Okui Masami 25th & HAPPY END Live “Celebration”

Okui Masami is a major figure in the anisong industry, mainly because she was one of the backbone persons during the early King Record/Starchild days. She is directly the senpai of Mizuki Nana and she has kind of cemented things once she joined JAM Project. She also started her own record label and done various other things behind the scene over the years. Today she still produces, writes music and provide chorus and “lead tracks” for various anisong, outside of her solo and JAM Project work. Well, it would be better said that she has done a lot over the years, and nowadays she has largely moved onto doing JAM Project type stuff.

As I say this, even while as a member of JAM Project, she has a lot of solo activity. Or rather, as a fan of her since her pre-JAM days, her solo activities never really stopped cold, in my opinion. It definitely has slowed down, she’s taken breaks, but unlike many of the other old guys in JAM Project, she has a full original solo album out, which is quite rare. Well, I say old guys, but she turned 50 years old this year, so just about everybody in that group is getting up there.

A solo live is also quite rare for Okui Masami nowadays. She no longer tours, and most appearances are in festival style. This live is the first solo live she has had in two and a half years, or since 2016 March. Why not go, I thought.

I realize I don’t write about her a lot, despite the fact that Makkun (as the stans stan, but it’s romanized differently with me) still remains one of my most favorite persons in Japanese media. So maybe this is as good of a time as any, if you didn’t realize, to write about her in general. And yeah, being a fan of a thing for about ~19 years is something that grounds me over the years, so I guess I do have a lot I could say about that.

Makkun’s fans largely came from her late-era King days, because her library then was just super good. This was right around the time late night anime took off. She sang for OVAs, late night TV shows, clock shows, films, radio programs, and other things. In early 2000s she kind of had her break with King. [You can see other King anisong artists have similar issues with the record label over the years, by the way.] She also went and did a bunch of stuff that wasn’t tied in so much, and did significantly worse popularity-wise as the tides of popularity changed. And she’s been through a lot personally. In the early days she had came up as a harmony singer and dancer. She did all kinds of support stuff for music acts, and even had to deal with a throat problem which she had to go on hiatus for. She tried to produce her own seiyuu idol and did the usual otaku jaunts in the 00s that you’ve seen other enterprising entertainers tried to do. Obviously not everyone struck out successfully.

But as a vocalist, she remains a gold standard for me. Ma-King, V-Sit, Do-Can, and Her-Day were probably the four albums that establishes her style and sound, although over the 00s she evolved into more of a rock style along with going into her own record label. Then there’s her more recent work, that has more of a mix of her mid 00s sound and late 90s sound–basically like her new album, HAPPY END.

So the first half of the live she played from HAPPY END, and the second half she played from her back catalog. The effects were as expected.

From the first half, the most notable tracks were probably her Garo stuff, where she performed 3 songs. The live itself is broken into 3- or 4-song sets, with a spirited MC in between. Her MCs most of the time is just talking about other people in the music industry and how her songs come to be. It’s actually quite serious but the humor is also there… some at the expense of others, maybe. It’s osaka okan style, is what I’d say.

Anyways, PREDESTINATION was the most impressive, because of the two guitarist Makkun had for her band. It was Imajo of Psychic Lover on lead and one of her old musician friends as rhythmic. That guy is really, really good. Supposedly was the band master of some mainstream artist at King. The two went at it during this song, and it really helped that it was at a small venue, as you can appreciate the musicians in a more direct manner.

I don’t have a lot to say about the rest of the “new” half of the live. I thought HAPPY END was a solid, but ordinary Makkun entry. It’s probably even good for new listeners. But since I had been following her since the late 90s, I was obviously a lot more stoked about the “old” half.

Considering I didn’t really start eventing in Japan until Makkun stopped touring, this was my first taste of Kiss in the Dark and Give a Reason. [My only other Makkun solo event here.] A lot of the regulars were more buzzed about Saikou no GAMBLE but it was not even my top 4 of the night. Koishimasho Nebarimasho was such a throwback punch, as it was the only good thing from Cyber Team from Akihabara, anyways. That was a joke.

And there were the calls. Ossan calls to 90s anisong. Just so impactful and poignant, harking back to a time when Japanese people are actually completely polite at lives so when they yell out it adds significance. Some folks at the live did also try to do more modern calls but was largely ignored. It shows that there are younger fans in the audience–people in their 20s and early 30s I guess?

Give a Reason was a surprise, but I guess she sang it recently at King Super. The same day, the announcement went out that Makkun and Hayashibara Megumi (Meg-chan as she calls her) are going to do a talk and live event in January, so she plugged it at the MC after that segment. Looking back, Makkun’s Slayers involvement was really a big boost for her at the time. For me it was a bucket list kind of item, but to be honest I’m not a huge fan of that song in particular.

An overwhelming sense of at-home-ness was there, except inside a sold-out Shibuya O-East (now called Duo Exchange) it gets kind of stuffy and uncomfortable since I can’t really move around. My position in the all-standing hall for the night was in the back and dead center. It was not a time where I can really enjoy the show so much because of the environment, but at least the performers delivered.

The crowd at her live is very much older and mellower, but it’s not laid back as you expect. Aged is probably what I’d use to describe the vibe. It was pretty wild to see a white guy at all, but hey, it was in the middle of Shibuya and as I walked home towards the Ginza-sen station there were a ton of foreigners just walking about. It was oddly surprising in a way given how much JAM Project toured the rest of the world versus the average Japanese band, but at least you can count on delegations from Shanghai and Taiwan to rep the oversea crew.

If she does another solo live event again, please considering going. It’s unlikely to sell out before ippan sales so the tickets are definitely not hard to get. And it would be easier to get in than the January Fujimishobo event. Then again they probably will do Get Along there huh…

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