A World without Calls Is a World Full of Yakkai, And Not Yakkai at the Same Time

The way it suppose to go in Japan at a live viewing is that people get excited, cheer, and do calls to the performances they are watching. Or you can do one of the things that is customary to movie-going, like kick back and have a soda with your popcorn. It’s not anikura, it’s not a house party, it’s a concert being screened at a movie theater that’s open to the public.

But the problem with American¹ fans is that people don’t know, or don’t do, calls. I say this because it’s plainly what I’ve observed. At the Aqours performance at AX this summer, some people were doing calls, yeah, but I’d say it’s less than 25% of the audience, and that’s a very generous guesstimate. (As a point of comparison, less than 10% was doing WUG calls… maybe close to 1% once you exclude the pit rows.) At the Aqours 2nd screening I attended in NJ, it was nearly zero. During Koiaqua a few people did some calls, but that’s pretty much it. Where’s all the jimo ai calls? I attended that screening because, well, jimo ai! Gotta rep your local event.

Let me take back one thing: It’s not really a problem that nobody does calls. It’s a problem only because some American fans, as per standard operating procedures of cultural appropriation and regurgitation, only take some aspects of eventer behavior of Japan, and not all of it. And then we add our spin and own it. To compound all of this, your average attendee at these viewings are in their early 20s, and are likely just young and don’t know/can’t know any better. The result is a mix of things that don’t quite work well together…at least at first.

The way to channel hype during an anime-idol anison performance is via calls. Calls is not waving your penlights, per se, it’s using your voice to sing/shout/say things along with the song. Glowsticks are bonus. But in America people don’t get this. Some people even think it’s like a rave. If people do calls together and do it in sync, it’s actually really cool, especially for songs that have elaborate calls or songs built for call-and-response. But nope, Americans don’t do calls as a general rule. And I think it’s really because nobody is here to teach them through examples (it’s not only know-how, but dedication to lead it in public). Blu-rays and live viewings don’t quite cut it, at least for seeing in person what calls can do.

If you master calls, then you know how to “be yakkai” in the right way. It’s a lot safer and a lot more fun. Then we can finally have a proper yakkai discussion as Japan has it.

The reality of it isn’t something governed by rules or singer preferring people screaming or not at their performances. Yes, it’s a matter of etiquette–not so much as a set of unspoken rules to be proper, but as a courtesy to everyone else. Yes, it’s a time/place/context sensitive thing, but that is so bare basic of a description that it doesn’t begin to explain why things happen whichever way. And the reality is it’s so much more than that–enough that I don’t expect the average American person who likes Aqours to go to a screening to know. The gap is not just cultural, but also one of language, customs, and it’s something you can really only learn by attending lives in Japan and see how it really is. It’s not something you can really write down and explain unless you are already familiar with these kinds of things from a different context, try as I might.

This is why I don’t think your average Aqours fan at a live viewing in America can even begin to grasp it. They would have to attend a Japanese live first to know how it goes. It’s just not a reasonable expectation of people in their early 20s or late teens. Instead, they will do what they can, which, for the most part, I find acceptable, but it’s a different set of things, a different set of expectations.

So I think people can really do what they want, within reason, at US live viewings. It’s America. Freedom reigns. Just don’t do anything you shouldn’t do? It would be bonus points to be considerate of people around you, though.

Still, there are some simple guidelines. For example, at a dark movie theater it’s probably best you don’t start a party train, just because you don’t want to trip and fall and hurt yourself or someone else. This happened at my live viewing, and it’s the most yakkai thing I’ve seen at any live viewing. Nobody should do this at a movie theater. If I was staff I would stop it, because of liability reasons.

Obviously, don’t throw lights or king blades or glowsticks inside the movie theater. The chances of you hurting someone with it is a lot lower than someone tripping and falling, but this shouldn’t even need to be said. It’s not really that yakkai, just dangerous. Plus, if a bunch of 20yos want to behave like a bunch of 10yos there are better ways to do it, and you can do it in a way without painting a bad image of Aqours fans. I guess that’s no big deal, though.

Oh yeah, be considerate of other people is a pretty simple rule of thumb too. There might be people watching the live who aren’t as into it as you are, it might be nice to be considerate of them. Sure, maybe you only get your jollies off if you are allowed to act a certain way, but consider the trade offs and if this is a problem you personally have to deal with. After all, this is a delayed viewing of a concert that you could have went to see if you didn’t spend all your money on avocado toast or some nonsense LOL.

Avocado toast and live viewing, that’s a combo I can get behind on. Sure beats flying for 14 hours one way to watch a show. It’s so first-world of a problem, the “live viewing yakkai” issue, that I wish my fandom had live viewings so I can complain about them. Which is basically everything except Vocaloid and Love Live.

Who is yakkai at a JP live? The best example I personally witnessed this year had to be the guy who, in his best “yakkai voice” screamed out some nonsense (not even ietaiga) during Ippun Ichibyou Kimi to Boku no. It resulted in the guy being hit (didn’t see this part). It seems kind of extreme, but when you kind of ruin an emotionally pregnant silence by yelling, the consequence is kind of deserving. I think physical violence is overreach in this case, but at the same time that guy is an asshole, so it’s two wrongs that don’t quite make a right–but they make a nice anecdote. What’s relevant here is that I don’t think American yakkai are even possible at this level, since their game are limited by the general lack of public coordination among fans in general. It’s easy to stick out as a yakkai in a sea of uniformity, it’s hard when people are just chaotic and doing whatever they want. In a room full of yakkai, there is actually no yakkai?

So what I recommend is, instead of being crazy, just do calls? Lead calls, do calls, make other people learn the calls. Because Japan will continue to write songs that have calls, since it’s the thing to do and it’s way fun. Americans, please go learn them. It’s free and you don’t even need a penlight most of the time! And calls are free to evolve too, once enough people know how calls work. Sure, people are free to not do calls, but the idea here is calls can fill the gap that yakkai people probably should be doing anyway, and it guides yakkai people into do the right things. If you are at an American screening and are telling people to not do house tigers, you probably don’t even know what typical yakkai looks like, let alone actual yakkai.

¹TBF some Canadians I’ve ran into know their calls. Like, there are some tricky calls in IM@S and the GTA and Montreal Ps I ran into did know them. Can’t say what the Liver community is like up there though.


4 Responses to “A World without Calls Is a World Full of Yakkai, And Not Yakkai at the Same Time”

  • Eiffel

    The part that stood out most to me is the “glowsticks are bonus” line.

    At a recent local underground idol live (Koutei Camera Girl Drei at Next Music From Tokyo) in a live house with under 100 people, no one used glowsticks except for two Love Live fans who had KBs.

    I realized it was probably just the fact that the girls singing were called “idols”, it meant to them that they should use penlights. I couldn’t blame them since I also used to think you should use glowsticks at any idol live.

    As you said, it’s easy for people to learn if they have the resources, but in a lot of cases, they don’t even know there’s more to learn in the first place. It’s easy to assume that what applies to many anime idols applies in general, but it’s hard to break out of that mindset without anyone who can guide you.

    • omo

      It’s what I meant by oversea fans take what they like and leave what they don’t like or don’t know. Monkey sees and monkey does; but nobody can see the words out of the fans mouths when they do calls I guess.

  • TheBigN

    “It’s so first-world of a problem, the “live viewing yakkai” issue, that I wish my fandom had live viewings so I can complain about them.”

    Same w (both the live viewings and you complaining about them).

    Have you found good examples of successful call instruction in the US (I guess “successful” to me is majority of crowd doing it”)?

    • omo

      If we use GTA/MTL as a model I think it can be done, just need to create inclusive fan spaces with people who are willing to invest time and energy to show people how it works. It is actually easier for something like IM@S before Deresute because it’s a fairly close knit fandom and quite small, so the cost of doing all that is fairly low. Now if you want to do a Love Live thing you can only really do it with a group of people you know well, and that is a drop in the bucket.

      That’s partly why things has spilt so much over online, because the people causing trouble (the real yakkai) are not people at any live viewing, it’s the drama queens and attention seekers issuing public statements wwwww

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