a "best rookie" seiyuu award, Mikashii may shape up to be among the top 3 personalities who have made it in the last 5 years. Mikashii may not be as spontaneous as Yukachin, or as sly as Rumirumi, but in what matters most, voice, her's is uniquely outstanding. The range isn't great, but it's the type suited to do a few specific roles extremely well. Combined with her sociable personality and networking acumen, she has attained a solid level of career stability that is likely to last years - fans to jokingly refer to her as "immune to scandal." As nico commenters frequently say, Mikashii is a person who "as soon as you see her, you feel from your heart that you want her to be happy and successful."

Posted by Paranda at 11:02 PM | Comments (3)

October 23, 2012

Busou Shinki ~Master! Haiyaku Mite Kudasai Ne!~

Last month, I attended a Busou Shinki preview event at Japan Science Foundation in Tokyo.

They were showing a screening of the first episode, followed by a talk session with the cast members. Even though top names like Asumis and Minorin were all billed to appear, front row tickets were surprisingly easy to get. Must have been because of the Thursday evening time slot. Lots of guys who arrived looked like they came straight from work and were still in suits.

Inside JSF building, we followed the signs down to the Science Hall, which was a pretty small auditorium (maybe no more than 400 people). Just outside, there was a row of boxes with each seiyuu's name where fans could drop off presents or mail. I found my seat in the fourth row center. Since the location was a lecture hall, all of our chairs had small tables bolted to them and lots of fans used these to place Busou Shinki figures that they brought along. About 1/3rd of the audience was also wearing papercraft Shinki headsets cut from the official template - at the end of the show, staff gave presents to each person who brought their own headset.

Once everyone was settled in, we watched the first episode. I originally thought it was just going to be some generic Angelic Layer clone but instead it turned out to be a pretty amusing "small people doing things" everyday life comedy in the vein of Bottle Fairy, so I follow the series on the air now. There weren't any opening and ending animations as those were not yet completed.

After the screening, there was a bit of silence and then we heard Asumin's glorious voice off stage.

Asumin: "Wow there are so many masters here today."
Asumin: "Master, wake up. We can't keep them waiting."
Daichuu: "Nnmmmm, Asumi Kana in a swimsuit"
Asumin: "My master shouldn't say those kind of things!"

With that, Mizushima Takahiro aka Daichuu came on stage. One by one he called the rest of the cast. Asumin and Minorin came out with ZR while Mizuhasu and Mamegu went with longer dresses. Mizuhasu was probably the most dressed up, with ankle length black skirt, frilly top, hat, scarf, etc, but I liked Asumin's simple look with the white blouse, pearls, and ZR too (omg dat futomomos). Actually I was staring at Asumi most of the time during the event since I didn't get to see her close enough at Anisama. Each person took a turn to describe their own character.

Asumi Kana as Ann: Spent the longest time with master. An honor student and fundamentally a good character, but sometimes scatterbrained.
Minori Chihara as Hina: Cool, quiet, and combat oriented. Kind of a loner.
Mizuhashi Kaori as Ines: A "boku" type. Her outfit is a bit risky, so you can see she's an exhibitionist. You can see the screw holes and the joint cavities between her legs! These are her moe points (sasuga mizuhasu)
Nakajima Megumi as Lene: A clusmy airhead and total boke type, but a good easygoing person.

After intros, they did a quick free talk while Takahiro served as MC. Since everyone already worked together on the games and knew the characters well, Asumin and Minorin talked about how the afureco was pretty easy and they all had a good time. Mizuhasu also showed us some photos she took of shinki figures at home. Apparently Mizuhasu is quite a big figures collector and experienced hobbyist, and everyone commented on how good her pictures were at making them seem lifelike. Megumi seemed like she had a hard time getting a word in though, so at the end Takahiro called on Mamegu.

Daichuu: "Nakajima-san"
Mamegu: "Oh you can call me Mamegu."
Daichuu: "What? Mame..mamegu?"
Mamegu: "Yes"
Daichuu: "How about I call you Megu-chan?"

Mamegu talked about how she got totally psyched out for the event and mimed out her shock pose that caused the audience and seiyuu to laugh. That pretty much set the whole tone for her and Mamegu got relegated to boke role along with Minorin among the group. But, while Minorin is a natural airhead, Megumi is more like the local weirdo who is in her own world.

Then staff brought out two tables and Takahiro relinquished the stage to the Shinki cast for a first ever test session of the radio series "Busou Shinki: Master no tame no radio desu."

As the hosts, Asumin and Minorin sat at the left table. Mamegu and Mizuhasu played the role of the audience/masters on the right.

Asumin: "I wonder if it is OK if both of us boke sit together."
Asumin: "Don't worry, if it's like this, I'll do the tsukkomi"
Minorin: "I wanted to do tsukkomi, but I'm afraid I'm not a person who can pull it off."
Minorin: "Because I can't tell when somebody says boke thing" lol

The first corner was "Master no tame ni" where listeners can send in their hobbies and interests, and then Asumin and Minorin will try to think of how Shinki could please them. For example, if your hobby is soccer, maybe they'll blow vuvuzela. Apparently, Mizuhasu's hobby is "collecting pictures of Fukuzawa Yukichi" (guy on 10000 yen note) and Mamegu's is doing a duck face when she's alone. With this weird answers they couldn't even respond?

Next corner was "Chiisa na nayami" where listeners can send in small things that are troubling them.

Mamegu: "Small prob-"
Asumin: "You don't have to also say it in a small voice."
Minorin: "Mamegu, you are a very interesting person"
Mamegu: "Someone telling that to me is troubling"
Mizuhasu: "Being surrounded only by boke in this room is troubling."

Asumin: Everyone, do you think I'm boke type? Or more tsukkomi type.
Audience Definitely boke
Asumin: Heeeeh?

Third and longest corner was "kasou ga 15 cm." Since Shinki were 15cm, the goal was to imagine if other things were also 15cm. Staff brought out sketchpads and the task was divided up between Mamegu and Mizuhasu. While they were discussing, Asumin stopped abruptly.

Asumin: "Mamegu what are you doing."
Mamegu: Oh I was just showing this microphone is about 15cm right?"
Asumin: "Ah I thought you were moving kind of strangely"
Minorin: "By the way what blood type are you?"
Mamegu: "I'm A"
Everyone: "Are you really?"
Mamegu: "What? I'm hurt. I don't seem like A to you?"

Hacchi's had to name things which would become scary at 15cm. She produced: "G (gokiburi)", "Eye", "WC (toilet)"

Minorin: "Yeah 15cm roach would be scary, but it would be easier to catch!"
Mamegu: "It's like a mouse"
Asumin: "NO. Even a mouse would be more cute."

Minorin: Certainly an eye would be somewhat disgusting at that size.
Asumin: But to Shinki it's that scale isn't it

Minorin: "A 15cm toilet would definitely overflow"
Mamegu: "Now what could it be overflowing with?"

Asumi suddenly jumps up eyes bulging and starts frantically waving her hands at the audience.
"STOP! STOP! You don't need to talk about that! Everyone, erase that from your minds! Erase it!"

I think it took 5 minutes for everyone in the theater to actually stop rolling on the floor laughing. Minorin and Mamegu...DEFINITELY boke.

After that "abunai" detour, now it was Mamegu's turn to name things which would be convenient at 15cm. She wrote down...a washing machine.

Everyone: What?
Asumin: Why a washing machine?
Mamegu: I just moved recently, but I couldn't fit my old washing machine into the new place so I had to buy another one. If only it were smaller!
Asumin: You're getting away from the original purpose of a washing machine.

Mizuhasu: I think you two should also participate. Your topic is "would be cute at 15cm?"

And the two started writing in their pads.

Minorin: Me
Minorin: Everyone would be cute at 15cm, so I thought I'd pick myself.

Asumin: Mamegu-chan
Asumin, mimicking the shock pose Mamegu did earlier, "I want a 15cm Mamegu that I can pose."
Mamegu: If it's Asumi-senpai asking, I'll pose in any way you want right now.
Asumin: I think your agency will get mad at me.
Mamegu: It's OK they're a pretty forgiving agency.
Asumin: I think it's a bad idea. Let's stop here.

That concluded the radio segment. Next, Asumi said it was time to announce the ending song for Busou Shinki. To my surprise azusa came out on stage to join the cast members. Even though I only saw azusa just a few weeks ago at her DVD release event, she seemed a lot different again with her new look and hairstyle. She introduced herself as the singer/writer for the ending song "Taiyo no sign" and described it as a very kind and warm song that she hoped would fit the nature of the series. She also said she was the writer for the opening song. After quick introductions, the cast members left the stage for azusa to perform.

As expected, azusa's singing was so good, and the sound quality was also much nicer and richer than the DVD event at LAOX. I liked the song right away. When all cast members came back, I thought they were going to perform the opening too but no such luck. Oh well, I think one song from azusa is worth more than all 4 cast members singing the OP together. Then, it was time for a secret guest.

Resuming his MC role, Daichuu reappeared on stage and called in Oda Tetsurou who composed the BGM for the series. Oh, another guy I met last month at Anisama! The audience really respected this guy and gave him a lot of cheers, but the one fanboying the hardest of all was Takahiro on stage. Daichuu said that he almost idolized this guy back when he was young and thought his work was amazing and that he was almost speechless. He could barely talk straight to Oda. Mamegu was similarly speechless. After the other seiyuu talked a bit with him, they noticed she was speechless and urged her. "Go on, say something to Mr. Oda" but Mamegu said she was much too starstruck, so Asumin took over the conversation again.

Asumin: "Ne, ne, Oda-san who's your favorite busou shiki?"
Asumin came right under him and started flirting HARD, batting her lashes and making doe eyes at him. Obviously talking about Ann, she continued

Asumin: "Do you think of any character and she makes you feel like..oh she's a good girl. Do ya? Do ya?"
Oda: Well they're all nice, but if I had to pick...I think Hina
Asumin: Hina huh, so you like those kind of girls.
Oda: I guess I like girls that are kind of stoic/mysterious
Asumin: Ann could be like that too!

After Oda left stage, Daichuu was still nervous so Asumin told him "I'll support your love. I'm cheering for you"
Daichuu: "Hey, don't misunderstand this"

Finally, everyone took a bow and said their final message to fans. Asumi told us to watch out for their twitter, as they'd be announcing official Busou Shinki itasha appearances soon at various locations, and once again reminded us of the TV airing dates and single releases. Staff waited at the exit to distribute special stickers to those wearing headgear, so I took the opportunity to get ahead of the crowd and get out early.

Final impressions: For 3000 yen, that was 2 hours very well spent. Megumi has matured into a fine and quirky seiyuu since the last time I saw her at AX, and of course I was happy to see Asumin, Minorin, and Mizuhasu for the second time in the same trip. As for radio, I'm looking forward to the twin-boke combination of Asumis and Minorin in episodes to come.

Posted by Paranda at 12:11 AM | Comments (0)

October 9, 2012

Ookubo Rumi

I started getting into A&G Lady Go recently, but just like Hashihime who had the epiphany before me, Ookubo Rumi, has very quickly jumped several tiers into my must-follow list in just a few short months. Hashihime provides some great introductory info in this post and hits on most of the points, including her voice acting, general cuteness, and decent singing ability.

IMO she is probably the strongest singer among the 4 Gorakubu seiyuu at least. She also rivals Yukachin with her quick wits, but combined with a sense of maturity. After personally seeing her charm offensive when I attended the Yuruyuri 39fes event last month, I decided at some point I should also contribute to the Rumirumi bandwagon, as she surely is worth the effort just as Yukachin was.

To start with some history, Rumirumi (who just turned 23 two weeks ago by the way) actually never had plans to become a seiyuu until her second year in highschool. Although she liked anime and voice actors, she originally didn't decide what to study and was just planning to go to a normal college to figure it out later, until suddenly one day she had the desire to be a voice actor. She discussed this with her parents who gave their blessing surprisingly easily, and then she enrolled in the seiyuu program at TOKYO ANNOUNCE GAKUIN Performing Arts College. As she had more classes in the vocational school, she gradually became more determined. In her second year, at age 19, she participated in the 3rd annual audition held by 81 Produce where she won an award. During the audition, she sang Shoko-tan's "Snow Tears." It was also at this audition where she made a strong impression on the young Ootsubo Yuka who also happened to be there, although they wouldn't work together until much later.

Since then, her career has been on a fairly smooth trajectory. When she had her first debut role in Sasameki Koto, she was guided by her senpai Katou Emiri from the same agency and she has held immense respect for her ever since.

In late 2010, she began hosting Thursday (now Wednesday) night episodes of A&G NEXT GENERATION Lady Go!! web series along with Mikami Shiori, Komatsu Mikako, Teramoto Yukika, and Takamori Natsumi (Sumipe didn't replace Yukika until 2011). Mikami was one year ahead of Rumi at the same seiyuu school, so when they met at Lady Go, Rumi originally started out calling her Mikami-senpai and only switched after Mikami insisted on using her nickname Mikashii. Later when Rumi used "Mikami-senpai" again at the start of YuruYuri S1, she got scolded by a very scary Mikashii ("Rumirumi-chan, I thought I told you to call me Mikashii from now on" *death stare*)

You may notice that fans and Rumi will sometimes greet each other on nico broadcasts and radio using "Happy!" But what they're really saying is "Ha-P!", an abbreviated term for 腹黒ピンク (Haraguro Pink) which a neologism referring to certain pink haired characters with a heart of darkness. Of course if asked, Rumi will strongly deny her particular character is evil - rather she's a pure angel who's simply honest with herself. A "Harashiro Pink" character if you will.

Since fans identify her most strongly with her Chinatsu role, she ended up getting a reputation for being evil and crafty. A running joke was that fans would intentionally spin her words and actions as ominous and try to look at the hidden meanings even if she said something completely nice and innocent. At one point in time it was so widespread even her own staff heckled her about it. The "evil" jokes have mostly been played out and gone away, but she still gets called "azatoi" (sly/cunning) all the time, a label she seems to have accepted (or at least doesn't complain when she reads it in the mails anymore). Fans call her "azatokawaii" as praise for her unfair ability to act sickeningly cute. She is a lot like Yukarin with regards to this aspect.

The "azatoi" moniker is well deserved. Rumi can be mischeviously cute (although she's still not good at giving winks) and is a rather fast thinker who can adlib humor quite well. Corners like るWみH really highlight this, as she is required to act out ridiculous roles based on completely nonsensical who/what/when/where/how combinations. In one episode she was throwing handseals around while playing a "ninja ordering gyudon in an izakaya."

When asked to compare her qualities with Chinatsu, she responded she's similar in that she gets very excited about things she likes. However, at the same time she is totally ignorant and incurious of topics that don't interest her, and thus has a rather myopic knowledge of the world. But she doesn't like to admit when she doesn't know something and will often try and bluff her way through. The Lady Go corner "Rumirumi Bijutsukan he youkoso" is actually based entirely around her well practiced ability to do this, and her unscripted commentary while trying to draw obscure/foreign objects is often hilarious. Her bluffing and boasting skills are also frequently seen in other areas, where she loves to say "oh yeah, I'm good at this" whenever she's challenged to anything. Sometimes it's true, sometimes it's not.

As a child, she was pretty mature for her age, as she tried hard to imitate her older sister, whom she admired her ability to fit in naturally with adults. Even now she's mostly an easygoing and casual person. In fact, she says her friends might even call her boyish. Tsuda Minami went so far as to call Rumirumi an "oyaji" in one interview. She does indeed have a remarkably strong ability to act out on caricatures like that. To this day, her legendary "ikemen" act still persists by popular request. It's funny that in older interviews, Mikashii originally thought Rumirumi was the most feminine out of all 4 Gorakubu cast members.

When Rumi was in the cheerleading squad in highschool, her favorite part was dancing and she practiced it a lot, although she was a bit afraid too since her small stature meant she would be the top half for any aerial routines. The experience proved valuable when she was at dance practice for Yuruyuri events. The physical skill gap vs her castmates was so large at their first practice session that a staff member immediately singled her out and asked if she danced before.

Her favorite food is karaage with soy sauce. However, her friends think she's weird for adding soy sauce when karaage is already salty.

Rumi is a big Digimon fan, and has a tradition of rewatching the series at the start of every new year. In last week's Lady Go, she announced she had actually landed a part in the upcoming Digimon Adventures game slated for release in 2013. Apparently her staff knew she loved the series a lot, so they hooked her up with a role.

Rumi says because she's so short and Yukachin was so tall, she was flustered when they met, but now thinks of Yukachin as the adorable little sister she wish she had. Meanwhile, Tsuda is a person she really gets along with, as they are the same age and also usually on the same wavelength (though everyone says this about Tsuda-chan). If Yukachin is her little sister, then Tsuda is her wife.

She's not really much of an outdoors person, and in her spare time off she'd rather stay at home and read novels than go anywhere. Often, she'll buy entire box-sets in one go at the bookstore and spend a day reading them all. Manga is fine too, but if a series has both novel and manga, she'd rather read the novel.

Even though she has been playing a lot of cute girls, she said she would enjoy doing big variations in characters, such as playing a serious adult, or a totally evil role (like straight up hitler-evil), or an Akari-like angelic role, probably to avoid being typecast.

Posted by Paranda at 1:47 AM | Comments (0)

October 5, 2012

Tamura Yukari LOVE LIVE 2012 Autumn *Fall in Love*

Since I went to way too many events on my last trip, I doubt my procrastinating self will find the time or will to write about them all, so I'll just pick and choose out of order based on my feelings.

First up, the second leg of Tamura Yukari's 2012 fall tour on 9/22. This marks my...8th time seeing Yukarin live? I actually went to Yukarin's NHK live hall on 9/17 as well, but Nagoya was bigger and better so I'll just cover this primarily, and maybe bundle a few comments about NHK whenever relevant. Note, if you don't want to spoil the setlist or videos just skip to the parts labeled "MC Corner"

The venue this time was Nagoya Congress Center. It was a mid-sized hall seating about 3000 people located about 30 minutes by train from JR Nagoya station. Getting there wasn't so convenient, but a few extra train rides weren't going to bother me when I'm coming in same-day from Tokyo.

The event grounds were pretty nice, and the merchandise booths, fanclub table, and concert were all in one place unlike NHK Hall in Shibuya where you had to walk between two far away buildings. Plus, at Nagoya they parked Yukarin's tour trailer right outside.

Merchandise was in much more demand today, with long lines even half an hour before showtime. Despite the lines, not much was sold out except the limited Nagoya-only T-shirts. Even the puppet, which usually sells out at past events, was still in stock. Then again, Koiseyo Onnanoko hasn't appeared with the same frequency lately.

Gachagacha was still disappointing - maybe they're saving the good stuff for Yokohama. Another table was also selling the newly released Yukarissimo photo/score book and including a bonus poster with every purchase. I'll post all the various goods I picked up at the end, but I'll describe the live event first.

My seat was in the fifth row, center so the view was excellent. The stage was pretty standard Yukarin fare: light pink and purplish colors and lots of flower motifs, all surrounded by heavy theater drapes. A large central staircase connected two levels of the stage. At the top, there was large main deck with raised platforms that extended to both edges. Behind sat a curtained door-shaped entrance glowing with Yukarin's flowery concert crest.

A second larger projector screen further above provided visuals. At the bottom, the stairs melded into an ornate concave wall that tapered into substages for drummer and keyboardist. Further downstage was flat open space free for the rest of Momoiro Danshaku, Yukarin, and 4 dancers. This setup allowed three ways to enter the stage - through the curtained door, from behind the first floor wall, or rise out of the second floor.

Once the lights dimmed, the whole arena lit up with pink penlights. I think we actually achieved 100% pink, as I didn't notice any UO or ultra greens like last year's show. Yukari's royal entrance theme this time was pretty enchanting orchestra tune that employed lots of strings and drums as opposed to the usual upbeat brass trumpets. The sound for Congress Center and to a lesser extent NHK hall were both handled well, with nice clear volume and no major issues that I could notice. Yukarin probably has some of the more competent sound crews out there among her seiyuu peers, and she's one of the few artists for whose concert I know I won't need to bring earplugs.

Once the music swelled, Yukarin stepped through the curtained door in a two piece gold dress and started the first song.

Oh nice, it's a brand new song...wait no...Honey Moon? Holy shit! THE Honey Moon? This was one of my all-time favorite songs by Yukarin and one of the staples at older concerts, last being performed almost three years ago during Princess a la mode. The song had been rearranged so I initially didn't recognize it, but as soon as the first verse hit I was flipping out at finally getting to experience the legendary track in person.

Sadly, one casualty of the song's age is that the crowd had lost some of consensus in calls. A valiant effort was made to resurrect the old school chants and moves, but even at the second live in Nagoya some fans were out of practice, and maybe newer people in the audience didn't know the song at all. I would have liked the old energy levels, but really just getting the song at all was enough for me.

Before I even recovered, the familiar "Happy Happy" opening of Chelsea Girl signaled another round of hard jumping. There was no "Momoiro brass band" like at Mary Rose, but it was good to hear the original mix once in a while. You could actually feel the floor rumble, and I couldn't resist turning around several times during the PPPH parts to watch gigantic pulsating human wave behind me move in perfect synchronization. Before the final chorus, everyone did the special chant. It has been around since 08 but it always seems to get louder every year.

Third song was Oshiete A to Z. Ah...Yukarin picked this song again huh? I watched her perform it with May'n at Anisama this year too, but of course Yukarin's solo version is the best. The clapping pattern changed a bit this time, with the double-clap being being used more frequently outside the chorus parts. Yukarin led us by example by clapping for the changed parts.

Once the song ended, Yukarin stood in the center stage and looked out to the audience as everyone showered her with cheers and "Yukarin" calls. Surprisingly, nobody yelled for her to spin around. So times have changed.

MC Corner 1

"This place is pretty big! I kicked off this year's spring live in Nagoya. It was nice, historic, and profitable! But that stage was really small compared to this one."

"Actually Yukari has a lot of attachment to this place. Back in the 90s when Yukari was in highschool...well I'm 17 years old now, but I'm in a time warp"

Audience: *cheers*

"Back when I was in highschool, I came here often to see artists I liked. I want to be where Hiro-kun was. Actually at Rainbow Hall. That has about 10,000 people?"

"That's something I can't even think about. If I tried to perform at 10,000 hall, we would definitely lose money. Here's about 3000 people right? How about you all pay 3X it could work. Ah it's impossible. I had to stretch even to make it here. And in Tokyo it's hard for me to pull it off. I'm not on the same level as Hikaru Genji."

Audience: If it's Yukarin we'll pay any price!

Yukari changed topics when she noticed a piece of glitter came off her microphone. She awarded it to a girl sitting in the center front row. When the audience started cheering, she started picking off more pieces and handing them out to girls in the different sections.

Then some fan yelled out "your bangs are cute!"

This was a reference to some emails she sent to fanclub members the night before abut how she didn't want to bother the makeup artist and tried to cut her hair herself, with supposedly disastrous results.

"Don't laugh! Yukarin didn't mess up!" she says as she grins sheepishly. "Don't you guys do it? Who cuts their own hair?"
"Awww, not that many huh, and almost no girls. Let me guess. Who's hair here looks like they cut it themselves..."

Yukarin runs up right up to a guy near the front and points at him.

"YOU! You cut your own hair right? No? Ok, who else...has a hairstyle that looks like they cut it themselves?"

Fans started trying to wave down the bald guys in the audience, but as Yukarin scanned the room she realized she was basically about to insult the haircut of whoever she singled out and escaped the situation with a generic "Wow you all have some pretty complex hairstyles". Instead, she turned to her favorite victim.

"Masanyan, you look like you cut your own hair."

But Masanyan answered negative, and Yukarin was alone in her shame. During the next song Rainy Rainy Sunday she tried to hide her hair out of embarassment (it looked absolutely fine though). Once the music started, Yukarin and all her dancers circled on stage with umbrellas. It has only been performed live once before at a fanclub-only event, but the moves were polished and cute, and I loved the "do be do be happy~" lyrics. Fans knew the melody well from Yukarin's ItazuraKurousagi radio show.

Bambino Bambina also got a lot of cheers. I listened to this song many times since it has a gorgeous PV, but I only saw it live once before at Animelo 2008. I had just graduated from university back then and was still so inexperienced with concerts (ahhh so young), so I was happy to experience it again now as my grizzled kimo-ota self who has 10x increased arm waving endurance and a giant penlight collection. No more fumbling and nervousness this time as I joined the entire row in copying all of Yukari's hand movements.

Sakasete Otome is an interesting song with pretty difficult vocal parts, a really fun "ai~ya" chorus, and some big "HEY" jumps. It was also one of the few songs that featured a special video with big text that showed you the timed calls, instead of the standard flowing hearts and stars that usually occupied the projection screen. Given that it just came out with Yukarin's new single, and OtaP's heavy use of erhu, I think Yukarin intended to perform it at Anisama Shanghai. It probably would have gotten a great reception from Chinese Yukari fans if those plans hadn't been cancelled due to recent events. It's a great song to hear live and Yukari's singing for the verses is especially impressive.

Video Corner 1

Then it was time for a prerecorded skit to introduce the band members while the stage changed for acoustic corner. At NHK Hall, they played an audio-only version of it, but for Nagoya, we got video. It was a sparsely animated set of dating sim-like scenarios narrated by Yukarin taking place in the "Private Momoiro Academy." Of course, instead of meeting dashing ikemen, each scripted encounter with the Momoiro Danshaku always depicted the band member with an intentionally bad photo of his face pasted on top of an SD body.

The worst/funniest one was Masanyan's giant frowning oldman face floating on screen accompanied by cheesy game music and Yukarin's sweet words. There were also various easter eggs in the background to pay attention to. In the scene with JACK (guitar), the blackboard had Yukarin's name written under an umbrella with something else (maybe JACK's name, I didn't read fast enough). In the scenario with GOD (sax) however, I could clearly read "Princess Yukari is the loveliest in the world" written across the blackboard in English. Hmm, so that's how they'll translate 世界一かわいいよ huh?

During a phone conversation when Yukarin calls up Eagle (drums) with her cutest voice:

"Guess who?"
*whine* "Come ooon...it's me! me!"
"No, it's NOT an atashi atashi scam!"

When the screen retracted, all the instruments were moved down to the lower stage in a semicircle around a padded stool. Yukari came in from the side, wearing a silky knee-length blue dress and jeweled necklace to start acoustic corner.

The first song was Hitohira no koi, which was a traditional slow ballad. The second song, Sensitive Venus was more upbeat so she was swaying and dancing from her seat. As I was listening to these, I thought Century Hall acoustics were pretty good, and might have been almost at TERRSA's level. Yukari has one of my favorite singing voices out of anyone (not just seiyuu) so I'm glad they were able to put it on exhibition properly. I also had a great view without all the jumping distractions. Unlike Hocchan who seems to have a magical Fountain of Youth worth starting WWIII over stashed away in her house somewhere, Yukarin actually does look a little older every year. But at the same time each year she somehow becomes even more charming.

MC Corner 2

"That was acoustic corner! It was really dark. You didn't fall asleep did you?"

"Yukari loves documentary. I always watch them when I'm doing makeup in the morning. Actually I just watched one about Roswell from the Discovery Channel. But it was subtitled, so I was only able to read some parts of it since I was doing makeup."

"They showed all this evidence, but at the end they said 'Oh if it were real you couldn't keep that secret for 10 seconds, let alone 50 years. So it probably never happened. What the heck!? When I saw that I was so shocked I even rewinded it. They built up my expectations then crushed it."

"Do you know about details of the Roswell Incident? Anyone know except Ishioka (from KING)"
*audience yells back "YUUFO"*

"How many of you believe in UFO?"
*Few hands in crowd.*

"How many of you believe in aliens?"
*More hands in crowd*

"Well if you believe in UFO, I suppose you also believe in aliens. But what about all the people who said they believe in aliens and not UFO?"
"Oh maybe you think they never came to earth, but the universe has them some place?"

*audience claps to confirm*

"You see alien invasion in movies all the time but in reality I guess they'd never have a reason to come to Earth right? Because there's nothing of value here."
Audience: No, Yukarin is here!

"Yukari is just an insect to them"
Jack: *plays bwa bwa bwaaaaa~ sound effect on guitar*

"Hey let me try that!"
And Yukarin proceeded to play with the guitar pedal till the end of MC.

Still wearing the same dress, Yukarin sang the latest Nanoha A's movie ending theme Hohoemi no Plumage. The sound was REALLY good for this one and I could hear everything so clearly. The Nanoha A's movie may have been a disappointment compared to the first one, but the song itself is a worthy successor to "My Wish My Love."

Then Yukarin went backstage for costume change while the screen came down for a video segment.

Video Corner 2

As soon as "The Ranking Ten" title showed up everyone cheered. It seems they did a direct continuation of the silver age idol TV show parodies started in the Spring "I Love Rabbit" tour. The announcer (played by Yukarin's cousin again) introduced Tamura Yukari, a recently debuted up and coming idol to the audience. Even though it was just a video, the audience cheered for "Hatsukoi" just like it was a real event, with Yukarin PPPH calls and all (except while sitting down). During the interview segment, they referenced back to an old joke from the last tour's video:

Yukari's "debut" from last Spring's "Let's go Youngster no Hoshi" segment

Kouji: "Yukari-chan, last time you came wearing a dress your mother made out of her curtains. You're not wearing curtains this time are you?"
Yukari: "That's right. This time my grandmother made my dress out of the tablecloth." (bwahahaha)
Kouji: "Well Yukari how has your life changed since you became an idol?"
Yukari: "I got new curtains and tablecloth"

These lines may sound snarky as hell but Yukarin actually played the rookie amateur idol role totally straight, saying everything in a gentle cute voice and acting all shy and nervous.

After the video, Yukari came back in a red dress and performed the hip shaking Love Sick. I never actually did remember the rap part to Love Sick. Following that were Etranger and Beautiful Amulet which were nice nostalgic call backs. Beautiful Amulet replaced Tomorrow from NHK Hall.

After that, Yukari left again to change while the band stayed on and played some instrumental tunes.

Next up was Yumeiro Labyrinth, a brand new song in her upcoming album. Yukarin reappeared in a short skirt, fabric vest, cat ears, and fur leg coverings creating an ensemble outfit that was somewhat similar to the rabbit costume she wore for the 2008 Love Live Chelsea Girl tour. She was joined by her dancers with top hats and canes. It seems Yukarin has been studying up on magic ever since her disappearing act at Budokan, because near the beginning of the song, she magicked up her own cane by pulling it from a silk handkerchief. Next was Ange Passe, which was also nice to hear again after its long absence from concerts.

This was followed up by Kimi to LOVE which is a c/w song on the new Nanoha single. Typically with new songs, it takes listening to them a few times before it grows on me. Sometimes, I really like a song several months after I hear it live, then regret not appreciating it more at the time (even just recently, I got hooked on Flag Tateyou Yo by nao and wished I could see it live. ONLY...WAIT, I ALREADY DID SEE IT? NOOOOOOO!!!!)

Luckily, something clicked when I heard Kimi to LOVE on the big stage. When Yukarin was leading the whole crowd with wiper, I just became so in love with the song at the very moment it was playing. While it's got some lazy BGM, it hits all the right points - fun furicopy, catchy repetitive chorus, idealistic lyrics, and lovely vocals that rivaled acoustic corner. I knew right then I was having a special experience and I breathed it in fully. It definitely puts the Fall in Love bluray release on my instant-buy list.

Video Corner 3

In the NHK video, Yukarin tried her hand at golfing. This time at Nagoya, we watched Yukari play billiards. Those who listen to her radio or have seen the series of bowling videos from Sweet Milky Way know Yukarin is pretty much a shut-in who never plays or even watches any sports and sucks at all of them (or at least pretends to suck). So Yukarin being bad at this game was expected: at one point she managed to jump the ball over her target. While documenting this head-smacking lack of skill, the cameraman also seemed to put in a few blatant "service" angle shots too where it lingered excessively on her lower body as she leaned over.

However, in billiards, Yukarin actually met her match in suckitude, because her publicity manager Ishioka was just as bad. Both of them sucked so badly that it took an hour to play a single 1v1 game of Nineball due to all the misses and fouls. The majority of the video had to be sped up to 300x speed in order to show the audience the full match, but eventually Yukarin won the game.

When Yukarin returned, she pumped the crowd up with Endless Story before starting her third MC to talk about the video.

MC Corner 3

"How many of you played billiards before?"
*Entire crowd raises hands*
WHAT? So many? Ok and how many of you played Nineball?
*entire crowd raises hands*
"EEEEH? REALLY? I had no idea it was that common. I only played it once before a long time ago."
(Man, Yukarin is 36 years old in a 1st world country and she only played pool once? She really IS sheltered)

"Even the band members ;_; wait P-tan never played! (jumps for joy). We played nineball because the staff said it was the simplest game and only took a few minutes."

"Instead we took 60 minutes. We actually played so long my fingers hurt. I was despairing as Ishioka was making shots, but in the end I got the final shot! HAH!"

"Yukarin also played table tennis. I knew I wasn't good so I teamed up with a "skilled" person for 2 on 2. Well that was skill a lie. We lost in only 2 minutes! I totally had a dead look on me."

"Like when you go to a concert by yourself, yet all the other people went hanging out with friends as a group. Your DS suddenly shuts off during streetpass and your iPhone only has 2% left. That kind of face."

Gee that's awfully specific lol. Especially painful when Yukarin's hobby is literally charging batteries, according to what she told Mamiko on Twin Angel radio ^^

"But let's forget that negative stuff and look forward. Yukari Kingdom goes on. Everyone let's sing the next song together."

With that, we jumped straight into Party ha owaranai. You may recall an official PV that Yukarin put out a few weeks ago. Like the "LOVE ME NOW" video, the Party ha owaranai PV was actually made by fans who answered a casting call posted on Yukarin's FC blog. During the NHK live, when Yukarin asked who in the audience also participated in the video, a huge number raised their hands. By Nagoya, the whole audience had memorized the moves and chants, thanks to that PV and because of the call books distributed at the venue. But Yukarin told us, "even if you don't know the chants, you can just yell random stuff." In the middle of the song as everyone was yelling, concert streamers shot out and scattered into the audience.

Call books which assisted significantly with chants for the new song

We knew it was the home stretch and there would be nothing but high energy songs for here on out and powered through Merry Merry Merry Menu NE! and candy smile. I have to say, I felt SO LUCKY to get both of these songs (and Wakusei no rendezvous in NHK). The big circle step she does in candy smile is just SO CUTE it never gets old. Without a break, everyone pulled out pompoms for Cheer Girl in my Heart, the hugely popular Koi no time machine (major cheers for this one), and the finale fancy baby doll. Damn, I couldn't have asked for a better closing set of songs. During FBD there was no need for the air cannon since the venue was small, so Yukarin personally kissed and threw each doll.

Speaking of those dolls, you know, I sometimes see comments from people saying Yukarin fans have a kind of controlled chaos. Or say that it's interesting the fans somehow keep order via some unwritten rule of politeness whenever one of those little rabbit dolls goes flying into the crowd.

Nope, none of that is true. Maybe it just looks that way from far away. But one of those dolls actually went to our section and was caught by the guy sitting directly behind me (we traded high-fives afterward). And let me tell you, when that thing came in...our section became a mosh pit and whoever was closest to catching it became Blake Griffin. The guy next to me got his glasses knocked off, I got elbowed, people were diving across seats, etc. But what was true is that as soon as one guy got a firm grip, everyone suddenly went calm, congratulated the winner, and then went back to their seats. And dudes who trampled each other were totally cool with each other again, acting like nothing even happened. No harm no foul. I guess it's an understood thing.

After thunderous encore chants, Yukarin, her dancers, and band members came back wearing concert T-shirts and kicked off another two big songs: Andromeda made 1hour, an upbeat tune that fit the live format pretty well and might become a staple in the future, and Super Special Smiling Shy Girl, for which we repeatedly yelled the ending verse an exhausting number of times.

Then it was the final MC.

MC Corner 4

"Thank you for your encore call. Today, Yukari noticed some obvious empty seats for the first few songs. I wonder if they had something important come up. If you can't make it, you don't have to force yourself. But thank you those who came since the start, I love you. I had a really good time in Nagoya today. It may just be a pipe dream, but I want to perform in Rainbow Hall some day. I'd love to come back to Nagoya again."

"Oh the clock isn't lit up (digital clock on the side of the halls), what time is it? Nakamura-ya!"

A few audience yell out it's still early.

"I think it's about time for us to finish."
Audience: "EEEEEEH"

"Yukari is EEEEH too. I don't want to go home"
Audience: "We don't want to go home either!"
Audience: "Let's go for all-night event!"

"Oh it seems like not many people get the Nakamura-ya reference. I guess you have to be a bit old to understand it. If you look it up now I think you get the curry house. Look for Nakamura-ya flash video." (seems to be some kind of comedy routine where a guy is giving a speech and audience keeps yelling stuff trying to interrupt and finish his sentences)

"Anyway let's do the final song. I'd be happy if we can all sing together."

And then the whole audience put in their max effort for the last song You and Me. By amazing fortune, we got this song at Animelo this year with motsu, but this song is just as powerful at a Yukari only event. As she put it, "When motsu isn't here, everyone is motsu."

Finally, everyone on stage joined hands to take a bow. Yukari stayed behind to prepare her farewells. As is her custom at concerts, she spent a long time waving and smiling to each individual section of the concert hall, slowly working her way from left to right, top to bottom and each section of the hall responded in kind with a single loud coordinated "Yukarin" chant. It's a really cool moment of fan/singer bonding that I rarely see for other artists. Once she finished, she stepped back to the center of the stage and gave her closing lines.

Closing message

"I truly want to thank you for today. You know, Yukari is not young anymore. Well I may be 17 though...I know I'm not young anymore. But while I worked my hardest today, I want to dream even bigger. It might be foolish, but I want to aim for grander events. I'd be happy if you'd keep supporting me. See you again"

Audience: UOOOOOOO!!!!!

What an ending speech! Once she exited, the whole audience started clapping and shaking hands, but some girls even started crying. Then fans concluded the day with sanbonjime claps.

But things weren't over for me yet. Instead of hanging around at the live hall, re-browsing the goods booth, and crowd-watching like I usually do, I hightailed it back to Nagoya station. I didn't get a hotel in Nagoya, so I needed to catch the Shinkansen and reach Tokyo in time before the last train.

When I got back to JR, I was originally planning on taking the 9:50 train but I messed up my order at the machine (trying to incorrectly buy the limited express instead of regular ticket) and didn't get it in time. Which meant I had to take the more expensive Nozomi train at 10:15PM, as well as cutting very close to my deadline of reaching Tokyo before the last subway train at midnight. I was totally ready to grumble about wasted time when I got to my platform, which was crowded and noisy with a lot of people. Wait, there's something about that group...is that...Yukarin? She standing in the middle of a circle surrounded by her staffs and band members. OH SHIT IT IS YUKARI! I couldn't believe my luck that I ran into Yukarin at the train station - this is something I joked about with some friends but to think it actually happened.

"Well it was a nice treat to see Yukari one last time," I thought, "but now that the train arrived I should get to my car." Except, they moved first into the exact same line, and I ended up directly behind one of the dancers (I believe it was Yukie). Oh fuck we're not only in the same train, we're in the same car. Welp.

So we ended up getting on the same train, I helped move some staff's luggage, and then sat about 8 rows away from Yukari. At this point I was debating whether I should go talk to her or not. If this happened in the US, it wouldn't even need to be a question, but I wasn't sure I want to go all gaijin KY on her in Japan when there were other Japanese fans around who clearly knew she was there yet pretended like she didn't even exist. All that stuff about respecting personal space and all. But I also knew Yukarin loves getting her ego stroked and she probably totally wouldn't mind if a foreigner dude just went up to her (funny enough, I actually have another foreign friend who did just that), so if I did it I should definitely go at it from a "big dumb foreigner" angle. So at the last last stop, when I knew if I passed up this chance I would never ever get it again, I threw all caution to the wind, pretended not to understand a word of Japanese, and put on my best AMURRICAN accent.

"Hey exyooze me, are ya Yukary Tamera?"
"Hi, I am Yukari"

Full setlist:
01. Honey Moon
02. Chelsea Girl
03. Oshiete A to Z
04. Rainy Rainy Sunday
05. Bambino Bambina
06. Sakasete Otome
07. Hitohira no Koi
08. Sensitive Venus
09. Hohoemi no plumage
10. Love Sick
11. Etranger
12. Beautiful Amulet
13. Yumeiro Labyrinth
14. Ange Passe
15. Kimi to LOVE
16. Endless Story
17. Party ha owaranai
19. candy smile
20. Cheer Girl in my heart
21. Koi no Time Machine
22. fancy baby doll

Overall impression: Great show. Way more polished than NHK, and probably the third best set list for a live Yukarin event I've attended in person to date. Could have used a puppet song, and MERO~N though. No complaints about MC.

Final Goods:

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

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