Anime Diet was privileged to attend and take photos of J-rock band Porno Graffitti at this year’s Anime Expo! Pornograffitti is best known for anime OPs and EDs for Great Teacher Onizuka, Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach, and most recently Magi. They named themselves after the album by Extreme (see their remarks in our liveblog of their press conference about that and more), and currently consists of Akihito Okano on vocals and guitar, and Haruichi Shindo on background vocal and guitar.
Here we present to you our best photos of the concert, taken by Shizuka. Our full review of the concert, as well as a full translated transcript of the press conference, is coming very soon as well! Stay tuned.
Day 3 was, unfortunately, my last day, since I had to go back to work on Monday.
I did the same as the day before—arrive early in the morning to the press lounge, to pick up LiSA concert tickets. This time, they were available, but Masquerade tickets were not. I had no intention of going to the Masquerade, but apparently they too were the victim of printing problems. The conspiracy theory that a bunch of us press folks floated the night before—that our FictionJunction tickets were deliberately printed late to give us worse seats—was probably groundless if even Masquerade tickets were late. Shinmaru, newly minted Cart Driver writer, arrived later to the press lounge, along with zzeroparticle, Kylaran, and of course Benu.
I should mention that the press lounge was distinctly lacking in power strips, but I usually arrived early enough to claim one of the wall plugs near the window overlooking the exhibit hall. Free water was only available early in the morning. These are minor, minor complaints, especially since the all-important wifi and AC was still available, but it’s still a step back from the previous year. But I digress.
The first panel I attended with Shinmaru was the Madhouse/Chihayafuru panel. As we followed toastcrust and others on Twitter at Fate/Zero voice actor Rikiya Koyama’s panel, it was increasingly clear we went to the less funny and interesting one…nevertheless, there were many good questions asked at this panel for a change. We received some clarification about Chihayafuru S2—apparently it’s not certain if Madhouse will animate it. (We had been bizarrely asked not to talk about S2 during the press conference because it hadn’t been confirmed, though ANN had reported on the news earlier.) One Kana cosplayer caught the eye of the producer, who asked for a picture. A huge Keroro-chan sat in the back and waved. They all opined, diplomatically, that the moe trend didn’t necessarily pose a threat to quality anime. This was, despite the lack of Jack Bauer singing, a quality panel and we got some good tidbits out of it. And ATT 3G did not FAIL this time.
During the downtime between the Madhouse panel and the LiSA concert, I interviewed more press and industry folks about the troubles they had this year with registration, access, and other issues. It was around this time that I resolved to make a report about our frustrations this year. It felt like a duty as a press badge holder to make these things known in a truthful and accurate manner. You’ll be seeing that soon. I also had lunch with my friend Phoebe, who with her friend was cosplaying as Kurumi and Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke. I hadn’t seen Phoebe in a few years and it was good to catchup again.
When we took our seats for the LiSA concert, much to our relief, we learned that photography and video were both allowed at all times. And it was clear to me why, as LiSA began her cheerful, upbeat show. If Kajiura was reserved, powerful, and dignified in her music, LiSA was outgoing, inviting, and joyous. She interacted in solid English with the fans all the time, doing a great job getting everyone on their feet, to follow her motions, to sing along. This young, relatively new singer had a command of stagecraft that is enviable for her age and experience, and the open policy on shooting footage is a reflection of her relative openness. When she invited everyone to come up near her for a last photo at the end, I enthusiastically joined the stage rush. It’s been a while since I felt so happy after a concert.
Perhaps in an attempt to placate some of our dissatisfaction, there was a press-only reception at the 21+ open bar Lounge 21 not long after the concert. While the free drinks and hors d’oeuvres were appreciated, we heard nothing but similar complaints and stories from our fellow press colleagues. I managed to get several statements on video regarding our troubles. It was nice to hang out with our compatriots and see that we were not especially spoiled or alone, something I have no wish to be. There will be more than one press outlet that puts out a report about these issues, I now know. You don’t mess with press. :)
After dinner, there was just one more event I could attend, the Total Eclipse premiere with Minami Kuribayashi and Ayami singing their songs. Photo and video of any kind were not allowed, but given the low battery level of our equipment, we wouldn’t have been able to catch much anyway. In either case, I arrived just as Ayami was about to begin her song, and got into the spirit with Rome, Benu, and the rest of press in front row as we pumped our fists and cheered. The focus, of course, was on the anime itself, which was a surprisingly brutal war/militaristic mecha piece that featured only some fan-service in the first episode and no more. It’s basically the prologue/origin story of the main character, and so the main plot will begin with episode 3, but despite some clumsy directing it was actually fairly solid.
I had to rush out of the convention center and back to the hotel to pack up and leave for Union Station after that, saying a hasty goodbye to everyone, though I was able to get in a few wisecracks about Total Eclipse to the guys remaining in the hotel. I barely made it, with only 10 minutes to spare when I got on the train.
And that was my Anime Expo 2012. It was, on the whole, a successful convention, though not without its special frustrations for press this year. I had tremendous fun hanging out and being with my fellow aniblogging colleagues as well as of course the faithful and hardworking staff of Anime Diet. Thanks to @_eternal especially for providing a room for a bunch of us smelly scum of the earth, even if I went to bed and left earlier than all of y’all.
Day 2 was going to be Ground Zero for me: the day that I had anticipated the most as a fan. The day of the Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction concert.
I did what I did last year for the press Kalafina tickets: I got up earlier than all of my blogger roommates, headed to the convention center, and waited outside the closed press lounge for our two allotted tickets for the Kajiura concert. To my surprise, the staff opened the room early, and I was able to charge my equipment while waiting.
When 9 AM, the appointed time for ticket distribution, came—there were no tickets. They would be ready by noon, I was assured. Ticket printing problems had come up. I hung around the press room for another hour or so before deciding to head on out for the Vocaloid panel with Rome, Benu, and other press folks.
Now, I know little about Vocaloid and Hatsune Miku beyond the basics. I’m not familiar with the most well-known Vocaloid composers—Benu and Rome told me that the ones who appeared at the panel, like Kagome P, Deadball P, and Dixie Flatline, were actually some of the biggest on the scene. Despite my lack of background, the panel was thoroughly enjoyable. The songs were either hilarious or, in one case, a bit poignant. The composers were frequently funny and/or outspoke, with Kagome P giving a hearty “fuck you” to the Japanese government’s laws closing dance clubs early, and Deadball P being his best otaku self by declaring Miku his “waifu” and that he has had a baby with her. His song, “Japanese Ninja #1,” is perhaps the funniest thing I’ve heard or seen at this convention. Dixie Flatline told of how a Youtube video of last year’s Mikunopoils concert (I’m still smarting over having our videos taken down by Sega—but we still have them here!) inspired him to start his musical career over again.
I tried to buy Deadball P’s record after the panel, but it sold out quickly, and no wonder.
Next up was the voice actor Nobuhiko Okamoto‘s panel (Seiji in Sakamichi no Apollon, Io in Acchi Kochi among others). Jeremy had suggested we try to cover the panel and then seek a private interview with him, since though he was grouped with the Fate/Zero team during the press conference the previous day, he wasn’t part of our private interview. Fortunately, press was allowed to take unlimited photography, so we sat in the front row taking pictures as he made his fangirls (and one crazy Index fanboy) swoon by doing voices and impressions. Okamoto is a very pretty man indeed, inspiring one shy fan to give him a gift and others to declare their love in Japanese. My attempts to live blog/tweet, however, were thwarted by the total inability of ATT’s 3G network to function on my phone. I got out a few tweets using Jeremy’s T-Mobile powered phone, though, in which the most interesting factoid to come out is that Okamoto would probably have been a shogi player if he didn’t become a voice actor.
Unfortunately, he left straight back to Japan right after the panel, so we couldn’t get our private interview. The Aniplex rep, however, was friendly and told us we can try to get in touch later, but we might have to be prepared to pay. Seiyuus, he said, typically require to be paid for interviews. I wonder whether this is one of the reasons why there was no junket this year—perhaps the indebted AX couldn’t afford to pay enough.
At this point, our staff writer ElectricV01 (Dan) came by. In the absence of a planned interview with infamous, PAX-expelled cosplayer Jessica Nigri, he suggested we interview another pro cosplayer, Yaya Han, instead. Having not heard of her until that point, I was surprised later by how famous she really was. We took a mere 15 minutes to come up with good questions and you can see the results over here:
This ended up being one of the few times I actually visited the Dealer Room this year. Having already broke my con buying budget by buying NIS America’s Kimi ni Todoke box sets at AM2 earlier, I couldn’t afford anything anyway. We did briefly note one big change, the return of Viz Media with a booth. For the past few years, they’ve eschewed AX in favor of San Diego Comic Con for their big booth. When I tried to get one of their famous canvas bags, it turned out there were a lot of hoops to jump through to get one. I’ll just wait until SDCC to get one.
Dan and I then decided to try to get into LiSA’s fan panel. We saw hordes of fans crowding around the hallways, with an entire room dedicated to line overflow. Press and industry were grouped together with Premier Fan ticket holders. The line filled up quickly, and we heard staff announce that the line was full and they weren’t able to seat anyone else. Fortunately, press was allowed to go in first, even before the Premier Fan holders, and we got a good seat near the front. Dan took pictures with the DSLR, and I borrowed his Verizon phone to tweet, as ATT was once again out. (I fully intend to switch providers now, especially since I’m off contract.)
LiSA was as winsome as ever, making cute faces constantly as we saw examples of her work. The questions the moderator asked tended to be super basic, like “do you like anime?” (to which the obvious answer, of course, is “yes!” and she repeated her bit about Nyaruko-san). If the Okamoto panel was filled with fangirls, this one was filled with fanboys. None of the questions were terribly engaging, as is the norm in fan panels, but the energy in the room was palpable.
After the panel, there was only one more event left to cover: the FictionJunction/Yuki Kajiura concert. We headed back to the press room, having already gotten our tickets around 2:45 PM earlier. We had been assured by the press staff that these weren’t, in KylaranAeldin of Nihon Review’s words, “bitch seats,” but the double row letters and the “Bronze Tier” designation was not encouraging. On leaving, the press staff told us no video, but we could take non-flash photography, which was a typical stipulation for most concerts we’ve attended as press. I could live with that.
The first sign that something was wrong was the seat locations themselves. They were all the way on the left edge of the hall, and near the back to boot. It was a poor location to shoot photographs, though I felt fine that my zoom lens could handle it. Then we were told, by fellow press members already seated: the rule was no photography of any kind, even for press. “Oh, they must still be negotiating,” I reasoned, and replied that the staff had told us otherwise. No, I heard; it’s an absolute blanket prohibition. This was later confirmed by a slide put up on the Jumbotrons.
I admit: I was angry enough to issueseveralcomplainingtweets, which is not the norm for me. (Believe me, I’d much rather talk about Sato or someone else, but this needed airing, because others shared my frustrations, something which will be documented in a forthcoming report about press problems this year.) Apparently we were supposed to get better seats, but ticket printing issues prevented it, and we were supposed to be able to shoot pictures, but artist management overrode it at the last minute. This kind of treatment of press is poor, and hindered our ability to cover the concert, which for many like myself was supposed to be the highlight of the entire convention. The more paranoid Japanese management organizations, like that of Miyuki Sawashiro from last year, need to understand that the game has changed and that total control of artist image is less and less relevant in the Internet age.
Reluctantly, I put my press hat aside, and my phone. I decided to enjoy the show, and…youknow, Ireallydid. The vocal and instrumental performances, all of them live, were superb. The majesty and deeply emotional wells of Kajiura’s music came through, especially on the Madoka and Mai-Hime pieces. The numerous pieces from .hack did not move me as much, and there were points in the first half of the show that the songs seem to run together—adding some weight to the frequent charge that Kajiura’s music tends to sound the same. The camera director behind the Jumbotron, which was the only way to really see the artists from where we sat, was also a bit slow on the uptake; there were frequent pans to the curtains and non-playing musicians. But overall, as our reviewer as already said, the concert was an impressive musical performance. Despite my feelings about the management, the Kajiura and her singers and musicians did a fine job. I’m not going to let that ruin my admiration for the music.
That was it for me. Instead of returning to my hotel room right away, I decided to eat a late dinner at a restaurant across the street to decompress a bit (the Farm of Beverly Hills), and then collapsed into bed shortly after. I missed 2DTeleidoscope and his Tanto Cuore playing anti-FictionJunction con apparently. :) Oh well…
The waiting line was as long as an anaconda, like waiting for a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. Yes, we otakus are desperate for the beyond-reality music to obliviate our plight in 3D. So, people were desperately wanting to see them perform.
So in the 25-plus years after Megazone 23’s enigmatic virtual idol prototype, Eve Tokimatsuri appeared on the scene inspiring what has become something of a cult-trope in science fiction, last night’s one-of-a-kind Anime Expo event in MIKUNOPOLIS was something of an evolutionary leap. Considering the fact that the most prominent western variations on this concept have come in the form of a middle of the road Al Pacino movie, as well as through the almost genetically-wired mind of William Gibson, this has felt like a long time coming as thousands of fans(and curiosity-seekers- for sure) nearly packed the Los Angeles NOKIA Theater for an evening with the otaku world’s digital darling & friends. From the line stretching incomprehensibly outside, to the brilliantly colored array of glowing sticks, leeks, bolos & more, it was a welcome only Lynn Minmei could appreciate. Still shaking off the reverberations post Saturday night’s event has given me quite a bit to consider.
The introduction by the ever-charismatic Danny Choo, along with a rhythm primer in the form of Danceroid was an interesting taster for what was ahead. This early on should have proven to be an important litmus test of an audience perhaps not as familiar with the Akiba-kei atmo that was to come. Seeing as how the show itself had little to no time to prepare, this was very much a straight-from-Japan production, with little to now caveats to newcomers. Something that I personally find to be particularly important for what I’ll cover in a bit.
Mostly cribbed from the already popular concert format in Japan, the crowd was treated to a dazzling mixture of live accompaniment (featuring most to all of the original musicians also featured in the 39s Giving Day dvd- and also including a full string section not included on this popular disc.) as the aqua-haired one shelled out one popular track after another. All the while fully complimented by the crowd’s rhythmic use of glow, which was also heartening to see last throughout the entire performance. (I must admit here that this was something of an odd concern for the US audience, and their prolonged reaction to such a concept.) Having been seated in the Loge, with a fully panoramic view of the show from the stage to the orchestra, including the crane camera, and between the HD screens capturing visual highlights from a combination of cameras. The audience’s familiarity with many of Miku’s fan & artist-made hits like World Is Mine, Popipo, Sound, Romero & Cinderella, and many others (altogether I wish she had performed Miracle Paint somewhere) was indicative of just how widespread the open-source phenomenon has grown in merely three short years. And the welcome appearances of Megurine Luka, Rin & Len Kagamine among others, only raised the roof even further. And while the holographic projection bouncing off the near-transparent screen positioned at center stage at times showed its limits whenever Miku danced a little further to each edge, with this came a sort of charm that can only be had by those with an understanding of the show’s brief life on the road.
The Light & Cyberization Show:
Which brings me to a tiny nugget of history to help put this into some manner of context – As a small child, interested in the new technologies that were seemingly sprouting out of the ground in the early 1980s, one of the genesis sparks of inspiration for all this perhaps is thanks to travelling laser light shows that would come to the local fair every year. It was essentially a laser painting show set to music that took place inside an inflatable dome where patrons would pay their admission, settle themselves into one of the many offered cushions to lie on the floor, and enjoy 15-20 minutes of dazzling arrays of light, and animation set to tunes from artists such as Missing Persons, Thomas Dolby among others. As primitive as that may sound now – it went a pretty long way toward inspiring what became computer generated art & animation, not to mention music videos. One could also venture that without this simple trend, many of the Macross ’84 movie’s fun concert scenes would not have the sort of evocative punch that they do. It’s the mark of an era, I suppose, but it also informs decades of the development in how live entertainment was changing, and possibly even hinting at where lovers of the musical arts were going to split.
Because also growing up in this time period, it was quite the popular notion that the steam-gathering trend of analog-to-digital music was something to be feared, and even dismissed in the music world. Being a child fan of artists such as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder,YMO and Soft Cell, it was not uncommon to hear someone jeer about the artificiality of synthesizers, and that it was killing the spontanaeity of music. And while there was some grain of truth to this argument, it also undermines the other side, which is that it took human effort and ingeneuity to create the sounds coming from these bulky boards that at times required multiple machines, intense worry of breakdowns, and unerring nerve just to get through a show. Eventually this dismissive argument was to haunt many future forms of music and performing, to interesting results.=- Which is also what makes Miku’s live accompaniment such a fun & necessary element. (Akitoshi Kuroda on guitar, Shingo Tanaka on bass, Shin Orita on drums, and Jun Abe on keyboards- not to mention the mentioned addition of a string section. Very nice.) For studio musicians, there is a great deal of heart to the performance that could easily also been pre-recorded. Being an amateur musician with a love of new tools, experimentation merged with the use of the traditional, this show was something of a welcome stew of varying elements that despite the at-times middling nature of some of the songs, functioned as more a promise of possibility rather than what it was.- Which is essentially how I feel about the show as a whole.
Hoping that I didn’t lose anyone, perhaps it’s best for me to get to the DNA of this for finality’s sake- Why is this LA show so significant, and what is the prime implication of VOCALOID, Miku and shows like this?
The Toppling Of The Ziggurat: The Democratization Of Pop & The End Of Idol Thinking:
Well this has quite the rabbit-hole answer really since it boils down to the very concept of the idol singer, and what a virtual idol entails. Being that we’re in not only an age of close-to-realistic character animation, as well as a possible age of open source pop culture, we are perhaps witnessing an idea that can grow beyond the confines of the otaku, and into something altogether new. With YAMAHA introducing the versatile VOCALOID software at this year’s NAMM show, the timing seems just right for a great risk to be taken as the old model of media distribution reaches its inevitable death rattle. The single idea of taking a spanish software, and expaning it into a brilliant new model for music making, and marketing is nothing short of a genius idea that works multi-fold when considering the overpopulated, and at times troubling world of the Japanese idol-singer. A life fraught with endless competition, questionable talent, even more questionable management, health-endangerment, sameness, as well as fan pressure to maintain a fantasy image- Well this is the ideal scenario as VOCALOID, mixed with this form of marketing and fan driven mythology puts the entire idea of a musical superstar to task by calling them out for what they are- Often interchangeable, derivative, fleeting, not to mention disposeable muses for a culture industry allergic to change, let alone ideas.
Just think of it. To paraphrase Miles Dyson: This is an idol who never gets tired, never freaks out, never comes to work with a hangover. She knows the show must go on, and can change costumes within a split second . And the best of all, the songs are only as great as two main factors, the fans making the songs, and the band playing by her side. The very presence of Miku is something of a brilliant antithesis as she herself is capable of everything an idol is expected to fulfill, without the excess baggage and expectations. She can literally be anything the people want without breaking a sweat.
And to introduce such a splashy reception in the west is something of a promising start to what one hopes is the beginning of something very special, not only for the japanese, but for generations long in need of a realm where dreams are shared, and expanded upon, rather than spoon-fed. And judging from the night’s impressive crowd, that longing may finally bear fruit.