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.
Ever wanted to see Nobuo Uematsu, the legendary soundtrack composer for the Final Fantasy games? Our friends and partners at Dragonfish Films caught him at a Q&A session at Otakon 2011. He was only at the convention for a single day, and this is one of his rare public appearances in America. And now you can watch it. Check it out!
Here’s our short but sweet interview with Kanon Wakeshima at this year’s AM2 Press Junket! She’s best known as the singer of the ED to “Vampire Knight.” We ask her about women in cello, goth lolita style, and her love of classical music.
As the weekend of Otakon is drawing to a close, on Friday con goers were treated to a sample of CHEMISTRY’s songs. This year marks their 10th year Anniversary since their debut as a chart topping duo. Otakon provides the stage for their debut presence on American soil. They lit the stage with energy and vibrancy, as they also danced alongside with backup dancers. Their anime songs in particular notice to Full Metal Alchemist‘s opening had nearly the entire place standing up and cheering from their seats. So for only a short hour, fans were treated to R&B, Japanese style.
This is the set list of the songs they sang.
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.
Eve, Sharon, Rei…your songs grow ever closer…
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.
At a convention, there is an opportunity to explore new music, and Mix Speakers. Hearing from their MySpace page, they music seems J-poppish. But this groups is a visual kei rock group, so my impressions of them will be further cemented this weekend. They are known for their monster and fantasy look, so outside of the concert they’re having tonight, they are also having a photo shoot, of that I am quite curious about. This is all at Anime NEXT 2011.
On May 1, 2011 Tomo Neko Maid Cafe held an event in which proceeds went to the Yoshiki Foundation. Luckily for me I got to experience the event first-hand. Lucky for you, though you may have missed this event, the Cafe is always planning something.
What you missed:
Maid Rachael met me at the door and ushered me into a front row seat just before the musical act, the Ajuku Girls began their set.
After the happy pop dancing and singing put the audience into a pleasant mood I was seated and introduced to my butler, Megaman X AND some super-awesome cat people who I’d be drinking tea with.
Several butlers and maids came to the table to play card games, let me hug emo-chu, and of course to bring out delicious refreshments inbetween activities.
Performances by comedians Anton Torez, Matt Johnson, and “G” were an absolute riot while the beauty of Miyuki’s Geta dance took everyone’s breath away.
During a slight intermission while raffle tickets were drawn and prizes rewarded many tried their hands at the gaming station (Marvel vs. Capcom and Smash Brothers) to win pictures with their favorite maid and/or butlers.
Several more performances from staff (Madam X sang while D Boy did a bit of comedy) kept the energy up though the most surprising was the Time Warp performed by just about everyone at the closing ceremony.
It was a great event from a wonderful Cafe for a good cause that left guests feeling as though they really were transported to a 2D world.
La Corda d’Oro
Written and Drawn by Yuki Kure.
Published by Viz Media. 184 pages. 2006. $8.99
Just when I believe that there wasn’t going to be another show just like Nodame Cantabile, came to my awareness about this series several years ago as an anime. Then I picked up the manga to read. The basic premises of the story focus on Hino Kahoko, who got picked to play in a school music competition even though she doesn’t even know how to play any instruments herself. She meets a lot of people, and finds potential in maturing with a genuine passion for music.
Originally this series was inspired by a role playing video game. La Corda d’Oro eventually had two anime seasons, and various compact disc releases. This book series is probably a good read for any reader who enjoys reading about classical music, and of individual determination to adapt to a situation.
This series also has a reverse harem, so it is clearly targeted toward the female audience. Harems have a particular following within manga/anime culture. A main character, and then a group of the opposite gender. Of course nearly everyone in the group falls for the main character or is significantly affected by their presence and relationship. You see it in Tenchi Muyo, Ranma 1/2, Vandread or Love Hina. Those series appeal to the male audience though. Of course with reverse harem, there the girl with a lot of really cute guys. Fushigi Yuugi, Fruits Basket, Ooku, and Ouran High School Host Club fit the bill for this one.
Of course with the harem element, there is a variety of character types, and so an individual can have a favoring or leaning toward as the one true pairing. There are a lot of men in this series, and I can mention with a straight face that I find my preference in the pairing of Kahoko and Kazuki, even though it appears that Kahoko potentially likes Len the best.
At the moment there is 12 volumes in English, and volume 13 will be released in March. This is still an on going manga series in which, the English has successfully been adapted right alongside the Japanese, so there is no worry about playing catch up with this series.
For potential read alike, of course there’s going to be a long list of potential shoujo choices. La Corda D’Oro already has an interesting perspective that is really not as covered by a lot of other manga at the moment out there. For classical music similarities, there is Nodame Cantabile. For reverse harem there’s Ouran High School Host Club since more than one male falls for Haruhi, not as much as for Kahoko though. Lastly for the inclusion of fairies or other worldly guardians, Shugo Chara, or Full Moon wo Sagashite fit the bill for this.
This really is a female targeted title, so I potentially won’t see guys enjoying this title as much. Any different opinions? Of course I am in the crowd that definitely found similarity with shonen manga, once a reader got over the so many shoujo cliche moments. The main character finds strength and determination to succeed in an area, there are conflicts for the main character. There is friendship, although there is the every popular shoujo idea of an ideal match.
The tenth episode of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt presents the main characters as a rock band playing a TeddyLoid song.
The music video makes quite a few references to existing music videos, as well as to famous scenes in rock and punk music. For the curious, I’ve listed all those I was able to recognize below. Panty’s concert outfit references riot-grrl performers in general, whereas Stocking looks generally like a gothloli (think Kanon Wakeshima in darker colors, with a slightly different hat.) Costumes change quite a bit; Garterbelt starts out in nondescript black and is at one point dressed as Freddie Mercury (which is about as far from nondescript as one can get.) The imprint in the corner of the screen, PSG, resembles the MTV logo imprint. More specific references follow:
It’s perhaps a measure of how caught up in the Now that I’ve gotten as a blogger when I say that Beck (2004-2005) is the oldest anime I’ve watched in a while. It’s also one of the most fascinating and frustrating too, at least so far; it’s one of those shows that is at once low-key and ambitious, quietly doing something different than everyone else without drawing attention to itself.
Our friends from Makenai have recorded a special treat just for you, dear readers and listeners–it’s a studio-quality cover of the famous K-ON! closing song, “Don’t Say Lazy.” Makenai aren’t just nobodies: one of their singers, Pam, was Anime Expo Idol 2008 (see her performance of the Basilisk OP, and our interview with her here after her win), and they’ve been covering anime songs for the past couple of years at various conventions. They also were the in-house band for our last panel, the Indecent Otaku Comedy Hour!
We’ll definitely be featuring more music from Makenai in the future, as well, so stay tuned. We love these guys and we hope you will, too.
UPDATE: now available on Youtube!