October 14, 2014

IM@S 9th ANNIVERSARY WE ARE M@STERPIECE - Tokyo, Day 2

I wrote this faster than I originally expected to, so here's day 2 report a bit early.

Day 2

For Day 2, I changed positions from 2nd floor and upgraded to arena B block on the right side. It was nice to get a view of the floor from the balcony the first day, which let me survey the entire audience and stage easily, but now it was time to get into arena mode and focus purely on the stage.

01. READY!! - All Members

READY!! is the kind of song I do on autopilot these days, because I know every part and every call. Not worrying about stuff like calls lets me focus on all the singers, their faces, their outfits, and so on.

For opening MCs, while Eririn managed to safely complete her intro, Harami botched her Takane line and had to redo it. She looked so embarrassed, but it's always cute seeing Nyarami mess ups.

02. Ramuneiro Seishun - Nu, Mingosu, Harami, Kugyu

I was wondering if they would switch up the group songs, but it seems it was same as day 1. Not that I'm complaining since I love Ramuneiro. I had lights prepped ahead of time with the planned 4 colors in case.

03. Taiyo no Jealousy - Eriko

Wow, First solo song and it's already a change. I liked Watashi ha idol, but this is quite nostalgic too. In fact it's one of the oldest Haruka songs out there. Just watch this video from 2004 and think about how far Eririn has come since those noob days.

04. Vault That Borderline!

When Eririn announced the second song, this was HUGE for two reasons. 1. Vault that Borderline! 2. SHE CHANGED TWO SONGS!!! Given that there's only 3 solo songs, this signaled that there was a serious possibility that today's setlist would look drastically different from day 1. This doubled our excitement and suddenly all the possibilities started running through my head.

During Vault that Borderline, Eririn took a page from Asapon's book and divided the crowd up into sections, making each one yell the song's namesake "Vault that Borderline" separately. She even made the "industry guest" section do the chant.

Similar to how staff surprised me yesterday with their enthusiasm, industry guests went full power to engage and almost everyone in that section was waving red lights and yelling. BTW Pyonkichi was in the crowd today.

05. I Want

HOLY SHIT. 3 SONGS CHANGED. Moreover, I Want! is an awesome song and one that I was hoping we'd get. I expected "Otome taishi" but since I already heard that at SSA, I'm quite happy that she expanded the range to include even this. Today's tone was definitely more rockish than idol-like for Haruka. It seems like they're trying to combine day 1 and day 2 set lists to give something like a full spectrum for each character that gives you a good idea what that idol is all about, and that means showing all different types of their songs.

06. Honey Heartbeat - Asapon

Asapon also starting off with a different song confirmed to me that we were about to get a total new live experience complementing all the stuff we had yesterday rather than repeating it. And Honey Heartbeat itself was a fantastic choice. Aside from Start Star and Do-Dai, HH is pretty much the one other major song that I wanted from Asapon. I started enjoying this song ever since Linda AI-Cue guested on Aisute to talk about it a while back, and it quickly grew on me. Yeessssss Asapon rap. On ZA BEACH~

07. Reimei Starline

The first repeated solo so far - so I guess there are still a few anchors. I don't mind though, since this is an enjoyable song. Asapon brought out her penlight and made the audience do a wave again.

The MC after the song got a bit unique today though. Following her customary water-bottle kanpai with the audience, she said she wanted to do a special gag for Tokyo. As this arena was one of the Olympics gymnasiums, she came up with a last-minute idea to recreate the famous Tokyo 2020 Olympics announcement. She had rushed to get a replica completed only yesterday. When she flipped the sign and said deadpan "TOKYO" the whole arena cheered.

"Ahhh Thank goodness the sign got finished in time."

08. Jemmy

Great Master Artist 2 track. It's one that I used to put on regular rotation on my playlist. The break in the middle was really nice as Asapon doublehanded the mic and tried to sing it really seriously, so we all did slow waving with our penlights.

09. Meisou Mind - Hiromi

One of the songs I'm glad was NOT replaced, because it's just awesome, and it's RARE. How many people can say they've heard Meisou Mind twice?

In a key moment during her MC, Hirorin picked up the prop sign that was left behind by Asapon and also did her own "Welcome to my tea party, in TOKYO" announcement. That ended up setting a trend where Asapon's TOKYO sign got reused by most of the other idols who performed after.

10. Jitensha

Super glad to get this one. As someone who got into IM@S in large part due to the anime, Jitensha is obviously my favorite Makoto song. Earlier this February, when Hirorin finally returned to the IM@S family from maternity leave, this was the song she sang to get us introduced to Makoto again - the feelings were incredible when as she yelled "tadaima" to the crowd.

The great feelings associated with that moment were strong even now, so that I still wanted to yell "Okaeri" even though she's been back for several months. The audience yelled "SUKI DAYO" and "KIRAI DAYO" parts timed with the song. I'll never yell "KIRAI DAYO" though. Don't yell things you you don't really mean!

11. Cheering Letter

Aside from being a song I definitely wanted to hear a lot, Cheering Letter is just SUCH a good way to close out her set. It basically embodies all Makoto's hopes and worries and dreams as she writes a letter to her future self. It really shows the softer side of Makoto and nicely complements the girly Omoide no Hajimari from the previous day.

12. Nandomo ieruyo - Azumin

One of the cutest Yukiho songs, and very popular with the audience. The camera felt especially dangerous today as it kept zooming in on Azumin's legs, since she's the only one who wears kneesocks as part of her OFA outfit. This song also has "AZUMIN" calls in between her lines in the A and B melo parts.

Afterward in MC, Azumin thanked everyone for the calls. "I wanted to try this, so please forgive my selfishness, but can you all yell AZUMIN again." Crowd obliged and yelled AZUMIN.

Next, Azumin showed her appreciation for Yukiho, which she called one of her most important roles. Without her she wouldn't be standing here today, so her second request was that we would also yell "Yukiho." The crowd yelled for Yukiho even louder than Azumin.

Finally, Azumin closed off her with own version of Tokyo, but she tried to make it a unique "sexy" version so she sat down on the steps and put the sign above her knees and spoke to everyone.

"Where's the number one hottest place on Earth?"

Audience: "TOKYO!!"

Azumin: "Wrong. It's 'TOKYO, where Azumin is' right?"

Audience: "FUUUUUUUU~ AZUMISAMAAAA!"

Azutoi!

13. Kosmos, Cosmos

Kosmos Cosmos went much like the first day, although it's nice to see it from an alternate angle in the arena now.

14. First Step

This is just an amazing song. I used to think I was immune to Azumin's charms, but thanks in part to watching First Step in Fuyufes, I was won over on her live performing abilities (Solo MOONY at 8th also played a big part). Especially after her MC dedicated to Yukiho, this felt like a super appropriate song since it's essentially Azumin's love letter to her character.

Similar to ALRIGHT* on day 1, this is another song that Azumin has such strong feelings for she has cried while singing it in previous lives, but today she was all smiles and confidence. Ironically, seeing the very growth and courage that the song describes in Azumin herself only makes the feelings even more heavy for the audience.

As she was singing and smiling from the top of the stairs, you could hear people in the audience sniffling from the intensity. It's enough to wrench tears even from the hardiest toughman.

After Azumin, the team assembled again for first half MC.

Lightening up the atmosphere, Hirorin talked about her puffy hairstyle and recalled that she had even bigger hair in Osaka. "I was actually paying homage to someone with that hair, how many people know who I'm talking about?" Not many people in the audience responded, prompting Hirorin to remark that this audience is giving "real responses" instead of humoring her by pretending to know.

Hey at least I have an excuse for not getting Japanese cultural references.

"Well, who are you referencing with your hair today?" "I dunno. A poodle?"

15. Day of the future - Nu, Eriko
16. 9:02pm - Harami, Pon
17. Tick Tock - Mingosu, Kugyu
18. LivE - Azumin, Hiromi

For cover corner, it was the same units and songs as day 1. I was hoping they would switch up which songs got covered by the teams, so Miki/Azusa/Yayoi/Ritsuko might get more song variety, but thinking back I guess it makes sense to repeat what they know rather than have everyone relearn new songs and dances for other characters that they normally wouldn't do. Everyone is probably already strained remembering their own huge changes the solo setlist.

19. Only My Note - All Members

Another solid only my note performance. From my location on the right today, it was hard to look at Nu all the way on the left side so I refocused on Harami. I should pat myself on the back for such a good idea, because Harami's got The Moves.

After the group song, President Takagi's image showed up to announce the secret guest. We knew Jurikichi wasn't going to be there since her speech yesterday talked about it being her real last performance of the tour, so our minds could only go to one person.

As soon as he said "our next guest is a TOP IDOL" the whole arena pretty much screamed. People started cracking UOs in preparation before the name was even revealed.

20. Acceleration - Minorin

Holy shit, this arena turned Kiramekirari level orange, and fast. Minorin showed up wearing an exact replica of Leon's live outfit, complete with wavy skirt and butterfly hairpin. As she spun around stage, I could recognize she was mirroring some of the difficult dances from OFA, including the extended arm move and gyrating hip shake seen in Burst Appeals.

Well the whole song is pretty much one long burst appeal. She lead the crowd into a frenzy of yelling and cheering that really made her seem like the super idol last-boss that her game character represented. The energy level was quite ridiculous, with plenty of people seen mass fanning UOs and rebaking in the middle of the song.

When the dust cleared, all the members came back to the stage to welcome Minorin and give her a huge group hug. Eririn acted as primary liaison, explaining to her: "At IDOLM@STER, fundamentally we use different colors, but for certain exciting songs we'll use ultra orange. Or anything to do with Mayachan. But it seems like we've gained another item to our UO list. That was amazing!"

In a miscalculation, Eririn made her sweat-stealing intentions known too early. "After such a performance, you must be sweating. Let me wipe it for you."
Minori: "I'm not really a person who sweats that much."

LMAO the look on Sensei's face. In the end Minorin did let someone wipe her sweat, but it wasn't Eririn. Sensing her creepy ulterior motives, Mingosu (or was it Azumin?) snatched away the towel from Eriko and did all the wiping in her place.

Minorin introduced her own character, showing off her outfit and pointing out with some pride how closely she matched her look in OFA. "Everyone played the game right?" The audience responds by cheering.

765 idols remarked that Leon in game was a strong character "yet such a kind person. Too nice!" Indeed, Leon is portrayed as super-competitive but also very positively compared to much more antagonistic rivals of past games like Jupiter. Then they asked Minorin if she had a favorite character.

"Ah if I had to say, I guess it would have to be...Producer."

Audience: YEEEAAAH!!!

That's Minorin for you. Top idol.

21. Machiuke Prince

Immediately after Acceleration? My UO pile is growing kind of fast today. Singing along "GO! GO! GO! GO!" is pretty fun.

My UO pile after these two songs.

22. Rebellion

Nubellion again. Good! The more I see this live the better. Yesterday I witnessed it from the 2nd floor, and today I watched much closer from the arena. Seeing Nu do that twisting wobble kick OMG. I had a slight fuckup with my red switching today though which caused me to be a half-second late - Arc Daisenko casing is much thicker than what I'm used to, so my usual opening method of snapping it in-pocket against my leg with one hand failed on the first try.

23. Shiawase no Recipe

What could be better than Overmaster? Now I know the answer to that question. LADLE NU!! AFSDFKJLDKFSHDF!!!! You know, usually I prefer cool Hibiki to cute Hibiki, but this song is just so deadly it could overturn that whole point of view.

First, there's the incredibly cute vocals from Nunu, going Shiawase no (pause) Re-shi-piiiii♪ and winking. Add on top of that a silver ladle which she holds and uses to draw a big heart every time she says that line! Add on top of that a sparkle & bloom effect and heart SFX overlaying all of this in the overhead video. THEN add even further on top of that, a part in the song where she takes the ladle, goes up to the drum stand, and starts playing the drums and wind chimes with it. AND THEN, as if that's still not enough, add one more part where the dance step in the song is literally: SHE STIRS AN IMAGINARY POT AND TASTES IT AND SMILES IN SELF SATISFACTION.

Overkill. This song is God Tier. It's the greatest thing I've seen in my life. No hyperbole, bro.

For MC, Nu kept playing with the ladle and made us all draw a heart with our hands while singing the Shiawase no Recipe line. Then she targeted the band members. She settled on the drummer, half-embarrassing him with the audience yelling KAWAII, but his reward was getting to keep Nu's ladle (DAMN YOU DRUMMER!!!)

Before moving on, the audience yelled to let her know she wasn't going to get away without doing a "TOKYO" skit. Nu obliged by singing "Shiawase no...♪ (monotone) TOKYO."

24. Hatsukoi ~Isshou Kataomoi no Sakura~

O-oh. Nu ballads. The greatest of them is Avalon, but this song is within spitting range. As is the case with Nu ballads, I immediately realized this might be the only time we'll ever hear this song. She amazingly sings them so well and then NEVER repeats them again. At least that's been the case so far. The accompanying video shows a letter that's being slowly written out line by line with the lyrics of the song.

Combined with yesterday's set list, it feels like we've seen the full range of Hibiki's songs showing all aspects of her character, from cool to cute, in rock and pop and ballad and in between. Stitch the five performances together and you basically have a demo reel to showcase how much talent Nunu keeps hidden away.

25. Kimi ha melody - Kugyu

I hadn't noticed it on Day 1, but in the middle of this song the strings section was waving Iori penlights since they weren't on instrument duty.

I actually can't remember if Kugyu did anything for TOKYO or not, because it got completely overshadowed by her doing IORI lines where she just angrily yelled at the crowd.

"What's with you people, swinging your pink rods. You HENTAI! DO-HENTAI, HENTAI TAREN."

Audience: YAAYYYYYYYYY

"Cheering for that, Are you all STUPID?"

Audience: YAAYYYYYYYYYYYY x 2!

Even better than getting called a hentai by Iori is seeing the complete gap between Kugyu the person and Iori the character. After each line, Kugyu just buried her face in the cutest way, acting like she's so ashamed of saying those lines. Come on, Kugyu, we know you secretly enjoy it.

26. Sentimental Venus

SV has one of the catchiest hooks, and sounds like it was almost specifically made for Kugyu's voice. If there was one song to use Ultra Pink for, it was this - the most amped up Iori song that I can think of. I actually saw this performed at SSA too, but only as a unit with Iori + ML girls. It has a much more different and personal feel when Kugimiya is soloing it.

27. my song

Wow, have some mood whiplash! But since I was just on the topic of SSA, this is actually the same order of songs that they did then too. No matter how many times I hear it, each time it seems to get a little better. As far as Iori songs go, this is basically Kugyu's ultimate weapon: at least two Iori Producers I know have it to blame for their conversion.

28. Princess Snow White - Harami

After being almost murdered by "sexy" Takane via KisS on Day 1, it's only appropriate to switch gears to "Cute" Takane. Her competence on two extreme scales is actually one of the most appealing things about her character, and Harami can play either end equally well.

For today's MC, Harami brought up her now-famous "Minna to Issho" painting, a Pollockian depiction of IM@S lives in her mind's eye, and remarked how it's basically being brought to life this very moment. It doesn't seem like she told staff she was gonna talk about it, because she was trying to describe it verbally then got visibly surprised when they magicked up a photo of it on screen.

It's treated like a comedy bit now, and everyone's always making fun of it like it's a terrible painting, but when I see it, I'm like "DAFUQ?? This is a GREAT painting." Trust me, put this up at a charity art auction and it'll easily get into the thousands.

Also, Harami's Tokyo: (in Osaka accent) "TOKYO, ya de?" *head tilt* AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

29. Kazahana

The essential Takane image song if there ever was one. It's been seen at many lives, but this time she's making fine use of that live band.

30. Futatsu no Tsuki

Another welcome repeat from Day 1. Can't wait to get this song on CD. Since I've come back to the US, I've been leaving S4U on just for this song.

31. Fate of the World - Mingosu

Blue Symphony was a pretty active song, but this was just absolutely crazy. Once again, Mingosu went NUTS. She ran all over the stage in leaps and bounds. For me this song basically brings memories of Miki wrecking shit in the Nemurihime movie, but Mingosu can match that chaotic scene in real life. It is SUPER FUN to do. For this song, I think almost half the arena went UO, but they also kept the blue penlights up so it was a very cool dual color song. Visually, orange and blue go pretty well together.

For MC, I wondered if Mingosu was going to make us sit again but it seems like she was ready to do Aoi Tori as a normal song today. But before that, the audience demanded "TOKYO!" She refused. I have no idea what happened, but somehow this ended up leading to another mass chant asking her to abuse us. She couldn't hear what was being yelled, so she channeled Yukarin's power and told everyone to "SHUT UP!" and pointed to one person.

"YOU! Tell me what everyone is yelling!"

"Kick us!"

"Kick!?"

I don't get it either. Somebody explain to me. But who cares, she did it! Getting kicked by Mingosu, FWOOOOOOO!!!!

32. Aoi Tori (M@STER VERSION)

Full band Aoi Tori. No sitting. Without Nemurihime messing with my feels today, this song had its full effect. It's quite strong, but I was not prepared for what came next.

33. Yakusoku

Ok. This fucking song. THIS FUCKING SONG AAAAAAAH. I've heard it plenty of times before, but NEVER like this. SSA day 2 came close. It did. It followed the same formula, with Mingosu singing alone and then all the members joining in. Mingosu may or may not have teared up back then. But THIS was just something that has never happened before in the history of anything. She cried, the audience cried, everybody did - it was basically lifted straight out of the anime scene in Episode 20.

In the second half, you could already see Imai lose her composure a bit and her voice was shaking. By this time, the arena was sniffling. Then the whole cast suddenly appears and she just loses it completely. Not tearful singing, but total breakdown. The rest of the group covered for her and sang several bars while she stood there trying to recover, making several attempts to almost get a few words out, but failing and just losing herself again

At the end, Mingosu just dropped the microphone to her side and started singing without it, swaying side to side and singing with the biggest smile I've ever seen. You couldn't hear her, but it didn't matter because she was supported by all of her precious teammates who've stuck with her through all these years. The rest of the song was finished with everyone standing beside her and singing together. It was just an incredible sight, and the tears infected everyone in the arena. I don't think I'll ever see anything like this again.

It wasn't even possible to really do closing MC after this. Mingosu apologized to everyone for making the mood like this but she just couldn't help it.

So, during ending MC, Nunu started tearing up - something which I've also never seen. Kugyu pretty much lost it in her speech too. "Even though I always talk to you like this, I'm always receiving your support." Asapon! Asapon started choking up in her MC, but when the crowd yelled to her, she instantly recovered and put on a fake smile for her fans. But as soon as the spotlight left her and went to somebody else for their turn to speak, she also lost it and was sobbing in the background.

It's easier to list who didn't cry. Uh basically Harami and Azumin were in the teary but not crying state. Hirorin apologized for not crying "Sorry for breaking the trend but I can't let you see me in tears. Because I look really ugly if I do."

34. M@STERPIECE - Everyone

The last song was just...even though I already wrote about this song yesterday, I feel like I have to again because the mood created by Mingosu just changed the arena completely. I didn't even bother with a UO today because I just wanted to do open claps so that the sound of Ps could reverberate throughout the arena and let everyone know we were there. It seems like staff planned this too, because they started showing lyrics on screen which caused the whole arena to sing along. It was a decidedly different atmosphere compared to day one.

Encore featured the 3 married wives and lewd King again, doing mostly the same thing although it was really cool that they taped separate videos for both days instead of repeating footage. Obviously they couldn't know what had just happened since they were their cheerful selves, but it did help restore the mood a bit to prepare everyone for the last two songs.

35. Nijiiro Miracle

Today, I decided to do full 13 penlights for this song. Following Nijiiro, Eririn said "thank you for showing me your rainbow colors."

At the end Minorin came back to help perform the last song together with the rest of 765.

36. THE IDOLM@STER

For the last song of the day I went all out, still holding all my penlights and also burning every UO I had left. I could barely hold them straight and my hands were in pain, but the discomfort was secondary to just yelling with all my strength.

Everyone said goodbye one more time, and Minorin thanked the Producers for showing her something amazing. Finally Mingosu and Eririn did a long speech about how they've had so many memories from this series. Even though it's 9th live, they first met their characters over 12 years ago, from their birth on paper and raised them to this state. Eririn's last few words were in fact her introduction. "I'm Nakamura Eriko, my hobby and special skill is IM@S."

Each idol exited the stage in the same manner as Day 1, with Mingosu and Eririn capping off with their customary no-microphone thank you. After, a video of Takagi and BaneP appeared to announce the next February Winter event and lead everyone in a final arena-wide clap.

Closing Thoughts:

The truth is I almost didn't go to 9th live. I had been focused on saving up for 10th, but thanks to luck and other Ps encouragement and luck in winning tickets, I ended up going anyway. But now I can say with full confidence if I had missed it, I would be crying right now from regret. Instead I cried for different reasons. The greatest set list in recent memory, the strong feelings from all the singers, and the equally strong feelings shared with other Ps I've met on this trip made this almost-skipped trip turn out to be among the greatest events I've ever attended in my life.

Posted by Paranda at 2:25 AM | Comments (2)

October 12, 2014

IM@S 9th ANNIVERSARY WE ARE M@STERPIECE - Tokyo, Day 1

Last weekend, I took a 3 day trip to Japan to attend both Tokyo sessions of THE IDOLM@STER 9th ANNIVERSARY WE ARE M@STERPIECE tour. Not counting M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD in Saitama earlier this year, it was my first time attending a true 765-only IM@S event in person.

Venue

Tokyo Taiikukan is conveniently located beside Sendagaya station on the Chuo local line. Completed in 1953, the arena served as a gymnasium for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a fact that is still proudly advertised on signage at various locations in the building. With a 3000 square meter floor and seating capacity of 10000, it's a much smaller and more intimate venue compared to SSA.

Inside, the arena floor was laid out in a grid of 4 x 6 blocks, with the performance stage set up as a long platform hugging the the east end of the arena. There was no catwalk or middle stage, but the arena felt compact enough that you could get a pretty good view even from the farthest corners. Stand seating was divided between two floors, with invited guests occupying the middle section on the north side of the 2nd floor.

Seat layout was relatively efficient. The had narrow aisles compared to SSA, but thankfully chairs on both the arena floor and stands were generously wide so it wasn't necessary to fight elbow wars with adjacent Ps. Crew & camera pit was kindly placed out of the way at the rear as to avoid blocking anybody's view.

Flower stands were placed for viewing outside the entrance on day 1, then moved to just inside on day 2 due to rain.


Goods

Good sales were held in tents outside the arena complex in a paved open space overseeing the outdoor track and field. Separate queues were organized for event goods and CDs/BDs/media, with both containing some number of hardcore Ps who began lining up since the first train. The most sought after items were the limited Tokyo-only IM@S T-shirt, track jersey, and nendoroid rubber straps and charms. These were gone within an hour of sales starting. Other popular items which sold out early on were the mesh cap, navy polo shirt, reflector bracelet, keychains, and vivid shadow shirts. Pamphlets, towels, happi, and keychains remained plentiful.

The penlights set, which was previously a very hot item at SSA, remained in stable supply this time, presumably because many Ps already had SSA lights and saw no need to upgrade, or had learned their lesson and ordered them online from AsoBit. Although largely the same product, the newer lights, distinguished from the old ones by the white handles, had some improvements in the quality of the tubing which allowed for a brighter appearance.

The CD booth's main prize was the limited event-only "We Are Masterpiece" CD containing solo remixes of We Have a Dream and Curtain Call. Rather uncharacteristically for CDs, these ran out unreasonably early due to people in line buying up to 10 copies (at 2500 yen each). Staffers handed out bonus clearfiles for every 2000 yen spent, and a tote bag for purchases above 10000 yen.

Oct 4, Day 1

My seat on Day 1 was 2nd floor north side, slightly to the left behind the "industry guest" seats. Supposedly, some CG/MLs were seated in that area, but I didn't think to check until after the fact (facepalm).

From this position, I had a clear view of the left side of the stage, and a wide view of the arena audience below.

After finding my spot, I exchanged business cards with Ps around me and chatted with a local HarukaP from Tokyo who was amused to learn there were several visitors from North America. Shortly after 5pm, the lights dimmed and we were treated to the familiar silhouette of 765 president Junichiro greeting the audience with his trademark hyperbolic praise. He was joined by BaneP and they exchanged commentary on the audience while the camera hunted for cute Produnnes or Ps who were decked out in penlights. IM@S is probably one of the few live events where going overboard on lights is a good thing.

Following the intro, BaneP explained the rules and then asked everyone to get ready.

1. READY!! - All Members

The live started off immediately with all-hands appearing on stage for READY!! The audience exploded into cheers and used a mix of penlights and UOs. Everyone was dressed in their checkered only my note outfits, which are fantastic. I saw Mingosu's and Nu's (OMG GARTER BELT) outfits up close at Anisama this year, but now I finally got to see Azumin's insane kneesock version and Kugyu's stylish custom coat-tails with open front. The squad divided into three groups to serve left, middle, and right sections, and each group rotated through each section of the stage throughout the song so everyone could get a good look.

There was a brief MC with everyone idol getting a chance to talk. Each girl's greeting was a few lines in-character, followed by the seiyuu self introduction and some appeals to the audience. The order of speaking and standing was definitely hierarchical, with the most junior members Harami and Nu standing on the outermost edges and speaking first, and most senior members Eriko and Mingosu standing in the middle and speaking last. Azumin is a bit of weird case since her idol Yukiho can be called a senior idol, so she stands in the inner circle but she herself is actually the newest member of the cast.

As expected: Eriko tongue-tied herself, Nu "HAISAI"ed the whole audience, and Harami was her hayaaaa self.

Asapon did her niichan / neechan thing, but added in an extra request to staff-san, which got a hilariously loud "YEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH" from the staff. At other lives I've been to, staff just usually doesn't yell and just does a nod even if they get called out like that.

Throughout introductions, there were many warnings from each of them that this would be one of their longest lives and repeated reminders to drink lots of water.

For intros, Hirorin deserves some special mention here. She posed a question to the audience "what side should I show to you today, cool, cute?" to which everyone yelled "CUTE." But she kept pretending she couldn't hear the calls, causing the audience to yell it repeatedly as she basked in the echoes.

I don't recall her being this aggressive in the old lives, but it seems like she's just as bold as Kami. Speaking of Kami, it's clear by now that Hiromi's nickname of Ka-chan, which could still be heard during SSA, has passed on (to Kami?) and people are back to yelling Hirorin again.

2. Ramuneiro Seishun - Mingosu, Kugyu, Harami, Nu

Even though it's October, when this song played it was as if summer never ended. The choice of these 4 team members was a nice touch, since we basically used variant shades of two colors symbolizing the summer and spring colors, as was pointed out later in an MC.

Light blue was the dominant color, matching Hibiki/Ramune, and was accented with Chihaya's blue, Harami's magenta, and Kugyu's pink. When the chorus hit, everyone synchronized wiper and it just looked like an awesome ocean of water and cherry petals.

3. START!! - Eririn

What better way than to start solo corner than with START!!? This is probably my favorite Haruka song, even more than Otome Taishi. It also has a kicking dance similar to that song which I always enjoy seeing Eririn do.

After the song, Eriko explained to us this would be the first half of solo corners, and how rare it was that they'll be singing so many solo songs in succession. It's a rather difficult test of stamina. She said wanted to take an opportunity to sing a very important song to her.

4. Watashi ha Idol ♡

Awesome choice. In the last few lives they've only used short versions of this song for medleys, so when we heard a solo full version the crowd went crazy. Eriko said later that it's the first time they've ever done the song with a live band.

That's history being made, right there! It's probably the first IM@S song I ever got hooked on - before I even became a P. When I did calls to this song I had that a very distinct feeling that this was a monumental occurrence in IM@S lives.

5. Kirameki Shinkoukei

3 good solo songs in a row certainly raised my optimism for the rest of the live. This is one of the best solo tracks from the LTP series with a super catchy chorus, and was the perfect theme to end Haruka's set. The crowd had no time to rest and was getting really pumped during the bridge.

6. Otona no Hajimari - Asapon

Asapon started out Otona no Hajimari by splitting the stage down the middle and making each section of the audience chant "GO GO LETS GO ADARUTO AHA~N, GO GO LET'S GO ADARUTO, UHUU~" in succession, followed by live viewing, and then everyone at the same time.

Yelling back those lyrics has always existed as a call, but after she lead us on like this, they were yelled with extra-strength throughout the whole song. All of the performers appeal to the camera a lot, but Asapon definitely does it the most.

7. Reimei Starline

This is a great song for Asapon to strike various poses and faces during certain parts of the song. She also whipped out her penlight magic wand and made the arena do the wave. It's quite fun and the whole thing reminds me a lot of Yukarin's meromero stick.

While the song was playing, the main video screen showed an animated rocket traveling through the stars.

During MC, Asapon made everyone get out their water bottles so she could kanpai with the audience. Then she asked us to get our towels. I don't think anyone knew we would need towels ahead of time, yet true to P form, the whole audience was prepared anyway.

8. YOU Ou MY Shin!

The first towel song in the history of IM@S? Between angela, Momoi, and various other artists, I've participated in a lot of towel songs as an eventer, but this was by far one of the best towel songs I've seen. At other events, it's usually small muffler towels; the IM@S towel on the other hand is a big white monstrosity that looks more like a fucking bath towel, so when it spins it makes huge circles that look really cool from the second floor.

The dance moves were also changed from 6th live, with Asapon now incorporating the towel into her new moves. At one point she folded it up and did a dance while it balanced on her head.

9. Meisou Mind - Hirorin

Meisou Mind continued the nostalgic trend with another awesome throwback to the early days. Makoto was unchallenged then as the coolest idol. Color discipline was mostly maintained, but this one drew out quite a few UOs from the crowd. I can't blame them.

After in MC, Hirorin reminisced about when she first performed this song over 6 years ago, and we truly felt lucky that the song was chosen again for this live. She also complained about getting a fan letter where someone said they love her talks "as a middle-aged artist."

"Oi. That's a compliment right?"

Fans started yelling that she's "kawaii" again, and she continued baiting them once again with "sorry, what was that?" As she was talking her armband kept falling off and she tried to adjust it several times, prompting "FUUUU" screams from the crowd. In the end she gave up and let it drop down to her elbow.

Hiromi also continued Asapon's idea of doing kanpai with the whole audience, and everyone yelled kawaiiyo whenever she took a sip of water.

10. tear

Another solid Makoto song that's fresh in my mind from listening to the GRE@TEST BEST albums. However, hearing it live upgrades it immensely, because there's a power required that Hirorin's voice delivers perfectly.

11. Omoide no hajimari

Super rare appearance of coupling song from READY!! Didn't think it could get better than Meisou Mind for Makoto but this song live was incredible. I guess this is what Hirorin meant when she said she'll show us her all of her sides. A smattering of UOs that flickered in during the final chorus really helped the mood too.

12. ALRIGHT* - Azumin

I'm always caught off guard from this because Azumin hides in the dark then the "YAYYYYYY" scream comes out of nowhere. I scrambled to find where my Yukiho lights went.

I've had the luck to hear this song live at SSA before, when the feels were so strong on day 2 that Azumin actually cried. She didn't shed any tears today, but thanks to the presence of the live band, we did get to see a more upbeat scene of Azumi dancing back to back with the guitar player. The crowd chanted "AZUMIN" between all the verses and also did the "woooOOOOOoooo" calls during the chorus.

During MC, Azumin also went for her water and got huge yells. "Hey are you guys not really drinking in order to save water for kanpai? Make sure you drink for real ok?"

13. Kosmos, Cosmos

This felt like a nice bridging of past and present, because while ALRIGHT is definitely Azumin's Yukiho song in the present, KosCos is probably THE Yukiho song from the Yurishii era. This song doesn't really have any calls, but there's a part where everyone chanted along to the english lyrics on screen.

14. Ano hi no namida

Holy shit, an OFA song! And this one only came out recently in the DLC storypack! From a song selection perspective it's the best possible choice with ALRIGHT and KosCos. When those songs came out, Yukiho was such a different character, but Ano hi no namida really represents her growth since then.

At the start, Yukiho is just a timid and shy girl with a debilitating fear of people, who can't get a single thing done unless Producer is there to reassure her. But thanks to constant encouragement, in the latest OFA she's finally able to take her own steps, and meet a songwriter by herself to create this personal song.

Following this, all the members came back out to close out the first half of solo corner and talk about the setlist up to that point.

Nunu had a cute moment where she said her color's now not "light blue" but "Ramune-iro," then bopped herself on the head and started spinning in place like a marble in a just-opened ramune bottle. When MC was done, they announced it was cover corner time for all the idols that couldn't come. For cover songs, they used recorded instrumentals, so the live band left the stage to take a much needed break.

15.Day of the future - Nu, Eririn

The dance for this was PERFECT. Nunu and Eririn were doing Miki's full dance, complete with side walking + arm spinners. Rather than split off to different ends of the stage, they did this whole number close together as a pair. I knew Nunu could handle it, but surprisingly Eririn did a nice job matching the movements too. The audience was so fired up! And maybe I died, because goddamn that Nu hip shaking. Nu hip shaking is a miracle of this universe.

16. 9:02pm - Asapon, Harami

Harami is a natural for this song. You wouldn't think Asapon vocals works for this song but somehow it does.

17. Tick Tock - Mingosu, Kugyu

When Tick Tock hit, there were two immediate feelings. 1. Oh, not Kiramekirari? 2. OMG TICK TOCK AAAAAAAHHHHHH. I don't know which I love more. This was an especially nice choice of singers because Chihaya and Iori happen to be the two idols who watch over Yayoi the most.

Throughout the song, the whole audience did extended wiper moves to represent a swinging pendulum, which caused certain arm death but it's the kind of pain that you're extremely happy to get though. Of course, even for a ballad, we still used ultra orange since that's Maya's color, but the deep blue and pink accents provided a really nice contrast.

18. livE - Azumin, Hirorin

Oh god Azumin and Hirorin in glasses. Is it just me, or did they pick the two people who look the most similar to Naomi in glasses for this song? Especially Hirorin in glasses! She captures Kami's look and presence almost exactly.

19. ONLY MY NOTE - All members

OFA is a great fun group song which I love, and it's awesome to see it live. But, it's one of those songs that I played so many times in OFA to get Gold record status that I memorized the whole dance, so it felt a bit weird when the IRL idols did a quite different version than I know. I had such expectations! But I guess some simplifications are expected and necessary when you have 8 people performing like this.

Speaking of 8 idols, I guess normally I'm pretty DD, but at the same time, I do have an absolute hierarchy, so when there's many people spread out, I tend to focus all my attention only on Nu. This is certainly a song that will need to go through multiple rewatches for other members and group dynamics when it comes out on BD.

20. Sachi - Jurikichi

OMG JURIIIIIII (;A;)

When I made the decision to travel to Tokyo for 9th live back in August, my biggest regret was not being able to see Takita Juri. I resigned myself to this fact, but more than any of the other missing 765 members, I wanted to see her. So, when Jurikichi appeared without warning, it was cry moment #1 for me.

In the IM@S world, there are few songs more powerful than Kotori repetoire of 1-kanji songs. I've heard Hikari, and now thanks to Juri's guest appearance I've heard Sachi. It could not have been performed any better than it was that night. Juri's just as much a member of the 765 family as any idol. She also got a matching yellow checkered outfit.

Before the live, we had a bunch of guesses for who the secret guest would be. Minorin was the big expectation, and maybe GamiP/BaneP to hedge, but Juri truly was unexpected. As it is, I wouldn't have traded Juri for anyone, not even Minorin. In LINE a few days ago, somebody asked why Day 1 ranked higher than Day 2 in my live rankings. Well this is the main reason.

Before moving on to the next song, the members came back to do a quick MC talking about the tour up till now and also introduce the band members as well as the all-female strings section, which had 2 violin players, 1 viola player, and cello player. Each band member played a quick tune while the 765 members stayed on the middle stairs to lead claps and dance - Nunu doing her constant pointing motions to each band member were really cute. When they got to strings, instead of playing one by one, they all teamed up to play MUSIC which got a big reaction from the audience.

21. Machiuke Prince - Eririn, Asapon, Hirorin, Azumin

This time it was the 4 members who soloed in the first half getting to do the group song.

Machiuke prince was wasted on me during SSA, but now that I've played it a lot in OFA and had time to let it grow on me, I'm glad I got my second chance to cheer for it. If you were at the live viewing, you probably died from all the times they "Chu-wa chu-wa" kissed the camera. Every moment was a hard decision of weighing opportunity costs and deciding whether to look at the actual performers right there in the flesh or looking at the screen. It's safe to say the BD version is going to be deadly.

22. Rebellion - Nu

Well, what can I say about this song? I have watched Nubellion on BD over a hundred times, and seeing that flawless execution in person, I can still talk about it forever. If Brand New Day is the song designed for Hibiki, then Rebellion is the song designed for Nu. It is without a doubt the greatest Nu song since Next Life, and I've yet to make up my mind over which is better. It truly feels like the kind of song only she can pull off. The dance is top notch - the many drag steps and Nunu's wobble kick are such simple fluid motions, yet deceptively difficult to execute properly, and through it all her singing voice still carried through so solidly with no sign of fatigue.

The audience also did their part, perfectly timing the mid-song color switch from cyan to red in unison. This was clearly a leveled up crowd that had learned and trained since 8th live and SSA. Many anisongs have color-switching parts to them, which typically happens between verses after a long bridge with lots of wiggle room, but Nubellion's switch is a much harder version which takes place on one specific word "AKA" sung in the middle of the chorus. There is no break - you wave blue, and in the next instant you immediately wave red. Watching this rapid transition from the second floor on day 1 was one of the coolest things ever.

After the song, Nu explained in MC that she threw in a little special dance move during the "Shinjitsu no AKA" switch part to make it look like she "commanded" it, because she was absolutely confident we would get the color switch right. She thanked the audience for letting her look so cool, and asked if she could try it some more. "I'm like a magic user. Show me red! Now blue! Red! Blue! BOTH AT THE SAME TIME! Wow, you can all do it!"

23. OVERMASTER

NUVERMASTER. That's it, I can go home, I'm done. Didn't expect a difficult song like this would come right away after an intense dance number like Nubellion, but I guess that's Nu stamina for you. I enjoyed the hell out of this because not only is it one of the top songs (along with Next Life) that helped enable me into this whole P stuff in the first place, it's an extremely significant song to me specifically as a Hibiki P since it was Hibiki's Project Fairy debut single, when she was still 765's rival.

It's another piece of IM@S history. Then Nu said the next song was something she has wanted to sing for a long time. Could it be....

24. shiny smile

Shiny smile SOLO? Maybe it's my bias speaking but this Hibiki setlist sure is OP. Shiny smile is Hibiki's personal song in IDOLM@STER2 - seeing her perform it solo basically took my IM@S2 experiences and made it reality. All my remaining ultra-asagi were broken and balrogged for this song. At this point, it was already far more than I could have asked for so I didn't care that we didn't get BND, or Pon de beach, or Next Life. There will be more chances for that in the future.

25. Kimi ha melody - Kugyu

This song matches her voice rather nicely. Also, Rie has a slightly different unique outfit compared to than all the others with an open front, which made her seem like a boss character.

The MC after the song is where she really shined though. When I saw her at SSA, the huge number of people left very little time for anyone to talk, so she hardly got any words, but today she had plenty of time to play with the audience. When she talks, she is JUST SO CUTE. Back in the day, around Shana S1 era, I had Kugyubyou. It eventually fizzled out and I was cured some time around Hayate S2 (unrelated), but this live definitely brought back some of the old symptoms. Certainly, Kugyu did go up my rankings again.

26. Private Roadshow (playback, weekday)

Nice poppy track that showed off Iori's cuter side. This was actually my first time hearing it, since I never got around to listening to all the LTPs, but it was full of energy so I still enjoyed it.

27. Futari no Kioku

My favorite song from Kugyu performed today. It almost makes no sense that Kugimiya's strength is in ballads but there you go. So far all the songs for each idol have really been showing the huge range that they have, and the talent all the seiyuu need to possess to be able to sing it.

28.KisS - Harami

I was already feeling lucky enough for having gotten OVERMASTER, and then Harami pulls out the other song on the original 961 Project Fairy disc: KisS. The only other time I can remember seeing this was a niconama of Nu's performance at the Lawson Special Party, but thanks to that I knew what to expect. To think I'll get to see the same thing from Harami in person!!! The audience pulled out red lights in addition to Harami's normal deep pink for this song, and waved in anticipation.

When THAT part came: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU~

Cameraman, thanks for all the insanely close up shots. During MC, Harami said she really wanted to sing this song for a long time, but when she finally got to do it, she was so nervous that her hand was shaking.

29. Futatsu no tsuki

Another excellent pick from the new OFA solo songs. Prior to Tokyo, Harami had an awesome showing covering Nunu's dance-heavy Next Life, but she's still unbeatable in her own element. She pretty much slipped into God Mode for this, because it sounds SO good live. Ear meltingly so. I'm glad Takane was among the few idols able to do their OFA songs because it's one of her best.

30. Koihana

Death. Hearing this live at SSA and hearing this at Taiikukan are NOT the same thing. This is already such a powerful song that I was nearly in tears at SSA, but it leveled up again. Cry moment #2 for me. Holy shiiiit it was absolute destruction, I couldn't even wave penlights correctly, so I just stopped and held still. The closest analogy I can think of is this must be what it was like to hear LOST at Fuyufes in person.

31. Blue Symphony - Mingosu

Alright. First off, this song is awesome. Second, Mingosu is one of the craziest most hyper 37 year olds that I've ever seen. I've seen her Jojo pose so I know her physical power, but recently I noticed she is the kind of person who's totally fine with sprinting 100 yard dashes in the middle of her lives too. She did it once during READY!! at Anisama when she outran Nunu and sprinted to our area of the stage (leaving Nu to catch up behind). And she did it again on this song when she made a mad dash from one end of the stage to the opposite end in a few seconds, just so she could sing the opener and first verse on both sides.

Next, Mingosu told us she wanted to try something special. "It might be a selfish request, but I want to sing the next two songs with you sitting down." Fans immediately got excited, so Mingosu had a bit of fun getting us to sit down in a wave. Wave sitting! Now I've tried everything! "If you want to show me your colors, you can hold your penlight in front." Well, playtime is over, shit is about to get real.

32. Nemurihime

OMG. MY LIFE GOAL. I was barely recovered from Koihana and then I'm attacked with this. Thank you Mingosu for telling to sit down, or I would have fallen over from shell-shock. With the audience obediently seated, Mingosu walked to the stairs in the center and delivered the most powerful Nemurihime I've ever heard.

The stage lighting was done so well, bathing Imai in a halo of white light glowing so strongly it made penlights completely unnecessary. Actually I think I just forgot about penlights completely, as I just stared ahead with my jaw glued to the floor.

33. Aoi Tori

To me Nemurihime is basically unbeatable - it's the ultimate Imai Asami song, so much so that putting Aoi Tori after it feels like the wrong order. I'm still dazed from Nemuri! But I know how important Aoi Tori is to Mingosu - it is perhaps the most important Chihaya song. BOTH songs in one setlist is somewhat of a miracle so I had enough sanity left to remember to appreciate it.

In 2008, I attended Anisama and Aoi Tori was one of the first IDOLM@STER songs I ever heard live in person. Being a fool at the time, I didn't care. This time I corrected history.

This marked the end of solo corner so all the idols came back on stage, along with secret guest Jurikichi now standing in the middle. Each one took turns saying closing thoughts and thank fans for attending. Where Eririn stumbled in greetings, Nu stumbled on her closing and blamed Eririn for infecting her. Hirorin did her "Mako~mako~rin." And Eririn had a fantastic closing speech about how far they've come, from a decade ago until and into the future.

34.M@STERPIECE - All members + Juri

BREAK ALL THE UO, ALL OF THEM. After having done this song in February, as well as Anisama, and also played the shit out of it on my phone during commutes and so on, I was afraid the song might some day lose its effect. That day is not coming any time soon. Having just refreshed my memory once again with IM@S movie in theaters a day before the live, this hit me at full power. It's still an incredible feeling clapping to M@STERPIECE with everyone walking around the stage waving to all the fans.

Encore

Rather than have fans just yell by themselves, we got a special treat for Encore in the form of a video featuring all the idols who couldn't appear for the event. A wave of happiness flooded me as I saw the familiar, and NOT SO familiar faces of Maya, Akky, King, and Kami.

After cover corner, I had put their lights to the side thinking I wouldn't use them, but now scrambled for them again. AKKY WITH UNDYED BLACK HAIR AGAIN! MAYA WITH A SHORT CROP! WOW. KAMI (5 months pregnant!!!) Maya actually looks so good in her new style! And King had her usual revealing dress - she even ended up making up a "sexy encore" chant. For me, Encore used to be time where you half-yelled and half-rested, but with these four leading chants and balrogging lights of their own, I didn't rest at all.

35. Nijiiro Miracle - All Members

Since rewatching the IM@S movie, this song really grew on me and I was hoping to hear it, so it was perfect that the live chose it for their encore. After experiencing it live, I have to say the feeling matches close to M@STERPIECE, and may surpass it in time. Thinking back to the moment right now, I think it's already starting to happen.

One more thing about the song, it seems that UO use is rising these days, but I prefer the rainbow fan of penlights, which I feel is much more unique to IM@S culture. I could see a lot of the audience agreed, but I hope as this song matures through more lives, 100% of the audience will switch out of UOs into rainbowing for just this song.

36. THE IDOLM@STER

The true final song with all members. Obviously we went full power. Not much more can be said about it that hasn't been said before, as all Ps know it and can do the calls even in their sleep. It simply can't be an IM@S concert without it.

At the end, all the idols came together hand held hands. They exited the stage one pair at a time, until it was finally Eririn and Mingosu left. The microphone cut out so they could speak to us in their raw voice. Hugging and still clasping hands together, they yelled out their thanks to everyone. Even from my seat I could hear it clearly.

Bonus: Day 1 Offkai

The craziest shit that ever happened.


I won't write much since PRIVACY, but I will say: if I never became a P I wouldn't have met such a group of amazing people. I wouldn't have fallen into a group of awesome Ps in North America, I wouldn't have gone to Toronto and met amazing Ps from Japan and bond over eating brunch with Harami, I wouldn't have met Ps from Singapore and Thailand and France and Korea and Malaysia, and this whole damn thing would just be something I'd read about on the internet and shake my head at thinking "those crazy guys." What a good bunch.

Day 2 in a couple days once I've had time to collect my thoughts.

Posted by Paranda at 11:03 AM | Comments (5)

October 7, 2014

My top 10 live experiences of all time, ranked by feels

1. Tamura Yukari - Starry Candy Stripe in Niigata - Sep-23-2010 (Live report)

2. Momoi Haruko - Hajimete no Live House in Koriyama - Oct-03-2010 (Live report)

3. 765ALLSTARS - IDOLM@STER 9th in Tokyo, Day 1 - Oct-04-2014 *NEW* (Live report)

4. 765ALLSTARS - IDOLM@STER 9th in Tokyo, Day 2 - Oct-05-2014 *NEW*

5. Various - Milk Lariat vol.4 - Nov-27-2011 (Live Report)

6. Sakura Saori - WE LOVE ITAPARA in Gifu - Jun-16-2013

7. Nanamorichuu Gorakubu - Nanamorichuu Festival, Night - Feb-24-2013 (Live Report)

8. Tamura Yukari - LOVE LIVE 2011 SPRING Mary Rose, Day 2 in Tokyo - Apr-16-2011 (Live Report)

9. Various - ANIMAX MUSIX 2011 in Yokohama - Nov-23-2011 (Live Report)

10. Suara - Suara Live 2008 in Yokohama - Sep-06-2008

This is not an objective ranking based on set list. It's entirely based on the amount of positive feelings I had associated with the event at the time, even if I'm not as big a fan of some artists listed now as I used to be.

Posted by Paranda at 12:51 PM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2014

Tamura Yukari LOVE LIVE 2014 Spring *Fruits Fruits Cherry*


On 2/15 and 2/16, I attended both days of Tamura Yukari LOVE LIVE 2014 Spring *Fruits Fruits Cherry* at Saitama Super Arena. It marks the second time Yukarin has performed there in a solo capacity, the first being Cute'n Cute'n Heart last year, which I also attended. Betraying any hints of "Spring", the venue was blanketed in an uncomfortably wet layer of slush: remnants of the heaviest snow in Tokyo in over a decade.

With me were tourists to Yukari Kingdom:
Day 1: Omo, Moy, and Kyosuke hailing from the USA (all first timers).
Day 2: mandi from USA/Japan (veteran with war gear), and Ivan from Indonesia (first time).

This live report will focus on Day 1, although I might do a separate follow up post on Day 2 with MCs if I can summon the effort after I write about Non Non Biyori and IM@S events. Be warned, everything below contains SPOILERS about the set list.

On day 1, we arrived at 9AM and encountered a moderate group of about 150 Oukokumin queued for concert goods. Despite the weather, they were undeterred, having braved through similar hazards in the past. Fitting the event name, the theme of goods this time was "Cherry" and many items prominently featured the pink rabbit which can be viewed at the official website. Goods this time were moved to a side area of SSA instead of the main arena last year.

In a separate line near the ticket gates, fans could try their luck playing gachagacha for trinkets, and also draw random collectible photos. The photos at public events are a relatively new development, but with 40 in all, it helped spur some networking between fans due to the necessity for trading if one wished to collect every picture.

Next to that was the fanclub booth, collecting new member applications. Sadly, the nearly decades long tradition of stamping the Yukari Kingdom FC passport with an "entry stamp" had been discontinued, with the final stamp being issued at the FC event last December. And I was just 2 pages away from filling my entire thing too! :(

By 11:30 AM, we were done with both queues and moved to a nearby family restaurant to get lunch with a group of local fans met last year at Anisama. For day 1, we conveniently had an IDOLM@STER related event in Saitama as well where I saw my current #2, Numakura Manami from extremely close range, as well as Watanabe Yui and some other Million Live cast members. Mostly I was just ogling Nunu but retroactively I'm glad I saw Yuiton as well. You can read more details about that at the 059pro blog.

At 4PM we were hurriedly running back to SSA to take our seats.

Inside the arena, we saw various flower stands, including the familiar artwork from Yukarin's friend and illustrator, Nishimata Aoi. Her submissions are now a regular sight at Yukari's concerts.


Nishimata Aoi's Yukari x Yukatan flower display

The inner arena layout was pretty similar to CCH. There was one large multi-level front stage with staircase connecting upper and main floor. The main floor fully extended left and right to the audience. There were two separate smaller square islands, located at the middle and back of the arena, and connected by a movable bridge pulled by four staffers who could ferry Yukari between these 3 separate stages. Video was one large projected screen at the top of the staircase, two mid-size projected screens at either end of the main floor, and then two mounted screens on opposite corners of the arena. In most cases, all screens showed the exact same footage so it was just a matter of looking wherever was easiest for your neck.

A bit past 6PM, the main lights went dark and all five video screens around the arena started playing the opening video. The audience stands lit up with the pink glow of nearly 20,000 penlights, now waving in synch with the opening melody. Same as last year, the opener featured a melancholic fairytale-style story starring a fantasy version of Princess Yukari.

Video 1 - In the story, the princess wonders aloud to her stuffed rabbit doll about what it's like to fall in love as she has never experienced it before, and is startled when the doll comes to life and offers to show her. But, by request of the princess herself not to spoil the story, I won't write much about it. As she starts on her journey, the video ends and signals the start of the live.

1. 純愛レッスン / Junai Lesson - Yukarin appears in the center of a row of dancers, and looking amazingly cute as usual. Ribbons, light yellow top, short skirt with very fluffy support, and low ankle shoes. The song was the perfect opener: a poppy upbeat new song from the latest album that has never been done live before, but also immediately familiar in style as Classic Yukarin. Much of the concert video theme could be said to have been inspired by this one song, with many of its scenes being literal interpretations of some of the lyrics in this song (a lonely person reading about love lessons from a book).

2. 恋のタイムマシン / Koi no Time Machine - Second song switched gears back from new material to the battle-tested favorite, "Koi no Time Machine." It is filled with customized fan chants, "Yukarin" calls, and is gloriously fun to participate in. Up there with Chelsea Girl in my opinion as one of the greats as far as live songs go.


FFC 2014 Fan Callbook

3. 100 CARAT HEART - Another old favorite, coupled with a quick dancer assisted costume change on stage. Yukarin showed her stamina by leading us through a ridiculous amount of sustained jumping through "HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!" as well as tons of mid-verse "HEY" jumps. How's that for the first 3 songs? Moving on to MC, the highlights that I can remember:

MC

"Welcome to LOVE LIVE 2014 Spring *Fruits Fruits Cherry* I'm glad you were able to make it here despite the snow."

Audience all laughed when she emphasized the Love Live part of the name.

"To those who couldn't come, let's go all out for their sake too."
"Actually my family was supposed to be attending today but they're delayed. Their plane was supposed to be leaving from Fukuoka at noon, but it seems they still haven't made it here yet."

"By the way, speaking of Love Livers, shouldn't everyone here be considered the original Love Livers? I was using that term first!"
"Last week I was actually feeling sorry for the Love Livers. It was also heavy snow last week right? I didn't even want to go to work, but there they were suffering."
"I was pitying them, except I didn't think my own event would turn out the same way! I wonder if this is karma?"

The audience starts mass cheering when camera switches to any sexy angles of her legs

"Eh? What are you cheering about? Oh...it's YOU"

Yukari points at the cameraman, then purposely sits down and re-positions herself to make a more sexy leg pose. This causes the audience to cheer again, and some guy yells "I CAN SEE IT"

"You definitely can't see anything! This is like how I do my photoshoots."

"So where's everyone from? Who's from Japan!?"
*Audience cheers*
"Ok who's from Europe!?"
*Not much response*
"That's far I guess. People from Eurasia?"
*None*
"Huh, don't people live in Eurasia right? I'm sorry, I'm not so smart, so I only know Japan"
"People from America"
ME ME ME ME!

Sorry, that last part was just a fantasy. Discouraged by the low responses from Europe/Eurasia she didn't ask America and just moved on to specific Japanese islands, with small pockets of the audience responding for each one.

Later, a Japanese fan said I should have just yelled America anyway. Oh well.

"Lastly, people from Yukari Kingdom!"
*Entire audience cheers*
"Yukari Kingdom? Huh, where's that? Are you people feeling OK?"


Chocola and Yukarichan. In hindsight I should have brought my Cherry puppet

4. Cutie Cutie - Woah, a TRUE CLASSIC song. I felt a huge wave of nostalgia washing over me - and sheer happiness that I would get THIS song. It hasn't been done in ages, even though there's an entire live tour named after it! Actually Cutie Cutie Concert 2005 is the first Yukarin live that I ever watched on DVD, and was half-responsible for pushing me down the path of being Oukokumin in the first place. All of Yukarin's dance moves were exactly the same as I remembered from years ago, and I could instantly mirror all the hand motions and knew all the call timings. The A/B melody has one of the cutest 2-step parts ever. Similar to what I described with "Honey Moon" when I went to "Fall in Love" tour in 2012, the song was old enough that the audience forgot the old calls and basically reinvented a new call pattern with more modern timings. I didn't care about them though, I went full on with the old moveset, recalling my training from hundreds of hours of watching Cutie Cutie Concert and Pinkle Twinkle Milky Way DVDs back in the day. I never would have thought I'd get the chance to actually use it.

5. Moonlight Secret - Next song was again from the new album. It was pretty normal and had standard audience interaction, but provided a bit of rest needed from me flipping out over Cutie Cutie.

6.アジュールの実 / Angel no Jitsu - Last song of the set. Nice dance moves - very idol-ppoi, which made the chorus pretty fun to copy.

Video 2 - Second video of the night, and a direct continuation of the first. Yukarin travels through various fantastical lands on her quest. Again, no real details will be given because SPOILERS GAG ORDER, but there's a scene where she says "LESSON...WAN" in the most adorable way ever. Also a dude got kneed by Yukarin in the gut (I wish it was me).

7.ひとりあやとり / Hitori Ayatori - After the video, Yukarin returned to the stage in a large pink ballroom dress. While singing, she gradually made her way onto the movable bridge where she got pulled by staffers to the center stage. Once she was at the center, handle bars rose up from base to form a protective U shape railing. When she stepped into it, the center of the base telescoped upward into a very tall tower until she was nearly eye level with the LV300 seats. Like at least 3x as high as Makuhari during DMC a few years ago. This kind of elevated song is standard in Yukarin lives so she can give some service to her fans on the upper floors, but at this height they usually do it with a hanging cage in the past. The platform version was far more risky, but she once joked about jumping off the cage during a niconama event so maybe she's a thrill seeker. The title of this song (solo cat's cradel) also inspired some scenes in the story video.

After coming back down, she did 2nd MC from center stage to let the band set up in the back for upcoming acoustic corner.

MC
There was some brief opening where she tries to get people to sit, but a lot of guys in the arena keeps standing anyway, so she employed a tactic to make them sit.

"So how many girls are in the arena today?"
*some high pitched screaming*
"Actually everyone sit. Now, girls stand up so I can see you"

The audience sits, and a sizeable amount of audience stands up. Yukarin does have a lot of female fans

"Wow there are a lot! Ok sit down."

Everyone sits down

"Now...well I don't care about guys, so let's just move on."

All guys in arena start screaming bloody murder. But at least it seems she got everyone sitting down.

"I-it's not like I'm trying to do yuri appeal or anything"

"So is everyone watching Olympics? I'm not, but I heard this just now that we got a Gold Medal today! But Olympics airs...very late at night. Isn't that overlapping with anime? Late night is the time for shady anime. Who won that gold medal...Hanyu?"
In Rika's voice: "I wonder if Hanyu likes cream puffs?" <- Higurashi reference

Yukarin makes it back to the front stage, while doing exaggerated "GOOOOO!!!" poses to her struggling staffers who are pushing VERY hard to bring her back.
"Wow this is a convenient system."
She stepped on her own skirt while going back and tripped.

"I wonder if my parents have come yet. Oh, they have! Make a big circle with lights so I can see you"

The family does as they're told and once fans spot it, they all start yelling otousan, okaasan to them.

"Stop that. He's not YOUR dad. He's Yukarin's dad. And don't call my mom Shouko"

Since Yukarin just gave away her own mother's name, fans start yelling "Shouko-chan!!!" in the idol call style.

"Those are my parents! If you wanna yell for someone, you can go yell for my little brother Yuuki"

Fans start yelling Yuuki, but surprisingly he actually responds and hold up double-penlights and does a T-kemen pose, which makes the spotlight go to him and the fans start chanting for Yuuki even more. This proved too much for Yuuki so he ran from the spotlight to crouch down and hide behind Yukaripapa.


Apple-flavored Ningyoyaki from the event

8. Papillon - Next was acoustic corner, my favorite, and I'm very glad she chose Papillon, as it's probably one of my favorite ballads from recent memory. Maybe because I go to SSA so many times now that I got used to it but the sound quality was actually pretty good. For SSA at least. As usual, I never wave penlights during Acoustic corner because I only listen to the song carefully.

9.フルーツ / Fruits - A bit surprised by this choice since she already did Fruits during Fall in Love tour last year. She usually doesn't repeat songs that frequently for acoustic corner. However, fruits is a great song so I don't have any complaints.

Video 3 - After acoustic corner, the third video played. This was a direct continuation of the plot of the first two videos so far, and has a shady character in it.

10.LUNATICA MARE - After the acoustic ballad corner, it was time for the "cool" corner. Yukarin reappeared at the top of the stairs in this awesome red silk outfit - the most unique costume of the whole event. The whole set got a bit of a middle-eastern feel to it, and featured a fan dance that was heavily integrated with her dancers' movements. It also brought back fond memories of being stuck with Yukari in the Sahara from last year's "Virtual Date" video. This ended up being the second most interesting new song of the entire night.

11.ナルシスが嘘をつく / Narcissus ga uso wo tsuku - I know this song very well since it's currently used to end Yukarin's "Itazura Kurousagi" radio show every week. It's a solid number into her jazzy repetoire.

12.Passion Error - Continuing the Yukari "oneechan" theme, this is another one of those serious songs on the new album. The camera spent a lot of time watching Masanyan shred on his bass (Yukarin gets into a little feud with Masanyan but I'll get into that in a future post if I write Day 2)

Yukarin left the stage for a short break and costume change while the live band held down the fort with some jamming. When she returned, she had a puffy pink miniskirt and bare shoulder top signalling the return to her cute side.

13.PINK AQUARIUM - I didn't care much about this song when I was just listening to it on the album, but after seeing it live, I love love LOVE this song and the dance that came with it. When she sings the line "手をつないでよ ピンクのAQUARIUM," she and all the dancers join hands and walk up the stage to do this cute little hop and it looks so damn good! I half expected Oukokumin to mirror that as part of the cheering. Overall it was a fantastic number that must be seen on stage before being fully appreciated. This takes the top spot as my favorite new song that was performed at the live.

14.Tiny Rainbow - aka Arm Death. Don't let the sweet melody and cute voice fool you, pretty much the whole song is Yukarin torturing the audience with the NEVER-ENDING wiper. And since we love the song we'll do it and put the maximum effort into waving left and right no matter the pain!

15 MERRY MERRY MERRY MENU...ね! - What I call the rings song, because every time it plays, Yukarin brings out rings and throws them to the dancers. A high paced, happy, energetic song that has an advanced and tiresome jump pattern that I enjoy very much. Unlike most "HEY" parts where you do a regular jump, it's not unusual to see full power leaps on MMMMN, with some fans getting serious height. After the song, I was burning up from the energy expended.

Video 4 - This gave us a much needed break. But it wasn't related to the story from the previous videos. Instead it was something else entirely. By Yukari-hime's orders, I won't say anything about it except that it involves adult circumstances.

16.秘密の扉から会いにきて / Himitsu no tobira kara ai ni kite - At last the Nourin OP song, and the one that most average people in the audience were probably waiting for - that is, if there were any average people in the audience. Dance was pretty normal though. Personally I think Yukarin should just run around the entire arena for the whole song and sing while jogging, but I guess shouldn't ask something that unreasonable out of a 17 year old. Excitement was pretty high though, especially during the chorus when streamers shot out into the audience and everyone cheered. Since I was sitting in LV200 this is the first tour ever that I failed to get an event streamer. They usually have her own drawings printed on them.

MC
Yukarin may have performed her latest single still hot off the presses, but the MC was naturally about...that video.

"Nobody say a word about this. No matter how many times this gets shown, I want everyone to see it like it's still fresh."
"I know some people read spoilers on the setlist, but I want them to get to 'G------' and be like...huh what's G------?"
"But it seems everyone doesn't really care what I say and just selectively choose to listen to what I say.
"They treat it like some kind of joke, like 'Oh even if she says don't write it, whatever, she doesn't mean it.'"
"Horie-san's fans listen to her when she says not to write something. I wonder if our own Yukari Kingdom is a lower class of people?"
-> Oh snap, is it's a challenge!

A few days later Yukarin's own staff even issued a warning on their twitter to be on the lookout for spoilers.

Changing topics, next, Yukarin did some fan interaction.
"So what did you guys do yesteray?"

Audience starts screaming what they did, but she yells at them to "SHADDAP" and she'll call on them one at a time. People in the front rows started jumping and raising their hands, so she went to stage-right and asked a guy, putting major pressure on him.
The guy just says "work."

"Work?" she said in a disappointed tone. You jumped so excitedly just to say work?

She went back to the other side and called on a girl this time, who said she was watching Yukarin's lives to prepare.
"OOOOH?" She beamed, "could it be...my recently released CCH? That famous item that costs 10k yen? It's almost as if this was staged PR."

"By the way, I just worked normally yesterday. My life is pretty boring, there isn't anything fun. For what reason am I living again? Well don't worry, as long as my parents are alive, I won't die."


Live Tour Truck spotted from the second floor of SSA

17.スパークリング☆トラベラー / Sparkling Traveler - Continuing with another anime song, we got HenNeko ED which I only casually liked until I heard it live. Best parts were "Neee Darling" and the arm spinning immediately before going into the chorus.

18.LOVE ME NOW! - And at last we get to the pompom song of the night. I think I explained this in a past event report before, but the MV for this song was basically created by recruiting FC members through the official website. Everyone was told to show up in a white shirt, handed a pompom, and taught the very specific moves to do. Ever since then, the pompom and dance have been incorporated into the live events by everyone. Those who weren't there to receive a pompom spend hours of their own time and buckets of mental effort into layering strips of ribbon to make custom ones in preparation for those 4 minutes (the callbook links to instructions).

As for the dance, one peculiarity of this song is that during the chorus, there's a part where everyone grabs partners to their left and right by the waist and sways side to side in a huge daisy chain. During the SSA event last year, Yukarin actually said she would have liked to do this song but was worried that so many people would be uncomfortable doing that in a large scale venue like SSA. Instead the entire arena yelled back that they wanted to. When she asked "what about the girls, are you also OK with this? Some guy grabbing you on the waist?" The girls also yelled back that they were fine. So with those doubts put to rest, here we are this year, doing 20,000 person daisy chains. Maybe we can go for a world record like S.C. Nana Net, would be nice to see Yukari Kingdom in the Guinness book.

Video 5 - This was dedicated to introducing the dancers and band members. As a special bonus, the whole thing was hosted by 17 year old idol Kagurazaka Yuka in a blue and white school uniform. I was almost worried I we wouldn't get to see her. In one of the only times you'll ever see a sea of non-pink penlights at a Yukari concert, the entire arena immediately switched to Yuka's sky blue colors. First she introduced the fruit of the day, Saitama's "Cherry", then called out Momoiro Mates, Momoiro Mates Jr., and Momoiro Danshaku. She also gave a special shout to Jack who got to play a solo piece. After all introductions were done, Yuka called out to Yukari herself who came on stage with a new green outfit. Both of them thanked the Yukari Kingdom audience as the last "member" of their group.

19.惑星のランデブー / Hoshi no Rendezvous - Go Happy, Go Happy, Go Happy So Lets Go! This is pretty much the best song for fan calls other than FBD and You & Me, and despite being released in 2005 still makes it to the top 10 countdown lists at yearly fanclub events. Though it predates the pompoms at lives, after "LOVE ME NOW" it immediately became a pompom song due to the cheerleader-like calls and use of pompoms by the dancers. For this song, Yukarin jumped onto a small rolling platform that carted her around in a big semi-circle until she reached the rear stage. On her way, she faced outwards the entire time to give individual attention to all the audience in the non-arena seats, pumping everyone up as head cheerleader.

While on the topic of this song, due to its suitability for cheering, parts of it were appropriated for a well-known ritual in Yukari Kingdom, where everyone huddles together in a circle, puts their hands together in the center, and yells "Go Happy, Go Happy, Go Happy Yukarin." I briefly described this in my 2011 Live report, but not much about its background. It's called enjin (円陣), and is done by Yukarin and her dancers before going on stage for several years now. Yukarin once said on radio she is incredibly embarrassed while doing it and some of her dancers are too embarrassed to even say the words out loud, but fans don't have the same problem and there are always huge groups of fans in pink happi coats doing this before the start of any live.

20.Cherry kiss - Wow! It's been a while since I heard this, but I guess she can't not do a song called Cherry Kiss in an event called Fruits Fruits Cherry. Lucky me, because it's one of my favorite crowd pumping songs, and this time I didn't accidentally do the calls for candy smile (Spring Mary Rose). Since Yukarin rode the rolling cart halfway around the arena in the previous song, this song was performed entirely on the rear stage, which was great because it looks really cool when she leaps up and you also get to see the entire audience jump up with her. The song has A LOT of big jumps.

21.You & Me - Mirroring Hoshi no Rendezvous, while singing this song Yukari jumped back on the roller cart and circled the arena again back to the front stage to conclude. As usual, the crowd energy for You and Me is always immense, and by now the rap parts are so ingrained that nobody even has to think about it. After the song ended, Yukari announced it was time to wrap up with the final song.

22.Fantastic future - When this song first came out, I loved the 4 Yukari sisters MV so much that I looped it until I actually suffered burnout and got sick of the damn song. For that reason, I don't listen to this track on my phone anymore. However, the live verson is a different story, and still gets my excitement going. Since I had practice with this song at CCH and Anisama last year, I was able to follow along without any problems.

After she exited the stage, the arena did a long encore chant then got treated to the final video of the night.

Video 5 - This went back to the main story at hand regarding the Yukari's quest and wrapped things up. Whether the princess found love or not, I'll leave to the BD to show.

For the last set, Yukari came out wearing a modified version of the black tour shirt that had the sleeves cut down.

23. 恋と夢と空時計 / Koi to Yume to Sora Tokei - At last, the song I was waiting for. This is my favorite one on the new album, and also has a wonderful MV that highlights all of Yukari's best qualities. As a light song, the dance and fan calls are pretty subdued with just a few motions, and no chanting. This song also has a great bass line so hearing it live from Masanyan was pretty nice.

24. fancy baby doll - No matter how many times we yell "sekaiichi kawaii yo" it never gets old. As part of the tradition for this song, Yukarin throws rabbit dolls to the audience, but in SSA, this takes forever because she literally goes around the entire arena. It adds about 10 minutes extra to the song, and of course fans still do "Yay, Yay, Yay Yay" throughout the whole thing. Since I had a LV200 seat this time, I discounted any chance of catching dolls but it was still fun to watch the arena dive at every throw. Yukarin has also been practicing her shooting skills since last year, and successfully used the air gun to launch dolls to LV400 seats several times.

MC
"Thank you for the encore. It feels a bit lonely to end, but I've already done 24 songs even though I'm 37 years old. I wonder if I can continue."
"Yukari's been learning some popular net slang. But I can't remember sometimes if I can use certain terms. I don't know the meaning so please warn me if I'll say something bad"
"Recently I like 'Fwa.' Oh, can I say that? 'Fwa!'"

Fans start cheering her on. Feeling emboldened, her next term was the waayyy more risky AWP - Ahegao Double Peace. She teased almost doing the full thing several times which lead to chants for it.

"ARE YOU STUPID!? Uh..what I meant was...since Yukarin is 17, I have no idea what ahegao double peace means."
"Plus I'm holding a microphone so it's not possible with one hand" - Way to ruin your own credibility there.
"I've got 12 performances in this tour, I don't think I should going all out here the first day. Maybe I'll do it by Iwate's live."
"By the way that's not a guarantee. Some "adult circumstances" may occur. (ref to video #4)
"Jeez you know my own mother is watching me today. To do AWP in front of her.."

Fans start chanting Shouko

"Don't chant her. You can go chant Yuuki instead"

Fans start chanting for her brother Yuuki instead, but this time he doesn't show up. Wouldn't want to risk being forced into doing AWP in Yukari's place.

"Yuuki went on stage before once and got meron. At first I thought he had a lot of courage, but his hands were shaking. Isn't he cute?"

Sparing her family from anymore teasing, she announced it was time for the final encore song.

25. W:Wonder tale - W:Wonder tale seems to have been turned into a concert staple that has been peformed at every show since it came out, but with good reason. It's one of those fun songs that causes the audience to go crazy, but at the same time it's a powerful song in its own right just from vocals alone, especially the ending where Yukari just knocks it out of the park with those long notes. But because it's always at the end, it's kind of like SSSG in that it started to become a bit lonely to hear it, because you're reminded the event is over.

After the last song, Yukari went around the arena one last time for audience greetings. Unlike CCH though, she didn't ride the platform around the arena and did a shorter version of greetings. She still took the time to wave to every section of the arena though, and also used the telescoping platform to greet the upper levels. Each time she looked at a section of seats, that section yelled out "Yukari."

Finally, she returned to the stage and gave one last message thanking everyone for coming.

"It's been a while since I've done a tour, but it's been a very fun first day. Who's also coming tomorrow?"

About 80% of the arena cheers.

"Each of my 12 shows won't be too different, but I hope that we can enjoy travelling together. Let's all go looking for 'love'"
"Thank you so much for coming."

All the dancers and band and staff raised their hands for a last bow, before exiting off stage. Yukari stayed around to wave one last time and blow kisses into the crowd before following them out. The arena started chanting for a second encore, but got cut short when the lights came on, so they moved on to the 3-clap cheering ritual used to end each show. After more than 3 and a half hours, day 1 was concluded.

Goods purchased:

Yukari photo collection:

Thanks to everyone who attended the live with me. And also special thanks to cyun from Japan who took us to lunch and dinner with his group of oukokumin, and shin1 from A-button for supplying me with a pompom and a peek at several years of callbooks from past lives.

Posted by Paranda at 4:07 PM | Comments (4)

April 28, 2013

Kawano Marina


When I watched Sasaki Sayaka on Niconico Choukaigi today, my mind drifted to another former winner of ANIMAX's annual Anisong Grand Prix - someone who I had much closer contact with.

I mentioned this story on twitter at the time, but I figured I'd relay it in a post now since I remembered it.

My strongest memory of Kawano Marina was during one of her street performances last September at the end of a Yukarin concert in Tokyo. At first I didn't even recognize it was her.

All I saw was that some singer had set up in the park outside NHK hall and was hoping to attract some attention from everyone who was leaving the event. She was in a long skirt and cardigan, and wore a big pink hat over her long black hair.

She sat on a small portable bench and played an acoustic guitar in her lap. There was no microphone, and she didn't sing too loudly since it was already dusk and it seemed like she didn't want to attract any police or noise complaints.

Most people were either tired or pure Yukarin fans, so they ignored her as they walked past, or they watched for a few minutes then left.

But a group of maybe 15-20 people gathered around in a semicircle and watched her perform unplugged. They seemed prepared to stay indefinitely. The level of street performers in Japan is pretty high (even Momoi herself started out on the streets of Akiba), so I stuck around to listen too. After all, I met Hirano Risa in Osaka the year before in the same way, and I ended up buying a CD at the end of it all. It helped that she sang known anime-related songs, so we knew the tunes and timings and were clapping along.

With only the guitar, she sang acoustic versions of various OP/EDs and insert songs, including tracks from Haruhi and Macross F. She did a great job on most of them. Anime songs aren't always performed by such great singers, so in some cases she even exceeded the singing skills of the original artist. Meanwhile, another guy who seemed to be her manager or publicist periodically made his way around the crowd and passed out flyers advertising her next gig.

When I got the flyer, I saw the name Kawano Marina and though "Hmm that name's familiar, didn't I see her live before at Animax Musix? What's she doing singing on the street?" She was the winner of Anisong Grand Prix and only a year ago she had performed on stage to an audience of thousands.

Once the sun went down, the fans were waving Yukarin's pink penlights in the dark. Some guys even burned a few UOs. Even though the concert we just came from didn't have any use for UO, I guess a few fans always pack spare sticks just in case.

She continued singing for nearly an hour after sunset, with almost no breaks in between. Finally she got up and bowed personally to everyone who stayed until the end. Surprisingly, she didn't try to sell us anything and just asked us to come see her show in the future.

I had my phone on me at the time so I looked her up just to confirm she was the same Kawano Marina I was thinking of - it was. I was very appreciative of being able to meet Marina like that, but at the same time I was a bit sad, thinking, "Man she's fallen on hard times if she's resorting to this." Well it's not like she was busking for change or anything. She was just getting some publicity but it made her seem like a struggling artist. Later I learned she was rebooked for Animax 2012, so it turns out she's not doing too bad for herself.

Who knows, maybe her hard work paid off? Or maybe she just likes street performing in general.

Posted by Paranda at 3:24 AM | Comments (0)

March 3, 2013

Nanamorichuu Festival


On February 24th, I attended Yuruyuri's third all-cast live concert, Nanamorichuu Festival. I went to both noon and night sessions at Pacifico Yokohama.

I arrived in Yokohama at 8AM in order to buy goods, but even then there were already about 600 people in line. There were cosplayers, crossplayers, lots of people in animal and tomato kigurumi, and even a guy in a huge unwieldy Ganbo costume. It took almost 4 hours to get through the goods, but I was able to purchase everything on my list. Only people with tickets to the event could buy things, and you could buy a max of 3 of the same item. By the time I got through the line though, black T-shirts, black parka, mirakurun penlight had all been limited down to 1 per person, and completely sold out afterwards. I'll do a closer look at goods at the end.

After grabbing lunch with a BasuP (I owe you a lunch man), I headed inside the venue to start my 7 hour trial. Inside Pacifico Kokusai lobby, a huge array of wreaths and bouquets lined the wall from 3 sides, donated from fan groups and companies. Among the most elaborate ones were full size flower arrangements constructed in the likeness of the characters.




Both events started on time. I found my seat near the center front half of the arena, with a great view. My night session's seat was slightly better than noon.

The performance area was split into 5 main sections. A door and platform at the top had two staircases which came down to each side. These branched off into left and right side stages, also with their own doors. In the center between the stairs, there was the main stage with sliding doors behind it and a large video screen above. The main stage had another wide staircase which merged with the side staircases down to the lowest level which spanned the whole width of all the other stages. On the walls to the side, two giant light fixtures on each side formed the letters YRYR that flashed in sync with the music.


From Katou Emiri's blog: http://blog.livedoor.jp/clovercafe/archives/51936848.html

The event started with a schoolbell chime, followed by an opening video of the members wearing Nanamorichuu outfits and riding a van to the venue, making duck faces with potato chips, and running across a grassy field to the arena. As Yes! Yuyuyu Yuruyuri started playing each gorakubu member made their signature entrance from the upper stage.

In comes Mikashii with her long hair wrapped up to form the biggest pair of odango I've ever seen, like two great big bowling balls attached to her head. I'm talking at least 25% bigger than what she had at Utagassen last year. Next came Tsudanyan, with a nice straight long hair with bangs parted down the middle. I was looking to check out her awesome spin jump entrance again, but it seems to have been toned down for obvious safety reasons in their location. Rumirumi and Yukachin appeared last, each wearing their character's hairstyle: Rumi with twin tails and Yuka with a large bow that formed cat ears behind her head. Their make up was similar to Utagassen this time - plain and functional with a bit of glitter spray, and even Tsuda seems to have dumped the eye shadow for a more natural look, which suits her very well.

Streamers burst in synch with start of the first verse, showering the front half of the arena with purple ribbons. And then the arena was awash with colors. We burned through Yes! with ease, and without pause, moved immediately into Lets Love de ikimashou. Deafening yells of "Y. U. R. U. Y. U. R. I. YURUYURI~" with 5000 people ensued.

For these songs, most of the fans had 4 light sticks, two in hand, and lit with each member's color. This meant for an audience of our size, we had close to 20,000 lights waving in chaotic order. Duel wielding was almost required in a way, since the next song Gorakubu, Ai to Yuuki to Kibou to Yujou no Theme called for a double handed motion during a few parts i.e. "maru" which used both glowsticks to form a circle above your head. It has fun moe rap verses, catchy chorus, and fun calls that beg for furious "Let's go" jumps at full power. This is one of my favorite songs, but I wasn't expecting it since it was a season 1 song so I was supremely glad to hear it.

After the opening set, each member did a set of call and response for the audience. When responding, fans also all switched to the appropriate color for the character. Mikashii (Red) went with the standard Akarin~ call. Yukachin (Green) made us all do Kyoko's kyupi-n. Rumirumi (Orange) had everyone say "Pink!" the first time, and "Ha-P!" for the night session, and Tsuda (Blue) had us do "Ya-T".

Once MC was over, the Gorakubu girls left to make way for Koi no double punch, a Sakurako x Himawari duet. Mimori Suzuko and Kato Emiri came onto the stage, wearing outfits directly from their PV: matching beige jackets with a sunflower and short white dresses underneath. Mimori had her hair tied into braids just like Himawari, while Emiri had hers parted down the middle, which I guess is supposed to be like Sakurako but ended up making her look a lot like a younger Itou Shizuka. The audience got divided into groups: double cyan glowsticks for Sakurako, double yellow glowsticks for Himawari, or one cyan, one yellow for each. You needed at least two though to throw up alternating fists for the "Double Punch" part of the song. The distribution was fairly even and one color didn't outnumber the other. For noon, I cheered for Mimorin and at night I cheered for Emirin.


Screenshot from Utagassen. They used the same costumes

Fujita Saki was up first representing the student council members, with her hair in a ponytail. Her straight features combined with her starched uniform and red armband really made the whole Ayano cosplay feel authentic. She also packed a bit of vocal firepower, projecting a strong and commanding voice. She may have been the 3rd strongest singer at the event that day (I'll get to #1 and 2 when I talk about them). Additionally, while in the old concerts, Saki always had to stand still behind a microphone, she was mobile this time and her repertoire of dance moves had been significantly expanded. For Nai Nai Niagara, she had incredibly complex hand moves that were nearly impossible to copy on the fly. I look forward to learning them fully once the BD comes out. She also directed the audience since it was a season 2 song. "Everyone, say nai nai naigara with me." We all tuned our penlights to purple and followed along, but the timing was tough and we messed up the key part of the Naiagara response during both sessions. You could almost hear a collective sigh from fans being disappointed in themselves.

Next was Toyosaki Aki with her S2 character song Ai no delusion. When I saw Akichan before at Sphere, I didn't think she was that tall. But when she appeared at the top of the stage alone, holy shit she did seem pretty tall after all. As an Utagassen absentee, she received a pretty warm welcome from the crowd and we all switched our glowsticks to green...er...I mean pink! Chitose's color is pink! Aki's hair this time was a messy helmet cut like Chitose's and she was also dressed in Nanamorichuu uniform and student council armband. Aki's live singing is reasonably good since she was doing the Chitose voice, and several times it crossed my mind that...hey this is as close as I'm ever going to get hearing her sing in the K-On yui voice, so enjoy it doubly. Fitting Aki's skills, her dance moves were complex and had plenty of full body movements, cute jumps, and shuffling. I'd say it was the second hardest dance of the night, after Mimorin's.

After Aki, the other three student council members reappeared for the MC corner.

In the night session, Aki remarked "Y'all change colors really fast." Suspicious, Emirin asked "How many people of you came to the noon session as well?" Nearly half the audience raised their hands.

Then it was the student council team's turn to do call and response.

Saki made us do Bakkin Buckingham~. During the noon session, she also jokingly scolded people who would use green glowsticks for her part. "Don't use that color!"

Aki, during the noon session, had us do Chitose's "Shukketsu-"->"Dai Service!", and then "Mousou ga"->"Tomarahen" at night.

Emirin did the classic Oppai~ Kinshi! call with us. We alternated yelling "Kinshi" during the noon session, and "Oppai" during the night session.

Mimorin had the same Oppai call, but had us yell "Sansei" during noon, and we yelled "Oppai" and while she yelled "Daisuki" during the night session.

Next we had another duet. This time, Rumirumi appeared first on the top left, in the incredible Tuxedo jacket and short shorts magician's outfit which has aleady been made famous in previous live events. Mikashi appeared immediately after in a matching red version on the top right, but from behind bars. As soon as Mikashi exited from behind the cage, the whole arena shifted into red and orange (surprisingly suited for this type of song) for Onna to onna no yuri game. It's another song from season 1 I'm glad to have gotten, if for nothing but to see those costumes, hear Rumirumi wail "Yururiiiii~" and see Mikashii's lifeless gaze as she threw herself on the stairs. Mikashii did her "ueeeeehhh" faces pretty well, though Rumi's "scary face" is actually just her pretty smile - no need to be afraid of that. Welcome it! At the end, Tsuda Minami came out and asked "What are you guys doing?" to a flustered Rumi. "No, senpai! This is not what it seems!"


Screenshot from Utagassen. They used the same costumes

We switched to blue lights and moved on to cheering Tsudanyan and her excellent rendition of E-kagen Yui-kagen. She's got a great voice and gets my pick for the second best live singer that night (though mostly because of tsuntsun ballad which I'll talk about later). By this time, I noticed that all the dances for the solo stuff have been getting fancier. Minami had also been given some upgraded choreography and wasn't constrained to a mic stand this time. She wandered from left to right and pumped the crowd. I especially loved yelling the loud "YUI-KAGE EEEENNN!" call along with everyone in the second chorus - she yelled so loudly with us too. The lighting was really crazy for this song though, and flashed colors so fast it could probably give people seizures.

Next was Otsubo Yuka. A year ago, I didn't even know she existed, and yet now I'm pretty much obsessed with her. I guess I should have seen that coming. She's one of my favorite seiyuu and definitely my favorite among the YuruYuri cast (though I love Akari the character the most). But, Yukachin is actually the weakest singer of the group, while at the same time her Kyoko character song is fast and difficult, so it wasn't an easy combination. She did the best she could though, with the cutest doyagao, and she didn't even mess up singing the "yuruyurayuruyuruyuruyureyuruyuro" part. Her dance was also hilarious. The moves included her doing the worm with her hands while shuffling forwards and backwards in some kind of pseudo-moonwalk while giving us the raised eyebrow. She adlibbed some classic "Otsubo-pro" stuff as well. During the bridge of the song, she suddenly gave us a treat to her air guitar skills. Expecting the same thing at night, she surprised us again with the even better air violin instead. Yukachin is just a pro.

Next was Taketatsu Ayana dressed up in her white and purple Mirakurun costume and showing off her legendary ZR. Though we already got some service earlier from Mikashi and Rumi's costumes, Ayachi's is on another level. She appeared from the top stage singing Yonde Mirakurun. For this song, people who managed to buy the special Mirakurun penlight used it, while others substituted white lights. Some guys put Mirakurun's star tube on top of their kingblades, but that was a bit of a problem since parts of the tube are clear and the visible parts of the flashlight bulb were blinding people.

Ayana herself started off with no wand, doing waving motions, but midway throughout the song she suddenly pulled out a new and improved Mirakurun wand. It was a thin strip with two stars on the end as counterweights and lit up with green LEDs along the entire length. She handled the thing gracefully like a pro baton twirler, doing huge spinning circles in every direction. It was way more complex than anything she did in Utagassen or Recital - this looked like it came from a marching band routine transplanted out of a Tron movie. Unfortunately, we didn't really get a closer look at her because she stayed at the top of the stairs the whole time (she didn't even come down to the closer stage for MC).

I had been really looking forward to hearing Ayana sing since I loved Jikuu Tours, but her live singing ended up somewhat underwhelming. You could barely hear her above the music and the constant "fuu~fuu~fuu~fu~" from the fans drowning her out didn't help either. It sounded kind of amateurish, which was really surprising to me because she has a very strong and clear voice when she was speaking during MCs, so I know she's got the power and yet she didn't use it?

Anyway, during the MC, she sounded really great, so I was gushing about "ZOMG ECLAIRE/AZUNYAN/SUGUHA IRL!!" For call and response, she asked the 5000 strong audience to do Ganbo's "BO-" call, individually from each floor.

Ayachi: Kyarurun~
Deep voice: "BOOOO"

During the night session, she remembered how funny it was and started cracking up before she could finish her sentence, so she had to redo the call.

After Ayachi left, Rumirumi came out fully changed back into her school uniform to do Anone. A solo singing and dancing Rumirumi is just the cutest girl in the world. Anone is also a rather difficult song, but she managed to do pretty well. She lead the all-orange audience in lots of high energy jumping, and I had tons of fun yelling the "Ikuze CHINA!" part with everyone. Too bad I missed the "CHINA NI SASAGERU I LOVE YOU" call both times. It's timed right before she says "minna, arigatou", but it's not really telegraphed, so it's easy to miss. When I missed it during noon, I said to myself, I'll have to remember for the night session, but then I missed the timing again.

Finally the star of the show, Mikami Shiori came out to perform Shiawase no Gift. This was probably the single most fun solo character song of the night, with the whole audience pumping red lights into the air and yelling "AKARIN" between every single line at full power. It was super loud and exciting. At the start of the song, two huge red balloons shaped like Akari's odango dropped onto the audience, who then batted it around to different sections of the first floor arena. I didn't get to hit it during the noon session, but it finally came to us during the night session. Since I was on the first floor though, the balloon was so distracting that I forgot to pay attention to Mikashii! ORZ. Maybe it was just as planned? Well I did watch her routine, but I just took my eyes off so many times that I feel like I didn't get the full Mikashii experience. I'll defintitely watch her more when the Bluray comes out, I promise!

Also I didn't notice in the dark, but the balloons had "Odango Bazooka" written on them which you can see below.

From Katou Emiri's blog: http://blog.livedoor.jp/clovercafe/archives/51936848.html


Then the arena went dark and the familiar opening of Pajama Ryokou started up. I seriously loved this song and watched it a million times when Utagassen came out, so I was scrambling to get my Green and Blue lights while grinning ear to ear. Tsuda came out in her panda PJs while Yukachin appeared in the Tomato ones. I memorized all the dance moves for this song too, so it took all my might to resist copying them. During the chorus, there's an interesting little sleeping hand motion they do. When I saw Yukachin and Tsudanyan do it side by side though, I realized Tsudanyan is still ahead of Yukachin when it comes to body language. Minami's motions were more fluid, while Yuka's were still slightly more awkward.

During the night session, there was a tiny mishap when Tsuda missed the first count during the sheep part which threw them off and made Yuka start the 2nd count late. Somehow, they managed to save the timing and force it back on track by the fourth count. The concert footage tends to be shot for the night session, but I wonder if the eventual release will splice in footage from the noon show to fix this. At the end, there wasn't a standing bed prop this time like Utagassen so they just went to sleep on one side of the stage and had the spotlight fade out.

From the other side of the stage, Katou Emiri came in to destroy the dignity of everyone in the arena. Emirin's singing is average, but she sure has volume, and she really projected through the venue. It was too loud sometimes, which made me conscious of the fact that I didn't bring earplugs. And then we got to that part in Kiraippai Sukiippai. Ooooohhh yeah, we read that tweet all right.

Emiri: "Let's see whose passion is stronger. Your energy for oppai or my objections? Dakara..."

Audience: OPPAI!
Emiri: KINSHI!
Audience: OPPAI!
Emiri: DAME!
Audience: OPPAI!
Emiri: KINSHI!

And this exchange just got faster and harder until in the end the whole arena was furiously yelling "OPPAIOPPAIOPPAI" and Emiri yelling back in an intense shouting match. It was awesome! Because of that, it's my second favorite solo song of the night.

It was pretty hard to come down from that, but it still wasn't break time or MC, so as soon as Emiri left, Mimorin took over and moved on to Sore ha koi dewanai desu no. Mimorin is a decent live singer now, having vastly improved from when I saw her live three years ago. But more impressive was her character's accompanying dance. Out of all the character songs performed today, this unquestionably had the hardest dance, and was probably something that only Mimorin could pull off among this group.

She did this jump step that twisted her entire body while practically pop-locking her arms and elbow and the whole thing looked really cool but elegant, and her voice never shook as she did all this. She also did her famous over the elbow finger point which was also quite deadly to our sanity. Everyone cheered with Himawari's yellow color and yelled along with the IPPAI, ZETTAI parts.


Mimorin finger poke of doom

After Mimorin's set we finally got a break and got to sit down for a drama segment. It's basically a long skit where all the cast members act a scenario from their script books while in character. Chitose and Ayano appeared first, introducing the setting of them getting a phone invitation to an after school karaoke party with Gorakubu members. Ayano reacts in a typical tsundere fashion while Chitose has her nosebleed fantasy. Next, the center stage lit up with Akari, Kyoko, Yui, and Chinatsu choosing songs. Yui's song came up first, so she came down to the lower stage to sing Tsun Tsun Ballad. It was really nice and her performance here is what earned a lot of my respect for Minami's singing voice. Of course, Kyoko in the back was ruining it by leading the girls with "HEY!" calls. Yui tried to ignore it a few times, but finally turned around and angrily yell "Oi, this is a ballad!"

Then, the big screen lit up above them to show a parody of the videos you see in actual karaoke rooms - a combination of lyrics and overly melodramatic sepia toned scenes. A girl was walking alone in the Yokohama Pacifico theme park, only to turn around and be revealed as...Tsuda Minami! During the noon session, this got a HUGE response from the surprised audience seeing it for the first time and they started cheering and laughing. So as Tsuda sang in character on stage as Yui, the parody video of Tsuda Minami above -out of character- showed her strolling across a bridge and crying on the ferris wheel before fading to black at the end of the song. In a later MC, Tsuda explained that everyone shot the karaoke videos in one day, and she was the last one to film the video that day in order to get the evening shot for the Ferris Wheel. Since it was February she was totally freezing.

The center stage then goes dark, and left stage lights up to show a small fight between Sakurako and Himawari telling each other how much they don't want to sing with each other. Then the spotlight goes back to center stage for Chinatsu's turn.

Chinatsu: "I want to sing with you Yui-senpai"
Yui: "But I don't know this song"
Kyoko: "I'll sing with you"
Chinatsu; "No if it's Kyoko I don't need you" -> In the noon session, Otsubo Yuka had the BEST disappointed expression when Rumi says this line OMG. It was a total droopy dog face! I'm so sad she didn't do it in the night one.

Anyway, Chinatsu then comes down to the stage to sing Abashiri Bajou, and boy what a singing voice. It sounds exactly like on the CD. No, it was better! The girls behind her didn't interrupt this time, so we got full on crazy Chinatsu singing her heart out. Like before, about halfway into the song, the screen lights up and starts playing another parody karaoke video. Fans gave another cheer when the subject of the PV turned out to be stylish but somber Rumi who is walking along the Yokohama Pacifico docks in a coat and hat. She looks listlessly at the water, throws a bouqet of flowers into it before holding up and chugging a glass of brandy (actually juice). Rumi said in MC later that while the video showed her as walking alone, she actually had to do this in front of a huge and curious audience. At the end, Rumi, the one singing, delivers the awesome Yui SenpaaaAAAAaaaAAAaaaAAAaaaaiiiIIIii scream and just REALLY holds it for an impressive length of time.


From Okubo Rumi's blog: http://ameblo.jp/rumiokubo/entry-11480752238.html

At some point during this drama, two mock Mirakurun commercial come on and Ayachi appears at the top of the steps to sell her fake products. I didn't catch what the product actually was but there was a gag about licking it, obviously a self reference to Ayachi's more kimo fans tendencies to prpr her at every opportunity (dubbed perorists). The second commercial was about continuing her campaign for 24 hours.

Then, Chinatsu and Yui declared they'd go make a run for drinks and left the center stage. Why it must be Akari's turn! "But it's finally my turn to sing. Oh well at least I've got Kyoko." Of course, this is exactly when the seitokai members appear and Kyoko leaves to go receive them. And so, left alone in the center stage, Akari began singing Santa ga yattekuru by herself.

Uwwaaaah Akariiiii why are you such an angel!?

The video hit again, with Mikami prancing around in half a santa outfit above her school uniform. We see her skipping up stairs with a big handful of presents to deliver. The video cuts to a lot of scenes with her popping out of random corners in the park near the venue and handing the viewer a present. There's one series of cuts where she pops out from a series of pillars and gives a present each time, which was so moe I died.

Mikami said in MC that she also had to do this when people were around, and managed to confuse some kids who saw her and said "Look! Even though it's close to Valentine's Day yet she is wearing a santa costume?" Even a kid can insult Mikami! Later I went to check out all the locations in all the music videos shown so far.


From Mikami Shiori's blog: http://ameblo.jp/mikami-shiori/image-11478582516-12434729389.html

After Akari's performance, Kyoko came back with the seitokai members. They sat together, two to a seat, while Kyoko went down to perform her song. The karaoke video for this one featured Yukachin in a green overcoat and black sunglasses acting like a really shady stalker. Her's is the only one not shot in Yokohama. According to her MC, they went to Toranomon in Tokyo first thing in the morning before heading out to Yokohama. This was the most humorous of all the videos, with Yukachin hiding behind garbage cans, sneaking across the road under an oversized traffic pylon (think cardboard box from MGS), peering around corners, and making Pro faces. It was my favorite video of the four shown. By the way, since it was still technically a skit, we watched all these karaoke performances while sitting down and even though some people waved penlights, we didn't interrupt with calls or anything like that.

That concluded the karaoke corner. Tsuda and Rumi, who went to get drinks but actually left to change costumes, returned to perform the next duet Girls Power De. My jaw dropped when they came in: their were costumes straight out of Chinatsu's fairy tale drawings. Rumi had an adorable pastel-pink dress, white ankle length lace socks, and cute pink slippers. It had a very "Dorothy from Oz" feeling to it. But as nice as that outfit was, at that moment Tsuda Minami may have captured all my attention. She appeared in a slim tailored black prince outfit, tapered at the waist and highlighted with gold trim and white cravats. At the thigh, black pumpkin breeches were broken by a perfectly executed zettai ryouiki followed by white stockings and short black boots. Her hair was also changed, pulled back into a stylish pony tail that reached her midback. Tsuda truly lives up to the TKEMEN name. I mean just look at this!


From Tsuda Minami's blog: http://ameblo.jp/00dpd/entry-11479731892.html


Original for reference!

I literally could not take my eyes off of her. But both costumes were so nice, so I am going to rewatch this a zillion times when the BD comes out.

Next, Saki and Yukachin came out wearing short colorful yukatas to perform Miracle Duet. These were the same costumes as in Utagassen, but they also tied matching ribbons around the mics this time, one blue and one purple. Saki wrote on her blog that Yukachin had given her those ribbons for her birthday. I loved these costumes before so I was glad to see them in person. The song is really catchy too.


Screenshot from Utagassen. They used the same costumes

After their set, Toyosaki Aki came back out alone and apologized to everyone about how she wasn't able to come to the previous live but that she'll give it her all this time. I knew she did her solo character song already, so I was actually wondering what she was going to do here since she doesn't really have a duet partner. Then she called to the secret guest Chizuru and I about fainted.

Kuraguchi Momo is here? YES!

Ever since I watched Utagassen, I started following Momochan and even started listening to Radio Big Bang because of her. Even though she got a big break in YuruYuri, Momo's career is kind of struggling lately and her fans were a bit worried for her since she had an agency change and pretty much lost all contact with Yuruyuri staff to the point where she didn't even know when her own BDs came out. A few months ago she answered that wasn't sure she would be invited back for any YuruYuri events but that she hoped they'd reach out to her. So when she appeared, I was pretty ecstatic. But I could probably write an entire blog post just about Kuraguchi Momo entirely, so I'll save my words for a future post.

Anyway, Momochan comes down in her own school uniform with long black hair and bangs, and starts performing Uchi to watashi o shin made tsukekonde as a duet with Aki. I was under the impression that Momo was totally unknown but she got a TON of Momochan calls, so I'm feeling a lot better about her career prospects now.

They did a fantastic set together. During the song, they had matching dance moves where one person would sing while the other would do a dance, and then they'd switch and the partner would mirror the same dance. After hearing Momochan live, and I can now say with confidence that she is the best singer out of everyone who performed today. Once the song ended, Momochan came to do her own MC. She didn't have any call and response, but she talked how she was always watching seitokai members from behind and that she was really grateful to get this chance to appear again. In the noon session she actually started crying from the gratitude and you could tell that this really meant a lot to her.

At the end, Momo said she had one more request, and that was to hear the members do a medley performance of season 1 songs again. This lead into the next segment, which was an interesting mash of the season 1 character song themes. Basically, each member showed up to do 1 verse and chorus in rapid rotation and no breaks or MC in between.

First up was Fujita Saki who did Koi no Bakkin Buckingham. Unfortunately the song didn't get to my favorite part where we all yell "Non non Notredame", but we did get to yell my second favorite part "Bakkin, Fukkin, Mokkin, Tekkin, etc." which was a blast. Next was Toyosaki Aki with Anata no shiawase uchi no shiawase, another incredibly fun song to watch and participate in. Kuraguchi had substituted for Aki last time, but now we got the real thing. Then we moved through Emiri's Kirai janai mon and Mimorin's Day by day. I'm glad I got some practice with Day by day at AWA.

Next for Ayachi's turn, she sang Majokko Mirakurun. During the noon session, an accident happened and the star on top fell off. Since it was still attached by a wire, it just dangled off the wand which totally threw off the weight balance and messed with her spinning. I'm not sure how many people noticed since Ayachi was quick to react and tried to cover for the broken stick but it was pretty funny to watch it flop all over the place during certain moves when she couldn't hide it. The stick was fixed for the night session and didn't break again.

Next was Yukachin with Mirakuruyuruyuku 1 2 3, where she did the awesome henkawaii dance move that I love during the chorus. The whole crowd also yelled out loud for "kira kira nyan nyan." Rumirumi did one verse from Marugoto. Minami did Goyururi World so we got to do the insanely fun "nyanyanyanyaaa" call. Finally Mikashii performed Watashi Shuuyaku no Akaza Akari desu which was especially funny because by nature, some of the calls for the song are designed to be yelled over everything she says. So it was basically just listening to fans scream Akarin chants while Mikashii moved her mouth silently.

After the medley, everyone including secret guest Momo came back on stage to sing Yell all cast version. Even Ayachi finally came down to the lower stage for the first time since the entire show started. Yell was insanely fun yet sad at the same time since it basically signaled the beginning of the end. In the noon session, Yukachin started crying during this song. I think she was the only who cried though. All the fans went back to 4 or 8 glowsticks and cheered very hard for the "fure" parts.

Then the stage went dark and we got a short video that thanked us for coming, which got a lot of EEEEEEH's from the fans. It moved on to showing us a certain girl who has been working hard to see our smiles and cut to behind the scenes footage of Mikami in a cardigan carefully poring over sheet music, making notes, and practicing on a piano. Then the center doors opened, and Mikami got rolled on stage along with a grand piano.

Alone without any other background music, she played piano and sang Minna daisuki no uta. I could see Mikashii's form was flawless - wrists above the keyboard, great hand placement, upright sitting posture, and how she worked the pedals. After all Mikami trained piano since she was a child, and even listed piano teacher as one of her career paths before she became a seiyuu. Her singing was really sweet too and the soft vocals reminded me strongly of other pro singers like Makino Yui. In the noon session, Mikashii totally broke down during the second verse and started crying so much she couldn't even sing the words. Fans yelled "ganbare!" to cover the gaps and keep sending her their energy. At the night session, she actually made it through most of the song with just tears streaming down but not crying too much. Well, not until the surprise happened and the other three members suddenly came out to sing to her at the end of the song. Then it was bawling time again. Not just for those on stage but for the whole audience too. The guy to my right was shut down, incapacitated.


From Mikami Shiori's blog: http://ameblo.jp/mikami-shiori/image-11478582850-12437054389.html

During the MC that followed, they explained that Mikami had been working very hard for four months to prepare for this solo piano performance. Even her piano teacher was watching and had very kind words for her on twitter afterwards. The rest of the members also noticed, and they decided a few weeks ago that they'd also practice on their own to surprise her.

At the night session, there was also an extra part where Koushiki-san announced "Thanks for coming. It's the last yuruyuri event...is that what you really think? Towards the goal of season 3, there will be a Gorakubu solo event in July." The crowd went crazy. The girls on stage said they weren't told about this beforehand and were just as surprised as the rest of us, but overfilled with joy.

Then they decided to end the night with two more songs

During My Sweet Memory, the doors behind them opened up and a huge super bright spotlight created a glowing white halo around them while they sang. It was bright enough to illuminate the audience too, which meant that they could look at us too. To preserve the mood, there wasn't much dancing and no fans were jumping for this. However, we ended on a high note and moved to 100% Chuugakusei, where we picked up our glowsticks again and exerted maximum effort one more time.

Once the lights dropped, the audience moved into encore calls. The whole arena switched to red penlights and just yelled "Akarin" for about 10 minutes. It was actually a relatively short wait.

Then the lights came back and all members, Gorakubu, Seitokai, Mirakurun, Chizuru came on stage wearing the black festival T-shirt along with an oversized can badge (the ones they include with the anime series BD and DVD) and sang My Pace de Ikimashou. Each person got to sing a few lines, and they ended the song with everyone gathered together in the center in a special 10-person pose.

After that it was time for farewell MC. I don't recall too well what was from the noon and night session since it blurs together in my head but I'll try to highlight differences that I can remember. During the noon session is when they explained all the points about the karaoke videos I wrote about earlier though.

Momochan went first. She cried a lot for the noon session but was doing a little bit better for night. "My eyes are drooling." Her words were a lot about gratitude: strong gratitude to student council members who she said looked over her, gratitude to fans who asked to see her again, gratitude to Aki who had a duet with her. She talked about how she would always watch from the corners just wishing to be part of it, but was so happy that they would actually bring her back again even though she's not good at singing or good at acting (her words not mine, cause I think she's awesome). There was just a really strong sense of appreciation and happiness from someone who hasn't really had a career yet, but got thrust into this popular thing with so many fans. Her speech both times was one of the best ones and most moving ones.

Ayachi said she's glad to be doing this event even though she doesn't show up in the series much. She was watching everything from the third floor and was filled with everyone's excitement. She also said that everyone cried backstage when Mikami was doing her piano segment.

Mimorin said that she was really glad to have been a part of this. She's not the crying type, and as a child was even called a "dry kid" because of it, so this was one of the rare exceptions where she said she's trying to hold back her tears.

Emirin used the opportunity to play with the audience again, setting us up with "Oppai" -> Audience: "Kinshi!". But just for today, "Oppai" -> Audience: "Sansei!". She thanked us for going through with the ridiculous Oppai calls so many times.

Aki said she was happy to be back and doing a live event this time, and also happy that she was able to work with Kuraguchi. It looks like they'be become friends now.

Saki used her MC in the night session to announce the new Season 1 Best album to be released in June. She said if Yuruyuri continues to be popular they hope to do another live event with all the members again, including Midorikawa (Ganbo).

Rumi gave her thanks and apologized saying she's not good at doing these kinds of speeches. She said she can't imagine what it would be like for Yuruyuri to be over. She was looking forward to seeing everyone again at the next event in July.

Minami used the noon session to play with us with another Ya-T call and response. After doing all 3 floors of Ya-T, it moved on to demographics:

"Boys!" -> 70% Ya-T
"Girls!" -> 30% Ya-T "Ohhh there are girls here"
"People with glasses!" -> 50% Ya-T
"Wow there sure are a lot of people with glasses."

During the night session though Minami had this super long speech prepared that personally addressed every single person on stage and talked about her memories with them.

Yukachin also had a memorable speech. I don't remember much of the contents of the night speech, but her noon one was really good: "I'm really so happy that this is the series I debuted with and I'll have memories of it forever. Even when I become an old grandma, I still want to put on this uniform with everyone."

And of course she cried. Yukachin ALWAYS cries. She cries at every one of her own farewells, at other peoples farewells, between songs, during songs. And when Yukachin cries, it's not one of those elegant "oh I have a tears coming down my cheek, look how cute I am teehee" thing. Nope, it's ugly ass swollen red eyes, tears running down to her mouth, streams of snot coming out of both nostrils, full blown wailing-so-hard-I-can't-even-talk kind of crying. So it feels really genuine and I think she's a sensitive girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.

Last was Mikami, who surprisingly held it together during both noon and night sessions. But she did most of her crying earlier anyway. Mikami's speech was good though, and she talked about how she'll never forget this time or the friendships she made as part of the series. Part of that feelings went into how she sang the piano solo. She honestly didn't know that there would be more Yuruyuri events, so she was really sad about it all ending. Koushiki-san's announcement really revitalized her again. She thanked everyone for demanding season 3 and said she would work hard for the next event.

Then, Mikami looked at us and said "It can't be the end until we have this song" and raised her hand out to us. Everyone yelled at the same time Yuruyurararayuruyuri Daijiken as hundreds of heart shaped balloons rained onto the audience. On stage, all 10 members were singing together and doing the dance. Off stage, the crowd got whipped up into a frenzy, throwing balloons all over the place, doing max height jumps, furicopy, yelling as loudly as possible, and burning any energy they had left.


Ballons made in the USA!

When the song was over, the cast took a bow and moved to all the corners of the stage to wave at everyone. Finally after another big bow, they left to huge cheers and the concert hall lights came back on. The venue announced exit procedures, but the background music still had Daijiken on loop so no one wanted to leave. Instead the whole audience stayed in. The front half of the audience turned around to face the back half and everyone just kept doing cheers and jumps to the BGM over and over until they finally cut the music.

So, when's Live #4? I'll fucking go.

Full set list, unromanized. From http://yuruyuri.com/blog/archives/2397
M1 いぇす!ゆゆゆ☆ゆるゆり♪♪ /七森中☆ごらく部
M2 レッツラブ~でいきましょう♪ /七森中☆ごらく部
M3 ごらく部、愛と勇気と希望と友情のテーマ /七森中☆ごらく部
【ごらく部MC】
M4 恋のダブルパンチ /さくひま*ひまさく
M5 ない・ない・ナイアガラ! /杉浦綾乃
M6 あいのDelusion /池田千歳
【生徒会MC】
M7 女と女のゆりゲーム /あかり&ちなつ
M8 Eかげん☆YUIかげん /船見結衣
M9 はしゃいでみたり悩んでみたり恋する乙女はゆるゆり /歳納京子
M10 よんでミラクるん!/ミラクるん
【ミラクるんMC】
M11 あのねっ!/ 吉川ちなつ
M12 しあわせギフト /赤座あかり
M13 パジャマ旅行 /京子&結衣
M14 きらいっぱい×すきいっぱい /大室櫻子
M15 それは恋ではないですの? /古谷向日葵
【ドラマ&歌 カラオケ大会】
EX1 つんつんバラード /船見結衣
EX2 網走慕情 /吉川ちなつ
EX3 サンタがやってくる /赤座あかり
EX4 地獄の底へもついていく /歳納京子
M16 ガールズパワーで  /結衣&ちなつ
M17 Miracle Duet / 京子&綾乃
【千歳MC】
M18 ウチとわたしを芯まで漬け込んで /千歳&千鶴
【千歳&千鶴MC】
M19 1期メドレー
※綾乃→千歳→櫻子→向日葵→ミラクるん→京子→ちなつ→結衣→あかり
M20 え~る♪ /ごらく部&生徒会&ミラクるん&千鶴
M21 みんなだいすきのうた(ピアノ弾き語り) /赤座あかり
【ごらく部MC】
M22 MY SWEET MEMORY /七森中☆ごらく部
M23 100%ちゅ~学生 /七森中☆ごらく部
【ENCORE】
EN1 マイペースでいきましょう /ごらく部&生徒会&ミラクるん&千鶴
【全員MC】
EN2 ゆりゆららららゆるゆり大事件 /ごらく部&生徒会&ミラクるん&千鶴

Goods for the day:

Posted by Paranda at 4:47 PM | Comments (6)

January 14, 2013

2012 Event Wrap up

For my second post of the year, I'll tie up loose ends with some comments on unblogged events I went to in 2012. Helps to have a clean slate for February, as I'll be traveling to Japan again to attend both sessions of the 3rd YuruYuri live concert: Nanamorichuu Festival. I was originally going to write this last week but I ended up catching up on radio shows instead. Note: this is not the full list of events I went to, just the ones I haven't written about yet.

Orikasa Fumiko & KOTOKO at Animazement


(Surprisingly, out of everyone I shot, Shinjo Mayu has the most unique views on Flickr.)

Animazement was a laid back trip mostly dominated by the indulgent exercises of eating, sleeping, and spending money. It was my first time in the area, but luckily I tagged along with a few repeat attenders who recommended a nearby restaurant with great mac & cheese. Almost worth the whole trip just by itself.

I went to two Orikasa Fumiko panels. Fumiko is a veteran radio guest and was able to work in anecdotes and lengthen conversations. She and her manager were both friendly and open to fans, placing no restrictions on photos or autograph items. Later I was told Fumiko sold off her hat at the charity auction, but I missed it.

KOTOKO is the real reason I rode in a car for 9 hours down to NC though. She did one panel and one concert with a live band. The panel was the first of its kind that I've seen for singers at a con: a suited exec walked us through a powerpoint with biography, discography, ads, and upcoming releases. After at the Q&A, we had a slightly more adventurous girl in the audience who asked a great question to KOTOKO about playing eroge but she dodged it with "I don't have a PC."

Due to KOTOKO's split with I'VE, I was worried the set list would be limited but those concerns were unfounded as you can see from Omo's report with set list. Finally I was able to make use of all the live goods I bought from 2010. The goods held up as expected; my stamina didn't.

Speaking of goods, I have KOTOKO's shirt. Literally her shirt. You see there's this mannequin...

Nanri Yuuka, Hirano Aya, Nonaka Ai at Otakon

For years West Coast had been upstaging us, but 2012 seemed to be a reversal year with several A-level guests so I decided to go despite recovering from a recent downpayment on my home. Met a few twitter friends again after something like 5 years and almost couldn't recognize them IRL again. A plan to get smashed via moe-themed alcohol was aborted because of how crappy it turned out to be.

My Aipon fandom probably reached its heights back when Stellvia was still running. The flames may have died down, but the embers are still hot. She's crazy and friendly and outgoing and throws around casual English with confidence. A highlight of the Q&A was her shrieking "OOOH NOOOO" at the sight of a Kyubei cosplayer. Nanri Yuuka was great too. Didn't expect to hear "My Favorite Things" unplugged right in the middle of a panel.

As for Aya, I missed almost all of her stuff due to schedule conflicts with higher priorities. I only caught the tail end of the panel and the concert, and both times I had awful seats way in the back. Did luck out slightly with some interaction at the end of the concert though, while helping a friend get an autograph for his CD.

Photokano ~Your Eyes Only~ Stage Event

Lucked into this one by accident. Immediately after the azusa event, I saw a ton of guys gathered around Akihabara BellSalle. Turns out they were doing a Photokano promotional event as part of series of Young Animal anniversary shows. You were supposed to get do a whole mail-in campaign for tickets, but they also had a stand-by area for those without tickets. Ticket holders only filled up the first few rows and then we got pushed into fill in the rest of the space and I wound up pretty close to the middle. I got to see Itou Kanae, Nakahara Mai, Mizuhashi Kaori, Kanemoto Hisako, and Oogame Asuka in person.

Some people impressions: Nakahara Mai just gives off this godly aura like a legend is on stage. And she looks great and elegant in person - much better than how she comes across in photos.

Mizuhashi Kaori: It was my first time seeing Mizuhasu (I saw her again later at Busou Shinki), but she really impressed me with her ad libbing skills during the "caption this manga panel" corner.

Kanae is just "OMG SO SMALL AND CUTE" and she's got a bit of barbs to her.

Then when Oogame came out..."OMG SHE'S EVEN SMALLER THAN ITOU KANAE" lol.

My memory of Hisako...I didn't know enough to appreciate Hiichan at the time because I didn't watch Ikamusume (I only read the manga), but I really liked that she was trying to keep in line with the photo theme. Near the beginning Hiichan whipped out her own point & shoot camera and took a picture with all of us. She said she might post it, but I never found out if she did. Now of course I like Hisako because of Kotourasan so I'm regretting that I didn't fanboy harder.

But I was too busy fanboying over Kanae then so maybe it wouldn't have made a difference.

Animelo Summer Live 2012 Infinity

In August, I went to both Animelo events, then immediately boarded a bus to do an overnight Mount Fuji climb without rest. Boy, that was stupid.

Since I last went in 2008, a lot of things got improved. For example, the whole event now has a festival feel to it. Previously we just showed up, bought goods, then squatted in a nearby cafe until showtime, but now there's lots more to do. They added an open area with tons of vendor booths and anime and seiyuu themed foods. The best addition was the outdoor stage, where lesser known artists could perform. Since it was wide open space, the crowd did more wild stuff like mass otagei. I got to see Terakawa Aimi perform this way.

Anisama was long but didn't feel as long as 2008, maybe because I actually brought enough water this time. I had good seats in the arena both days to see my favorite artists. First time seeing Asumin and Yukachin in person. Best thing of the night was Milky Holmes x Gorakubu collaboration which almost killed me. Misawa Sachika was also surprisingly good, so I bought some of her goods.

One thing about Animelo...when the acts are good, they're really good, but 3 songs later and they're gone. When you get someone you don't really know or care about...it gets boring. Even in the middle of 20,000 cheering fans. So I think this is going to be my final Anisama event. It's not a knock on Anisama. It's great way to check off a ton of "artists you want to see at least once" in a single event. But now that I've seen pretty much everyone I ever want to see, in the future I'll be focusing more on one-man lives of my favorite artists. Milk Lariat is an exception though, because the set lists are long enough to actually be really satisfying (see my Milk Lariat report from last year).

YuruYuri 39 Fes. Nanamorichu Kanshasai

I attended both the exhibition part, and performance part. The exhibition had us walk through a intricate maze filled with rough sketches, original drawings by namori, manga drafts, and so on. At the end, the maze opened up into a huge open space filled with YuruYuri goods (now and upcoming), costumes worn by the seiyuu, and props inspired by the show. On day two, the open space got replaced by a stage where they the gorakubu members held three separate talk events.

I originally planned to go to all of them, but the demand was so high it quickly became obvious that obtaining 3 tickets would not be within my budget. Especially not with 70 yen to USD. Auctions were going for about $300 - $500 per session. I decided to attend the final session of the day which was being MC'd by Ookubo Rumi. It was so expensive, but so worth it. I got to see YuruYuri cast talk for an hour and perform two songs from season 2 from the fourth row. The fans were great too. Everyone showed up in festival happi or YRYR shirts, and pretty much everyone had 4 glowsticks corresponding to each member's color.

Happiest moments were hearing 100% Chuugakusei live (especially since they didn't sing it at Animelo), Rumirumi reading sound effects from the manga, and Mikashii's "MINNA, EYE CLOSE." But I'm a DD so the hardest part was trying to figure out how to split my attention among four members who I all really like. But maybe I looked the most at Yukachin.

Oh yeah I bought a few things and snagged a signed 100% Chuugakusei single from Yukachin as well.

AnB Premium presents The Best Ten vol. 28

Since DearStage jacked up their prices, I'd been looking for an adequate substitute for how to spend my weekdays in between packed weekends while I was in Japan. Then came Mandi to save the day by introducing me to the insane world of chika idols.

My mind was blown. I was already used to heavy audience interaction from DearStage but this is on another level. The hint came during one idol's set where a fan in the front row suddenly turned around, pulled out a tube from nowhere, and unfurled a huge 6 foot long scroll with a list of custom MIX shouts specific to this girl. Without missing a beat, the entire room started yelling out the contents. So someone actually does come up with these! During another set, a fan came around to pass out green glowsticks to every single person in the audience (and after the song, he even came back with a bag to collect the spent sticks from everyone).

Just look at this video. Take away the surprised looking TV guys, and move the fans even closer to the stage, and it becomes an accurate depiction of what actually happens between idol and fans at these events. Except some idols replace the "beating to death part" with other things, like shooting you with a ray gun.

Which is just what Morinaga Mami did, shooting her way past my tiger defenses. I was content just doing standard jumps in the back, but for her set I could no longer resist and dived forward into the moving human wave. In one song, we stomped into the left and right sides of the room, in another songs we were getting shot with toy guns (mero~n style). The best moment came in the middle of Tornado, where she jumped off the stage and ran into the middle of the audience. Everyone dropped to the floor, the UOs came out, we all started doing kecha while crawling around her. Despite all these gimmicks, she also happened to be a better singer than most of the performers there.

After Mami's set, I had to leave in order to pick up some concert tickets, but I vowed to return to a similar event in the future. This was the closest experience I had to a Momoi event in some time.

Dempagumi inc. 2nd ONE-MAN LIVE Ai wo denpa ni

Out of all the events I didn't write about, this was the overall best concert experience. Dempagumi inc. puts on a hell of a show with unique, strange, and interesting choreography. There isn't any idol group quite like them. But what makes the show even more fun is the audience. It's a lot like the AnB event I described above, but on a larger scale. Imagine a crammed subway car at rush hour. Then imagine everyone in that car trying to do furicopy. An official digest of the event is available on YT which shows how pumped everyone is, but it's actually even more crazy than that. They copied not only the hand motions, but all the footwork as well, and most songs had their own unique chant.

The crowding worked for and against the event in some ways. There wasn't a boring moment in the whole thing, but it was a fight to see between the cracks in a forest of outstretched arms. At the end of the show, everyone cracked red glowsticks for Mirin's birthday.

Speaking of glowsticks, I started to notice the progression of glowstick choice is more conservative from fans recently. People went from using nothing, to chemical lights, to electric lights, and then back to no lights again. For groups like dempagumi, the hardcore fans seem to have evolved beyond glowsticks, as the cheering became so specialized that it became a burden to have to hold something since it interfered with all the specific finger motions, hand signs, and clapping. Nowadays it seems everyone just carries one or two dedicated multi-color lights and pack a few chemical cyalumes for the specific moments that require it.

AgeAge Idol Carnival 136

As mentioned before, after the ridiculous experience at AnB I had to give the chika idol scene another chance. I specifically chose this show since Morinaga Mami would appear.

She once again proved to be the top act, but even among all the other artists, I found that in a whole 3 hours of music I was only bored for maybe 3 songs total. Mostly it was awesome. The majority of songs were popular anime covers, but we also had a few cool originals. Two original acts that stood out to me: first was an idol in school uniform and randoseru who was by all counts a TERRIBLE singer, but had a crazy setlist where she furiously jumped around for 5 minutes repeating "santa santa santa" over and over in a WTF moment. Second was a four girl rock band that picked a random member of the audience, then adlibbed a song entirely about him. The rest of the audience got roped into cheering for the guy and circling around him while yelling MIX using his name.

I was able to stay the entire night this time. After the show, all the performers stuck around to sign autographs, shake hands, and play games with any guests that bought CDs or game tickets. Lots of idols also had a instant polaroid camera where you could buy two-shots with them for 1000 yen. I just went to visit Mami first.

"Hi. I'm visiting Japan this month. I thought your s-"
"OH! You must be the guy from overseas! Thanks for coming. I heard you were a fan of Momoi. By the way, do you know these other Momoists who are also fans of mine?"
"What? How did you know!?"

It turns out she heard about it from another friend. I'm super impressed that Mamipyon not only remembers her fans, but even remembers off-hand remarks about the friends of fans. At the end of our chat, she came up with a -pyon nickname for me and said I should use it when I go to her events. I guess that's what I'll be writing in for the ticket reservations from now on.

Miritan Online

On September 20th, I went to attend Furukawa Mirin's birthday event at DearStage. Entry ticket was 2000 yen and came with a pamphlet and lottery ticket for prizes. Mirin is really popular these days, so the room was packed and all the bonuses were already sold out by the time I came in. The theme of the night was online MMOs, so Mirin came in wearing a mage outfit to celebrate her "leveling up."

The event started with a prize raffle of several photos. When they ran out of photos, a staff member with a camera came in to create more on the spot and throw them into the raffle box. This was followed by a few group performances with Mirin and her friends from dempagumi. At the official dempagumi live, we saw them all perform as a group, but now individual members were either doing duets with Mirin, or giving solo performances in between her breaks. In this way that I got to hear some favorites like Nemu's Mahou Shoujo Miman again.

Halfway through the event, fans lined up to go on stage and individually give birthday presents to Mirin and take a commemorative photo with her in front of a birthday wreath. Then Mirin did a costume change into a princess outfit and did her solo set to close out the night, ending with Mirical Fantasy. Red glowsticks were prominently used during almost each song.

B.G.M Festival

I only went to day 2. I don't regret missing day 1 as I was busy meeting Yukarin on the train, but B.G.M Festival is really a festival that one should dedicate a full 48 hours to. The full experience is best had by going to the day 1 outdoor morning stage, day 1 indoor afternoon stage, day 1 overnight stage, day 2 outdoor morning stage, day 2 indoor afternoon stage, and then closing ceremonies. Lesson learned for the future.

The format was divided into "Makers" and "Artists". During the "Maker" segments, each studio would send out a few artists to sing the most popular songs from their most famous series, so we'd get things like the Circus set with Rekka coming out, the Navel set with YURIA, or the Aquaplus Set with Uehara Rena. "Artists" was meant for singers that couldn't fit into one maker group; they got their own separate corner where they could pick 2 - 3 songs that represented their work.

The top performance was Momoi, who pulled out Koi no Milkyway and Popotan from her library of game songs. These are the BIG GUNS for me, and I still knew every call and jump as if it were still 2004 and I'd just finished watched the UNDER17 DVD 100 times. I never thought I'd get to hear Milkyway in my life. Seeing Rita and Uehara Rena for the first time were good too. Rena singing Heart to Heart brought back massive nostalgia, and the biggest reaction in the crowd overall was probably Rita's Little Busters. Later, one Circus founder said he got so emotional during that performance that he started crying.

Unfortunately ave;new only got only 2 songs as part of the "Lump of Sugar" maker group, and no solo corner of their own. One song was True My Heart which I've already heard at every ave;new event I've been to so far, so the only new material was "My Sweet Lady." Good, but I wish I had more. On the other hand, Sakura Saori and a.k.a.DRESS were the only two people I bumped into while waiting around at the exit. They came out with beers in hand and started toasting with everyone.

Before leaving, I also met up with the frequently traveling Momoists group to say hello. I never tell most of them in advance that I'm visiting Japan in advance so it's always nice to run into them and get a surprised greeting.


Oh yeah. The venue was Diver City. So I also went to go see the life sized Gundam in the same area.

Mimori Suzuko at AWA

First of all, congratulations on your solo debut Mimorin. Now tenton and I can say we got to meet you before you hit it big, and before your management got more strict. Because they couldn't be further from strict at AWA. Mimorin's handlers from Hibiki were so chill at Atlanta that we were pretty much allowed to stalk Mimorin for hours on end, all under the implicit endorsement of the staff. At some point we started chatting up the Hibiki manager too, who was more than happy to drop some hints about the set list. Sadly, part of that reason may have been because there weren't many fans of hers at the con. She spent a lot of her time sitting alone at the autograph table just waiting it out, and we took advantage of that downtime.

There was no limit on photography, no limit on number of items signed, and her staff was even giving away clear files and uchiwas to sign if you ran out of things of your own. They really felt like fans ascended into the industry, rather than the suit and tie managers. Furthermore, Mimori herself was a PR pro. When I met her, the first thing she did was give a big smile and the "Akkarin~" greeting. I want to thank her for coming to AWA, yet I felt like I was being the one thanked. I watched her repeat this magic over and over again for every person who came to talk to her. "You bought the Milky Holmes DVD? Oh I can't believe you know it!" "You know gdgd fairies? AMAZING, THANK YOU!" "You want to take a picture of me? Sure, let me pose for you and give you a great picture. Did it come out OK?"

It did come out OK (yep that's the same towel from YRYR festival picture above)

Every time I look back to my album I'm thankful they let me take so many photos. You might recognize this one from various seiyuu fan blogs :D

JAM Project, Faylan, Natsuko Aso at Otakon Music Festival

Apparently I have a recognizeable lightstick waving pattern according to one person.

I'll defer to Omo's post again on this one for most of the details. One thing I'm still bad about is taking notes for domestic events. After the concert, we had a VIP meet & greet. Being early in the autograph line worked against us though, because we got rushed about talking to guests. That rule got relaxed a lot more for people later in line. I got a few words in with Faylan (talked about BGM Festival) and Nacchan (I brought the callbook from her first oneman live event, but she didn't recognize it. I guess fans never showed it to her). Unfortunately I was barely any time with JAM Project guests except Endoh. Since we were both lifters, I talked training with him.

One good thing about finishing up early though was being able to get bar seats. That turned out to be a good idea because all the guests came down right next to us and held another Q&A and did a toast. Lucky.

2013

Looking forward, I have two trips planned at the moment.

On Febrary 23rd, I have the YuruYuri trip I mentioned at the start of this post. It was originally meant to be a 2 week trip starting with ave;new x ULTRA-PRISM and Sword Art Online x Accel World events, but the difficulty of obtaining tickets is making me think about just doing the trip as a 3 day weekender exclusively dedicated to YuruYuri.

Using the PTO saved, I am very likely to go to Japan a second time in June where I will see Yukarin again at her very first Saitama Super Arena one-man live.

If the yen continues to depreciate, I will go back a third time to FINALLY hit up an ave;new one-man live, which has been on my goals for years now. I'm tired of going to collab events and only getting a handful of songs. I want to hear Tearful, Snow of Love, Otoko wa lion, etc. And I want to see Rierin! But they need to announce it first.

Beyond that, I'll keep my calendar open for any local American cons. I have a VIP ticket saved for AX so here's hoping they rise to the challenge from the east coast cons and bring someone worth seeing.

Posted by Paranda at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

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 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?"
...
"Me!"
...
*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
18. MERRY MERRY MERRY MENU NE!
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)

September 3, 2012

azusa's ~visuel #1~ DVD release event

On 8/25 I showed up outside AsoBitCity Laox to line up for azusa's DVD release event which included a mini-live, an autograph, and a handshake. I had been wanting to go to an azusa event again ever since I came back from the Amagami screening last year, so when she announced it last month I immediately asked my friend to help buy the visuel DVD and secure a ticket.

Around 11:30AM, they let us in to a small basement with about 80 chairs packed closely together in a square in front of a 2ft high stage. The stage was so close you could stick your foot out and touch it if you were in the first row. There were floor-standing speakers on both sides, a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall that was playing azusa's DVD, and a microphone and chair in the middle. Seating order was randomly determined and had nothing to do with your ticket - when we came in, we drew a slip of paper containing the assigned seat from a raffle box. I ended up drawing a decent seat in the 5th row while my brother drew front row dead center (seat #5 in a row of 9).

After some announcements and rules played over the speakers, azusa came out on stage wearing some casual clothes - shorts and dress top. The last time I saw her, she was performing in a school sailor uniform and ponytail, so I don't know if it was just because of the difference in outfit but it felt like she had grown up a lot in the past year. There were some cheers but it was a mostly subdued and polite crowd of fans that reminded me of the types of fans at Kawada Mami's concert last year.

The whole thing was actually pretty short. She didn't really make any new announcements and mostly focused thanking everyone for buying the DVD and doing some audience interaction - asking for show of hands if they've been to her live before, or if they watched the DVD yet, and introducing the background information for the songs. Since it was primarily watashikai event, there was obviously no band. The performance just used recorded instrumental tracks, but that was fine since azusa's singing was the main draw.

The setlist is different at each store, so I got pretty lucky that for the AsoBit appearance, azusa performed exactly the two songs I wanted to hear most. The first song she performed was "Kimi no mama de." I heard this last year too but now I knew it by heart to really appreciate when she sang all my favorite parts. azusa still has the fine velvety voice I remember, and I was very glad there was NO penlights or jumping, so I could just sit and really just LISTEN in silence. You can spend more than thousands of dollars on headphones and amps and preamps to listen to a CD but it still doesn't beat the real vocalist right in front of you.

Before the last song, she asked us if we all knew the preparation call for it. It seems she wanted us to recreate the scene at her first fan meeting (you can see this on the DVD). So she pointed to us and said "ready", while the entire crowd yelled back "CHECK MY SOUL" to start off the song. This time, we did clap along and follow azusa's lead to do the double-clap during the chorus. We also yelled all the "HEY" and "YAY" parts.

At the end of the live, they brought tables onto the stage and they started the autograph session, with staff calling up people one row at a time. Once on line, each person waited until the previous person was done before getting called up individually onto the stage to talk and get the DVD signed. The stage gave a lot of personal space away from other fans so it was possible to talk privately. At the end, she'd give a handshake (2-handed clasp) and bow before you left the stage. Some fans gave her gifts as well, and there was a staff member with a giant bin on the side who collected the presents. By the time I got to her, it was already filled with lots of boxes and I was kicking myself for not being smart enough to bring a few souvenirs from the US.

Once I went up, I told her I enjoyed the performance and that I came to see her from the US. She gave me this hilarious deer-in-headlights "OH NO" look and doublechecked "Oh, so you can understand Japanese." I said I was fine for basic stuff and that made her relax. She was really surprised and said it was the first time she met people from overseas at her events, and that there was a previous guy from USA just now that she couldn't talk to at all. "Oh, that was my brother." Unfortunately, the line enforcement was strict so I couldn't go up to translate for him. "Oh wow. Can you please tell him I wanted to say thanks for coming. Sorry, I completely froze up when he spoke english and didn't how to say it, but please tell him." The handler was also curious and asked if I moved here or was just traveling, so I told them we were here for summer vacation. Technically true - my brother was (I didn't want to say I'm just here because I'm a dirty otaku who only comes to attend anisong events)! After talking a bit more, she signed my DVD and shook my hand. Then the staff member gave me a nifty "all access pass" sticker from azusa's fan event.

Later, azusa mentioned the encounter on her blog and on the staff's twitter

Oh, and the DVD is great by the way. 9 very "personal" feeling PVs (almost like a home cam actually, and not overproduced at all) and a great sit-down concert. Buy it and support an excellent singer.

DVD and pass:

Posted by Paranda at 9:34 AM | Comments (4)

April 23, 2012

Upcoming ave;new events

The time is ripe for ave;new. Just two years ago I had to scratch and claw for events. But recently, they've been doing something interesting almost every month. Here's a look at what's coming down the pipeline, and summer hasn't even started.

April 27th: Twin Angel Best Album "ANGEL" goes on sale. The 3-disc album is a compilation of existing works from Pachislot-turned-anime series "Twin Angel," most performed by ave;new's legendary kyunkyun unit "ave;new project." To entice those of us who already bought every ave;pro release, there is one new song on each disc.

Disc 1: "Hachamecha OH Chame LOVE!!" performed by Shaori and Rierin
Disc 2: "Otona ni Naru no Desu Lyrical Jigoku Remix" by IOSYS
Disc 3: "Angel Kakumei Lets Go DJ Time!!" a 15 minute mix by ave;new founder a.k.a.dRESS

April 29th: 8th China International Cartoon & Animation Festival

This unexpected development marks ave;new's overseas debut, and is what Saori hopes to be the first of many foreign appearances. Saori will be traveling to Hangzhou, China with her unlikely partner in crime Suara to perform on stage and serve as guest-judges for a local karaoke contest. The fact that ave;new accepted China's invitation surely opens the door for other international conventions (though sadly I suspect the chance for a USA appearance is still zilch). Indeed, I am incredibly surprised China actually has enough of an appreciation for Saori to even ask, considering the very properties that ave;new produces music for (aside from Twin Angel) are in all likelihood illegal there.

May 3rd: Tsukiyume ave;new Paradise

The famous Tsukiakari Yumeterasu cafe & bar is holding yet another collaboration event. The cafe opens from 1PM till 11PM and will serve ave;new themed food and drink. The prices are quite expensive, but two big events (with prizes) have been scheduled at secret times throughout the day which are expected to keep patrons staying and paying. The first is a talk event with singer Sakura Saori and special guest Korie Riko (illustrator for "My Sweet Lady" jacket art, and creator of "Gack-oh" series from Lump of Sugar). The second event is the third public recording of Saori's biweekly internet radio program "LoveLoveLovable" and guest stars ave;new's recently hired sound producer Takeru. After 11PM, the tables will be cleared to convert Tsukiyume into a club featuring a.k.a.dRESS, who will personally DJ various ave;new remixes from midnight till dawn.

Although Tsukiyume is in Kawasaki, which is a half hour train ride outside Tokyo, the venue is well known and attended by ave;new fans. They have done numerous other tie-ins with the group in the past, from serving themed drinks to holding member birthday bashes to serving actual food cooked and delivered by the singers. If you visit their lobby on the top floor, you'll see the hallway covered in ave;new memorabilia.

June 8th: New ave;new double-single "My Sweet Lady / PistoSMILE Nonsto-P ~Kagayake Asu no Star Daisakusen~" release which features songs from two different series. The first two songs are OP/ED to Lump of Sugar's "Gak-oh THE ROYAL SEVEN STARS" PC game. The title song "My Sweet Lady" is a worthy addition to the venerable "My" series, following its predecessors "True My Heart", "Kiss My Lips", and "Pure My Voices" (2 of which are available to sing along in karaoke joints throughout Japan).

More interesting is the awesome accompanying ave;new project track "PistoSMILE Nonsto-P ~Kagayake Asu no Star Daisakusen~" which was inexplicably commissioned for the Pist Star campaign launched by K-Dream and Nagoya Keirin, a cycling race. The song accompanies a PV centered around their mascot Pistochan. If you're wondering why that video has so many English comments compared to the usual ave;new song on youtube, it was savaged by Kotaku which predictably mocked the attempts to bridge two completely unconnected hobbies. Only...maybe it's not so unconnected after all. Surprisingly, there is already precedent. And of course, we do have our very own cycling otaku right here in the United States.

Bonus: Saori dressed up like Pistochan

June 16th: Turn Saori's birthday 9/19 upside down and you get 6/16, which is LovableNote mascot Chiwakura-san's birthday. In the four years since she was drawn, Chiwakura-san has had an extensive career ranging from radio host to rap star, and most recently, the protagonist of dating-sim game "Chiwameki Memorial" in which she plays a boy who must infiltrate the ave;new all-girls academy. Although no Chiwakura-san song has ever been performed on stage, in several radio episodes, Saori considered one day giving in to fan demands.

June 19th: EEE Fan Appreciation Festival
According to the website, this event with some 50 scheduled performances in Osaka has a strict rule: Songs from eroge ONLY. ave;new's Saori and Rierin fit right in with fellow participating artists like Aoba Ringo, Tamiyasu Tomoe, Funczion SOUNDS, and others in an event that's probably even more niche than Chaos Party or Milk Lariat. In fact I do not recognize a single other name. Still with a ticket cost of 4500 yen, the price is right. For the hardcore fans, this event too has its own segregated otagei area in which the rule is basically: "everything is allowed, just don't murder each other." Really! Read their otagei rules.

Posted by Paranda at 5:39 PM | Comments (2)

March 21, 2012

2011 Trip Wrap Up: Kalafina, Kawada Mami, Mizuki Nana

Figure I should wrap up my outstanding live impressions since in a few months, I'll be starting yet another cycle of concerts. But since my memory is too shot to do detailed report like MLT, I'll just post from my notes like I did with Sphere SPRING PARTY last year.

Kalafina "After Eden" Special LIVE 2011
Date attended: November 25, 2011 @ Tokyo Dome City Hall

I saw Kalafina live for the first time ever at AX 2011. I liked them enough that I decided to attend their November live - it seemed like a "preview" of their 2012 tour of the same name, which in turn is named from their latest album "After Eden."

1. Strict no cyalumes or penlights rule enforcable via bag search. The searcher specifically looked for lights and warned not to use them. Not like anyone would try to sneak one though. Nobody used one. There wasn't much jumping either, but that doesn't mean the crowd was standing still. Lots of cheering between sets, but respectful silence during the songs while they sang. Crowd did do hand waving and stuff.

2. Stage design was great. Theme was something like a big Greek temple. Large stairs and platforms of varying height for all 3 of them, stone blocks that shifted during the sets, and a narrow walkway down the center that let them come all the way into the middle of the audience.

3. Kalafina knows how to put on a themed show. They started off with flowing white robes fitting the Greek theme, but in a later set, they came up to the center stage in cloaks and hoods and holding candles to set up for dramatic costume change reveals, kind of like KOTOKO's Re-sublimity opening act.

4. Kalafina MC seriously does not match their visual image at all. Each time I see them, it feels like it'll be all serious and shit but that goes away as soon as they start talking. Wakana seems like the big sister, Keiko is the teenage middle child, and Hikaru is the prodigious weird kid. I felt the same way at AX as well.

5. Hikaru was once again my favorite. She's so good on MC she has her own corner where she plays salesgirl and pushes the Kalafina concert products while the other members snipe her for faulty logic. "This keychain is good...for holding keys!" "That's what it's for," Wakana interjects. "But the the gigantic unweildly size means you can find it in your purse easily," Hikaru responds. She got everyone to do commentary on shooting for the pamphlet, and then she even tried to sell us a Kalafina shirt by saying "You can make friends with this shirt by meeting other people who wear the same shirt." She did successfully convince me to go for the watch, but it was sold out when I went by the goods table later.

6. Some MCs were written like radio corners. When prompted to name what they think of in winter. Wakana had a pretty normal answer going into Christmas seasons, snow. Keiko said she eats ice cream, which prompted Wakana to chastize her. Keiko responded saying it's perfectly fine to eat icecream in cold weather, rather it tastes better when you're eating it indoors next to a heater. Hikaru went way deep intricacies of convenience store nikuman and the various types that she enjoys eating lately, buying 2 almost every day. The other two called her a junk girl for eating so much junk food. She recommended a salty pork one which I ended up getting after the show. It was about 50% grease, 30% pork, and 20% mystery.

7. Thanks to the center walkway the view was very good. All three came down to the center and rotated in a triangle on the small platform. Each one handled 1/3rd of the live hall and together they looked like a single multi-armed/multi-faced deity scanning the entire room.

8. Kalafina doesn't dance, so much as pose awesomely in mudra-like forms while singing. Which is just as well, because their singing can be sometimes be described as haunting and the movements work well to visually accompany that.

9. Sound quality was acceptable, and I did not need to use my earplugs for the majority of songs, nor did I want to. When Wakana holds a note it's really something. Could listen to that all day.

Hikaru's blog entry contains a full setlist.

Kawada Mami m.a.l.l LIVE 2nd stage
Date attended: November 26, 2011 @ Club 1ne 2wo

Been a Mami fan ever since watching Onegai Teacher, so this was the perfect chance to see my other favorite I'VE artist. I attended day one of this two day event with some new friends I met just a few days earlier.

1. The audience that went to her show was mostly fanclub members, and it far outnumbered general admission. Live hall had a high concentration of core/dedicated longtime fans; in fact more than 1/3rd of audience had been following her since beginning of her career 10 years ago based on a straw poll held during the MC

2. Following that, the audience didn't really "feel" like anime wotas that you normally meet at other events for anisong singers. Just seemed like regular music dudes, and they didn't react specially to Shana OP vs her other songs. They knew all her songs equally well.

3. No call coordination or stuff like that, more relaxed and just people enjoying music. Maybe only 60% used lights. A bit different atmosphere than KOTOKO event. I went with the flow and stayed quiet.

4. Nice casual MC in general. She told a story about how she got drunk and fell asleep in the bathroom at a producer gathering, among other war stories in her long career. Though I bought tickets on sale for general public, this was really more of a "fan club event" and she treated us as such.

5. While all songs got good reaction, Hearing Sora no mori was my big win for the night. Though it is an ED song, I feel it stands on its own regardless of Ontei or not. Good sound quality on that.

6. Small stage, real unfiltered singing, and not overproduced. The only effects were the lighting. Really did feel like a club event. Club 1ne 2wo was a small building nestled up on a hill. Crowd size was maybe 200-300 people, but I didn't feel squeezed and was able to stand comfortably.

7. Acoustic corner was awesome. Just her and a guitar, playing a new song she just wrote and had not released yet. She asked for feedback on it at the end.

8. Mami actually does have some dance numbers, surprisingly. Even came out in a miniskirt and ZR. But I prefer songs when she did just concentrate on singing.

9. Props to seriously hardcore dude who screamed Mami at max volume during the encore chant - that lasted something like 15 minutes. His voice was destroyed by the end.

Mizuki Nana LIVE CASTLE
Date attended: QUEEN'S NIGHT December 3rd, 2011, KING'S NIGHT December 4th, 2011

My fandom for Nana peaked around 2007 (would have known every single song then), so it's a little late but now I can finally say I've done a Nana concert. She still puts out good tracks once in a while though, so I still enjoyed it. Good mix of new and old songs, although they didn't really seem to be picked on any theme of QUEEN'S NIGHT or KING'S NIGHT that I could tell. At least not obviously. Only real difference was some costumes and which direction the White Lion came from during the interlude.

1. Fave songs to do live: DISCOTHEQUE, Zankou no gaia, POP MASTER (Jump-YES!), POWER GATE, ETERNAL BLAZE

2. The sound quality is not good. You go to these giant dome concerts for the experience, not the sound. After all it is a major event to play at massive venue like this. Could not hear singing over drum and guitar. Also too much reverb due to arena size, shape, distance relative to where we were sitting. Maybe BD will fix this.

3. BUT: When she was unplugged, clearly hearing Nana from 200ft away was truly impressive. She wasn't even shouting. Such strong voice.

4. Crowd coordination is good. Too good for me actually, who couldn't keep up for some songs. Not so much complicated or hard moves, but hard to time HEY/Jumps out of nowhere that I couldn't predict. Kind of like Yukarin's concerts: you need to know the song's jump timings beforehand. Pop Master for example. Good thing I learned it at karaoke before.

5. Good color coordination. Can watch the entire arena flood with blue, red, pink, orange all at once. Saw really cool big group that coordinated enough to stripe 7 colors of the rainbow across several rows in the audience.

6. Otagei color is green. Can be disruptive, or interesting - everyone has a different opinion on this. But I saw an awesome guy who had a goddamn headdress made out of ultra greens. He looked like big a green peacock and he was fun to watch when Nana was too far away or out of view. So I hold the latter opinion, at least in this particular instance.

7. I brought my non-wota friend to QUEEN'S NIGHT and he was blown away. Btw we also got his co-worker (total non-wota type, fitting the investment bank stereotype) slapped extremely hard at a maid cafe. He was downing drinks and rubbing his face hours later, but that's another story. Sorry if we ruined your career bro.

8. You know how live concert videos might try avoiding dark spots or empty sections when shooting the audience angle? No need here. The arena was PACKED both days. Almost every seat was filled except the ones waaayyy on the very edges. Nana is probably the only seiyuu who can draw a full audience at Tokyo Dome.

9. Nana sure knows how to sell goods. Can spend close to $1,000 if you buy 1 of everything given the exchange rate at the time. I wanted to get a lot since this was my first and likely to be only Nana live, but still couldn't stomach throwing down 1 grand on goods. I did get enough to have 10 spare Nanacas though, even after trading for a full set.

Posted by Paranda at 4:15 PM | Comments (0)

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.

01.Lovex2♪Song
02.Blue mind
03.君色
04.Love is Love
05.Change&Chance!
06.そして僕は...
07.はぴねす方程式
08.奇跡の絆
09.恋の炎

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.

10.希望の旋律
11.Be Loud!
12.プリーーーズ!プリーーーズ!
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!
15.Link
16.紋
17.雪華
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.

19.シンクロしようよ
20.ぱすてるチャイム
21.happy shining days
22.フラグ立てようよ
23.きりひらけ!グレイシースター

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
25.サクラキミニエム
26.レンブラントの光
27.S.S.D!
28.20110510
29.ダカーポII~あさきゆめみし君と~

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.

30.キンカクジ
31.RISE ON GREEN WINGS
32.Another Heaven
33.宇宙エンジニア
34.Hacking to the gate
35.虹がでるまで

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.

36.るーるぶっくを忘れちゃえ
37.Princess a la mode
38.みらくる☆ちゃんす
39.ULTRA-DATE!
40.侵略ノススメ☆

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

41.Iris
42.Baby Baby
43.NAMIDA
44.Vivid Affection
45.LOVE VISE
46.Lovable
47.OH! too☆Core Lion!!
48.超越↑↑恋してナイしょ☆メア!!
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.

51.涙一輪
52.るーじー・ぐーじー
53.永遠のオルスバン
54.スカート丈の長いメイドさんには絶対にかなわない
55.フィギュアになりたい
56.Life is free -momoi-i version-
57.21世紀
58.Video Killed The Radio Star
59.ライブのあとはさみしいな

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 12:40 PM | Comments (6)

December 28, 2011

ANIMAX MUSIX 2011 at Yokohama Arena

On November 23rd, I attended ANIMAX MUSIX 2011 at Yokohama Arena.

I arrive pretty early at 10AM, originally because I wanted to finish visiting all the booths with enough time to spare to visit the Raumen Museum during lunch.


Charity auction items

Instead, I wound up getting caught in a giant 100-man karaoke which was simply so interesting I couldn't leave. The atmosphere was super relaxed, and with lots of decent amateur singers and a very enthusiastic crowd, it was like a live before the live. The format was a pre-determined series of nearly every variety of anisong, but limited to 1 verse + chorus so they could cram as many in as possible. Each time a song came up, the organizer would try and get someone to volunteer, sometimes even guilting people to partcipate. A few choice moments: Eternal Blaze came on, the whole crowd whipped out UOs out of nowhere (so it's not just Momoi fans who keep emergency UOs hidden on their body). For Yukarin songs, a bunch of fans magically whipped out Yukari penlights even though Animax isn't a Yukarin event. When SKILL was sung, they got a bunch of dudes and 1 girl to come up to match the band member composition. At the end, one of the producers came by and gathered us for a big group video, which I'm sure will show up in TV report next year.

The whole thing lasted until noon so I had to abandon Ramen Museum after all. Instead I met up with @jouttex (major thanks for the ticket hookup) and 2 other dudes to grab a quick lunch from Lawson.

I didn't buy any goods, since I already have too many T-shirts and towels and there wasn't anything I absolutely NEEDED to line up for. I did feel a little bit of regret after I saw how bright the penlights were though. The blue and orange ones looked pretty good in their clear cases, but they were already sold out when I walked by the merchandise stands around 1pm. Oh well I'll stick to my flashlights.

After lunch, we split up, and I found my seat in the front A block of the arena. My ticket this time was way better than I could have hoped for the price.

Yokohama Arena is a huge venue, but it feels much smaller and more intimate compared to Saitama Super Arena. The near end was right in our faces, but even the far end of the stage felt close, and when I looked behind me, the guys in the balcony around us didn't feel far away at all. My position this time was a really good, as you had a good close view of the center stage, and a super close view of the left stage. But it went from "really good" position to "freaking amazing" position for 1 major reason which I'll detail a bit later.

When the event started, big jumbo screens came on and they did the whole artist countdown thing on the screen with everyone cheering. The official penlights helped make the entire arena look like a nice sea of blue and gold.

I was actually armed with earplugs this time, but even though I was very close to the speaker, I was pleasantly surprised by the reasonable volume (I used the earplugs anyway). The sound quality was actually good for a big room. Maybe it's because the only other big arenas I've been to were Tokyo Dome (god awful), Budokan (terrible), Saitama Super Arena (terrible), and Makuhari Messe (might as well have been in mono) so my frame of reference is skewed. Yokohama Arena was at least decent: not-ear shattering loudness, not too much echo, and ok dynamic range. The biggest problems were that the singing during acoustic corner sounded flat (might just be the venue) and the mixing - for certain artists, the band was drowning out the vocals. Luckily the latter didn't happen with artists I really cared about. As an aside, the best sounding event that I've ever been to period was probably Starry Candy Stripe at TERRSA hall in Niigata, where Yukarin's rendition of "Namida no Loop" sounded so good it nearly ruined all other lives for me until I could get over it.

Top batter was Nakagawa Shoko. I never watched Guren Lagann (and I read Beelzebub manga without watching anime) so I didn't really know the songs but I jumped anyway since it was a good atmosphere. Shoko-tan is maybe middling-average as a singer, but she's pretty good at MC. Immediately she endeared herself to the audience by making them yell a bunch of shit. I didn't even understand half the references of what we were yelling (Giza?) until she got the whole crowd "tutturuuing." Her interactive MC skills are quite good: controlling the mood, getting different segments of audience like guys/girls/glasses/cosplayers to cheer, and so on.

Nakagawa Shoko:
1. Tsuyogari (Beelzebub ED)
2. Tsuzuku Sekai (1st TTGL movie themesong)
3. Namida no Tane, Egao no Hana (2nd TTGL movie themesong)

angela has been an old favorite ever since they performed at Otakon several years back, so I was glad to see them again (Domestic Love Band doesn't count). During MC, they were waving at the cameras and to all the people watching via simulcast, which reminded me that this year's Animax Musix was being broadcasted live to theaters.

angela:
4.Beautiful Fighter (Shikabane Hime OP)
5.Shangri-La (Fafner OP)

As usual, atsuko gave a great performance with a voice that filled the whole event space. Typically, in singer/composer duos like this, only the singers tend to stand out much. After all, so many composers do a ton of work behind the scenes but just get relegated to "the background guitar player" on stage. Not so with KATSU. He's actually a lot like Koike aniki in the sense that his contrasting costumes and crazy playing mannerisms contribute a lot to making the duo interesting. During one song, he gangwalked right over to our side, leaned over the divider, got all in our face, and proceeded to hammer chords into his guitar.

For the last song, I had forgotten that Shangri-La was a towel song and has its own special towel moves so I was smacking myself for not bringing something to throw around. During the MC, atsuko was like "Hey it's pretty hot in here right? Time to bring out MY TOWEL." I ended up just using a penlight.

Next was RAMM featuring ayami. Don't really know them or the song. RAMM came in sharp suit and carrying a keyboard, while ayami came in a white pleather coat. She looked really young and acted so nervous during her MCs, but it was pretty funny when she said she wasn't 18 yet. People were yelling "highschooler" as a response. When they paired up, it did remind me a bit of fripside, except we all know how freaking awesome Nanjo's costumes are.

RAMM featuring ayami:
6. Freedom (Battle Spirits Heroes OP)

Once they left, and even younger looking kid showed up. I didn't really know Kawano Marina, the song, or what show she worked on. But she instantly made me like her when she pulled a page from ELISA's playbook and made everyone yell her name. When I say "Yokohama Arena" you yell "Kawano Marina!!!" (Ma Arena). Later I found out she was one of the winners of ANIMAX's yearly Anisong Grand Prix singing competition, and that all the winners (HIMEKA, Sasaki Sayaka, Kita Shuhei, Suzuki Konomi) got to perform at this event.

Kawano Marina:
7.Morning Arch (A Channel OP)

Then the big screen flashed "Fan Selection Corner", announcing the first segment of what ANIMAX MUSIX is best known for: cover songs!

First up for cover songs was May'n. She had a bunch of lives during this period that I wasn't planning on attending, but I guess I ended up getting to see her anyway. I didn't really know this song but it was pretty fun and there were lots of UO. Speaking of UOs, people were using UOs almost all the time. Because ANIMAX sold official blue and orange penlight, "orange" became a standard color instead of a special color. Everyone there who had a modded orange flashlight or a giant bucket of UO cyalumes (which was about a quarter of the arena) just busted out UO any time others were using the orange penlights.

May'n:
8.Orfeu (Uta no Prince Sama OP)

Faylan was next with a solid performance. I didn't care that much about Faylan the last time I saw her at Tokyo Game Show but since Polaris came out (and after actually watching Milky Holmes) I knew her better now and had some appreciation for her singing, so I'm glad I got a second chance to see her live. But I didn't know this song. I only remember a little of Slam Dunk in my youth, but that was when ZARD was doing the ED. Too bad. It would have been nostalgic otherwise.

Faylan:
9.Anata dake mitsumeteru (Slam Dunk ED)

After the song, Faylan stayed on stage and called up Sasaki Sayaka and ayami. Even though I didn't know 2 out of 3 artists, I got pretty excited for this one since they were performing one of the best Kawada Mami songs in existence. Big mass of UOs again. Their 3 voices fit perfectly together and it was a fantastic tribute to the original.

Faylan & Sasaki Sayaka & ayami
10.JOINT (Shana 2 OP)

Faylan does pretty well standing in for Kawada actually. Next was HIMEKA, who came out in a long dress and did a much needed ballad so we could rest after jumping too much for JOINT.

1st reaction: ~siren~ bah gawd momma there is a white person on stage at an anisong event
2nd reaction: Oh damn, this live singing is pretty good.
3rd reaction: Hey, waitaminute, didn't I see her on Niconico before during Anisama Girls Night?

I guess I didn't really notice back then during Niconico online, or she's just much better live.

HIMEKA:
11.Adesso e fortuna~Honoo to Eien~ (Record of Lodoss War themesong)

Later I found out this was one of the songs she won the 2008 competition with so she must have really practiced and perfected it.

angela came back to some big cheers. I was especially happy since I actually believed them during their earlier MC when they said it was their last song. I guess they meant their last non-cover song.

angela:
12.Kimi no shiranai monogatari (Bakemonogatari)

And that was the end of Fan Request corner #1.

GRANRODEO was next. Kisho showed up in checkered outfit that made him look like a punk golfer. They're a relatively successful act, but that didn't stop Kisho from making a joke about people leaving for bathroom breaks. Even though I really don't care about the group, Kisho is cool I guess - plus he's goddamn Sensei-san from Bottle Fairy.

GRANRODEO:
13.Ai no Warrior (Angelique Maren no Rokukishi OP)
14.HEAVEN (Koutetsu Jeeg ED)

HIMEKA also came back for one more song, non-cover this time. At the end, she tried her hand at MC and you could see her think so hard at at trying to remember what to say. More than once you could see her shut down for a few seconds and go into deep recall, but the audience was supportive and she always managed to find the right words after a pause. It was cool to see: like when harddrive LED flashes when it seeks, when HIMEKA went into word-search mode she gets a puzzled look and her eyes start blinking like crazy. Weirdly, it made you really want to root for her and it seemed to work since there were lots of "HIMEKA" calls after. She also announced a one-man live.

HIMEKA:
15.Asu e no Kizuna (Valkyria Chronicles OP)

Never heard of The Sketchbook before and they didn't really sound like "Anisong" group, just a normal band. Sket Dance was playing on screen in the background but I didn't know the anime at all so I was still lost despite the visual aid. Anyway, I don't have much to say about it. Being a group of 3 people, they made use of the big stage well. The two guys split up to go to the walkways on each side and girl with a base hovered around at the top of the stairs in the center. The sound was a bit off on this one, as you couldn't hear the vocals too well.

The Sketchbook:
16.Michi (SKET DANCE OP)

Next was Sasaki Sayaka, who came out and did her one famous song from Nichijou. I didn't know the second song.

Sasaki Sayaka:
17.Zzz (Nichijou ED)
18.Starting Again (Cardfight Vanguard ED)

Next some Singapore jailbait group called Sea A showed up. They seriously looked like 12 year olds and they were all wearing ridiculously small/thin clothes. They might as well have performed in their underwear - one girl's costume was literally nothing but odango hairstyle, skimpy tanktop, and hotpants. As for actual performance, the singing was pretty average but it seems like they rely a lot more on dancing and showing lots of skin, which felt way out of place for this event composed of mostly established vocalists and Anisong grand prix winners.

During MC's, each member introduced themselves with a well rehearsed spiel about who they were, where they were from, their interests, and what they wanted to achieve by performing here. But a lot of people didn't even remember their names. It was kind of funny that after all their work memorizing MCs in Japanese, some dude just catcalls "Hey, Purple!"

Sea A:
19.DREAM SHOOTER (Cardfight Vanguard ED)
20.DELI-DELI☆DELICIOUS (Toriko ED)

According to Wiki they are 20+ years old if you can believe it. Sea A must get their idol singers from the same place the Chinese Olympic team gets their female gymnasts.

Then came KOTOKO who had hands down the BEST performance of the night. KOTOKO owns, so badly. I was dual wielding UOs for every fucking song, and my primary Fenix actually ran out of juice by the end. There were lots of KOTOKO yells during the MCs, and she got the whole arena excited with just the first song. Shockingly, Re-sublimity did not get the top reaction in her setlist. Maybe people in Japan have probably heard Resub live tons of times, but since I only heard it once live before in Sapporo, for me it was still "OH MY GOD RESUB ASDFLKSJF!!!" Instead, the biggest reaction came for the Shana 3 OP.

The stage had pyrotechnics rigged up, and from my area, you could feel the waves of heat between every blast of flame during Light My Fire. Then in a move absolutely no-one expected, KOTOKO came off the stage and walked right in front of us, and continued to take an entire trip around the arena. This allowed us to turn around and get a good look at the crowd as she walked through. The audience was just going nuts. I hadn't watched Shana 3 or gotten around to checking the new KOTOKO album yet so this song was totally new to me, but it was able to stand on its own on the first listen. Even though the song was so new, the calls and yelling parts were intuitive and the entire crowd was able to get into it despite probably a good percentage of them including myself having never heard the song before. Ryo (of Supercell) did a good job.

KOTOKO:
21.Re-sublimity (Kannaduki no Miko OP)
22.Nanakorobi Yaoki☆Shijo shugi! (Hayate no Gotoku OP)
23.Hirake! Sora no oto
24.Light My Fire (Shana 3 OP)

Jumping furiously from the start of Re-sublimity till the end of Light My Fire was exhausting. Unless the next artist literally started crowdsurfing, there was probably no way to follow that act so we took a short break.

During the intermission, they showed clips on the big screens of artists introducing their charity auction stuff.

Upon resuming the event, we were greeted by Minorin, who is one of the artists that can get major reactions just from her name showing on the screen. Without missing a beat, she continued the pace set by KOTOKO with her popular songs and a classic Utena cover. It was fun cheering at "Re-vo-lu-tion" with everyone. The only other time I got to participate in Rinbu -revolution- live at a big event was also with Minorin in 2008 when she performed it as a duet with Okui Masami.

Chihara Minori:
25.Paradise Lost (Ga-Rei: zero OP)
26.TERMINATED (Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon OP)
27.Yasashii Boukyaku (Haruhi movie ED)
28.Rinbu -revolution- (Utena OP)

After Minorin, Kita Shuhei came up. Shuhei was the first winner of Anisong Grand Prix 5 years ago. He did two songs, but I didn't recognize them or the anime, and I was tired after Minorin so I kinda zoned out. Sorry.

Kita Shuhei:
29.Sekai de Ichiban Koishiteru (Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi OP)
30.Sekai no hate ni kimi ga itemo (Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi 2 OP)

Faylan came next and put on a good show. Solid as usual.

Faylan:
31.mind as Judgment (CANNAN OP)
32.Blood teller (Mirai Nikki ED)

Then came Kalafina. Penlights and cyalumes are banned during Kalafina-only lives (staff will even search your bag like it's contraband) so, the only time to see lights during Kalafina concerts is at big events like these. But despite little opportunity to practice, people were still able to work together to get the right colors. For Magia, everyone went red, which Kalafina members noticed and thanked everyone for. I could say a lot about Kalafina in general, but since I went to a Kalafina event 2 days later, I'll save it for another post.

Kalafina:
33.Magia (Madoka ED)
34.Kagayaku Sora no Shiijima ni wa (Black Butler 2 ED)

Once Kalafina finished, it was back to collaboration corner again. It was pretty good overall, but I was just happy to see KOTOKO come back for more songs.

May'n & KOTOKO & GRANRODEO:
35.SWORD SUMMIT (Sengoku BASARA OP)

As for Railgun, I like the song but I think May'n was a little mismatched for it. Nanjo fits the song so well that it's hard to improve with any cover, but in general, I think you need a higher voice to do this, like Minorin's.

May'n:
36.Only my railgun (Railgun OP)

SeaA:
37.Platina (CCS OP)

Over The Future was also rather impressive. For me, it was another throwback to 2008 and the singers were pretty good. Before the song, Kita introduced Suzuki Konomi, the winner of this year's Anisong Grand Prix, as the special guest. When she came out, at first I actually thought they got one of the actual Karen Children members back out to sing it because she was just a little kid in a frilly dress. She ended up having a really good voice though.

Kita Shuhei & Sasaki Sayaka & Suzuki Konomi:
38.Over the Future (Karen Children OP)

For these lesser known new guys, I think it's smart for them to do well known popular songs like Over the Future or Butter-Fly so the crowd gets excited even if they don't know the singers.

The Sketchbook & Kita Shuhei:
39.Butter-Fly (Digimon OP)

Next was my second favorite part of ANIMAX after KOTOKO solo set: acoustic corner! I've said it before, but acoustic corner is one of the best parts of any live concert, because it's when you can really focus on live singing: the background music is much quieter, and the pressure of doing calls goes away. Nobody thinks you are a spoil-sport if you just sit there listening intently. Sound quality was were good even though it was a little flat, but I'm not sure if I can't fault any equipment or mixing for that.

First up, angela. This is where the location of my seats really turned into a plus. Acoustic corner was set up in the center platform to get as close to everyone as possible, so instead of the usual route, angela came in from the side entrance. This entrance happened to be right next to us, so I waved to them as they passed by. On stage, Atsuko did a good job emoting the whole feel of the song.

angela:
40.secret base~Kimi ga kureta mono~ (Anohana ED)

Now while all this was happening, Minorin was waiting her turn but instead of waiting backstage, she decided to just chill out right next to us. She was wearing a super tight red dress and we got to see it up close. Then angela came back down the same route, while Minorin went on stage to do her thing. The guy next to me was freaking out afterwards.

Chihara Minori:
41. Anna ni issho dattanoni (Gundam SEED OP)

After acoustic corner, GRANRODEO also came by and got everyone back on their feet yelling about how much they loved Gundam. When Kisho came to the walkways on the side he was shaking people's hands.

GRANRODEO:
42.INVOKE (Gundam SEED OP)

Kalafina returned for cover songs this time. "Nowhere" was an interesting choice but not unexpected, since it's a FictionJunction song. It's impossible to imagine them singing anything other Kajiura's stuff. So it was crazy when the next song turned out to be Sorairo Days. There's just such a huge image gap there. This has to be watched to be believed, so I'm glad they plan on airing this later in February. Shoko joined midway through Sorairo Days to a lot of excitement and carried the baton into the next 2 covers.

Kalafina:
43.nowhere (MADLAX theme song)

Kalafina & Nakagawa Shoko:
44.Sorairo Days (TTGL OP)

Nakagawa Shoko:
45.Bouken Desho Desho? (Haruhi OP)
46.Hikari to kage wo dakishimetamama (Rayearth OP)

The series of awesome covers continued with an excellent pick by KOTOKO. There was major major nostalgia on this one, and KOTOKO pretty much can stand in for Yuki. It puts a different spin on the song, but this Sobakasu was so good it actually sounds like it could be a KOTOKO original. It definitely wouldn't feel out of place at all on an album like Short Circuit.

KOTOKO:
47.Sobakasu (Kenshin OP)

By the end of Sobakasu I was pretty satisifed so I was totally unprepared when Minorin and angela came back yet again to do...ETERNAL BLAZE. Minorin was undoubtedly the most popular artist in the arena that day, so having her and atsuko sing etabure together pretty much pushed the crowd to critical loudness levels. If I had to judge auidence noise level, that was the single loudest point of the whole day and it was amazing. To be honest, I actually had more fun during this cover than Mizuki Nana's own original performance of Eternal Blaze during King/Queen's Night. It was just insane how high people were jumping and each time it was timed with a blast of fire on stage.

Chihara Minori & angela
48.ETERNAL BLAZE (Nanoha A's OP)

Finally, May'n came out with a Cheryl-esque black outfit and closed out with a surprisingly long set of 6 songs. I liked the Macross F stuff but I didn't really know the other songs. Brain Diver was pretty good though.

May'n:
49.Scarlet Ballet (Hidan no Aria OP)
50.Kindan no elixir (Macross F insert song)
51.Moshimo kimi ga negau no nara (Valkyria Chronicles 3 theme song)
52.Universal Bunny (Macross F insert song)
53.Ready Go! (Okamisan OP)
54.Brain Diver (Phi Brain OP)

Including collaborations and covers, May'n got 9 songs total which was more than any other artist. If you look at the other big names, Minorin and KOTOKO came in second with 6, Angela had 5, Kalafina, Faylan, and GRANRODEO had 4.

During encore, everyone came back on stage wearing ANIMAX t-shirts and did their closing speech one by one. During angela's speech, katsu was just gonna say some words and end it at that but atsuko egged him on to do his salute schtick. So, he sheepishly gets to the front and gets the whole crowd to salute to Animax.

After everyone finished, they all sang the Maruko-chan song. Instead of a music video, they put big lyrics on screen so everyone in the audience could sing along.

Entire Arena
55.Odoro Pompokorin (Chibi Maruko-chan ED)

And like that, after almost 7 hours, Animax Musix 2011 came to a close. The problem with big super-long events (especially Anisama) is that they can get boring when it's the turns of artists you don't care about. I was really only a true fan of half of the artists showing up today and either casual fan (or worse didn't know them at all) of the others, so I was especially afraid of that happening. But it turned out to be fine since for the most part, even artists I didn't know were good singers or picked good songs.

Rather, I was still in the mood for more anisongs, so I trekked over to Tsukiyume Anisong DJ Bar in nearby Kawasaki for more music and half-priced food for the rest of the night.

Goods:
None, but I did pick up a sweet pamphlet and the usual streamers/ribbons that fall on the arena section during the finale

Posted by Paranda at 7:25 PM | Comments (4)

December 22, 2011

Chaos Party Special 2011

I finally have enough time around the holidays to put my notes together into a blog post. Although I was excited to see Amagami SS seiyuu, Chaos Party Special 2011 was the first "real event" for me. After all, the main reason I even considered a 2nd trip to Japan this year was to go to some Sakura Saori events.

This year's Chaos Party was hosted on November 20th at Kawasaki Club Citta, a venue with special significance since it was where the first ever UNDER17 live DVD was filmed.

I arrived early to buy ave;new goods, and met up with friends @mandimandi and @eliasross in line soon after.

Around 1pm they started letting us in by number order. The hall is pretty big as far as live houses go, about the size and shape of a tennis court. A large otagei pen (about 20 ft x 20ft) was squarely in the center-rear area of the floor and labeled as such and there was a balcony on the far end with seating where staff and guests could look over the floor. I was only able to recognize ave;new's a.k.a.dRESS there.

The performance stage was flanked by two huge speakers. It was low and wide, with enough room so all the band members had their own personal space. A cleared area in the center was for the main singer, but due to lowness it was not possible to see the lower half of anyone that night.

First up was Riryka. She appeared to be popular with fangirls who were constantly yelling "Riryka-sama" but I didn't know her songs at all. She had a big black costume and a bit of a gothic theme going on. As soon as the music hit, the room lit up with lights of every color and people started jumping everywhere. I took a moment to really appreciate the kind of atmosphere these events create since the crowd for the last concert I went to just a few months ago (Montreal) was so lethargic. Her songs had more of a "cool" feeling to it so at first it didn't really seem suited for calls but the group somehow made it work.

1. 硝子のLoneliness
2. In the Dark
3. Bravin' Bad Brew

For her last song, Riryka introduced marie, a popular singer from various game openings for a duet. I sort-of knew her thanks to listening to GWAVE compilation series but wasn't too familiar with her set list today except the last song. Marie performed 4 songs, and drew some impressive degree color coordination of glowsticks. Koi no recipe went all pink and went over well, but Clover Heart's was the most popular. There was loud cheers when she announced it and everyone switched to green lights and yelled out lines of the chorus. The screams of "Clovers Hearts" were deafening.

4.Double Moon, World Fusion
5.恋のレシピ
6.battle royal
7.Clover Heart's

After marie, the lights went out and a shadowy figure came on the stage without introduction. At first, the silhouette made it look like she had huge hair but the lights came on to reveal Sakura Saori in a red dress and a gigantic frilly bow on her head. "Now it's my turn" she yelled in her ridiculously high voice. I was starstruck immediately. I saw Saori once before at Anisama 2008, but circumstances were different back then. 1. She was so far away I could barely see her, and 2. I was only a casual ave;new fan at the time. Now that I've drank the ave;new koolaid and Saori herself was less than 20 feet away I was going "ohshit-ohshit-ohshit it's really Saori, it's REALLY Sakura Saori." This is one of those moments that you can only get one or two experiences per artist when you FINALLY see them live after years of anticipation (Momoi at AX in 2007, KOTOKO in 2010) or something insanely awesome and unexpected happens (Momoi at Hawaii and Fanime in 2009). I thought I was used to that voice from radio by now but hearing her do it live during MCs in person was unreal. It's just so insanely, mind-bogglingly high.

Once I got over my giddiness, I joined with a huge group of ave;new fans in cheering. Being an ave;new fan in the US is so very lonely, and sometimes you feel like you are the ONLY fan in the entire area. But in Japan, that is not the case at all. There were so many people wearing ave;new shirts and wristbands that I'd estimate close to 20 percent of Chaos Party attendees considered ave;new the primary draw of the event.

Saori started off with true my heart aka "kishimen" (by her own admission). It's a truly difficult song to sing properly. I know from torturing a captive audience at karaoke with my failed attempts in terribad falsetto (sorry everyone ^^) but that's another story. Even Saori has a little trouble hitting all the notes singing and dancing live, but compared to the 2008 performance at Anisama, it was a lot better. It's very clear her singing has improved to a other new level, so those years of voice coaching weren't for nothing. Plus there was no random DJ going "What, what" this time. The choice of Eternal Wish was also very good.

8. true my heart
9. Eternal Wish
10. 超越↑↑恋してナイしょ☆メア!!

Before announcing the final song, Saori asked if she could request a small favor from the audience. She sang a bar from the song and requested "When I say 'Chu chu chu chuu chu chu chu', you jump and say 'Ole'" Everyone erupted in "OOOOOOOH" from recognition. The band went into overdrive, many UOs were cracked and the next 5 minutes were intense. At the end, while still doing her signature voice, Saori thanked everyone for coming and gave a tiny shout out to American fans (us) that she knew were in the crowd.

Next was AiRI, the artist formerly known as UR@N, probably most familiar to western fans as the singing voice for Kirari in Kira Kira. I last saw her at AX in 2010 where she performed in a traditional yukata, but here she was wearing more rockish clothing and had longer hair. She played three songs, none of which I knew, but I do enjoy AiRI's high pitched singing style (a different type of "high" than Shaori), and they were all very catchy and had an immediately recognizable style to them similar to the d2b songs I knew. Usually, I never really get excited for songs I hear for the 1st time and it always takes a few tries for something to grow on me, but her setlist was good enough that I could appreciate even listening to it once. During MCs, she was pretty coy with her name change, pretending as if she were an industry newcomer and then "surprising" people with her past identity while the audience humored her. "You know, I used to have a different name." She even had us redo some of her old UR@N chants swapped with her new name and had the whole crowd going "Airi-chaaaannn." She did end up giving a pretty sincere sounding speech about how this was a major year for her though and thanking everyone for supporting her for so long.

11. 運命
12. learn together
13. Pieces
14. Reincarnation ver.2011

For the last song, she called up ASTLYRE. I didn't know ASTLYRE or what to expect, but he turned out to be a guitar player and acted as an extra band member for the next few songs. Once AiRI finished up, Ishida Yoko took her place. At first we were surprised she only did one song but then realized it was really just ASTLYRE's set cycling through artists.

15. Over Beat ver.2011

After Ishida, a short rotund woman in a poncho came onto the stage. To my suprise, the audience started shouting Rekka. So it came as news to me that woman was in fact the respected Katakira Rekka well known among various circles. In photos online, her face was always hidden behind a cat mask. The poncho was a very odd and visually jarring choice for live attire, but I guess maybe she's a little self-conscious about herself. Not that voice fans really care that much. Certainly, there were a lot of Rekka fans in the crowd and she got a big reaction for almost every song, especially Tamayura. The opening of the last song was particularly amazing and I was marking out unbelievably hard for how well they built up the tension. It's a cool song in its own right, but when I listened to it late on Youtube I realized I had been permanently spoiled by the live band version.

16. ときめき☆ガーディアン ver.2011
17. Fate Through The Regret
18. パラダイムシフト
19. 魂響

There was a much needed intermission after the triple combo of Saori, AiRI, and Rekka. During the break, we moved to the back to escape from the heat and desperately fan ourselves and exchange drink tickets. Since most of the artists we were interested in already performed, we were planning to hang back rather than suffer the front again for the last few artists we wanted to see, but then YURIA came out right away so we squeezed back in.

YURIA said she thought a long time about what kind of songs to play from her long and varied career. These years she has been part of Pinky Doodle Poodle, which I admit I haven't really followed, but she decided to close out her set with a specially picked song from her Honey Bee days: Plastic Smile. According to her, it's a song she hasn't played in a long time so I felt very lucky to hear it this trip.

20. AROUND THE WORLD
21. Samsara
22. プラスチックスマイル

Next was milktub. bamboo, who AX con-goers are probably very familiar with, came out to join the rest of the band members (who had been playing for every artist) in full makeup while wearing Mickey Mouse pants/gloves/ears over a skin tight black body suit that showed off a prominent gut. During Amaenbo Shogun, he actually changed out of his Mickey gear and came back with a topknot wig and shogun outfit (while still wearig the black bodysuit). He also brought out a dakimakura of what appeared to a grotesquely muscular naked 2D version of himself as a prop.

Bamboo is actually more popular than I thought, and everything he sang had custom moves to it which became fun to imitate even when I didn't know the songs. Unlike other sets, he also did a lot of talking with fans between each song. During one MC, he started attacked us with various imaginary guns and swords (think of Yukarin's meromero stick) and got all the band members to come up with their own unique slashes.

23. 月曜はキライ
24. 甘えん坊将軍~大奥は抱き枕編~
25. バカ・ゴー・ホーム

Baka Go Home was the most energetic out of those, but there were a LOT of milktub shirts in the room so almost every song went over pretty well. Following milktub was Misato Aki, looking a lot older and and sounding more polished than from when I first saw her at Anisama. She actually has a lot of singles and albums for someone who was only active the last few years, and she has been to many many overseas conventions (several in Asia and South America, one in the US). Unfortunately I couldn't really get myself interested in her style so I went through this set mostly on autopilot.

26. 最後のエデン
27. Jewelry tears
28. Spread Wings

Already having done one song earlier with ASTLYRE, Ishida Yoko returned to finish up her set with 3 songs. Oddly, I did consider myself a casual fan of Ishida Yoko, but I only knew her "official works" from anime OPs and Para Para stuff. So I went in expecting that, but instead I didn't recognize a single song she performed that day and was left slightly disappointed. Carnival was decent though, even hearing it for the first time. Later I found out from friends that they were all songs released under her alternate NANA name.

29. Carnival
30. 恋する神通力
31. 太陽のプロミア

Just as I was getting slightly bored, the legendary last act Satou Hiromi came out. Back in the day, I was a huge Hiromi fan, and before the live I was a bit afraid I wasn't up to date on her newer stuff - as always due to a lack of time. But as soon as she started the first song, those worries melted away and I knew I was in for an awesome ride.

32. Angelic Symphony
33. Guri Guri
34. ラブレター

That's right, that set list does not lie: fucking "Angelic Symphony" with a live band ~hoooleeeee shit~. And then Green Green OP and Love Letter? I don't know how many times I looped those songs in my teenage years. And the best part was all of these work really well with a live band. In half an hour, I pretty much relived my high school senior year. Hiromi-nee's performance style is great too. She was going all over the stage like a rockstar and really pumped the crowd into a frenzy. It was an excellent choice to end the show with her and I consider it my second favorite performance all night after ave;new. A general theme for MCs from these veteran artists was showing a lot of gratitude to fans for their long careers and Hiromi-nee followed suit.

After, there was a brief wait and relatively short encore chant before everyone came back out to perform the last song. Though, it was mostly just Hiromi who actually had the microphone so everyone else was doing background vocals.

35. ハローグッバイ

Finally, there was one last send-off where everyone lined up and each artist said a couple of parting words, the usual thanks and goodbyes while bamboo acted to organize them all. Once all the artists said what they wanted, everyone took a bow and the event came to a close.

Overall, it was a very fun event, and one that I'd definitely consider going to again next year if my schedule permits. Although there were some slow parts, the focus of the event around a narrow range of music kind of helped keep more boring points to a minimum (unlike the bigger range of Animelo). Additionally, the time of 5 hours was just on the limit of satisfying exhaustion without going too long, and that long time was helped by good distribution of bigger name artist appearances throughout the show instead of stacking them all at the end. As for sound quality, it was pretty clean, but a bit too loud - 2 hours later after dinner, my ears were still ringing. I picked up some earplugs the next day.

Event goods purchased:

ave;new T-shirt, towel, and wristband set with bonus postcard


Chaos Party T-Shirt and towel

Posted by Paranda at 4:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2011

Amagami SS All Night Screening


On 11/19, I attended the Amagami SS all night screening, part of a new series of "Roppongi Anime Night" events held by Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills. This was the second of Amagami SS screenings, each of which show 3 major arcs. The first one, which I didn't go to, featured Tanamachi Kaori (Satou Rina), Nanasaki Ai (Yukana), and Nakata Sae (Konno Hiromi). I was still in America at the time.

This time, the featured girls were Morishima Haruka (Itou Shizuka), Sakurai Rihoko (Shitani Ryoko), Ayatsuji Tsukasa (Shintani Ryoko). There was also a 1 episode arc for Kamizaki Risa (Kadowaki Mai).

The format involves a 40 minute talk session with host and voice for the main character, Maeno Tomoaki, along with the 3 seiyuu featured (Maita not included since she doesn't have a full arc), followed by a mini-live by azusa. Both the talk and performances were held in the pit area at the base of the screen. Since it was a movie theatre, even the back rows were quite close to the stage, and since each row sat higher than the previous row, visibility wasn't a huge problem.

I went into Amagami SS with almost no knowledge of any kind and only discovered this event while looking at seiyuu sites. I even originally confused the Amagami girls with Love Plus girls, but I ended up having a pretty good time regardless.

The seiyuus were pretty much like how I expected, and I'm glad to finally see them in real life. They were all mostly casually dressed. Itou Shizuka dressed hippie flower child but had a very sharp tongue, and Shintani Ryoko radiated her Shintani aura just like in videos. I wasn't sure what to expect from Nazuka Kaori since I only saw her photos but never heard her on any radio or extra stuff. She looked like a no-nonsense suit and stockings type but ended up being pretty chill as well and almost seemed to be role-playing her character a bit.

For the talk, it was pretty open and anything-goes. Since this screening was 11pm Saturday night, the host asked them what they'd usually be doing at this time. Everybody said they were getting drunk. Host himself included. The chat was playful, with the seiyuu acknowledging the unusual format of resetting arcs and feigning jealousy. Itou said she had it the worst because she gets reset so early on. Shintani was more of a "I'm glad everyone has an ending" type, and Nazuka says it wasn't so bad since she was the final arc.

Once they started they talked about afureko, thoughts on singing the EDs, and other show-related topics, it became clear to me that not having any knowledge of the Amagami series was a bit of a drawback. Each seiyuu picked one of their major memorable scenes in their characters' stories.

Itou of course picked the back-of-knee kissing scene, which she described as "back of knee peropero play."

Shintani picked the scene where the MC holds her character's cheeks while wearing her hand-knitted mittens.

Nazuka picked the scene where she pulls the guy's tie. "This really doesn't seem like it belongs in a renai anime" she said. Of course the context of these scenes were lost to me at the time.

Another memorable part was when Maeno comments on the bread eating scene and Shintani gets embarassed. "Hey now, we don't need to talk about that episode." When he keeps trying to persuade her by saying how it's an endearing trait and he likes all the girls, Itou cuts in to say he's total scum.

After the talk, azusa came in to sing "i Love" and "Kimi no mama de." While I knew she was going to appear, I never researched azusa or listened to either song at all so it caught me off guard when this random girl who didn't look a day out of high school suddenly puts out this awesome voice. I instantly felt like she was like a cleaner version of Makino Yui, and she had better air control too. Musically, that was the highlight of my night. Later on, I bought the album and was pleasantly surprised to find she wrote all of her own music as well. The compression on the album wasn't bad either, and as long as it's of this quality, I think I'll follow her works.

Finally, after all the live events, the episodes started. The screen was very big, probably IMAX level, and video scaled surprisingly well. I had expected worse since the Miku screening in NYC was full of artifacts, but this time's picture was nice and clean and the sound quality was also perfect. However, at this point I had been up for close to 28 hours and I fell asleep during 2 - 3 of the episodes. I was awake for back of knee licking scene though, which got a huge reaction from the audience. Haruka and Rihoko are so cute. I'll have to rewatch parts of Haruka and Tsukasa though because I was out like a light during some of those scenes and thus completely lost on some developments. Each arc was separated by a 10 minute break which did help me regain my energy. As for Rihoko, well, this very much holds true.

Clearfile present for attendees

6 hours later, I emerged for Chaos Party.

Posted by Paranda at 10:45 PM | Comments (3)

June 27, 2011

Spring Party notes

Earlier this spring, I went to a sphere concert. I wrote some notes about it but it never materialized into a real "live report." Eventually the motivation went away so I'll just dump the snippets and close the book on that.

  • The jump timing for a lot of songs don't make any sense. Basically don't expect to go with the flow on calls. Need to know them beforehand
  • Ayahi is really popular with girls. I saw some female sphere fans in full Ayahi jumpsuits that were pretty neat
  • Aki gives off big sister vibes even though she's smaller than me. Also she doesn't really tower over others as much as I thought
  • Didn't hear anyone use Tomacchan nickname. Fans called her Harukasu instead. I guess the name from the photobook?
  • Tomatsu's color being orange means she gets the benefit of a ton of people pulling out UO
  • Minako did the most in terms of crowd leadership (calls, waving signals, clapping, etc). Also the whole stage turned purple.
  • Really long intro where 4 members read a sappy script about spring time.
  • At the end of concert, they held a fundraiser for earthquake victims. When you left, you passed by a donation box so if you went to go put in coins you get to slowly walk past like 3 feet away from them. When you passed each one, they bowed to you and you could talk to them for a few seconds. During bowing session, other sphere girls would turn their heads to look at you directly, but Haruka did shifty eyes instead lol
  • Sphere fans pretty organized. Guy next to me had a big case of glowsticks divided into 4 compartments for each member.
  • After costume change, Aki in her green miniskirt + green boots gliding around the stage on supports totally looked like feminine Peter Pan
  • There's an interesting mechanic where a secondary stage would actually split into 4 parts while the girls were on it. Each stage would move through the concert halls down one of the aisles and recombine in the middle and back of the stage. Very clever to give everyone a chance to see them up close considering the randomized seats. Sadly it was underused - they only went down the aisle this 3 times, which means every section lost out on 1 member
  • The concert title was "Spring Party is Here" and so seating blocks were arranged as YTRAPS with Y all the way at the front row and S in the last row. Backwards it spells S. Party. Unfortunately, I got screwed with "S" but it's good experience to know for future Sphere concerts if they randomize the seats. You can sort of guess the arrangements based on the title and pick a letter in the middle to be safe. Or gamble on the end letters. On the up side, I was in the aisle so the members came right by me when they went around the hall.

Posted by Paranda at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2011

Tamura Yukari LOVE LIVE 2011 SPRING *Mary Rose* day 2

On April 16th, I attened Day 2 of Tamura Yukari's spring concert in Budokan. This is a much shorter supplemental report to cover new MCs and variations in the performance or set list. For the original set list, see Day 1 report here.

My location for today was the front row in Arena B6 block, directly along the center aisle like so:

So every time Yukarin came down the aisle, she crossed directly in front. She was also directly above us during the cage part for Shinseiro, but no feathers happened to float down by our section (or maybe I was just too mesmerized to notice).

During 1st MC, Yukarin surveyed the crowd comparing the colors. Since it was 千秋楽, in addition to the pink parka and happis, there were also a ton of people wearing the limited edition pink T-shirts. Yukarin remarked that this time there was a lot of pink that fit well with the spring atmosphere.

Waving to whole audience: "All the people in pink are like cherry blossoms"
Pointing to a few guys with green cyalumes: "Green is like the leaves of the cherry tree"
Pointing to two guys in red live t-shirts: :Are you two guys friends? This will probably get cut, but you two are like Atashi Sakuranbo:
Pointing to people in blue shirts (actually these guys are technically wearing the wrong shirt, because blue was supposed to be for the first day): "Blue...blue is like what??"
JACK suggested the sky, which Yukari gladly obliged. "Blue is like the cracks of blue sky you can see between the cherry trees"
Pointing to black shirts: "Black is..the darkness in peoples hearts." Laughing and clapping from audience for that one.

For song #5, Spring Fever was replaced with Tenshi no oshigoto, a c/w song on Douwa Meikyuu that was only performed on tour during Sweet Milky Way 2007. It's recognizeable by its "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" opener and it's simplistic and repetitive tune makes it easy to follow along.

For song #8, the acoustic version of YOURS EVER was replaced by Yoimachi no hana, another rare track from her Gin no Senritsu, Kioku no Mizuoto album that was only performed during fancy baby doll concert in 2006. The sound quality was a little bit better than the day before which I'm thankful for, but since this is a faster song I think it could have been better still if they tuned the instrumental down slightly so her voice can stand out more.

For second MC, Yukarin talked about her baby blue sky song again. "It's not played often, but it's the first song I wrote by myself. You all got really pumped for it huh?"

Well you told us to yesterday!! Although the truth is it's not really a kind of song that matches heavy calls, and she knew it.

"Although it kinda died down near the end. But you put lots of effort so thank you!"

By this time Yukarin had already changed into her purpleish candy wrapper and bow outfit, and as she was looking at it she mentioned it was really cute. "Don't you agree? It's really cute. Although it's totally different and the designer probably doesn't even know, it's kind of like Meruru right? Well the real Meruru outfit is a lot more revealing, but this outfit has a kind of magical girl feel to it right? Maybe not everyone knows who Meruru is, but her song..."

At this point a good part of the audience pretty much explodes into cheering with anticipation of Hoshikuzu Witch Meruru, but Yukari takes great joy in crushing their dreams

"..is something I can't sing"

Crowd: EEEEEEEHHH?

"Huh you really want me to sing that? But I can't. Danshaku doesn't know it. I considered it, but if I did it..."

Yukari flashes a smile to audience getting their hopes up

"JASRAC will get mad. So I won't sing it. But this outfit really is cute.."

Having been denied their Meruru, the audience gives up. But they insist on a consolation prize: one twirl at least! The 回って call is a long tradition at Yukarin concerts and there's no way to deny it. Yukari played along but not before more required teasing of the audience. Turn...like this? She half-started on a cartwheel, a front roll, and other moves. "But I can't do that! If I do it (a cartwheel) my skirt will fly up. No way!" Eventually she relented and just did a normal spin.

After she did it she caught a glimpse of herself on the big screen behind and got interested in playing with that. "How fun, I can see myself from the back." So she ordered the camera to zoom in, then slowly zoom out. When the camera had pulled far enough, she yelled STOP! Neither audience nor camera guy had any idea what was going on. The camera just did as it was told and we watched while she barked more orders.

"TOO FAR, ZOOM BACK IN! OK NOW ZOOM OUT A LITTLE MORE. NOW STOP! STOP!"
...
This is "zettai ryouiki"

She had stopped the camera exactly so the bottom of the screen would end an inch below her skirt, thus creating the perfect gap.

For song #15, Hoshizora no Spica was replaced with another Nanoha song, Beautiful Amulet. Similar to the previous day, she went down to the center of the stage for an extended period of time, so I got a full blast of Yukari up close. Beautiful Amulet had pyrotechnics as well, but it didn't fit as well as Spica.

During MC after Meron Ondo, Neko rowed Yukarin back to the stage again, but she had some fun toying with the staff who was actually pushing the platform. She told them to stop, go back, and go forward, changing her mind several times. "I was just lying, sorry. But you should be grateful, fans would love to do this job!". I'm sure if Yukarin were a boss, this is how she would give employees paycuts too.

Once the cats did their magic trick to disappear behind the curtain again, Yukarin tried the same routine. But instead of Cherry coming out like the previous day, Tamachan came out instead. At least this time people remembered his name. Once Yukarin reappeared, it was meron time. Since Yukarin bragged that kokumin only become meromero for her, Masanyan got the stick to test out that theory.

Everyone became meromero for Masanyan.

Yukari got up in a huff, went up to the front of the stage, pointed to everyone and said "ARE YOU PEOPLE STUPID?"

"I told you! You should only become meromero when I do it!"

Next the stick passed to GOD. While GOD was getting ready, Yukarin was making motions behind his back telling all the audience how to react. She feigned a slumping motion and winked at the audience, then told GOD to go ahead.

Everyone became meromero for GOD.

Again Yukarin pouted in the same tone as before "HEY! ARE YOU PEOPLE IDIOTS?"

HA! It was time for the audience to tease Yukarin this time. Every cast member decided to try with similar results. During each member, Yukari tried to remind the audience NOT to meron, but it was useless. During Hatabou's turn she tried to make a special appeal.

As we all know from SCS, the H in Hatabou stands for HENTAI. "Hatabou, they are not going to mero~n for you because you are hentai". But instead Hatabou got loud HENTAI chants and a subsequently huge mero~n.

Now Yukarin was puffing her cheeks and getting frustrated that the crowd even mero~ned for Hatabou. But she quickly rationalized it away.

"Ah, I get it. Those weren't REALLY serious. When I do it, you'll give me the true super mero~n."

Almost nobody became meromero for Yukarin.

The tables have turned himesama. It is us who denies YOU! Instead everyone went into slumping position that she had been trying to get people to do earlier. She went into shock. Has everyone graduated from Yukari Kingdom? she said sadly. Wait it must be broken, so she tried again and again.

Only a few people did it each time.

"People who don't read the mood and do whatever they want to stand out are not good."

Woah, a bit of a harsh scolding from Yukarin? I thought she'd congratualte their loyalty instead, but the correct move was to follow the audience and no-sell yukarin mero~n

Though personally considering the mero happened in some sections of the 2nd floor rather than single individuals, I think it's just parts of the audience misunderstanding due to following the leads of clueless people. There has been some speculation online on whether Yukarin was trying to use this opportunity to say something that had some deeper hidden meaning, like telling people to wear the proper shirts, use only pink lights, do normal calls, or don't yell loudly during her MCs, etc. It could be reading too much into it, but I decided I'll change even my own behavior to retire Fenix mounted pink lights for the next Yukari concert I go to (even though it's pink, having less bright normal pen lights is easier on her eyes). Crowd harmony is important.

Finally, she decided it was time to give the rest of us who had desperately been resisting mero~n a chance. So for the final wave, after we all agreed it would be for real, she hit the audience with several waves of mero~n and got a huge thunderous response back.

For song #19, Koiseyo Onnanoko was replaced with Love Love Baby Happy Star. This is a great choice, and as I mentioned from last year's lives, one of the most fun songs to do live on the recent Citron no Ame album. ゆかりと視線ぶつかる~♪ *faints*

Apparently this song got upgraded into a "puppet song," although they didn't warn us beforehand. The instructions on the puppets very clearly said "Use during Koiseyo Onnanoko and Sugar Tune, so I was about 10 seconds late in getting Chocola out after I realized the stage dancers all had them. I didn't even have time to put it on so I just held her normally. Lots of timed jumping, but the song is still too new for the audience to get fully coordinated so IMO there were some misjumps/heys.

The final encore MC was mostly the same thing as the previous day, announcing her participation in Anisama 2011, Universal Studios Japan events, and the release of BD/DVD for SCS and today's live sometime this summer. One new thing she told us though was she was really glad this time's concert went well. During the previous time in 2007, she was actually really nervous back then because she had gotten throat surgery a little while before.

After the concert, since this time's concert was recorded for BD/DVD and we had finished so earlier (only 7PM), the crowd tried to start a second encore chant but this fizzled out after lights came back on. Still given the set list we heard in the last two days, it was still a really satisfying concert and I'm glad I went and the best part is in 6 months time I'll be able to relive it again through the BD release.

Interestingly for both days, Yukarin did not make any tongue in cheek references to her age. Is the 17 years old joke finally played out?

Maybe not

Day 1 Set list
01.LOVE ME NOW!
02.Picnic
03.Happy Life
04.Platina Lover's Day
05.Tenshi no oshigoto
06.Don't wake me☆ up!
07.Nagareboshi Jenny
08.Yoimachino hana (acoustic)
09.floral blue
10.baby blue sky
11.Super Special Day
12.Koi ni ochita painter
13.Koi no ageha
14.Shinseiro
15.Beautiful Amulet
16.Mero~n Ondo
17.Oshiete A to Z
18.You & Me
19.Love love baby happy star
20.Cherry Kiss
21.Kono yubi tomare
22.Chelsea Girl
23.Gratitude
24.fancy baby doll
25.Super Special Smiling Shy Girl

Next will be image-heavy goods post.

Posted by Paranda at 8:05 AM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2011

Tamura Yukari LOVE LIVE 2011 SPRING *Mary Rose* day 1


On April 15th 2011, I attended Tamura Yukari's spring concert in Budokan. A good live experience begins with a day of queuing, so at 4AM I struck out for the concert hall from my hotel on foot. By the time I arrived, it was nearing 5AM and there were already plenty of people around.

The last time I went to Budokan (quite disasterous if you'll recall) it was very late at night, but today, it was already light out so I finally got a first good look at the place. Budokan's layout is a bit like a fortified castle. To enter, you must first walk halfway up a big hill, cross the bridge over a wide moat surrounding Kitanomaru Park, and then step through large imposing gates into a stone walled courtyard.

Though there were still 5 hours until merchandise tables opened, many fans were already wearing official goods bought from the previous day's early sale, and the throng of similarly dressed fans pressed against the courtyard's outer gates at the top of the bridge made it look like an organized siege from some invading force (in this case the Yukari Kingdom army). By 5:15 AM, the crowd at the gate had grown to about 200 strong, an impressive number for so early in the morning. However, it turns out the line started at the street instead of the gate so when a suited guy helped up the "最後尾" sign at the bottom of the bridge he nearly caused a stampede.

Luckily for me, I was near the bottom at the time anyway. I had figured 200~ was still a safe number, and saw no point in squeezing into the mass at the top. My decision to stay at the bottom and snap some photos of the cherry trees filling the entire park instead means I had the luck of winding up 50th in line.

The guide led the group through the courtyard then through another set of gates to the Budokan grounds where a long row of booths had been set up. Since the weather was nice, the wait wasn't too bad. There was no freezing rain to contend with for example (see Niigata). Each time the wind blew, we'd be treated to a shower of cherry petals and it was almost like a big group doing hanami, in a way.


We watched staff unload boxes of goods into the booth until 10AM, when the line started moving. With upwards of 10 separate purchasing stations taking on customers, I was in and out of the goods line within half an hour. I tried to stick to the planned list, but as usual, this planning is wasted because I always break budget. The most popular items this time around were the Cherry puppets, puppet one piece, redesigned happi coat, and gachagacha - all of which sold out within 2 hours. Since I could get into a lot of details for each of them, I'll do a separate post about individual goods in the next few days.

After goods, many fans stuck around in the area. There was some chatter about whether or not Yukarin would make a surprise appearance and wave to the crowd from the top balconies (referencing her stunt as seen during the "Making of" segments in Love Live Chelsea Girl 2008 DVD). She didn't appear, but we were fortunate enough to get to listen to a full sound check in the afternoon, where she went through several songs including Cherry Kiss. A nice enough reward for waiting around!

At 5:00 PM, Budokan doors opened and people starting making their way inside. In some corners, groups would first erupt into "Go Happy, Go Happy, Go Happy Yukarin" chants before going in. I found my seat in the third row of the 1st floor balcony, which offered a decent view of the stage as well as the crowd below. Woah it was a sea of pink! With vast majority in happi or parka, this audience was definitely the most uniformly colored group out of all the Yukarin shows I've been to so far.

An hour later, lights dimmed and the arena got flooded with pink glow of pen lights. Introduced by the giant screen up top, Momoiro Danshaku, NEKO and NECO, and Momoiro Mates came out to lots of fanfare, and there was even a fully suited Momoiro brass band. When the dancers all pulled out pompoms, it gave away the 1st song and the crowd cheered in anticipation for "Love Me Now." It was a surprising choice considering pompom songs usually came at the end during previous lives.

Once the music hit, Yukari rose from the trapdoor in the center stage (but no jump this time). She had a silver/white two piece dress that ended just above the knee and a crest of white feathers in her fixed up hair. When she raised her pompom, the crowd followed in kind, jumping and waving with pompoms of their own. This song has its own unique moveset thanks to being worked into a PV, but it's pretty easy and possibly less complicated than even just default concert calls (Love me now *HEY!*). Having experienced this song live twice already, I was able to follow things without much trouble.

Then out of nowhere, a familiar brass opening...and then "OMG CAN IT BE??". As someone who has rewatched Pinkle Twinkle Party DVD about 3 dozen times (not all complete rewatchings), there was no way I could mistake the first song of that fantastic 2006 concert: Picnic! It's one of the few songs that I can recreate all of Yukari's motions by heart, so I was able to see she nailed the performance with the same grace as back then, but with a few variations (improved shuffle). Picnic is one of my all time favorites, but it seems it was just a normal song for the crowd or it was simply too old for current fans ("のんびりいこうぜ、ゆかり!" and "笑って" calls were a bit sparse.

Next song was Happy Life, an upbeat song that called back to the time when she first performed it live here in the same location during Chelsea Girl 08. For this song she took off the top layer of her dress to reveal the skirt was actually part of a frilly one piece, then joined her dancers on a large moving platform that sent them down the middle aisle of the arena. The platform traveled all the way to the end of the arena where it stopped for the rest of the song before returning to the stage to do MC.

First MC was a bit shorter than average, but pretty standard fare for Yukarin. She welcomed everyone to day 1 of Budokan. "But even though it says "Opening Day" it's only just a back to back performance." Then as usual she played with the audience, running around the stage calling out every part of the stage (Arena, 1st floor, 2nd floor, etc). Amazingly she resisted the usual temptation to omit certain sections.

Typically, it goes something like:
"Arena!"
"YAYYYYYY"
Second floor!
"YAYYYYY"
Ok that's it"
*1st floor goes EEEEEEHHH*
"Ok fiiiinnnnee. 1st floor"

But today Yukarin was surprisingly nicer than usual and hardly had an insult for anyone. Ok, she did at least try to tease the fans in the stage side seats, calling them はみ出席 being in such a bad position but it winded up being cute instead. She would run all the way to one side of the stage and hide behind a speaker, poke her head out, and say "Hah if I do this you can't see me right?". It was so cute the other side demanded she hide for them too. Guys with full balrogs of ultra bright glowsticks started going nuts trying to flag her down. Yukari seemed to enjoy the spectacle since she gave them plenty of attention, though I get the feel that fans who do full hands of glowsticks are more numerous in recent times than the old lives shown in DVDs. Without any official endorsement though, the opinion on this shift is divided among fans especially since some of the guys don't even use pink (why would you balrog ultra green at this kind of concert)??

Interestingly, she also didn't do any weird crowd surveys this time like getting age ranges, male/female ratios, working vs unemployed, people who came by train/plane, dads who brought their kids, guys who went to comiket and bought dirty books, etc (all real things asked in past lives before). Instead of her usual prolonged teasing, she transitioned pretty into full blown SERIOUS teary eyed mush mode (typically reserved for finales) and concluded the MC by thanking everyone who came, wishing for everyone to have a good time, and hoping they'd take back great memories. Woah? Spoiled princess Yukarin being so nice to us in opening MC. She must have thought hard on this and decided to open with a more sincere note to really appreciate people who came in light of recent earthquakes, though she didn't reference this directly.

She sang the title song of her latest single Platina Lover's Day. The song is too new to get its own special cheers but it got a pretty good response crowd-wise since we all knew this song would be included. It's a good medium tempo live song that fits "Yukarin" calls well. Then she jumped back in time again, to Spring Fever from her 2005 album Kohaku no Uta, Hotohira. This is not an often performed song, but enough people knew the calls since she had a four-stop tour in 2005 named after it (see extras on Cutie Cutie DVD). It was a good choice considering the season, though I personally did not know it too well - only watched those Cutie Cutie digest extras once or twice.

Next was Don't wake me☆ up. It's a very simple yet catchy tune that I used to loop quite a bit when Tomorrow came out and pretty much describes my work life. Inexplicably, it got skipped in the set lists for both Dreamy Maple Crown and Princess a la mode, so I'm glad it finally made live rotation at least once. During the song, Yukari came over to top of the stairs on the left and right arms of the arena so that 2nd floor sides (where we were) could see her up close. After the song, she left for a costume change while announcer Haramaki Kouji (and Yukarin's real life cousin) narrated for band member introductions.

Momoiro Danshaku was the same members as usual except...the brand new P-tan on keyboard, who has now replaced Nobupyon. Looks like they are still trying to find a permanent keyboard position ever since Julian left (stripped of baron nobility??). As an aside, I believe Masanyan currently has the longest tenure among the danshaku right now. While most band members played a quick piece, GOD as usual came out with his own special pompom dance.

Once the band was introduced again, Yukari reappeared on the stage with a new costume: a deep blue skirt with white polkadots, shoulderless red top lined with black trim, and high heel slippers to sing Nagareboshi Jenny, the c/w song on the latest Meron Ondo CD. Of course at the time, I only just bought the CD hours before and hadn't listened to it yet, so I was standing around wondering "WTF when did this song come out?" But it's great. It had this 1950s musical feel, with dancers coming out in opposite colors of Yukarin (red polkadot skirts, blue top) and doing a zigzagging line dance that looked like it came straight out of a broadway production. Yukari's dance routine for this is also really RELALY cute - possibly one of her best routines ever - with her kicking her tiny heels up and back like a swing dancer during the "only you" sabi (and she has such nice legs for it)! It's something I'll rewatch on a DVD just for the dance.

After this, the stage went dark for YOURS EVER, the first acoustic performance of the night accompanied by P-tan's piano. It was another song I didn't recognize, but actually it's on the Sincerely Dears album, (I only listened to that 2 or 3 times so I must have just forgotten). No matter, acoustic corner is time to just enjoy singing without worrying about calls so I just tried to soak in the sound. I mentioned in older live reports that acoustic corners are one of the best parts of a live since it gives you a chance to just take in a performance. Although 神曲 are really fun, they also divide your attention as you desperately multitask between watching the singer, listening to the song, trying to do calls, and watching others do calls out the corner of your eye to make sure you're not doing everything wrong. So I took these rare opportunities to listen hard. Unfortunately Budokan's acoustics (or perhaps my location) was not too good so I felt like the sound was a bit off. I remember from Niigata when she sang Namida no Loop it was so sultry my ears nearly melted off. Yukarin tried her best today, but the sound just wasn't on her side this time. I hoped next time might be better.

Following the acoustic performance, Yukarin moved on to Floral Blue (c/w song from Platina Lover's Day) Yukari sang while two dancers appeared at the top of the stairs in short blue one pieces to perform some sort of slow tango.

Giving band members time to set up again, there was another round of member introduction for Momoiro Mates, who each entered after being announced with the slightly oddly phrased "Number 1 *adjective* Girl." In Yukari Kingdom, everyone is No. 1 in something! Each girl had a few seconds to show off some dance moves. There were high kicks, cartwheels, spins, and jumps although some dancers did some hilariously out of place moves like booty grinds.

Unlike Momoiro Danshaku, I didn't recognize any of the Momoiro Mates. It's hard to keep track because there are so many regulars who rotate in and out of lives, and the absence of some known members doesn't mean they're gone or replaced. I really only remember MAMIKO and NATSUMI's faces because they taught me the Meron on Theme dance in the Chelsea Girl DVD and Happy Loop in Pinkle Twinkle Party respectively. So I looked for either of them, but no luck today.

Once dancers were done, Yukarin reappeared in a fancy dress that looked like a big purple candy wrapper and was adorned all over with large ribbons that circled her entire person and went into the next song baby blue sky.

Now getting to the the third song I didn't know, I was starting to wonder if I had missed an album release lately. I prefer getting to know and like a song before I hear it live so I was kicking myself for not researching new releases. But, a lot of the crowd was also a bit lost so we just tried to fill in with normal cheering.

Then came MC which explained everything.

Wait! Wait a minute everyone! This song was the first song I ever wrote
Audience: "OOOOOOOHHHH"
"So how come there's such a pitiful reaction? It's more like people are going 'what the heck is this song?'"
*Crowd laughs and denies, even though they know it's true*
Tomorrow. If, IF by chance this song happens to play, I want you all to get really excited about it. Even though you don't recognize it. Because you know, if this song gets on DVD, I get paid 0.03 yen in royalties! Well that's less than 1 yen per copy, but anyway if this gets played tomorrow I want you all to get pumped up for it! First, when you hear this opening, I want you to yell KITAAAA. Let's practice

Ahhh greedy Yukarin is the bestest. Yukari opens her arms wide and starts singing the little tune and yelling "KITA!" The band plays the opening again, and everyone feigns extreme excitement. After a HUGE KITAAAA scream, Yukari leads the fans in "hey" chants, and then mimes out her fantasy scenario of seeing tomorrow's fans getting totally confused by the heavy cheering. She also mentioned very specifically not to reveal the plan online. Apparently she wanted them to get the same weird feeling we all got, but intensified even more because hey EVERYONE ELSE KNOWS IT! When she asked who really didn't know the song this time and got a big response, she explained that it was a coupling song from her 2002 single (Love Parade). Woah that's before I even became otaku, but unlike Baby's Breath it was never played enough for most people to know it unless they were really long time fans of Yukarin. On a separate tangent, she finished off MC by telling a story of the previous day about how she tried to make some melt some chocolate cream over bread, but when she baked the combination, it hardened instead.

"Ok it's about time to get to the next song. Super Special Day"

What!? Don't announce something as awesome as Super Special Day so casually! Even though not many people knew a song from 2002, they sure as hell knew this. Though this song is even older (2001), it got the biggest reaction of the night so far. To be fair, this is a popular fan favorite from Tokimeki Memorial 2 and has actually been played during lives with its own calls (L. O.V.E. Yukarin!) And the calls were very loud. Everyone was just so excited about this coming back since it hasn't seen at a live since Sweet Milky Way in 2007. I personally didn't think I'd ever get the chance to do this song or picnic.

Jumping forward to more recent times again, Yukarin followed with Koi ni ochita painter which was one of the songs on her Citron no Ame album that she didn't get to sing during SCS tour. After this song, Yukarin changed costumes again while each brass band member did a piece. No member got introduced by name though.

Koi no ageha is a jazzy song from her 2008 album Komorobi no Rosette. Though I'm not a huge fan of the melody on this specific song, these jazzy songs in general are interesting because they let Yukarin drop a few octaves and go into deep voice mode. It was a good choice especially since she had the full brass band today and could make good use of them, so we got all the real instruments instead of a recording. I couldn't remember if she was usually supposed to have a cane in this or not, but she didn't have one today.

For Shinseiro, another newer song on her latest album, Yukari got on the moving platform again and it brought her to the center of the stage. As she was singing, a gilded white cage lowered in from above. After she stepped in and closed the door, the cage lifted back up until she was around first floor eye level. The lighting changed again, and a slow rain of feathers came down all around her. This must have looked pretty dramatic from the front, but being at the side, it just looked kind of weird. The cage was slightly tipped at an angle from her weight, and all the feathers were falling slightly behind. So my view was basically this:

That's not a complaint though. Yukari in the bird cage brought her within much better viewing distance to us, and any effort to do that is always highly appreciated.

Next was Hoshizora no Spica. This is a pretty popular song that got a decent reaction. Similar to Douwa Meikyu, its live rendition is accompanied by pyrotechnics. During climaxes of the song, blasts of fire would shoot from the stage in a pattern as if someone were playing a flame organ. It did seem to be manually operated because I recall the at least one time when they forgot to trigger the flame. I guess the operator was too engrossed in the scene.

Finally came the most highly anticipated moment of the night, Meron Ondo time. A video came up with NEKO and NECO in Happi coats. They went over each move, step by step and paused at each segment for the audience to repeat what they just learned. Narration was done by Yukari in her "Yukari-chan" voice (I believe that is the name given to her chibiko form now, at least according to the FC page's web comic). This is the same voice as used to say "めろ~ん音頭がはじまるよ~" She even did sound effects, going "aaaahhn" when having everyone lift their hands which drew muffled laughs from the crowd. Now imagine an entire instructional video like that.

Once the video was over, Yukarin came out along with several members all wearing the happi coats. Rather than just having only the 8 dancers who were already introduced, there were also some new faces including a bunch of kids in the group. Some of them seemed no older than 12 yrs old (woah shouldn't you girls be in school?). I guess they were all there to give it a "festival feel."

With everyone out on stage, we all raised our hands into the starting position. The dancers stayed on stage, while Yukarin, NEKO, and NECO all got onto the moving platform to lead the audience from the middle of the arena. Then music started and it was all *clap-clap-clap* A~SORYA for a few wonderful minutes. This is certain to look sooo crazy on video. My only wish was that they clarified the correct starting side, because the problem with Yukarin moving on the center platform is for everyone in the front half of the arena including us, halfway through the song we need to turn around and then...uh...which direction should we do now? Same "mirrored" direction as before, OR, copy Yukarin exactly now that we are facing the same way? Eventually I settled on copy exactly, swapping between mirror/original depending on the location. Minor details such as this aside, ondo was definitely a fun time.

After Mero~n Ondo, NEKO/NECO treated the platform like a canoe and rowed Yukarin back to the stage. On stage, NEKO did a disappearing/reappearing trick with a cloth and the stage trapdoor. It was pretty obvious how it worked, and anyone on the side could easily see behind the cloth but everyone humored the magic trick anyway with applause and cheering. Once NEKO finished, Yukarin also wanted to do it too. Her trick involved an extra step where she switched places with a Cherry puppet before finally returning. "Ah but I forgot my meromero stick! That means I can't do mero~n"

Cue a guy coming in with the stick while chanting "UnUnSodaSoda" which the crowd also copied. As an aside, I always get my hopes up for Meron no Uta when this chant starts but it never happens. So this guy says he COULD give Yukarin the stick, but he wanted some attention first. "Come on guys, what's my name?"
Audience responses were: *silence*, "Uhh", and "おまえ!!" orz
Finally someone got his name. Actually it was sound producer Tamachan. After I heard that, I remember I saw him twice before during Starry Candy Stripe tour, but I forgot his face entirely.

Yukarin took the stick and did usual demonstration by waving all the band members. Since P-tan was new she told him to pay special attention to his first ever mero~n. Masanyan actually dodged mero, but Yukarin must have not seen it because she didn't give him too hard a time. Once danshaku all fell to the floor after getting meromero she said it looked like BL.

Then it was the audience's turn. Since she mero~ned a few times already without n~rome, we all just assumed n~rome wasn't coming. So when she did try it everybody had to scramble back into mero~n position. Redo! She tried it again but just decided to freeze the audience in their backbreaking position without releasing them. "Ahh I'm tired." Fans yelled "EEEEHHH" but she just said she enjoyed seeing such a wonderful lit up sight of everyone's face in pain. So cruel, himesama! Finally she returned everyone to normal with n~rome and started into Oshiete A to Z.

I got plenty of "A to Z" practice last year so it was easy to follow along. The standard fare during this song is the double-clap, single-clap rhythmn.

When she followed up with You & Me immediately after, that was the signal that we must be getting close to the end. You & Me is such an energy hog, since the audience winds up shouting 30% of the song. Not much to say about the song that I haven't already said for SCS, but the audience seemed especially loud today. Fans just really love their rap.

Next was Koiseyo Onnanoko. YES! The 1st Yukari song I ever memorized the entire choreography for. I had only did this song once during Animelo 08, and I didn't have a puppet back then. I had hoped for it during SCS but it never came. Now was my chance, and this time I was able to follow everything, from jumps to waves to drawing giant hearts in the air. For my puppet, I chose to use Chocola with the latest one-piece, because she's such a good girl.

Keeping the momentum of high level songs, Yukarin jumped onto the moving platform and continued with Cherry Kiss, a very popular song is usually saved for ending concerts on a high note like Dreamy Maple Crown and Princess a la Mode. I love this song, and knew to expect it from the sound check, but I often confuse the chorus with that of candy smile (they're pretty similar and both act as closers IMO) so I was constantly thinking "hey when she was gonna do that famous kick?" After was Kono Yubi Tomare, another from the latest single. This is a fast paced pop tune that is definitely going to be a staple of lives in the future. Lots of "hey, hey" in it that fits well with concerts. Yukarin and dancers all held up towels that they started to swing around during the chorus. All the fans did the same. Well, except me, because I didn't buy one of the Live towels that day and I certainly wasn't going to use the microfiber towel with Yukarin's picture on - way too fragile. Made a mental note to go buy a pink towel the next day.

For the final song, she ended with Chelsea Girl - now an "always play" during lives that we all know and love. But, I don't think we've had Chelsea Girl with full brass band since the last time she did it in Budokan in 2008, so that was a major plus. As is usual with final songs, during the chorus, ribbons shot out and fell into the crowd to celebrate the end of the show.

After wave and waves of encore chants, Yukari returned to do Gratitude. I have great memories of this song thanks to SCS tour, and the ARIGATOU parts still lifted my spirits as much as ever. It's easy to overlook if you only listen to it on CD (as I did before SCS) but as soon as I heard it live I fell in love with it and I was very happy to hear it live again.

For final MC
Wow it's really hot in here isn't it. Gotta replenish water. But if I drink too much I'll have to go to the bathroom. If I keep drinking like this I'll be in trouble. lolwut? She said it in such a worrying tone too, not like a teasing fans kind of way but a "oh shit I've got a real dilemma here" kind of way. Yukari also had 3 announcements to make.

1st announcement was that she will be part of ORICON INFINITY MUSIC 2011 at Universal Studios Japan. Apparently her love of Terminator 2 came about because she took a ride on the T2 attraction in the past.
2nd announcement was that she will be part of Animelo Summer Live 2011's Day 1 Lineup
3rd announcement was that the last day of Starry Candy Stripe 2010 in Tokyo Kokusai Forum, plus tomorrow's 4/16 Spring Mary Rose concert will be on BD/DVD by sometime this summer.

Second to last song was fancy baby doll. During the extended bridge for FBD, as always, Yukarin brought out a big basket full of bunny dolls but this time there was a special bonus. While she threw a few in every direction of the arena, NEKO and NECO prepared the big guns to reach upper balconies. Enter FBD Cannon, a huge muzzle-loaded single-shot air cannon that blasted a cluster of dolls out 50-70 feet - far enough to reach the 2nd and 3rd floors. They had several of these cannons that she would just fire one after the other. The first time she took it out we were curiously cautions, then *BOOM* bunnies just fly out and smack against the balcony wall with the crowd going "WOOOAHHHH"

And finally the true last song of the night was Super Special Smiling Shy Girl, enough to kill the last of any energy we had for the night, as well as our voices. Near the end Yukarin turned the microphone toward the audience so arena, 1st floor, 2nd floor, and 3rd floor all got their own separate turns to sing the final segments and do chants.

After everything was over, Yukari did her farewell wave, going to each side of the stage plus the moving platforms so she could cover every part of the concert hall. Each section also started its own Yukari chant. Yukari even started a coordinated wave on the third floor, something that didn't happen last year. Yukari's really good at doing farewells because she just exudes this aura of gratitude - like she REALLY doesn't want to leave, and we don't want her to go either. But it was already close to 9:30PM, so after 3 long hours...LOVE LIVE 2011 Spring Mary Rose Shonichi was finally concluded.

And just as I was thinking how crazy awesome that is and how my trip was all worth it and done, it hit me that yeah, I've still got tomorrow :P

Day 1 Set list
01.LOVE ME NOW!
02.Picnic
03.Happy Life
04.Platina Lover's Day
05.Spring fever
06.Don't wake me☆ up!
07.Nagareboshi Jenny
08.YOURS EVER (acoustic)
09.floral blue
10.baby blue sky
11.Super Special Day
12.Koi ni ochita painter
13.Koi no ageha
14.Shinseiro
15.Hoshizora no spica
16.Mero~n Ondo
17.Oshiete A to Z
18.You & Me
19.Koiseyo Onnanoko
20.Cherry Kiss
21.Kono yubi tomare
22.Chelsea Girl
23.Gratitude
24.fancy baby doll
25.Super Special Smiling Shy Girl

Number of songs by year of release
2001 - 1
2002 - 1
2005 - 3
2006 - 1
2007 - 2
2008 - 3
2009 - 3
2010 - 6
2011 - 5

Next post will be Day 2 MC and set list variations, followed by third post for goods report. Speaking of goods, I think I spent over $700 on them this time. Where hell did that all go? Even I haven't accounted for it yet.

Posted by Paranda at 2:19 AM | Comments (3)

October 12, 2010

Minorin day at NYAF

Though I missed Friday's events entirely, I had a pretty good Minorin-centric Saturday, starting at 2AM when I went to line up at Javitz for autographs. It was cold, but at least not too boring after moy and alexd showed up a few hours later. After the con opened up at 7 and we got tickets, alexd went back to his apt, while moy and I went to the nearest couch and promptly passed out dead for a bit. The moment of rest was short lived. By 11AM I was back camping the panel room for Minorin's Q&A.

Though there was no fan participation this time, the East Meets format is pretty interesting. It consisted of Minorin (east) opposite several western voice-over actors (west) having what amounted to a semi-scripted and friendly dialogue to discuss their different experiences in voice acting. Welcomely absent from the panel...

- Biographical questions that could have been looked up 2 seconds on Wiki
- "Who/what is your favorite" dilemmas
- What's your inspiration? x 10000
- Guys more concerned with promoting themselves than asking the guest anything

Admittedly I do derive a bit of guilty pleasure from seeing the occasional oblivious fan ask questions of a career-ending/bridge-burning nature if talent were to answer truthfully. It's funny to see seiyuu rack their brains trying to formulate fluff non-answers to dodge things that most people would know better than to ask.

There were good bits and pieces which will no doubt make it onto youtube. In one part, some of the western actors talked about how they auditioned for a role by recording a demo-tape at home. Minorin misheard and thought American voice actors could phone in entire sessions in their own home and flipped the fuck out for a while before somebody picked up on her confusion and re-clarified that it was for audition only. Minorin totally froze up and went "Oh yeah. Of course, we do that too!" with a REALLY embarassed look on her face and started laughing. It's ok Minorin, nobody thinks you're an airhead for missing a translation (they think it for the million other reasons). Probably the funniest part was after Minorin learned that for American cartoons, voice actors would record with only a script and some storyboards, but no video. She just burst out with very loud and cute "EEEEEEEHHH?" several times while the translator was explaining things. The english VAs thought she was adorable with the reactions. I think that may have also been a bit of misunderstanding at work though - Maybe Minorin didn't get that for our cartoons, the animation is done to match dialogue after the voice recording, because she was asking stuff like "how do you know how the pace of the lines?" and remarking how incredibly hard it sounded.

After the panel, we took the group picture that is now posted on Minorin's blog, and then immediately rushed to autographs. I previously got a name-personalized pinup thanks to moy, and this time a non-personalized autograph on Kimi Ga Kure Ta Ano Hi, an older single. When I brought out this CD, one of her handlers (anyone else feel she looked like an older version of a certain other seiyuu?) was really amused and called over another handler to share like there was some inside joke associated with this item. I wish I had asked what was so special about this item but I was momentarily starstruck by Minorin being way too close, and didn't really have time as they were rushing us through the line at top speeds. So I give my CD to the handler, and she gives it to Minorin who signs it in just a few seconds - even faster than May'n. But even though the encounter was brief, Minorin has a way of looking straight at you and delivering a killer smile that makes all that time waiting in line overnight worth it.

Since I didn't have a VIP ticket, I figured I had to line up as early as possible to get a decent chance at finding a seat so right after the autograph I grabbed a quick lunch and then headed straight to IGN theatre. By this time, the lack of sleep combined with the effects of post-lunch food coma caught up with me and made those 3 hours wait in line an absolute torture. I was in a zombified state yet unable to sleep because of the hard floors and cramped space. Finally the doors opened a little past seven. I wish the staff had allowed people to file in a bit earlier and in a more orderly manner, because as soon as they started letting people in it turned into a mad dash for the best remaining seats. Originally, I was in 6th row all the way on the sides, but somehow got moved up to 4th row center-right into VIP seats reserved for people that were no-shows. Still I was away from the main FC section to my left (see video - I'm the lone UO guy on the right side while most fans with UO are on the left). As I tweeted earlier, there are advantages and disadvantages to this. First, in my section people were sitting down while the FC section was all standing up. At first I was really low key with my glowstick and actions because I felt like a bit of a jerk being the ONLY stander blocking the view of people behind me, but by the middle of the first song I decided "hey how many times do you get to see Minorin perform this close live, if people aren't going to stand up...well fuck-em" and went into full-on concert mode. It was also harder for me to see what others were doing and follow along since it meant I would have to turn to the side and divert my attention from the main act (I decided to just do whatever felt right based on experience from other concerts, and it turned out all right and mostly in synch). Some advantages were the extra space from the aisle being so empty and the fact that being the only standing and participating person in the area, whenever Minorin came over she waved to me a bunch of times (yayyyy).

Minorin came out in a short blue dress and thigh high leather boots, but more impressively she was rocking the same hairstyle as she had during Anisama 2010. She must have gone straight to dressing room right after the autograph session to get it ready in time. Similar to what MELL did at AX and Otakon before, Minorin's MCs were 100% in English for the entire night. The sentence structure wasn't very good, and the english wasn't polished at all, but it only made the MC better because she was trying so hard with what she had memorized and added a certain charm like she prepared her speech herself with only minimal translator help. "Do you like Haruhi? I like Haruhi too!" *trademark minorin giggle*

As predicted, the set list was dominated by Haruhi songs. In order:

Yuki, Muon, Madobe Nite
FC went UOs. I should mention though that it's well known that full blown "otagei" is frowned upon at Minorin concerts, so even though we were standing up, we just did calls with high intensity and standard stuff. No craziness. Still I was kind of pissed that most people near me were sitting down though, even though they got free glowsticks. WTF, didn't you line up for hours to get to the front and all you wanna do is take crappy cellphone pics (despite the ban on photography), check mail, and watch the jumbo screen?

SELECT?
Almost 100% blue glowsticks

Junpaku Sanctuary
Slow song, but pretty popular. Got a decent reaction when she announced it. FC went all white

Tommorrow's Chance
UO. Crowd starting coming alive at this point. Couple of people starting standing up as well and coming up behind me.

Freedom Dreamer
UO. It's VERY fun to do live with all the call and response, and especially the coordinated jumping. This is probably what broke the ice for most of the crowd though and people starting getting up and participating as they got the hint during "everybody jump". Frankly she should have opened with this song as it set the tone for the rest of the night. I was doing leaps at full power several feet off the ground, so I can't walk now.

Paradise Lost
UO. Because Minorin doesn't want us to rest.

Keikenchi Joushouchuu
When Minorin did MC and said "Do you know...Minami-ke?" the crowd erupted into cheers. FC went UO again. She must not do this very often live though as there was a bit of confusion about the glowstick waving pattern. Even FC was confused, so it was very much a learning experience for all of us.

Yasashii Boukyaku
Blue/White. Break time from excitement.

Hare hare yukai
UO finisher. For the final song, Minorin called out Christi-nyan and another dancer Carrie and they all did the Haruhi dance. Minorin called for everyone to do the dance. I think it was the only time the FC got outmatched though, most of them, and myself didn't really know the moves and had to resort to hasty copying. In a reversal of roles, a lot of random people in the audience without glowsticks DID know the dance moves.

At the end Minorin read her thank you message in English and said how much fun she had coming to NYC. After she left, the FC "leader" put up his beacon and tried to start an encore chant but unfortunately it kind of fizzled out since not enough people were chanting "Mi-no-rin". Lights came up soon after so we left the arena and freed up seats for people who were there primarily for masquerade.

Afterwards, some fans had BBQ and afterparty but given how much energy I expended at Minorin concert I was on the verge of collapsing so I headed home for the night.

Final goods:

Autographed Minorin poster and CD

Not pictured, signed Puffy Ami Yumi CD.

Posted by Paranda at 12:44 AM | Comments (7)

October 6, 2010

Momoi tour weekend - Hajimete no Live House

10/2 and 10/3 were my final concerts for this year's Japan trip. The first day, I actually was dead tired as I only just crashed after a huge 30 hour run involving of 2 trips to dearstage, all-night karaoke, and a DisneySea trip with jouttex and gin_update. I had to force myself up and onto a train at 10AM in order to get to Niigata again.

Live #1 took place in Niigata, and LIve #2 took place one day later in Koriyama. The fan prep this time was pretty serious. Lots of people came in with fully loaded UO belts and Momoi branded hosters, couple of guys in sailor uniforms, and one guy came in a flight suit totally covered in ivy and green lights (see Momoi's Ivy album cover). Hiro, the dude I met during MOSAIC.WAV live in Kyoto also changed into touhou cosplay with UO waist belts, boot holsters, crisscrossed light bandoliers, Momoi wrist guards and handcuffs, and pulled out both light claws which now had ivy draped all over it.

For set list, I'll list Niigata and contrast with Koriyama. Both halls were pretty small, though the layout for Koriyama was superior. Left is Niigata, right is Koriyama.

1. LOVE.EXE (Hide and Seek)

During day 1, Momoi came out in a cute plaid outfit. During day 2, she had a complex looking silk dress and headpiece. Both days, she started out with old favorites that pump the crowd. Though I like LOVE.EXE, since I've heard it so many times at lives it was nice to hear Hide and Seek on the second day. When she opened with the new song on day 2, it confirmed that she was going to vary the set list so I got really excited again not knowing what might come next.

2. Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

A fun song with call and response with fans. Before the start of the song, Momoi introduces herself in a short MC. During this, it's a tradition for fans to do a rallying call where whoever is in the center-front lights a UO and goes "Se-no" and rallies a huge single coordinated cry of "Momoi". In Koriyama, we actually messed up the first call so Momoi changed her MC around a bit to set up a really obvious second chance for us to repeat. There was also an amusing moment when Momoi asked who was local to the region. The number of locals were really dwarfed by the number of traveling fans, who were all up at the front. It really shows how her events are primarily dominated by core FC groups.

3. Shouri no megami

During this song, there are unique "Momoi Haruko" chants, "aoi romance" which leads into romance, and coordinated claps. Throughout the song, people held up blue towels matching Japan's World Cup team color. That's because it was written by Momoi for the 2010 World Cup. After this song, everyone was sweating really hard including Momoi.

4. Koi no recipe (GURA GURA)

Nostalgia corner. For both songs, Momoi did an MC introducing the track and circumstances of their production. Koi no recipe was a surprise because it's an UNDER17 song outside of her usual "Angel Rabbie." When it hit, a lot of possibilities for what else could be in the set list was swimming through my head. Unfortunately, the ultimate song on my still-haven't-heard-live wishlist "Ichigo Go Go" did not make it in on either day. If it does appear eventually on any of the dates, I will kick myself for not scheduling better.

5. E.S.P. Thanks to Mamichan

Participation involved making the hand sign (like "kira") and waving during the beep beep beep beep parts. This song was released on the new album, but it's actually been out for a while. Unfortunately before the release the only way to get the CD was by buying a $500 Mamichan DVD box set or bidding off auctions sites at around $150.

6. Mail Me

During introductory MC, Momoi made comments on both days reflecting on how times changed since she released this song ten years ago. She said in 2000, if you got keitai mail from someone you liked that would be really special, but now it's just really common occurence since everybody mails everybody now.

7. Jienotsu Song 2

This is nearly as good as the original, and just as tiring. There's was a lot of punching and yelling.

8. The Wall

The break song that couldn't come soon enough. We just did simple claps and not much jumping.

9. Eien no Orusuban

Same as above, but I like this song.

10. Figure ni Naritai (Ima anata ga suki)

Similar to what happened during Yukarin's acoustic corner, fans just stay quiet and just enjoy the singing without worrying about calls.

11. 21 Seiki (Friendship)

Friendship is another one of those songs we haven't heard a lot in the US so I appreciated her including this in the set list. Speaking of US, on day one, Momoi did an MC about her overseas tours and asked if overseas fans were here. Since we already met so many Momoists, it was kind of funny how a bunch of people in the crowd just turned around and started pointed at us before we even said anything. Germany and New York got to represent, as Momoi later tweeted.

12. Akihabalove (Space Love)

During Space Love, a couple of times I was like "uh wow, it's like she's singing right at me" and thinking it was really nice that she was singing to the crowd instead to some vague central point above our heads like many singers tend to do. This was later confirmed during MC, when she actually asked if everyone got sung to. She wanted to remember all the faces and didn't want anyone to be missed.

13. WONDER MOMO-i (Ichigo Ichie)

For Niigata. It was already unbearably hot ever since the first song, but when we all rushed forward for the final UO segment of WONDER MOMO-i, we ran into a WALL of heat. The stage was like an oven.
For Koriyama, my reaction: Ichigo (OMG) Ichie (Awwww). Well nothing against Ichigo Ichie but I was waiting for the OTHER ichigo song.

14. music as muse

I guess we take english titles for granted, but most people actually didn't know what a muse was so Momoi explained it during MC.

15. Break down, break dance

The beginning of the end. Starting from here, every song was fast paced and there were few/no MC breaks. The chorus for Break down, Break dance contains complicated hand motions that I still don't really know. Guys in front of me were doing them, but I just did regular cheering at my own pace. I was next to kiriwari the second day and it seems like he just did normal calls as well.

16. Henji ga nai, tada no shitsuren no you da (Naito de naito)

Henji ga nai was survivable, but Naito de naito = death. I did max jumping during this, and it was so hot... After we finished, people were gasping for air and just laughing nervously at what would come next. Momoi had a smirk like she knew we were at the limit.

17. SWEET CANDY

18. Motto, Yume, Miyou (Tenkuu no Sprite)

Another bonus you get when you go to a Momoi "live house". Free sauna. But be careful, floor is slippery when wet! Tenkyuu no Sprite has a similar "crunch" verse, which means people piled into the front. If you're not familiar, when I refer to crunch I mean this:

19. IVY

The "last" song, and ultimate finisher. For Ivy, everyone uses ultra green glowsticks. I heard IVY a couple of of times on mokomoko and youtube but I never really appreciated it. It wasn't until on day 2 in Koriyama, that I just got hit with the realization "oh...damn this is REALLY good live." Through a combination of factors, this performance pretty much provided one of my highest concert experiences probably rivalled only by those times running onto the stage with Momoi. On day 1, I was kind of distracted trying to keep up with the specific hand signs for "I", "V", and "Y" to do during the chorus but having gone through the learning experience once, I was in full participation for the next one and Momoi really made it worthwhile. There were no barriers of any kind between the stage and us, so she leaned way deep into the crowd and was nearly grabbing peoples' outstretched hands.

Finally we yelled the special "mitai" chants for Momoi

20. Saigo no Rock (WONDER MOMO-i)

During day 1, the layout didn't really allow it due to the support posts but the UO crunch for WONDER MOMO-i was extremely tight. It was really fun way to end the concert. Momoi got a long UO from a fan and the same moves back to us. She was also so close she started high-fiving people at the end.

Aside from the awesome live experience, it was good to meet all the Momoists again. I saw coverman, tetsu, panda, omit, nyol, E_A_moto, kiriwari, vesper, shiraju, kusamaru, hiro, plus some new faces. About an hour after the Koriyama live, Silli and I randomly bumped into Suzuki-san on the street. I thanked him for the tickets, but he said "No I want to thank you for making the trip." He also asked if we were gonna stay in Koriyama or not. I told him my schedule, and in usual Suzuki-san fashion he reciprocated by revealing his own schedule for the night. They were gonna take the train back the same day, but I decided not to be crazy stalker this time since I already checked into my hotel.

Final goods: I picked up the new 10th anniversary themed red and blue glowsticks, a yellow version of the new shirt, extra Ivy album with stick poster, and towels. I also tried to pick up shirts for priz and tenton, but Nakano searched all of his boxes for a while and couldn't find the correct shirt size. He also explained they weren't stocking between Niigata/Koriyama, so Gin is gonna have to try grabbing those shirts in Nagoya.

Posted by Paranda at 12:54 AM | Comments (1)

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

Bonus:

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 "....is...is...that 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:

Bonus:

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 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)

June 14, 2010

Fanime day 3 and 4

Last post for Fanime to tie up loose ends.

Day 3

5/30 was the final day for Momoi quest. Our group had a late breakfast at Peggy Sue's, a local diner that served massive plates of french toast and pancakes, and then headed to wait in line for Quest #5. The performance started at 12:00 in the large karaoke room. I was sort of worried about crowd attrition given the multiple quests, but the attendance remained high. Momoi came in with her uniform, and a pair of wings as an accessory. Set list was:

1. Shooting Star
2. Romantic Summer
3. LOVE.EXE

I packed light so I actually forgot I needed a yellow glowstick for Shooting Star and just jumped with pink. During Romantic Summer, it was cool to see that several people had studied the moves. As for LOVE.EXE, again many people remembered from last year or looked up the song online and knew to produce UO at the correct time. Jumping was slightly hampered by rows of seats. After the event was over, Momoi announced her next quest would be the same day in a ballroom at 6PM. We scoped out the ballroom later and were delighted to find it was spacious and standing room only.

After getting stamps, we headed over to Charity auction after that to look at bids. Each item was signed by all Fanime guests. From our group, Silli won the tamborine for $70 which he planned to use for the concert. The cowbell went over $90 and Guitar for over $150 (not sure how much surplus they could have made on that one).

Then we lined up outside the ballroom for the long wait. Several hours later, Momoi passed by and began her soundcheck. When we started handing out glowsticks, security stopped us and said glowsticks had been banned after earlier incidents. I guess glowsticks get a bad reputation due to ravers here, but thanks to several people including some staff vouching for us, they deemed Momoi fans behaved enough to have them and distribution resumed. Thank goodness, because everyone really put them to good use as you can see here.

Quest for Momoi #6

Quest 6 set list:

1. Ai no medicine
2. Wonder Momoi
3. Yume no Baton
4. LOVE.EXE

While the room was large, the stage was extremely small. Since without the chairs there were absolutely no physical barriers, we ended up getting pushed way too close by everyone that if anyone fell they would have landed on the stage. I guess that's how it works with indie bands in the States? When the maids went up on stage, Momoi was a bit surprised but let them stay on for the entire duration of the live. As a bonus she did 4 songs this time, with LOVE.EXE acting as a bonus "encore" of sorts (though not really, since we didn't even have a chance to chant).

The raffle was held immediately after the concert. Mini-prizes were the actual physical stamps used to stamp Momoi quest cards, and the final "grand prize" was a trip to the maid cafe to enjoy dessert with Momoi. One of the fans from Japan managed to win a stamp.

After leaving the ballroom, we ended the day at the convention with a big group picture. Later, Yoshisawa invited Momoists to a karaoke joint. Since Momoi didn't sing any of her newer songs, it wasn't hard to find people to tag along for some DIY makeup tracks. Karaoke with Momoi fans inevitably involves people whipping out glowsticks and doing calls for anybody who goes up singing. As a side note, that place we went to sure had a lot of obscure otaku tracks. We were able to do stuff like Jienotsu Song! Color me impressed. I admit I'm a bit guilty of blasphemy here though because the only song I personally sang was "Fancy Baby Doll" - a YUKARIN song. *gasp* GET THAT TRAITOR!

Day 4

Not much for day 4 so I'll just combine it with Day 3 post. The only Momoi event was autograph signing.

Autograph Session #2

Finally, we took our last group picture and waved goodbye to Momoi. Quest complete. Final stats:

Items acquired:

Wisdom gained:
Don't be paranoid about DOF. f/7.0 is overkill. Lower aperture, reduce ISO, and pump flash next time for the group pic. Less noise that way...

And many memories. Thanks everyone for making it a great experience for me.

Posted by Paranda at 12:35 AM | Comments (3)

June 9, 2010

Fanime day 2

Since I finished my last CFA exam last week, I can finally forget it forever (unless I failed). But now I can close out the last few days of Fanime, which I'll say was and probably will be the best trip I've taken all year for various reasons, even factoring 2 other events I still plan on going to.

Day 2

You know you're off to a strange start when the group makes an early excursion to Whole Foods for breakfast, and the first thing you hear is an employee making a "har har it must be Halloween" comment - this store was well outside the range of the convention area and our party included a dude wearing cat ears and a girl in a panda costume. It was a minor reaction though, compared to the time when a waiter gave us the evil eye for being in concert gear at the CN tower rotating restaurant. And nothing compared to that time in 07 when we did a cyalume run exploring hardware stores in downtown Long Beach with chibitech dressed in full meido drag.

Quest 3

After returning, we lined up outside the karaoke hall for Quest #3. The previous day, due to running out of time, the panel actually forgot to mention the location so we were kind of worried when the line looked pretty short. Luckily it filled up just before the show started.

Quest for Momoi #3
Momoi came back in her signature sailor fuku as made famous in Yume no Baton. For the format of the events (several scattered mini lives that relied on people following signs and hints), she wouldn't be changing costumes. That's fine though, this has always been my favorite one post-U17 and it makes up for when she didn't wear it last year. What did change during each quest though was the hairstyle.

This time was a rare casual style.
Quest for Momoi #3

Momoi seems kind of hesitant to play her newer original stuff though. Again, this time the tracklist was a cover song, and two established fan favorites. I guess she's trying hard to tailor the list to her American audience, but I kind of wanted to hear at least something from the new album.

1. Get Wild
2. Tenbatsu! Angel Rabbi
3. Motto Yume Miyou

Well, Tenbatsu is always fun for doing calls. It is always another front row chance to cheer for a UO-type song after all.

After the mini-live, we took a quick break and then moved over to Stage Zero again in case Momoi showed up for the Fanimaid performance like she had done last year. Each maid had a repertoire of idol moves and songs memorized with pretty good accuracy, and Momoi was impressed they stepped up their game to include singing in addition to dancing. However, since she was crunched for time and had to host a panel right after, she only stayed in the guests area this time and didn't jump into the crowd to lead calls.

Fanimaid Live

Quest 4

Quest 4's panel format was pretty much the same as Quest 2's. Although they are given unique names like "Halko Momoi and Industry", she doesn't give a themed speech or anything like that - just regular Q&A. These will probably be uploaded by Autolooper at some point. Highlights to look for are:

Momoi asking if anybody watched Kodomo no Jikan, followed by a complete silence in the room. After an awkward pause, one guy slowly raises his hand. Momoi looks him in the eye and just deadpans "you are lolicon."

And Momoi singing "Take me out to the ball game" and playing on her keytar, but forgetting all the words.
Quest for Momoi #4, Panel

Call Workshop
After the panel, we headed to the call workshop to talk about Momoi's calls, and Japanese concert etiquette in general. Sadly, we had requested two hours but only got half of that, plus we were sandwiched right between Momoi's panel and autograph session so nobody was willing to risk running long. The workshop ended up being incredibly rushed and probably 70% of the information content got skipped. The etiquette bit is something I'll probably post about separately as there are some questions I think are interesting. The media and live demonstration were also heavily cut so we could pack up and race to the Momoi autograph line.

Autograph Session

Momoi generously allowed two items per person plus a posed photo. The photo is a bigger deal that it sounds. I think most Western fans are used to taking pictures with their favorite celebrities during meet & greets as it is practically the norm, but in Japan taking a posed picture with an idol seems to be very limited. Usually, you have to win a raffle or pay for the privilege. In fact the photo is always mentioned as one of the selling points in the Momoi tour packages. So, while I shamelessly took advantage of the opportunities, there was a small bit of guilt since we were hanging out with the Japanese fans. Some of them actually passed, maybe because they felt uncomfortable crossing that culture barrier.

1st Autograph Session
In case you were wondering about Momoi's hat in her new twitter picture, she's actually wearing an Angry Video Game Nerd cap that she got from a fan.

Dinner
Not eventful, but if you remember my sidestory from Fanime 2009...well we went to THAT diner again. It was just so damn good there was a unanimous vote to make the drive all the way to Winchester House.
Flames, Classic American Diner

And that wraps up Day 2. By the way, to respect everyone's privacy preferences, if you were in any of the group pictures we took for any of the days, shoot me a mail and I'll send you a link.

Posted by Paranda at 1:52 AM | Comments (4)

May 28, 2010

Fanime day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

May 3, 2010

Pencil Live 2010 thoughts

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

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

What a combo huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 1, 2010

Let's watch Momoi in Pencil Live 2010

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

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

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

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



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



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



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



Click for credit card.



Input credit card number, enter date, hit next.



Confirm the purchase



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



Now you can head over to the ticket purchase page http://live.nicovideo.jp/sticket/pencilpro_live_10th and hit the big red button. Be prepared to try a zillion times.



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



On the day of the live, go to the lobby http://live.nicovideo.jp/gate/lv15414926 and put your serial code in the box to join the feed.

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

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

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

March 4, 2010

Wandafuru Revival

Leave it to a rapping puppy to spur my first post in a few months. I just couldn't resist commenting on Sakura Saori's latest LoveLoveLovable #82. This week's show features 27 minutes of Sakura Saori Chiwakura-san (sproing) doggedly trying to cram as many "wans" into a sentence as possible.

chiwakura.jpgChiwakura-san, who turns 2 years old this coming June, redubbed the show WanWanWandafuru and sat in for Saori while she was off busy preparing for ave;new's 3/13 appearance at Club Citta. Fans took the rare opportunity to learn more about Chiwakura-san, as well as try to slip in some questions about Saori behind her back. However, the real gem this time was the big reveal of some serious rapping skills in the ave;new camp. And we're not talking about Kent and U-key. In the closing Memory ave;new segment, MC Chiwakura dropped some serious beats in "Chiwaku-rap." - the special bonus track produced for last summer's Comiket which finally made its radio debut.

Since it first began broadcasting in 2007, the show hasn't changed much. The general format revolves the sole host, 25 year old ave;new singer/writer/art designer Sakura Saori reading and answering listener mail categorized into "theme corners" as determined in the previous episodes. During each corner, she picks out a few listeners "Lovable Names" and reads their mail aloud, which almost always starts with "LoveLoveWa" (she will scold you if you don't start your letter correctly).

Anyway, I figured I would give a brief overview of the theme corners. Note: while I'd love to link to every example I reference, it's going to be based mostly on memory since older shows aren't up anymore.


Futsuotasan
Nandemo OK. As general Q&A, this is the most frequent corner and the largest component of the show. It is in almost every episode as an opener for Saori to get things moving with 3 - 5 questions, though some episodes are dedicated to her blitzing through dozens in rapid fire. While you do learn useful information like what kind of glowsticks to use in her concert (white), a lot of the entertainment comes from the personal anecdotes, in which Saori goes to great lengths to fill in details of her character. Half of it sounds like fiction, but what do I care?

Among other things, we learn about her love and struggles with beer, her apparently boring and secluded hermit lifestyle, and her inability to get valentine chocolates except from ave;new coworkers

Once a fan indirectly asked about her voice in real life and she basically affirmed (so she would love us to believe) that it's her default real life voice and strangers will even laugh at her for it. Sounds like bullshit to me. If it actually is true, then I might as well believe the stuff about the hermit lifestyle too. Try to get through your formative teenage years with that voice - it will fuck you up real good.

Oshiete my sweet
Oshiete my sweet is a segment where fans choose some kind of dessert for Saori to eat in the studio. The only rule is that it can easily be bought from a convenience store. Despite that, somehow these usually wind up being weird as hell confectionaries that nobody has ever heard of like curry flavored popsicles. I think she should combine this with Challenger Saori and just drop the "dessert" part. Then we'll see if she can take requests to get drunk on shots mid-broadcast or eat all kinds of nasty creepy crawlies.

Anata ni Yell!
Always nice when it appears, this corner is entirely for fans. Saori becomes a cheerleader and drops a goldmine of cute inspirational lines (that is if you find things "ei ei OOOOO" and magic incantations to be inspiring). Saori gives these out quite liberally, and they can get LONG and incredibly personal. This is less creepy than you think though. Surprisingly, most fans who write in betray the kimo-wota stereotype and are usually ambitious young students trying to ace exams and stuff, not 50 year old dudes asking for courage to leave mom's basement. Among various things, she has recorded wake-up messages, job and commuting mantras, and exam passing charms. I was almost tempted to send in one of my own but I don't want my name called out on a show like this :3 Sorry Shaori

LovableLetter
Possibly no longer relevant. I think this used to let fans ask questions to other members of ave;new. Recently Saori has mostly done away with referring to guest Q&A as a corner at all though and just brings on guests to answer questions directly. You get people asking a.k.a.dRESS random stuff like who was his favorite character in ToLoveRu. It's informative when it happens, but dRESS apperances also have the downside (upside?) of having the show's background inexplicably replaced with his own theme song, which sounds like some 70s style porno soundtrack. Too bad there's no accompanying video where we can see his famous hair.

Nandemo Lovable 3
Ask Saori for her top 3 whatevers. Favorite drinks, music, candies, cafes, perfumes, soaps. Anything is fair game. Sometimes she just answers them straight up, but other times it can go on to an interesting tangent. Generally, this is the weakest corner for me, not because it's a bad idea, but because a lot of this involves everyday products/foods/locations that can only be found inJapan. A lot of the fun for listeners is probably going out and actually buying or trying out the "top 3," but all I can do is make lists of "oh yeah I gotta go try that next time" which pile up.

Challenger Saori
Opposite of Nandemo Lovable 3, this is the most fun corner where Saori attempts any challenge sent in by fans. It can sometimes be very teasing because she saves really good challenges for the next show. These segments always own tremendously as they tend to take her out of her element.

Memorable challenges include
- An entire episode where she's forbidden from using keigo, which she uses very heavily by default. This of course ended in cute miserable failure, with Saori inventing ridiculous nicknames for readers in order to make them sound more casual, and her tendency to mash up fake suffixes that were half formal, half informal whenever she slipped up.
- A challenge to sing low notes. I suspect this was almost certainly a fan trying to get her to break character by forcing her voice to go into the lower and presumably "real" registers. Of course Saori bailed at barely 1 octave below middle C. Come on Saori I know you can go lower dan dat!!!
- The episode that spawned this entire post. LoveLoveLovable #82.

Kikasete Memory Avenue
The request corner. Each show winds down with one song request from Saori's discography. Usually, she'll offer insight on the creation of the track and what it's generally about, but sometimes she seems confused about her own niche genre. Whenever she plays some blatant moepop track she says she hopes you will enjoy it with your "special someone" or listen to it with your family during sentimental moments. I guess she's not wrong. You can use it to initiate break ups of the "whoa I didn't know you were into that" nature. And what could be more sentimental than the sight of parents crying out where they went wrong?

Minna no Chiwakura-san
Finally, we have a common show closer. Chiwakura-san is a dog that you can write in about. It's very open ended and can range from discussing her hobbies (like her being a hardcore surfer), surprise appearances, and so on.

Recently I've been insanely busy due to work obligations during a time of major events in my industry, so I've had to choose my time wasters carefully, but LoveLoveLovable's content never disappoints even if I do gripe about some corners being worse than others. Plus its slow and infrequent podcast schedule manages to be one of the easier and funnier things I can actually keep up with without feeling overwhelmed. What's more, there's a kind of familiarity with the letters since 99% of the time it's the same 8 or 9 guys who rotate in and out every few broadcasts. They're practically members of the show (especially this one dude who knows he always gets read and has begun addressing letters to the listeners).

Well, I wrote a lot of words but I guess all I really want to say is go listen to Chiwaku-rap right now.

Posted by Paranda at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2009

Shirasawa Rie

Take KOTOKO from her denpa glory days (circa 2003), crank up the kyunkyun dials a few dozen degrees, and you get 21 year old Shirasawa Rie (白沢理恵) - a sharp young ave;new singer with a voice so cute it causes brain damage.

Rie-chan, winner of "ave;new vocal audition" in 2007, made her public debut at that year's Winter Comiket. Soon after, she began appearing quite regularly as both a blogger on the ave;new website, and as a frequent target of Sakura Saori's "LOOK AT MY CUTE LITTLE SISTER" posts in LovableNote. In February 2008, she had her first song released on the ave;new album 'Orb' (Jewel Colors). Since then, despite her busy schedule as a full time university student, she has maintained a consistent blogging presence on ave;new, released four solo songs of her own (with one more on the way), and appeared as a background singer during Animelo 2008.

Though these accomplishments are impressive for a newbie part-timer, and not an episode of LoveLoveLovable goes by without her senpai Saori plugging Rie-chan this or Rie-chan that, the pitifully small discography hasn't helped her gain much real exposure. To make things worse, half of Rie's current works aren't even available on album or maxi single - they are single tracks bundled with obscure erogame soundtracks or drama CDs.

Luckily, I do not expect this to go on much longer. Lately, Rie has been drafted to support avenewproject initiatives which have been wildly successful. She collaborated with Shaori and Miyu to make fantastically catchy tracks for the Twin Angels series, all of which were released this June in the second AvePro album, A LA MODE 2. Her latest duet with Shaori in Momoe Pulchu's theme song "Double Shooting Pulchu" released at Comiket 76 also displayed considerable skill and was the primary motivation for me to write this. I now feel that Shirasawa Rie is ave;new's most underused singer. Ok so she may be going to school now, but once she graduates...please PLEASE lock her up in a moesong sweatshop with dorechu and throw away the key! This is someone who needs to make up for lost time.

Pros:

  • Able to sing insanely cute songs at 21 years old while being a full time student.
  • Cosplays and makes funny faces
  • Learning quickly from Sakura Saori. She even shares some of her speech patterns and habits

Cons:

  • Not enough songs!
  • May not be immune to aforementioned brain damage effects of own voice. It's kind of funny how her commentary went from fairly run-of-the-mill to WTF psych ward patient?

Posted by Paranda at 1:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 2, 2009

So far so good in Mexico

It seems Momoi got the rockstar treatment in Mexico and saw a huge welcoming reception with crying fans, billboards all over the place, and various outbursts. Her blog impressions so far have been extremely positive.

It's awesome that the fans there were able to create an atmosphere where she really felt comfortable getting in there and mingling with the fans to a huge extent.

We are also watching the event at the English forums, with cat_clan acting as our unofficial eyes and ears.

And though I was not able to attend this event in person in the end, one thing I had did make it to Mexico after all. Look for Momoi using our Fenix LD10. *sheds tear*

Mexican fan blog watch:
Momoi en Mexico
Momoi Mexico

Posted by Paranda at 10:21 PM | Comments (4)

April 8, 2009

Upcoming AKIHABALOVE releases

Momoi is no slacker regarding her startup label it seems. She'll be putting out three new singles in the next few months.

1. Ruzi Guzi
This first AKIHABALOVE RECORDS release features the strangely named Yurumeitsu OVA opening theme (Ru-ji- Gu-ji-?) coupled with "Brand new music" from the "full voice drama movie" Dvorak no Kyuujitsu.

Available 4/29 from CDJapan.

2. My resolution ~ano toki no shita de~.
The first of Momoi's "Summer of Love" collaboration series. Momoi doesn't sing on this but the Akihabara Queen will compose and arrange two songs for the Anisong Diva Okui Masami.

Available 5/27 from CDJapan.

3. Jienotsu Song
Momoi joins forces with a cosplaying kickboxing champion on her third single, and has been tasked with creating his theme song. Denpa no sekai has a nice writeup on the background behind this. Despite allusions to CM Punk, unfortunately kickboxing is non-staged (as far as I know) so we grudgingly have to rule out the possibility of Momoi playing heel manager and doing ringside run-ins with a big pink hammer.

Available 6/17 from CDJapan.

Posted by Paranda at 9:58 AM | Comments (1)

April 2, 2009

Punkolle - listen once, then sweep it under the rug forever

After over a month of waiting due to some shipping snags and the delay of another accompanied item, my copy of Punkolle ~voice actresses' legendary punk songs collection~finally arrived last weekend. Well..where to start?

It's fitting that the cover features moe avatars of the six seiyuu all delivering the middle finger squarely to the listener. I suppose that is exactly what was promised though - terrible renditions of songs pronounced with atrocious engrish accents in ridiculous voices. In fact even the "engrish" part is suspect as many tracks are utterly incomprehensible. The liner notes naturally do not contain any lyrics, since it is clearly a wasted effort. I suspect the recording process involved the recording crew ambushing stumbling drunk seiyuu on the way home from a bar with a microphone and betting if they could sing from memory.

Of course for everyone who happily listens to the Moetans, Maritans, and countless other "this is a pen" style attempts in the world by seiyuu to cutely mangle the English language, concerns about quality or clarity take a backseat to novelty. With this in mind as context, Punkolle was generally a success. Sure some songs had a few wasted opportunities to get creative with the source material, but most tracks met expectations nicely, and three particular ones exceeded way above and beyond. In order of preference:

1. Sex and Violence. This song practically defines the entire compilation.
Momoi opens the album on a high note, taking generous artistic liberties with "Sex and Violence." In order to compensate for having exactly one line, each slightly-too-happy reptition is done with a slight variation on the voice or background effect that progressively escalates into the absurd. By the second half, Momoi has gone clearly lost her mind and has gone from just adding "cha cha!" in between lines to declaring herself to be a cat, yodeling in high falsetto for the backing vocals, slurring her speech like an old man, and inexplicably screaming "Oniitan!" (in a song about Sex and Violence). Listen carefully and you can probably pick out more than two dozen different voices in all.

2. God Save The Queen. I have no future.
Ikezawa Haruna's take on God Save The Queen is excellent and probably my second favorite track on the entire album. Ikezawa has a decent enough voice, but what really distinguishes this performance is that instead of just singing the words, she makes a ridiculously cute attempt to throw in an accent, tons of vocal slides, and plenty of style. She even rolls the R's! The effort is quite amazing and at some points it almost seemed as she really did believe she was a punk superstar. The song sort of runs away with its own personality and makes for highly amusing listening. She does this well in Basket Case as well, although to a lesser degree. Either way, Ikezawa's strange accent is something I can't quite pin down but I know I like it.

3. Pretty Fly (フォ・ア・ホワイト・ガイ)
Since "Pretty Fly" is already a satirical work in itself, intentionally corny, and a popular target for parodies, I figured there wasn't really much potential in this song aside from maybe the humor in Kadowaki Mai calling herself a white guy. Yet somehow, Mai manages to create a musical abortion that few people can ever be ready for. The entire song sounds like it was done by a second grade student desperately trying to recite lines for the school play while making "> <" eyes and running out of air. The delivery is occasionally broken up by her piercing "ahaa ahaa" that is enough to make me nervously check over my shoulder for policemen (explaining the situation probably wouldn't make things better). This is the track you can show to annoying people if you want them to look at you funny and leave you alone.

While there are a few other nice covers, these three tracks are all that make the entire album worth getting. Of the remaining titles, Momoi's Call Me was probably the strongest in terms of singing ability. Other fun tracks included Goto Yuko's surprisingly non-abrasive "Smells like Team Spirit", "London's Burning," and Shimizu Kaori's "Blitzkrieg Bop" which sounds like it was ripped out of an Adventure Island level. The weakest tracks were Tanaka Rie's covers which, while not actively bad, did suffer from extreme dullness. Punkolle could be a historical album noted to be one of the few song compilations where Goto actually comes out ahead of somebody else.

So I guess I lied in the subject, because the truth is I actually might listen to it a few more times, but only certain songs and I probably wouldn't admit it under any non-otaku social setting. In the right situations though, it is a nice CD to bring out especially since it appears to have flown under the radar in the English speaking community (I only read 2 - 3 sites talking about it at all). As proven in Hawaii by another Momoist, it can be weaponized for highly effective use during road trips - great for springing on a captive audience. To avoid severe bodily harm when listening in a group setting such as the above, make sure everybody involved has a safety word established in case things get out of hand.

Buy it!

Also, I got the Momoi card :P

Posted by Paranda at 11:15 PM | Comments (8)

February 26, 2009

LoveLoveWa

Hmmm an ave;new and ave;new project event presented by dorechu (a.k.a.dRESS)? This may be the first time I can remember them hosting their own big event - usually they would be an act in some larger festival/promotion.

Hopefully the first of many. Now if they can time one for the summer...

Also, a happy birthday to the princess.

Posted by Paranda at 9:32 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2008

Spring concert plans

Since my vacation days are about to replenish when 2009 rolls around, I have already started thinking about some events that are coming up. I'll post my plans early in case somebody else making the same trip would like to enter into some sort of buddy system to make traveling safer and easier and less boring.

First thing I am eyeing is Tamura Yukari's LOVE LIVE 2009 *Dreamy Maple Crown* tour from mid February to early March. Back when Pinkle Twinkle Milky Way came out, I swore to myself that one of these days I would run the Yukarin gauntlet and attend a bunch of concerts back to back. Love Live Chelsea Girl reinforced those intentions, and finally the "sample" Animelo performance pushed me over the edge. I can't wait any longer. I must attend this tour!!! An early search for airline tickets is showing me about $950 for a round trip during most of February. This is about $200 less than my flight for last September's Animelo trip, plus it is eligible for a first class seat upgrade thanks to a bunch of unused frequent flyer miles that I accumulated from the last trip. Additionally, if I factor in President's Day, it is entirely possible to attend 3 concerts in this tour while only using up 7 vacation days: Leave New York morning of 2/12, arrive in Tokyo 2/13, take shinkansen to Fukuoka and attend the 2/14 concert, do some random stuff in between, attend Osaka performance 2/21, Tokyo performance 2/22, and return to the US on 2/23 (arrive same day thanks to the time zone difference). This makes this trip very attractive economically, but things could get pretty expensive if I start bidding on FC front row seats instead of just buying general public tickets.

Second event I am looking at is the 2009 Honolulu Festival. US fans who missed out last time rejoice, because Momoi is a guest once again. Given the incidents that happened in Hawaii that time (wotagei on stage, going for a swim, shooting a fan video with Momoi), this trip is very very difficult to turn down if only for that 0.001% chance that they might happen again. This would be a short trip using just 4 vacation days (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday). Honolulu Festival itself is FREE, so the only costs would just be flight, hotel, and a few cases of glowsticks. Unfortunately, seeing that this takes place March 13-15, there is less than one month to recoup costs from "Dreamy Maple Crown." This makes budget a rather large concern, and may require a strictly enforced diet of bread and water, freezing cold nights without heat, and giving up all figure/CD purchases from now until March...especially as it would be unwise to dip into savings given the current environment.

So..if I had to pick only one, which should I choose?

Update 01/05/09:
Much to my dismay, I discovered there is a mini Momoi event (part of a larger Ani-Uta live) in Japan on the same day as one of the Yukari concerts. There is a slight gap in times, but it is too risky to attempt the two consecutively. Since the purpose of the trip is to attend Dreamy Maple Crown, I am forced to choose Yukari who has the more focused event. I will of course go to Hawaii in order to ease the pain of choosing one over the other. Also, I will likely shorten the Yukari trip to just one weekend 2/21 - 2/22 in order to conserve vacation days and expenses thus making the cost of all the trips manageable (spending another week in Tokyo to see only one more show costs nearly as much as simply flying out again in the future - not worth it). My second motivation for this cost cutting is due to anticipation of another *unconfirmed* Momoi event in May that, if finalized, I will attend (you know the one).

Posted by Paranda at 1:47 PM | Comments (5)

December 23, 2008

More details on 'Punk Collection' tracklist?

Bookservice.co.jp is the first site that I've heard of with an update to the Omniverse Seiyuu Punk Collection item on their order page.

Based on this list, some singers and trackes have been changed. None of this can be corroborated with any other source so far though, so take It with a grain of salt.

[update: 12/26/08] Amazon has the same list up which I guess is a confirmation of sorts.

1. Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen (Ikezawa Haruna)
2. Green Day - Basket Case (Ikezawa Haruna)
3. Iggy & The Stooges - Search & Destroy (Kadowaki Maii)
4. The Offspring - Pretty Fly (Kadowaki Maii)
5. The Clash - London's Burning (Goto Yuuko)
6. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit (Goto Yuuko)
7. The Clash - White Riot (Shimizu Kaori)
8. Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop (Shimizu Kaori)
9. T.B.D (Tanaka Rie)
10. T.B.D (Tanaka Rie)
11. The Exploited - Sex & Violence (Momoi Halko)
12. Blondie - Call Me (Momoi Halko)

They should have gotten Ueda Kana to do one since she rages against the machine (presumably the establishment consisting of old men). Someone obviously spent too much time on XBL.


[update: 01/06/09] Release date pushed back to end of February :(

Posted by Paranda at 11:30 AM | Comments (5)

November 28, 2008

Seiyuu Punk Compi[lation]

Let's talk about the punk cover project that Momoi is participating in. People who get the CDJapan newsletters have probably already seen the advertisement for Seiyuu Punk Compi preorders.

The current roster consists of Momoi Halko, Sakura Nogawa, Ikezawa Haruna, Kadowaki Maii, Kuwashima Houko, and Shimizu Kaori. According to mu-mo, this CD will have twelve songs so I'm guessing we'll either see these six seiyuu covering two songs each or another six announced to make it one seiyuu per song (which would be awesome*1). We know Momoi can pull off some radical style changes, but the rest of the cast is untested in this genre as far as I've ever heard - pls. post examples if they exist. I suppose of the remaining group, Sakunyan is most likely to pull off something that doesn't sound like a donkey braying as I have a good idea of what voice she will probably use. This is not a knock on the member selection though. If they announce more artists, seiyuu like Morinaga Rika or Watanabe Akeno would probably feel right at home but I like this theme they're going with where they apparently select people at random with a dartboard and no regards to how much anything fits their projected persona or musical history.

So far we have a pretty diverse group of songs revealed (in no particular order):

Sex Pistols - Anarchy In the U.K.
The Crash - White Riot
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
U2 - With or Without You 
Green Day - Basket Case 
Ramones - Blitzkring Bop
Rancid - Rudy Soho 
The Offspring - Pretty Fly

There is no indication of which seiyuu is covering which song and I have not been listening to any radio recently, but looking at the above list my guess is that Momoi would probably cover "Smells Like Teen Spirit" given that she is a Cobain fan. I don't know if the singers choose their own songs and how strict the genre guidelines are but another possibility could be Momoi covering a Weezer title. There is no mention of whether these songs will be rearranged to be more suited to the seiyuu, or if they are expected to imitate the originals. It is also unknown whether the lyrics will be Japanese or English. If they go with the latter options, the results will probably be a lot of fun in that jaw dropping train wreck sort of way, but something that any self respecting person could only hear exactly once before taking out a sledgehammer, smashing the CD to bits, and then if the hammer is still intact, smashing themselves to bits (assuming having lived through Kadowaki - hopefully she is placed at the beginning to put us out of our misery early). Therefore, for my own sadistic sake, please let it be the trainwreck.

Sound work will be done by FREE-WILL who has worked with some big names like DIR EN GREY so at least we can expect it to get polished to a mirror shine. Maybe it can even be used as a weapon for blinding.*2

P.S. Momoi's Hot Shot Jr. released tonight!

*1 No Hirano Aya please.
*2 Add Goto Yuko and it will become an illegal weapon of mass destruction.

Posted by Paranda at 2:31 PM | Comments (4)

November 3, 2008

Matsuki Miyu owes 27% of her best songs to Momoi?

miyu.jpgSo I've basically been MIA for the past few weeks due to the unique combination of insane credit markets, CFA cramming, presidential election obsession, and an inability to resist reading economist blogs when I should be sleeping. A.K.A. "Getting the Grima Wormtongue makeover." But I will come out of my cave to mention that Matsuki Miyu's new "Best Songs" album released in late September caught me by surprise when hitting the playlist. Four out of the fifteen songs in there are written by Momoi including "Musume Gokoro Otome Gokoro," which I actually had never heard before. It's interesting stuff. In fact I hadn't realized Miyu was the singer for the Coco version of Kokodayo. It also has Camera=Mannenhitsu (Miyu's labeling doesn't include the !!! part even though it probably should), a bit of an amusing coincidence because I was really looking forward to hearing the same song in Momoi's self cover album coming out next month. Matsuki says they are really cheerful songs. Momoi is not mentioned by name in the liner notes commentary though

Posted by Paranda at 12:53 AM | Comments (1)

September 2, 2008

Some photos taken over Animelo weekend


Ikebukuro. This will be home for the duration of the trip to Japan.


There is lots to see and do. But since this is a Momoist/otaku blog, let's just skip all the other touristy stuff I did and get to the substance...


animate! 9 floors of stuff. Took a good 4-5 hours to look through it all.


k-books (lots of good used stuff and comiket items)


Only bought a few things...spent conservatively since if I want to waste money on things that should never see the light of day, there was still all of Akihabara and Nakano Broadway.


Spotted while heading toward Animelo on 8/30.


Was so excited to be walking toward Saitama Super Arena


The Arena.


Merchandise tables. Combo sets and wristbands were sold out unfortunately by the time I got there. Picked up 2 shirts, towels, and pamphlet.


Outside map. Momoists set up camp in the marked area the next day.


Crowd began to swell as time got closer.


Had a blast at the concert. Jaw dropped when trying to find the number marked on the ticket and then the realization they were direct stage-side seats. Damn this thing was long. A great time was had, but I learned my lesson this time. 2 ultra oranges, 2 pinks, and 2 neon sticks is NOT ENOUGH. Wanted to UO on so many good acts but blew my entire stash right out the door with Yukari.


Goods obtained from the concert. Managed to catch a streamer that got shot out of the cannon during the encore. Since the thing was right next to me, when it went off I thought something exploded and nearly ducked for cover.

8/31

Posing with another Momoist.


Huge group of Momoists hanging out in the lower food court while waiting for seating to open. It was the same reliable group that has been to every concert I've ever seen so far. They came from all over. Some big trips to see Momoi include travellers from Osaka, Aomori (8 hrs by train), and even Korea.


T-shirt present for Momoi. Everybody included their own personal message. Takayama Saki (actress of Momoi from Haruko Update) was also attending Animelo to support Momoi and showed up to sign the shirt and say hello to Momoists.


These seats were actually pretty good and you could get a clear view of the performers as well as the entire arena. The "not as lucky" comparison is only relative to day 1, but otherwise it was awesome.


Lesson learned from day 1: stock glowsticks!!! Used up 15 ultra oranges, 6 ultra pinks, 2 ultra greens, 4 red and blue glowing bracelets, and fully drained 6 AAA batteries for neon red and neon blue light sticks.


Picked up 2 MOSAIC.WAV shirts along the way.

Still in Japan right now this is concise to save time. If you want to see parts of day 2 including Momoi you can probably find some recorded segments on Nico or Youtube although I won't bother posting the links since they will be constantly deleted/reuploaded. Also consider visiting seiyuu3 for a more detailed description of other artist acts.

Visited Akiba and a few other famous Momoi spots and specific stores/buildings thanks to a local fan who took a full day off to play ad-hoc tour guide. Maybe will visit more Momoists in Kyoto and we have a Suara concert to go see on Saturday. Let's see how it goes.

Posted by Paranda at 11:35 AM | Comments (3)

August 30, 2008

Blah

Day 1 of Animelo just passed. It was a bad idea to explore Ikebukuro in the morning because the concert itself is a massive test of stamina. After tomorrow I will never walk again. Too tired to title this post.

Highlights of the day include seeing Suara, Mizuki Nana, Minorin, and Yukari. ESPECIALLY YUKARI...getting to draw hearts to Koiseyo Onnanoko, getting zapped with the MEROMERO stick, and actually implementing the moves taught to the meron song in the latest Chelsea Girl DVD (good thing I watched that before I left).

Posted by Paranda at 10:29 AM | Comments (3)

August 17, 2008

MOSAIC.WAV interview from DNS

There is a lot of overlap between Momoi fans and MOSAIC.WAV fans including myself as I have posted in the past, and from other commenters here. So everybody who likes MOSAIC.WAV should read this fantastic English interview by DENPA NO SEKAI.

It's so impressive I had to make a post just to link to it. Plus Koike is referred to as "legendary." Yep, that's the kind of rep you can get for being one half of UNDER17 8)

Also, willpower to study steadily deceasing since two weeks ago...relearning all the fast habits I had with my trusty TI-89 all these years and re-ingraining them to hp 12c for financial math has been great fun.

Posted by Paranda at 3:07 AM | Comments (2)

August 10, 2008

Just returned from seeing JAM Project

Still collecting thoughts. Sleep now.

Posted by Paranda at 4:50 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2008

Yells ~It's a beautiful life~

The new Animelo theme song has come out this week. Since a version has begun floating around online I couldn't resist but preview it while I wait for my copy. The song is rather simple but I derived great enjoyment at the constant switching up of singers, which occurs much more frequently than the previous three Animelo theme songs. Aside from a slightly annoying pronunciation of "Yell", the song has quickly grown on me after multiple listening sessions, and I currently rank it somewhere above Generation A and below Outride.

This year, Momoi got to have three solo lines, slightly up from last year, and more noticeable thanks to more balanced artist rotation (though some still got more coverage than others). Meanwhile, Mizuki Nana, Arika, and most of JAM Project except Makkun got major cuts in their line count, possibly in favor of promoting some newer acts and also because of how many verses they had in previous years.

Unfortunately despite her increased role, Momoi does not appear much in the accompanying video since she was not present during the taping of the group session. The only Momoi footage was of her individual recording session, which is played during her solo segments. This is a shame because she appears in the video very sharply dressed and in perfect makeup, giving off an incredibly radiant smile that would have been sure to draw some attention from anyone getting their first exposure to Momoi in this video. One thing that Momoi is really good at is smiling. Also as consistent with last year's DVD reveal when responding to a comment by Yoffy, Momoi always records sitting down so it was interesting to see her posture again in contrast to other artists who did their singing while standing up.


Thoughts on other artists:
1. Best delivery goes to Suara, for her version of "立ち止まらずに歩こう" compared to everyone else who sang the same line.

2. Tanimiya looks WAYYYY different from what I expected him to look since he is usually so clean cut in cast pictures.

3. I almost didn't recognize Ishikawa Chiaki despite seeing her in person at AX last year, and almost missed it since she only got one solo line like Arika. She looks like she reverse aged 20 years.

4. Kitadani is awesome as usual and likes to acknowledge the camera. Yoffy still does his handwaving. I miss seeing Naonii do his neck twisty thing whenever he sings though...this was not the year he should have sat out now that I'm finally going to see it dammit!

5. I have no clue who the hell May'n is, why is she part of Animelo again? I guess I am ok with her though, based on the video.

6. It is going to be fun seeing how they are going to split this up between like 40 people on stage for each day. I also seriously cannot picture denpa singers like Shaori or MI~KO doing anything this poppy at all. My mind will be blown.

Posted by Paranda at 1:53 AM | Comments (2)

July 24, 2008

Happy Love Live 2007 was pretty bad

In anticipation to clear my watching queue for when Momoi DVDs arrive, I finally found some time to watch two other seiyuu concerts I had been putting off.

Biggest letdown: Sakakibara Yui's Happy Love Live 2007. I really enjoy listening to Yui, so it was a major disappointment to discover that she can't actually sing very well live. You have some seiyuu idols who sing so perfectly on DVD that you can't help but wonder if there is some sound engineer heavily doctoring up all the audio before release and piping in a studio-recorded dub (Yukarin, but maybe she's just that good), and then you have performances like Yui who gets winded by her own movements. I think I will stick to listening to her CDs from now on. I managed to go about 4 minutes before I could no longer resist the urge to hit fast forward. Even the MCs were boring.

The concert was just two hours of mediocre singing and dancing, two things which Yui can't seem to get to mesh together well. In fact she is so unremarkable, the only way I could tell her apart from her own background dancers was knowing to look in the center.

I fared better with Chihara Minori's Contact First Live Tour, although I already had experience with her live singing from earlier Animelo and Lovedol DVDs so I was familiar with her approximate live singing skill. Even so, I still did a lot of skipping since a lot of the songs just didn't really appeal to me...I think I just stuck to the more well known songs that she released in singles earlier. Since I don't really follow Minorin closely, one thing that I was surprised about was that she seemed much more subdued than her "strawberry" loopy uncontrollably giggling self shown in last year's Lovedol concert or from her AX appearance. MCs were still interesting to watch through though, and Minori could still get a good reaction from the audience. My favorite part was probably the encore, which I didn't skip any of at all.

Posted by Paranda at 2:24 AM | Comments (1)

July 12, 2008

Going to Animelo 2008 Challenge

Well, it just became official. I am going to Japan this year for Animelo 2008 with Arena A tickets. Having MOSAIC.WAV, coorie, and yozuca added just today further sweetens the deal.

Posted by Paranda at 10:47 AM | Comments (5)

December 6, 2007

Suara LIVE TOUR 2007

Well my Suara concert DVD came yesterday. Speaking not as a Momoist, but as a voice fan in general, I consider Suara to be, probably, one of the best professional singers I have ever heard within the limited scope of Japanese anime/game related music.

Suara has fantastically unique sweet earthy sound and a tremendous amount of range in her voice. She is also one of the few singers who can draw out very deep notes and hold a tune without overly abusing vibrato. Having combined her raw skill with a great selection of songs, Suara managed to easily outshine many other widely respected artists in the same field, including a majority of the people she performed with this year at Animelo. She was no less amazing live in the tour concert DVD. With a great deal of vocal control, she sang nearly each song to perfection, matching or exceeding the quality of her album recorded versions.

Overall, the concert was a great way to show off Suara's strength, training, and discipline as a singer. I have absolutely nothing but praise for her in this aspect. In fact, my only complaint about the entire concert is a highly superficial one regarding her movements. It may be because I am not used to this particular style (most concerts I watch have PPPH-obessessed crowds and singers flipping out harder than Kaneda Tomoko on Schedule I stimulants), but for the first half of the concert Suara just seemed completely rigid and robotic. Her two feet never shifted an inch from the spot they stood, and this was especially obvious since she was wearing a skirt that only went down to her knees. If you muted the audio, she came across like one of those electronic mannequins at theme parks with can only twist their upper torso and arms in certain patterns. While this is something I could expect in solo recording sessions, in front of a live audience, I think there is a lot of wasted potential. It's not like she was at a recital or anything. This was a full blown publicity tour. Once the novelty of "OH SHIT IT'S SUARA SINGING LIVE" wears off, the visual part of the concert started to get a little boring. You may as well have just watched a Suara gif loop a lot.

It wasn't until she sang Ichiban Boshi that she really started moving around, smiling a lot, making direct eye contact with her fans, and really trying to sing to her audience. As a result those segments were my favorite parts out of an already amazing concert. In my blog, I have frequently referred to my numerous attempts to hide my wota tendencies in real life, but this particular DVD is something I would not be ashamed to display on my shelf to even non-anime fans, as I would highly recommend it to all fans of music. It's just quality singing. I almost want to buy a PS3 now so I can order the blu-ray version of this.

Posted by Paranda at 10:39 PM | Comments (1)

November 19, 2007

Shaori :3

Sakura Saori promos for her in-progress first solo album, and talks a bit about taking care of her throat after recovering from a cold on a new LoveLoveLovable posted today. She started doing these weekly internet shows in September, but this was the first time I actually listened to the whole thing and I found I became seriously uncomfortable after listening to her talk for a while. I was cringing most of the way through, because just thinking about her go on and on in that voice for nearly 20 minutes straight at a significant volume makes my own throat start hurting. Saori is not human. Within 10 years she's going to be speaking through an electrolarynx..

Lovable is probably my most anticipated non-Momoi album of the year though. Primula juliae remix hell yeah!
Lovable banner

Posted by Paranda at 6:41 PM | Comments (3)

August 25, 2007

New respect for Rita

I've had exposure to Rita since forever, having heard numerous examples of her work from Gwave compilations, remix CDs, and so on yet I never really noticed her. Until now. In the end, the tipping point was due to a little bit of accidental repeated exposure to one song, after listening to disc 3 of the Little Busters. which played several versions of its opening theme. Rita may not have the greatest singing ability, but holy hell does she have an arsenal of awesome voices to sing with. Little Busters! -Little Jumper Ver- is now a regular item on my playlist.

Posted by Paranda at 3:25 AM | Comments (0)

April 9, 2007

Impressions: 4-EVER - Music of the Eternities, Sakakibara Yui - Far Away.

LACA5622.jpgI finally got around to listening to 4-EVER's CD "Master of Epic Original Soundtrack - Music of the Eternities" that was released last month. I've only seen two episodes of the show, and it's not that special aside from having a few amusing puns, Chuu*Bukotsu scenes, and CLOVER cast as Waragecha V. The soundtrack on the other hand, is pretty standout. I'm not going to go as far as to compare it to masterpieces like Satou Naoki's work for Eureka Seven, but "Music of the Eternities" is probably too good to be wasted on a seemingly cheap generic show like Master of Epic.

4-EVER uses a large mix of instruments creating a lot of nice and sometimes surprisingly complex sounds. There's stuff using the harpsichord and accordion, full-on orchestral tunes, and cheesy synthpop to provide a theme for every possible setting, and none of it is boring. Other nice bonuses, also composed by 4-EVER, are the Waragecha V theme song and Wonderful World sung by CLOVER, both of which will forcefully drill themselves into your head and make it hard for you to resist singing randomly in public at great social detriment. Koike Masaya once again proves himself as a capable BGM musician, and his new unit is off to a good start if this soundtrack is indicative of what is to come in the future.

Another single I have picked up lately is Sakakibara Yui's new release, Far Away. This CD follows the same formula as her previous two singles, coupling one upbeat fast-paced pop tune with one slower acoustic track (Ai no uta) to show off her range. The production is solid, and although the Far Away lacks the insanely addicting qualities of "Beautiful Day" it is nonetheless fine looping material. Plus, if you enjoy looking at your track play through spectrum analyzers, this one is especially frantic. I also think Ai no uta is one of the better slow tracks that she has put out lately, further adding value to this single. Importing is expensive, and although I regularly sing hyperbolic praises of many many seiyuu, I am actually relatively picky on which artists to buy as routine. At the current rate, Yui is very close to moving herself from my "sometimes buy" to "always buy religiously" list.

Other music suggestions for this month:

Edelweiss Vocal Album "Sunset Sunrise": YURIA and yocuza* are present, which already makes this worth getting, but the real treat on here is some great stuff from Satou Hiromi (the singer, not the porn star) and Nakahara Ryou.

Love Planet Five - Tenjou wo Kakeru Mono Tachi: Standard I've stuff, but this is the first time I've seen a single with this many I've singers since "See You". A good kickoff to the special unit that is possibly here to stay, if Rondorobe giving them their own section means anything. Fans of Kawada Mami should also consider grabbing the Mami Kawada First Live Tour 2006 "Seed" Live&Life vol.1. Although, word of warning for obsessive types, "Vol.1" means you will inevitably be lured into buying more volumes to complete your collection. Goodbye paycheck.

Posted by Paranda at 6:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2006

Windows Media Player 11 still sucks

Since my specially DIY-upgraded 40gb H-340 was snatched away by a thief in October, I had been shopping for a replacement for some time. Unfortunately, the excellent H-340 model had been discontinued by iRiver and followed up by newer (yet somehow inferior) H-10 models. Aside from that series, there was no other HD player I wanted so I decided to go with the flash player instead. Originally I wanted to wait for the Cowon iAudio D1 model, but as Blip Festival came up I decided I couldn't wait any longer.

Apparently, photography, recording, video-taping, etc..was encouraged by the festival organizers, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone by buying the 4GB Clix which had just come out since it also had a recorder. I always record events when allowed now - a lesson I learned after MISSING THE CHANCE to do this with Kawasumi at Otakon. Here's a short clip of YMCK's Opening at Blip Festival

I've now been using the Clix for a week. As an mp3 player, the clix is OK so far, but a major MAJOR downside is they force you to use WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER to synch files to the player. Although WMP11 is an improvement over WMP10, and it looks fancy and glossy, it is still a huge crock of shit when it comes to supporting ID3v2.4 tags - it doesn't, and it'll overwrite to ID3v1 or the equally crappy ID3v2.3 if you look away! As a foobar2000 user for God knows how long, I refuse to switch over to this slow and buggy abomination of music software until at least ID3v2.4 support is added.

So far I've been compromising by making a backup of my entire music collection (hooray for 2TB - I can't stop buying drives) and a disposable folder specifically for when transferring over to WMP. In short, it sucks.

Posted by Paranda at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

December 7, 2006

Esper Mami Tribute Song by Momoi

The ESPER MAMI DVD-BOX, part 2 was released today. Along with it comes the Esper Mami Tribute CD. Momoi shows her love for the series with a new original song, "E.S.P. Thanks to Mamichan" which she wrote, composed, and sang herself. I really love it whenever Momoi composes her own work, it always ends up being catchy. I want this CD so bad right now.

animate.tv has kindly uploaded the short version PV to their website. Danger section: watch out for "beep! beep! beep! beep!" accompanied by hand motions, it is easily over critical mass in moeness.

Animate.tv PV page

I think this may be the best she has ever looked on TV while not in cosplay. Very nice hair, makeup, and wardrobe. It's hard to believe she's only one week away from her 29th birthday.

Also paying respects to Esper Mami is her fellow seiyuu and friend, Ueda Kana. Both videos can be found on the page. Make sure you click the video links on the right if you want a nice broadband version.

Posted by Paranda at 7:58 PM | Comments (3)

December 5, 2006

Yume no Baton release

Momoi's brand new single, Yume no Baton came out in Japan today. There is a CD format as well as a more expensive limited edition version that includes a DVD. Yume no Baton is the ED theme to Haruko Update, and coupled with song is Koi no Meiousei.

Chuo Line, which was sung during her Wonder Momo-i live tour, was erroneously reported to be the c/w song by CDJapan many months ago. I somehow missed this until I looked at the cover just now.

yumenobaton.jpg

Also possibly of interest to fans of moe music, Makino Yui's first album is out. I've been following her ever since season one of ARIA, and so far she has been putting out pretty good singles, especially the ED to that NHK anime (I still haven't gotten around to watching it). I think I'm really going to like this album. If so, Makino may be the ninth Japanese artist to cross over from the "download" to "buy" category for me.

Finally, Chihara Minori's Lovedol character single is out too. She's done a great job singing for the Haruhi singles, and I've heard nothing but praise from seiyuu3 about her album, so I'm pretty curious. I've been ever so slightly let down by her voice work in Lovedol, but as I've learned, her singing and voice acting are on completely different levels so the song itself will probably still be good.

In general, there's lots of stuff this week.

Posted by Paranda at 8:19 PM | Comments (3)

November 2, 2006

Again ranks 29 on Oricon weekly chart

yui03.jpgYui-nyan's two singles released last week have both made the top 50 in Oricon singles charts. "Again" reached number 29, and "Magical Generation" reached 36. That's pretty impressive. Actually, that's ridiculously impressive for someone who has never released any singles on a major label before. I don't think even Momoi ever got that high. UNDER17's most popular single is probably "Love Slave" which reached a high of 55 (although Love Slave did manage to stay on the charts 6 times, which shows for something).

Then again, the OP singles of the same anime are also on that chart. We've all seen from Haruhi that otaku do indeed have enough sway in Japan to influence charts heavily like these. Then again, Haruhi is one thing, this is......Otoboku? Happiness? Honestly, aren't these niche shows or does Japan currently have a massive fever for cute crossdressers like Mizuho and Jun?

Whichever way, by her own merits, by association with her more famous peers (Aice5), or by riding her way up with a successful anime series, Yui is going to be a seiyuu superstar at this rate, and once she makes it, I have confidence she'll be able to maintain her position. Yui seems to have a well honed ability for cuteness, and plenty of experience to promote herself very well without a manager breathing down her neck.

While many seiyuu are indistinguishable from pull-string voice box dolls puppetted by their agencies, Yui is more similar to Momoi in that she has a specific vision for herself, and she's doing everything in her power to take control of where her career path is now going. Since childhood she had her sights set on being a self-made singer, and that kind of drive is showing itself through her work. Although signed under Hobirecords, she basically produces every aspect of her product: writing her own lyrics, choreographing her music videos, managing her fashion for photo shoots, and arranging much of her own advertising and networking.

She also fields difficult questions very well from what I've seen. In a recent interview, the subject of her "loli" roles in the past was brought up, a rather embarassing topic. She managed to laugh it off, focusing more on the skill aspect than the context or content of the voice. She talked about how she had to work consistently in the high ranges to perform them well and now rejects them because she would rather explore more ranges, but invited those still interested in these specific characters to visit her site where all of her work, questionable or not, was proudly displayed.

She acknowledged that Yes there are adult roles that can make her look bad, but effectively disowned the roles by reducing their significance to all but a resume bullet point, writing them off as professional jobs without disowning those fans who discovered her through them. She provided no ammo for which a critic could use to attack. Yui understood very well that a scandal is only a scandal if you treat it like one, and by being so frank with her history, she gave off the attitude of a moe-friendly progressive thinker. How's that for PR sense?

For the record, despite writing this piece of praise, I am still strongly of the opinion that Momoi > Yui.

Posted by Paranda at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

November 1, 2006

One week until Saigo no Rock release

Quick reminder for everyone: November 8, Saigo no Rock, the OP to Haruko Update will be out. You can hear a sample of it on the radio program I mentioned ealier.
pamcover.jpg

With the OP/ED and DVDs being released within 3 months from now, Momoi is making the rounds on the magazines and news again, proving to everyone that she can still somehow look cute in seifuku at age 28. This month, she is featured in the November issue of PAM! and has an interview in "HM3 Special."

You can read PAM! free (and hi-res) online at http://www.avexmovie.jp/pam/comic.php?vol=078.
There are preview screenshots of the DVD inside!

As for HM3, I am back at school now so I have access to a scanner again. I may scan the HM3 pages too when my monthly magazine package comes (I finally broke down and subscribed to Megami and HM3 in September ;_;. No "Seiyuu Grandprix" unfortunately, I heard she was in that last month too)

Posted by Paranda at 8:11 PM | Comments (2)

October 24, 2006

Sakakibara Yui pumps out two excellent singles same day

Yui!
Sakakibara Yui is rapidly climbing to fame this season with voice roles and songs in two bishoujo anime. People are already starting to take notice, and the dual CD releases today will only gain her more fans. Too much? Dilution? No way. Both releases feature Yui-nyan at her best, each containing one upbeat cutesy song (super addictive; I've been playing them all day) plus one other slower track showcasing her wider singing range.

Purchase Links:
Magical Generation
Again

Tip: Beautiful Day is amazing. Listen to it, love it.

Posted by Paranda at 11:32 PM | Comments (3)

September 21, 2006

Sakakibara Yui's album "Honey" released

Sakakibara Yui, who I recently became a fan of, released her second album today. Based on her first album "yuithm" and her four singles, I'd say her regular singing isn't the kind of stuff I would usually listen to. I wouldn't call it substandard, but it's heavily outclassed by what I consider to be her strength, that is, to sing in the cutest way imaginable. After seeing the PV for Honey, the second album may contain more her cute singing style than the first (which only had about 3 under that category), so I will probably be picking it up.

Also, although Yui-nyan on the surface appears to be a suspiciously good "newbie" with a surprising amount of seiyuu contacts (she links to some famous names on her site, and many of those link back to her), apparently she did a ton of idol and stage work since 1999 under the name Hinano Mayo, including being in an idol group with Asano Masumi. So...we can say she has a bit more experience than her profile would let on. Why she dropped that name, I don't know, one thing is clear and that is she gets a lot more work under "Yui." Either she's finally been discovered or, she previously sucked and has improved enough to deserve promotion. I won't speculate because I don't know anything yet.

Two anime that she has roles in will be broadcasting shortly this season. She has only appeared in games (that I haven't played) so far, but I have heard her voice work elsewhere. I enjoy her music videos, her radio acting, and especially game singing so I'm looking forward to seeing what she can do on a television anime series.

Posted by Paranda at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 9, 2006

Ippozutsu and other Momoi news

lovedolcast.jpg
Last month, I offhandedly mentioned how excited I was about the new TV anime Lovedol. Specifically, I was excited about the concept of an "idol anime" with a great cast, because it signals an inevitable stream of character CDs. But that was all speculation then. Now, it's confirmed.

According to the September issue of avex's free monthly publication pam!, there will be a series of single releases: one per week starting in November at 1260 yen each. Probably more as they release compilation vocal albums. The ultimate hope I have here of course is to have lasting seiyuu stables as a result, releasing single after single and compilation albums reaching "Sister Princess" levels.

Here's the release schedule if you're having difficulty reading the flash file on that site:

11/01 - Nogawa Sakura - Koi, hajimemashita
11/08 - Nogawa Sakura - Hateshi no nai sora
11/15 - Nakahara Mai - WISH STAR ni na.a.re
11/22 - Momoi Haruko - Ippozutsu
11/29 - Goto Yuko - Kiipon! Kiipon!
12/06 - Chihara Minori - Candy(bitter&sweet)
12/13 - Sakai Kanako - Junjou ko wa RARURARUN♪

Although I've bolded Momoi's song for emphasis reasons, I'm pretty much looking forward to every single one of these releases - especially more singing from Minorin.

But anyway, Ippozutsu is not the ONLY interesting Momoi news lately. According to her Avex page, tomorrow Momoi has a mini-live event at Osaka's Days Pier, where she will show a preview of her OTHER newest song, Saigo no Rock, the opening theme to her upcoming DVD. Toranoana will also be having a mini-live on October 1st. The single will be on sale officially November 8th this year.

Finally, Momoi's Komugi character has undergone somewhat of a surprise resurrection. Check out this month's character radio special "Komugi's Magical Nurse Station ZZ."

Speaking of radio, fans of Koike Masaya, YURIA, or Kesugi should tune in to "Moe Music Station," an online radio program broadcast every Friday by their band Sweets Tankentai. It's been on for a while but I only started listening two weeks ago. On most older sites, the show is billed under YURIA and Kesugi only, but Koike has been on every single time I've listened so far - I think he's just officially part of the show. His picture is part of the radio icon anyway so maybe he was added to the roster, I don't know.

Fun facts about Sweets Tankentai band members gleaned from listening?
1. Koike still uses and answers to the name Aniki.
2. All three are exclusive Mac users (although you probably already knew Koike was a mac fan just by visiting his homepage).
3. All of them love Haruhi Suzumiya!

edit: Apparently I misspelled "resurrection." That'll show me for playing too much Discworld.
edit2: I claimed earlier in this post that Momoi's new song was called Moe wa ROCK da. This is incorrect. An update on "Momoi no Homupage" indicates that the new song is actually titled Saigo no Rock. It appears that Moe wa ROCK da is just tagline of sorts for the promotion.

Posted by Paranda at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2006

LOVE.EXE PV rumors clarified

torawindow.jpg
According to Exafield, it seems the "PV" is actually live footage from her recent concert (in the above outfit). However it has been restricted to playing in Toranoana store windows for now, so I highly doubt we'll be able to see it (maybe on the DVD later) unless somebody sets up a cam outside the store and posts on youtube or something. Searching for LOVE.EXE on youtube will get this fun little video of Yuki Nagato kicking large amounts of ass though.

Speaking of Yuki Nagato, there's an interesting little entry on Minori Chihara's blog (VA for Yuki). Apparently she went to Momoi's concert. They are on good terms it seems. That makes Minorin twice as cool as previously thought. And I had already liked her in-character singing best out of the Haruhi seiyuu trio. She and Momoi both have roles on the upcoming TV anime Lovedol ~Lovely Idol~.

It should be noted that Lovedol, although at first glance appears to be utter garbage concept-wise, has a wonderfully interesting seiyuu cast even if we exclude Momoi. After seeing the results in Magikano, God knows I will wade through any kind of shit for Mai Nakahara and Sakura Nogawa cast together. Not only that, as an idol anime we are guaranteed plenty of character CDs and image songs, so even if the show winds up as a swirling vortex of suck, at least we'll be left with some great residual merchandise. Remember Wandaba Style? Same deal.

Posted by Paranda at 6:49 AM | Comments (2)

August 19, 2006

MOSAIC.WAV's first major label single

Kyun Kyun PanicIf you are living outside of Japan like me and have ever tried to buy MOSAIC.WAV, you are probably familiar with how frustrating it can be. Aside from getting lucky in auctions, MOSAIC.WAV albums simply aren't sold anywhere that agrees to ship overseas for a reasonable cost. The individual singles are even more difficult to find, sold usually only instore or at events like Comiket. However, this may soon change. For the first time, online shopping sites like cdapan.com, yesasia.com, and even amazon.com have all put up MOSAIC.WAV preorder pages for "Kyun Kyun Panic," the ending theme to TV anime Mamotte Lolipop which began broadcasting last month (subs by NnK, although I can't see why anyone sane would possibly want to watch this).

Backed by Lantis, it seems MOSAIC.WAV is finally getting their long deserved first major release, and hopefully not the last. Kyun Kyun Panic will be on sale August 23, 2006.

Update:
I forgot to mention, Koike Masaya is in the production credits. Also, here is a tracklisting:

01.キュン・キュン・パニック
02.らりほるらりほ
03.キュン・キュン・パニック(off vocal)
04.らりほるらりほ(off vocal)

Now if someone can tell me what the hell "rarihorurariho" is supposed to mean...

Posted by Paranda at 8:14 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2006

I am now a Yui Sakakibara fan.

This was the song that finally did it: DokiDoki ga Tomaranai.

yui.jpg

That is all.

edit: Also check out MUSIC in my heart, which I didn't upload but I'm sure you can find it somewhere.

Posted by Paranda at 7:23 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2006

Seiyuu and Anime Song Music Guide

On the way back from work, I stopped by Kinokuniya to see if I could get my hands on the august issue of Anikan. While the mission failed, I did manage to come back with something equally interesting:

Guide coverGuide back
Guide pageGuide page
Aspect's Seiyuu and Anime Song Music Guide, a full color voice actor and anime song guidebook with some 100 artists and 200 titles listed, most with a brief description/review and lots of pictures. There are also articles and additional photoshoots with certain artists like Round Table featuring Nino and Ryoko Shiraishi. Most importantly, a large section is dedicated to a Momoi interview with plenty of photos. Unfortunately, I don't have a scanner so I can't scan any pages...but I do know how to rip DVDs! And it just so happens that this guidebook also includes a 22 minute "message" DVD with many of the featured artists.

See Momoi's message on youtube (1:23)

DVD screenshot
DVD screenshot
DVD screenshot
DVD screenshot
DVD screenshot

Posted by Paranda at 9:02 PM | Comments (2)

August 12, 2006

Momoi CD, Otakon loot, and other things

momo-i quality ~Best of Momoi~, Halko Momoi's first independent album, has arrived. Somewhat disappointingly, the "photobook" is not a real separate book but actually a hybrid built into the first edition album jewel case. The case is a hardcover book format, with adorable Momoi baby and school pictures (with commentary) as well as a collage of recording studio photos attached to the inside cover. There is an additional booklet neatly sandwiched between some pages of the photobook, containing lyrics accompanied by photos of Angel Momoi and Demon Momoi in various stages of DBZ-style battle before finally reconciling their differences on the last page. The disc is a fine black with the text "momo-i quality" printed in a futuristic silver font.

Lyrics booklet:
Momoi booklet 1

Photobook:
Momoi booklet 2

Inside Disc:
Momoi booklet 3

A separately packed B2 (20"x28*) promotional poster is included.
Momoi poster

Although momo-i quality is a compilation album of past songs, upon listening it actually feels quite new since most of the songs previously released have been remixed. Here are the tracks I've picked out that have not been previously released:

Opening - dreaming more! more! - is an instrumental intro remix loosely based on Motto Yume Miyou and was composed by Momoi herself.

LOVE.EXE -momo-i quality version- features more complex instrumentals this time, arranged professionally by Shinya Saitou. The vocals have also been significantly stripped of distracting effects, and the overall result is a much cleaner song that maintains the catchiness of the original.

Far and away ~party night~ -new mix- is my current favorite on this album and a wonderful remix of Feria's theme song from Prism Ark: Prism Heart II. Slow clear vocals set to a good tune always always tend to sit well with me. The arranger is Haraddy.

Akihabalove -summery summer version- A very impressive remix by Halko Momoi, who according to the credits also played composer/arranger on this one. I find the background instrumentals a lot more varied and interesting than the pure synth sound by Perfume. As for whether she does a better job of singing, I think her pronouncing of "dekiruyo" is a thousand times cuter than Nocchi. I will not say more at the risk of starting a Perfume vs. Momoi holy war.

As for Motto, Yume, Miyou!! -now I feel...version-: although it is "new" in name, it appears to be the exact same song as bright future next step version. If someone can correct me on this and point out any subtle differences that I may have missed, please let me know.

Overall, given the new tracks and the extras, this album is solid in terms of content and a good buy for any Momoi fan, especially since many of the singles featured in this CD are no longer available for purchase.

But aside from Momoi stuff, my mail today also contained a few other goodies which had probably been sitting in CDJapan's offices for months before I finally relieved them of their misery and let them ship everything together:
August CDs
Clockwise from the top-left corner: momo-i quality, Mami Kawada's Seed, two Kimiko Koyama albums, To Heart 2 Soundtrack and Character Songs, Marinarina and Zoku Marinarina.

And lastly, because I forgot to post about it...I returned last week from Otakon. The trip was fairly productive, and I managed to cram in most of the presentations I wanted to see, excluding 4chan because fuck that idiotic line and the powertripping staffers who tried to herd it.

Out of the video showings, I most significantly came away with newfound appreciation of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, which I previously dismissed as retarded magical girl pedobait (I was ESPECIALLY put off by this genre ever since the steaming turd that was Magical Canan - which I forced myself to watch solely for Rokku character designs and Mizuki Nana voice - who by the way probably realized this show was shit and mailed in an absolutely dismal performance that I still haven't completely forgiven for someone of her caliber). Now realize the error of my judgmental ways. In the 4 episodes of "A's" that I saw, I learned that Nanoha is not a panty flashing girly girl moe show but actually about powerful mages wielding awesome steam-releasing pump-action cartridge-loaded rocket-powered polo-playing jackhammers scored to a John Williamsesque full orchestra soundtrack (HELL YEAH). Goldenboy was also pretty good and I will probably be tracking it down eventually. Out of all films, my favorite showing without question was Osamu Tezuka's Cleopatra, a terrible low-budget and unsubbed 18+ movie which was simultaneously the best and worst thing ever.

Industry-wise, I attended about 12 industry panels during my trip. Notable guests I met include Madhouse founder Masao Maruyama and director/character designer Kazuto Nakazawa, two great guests who both had CRIMINALLY low attendance (like 20-30). Interestingly enough, Masao Maruyama went to see Nobuteru Yuki's panel, and sat down directly next to me - I scored an early autograph this way. I had to miss most of the J-Rock panels due to scheduling reasons, although I did get into the MUCC/Nana Kitade concert thanks to some incredible luck. Out of everything, Ayako Kawasumi was probably my favorite for obvious reasons, and I'm still kicking myself today for forgetting to bring my iRiver with me to record it. During the autographing session, she signed my Maritan book and was particularly amused that I even knew about it.

Here is the Otakon haul, limited not by my funds but by the size of my backpack (Sunday in dealer's room was AWESOME. My budget was only $200 but I filled up wayyy before that):
Otakon stash

As you can see, a couple of good things up there..such as two Aria figure collections, new YURIA album Honey Bee, an issue of HM3 (seiyuu photobook magazine), oh and the crown jewel + ultimate goal of the trip:
Otakon stash
Otakon stash
Two autographed items by Ayako Kawasumi! :) I'm quite the happy camper.

By the way, Ayako is much MUCH cuter than any pictures would have you believe. She's just not very photogenic.

Posted by Paranda at 7:33 PM | Comments (5)

August 9, 2006

momo-i quality on sale now

Album is now in stores. My own package has shipped and is due to arrive in 2 days.
momo-i quality cd cover
According to some Japanese blogs, there are additional extras aside from the photobook. However, they will remain a surprise for those of you ordering :).

Also, AVEX has a new feature at the top of their page. MOMOI PROJECT!!! It seems like there will be a three part project with the first part, her "essay" coming this fall. A DVD drama disc is planned for next spring, and opening/ending songs for the DVD will be out in November and December.

Posted by Paranda at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2006

New Halko Momoi album release date set for August 9th

Way back in January, I posted a small note about a planned Momoi album. Then it was never discussed again and I forgot about it. So imagine my surprise when Plug announced a release date for "Momo-i quality ~Best of Momoi~", a new compilation album featuring much of her post-UNDER17 work. The album will go on sale August 9th, 2006 for 3000 yen (3150 after tax, which is irrelevant if you are ordering outside of Japan).

Although Momoi may have dropped some hints during her fanclub concert earlier this Sunday, Plug says they will release more details at a later time so there is no official word on goodies or the tracklist yet. However, only hours after the announced release date, CDJapan has listed the product here and promised to include a promo poster if you get the first pressing, so definitely preorder if you want one!

Here's mine:
Momoi order

Also, I finally managed to buy the elusive "Akihabalove" DVD from last summer, so expect some videos making the rounds at Youtube very soon. :)

Posted by Paranda at 10:13 AM | Comments (8)

April 28, 2006

Sweets Tankentai first album "NA NA NA" released.

This is a bit late, but hey I had tests.

Sweets Tankentai released their first album earlier this Wednesday. The band features YURIA, Masaya Koike (of UNDER17 fame), and K-SUGI. Release details can be found at Broccoli. It seems like most of it is filled with various OP/ED songs they did in the past year, but there are also some original songs in the mix. Guest artist MOSAIC.WAV is in one of the songs.

Subjectively speaking, I feel it is probably MUCH better than YURIA's first original album released two months ago. Examples of their excellent work can be found in the Canvas 2 OP/ED, which despite the horribly disappointing ending, is still a pretty good show. I suspect my forgiving attitude to this series must be attributed to the hypnotic nature of this music.

Sweets Tankentai ad link

Posted by Paranda at 2:00 AM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2006

My turn

Wonder Momoi, Heart to Heart, beingNow it's my turn to flaunt this DVD after everyone else already got theirs. Stupid SAL shipping :(. So anyway, the pacakge came after much waiting. Final projects are coming up and I have too much to do this week so I am going to put off comparing this new DVD with the old one until i have more time. A lot more time. Like.."after final exams/start of summer" time. I'll say this though - the extras are a bit disappointing. A single folded sheet as a liner note, with a B&W image on the back? No stickers/booklets/anything? I think they fixed the aspect ratio though, and got rid of the stupid interlacing. That's good at least. More on this later. In addition to Wonder Momo-i DVD, I have also received KOTOKO's new single "being," limited edition version, and Arisa Nakayama's mini album "Heart to Heart." This is significant since I rarely import non KOTOKO/Momoi CDs. Heart to Heart is just that good to be worth getting, so consider it a big deal I guess.

Posted by Paranda at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2006

Mebius Ring

A short version of Halko Momoi's new song, Mebius Ring, is now up. It is the opening song for the H-game Sweet Room which will be released April 28th. Information can be found at the game's website (NWS!!!)here(NWS!!!). H-game songs often tend to bring out Momoi's best work, so I'm very glad she doesn't consider herself beyond doing these just yet. It is pretty catchy.

I've ripped an mp3 copy for anyone who wants to throw it on a portable player without WMA support until the full version comes out. Please enjoy.

It is back to studying for me.

Posted by Paranda at 1:33 AM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2006

Wonder-Momo-i DVD and Mami Kawada's SEED out today.

Mami Kawada's new album: Seed
Well Momoi's DVD is finally out. Let's see if I preordered early enough to get in on the limited extras or not. There's not much new to report yet that I haven't already said in my previous anticipation posts, but in the coming days I will be scouring the blogs of Japanese fans who bought it for some reactions and information.

Regarding today's second significant artist release: Mami Kawada is the second I'VE singer to to catch a big break, having signed on with Geneon last year and released several singles. Her first album, Seed, came out today. I unfortunately did not know about this album release soon enough to have packed it together with my Wonder Momo-i DVD which shipped this morning. Earlier in the month, Mami also announced her first Live Tour in Japan which will begin in May. Advance tickets were made available through ThreeNine.

Posted by Paranda at 11:32 PM | Comments (4)

February 21, 2006

YURIA 1st Album

An amusing note on my last update: it seems someone linked to my front page in a Perfume thread yesterday on 2ch and it got hammered to shit in record time, which is why there was some downtime earlier today. I suppose getting slashdotted by those guys is an honor though. Thanks 2ch!

Anyway, my purpose for today's post is simply a reminder that YURIA's first album will be coming out TOMORROW!
Yuria 1st Album

As I mentioned earlier in this entry, YURIA basically kicked my ass back in November 05 after a chain of events turned me into a diehard fan. These included watching Shuffle, Canvas 2, and rediscovering Rurun Heart in my long lost unsorted denpa folder, among other things. Now YURIA is finally going to make her album debut, and hopefully a sign of more good things to come. --Please more voice roles!

Posted by Paranda at 4:43 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2006

Some ramblings on Perfume

Perfume

Today I am going to write about the rising popularity of Perfume, the techno-pop trio that permanently gained my respect after an awesome performance at Wonder Momo-i. Be warned, this is gonna get long. In case you've never heard of them, take a look at their latest music video on YouTube, it might just prompt you to read this thing: Computer City

Perfume in 2004The members, Ohmoto Ayano (Nocchi), Nishiwaki Ayaka (A-chan), and Kashino Yuka (Kashiyuka) were recruited from the Actors School Hiroshima in 2001 to form pop idol group Perfume. They released two limited singles the following year: Omajinai Perori in March and Kareshi Boshuchu in November. In 2003, they signed with Bee-Hive to produce what is considered their first real indie single, "Sweet Donuts." They followed up with Monochrome Effect and Vitamin Drop in 04. At this point in time, Perfume's personality had been defined as "cute," but their sound was messy - it was all over the place and inconsistent in quality. Frankly I have trouble listening to their early stuff.

2005 was a big year for them. Perfume started going toward techno-pop which was a great move. That summer, Halko Momoi switched on her DJ Momoi personality and gave Perfume a huge push with the Akiba crowd by producing and promoting Akihabalove. This would be the release that eventually hooked me into Perfume fandom. Later that year, they put out their major national debut single "Linear Motor Girl" (this was a big release, you can even find it on Amazon.com in the US). Most recently, Perfume released their second major single "Computer City" this January.

Talent-wise, Perfume has what it takes. Their biggest weakness was their highly inconsistent sound, which has since been fixed now that they appear to have settled in with the electronic theme. Both their two new major albums have been very good and consistent, and their website makes it very clear they're shooting for a futuristic look. The group definitely has the performance part down too - they have great coordination and dance very well together. The music videos feature some extremely cool coordinated moves, and their live shows are equally exciting.

Perfume in 2005However, there is a lot of improvement that can still be made now that they're in the big leagues. Nocchi is quite obviously the weakest singer although she appears to be the most popular based on her fan club numbers. This is probably because she is ridiculously cute and acts pretty crazy when she's not singing, but I think in the long run, it will be more important to have passable vocals - Nocchi has screwed up repeatedly during live segments, and she sounds quite shaky even on mastered recordings. Sometimes it gets so bad she can ruin a good song. Needs a bit more practice there, but hopefully Perfume's new improved national presence will encourage her to work on her vocals a bit more - maybe get a voice coach.

A-chan appears to be the most comfortable on stage, which is why she appears to have the only speaking role in the group. She also seems to have the most common sense when appealing to fans (for a very obvious example - if you watch the Momoi video, when the fans start waving to Perfume A-CHAN IS THE ONLY ONE OUT OF THE THREE WHO REALIZED TO WAVE BACK. I mean..that's pretty basic right?) Unfortunately, as leader of the group (I say if you speak for the group, you are the defacto leader), A-chan does not have a very strong voice (although much much better than Nocchi), and a lot of times she comes across as mumbling.

Kashiyuka is my top pick right now, with no obvious flaws that I have seen yet. I may be biased though, because I basically decided she was going to be my favorite after about 30 seconds into the Momoi concert, after she delivers two simple introduction lines in the most awesome intonation possible. I have a weak spot for skilled voice work, and that great first impression of Kashiyuka will not be undone easily. Hopefully she starts getting some more attention.

But I don't want to get in too deep to discussing each person, or even just writing a few more extra paragraphs fawning over Kashiyuka because it just doesn't make me feel comfortable. During my research, I found out that apparently all three members of Perfume are actually younger than me: age 17, with A-chan being the youngest having her birthday just 5 days ago. This comes as a great shock considering my original estimate of their ages was somewhere around 22 to 25. Holy crap I was way off! Suddenly I feel dirtier than before in my fandom...especially since I used to consider it a mark of pride to be able to distance myself from those creepy guys who like the Morning Musume teens. Now I have nothing to hold myself above them. But, it is too late to turn back; after hearing Kashiyuka's promo and seeing the group perform at Wonder Momo-i, I have decided that they are going places.

Like an investor in the voice securities market, I am going to back Perfume early so I can hopefully reap the greatest reward any internet nerd knows: the right to say "I so called that shit" years down the line. Feel free to join me; we can be investor buddies :)

Link:
Perfume Official Site

In an unrelated event: I signed up with Mixi today after Priz sent me an invite. My profile link is here if you feel like adding me and have an account. It looks like some sort of Japanese myspace/facebook, and while I usually hate joining up for websites like these, so far I find the various discussion communities formed on Mixi to be pretty useful for keeping up to date with seiyuu news, especially the calendar feature which is extremely neat - A LOT EASIER compared to say..browsing the 2ch behemoth (but I've only been browsing mixi for 2 hours so what do I know?).

Posted by Paranda at 5:56 AM | Comments (11)

February 4, 2006

Chuo Line

As I said in my last post, I was going to find out where the hell Chuo Line came from. It turns out it was a song from a live event very long ago by Momoi called the Mail Me Campaign. As far as I know, and I looked pretty hard, there are no CD copies of it in existence.

Thus, I did what I had to do..rip directly from DVD.
Chuo Line (Wonder Momo-i Live tour final version)

edit: bonus Akihabalove track :)
Akihabalove (Wonder Momo-i Live tour final version)

Posted by Paranda at 1:04 AM | Comments (4)

January 4, 2006

We love Space Akiba-Pop

Technically not Halko news, but it's time see what Koike's been up to, as we haven't heard from him in a while. As you may or may not know, Masaya Koike (Aniki of UNDER17) recently teamed up with dempa-song duo MOSAIC.WAV and is featured as a guest artist on their brand new album, Space Akiba-Pop, contributing his arrangement and guitar skills to several songs. Sold in limited quantities earlier last week at Comiket 69 and with a street date release of January 20th, it has surprisingly found its way onto the Internet, allowing us commoners an early listen. I express surprise only because this album seems to be getting more coverage (aside from the usual Japanese P2P sources, two IRC groups have also released mp3 versions through torrent sites) than MOSAIC.WAV's previous album "We Love Akiba-Pop" which cannot be found anywhere online as far as I know or cared to search for.
Space Akiba-Pop album cover
MOSAIC.WAV consists of MI-KO on vocals and Susumu Kayamori on keyboard, veterans to the dempa* song business. They work for Sham Studio. Space Akiba-Pop is their second full length album released to date. On this album are all the familiar electronic beats and MI-KO's adorable vocals and cheerleader-esque choruses. It clearly does not disappoint with respect to the first album, with tracks like "Space! Wave! Akiba-Pop" being just as addictive as its predecessor song...or even the cover art, this time an illustration by master-of-cute artist Poyoyon Rock. Plus it has Koike and we know what he can do! With KOTOKO now firmly in the "rock/pop" genre of music and no signs of turning back, we desperately needed another top-tier moe song performer to fill her gap. MOSAIC.WAV was a worthy claimant to this position for quite some time, and their second release now cements their long-term establishment in this field.

If you question my judgment being blurred by my obessions with UNDER17, let me state that I was a MOSAIC.WAV fan even prior to Koike's involvement with them. Not to take away from him or anything, but this album would have received my full endorsement regardless of its ties to the former UNDER17 member. I strongly suggest checking this out if you are a moe song fan like me and have not already heard of this group. Samples of some songs may be found freely available for download on their studio page, but if you plan on buying the CDs anyway (or are feeling particularly unethical) I suppose you could also hunt down the previously mentioned rips on P2P. I need more listening time on the new album to make an accurate recommendation for the new songs, but I can confidently push my old favorites like the original "We Love Akiba-Pop" and "Futsu no Uta." You can't go wrong with these.

* Someone correct me on this, but I believe dempa song is the original term for moe songs - UNDER17 has been credited with coining the word "moe song" according to an article on Excite which has now largely replaced dempa song in usage. The two terms can still be used interchangeably however (with exception to mature content), it appears MOSAIC.WAV has chosen to stick to the older term for consistency.

Posted by Paranda at 8:01 PM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2005

YURIA has finally won me over.

Yuria awesomeness over time chart

This graph is actually rather misleading, as YURIA has always been awesome. Instead, the low points only indicate the time when I myself was TOO STUPID and TOO DEAF to know it was so. I have since been enlightened.

I had heard this song before when randoming through my mp3s, but I never bothered to really pay attention to the voice or who was singing. Today I randomed to it again, but thanks to Shuffle I became fully aware of this song's quality. (Thought process: "Hmm whoever sings this sounds strangely like the actress for Ama Shigure, who I really really love the voice work for. Hey this song is pretty good now that I am listening to it. And I love that voice, let's check the tags: wait..this is Yuria? Hold on, now let me check the Shuffle staff listing...*click*...AAAAAHHH YURIAAAAA!!!") Yuria really is at her best when she does the whiny, ditzy, yet somehow mind-meltingly cute high pitched voice. She also seems to have slight pronounciation quirk on certain consonants and vowels that I can't pin down or describe, but I know I can't get enough of it.

Posted by Paranda at 5:04 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2005

Sale date for Wonder Momoi

Yeah...
Wonder Momoi shipped
Should arrive in a week.

Posted by Paranda at 5:43 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2005

More Wonder Momoi anticipation

Only 6 more days until Wonder Momoi is on sale. Here is a shot of the cover. WONDER-MOMO COSPLAY! BRILLIANT!
Wonder Momoi cover

Tracklist:
1. WONDER MOMO-I-NEW RECORDING-
2. ONCE UPON A TIME-FAIRY STORY-
3. WONDER MOMO-I-NEW RECORDING-
4. ONCE UPON A TIME-FAIRY STORY-

Posted by Paranda at 9:06 PM | Comments (0)

October 4, 2005

Wonder Momoi countdown

Halko MomoiHello friends. I am here again with some good Halko news. WONDER MOMOI release is only two weeks away. The cover art is still undecided, but we are fortunate enough to have something even better to satisfy our curiosity until release date. Despite not updating her website for over a month, Halko Momoi is still very much alive and still keeps fans up to date on her radio show instead. Last weekend on URAMOMOI, she gave us a preview of the upcoming single! I finally found some time today to check it out, and if you don't already listen to URAMOMOI then here is your chance to do the same:

WONDER MOMOI, Uramomoi version.

This song caused my brain to explode. This song exhibits what made me a Halko Momoi fan in the first place, before I even knew what she looked like or became entranced in her moe-moe mannerisms: the voice talent! She frigging changes modes mid-song and goes from one spectrum allll the way to the other. It's almost like there are two people singing. In fact, to someone who hasn't listened to her a lot they probably thought there WERE two different people singing. I was already on the edge of cracking when she starts going "rabu rabu momoi", but when she just shifts from hypercute and goes all opera-style near the end, I just lost it and started hooting. This single is gonna be good. So so good. ~Wowowowonder Momomomoi~

Posted by Paranda at 2:18 AM | Comments (2)

October 1, 2005

I've Girls Compilation 6

I've Girls Compilation Album, CollectiveWhy yes, despite all my Momoi love, I AM still partially an "I've" fanboy, so I have not forgotten about them. I haven't written about them much lately, but that's because it's been a while since "I've" last released something big. Now is finally that time.

A little background: I've stands for "I love, I live, I leave" and was founded by Kazuya Takase in 1998. Like UNDER17, their gimmick was to generally make G-rated songs for, well, X-rated games - with the exception of MIKI's "FUCK ME" - where the hell did that come? They also do a lot of trance work independently, although you can often hear instances where their trance influences their pop. Recently, their songs have gotten a more serious and harder feel. According to Lina, some duded named Yasutaka Ippoushi was also involved but I have never heard any of his work under any I've label EVER so I can only assume he dropped off before it was formed.

"I've"'s success is mostly thanks to a single singer, KOTOKO (Totally understable - she is the best :heart:), whose explosion of popularity earned "I've" much well deserved recognition. However, "I've" has actually had many many singers including AKI (runnerup for best, but sadly appears to have disappeared from the face of the earth), Kaori Utatsuki (lol replacement AKI. Cute, but AKI is a tough act to follow), Eiko Shimamiya, SHIHO, Mami Kawada (new runnerup after the realization set in that AKI is probably not coming back), MELL, MOMO, LIA (who is now part of Key), and a few others. They have even made songs for Hiromi Sato and Marina Ohno. The singer talent is rather varied, but voice talent doesn't matter because the music is almost always good.

Why? I'VE's true value is in the composers, who make the awesome JPOP/trance beats. Kazuya Takase and Tomoyuki Nakazawa are absolutely insane. You can always rely on them to come out with something ridiculously addictive no matter what. Even their solid trance outshines most of the others. For me, they are the two most important members of I've. The only I've member that can even come close is C.G. Mix. Seriously, how the hell do they come up with some of these tunes?? Atsuhiko Nakatsubo (FISHTONE) is also responsible for several gems but he tends to pull out turds way too frequently to receive the same amount of adulation. For a more complete guide to I've, you should check out http://www.ivesound.jp/ which happens to be the absolute best I've website out there, period. Even if you can't read the moonspeak, it is probably more useful than some random blog (such as this one :p) or any outdated low-content pitiful poorly written english fanpage (also such as this one if, say, you swapped 'Momoi' with 'I've' :p).

Anyway, they released I've Girls Compilation 6 yesterday. I have managed to obtain a copy through Winny, but I have yet to listen to it, so I will hold off my review until I get around that. I believe there is also a torrent on TokyoTosho if you look hard enough. Currently, there is no way to import a real copy of this, because Amazon.jp decided to list it as software (just like all the 5 previous compliations before) and their crazy restrictions mean software doesn't ship overseas. They did this with AkibaPop too, and it is one of the little things that Amazon likes to do for the sole purpose, I think, of being annoying and also because they enjoy the feeling of losing out on potential customers. Somebody please drop a comment if you know another place that will ship this to the U.S. at a REASONABLE PRICE.

Here is a link so you can look at it with envy.

Posted by Paranda at 1:30 AM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2005

"Akihabarabu" news

Akihabarabu Cover ArtIt's two days too late, but I figure I might as well update on it. Nakid badly needs to implement a mailing list so I know about these things ahead of time.

On August 29th, Nakid released CD/DVD packs of "Akihabarabu" which contained recordings of the Uchimizu event I wrote about earlier. "Akihabarabu," which is a play on words "Akihabara," the number-one Otaku district in Japan, and the "Love," was sold in extremely limited quantities on the first floor of the YamagiwaSoft shop for 1,980 yen each (holy crap that's cheap!). According to some Japanese blogs, you had to reserve a ticket to buy this with representatives on Nakid.jp first to even have a shot at buying it.

The CD single contains "Akihabarabu" in its original and karaoke version. The DVD contains 2 videos: A promotional video of the Uchimizu Taisaku Ikusa event, and a choreographed music video.

Since I entirely missed my chance of owning this in any way (I have no way of travelling to Japan anyway), and this will not be mass produced or sold in any other stores..I will be watching the P2P networks extremely closely for the following weeks in hopes that some kind soul will rip and upload this. Hopefully, I will be able to grab something and share with the rest of us American fans. This was how I managed to get my hands on the Da Capo secret concert in 04 with Momoi as Utamaru at least, so it's not entirely impossible.

In the mean time, good luck with your own Momoi hunting, and please please email me any additional details you may find about this release.

Posted by Paranda at 5:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2005

WONDER MOMOI

Today, I learned of Halko's brand new single WONDER MOMOI. Slated for release on October 19, it is yet another collaboration work between Momoi Halko and Manzo (they might as well stop beating around the bush and just officially form UNDER17 II together). The song is one of many for NAMCO's "Taiko no Tatsujin Tobikkiri! Animation Special" released earlier this month, from a series we english-speaking folk may recognize as "Taiko Drum Master!"

If you are looking to pre-order like I did, its catalogue number is COCC-15804. Happy Hunting. More details as they develop.

Posted by Paranda at 10:42 AM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2005

Overdue Enlightenment

Joy Album CoverEver had an album that you didn't really enjoy listening to the first few times and dropped it, only to relisten to it months later and discover it was awesome? This magical phenomenon of your brain suddenly "getting it" happens to me far too often, but even with my veteran experience...I was totally caught off guard this time with Yuki's recent album, "Joy."

Yuki Isoya, as many people may know, was the lead singer for the 90's j-rock band "Judy and Mary." After the breakup in 2001, she moved on to pursue her solo career and has been fairly successful. Joy, released this February, is her third album following "Prismic (2002)" and "Commune (2003)." While I was not really a fan of Yuki or JAM in general (I liked 'Radio' and 'Overdrive', but that's about it), I decided to grab "Joy" back in February simply out of curiosity and need for new music. After only listening it about two times, I got that "ehh it's okay but I will get around to it again a little later" feeling. A little later turned out to be a lot later: July, and totally by accident.

Yuki IsoyaI am a pseudo-shuffler. This means I like to load up every single song I have in my collection onto my iRiver, and play it on shuffle..but I don't actually listen to the songs in the order that get shuffled. I usually start with a particular song on my mind and just hit the next button until I randomly get to it. If there is anything good along the way I might stop, but otherwise my thumb gets a really intense workout any time I'm listening to music. So, even though I shuffle, I never really try many new songs since they always just get skipped over after the first 2 seconds. Yuki was categorized as "skip." However, last Friday, I was dead tired from working and I fell asleep on the way home (good thing I wasn't driving huh?) with my iRiver still playing. About a half hour later, I woke up refreshed to a very pleasant sound. My mp3 player had shuffled to "Walking on the Skyline," track 4 of Joy. After it finished playing, I hit back and listened to again, then a third time.

It was time to become a Yuki fan. I turned off shuffle and let the album play out. Next was "Sweet Seventeen," which had the most ridiculously nasally vocals I've ever heard in my life, and it was so cute I wanted to melt. And I did melt, because next on the playlist was "Cider." Yuki constantly sounds like she's got a frog lodged in her throat, yet it's not a bad thing at all. It's an addicting voice. She's also got a flair for mangling words and vowels. With all her "schleins" and "schlas" and "ü's" or whatever the hell she's saying, sometimes I can't tell if she's belting out Japanese or some weird variation of German. Jerman, perhaps? I seriously wonder if she purposely constructed her singing voice or if she really just does sound like that in real life. This style of singing was fairly prominent when she was in JAM too, probably even moreso, and now I am busy cycling through old JAM stuff to give it another chance. If I end up liking it, I'll be pretty busy with 9 years of stuff to go through. That's a lot of music.

Joy wraps up with a few slower songs, which are also nice once again because of the voice. "Tinkerbell," track 11, gave me the gay temporarily because I really like it and I should not like songs named after pixies, but I digress. "Joy" is a great album which has resparked my interest in Yuki, and I can't believe I've been skipping over it all these months. So if you've got time, check it out.

Posted by Paranda at 5:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2005

New Songs

Gedou OP screenshotWith the airing of Akahori Gedou Hour Love Game, two brand new Momoi songs have surfaced. Well, one and a half. The opening theme, "Nesshou! Rabuge Night Fever," is performed by Love Pheromone & Gedou Otometai featuring Momoi Haruko, Kageyama Hironobu, and arranging credit to some other guy that I didn't bother to research. Momoi and Kageyama have worked together many times in the past and have covered famous anisongs together on the radio. This new song has recognizable traits from both of them, but especially recognizable is Momoi's trademark yelp, "~fuu~fuu," which appears in favorite songs such as "Ichigo Go! Go!," "Tenbatsu! Angel Rabbie," and "Koko da yo." Unfortunately, this sound effect is not done by her in this particular song, and the result once again proves that if your name isn't Momoi Haruko, you should not attempt to make this sound. Download OP here. The single will come out on July 27th and will have the full version of the song. I like Neowing so I am going to pimp their site again, because they ship insanely fast and are cheaper than Amazon after you factor in shipping. Thanks Amazon.jp, for $20 "economy" shipping on $10 items.

The real show is not as cute as the OP-ED animations would have you believe.Do not despair however, because TV shows always have an opening AND an ending. In the same show, the ending theme is a Halko song featuring full blown cutey moe moe vocals. The arranger this time is none other than Manzo (also the arrange guy behind 'Hide and Seek' and 'Friendship'), who seems to be adapting very well to Momoi's style of music, as each of his newer songs with her gets better than the previous one. In fact, he is starting to carve out a style of his own instead of churning out carbon copies of old UNDER17 tracks. As much as we all miss Aniki, this guy is looking to be a pretty good replacement. This actually sounds like an original song while still maintaining the things that make Halko songs so good. Ton Dol Baby features cute melodies, cute vocals, and even cuter lyrics. "motto baby" Download ED here.

The full version of this also comes out July 27th on CD, so preorder your copy now. I'd love to get both OP and ED singles, but I am just so poor. If you have to choose, choose this one: it has more Halko.

hahahahahaOh, and another reason to buy this...the frigging cover! Jeez just look at it (click image for big). There are just so many "WTFs" on so many levels with that image that I absolutely have to get at the liner notes and see where it's going. There is bound to be more pictures inside..rattles and pacifiers are a possibility. It's so odd yet so funny. Why do I suddenly feel like a creepy fetishist? Order it. Yes I am getting it for the music, not the pictures. No really. Seriously. I am. Those pics just..uh..happen to be a bonus, you know..if there are going to be any.

Oh by the way, it's not the first time Momoi has dressed up in baby gear; bet you didn't know that. :O

Also, my images are randomly floating over my borders when there's not enough text so I have to add this filler crap to make sure that doesn't happen. This is probably due to my shoddy beginner level CSS, but what can I say? I'm sure there's a way to fix this with one line to my stylesheet, but that's for skilled people. I, on the other hand, happen to suck.

Posted by Paranda at 7:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

Angelrabbie PV finally in hand.

Come on, don't tell me that isn't the cutest outfit everAfter noticing a rather large spike in bandwidth usage this month, I decided to go check out the logs. Apparently, a particular site had been hotlinking my Koi no Milkyway PV videos. Although I would usually throw fits about hotlinking and such, when we are dealing with Halko my hostility towards these kinds of practices are overridden by curiosity and satisfaction (plus he was even nice enough to link back to me. Thanks guy); that another site exists that would host or even leech remotely UNDER17-related content..the more the better, and I chalked it up as another victory for the Halko fanclub. Yes, I realize I sound like a huge faggot.

Anyway, it turns out this was the best thing that could ever happen to me because today I followed the link and BEHOLD: Direct download of Tenbatsu Angel Rabbie PV (ZOMG SO HOT)! This particular one had escaped my eye in both Winny and Share, and now that I have obtained it my day has been made. I'd like to say once again, "Thanks Somdan you are pretty awesome."

http://ncity.net/~somdan/tt/index.php?page=1

Posted by Paranda at 11:36 PM | Comments (3)

June 3, 2005

Glass no Kaze anticipation

Glass no Kaze by KOTOKOThere are only five more days until Glass no Kaze comes out. Today, I finally broke down and decided to preorder a copy from CDJapan.

Track list is as follows:
01. RETRIEVE
02. Wing my Way
03. Oboetete Iiyo
04. Tameiki Clover
05. Meconopsis
06. Sasakure
07. Kohaku
08. Re-sublimity
09. Glass no Kaze
10. 421-a will-
11. Free Angels
12. ß-Nendo no hoshi
13. Akai tama, aoi tama

It doesn't have much new stuff, but neither did Hane and I did not regret buying that. I think the bundled DVD will be worth it.

If you understand a bit of Japanese, you can find more information about Glass no Kaze at KOTOKO's official website.

Posted by Paranda at 9:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2005

Let me love you

School Days Vocal AlbumAbout two weeks ago, I came across a very strange Momoi song called "Let me love you." Its strangeness comes from the style of the song which, as any dedicated fan may realize after listening, is a little different from anything she's ever done before. This song does not sound like Momoi. Where normally there should be hyper cries of "chu chu" and an onslaught of really addicting guitar riffs and electronic sounds, we find instead soft soothing vocals set against gentle acoustics.

Although Momoi has a long and varied career, her music has always maintained a certain flavor. Whether she was UNDER17 or Poly-Phonic or Virtualian-co, her lyrics were often sugar-coated with girly innocence (Magi-cu), geeky references (GURA GURA), or general insanity (Ichigo Go!Go!); her voice was always cute; her tunes were always horrifically ear-bleedingly addictive. While some songs, like as "Figure ni Naritai" and "Kotae," broke this traditional formula, in them you could find influences of her unique style. The general rule was, "You can always know a Halko song when you hear one."

This was not one of those songs. Here, I found myself listening to it several times on loop and still wondering to myself, "Did Momoi really sing this?" Here, I found a serious attempt at a conventional love song. Momoi's old music had carved such a distinct impression on me that I was unable to adapt to change. But, if there were any song that could break the pigeonhole, this was it. I found myself enjoying it more and more, and now it is one of my favorite songs.

Yesterday, I finally discovered the origins of this song. It came from School Days Vocal Album which was released in late April (thank goodness for ero-games and their demand for character music). This was a new song, a display of her excellent vocal range, and possibly a hint of things to come. It is fun to think what could have happened if Momoi stuck it out singing standard Jpop back in 97 and never moved on to moesongs. Then perhaps all of her songs would sound like this. However, objectively speaking, this song is not really special and it sounds like every other love song out there. The catch is that it is Momoi, and thus the appreciation is boosted knowing that it is so different from the old. For her, it is fresh and groundbreaking. I like this song, because through it, I witness Momoi's evolution. It's always nice to see something like that...

Sparingly though. She still needs to stick to the cute stuff: I like that best.

Let me love you.ogg

Posted by Paranda at 11:16 PM | Comments (3)

May 2, 2005

ironic

More adventures in Winny (because Share sux and doesn't work)! This time I have grabbed a copy of Ironic, which is a song I have been looking all over for since May of last year. It does not disappoint.

No, not Alanis Morissette. Poly-Phonic.
Let me tell you...Momoi armed with a vocoder...that just blows my mind.
Also, last night's Uramomoi was pretty funny.

You know I should really really be studying for exams right now.

Posted by Paranda at 2:55 PM | Comments (1)

April 29, 2005

Momoi butchers classic anisongs

momoiradio.jpgPicked up 4 episodes of Uramomoi, a new weekly radio show that Halko hosts late at night. Although it's not as feature-packed or organized as KOTOKO's show on Air-G, it's still very cute and has many funny moments. She answers fan mail, takes requests for songs (and she's pretty damn good, if she's really improvising all those requests on the spot), and talks about the various things going on in her career. I suggest all other Momoi fans to make an effort to catch at least one episode. Even if you can't understand a word, you'll find yourself enjoying it.

Not convinced?
We are living, living in the eighties
We still fight, fighting in the eighties

Posted by Paranda at 7:44 PM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2005

Koi no Milkyway

Today I was sent an incredibly awesome and very rare file: an old UNDER17 promotional video produced by Nakid! It is by far the cutest music video I have ever seen (the song is called "Koi no Milkyway"). There are just so many things that are perfect about this video: the bewildered anime nerd, the body pillow, the absolutely over-the-top false enthusiasm and subtle insanity in Momoi's smile...ah it's all just too great. Words cannot describe the coolness of this thing..you'll just have to see for yourself. Temporary Download Link.

momoiyay.jpg
I love this woman.

Posted by Paranda at 2:14 PM | Comments (1)