The second hand is growing louder, and fellow fans from all over are prepping for another go-round of that hallowed ritual that is Anime Expo weekend. For more than a fair share of years, the Independence Day weekend has also been synonymous with several things for me; overwrought preparation, space-making for colleagues & friends, panels, cosplay, meetups, artist alley, extended question and answer sessions, movie premieres exhibit hall hijinks, karaoke, beverages at inhuman prices, disorientation, loss of voice, exhaustion, etc. But this year, it all comes with a twist. And no, I’m not merely speaking of the inclusion of the risky AM2 venture beginning simultaneously a mere 30 miles away. That’s right, for my focus seems to be set in areas perhaps unsurprisingly not as related to anime as some would hope. And yet strangely, 2011 seems to be a full circle affair- if even at an artistic interest level.
For those unfamiliar with my fandom background, it all came round for the long haul after a sibling started bringing anime on VHS home in the late 1980s-early 90s, when at the time, personal interests were largely in the areas of reading, film, and most starkly, music. And we’re talking about being exposed to a world of sound that wasn’t sold at the local K-Mart. Having begun a dabbling in the avant garde, industrial, gothic & punk worlds, this was something of an exploratory period where as much as the sounds implied some not so safe notions, it suddenly felt as if the world had a great deal to offer rather than the usual servings dished out upon tables the mainstream over. It was the beginning of a much more macro vision of the world outside with sonic influences from anywhere including the middle east, jazz mixed with classical, accidental distortion, guitar crunch, pounding beats & enka-like vocals. No limit was the game, and it was nothing short of exciting. This even led to my own personal pursuits & hobbies regarding making music of my own. So it was perhaps this yearning for something new-mixed with a love of classical myth-telling that enamored me to anime in the first place.
Something that perhaps many are tiring of me saying on these pages. But it’s true. Anime to me exists as a sort of hybrid medium that straddles the worlds of the tangible, and the intangible. And just the right mixture can evoke some great catharsis for those willing to dive in. When meshed in the right notation, it can provide a high better than any illicit narco. For me, the Diet, is in that search. It’s that colorful equivalent to spending a few hours in a local used record store, musing over which artists to take a chance on, as well as partake of some old favorites.
So when I look at the events I’m considering for the weekend, perhaps it’s fitting that my core concentration seems to be aligned back into the worlds of musical expression, and the evolutionary possibilities therein.
Seriously. There was no way I was to let this one pass me by. And yet by all means, the younger, more pretentious me would probably have balked at the very idea of a handpicked femals vocalists handling a barrage of pre-packaged, proto-goth opera tunes complete with glammy guitars. But to be honest, the Kalafina sound has been in the development for years in Kajiura‘s music. In many ways her sound has been the saving grace of many shows, so the very idea of catching this sound in full bloom seems irresistible. While in some respects, there is a part of me that may not be as wild about the more J-pop elements, there is something incredibly evocative about Kalafina that in a way seems like the perfect mix of the last twenty years of my music-loving life. So the live idea is a tiny step into the unknown for one more used to the more rough and tumble live club shows complete with alcohol & unruly front-row anarchy. One shall have to see.
MIKUNOPOLIS (Hatsune Miku LIVE)
Now if the younger me had seen the older me doing this, I believe an ugly split would likely ensue if not for one simple conceit: the real-world proliferation of the ever-inspiring anime concept of the virtual idol. Mesh this with the powerful VOCALOID software platform, and one has a potentially big moment for both the way not only US anime fans regard the music business, but in the very idea of the pop star in itself. Having a few years for YAMAHA’s signature aqua-haired muse to become something of an online legend, so in many ways, the internet phenom has been building up to this moment. And a part of me has been longing for this idea to come to some kind of evolutionary fruition. Now granted, Miku is far from attaining anything resembling a personality, and it is still kind of a downer that we’re essentially watching a projected image moving in sync to a live band. But the very idea that she has made it stateside, and with the promise of exposing even more fans to the phenomenon, as well as the software, and it’s easy to see why I would be excited. Miku is something of an icon for the further democratization of the music industry, and that’s a glowing plus.
As an added bonus:
AX Idol favorite, Stephanie Yanez is also to be performing alongside two other pals at both shows!
In a move that has only made life all the more surreal, Yanez recently teamed-up with local favorite, Po Lo(a cool guitarist, and buddy that seems to pop up everywhere. Any Ken Tanaka fans out there?) & the schizodelic electronic stylings of the one and only NVR-NDR. To describe NVR-NDR is near-impossible, even for me. Just imagine if your local arcade suffered an overdose of DJ Sharpnel & 8-Bit daydreams, and exploded, leaving nothing more than Amiga-pixeled clouds capable of causing some inexplicable fits of hallucinatory dancing. This project is also known for creating the Combo Attack podcast’s theme music, by the way. Handling both conventions, this unique trio is bound to make a fascinating splash this weekend. And in preparation, one may need protective gear.
Now it wouldn’t be Anime Expo if I didn’t indulge in the weekend’s primary attraction. And judging by the current schedule, it looks like I may be able to make a run to check out the Izumi Matsumoto panel if all goes well. Personally speaking, this is what this weekend has always been about. Whether it is to meet friends from around the world, to cosplay the latest icons, see some great new stuff (New Last Exile?- I so wish..), or just enjoy the company of a legion with similar passions, it can’t be denied that this is the core time to give thanks to those who have imbued us with so much. With both AX & AM2 on the path, things are guaranteed to be challenging- but perhaps this is the kind of test that fans need right about now.