Tag Archives: concert

Concert Review: IA and Wagakki Band @ AX 2015

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Photo by Kaori Suzuki (official)

IA

Having been told that the entire projection took an year’s worth of preparation by the producer herself, it should not have been surprising that the show began an entire hour later than scheduled. Something as complex as a Vocaloid hologram is likely difficult to set up and prepare for public performance, even though this is not the first time a Vocaloid has shown up at Anime Expo, and it is using a later (though not latest) generation of the Vocaloid software than Hatsune Miku. When IA’s figure, gyrating and swinging to the synthesized beat, rose onto the piece of transparent glass that is her medium, the crowd finally went wild, glowsticks aloft. There was much pent-up energy that needed release.

IA sounds smoother and more “natural” (i.e., more like a human voice) than her more well-known sister Hatsune Miku. Based on samples of the voice of anisong singer Lia, there are moments during the performance where, if you close your eyes, you can believe it’s a human being singing the song rather than a voice synthesizer–that is the difference between version 2 and 3 of the software. (This is quite different from Miku, who sounds like a robot, which is part of her charm.) It helps that a few of the songs are catchy in the inimitable J-pop way of most Vocaloid music, and for those who are into going full otaku with the glowstick motions, the songs are easy enough to follow along. Nevertheless on some songs the synthesized nature of her voice becomes apparent, especially during the “stage banter” parts where long awkward pauses give away the fact that everything was preset. The appeal of this sort of performance is going to be inherently limited so long as uncanny valley moments like this still exist.

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Photo by Kaori Suzuki (official)

The choreography of the projection and the human dancers that often surrounded her was reasonably well-rehearsed, though occasionally awkward. The animations themselves were well-captured, however, and it’s easy to see how it would have taken a year to record, animate, and render the dance moves.

IA does not have the fame or cachet of Hatsune Miku, who is the face of the Vocaloid phenomenon, but her more natural sound points toward an interesting possible direction for this sort of singer: there may come a day when a Vocaloid will be almost indistinguishable from a live human voice. Whither, then, the future of pop music? Perhaps the tireless moe robot overlords are coming to a future stage near you.

 

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Photo by Lily Huang (Sh1zuka)

Wagakki Band

On the surface, Wagakki Band could not be a more diametrically opposite act than IA. Wagakki Band, for one, was a live band, with all their musicians playing real, even oversized, instruments. Many of those instruments are the ancient ones of Japanese traditional music: taiko drum, koto, shamisen, shakuhachi flute.

Yet, there is also the drums, guitars, and bass of modern heavy metal too, and it becomes apparent that Wagakki Band–despite its name which means “traditional Japanese instrument band”–is a thoroughly modern concoction, a cultural and technological collision as profound as that of a robot animated singer. It would be accurate, in fact, to say that Wagakki Band is more a hard rock/metal band with traditional Japanese flourishes, as Beni Ninagawa thrums on the shamisen like a hard rock guitar player with a pick and, during a thrilling drum solo between drummer Wasabi and taiko player Kurona, they bang out a talking drum duet as hard and fast as the great rock drummers of yore. (I was reminded of a heavier version of Chester Thompson and Phil Collins’ drum duets during Genesis’ latter prog days, but that may be a bit obscure for many readers.)

The thing is: this works. If you are a fan of hard rock music, the powerful, shigin-tinged vocals of Yuko Suzuhana belting out the theme from Samurai Warriors will excite as much as any female rocker. Crunchy riffs from Machiya rock as hard as anywhere else–occasionally sounding like John Petrucci of Dream Theater (whose music played, appropriately, over the PA during the intermission between IA and Wagakki Band). The melodies are much more traditional if you listen hard, but somehow lend themselves to rock much more than one thinks–and much more than the comparatively limp studio recordings suggest. This is a band best appreciated live, by far. They may not dance quite like IA, even though they do sometimes sing Vocaloid songs in their inimitable style, but they certainly know how to rock out, on the usual instruments as well as the wagakki instruments they are named after.

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Photo by Lily Huang (Sh1zuka)

The Wagakki Band set, for this relatively unfamiliar newcomer to their music, was consistently exciting and full of energy and rock goodness, with only an occasional moment where the loudness appeared to peak out the PA and cause some clipping. This is normal for a lot of rock shows, however, and convention concerts in particular, where live instrumentation is not as common. It was not enough to flag the energy of the crowd madly waving the same, somewhat faded glowsticks from the IA set. Their encores were well deserved, even if it was a repeat of the song from the start: a reminder that this is a still relatively new band just beginning to find its stage all over the world.

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Photo by Lily Huang (Sh1zuka)

ALTIMA Concert Otakon 2014

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Six hours ago, ALTIMA made a daring promise. The Japanese pop trio, responding to a question of whether they would ever cover a Run DMC song, boldly urged members of the press and public to attend their evening Otakon concert.

One hour ago, they delivered.

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Full of power, grace, and confidence, ALTIMA put on a dynamic performance – flitting about the stage, posing with each other, and swapping keyboards for guitars. They stopped at nothing to please the audience – dancing, strutting, jumping, and thrilling Baltimore with rousing renditions of Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ and Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock n Roll.’ The audience responded with adulation – jumping out of their seats, waving colored glow sticks, and even running in place as Motsu trotted out Japanese dances for them to attempt.

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Everything was on the mark: the sound technicians, the lighting, the beat, and the cavorting performers. There was one time when a sound tech did not make an instantaneous adjustment, but it meant nothing next to the sheer energy and raw enthusiasm displayed by Motsu and Maon, set against the backdrop of digital pop provided by Sat.

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There are times in live performances where the human element falters, rendering the result less than a recording, and there are times when humanity rises to all challenges and creates a work of true beauty and matchless wonder.  At the end of the concert, Maon cried out that she would remember it for the rest of her life. This was no exaggeration.

Set list:

  1. I’ll Believe (Shakugan no Shana ED)
  2. Fight 4 Real (Strike the Blood OP)
  3. Mission Dispatch
  4. ONE
  5. Backfire
  6. Walk This Way (cover)
  7. I Love Rock n Roll (cover)
  8. Here We Are
  9. Indefinitely
  10. WISH I WISH
  11. CYBER CYBER
  12. (Encore) Burst The Gravity (Accel World OP)

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Katsucon 2014 – Lolita Dark Concert

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Lolita Dark gave a tight performance to an unimpressed audience Saturday night at Katsucon.

Guitar work was solid and unremarkable. Vocals were indistinct, taking on an almost shoegazer-like quality. The bass and drums worked together well on some of their older songs, interweaving their notes to create a driving beat. The meter of songs was instantly recognizable, even classic, though the chord progressions were anything but. In many ways, that exemplified Lolita Dark – a technologically and culturally hip reworking of a rock formula as old as the Rolling Stones.

Media-savvy and brisk-paced, the band paused for the briefest of explanations of their songs and reminders to like their Facebook page or visit their website before launching into more. Lead singer Ray’s harmonies were operatic, even shrill at times. Where her gestures were sharp, imperative, forceful, keyboardist May’s movements were bubbly and effusive. Bassist Rain played his part to the hilt, contributing no vocals but strutting along the stage. Drummer Joey and rhythm guitarist Patrick, while technically flawless, were also flavorless.

In many bands, the effect would seem overly prissy, even sophomoric, but Lolita Dark delivered the occasional apology without giving away their hard-edged passion. Alas, the audience’s lack of familiarity worked against the band. Though visually flawless, bearing costumes inspired by cyberpunk and – what else – gothic Lolita, Lolita Dark struggled to engage the con-weary audience. Cosplayers leaned on props, texting, and only seemed to muster up the energy to engage in fist-pumping or baton-waving when prodded by the band, or for the final song, a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name.’ When the set was over, over 80% of the fans filed out, not even waiting for an encore.

Lolita Dark has the potential, and they are developing the connections. They lack only the audience. Time will tell if there is truly support for US-based J-rock.

Man With A Mission: Live at the Roxy, December 2013

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Official photo by Nobayuki Kobayashi.

In the rather plastic world of Japanese pop music, the relatively new band Man With A Mission stands out. Rather than opting for boy band flash and glitter, or the elaborate costuming of the visual kei set, the members of Man With A Mission don just one thing: wolf heads. They are more than just masks: they are a commitment, covering the whole head and leaving only holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Their mouths do not move visibly, even as they sing. (Though the bass player’s eyes did glow red at one point.) They are transformed when they take the stage. They become their act.

The fanciful backstory that they conceived for themselves–that they are the botched products of human experimentation by a super-powered Jimi Hendrix–shows that their sense of humor is matched with an appreciation for the rock masters. Amid their original numbers, which included the anime opening song for Log Horizon “database” as well as anthemic numbers like “Emotions,” was a surprisingly faithful, spirited cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” They did it their own way: with their blend of rap and the original’s hard riffs, though the chorus returned to the original version. The whole crowd headbanged along. It wasn’t exactly like being back in 1992 Seattle, but I don’t think Kurt Cobain is rolling in his grave either.

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Official photo by Nobayuki Kobayashi.

(Let’s not forget, of course, Cobain’s appreciation for Japan’s original pop punk band, Shonen Knife. The distance between American alternative rock and Japanese rock is not as far as one might think. )

Much of Man With a Mission’s music is actually reminiscent of a slightly later period of music, the electronica/DJ tinged rap rock of the late 90s and early 2000s, which is most evident in “Database” and “Get Off of My Way,” and perhaps most obviously and notably, “distance”–in which DJ Starscream (SID) from Slipknot showed up to guest DJ. (The Slipknot influence runs deep: the band’s use of costumes, the stage diving, and their sound….) But unlike Slipknot and other acts in that genre, there’s a positivity to MWaM’s music, which is infectious and helped the crowd–a diverse mix of Japanese fans, regular clubgoers, and a few otakus like myself–get into the right mood, even if the songs were not necessarily familiar to everyone. Evidently realizing that the anime crowd is perhaps giving them the most exposure now, they saved “database” for last, and this got the crowd going harder than anything else. The song is a good representation of their sound, and it also fits lyrically with the themes of the show very well. Anyone who was a fan of the show left satisfied that evening, ears ringing with the powerful vocals and guitars that ring through all of their songs.

The masks never came off, so we never got to see the “real” faces of the band. They decided, instead, to allow their music to be their identity, and it’s a fresh, interesting one.

Set List

  1. Take What U Want
  2. Bubble of Life
  3. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  4. FLY AGAIN
  5. Emotions
  6. distance with SID
  7. Get Off of My Way
  8. DON’T LOSE YOURSELF
  9. Enc.1 / MASH UP THE DJ !!
  10. Enc.2 / database feat.TAKUMA(10-FEET)
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Photo by gendomike.

 

 

Porno Graffitti, Live at Anime Expo 2013

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Prominent J-Rock band Porno Graffitti performed their many anime songs and others live at Anime Expo 2013 this year. Both Monsieur LaMoe and Shizuka were on hand to cover it, with Shizuka taking photos along the way. These are their joint impressions of the show.

LaMoe: So when the concert started–yes, that’s right, I’ve heard this song before, their debut piece, “Apollo.” That completely blew me away. I heard this song more than a decade ago, but it still sounds so vivid and fresh! It made me nostalgic, that speedy and powerful that I still remember so well. It’s amazing how Akihito projects his voice! I’d never heard him sing live until now, and it was incredible. He’s close to 40 years old, but still jumping and running around during the entire show. Such admirable stamina! Listening to the live performance is so much better than listening via iTunes with earbuds on.

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Later they played “Saudade,” which is a song that has a Latin feel to it. The word “saudade” is the fundamental feeling behind bossa nova music, the music pioneered by Antonio Carlos Jobim. But “Saudade” did not sound like bossa nova at all, but more like Santana-like Latin music with a very J-pop sound. They told us during their press conference that the word fit their song, so the mood was still recognizable.

And then there were the recognizable anime songs, especially from Great Teacher Onizuka and Bleach, that made the crowd go wild. Yes, when I first heard “Hitori no Yoru” (the GTO opening song), instead of “Lonely, lonely,” I heard, “loli, loli.” So, I thought it was about a lolicon song, just like The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Yup, Mr. Onizuka is a lolicon! “Loli loli, I want to see you~♪” Darn! But turned out that was only my soramimi (“mishearing” literally “empty ears (空耳)”). But seeing the crowd dancing to a lolicon song would’ve been so hilarious.

And that Fullmetal Alchemist opening, “Melissa,” oh, such nostalgia. Yup, this anime was from a decade ago! Reminds me… Ah, so good. Yeah, listening to the anime songs live felt so great after all.

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Shizuka: Porno Graffitti delivered an incredible performance for their fans, keeping the energy high within the crowd, as they got the audience to sing along in “Century Lovers” and swing towels (which had been thrown into to the crowd) like cowboys swinging lassos during “Mugen.” But I wasn’t just impressed by Porno Graffitti’s ability to keep the crowd excited – I was equally impressed by their dedication to the music, as the lead singer of Porno Graffitti took out and played a real harmonica during “Winding Road!”

And then, “Melissa” played. My (and probably most fans’) most anticipated song, it was so much better performed live that all I could do was bask in the music. The audience’s response to this song after it was over was so strong that Porno Graffitti played this as their last song in an unexpected triple encore!

It was a give and take relationship between Porno Graffitti and the audience. With Porno Graffitti giving such an energizing performance, the audience gave an incredible show of support through their towel-swinging, “porno-porno” cheering, and frenzied hand-waving back to Porno Graffitti. I’m sure they weren’t ready for rabid American fans, as Porno Graffitti had to tell the audience to quiet down so their voices could be heard at the end of the concert… so they could announce that they would be back!

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LaMoe: Between the encores everyone was screaming, “Porno, porno, porno!” That sounded really weird, but refreshing. It’s something just lost in translation in Japanese. The word porneia (πορνεία) originally meant “fornication” or “sexual immorality” in Greek. Yes, as a rock band, that’s the name it should be. The term”rock’n roll” also meant “fornication.” So, it’s a music for fornication. They provide the kind of music that gets everyone horny. Yes, sexual burst, an outlet for the daily repression of capitalism!

Set List

  1. Apollo (Debut song)
  2. Koyoi, Tsuki ga Miezutomo (Bleach 3rd movie ending song)
  3. Matataku Hoshi no Shita de (Magi 2nd opening song)
  4. Hitori no Yoru (Great Teacher Onizuka 2nd opening song)
  5. Anima Rossa (Bleach 11th opening song)
  6. Saudade
  7. Winding Road (Ayakashi Ayashi ending song)
  8. Ai ga Yobu Hou e
  9. Century Lovers
  10. Mugen
  11. Melissa (Fullmetal Alchemist opening song)
  12. Haneuma Rider
  13. Music Hour

Encore:

  1. Agehachou
  2. Dilemma
  3. Melissa

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Video: “Kokoro no Senritsu” (Tari Tari ED 6), by Momotama—feat. gendomike


Source

Every once in a while, I team up with the musical duo Momotama to play an anisong or two live. Here’s Momotama singing the wonderful insert/ED from Tari Tari, “Kokoro no Senritsu (Melody of the Heart),” featuring yours truly on piano, at Anime LA 2013. Sorry this video is so late in coming. I’ve also included a downloadable audio file for your listening pleasure too. Enjoy! (NOTE: you may need to turn off your adblocker on this page to see the video.)

And if my less-than-perfect playing doesn’t quite satisfy, here is a gif to make you happy.

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Hirano Aya Concert: Review

See the full set of concert pictures taken by Shizuka here.

Aya Hirano’s concert, held on the last day of Otakon 2012, was an excellent way for many to spend the last few hours of the convention. Aya Hirano is best known for her role as the singer of the opening and ending songs for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, as well as voice acting anime characters such as Haruhi and Konata from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star, respectively.

Scheduled from 12:30pm – 1:30pm (conveniently after most area hotels’ checkout time), the line for Aya Hirano’s concert extended from the entrance of the concert hall and continued outside the east side of the Baltimore Convention Center, an effort to minimize the line’s impact to traffic inside the convention that was mostly successful. Thanks to excellent line control by Otakon’s staff, the concert hall quickly and efficiently filled with Otakon attendees, nearly hitting the three-thousand person capacity of the concert hall.

The lights dimmed, the band strolled onto the stage, and…

Aya Hirano stood before thousands of her American fans, singing “Riot Girl” from her debut album of the same name. Her second song, “Kiss Me,” was from her second album Speed☆Star. These songs were from 2008-2009, near the beginning of her career.

After singing the first two songs, Aya Hirano finally greeted her American fans to excited cheering and vigorous waving of glowsticks. The next set of songs were the only parts of the concert that press could photograph. So as Aya Hirano started performing these songs, I was madly taking pictures of Aya Hirano’s performance.

“DIFFUSION (To the Other Side)” – from Aya Hirano’s May 2012 FRAGMENTS album
Unnamed World – from Aya Hirano’s 2009 Speed☆Star album. Also the ending theme for Nijū Mensō no Musume.
BRIGHT SCORE- from FRAGMENTS as well

At this point, most fans of Aya Hirano who had only heard of her anime songs might not have recognized any of the songs just performed. Of course, she had just saved her most well known songs for last: “God Knows…,” “Lost My Music,” and “Super Driver.” These songs were used as insert songs for the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and the opening to the show’s second season.

As Aya Hirano finished “Super Driver,” the stage went dark, the band departed, and the concert ended. Or did it? Aya Hirano’s fans at Otakon cheered for an encore for almost five minutes before Aya Hirano and her band obliged, singing “Bouken Desho Desho?”, the opening theme to the first season of Haruhi Suzumiya. This wasn’t just an ordinary performance of “Bouken Desho Desho?”, as Aya Hirano called out to the audience, holding out her microphone for the audience to sing along with the harmony. The last song of the concert, “MonStAR,” was a piece from her early album Riot Girl.

The concert was immediately followed by an autograph session. A line that stretched the entire way around the perimeter of the room rapidly formed. While I didn’t have time to stay for Aya Hirano’s autograph session, I heard that she stayed for more than two hours after the end of her concert to make sure that everyone who made it into the line got an autograph. Bravo, Otakon and Aya Hirano, for making many Hirano fans’ dreams come true: a live concert, an autograph, and a memory that will last a lifetime.


The full set list follows (Source: Japanator)

Intro Medley
Riot Girl
Kiss Me

MC01

Diffusion (To the Other Side)
Unnamed World
Bright Score

MC02

God Knows…
Lost My Music
Super Driver

Encore
Bouken Desho Desho?

MC03

MonStAR

MC04 and End of Concert

L’Arc-en-Ciel at Madison Square Garden

Word of mouth, contests, features in local newspapers, and giant billboards: nothing was spared in talking about L’Arc-en-Ciel‘s only North American stop on their 2012 World Tour Concert. L’Arc-en-Ciel is the first Japanese group to headline at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden. Last year when the concert was announced, concert organizers moved it to a bigger stage that seated about 19-20,000 people to accommodate fans.

My trip to the concert began one stop after 34th Street, around 42nd Street and Times Square. I wanted to take pictures of their billboard ads. Then it was a day of finding and photographing L’Arc’s next electronic ad, like a scavenger hunt.

Official concert merchandise sales were scheduled to begin around 4pm. There was already a line, with fans waiting since 12pm, so I joined the line. Many were Asian fans, but I also saw people from Brazil and Canada traveling here for this concert. While waiting with friends, The Paper also arrived: he too had traveled into New York City specifically for the concert. Sales began a little before 4pm, and fans were allowed in groups of 20—though that still didn’t prevent the merchandise area from being mobbed.

I ended up fighting/waiting/nudging/streaming my way to the booths twice. I got a glow stick for myself, a World Concert shirt, and their newest album Butterfly for The Paper. Glow sticks were one of the first items to be sold out, though convention merchandise was still being sold throughout the concert locations before and after the show.

This was an assigned seat concert, so the people I knew were scattered around the arena. I found myself around stage left for this concert. Many fans were on stage right, and those I saw in the center definitely jumped or danced to the music as Laruku performed. The band members spoke mainly in English with the audience.

Hyde was in fine form, singing and moving. He gave a short speech about being excited for having the opportunity to perform at Madison Square Garden. It had taken them 20 years, but they made it! Dressed in black, with cornrows, he changed outfits about two more times during the concert. Ken read from a paper, where he spoke about his experience visiting the American Museum of Natural History. He wanted to visit it, since it was where Ben Stiller’s movie “Night at the Museum” took place. He also announced getting a souvenir in the form of a “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed Monopoly set, which he gave to Yukihiro, along with a New York City cup, that Yukihiro displayed momentarily at his drum set. Tetsuya in particular gave plenty of sexy comments in the gifts he threw. He asked if crowds wanted to eat his banana or lick his lollipop. He also sprayed water to audience from a banana-shaped water gun toward the end.

It seemed as though the concert happened way too fast. For the most part, I was utterly in shock watching L’Arc-en-Ciel performing live definitely feeling swept up by the music even as I tried to concentrate enough to take pictures. They sang songs from their new album, but with familiar songs like “Fate,” “Stay Away,” and “Revelation,” on the set, I know they sang songs that resonated with concertgoers and represented their long track record of success.

I know The Paper enjoyed the concert a lot. I spoke with him afterwards, and he mentioned not being able to walk, since he jumped up and down the entire concert. At points, I marveled at the pyrotechnics on the stage, lost my hearing slightly, had a headache from hearing screams, and screaming myself. I want to relive this concert over and over! (I sincerely hope there’s a DVD of their World Concert.)

Setlist

いばらの涙 (Ibara No Namida)
Chase (English ver.)
Good Luck My Way
Honey
Drink It Down
Revelation
叙情詩 (Jojoushi)
X X X (English ver.)
Fate
Forbidden lover
My Heart Draws A Dream
Caress of Venus
Driver’s High
Stay Away
Ready Steady Go
~Encore~
あなた (Anata)
Winter Fall
Blurry Eyes
虹 (Niji)

Post Concert

While walking again past Times Square, where the L’Arc billboard was supposed to be, my friends and I came across the advertising company taking down the poster. In a few minutes of fan frenzy, fans who also were there took photos with the fallen poster. The Paper was one of them, so we are going to have images of that later.

A friend of mine also caught a banana Testuya threw into the crowd. Since there was no way to preserve it for long, she had to eat it. As my friends and I took lots of photos, she said it was a very strange, but tasty experience. Since the only thing that she could preserve was the sticker, it was an incredible moment.

With this show, L’Arc-en-Ciel finished their North American leg of the concert, but they return next week in London to kick off their European tour.

Be sure to check out Anime Diet’s Flickr for more photographs that I took from the concert.

Looking back at Home Made Kazoku’s Otakon Concert

How many Anime Diet readers are HOME MADE 家族 fans? I realize that it has been a while, but after clearing through some of my photography archive, I realize that there was one more Otakon article that Anime Diet has never ran.

Flashback to Otakon 2010, this was the first year that I was at Otakon, writing for Anime Diet. 2010 also had HMK as Sunday Music guests. At the time, Jon Tsou was guest correspondent for Anime Diet, so these images were taken by him. This was HMK’s first appearance on American soil, and this was their set list at the time.

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At the time, there was a press policy of photos for the first four song, and these photos may have a bit of motion blur, if you don’t mind that aspect then swing on by Flickr for the rest of the HMK concert set.

Conventional Wisdom: The Year of Our Con 2011 (Part 2: The Miku War)

In the end, we got the the Miku videos up. You can see them here. But the road there was long and circuitous.

II: The Miku War

She told us, the nice girl at the press booth, that we needed to a sign a form to film the Hatsune Miku concert. It was a three page list of rules with a consent form at the end, which needed to be signed to get both photo and video shooting rights. Each press outlet only got two main event tickets for the whole con, and since I wanted to go to Kalafina, that meant only one person would get to cover Miku.

A three page list of rules sounds restrictive and intimidating, but as we read them we were astonished by their generosity. We were allowed to shoot six songs, seven if the intro montage was included. We were allowed photography rights anytime. These are some of the loosest rules I’ve ever seen in my time as press at anime conventions, in which the norm has usually been 3 songs maximum, if any at all. (The no-footage-whatsoever rule for Miyuki Sawashiro was more extreme than most, but the norm is closer to that end than to its opposite.) Moreover, no restrictions were described in public dissemination for the footage and photography—no prior approval or limit written in the rules.

We were, in other words, free as can be. And I knew we had to get that footage out ASAP.

These people were in line for the Miku concert. A local news crew apparently interviewed some of them for the evening broadcast.

I remember sitting outside the Nokia Theater the night of the concert, writing my Kalafina reflection article. It was a warm evening, t-shirt and shorts temperature, and I was in as relaxed a mood as I possibly could be in the middle of a hectic convention. When the Anime Diet staff who attended came out of the show—Rome, Dan, and Mike—they were excited, albeit tired. I looked at the footage Dan shot—despite his initial misgivings, it was more than usable. It had gotten the essence of what the concert was like; the music was crystal clear and the smoothness and dynamism of the animated idol was plain. In short, I knew we had a winner.

We celebrated at the ESPN Sports Zone. It was also Dan’s birthday, and we had a toast. Then we all drove home.

I spent some time in the press lounge over the next couple of days, splitting the footage into songs, adding a few titles. I doubled checked the rules to make sure we weren’t restricted on it. We weren’t; the only thing even close was a set of contact info if we wanted access to the official photos and videos that would be made available to the press.

So we uploaded them—where else?—on Youtube, the first ones going up on the last day of the convention. They were an immediate hit, with thousands of views. I noted specifically that we had permission, and that an official DVD/Blu-Ray was forthcoming (its release is now imminent as of this writing). The videos, while clear, were no substitute for whatever official footage would come along: the angle wasn’t ideal, for one. It was a nice preview at best.

This is just one strike of two.

The takedown notices came within almost exactly 24 hours, one right after another. They came from a party I didn’t know was involved with Miku, Sega Japan. (They are the ones who actually animated Miku’s motions.) While it ruined my dinner and made my blood pressure rise—not since we were kicked out of Google Adsense for “adult content” have I been so irritated and angry on behalf of the staff—I also was somewhat prepared for it. Posting concerts, though we’ve done it before without issue when it was part of our press privileges, can be risky. But the document, I assumed, had us covered. I immediately called Dan and asked for a scan of the rule sheet, knowing that there was no provision on there for video releases on the Internet. It’d be a matter, I was sure, of contacting the right people listed on the sheet and explaining the situation, pointing out that our contract didn’t specify anything of the sort, and that we should get at least our Youtube demerits removed.

So I wrote emails to both reps that were listed in the contract—one from ASCII Media Works (sponsor of many of your favorite current anime) and one from Crypton Future Media, the creators of the Hatsune Miku character and voice. I wrote a long, detailed and documented email, complete with annotated scans of the rules. We were in the right, I felt, and we could prove it. This was a misunderstanding that could be cleared up if I just simply explained it in justifiable detail.

That, in retrospect, may have been the wrong approach. Neither representative was a native English speaker, and the wall of English text may have been intimidating. They may not have had the authority or even the knowledge to correct an issue with Sega and Youtube. I only received a brief reply from the ASCII representative, which indicated (as far as I could determine) that Sega was busy removing videos from Youtube and that this was their initiative to prevent piracy. In short, my question wasn’t answered, and I replied back that the issue was that we thought we did have permission. You can see the rules we got for yourself below, with the relevant section circled.

  

We’ve never received any further replies from any party. Not ASCII, Crypton, or—once I discovered how to contact them on Youtube—Sega. I sought help from a friend who speaks fluent Japanese and has worked with industry figures before to draft a much shorter, to-the-point letter. It got no response either. She explained that Miku’s rights are knotty and complex, with many stakeholders on the production committee; it was very possible that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing, and that just because Crypton and ASCII permitted something does not mean that Sega or anyone else would. And a glance at Youtube revealed that Sega had been pretty ruthless indeed; no video with any clear close-ups of Miku or other Vocaloids remained from that concert, by anyone. They were consistent, at least.

So we had no videos, two strikes on our Youtube account, and no recourse. Youtube’s counterclaim procedure—in which you say that you indeed own all the rights to the creation—had the scary warning that it could lead directly to a lawsuit. In fact, a lawsuit was required if the content owner disputed your counterclaim. I hesitated greatly at this prospect. I began to despair that we’d ever get the strikes removed, which by now was the main goal—having strikes forbids us from posting videos longer than 15 minutes and any additional strike for any reason will get all our videos removed.

Two months later, by chance, I read a tweet from our own Wintermuted about the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray release of the Mikunopolis concert. The link went to the concert’s official website, which, inexplicably, I had never explored. This may rank as one of my larger oversights, because when I went to the “Press” section, I discovered the passage I had been looking for all along (see the red boxed area):

So that was it. Sega didn’t want any Miku vids on video sharing sites, but they had no problem with self-hosted videos. Why they didn’t tell all of us as press this earlier, I have no idea. They could have told us this when I made my email inquiries too. Thing is, we at Anime Diet have no desire to go against the wishes of the rights holders. We just needed to know the rules up-front. Those two sentences would have avoided all of this trouble had they been in the rules from the beginning.

But I was happy to discover this. It led me to repost the videos on our own servers the very next day.

The black marks on our Youtube account still remain, however. I’m still considering what to do with that. So the story is, in a way, not quite over. But the important battle—the videos themselves—is concluded, in a kind of victory.


Conclusion

I tell this story not for pity’s sake, or to showcase our spoiled nature, or even to disparage Sega or other rights holders. I certainly could have googled for the official site much earlier, so it is a story of my own neglect as much as anything else.

What we have here, though, is a great example of both the liminal nature of being fan press I talked about earlier, as well as the importance of communication.

This was a problem with two dimensions. One is that Sega’s discomfort with press footage loose on Youtube and other video sites is an example of how much further “new media” has to go in terms of respectability, especially when they are still not far removed from their fan roots. A CBS, NHK, or CNN would probably have no problems posting similar footage, and the ASCII rep’s cloudy reply mentioned something about how Sega wanted to prevent “audience footage” or something like that from getting out. Clearly, Sega had the mindset that whatever was shot by parties other than themselves was amateurish and unworthy of release. While I understand that mentality to some extent—it’s the same mentality that prevents many guests of honor from being filmed or photographed in general by their management—it needs to be clear what is and isn’t allowed from the get go, so that the outlets who follow the rules to the letter don’t get penalized.

That’s the second aspect, and the more important one. What burned about the experience was how after-the-fact it was: how we found out two months afterwards that the problem wasn’t having videos, the problem was putting it on Youtube. This is not clear from simple takedown notices that offered no precise explanation for their removal. I realize here, too, that language and culture barriers may have played a role. Yet the rule sheet, and the explanation on the website discovered later on, were clear enough. Had those two sentences been in the rule sheet, we’d not be in this mess. The videos would have been posted not long after the concert and all parties would be happy.

It was not a loss. I learned a lesson about communication and about the need, as a reporting outlet, to ask the right questions beforehand; and that in our mission to bring you the best and most complete coverage there are always going to be lumps along the way. They’re worth taking, though. Despite my frustration—on behalf of Dan, who shot the videos, and for my staff and for our viewers—I think we did right, and we always want to do right by both you, our audience, and to rights holders. We may be scrappy and “new” as media, but we’re also growing. Let us know, that’s all we ask. Chances are, we probably want to do the same thing.

Whew. Glad that’s off my chest now. :) The next part will be the final part in the Conventional Wisdom series, and it’ll be a lot more positive.

Next time: hobnobbing with CEOs and bloggers.