Bandai Namco Festival 2019

It was a thing.

In a bid to stave off jet lag and fatigue, and partly motivated by procrastination, I want to tackle the two-day festival taken place last weekend at Tokyo Dome now rather than later. I tweeted it enough, but in summary:

  • Bannam has a lot of stuff! But IM@s is where it’s at, for this show.
  • All the idols in under one roof is all one.
  • While it was short on the collab department, there were still some great ones.

If you knew nothing about BanaFes or the various idol acts under the corporate label, going to the two concerts will give you a big clue. Just among the IDOLM@STER properties there are already so much that you could make happen. Even within only 765MILLION itself there are enough material to make that eternal harmony of baton passing back and forth, so I think it made all the sense in the world for the show organizers to hold back collabs between the different branches.

Well, we still had the MCs. Like Yuiton examining Ru’s legs. Or Masayan going back and forth between 765, CGs and Millions. There’s a torrent of SNS across all the idols. And of course that needless Fairytale or Dramatic Nonfiction for the ages. Halko Momoi became Keytar-san for Valentine was a nice cherry on top.

Day one setlist here.

A good chunk of Day 1 was from Tales, plus Flow did their Code Geass songs. Lot of people are shocked about Code Geass in the current Cinderella Starlight Stage collab (myself included). But the timing works. As an aside, not going to mention Flow much here because they tour the Americas a lot so I’ve seen them a handful of times already, doing some of the same songs.

To me, seeing Every Little Thing, Bonnie Pink and Do As Infinity are more about form than function–I’ve gotten over these by-gone 00s good timers over a decade ago. It was nonetheless good to see them, DAI and ELT being the first I’ve had. An idol festival is probably not the best format, unfortunately. Same can be said of Yuuki Aira and Hashimoto Miyuki from day 2, but those are kind of different to me, being in that Lantis circle. Bonnie Pink I still occasionally listen to so, it was kind of nice. Her music is not made for Tokyo Dome-type stage though, so it was still just a hair too perfunctory for my taste.

It makes me wonder, were those brand names more for bait? Is this why SideM was on day one? LOL. So it was also very nice to see the fangirls out in force on day one–there might be almost parity between Tales itabags and SideM itabags. It almost made me forget there were still CG, ML and 765 performers. There were almost 50/50 male female attendance if I didn’t know any better.

If I really had to lament, it was just how these big timers spent a lot of time in MC due to setting up the band equipment and what not. It slowed the pace of the show down, even if they did front load the Tales stuff. I mean they still performed 39 songs on day one, so it was quite a lot of content, but it just didn’t get going until Eternal Harmony kicked in.

For some goddamn reason, this 765Million segment featured exactly as we had expected, which is the original cast members performing the songs they were supposed to–even if it was just Eternal Harmony and HOME, SWEET FRIENDSHIP. In Million eventer fandom-speak, this is god-tier stuff. But it was over in 10 minutes. No lead-up; the piano chords lead-in started off everybody and my mind was just reeling, hands free. By the time the first chorus came around I was aware enough to clap and do all the calls.

While my seat for day one was in the last section of arena, I had a center view. Good thing is I got to see Mingos dead center, who is the only person who hasn’t done it a bunch of times yet. Bad thing is it’s hard to see everyone else, but Suwa was on the left corner of center stage and Aimi on the right corner, which I presume Yuuchan and Suzy are on the back corners.

I was running low on lung power towards the end lol. But this is why I was there on day one. Thankfully HOME, SWEET FRIENDSHIP was just recovery and enjoying the first gathering of Ricotta.

If Shinso Mermaid was pure hype, Beat the World was just pure fun. I’m glad they kept those two in this live, although maybe it goes back to what I was saying about bait. I think a towel song in Dome is probably the better take. (Imagine if they did Taiyou Kiss on day two…but it was not to be.)

This Flyers performance was the first time we had both branches do this song (and Union would be the case on Day 2 as well), and despite the center stage and catwalk, we didn’t get the MV-style assembly of Idol Avengers. It was still fine, all said.

For CG, the hype was seeing NewGen and U149 for me. Them doing Dereani era songs was the general-public pandering that now suits my behind-the-time tastes. Frankly I’m not following Cinderella closely, especially this past 12 months. I didn’t know the U149 song well, but it was still hype to see the performers. Somehow I do know all the other songs, so whatever. It was dome-quality Cinderella Girls live material. It means lazers out of the wazoo during Crazy Crazy, but it looked awesome (I can imagine it being a part of an Inotak set if a DJ could fill Tokyo Dome). I mean damn, Ru you got dem legs please use.

I don’t know all the songs well for SideM, but I did know PRIDE STAR is the new group song and it was great to see that live. It’s great to see Jupiter in general. Study Equal Magic is always a banger, despite its amusingly problematic undertones. SideM also opened the show on day one with a 5-song set, making this the longest SideM event I have attended. That was neat with some top kek pieces. Like the sword song.

To me, the actual climax to day 1 is all the Gundam Seed stuff, mostly with TMR (who was there as Nishikawa Takanori). Having seen a lot of it at Montreal in August I was actually a bit less excited than otherwise I could have been. Also it didn’t help that Seed Destiny was just not a positive memory for me, LOL.

I thought between Tamaki Nami and Nishikawa, and ending with those baller SideM songs, this was a hella fun live. And I can say this even with some degree of objectivity as someone familiar with the content, but not really am into it. I guess I would have gone to a SideM concert if it was accessible like this one was, so I’m not THAT objective maybe. Like, I am even kind of mad that 765Million set was so punchy but utterly kind of left out to dry in the middle of the show. I can say for certain that it was those 3 things that made this one good.

Day two was a similar but very different beast. Set list here.

The tone for day two was set with 3 big hits from IM@S right from the start, so you know they’re not messing around. This is MOIW level munition. Still a tad disappointed that we didn’t get a Shinymas contribution though.

OK, let’s get Guilty Kiss out of the way. [The way.] They were the one big act that got one solid block. Momoi/Wonder Momo and Xenogolossia took the other solid bits, but each only really had one or two songs. And it’s Love Live at an IM@S concert so you just sort of have to talk about it front and center, right?

Having only seen Guilty Kiss at the US-based delay live viewings (and I guess, Aqours live in LA this year), I thought they were pretty alright–I mean if I had to rep an Aqours sub unit it would be Team Allergies I mean Azalea. I thought it was okay material, even if it’s not my jam per se. What was different at Banafes was that it’s just much more engaging than the live viewing. Maybe it’s because there was almost no MC (ROFLAMO)? Maybe people were less yakkai on average? My seat day 2 was the top of first level, by home plate, right next to the boxed seats. We had wider, leather-bounded seats that were plush. I also had a clear view of all the stage, so that helped a lot. I can look at the visuals and lasers and not have to deal with bad zoom in crops of the performers. The performance was more fun to take in when you have a full view.

What made Guilty Kiss being day 2’s standout was their new song, which was performed live for the first time. This song had lasers out of the wazoo, too, and it is super fun and catchy. I am now looking forward to this performed at ANYC

Unlike day 2, most of the performers were chopped up and mixed in, at least when it comes to the IM@S ones. There was a block for Aikatsu Stars and Aikatsu, and then Aikatsu Friends and Aikatsu on Parade. As someone almost completely untrained on Aikatsu this is just a blur to me. I suspect this was the case for a lot of the crowd too, even if between the 4 of us (I won a set of 4 2-day of tickets) we got 2 people per each unit of interest for the show, at minimum.

The Aikatsu Parade girl was performing live for the first or second time? It was a sight to be hold that the young kid was doing a solid at Tokyo Dome. In contrast my memory of Kido Ibuki is fresh as new from MOIW 2014… Oh I guess she did double in UNION with a quick costume change (and back to Aikatsu Friends for The World Is All One).

The Wonder Momo segment was kind of just there. Having heard her do the songs before it was fun to see it at a large venue with all the special effects. And then, yeah, Valentine. Which nobody did the calls for the names which is kind of sad for old Ps I guess.

What’s also kind of there was Xenoglossia, but they chopped it up a bit so it mixes in well by then. You still could tell it was coming just by timing, but that didn’t make me anticipate it any less.

I fake-like Xenoglossia. Like, I like it enough to watch it, if only by skipping half of it. But there was a lot of love for the music, and it was here. Well, only if I can show it somehow between all these hype, best-of, IDOLM@STER selections.

Block one was technically the opening set of 3 songs, and they were great. Ready was always a crowd pleaser now that it’s not overplayed everywhere. Star was the warm up for the juggernaut that is Deremas. Welcome was the side hook punch nobody was looking for but everyone secretly wants.

Minna ga dai daisuki da?

Block two is the “cute” “princess” block, I guess.

Flowers were blooming with Alstroemeria and Senko Hanabidan. To me this block has the best mix since Saku wa Ukiyo no Kimi Hanabi is that hype closer and the three prior songs built up nicely to it. I mean, it even made sense in a way, the light of the fireworks is the destination, which bloomed over us like flowers.

Significantly within my wheelhouse were all four of these performances. I am more curious how people thought, honestly.

Block three followed the same pattern, the “passion” “angel” songs.

What kept things in suspense was how will the Shiny Colors songs mesh. They don’t have attributes/colors!

As per usual, the first “number one” call during Yumesaki After School is suppressed, and the Ps at the Dome did a good job with it. Arena rock translates well in the Dome. The crowd goes wild (and tired) at all the Ankira calls, and plain goes wild at 4Lux, especially when Pirami hit those top notes (plug: Pirami or Hirayama Emi, voice of Reika, has a self-published album out in November).

For a mid-song UO refresh, or mid-concert mood-up boost, there was this Jibun Rest@rt. There is not a lot I can say about this piece besides it’s one of my favorites, and it’s always great to see it live with a lot of Ps. It’s a song that works well no matter the live format or the size of the stage.

As if Millions taking the closer roles in blocks 1-3 meant anything, block 4 ends with Answer. That was a song I miss hearing and was glad to get that here. I enjoyed this way more than during CG 6th.

We already knew what’s left were just the bangers. L’Antica made a good follow up to LiPPS. Tulips is that song when the Ps in the crowd automatically react to as that lead in bass line kicks up. As usual Antica dancing was pretty sexy, too. They have a lot to do to match those power CG tunes. The thing to realize was that the cameras generally don’t show the full body, but people at the venue got all the juicy moves.

Harmonics was kind of the upbeat hype song that isn’t that hype, I think, which made Wandering Dream Chaser all that more hype. To that effect, Wandering Dream Chaser was the top song of the day to me. Straylight’s performance was incredibly mature and spot on. Yukki might be a smol seiyuu idol but her center-ness and presence is up there. Saya-nee looks way cool while dancing (as opposed to her gyaru-ppoi SNS photo presence), and even Yukimura was able to round out the unit with her more standard seiyuu wiles. It’s just their third time performing live. It might have helped that I also have never seen them before, so I am biased this way.

The big surprise on Sunday for me was Aira, Mingos and Koroazu’s cover of FairyTale ja Iranai. It’s only a surprise because Mingos was there, and not the other fairy singers. I suppose they had to keep it simple, but after Valentine something like this was fair game. Yuuki Aira wrote the lyrics after all. If you listened to her back story which she gave during her Music On Radio episode (the IM@S weekly music radio program/niconama), she said how it was entirely unexpected to pen her Xenoglossia song and then got around to also write for Million Live through her Lantis connection. You can see her relevant works here. Note that Koroazu also has some songs penned by Yuuki.

As for the actual performance, this is by far the most explosively hyped version of the song I’ve seen ever, and I’ve seen this song performed many times now. Maybe Lisani that one time could have rivaled it? Anyways, it was pretty crazy. To use a Californian analogy, it’s like flying over a burning forest at night and not seeing the smoke.

Invariably when I think back to Wandering Dream Chaser (I think about it because it is so good!) I think about how hard it is to actually watch Shiny live. At the very least they were able to do all their unit songs, which are much more fun and interesting and good, than the group songs. Actually this is kind of the same with SideM too, now that I think about it…

The group songs are okay, but as an invested Million P, UNION gets me like an onion every time, ARIGATOU. GOIN’!!! is also a great, nice touch that does a good job segueing into the next song.

Now I am of mixed feeling of Zawawan with all the cast members of day 2. But it is moving to see Aikatsu in there, as that seiyuu connection between Aikatsu and IM@S was a draw for many to even start watching it (including me, but I didn’t get far). All money leads back to Scamco, was the saying we had, and it’s truer than ever in this display.

Overall, I think Tokyo Dome is an OK concert venue (read: way better than Metlife Dome). The show was a lot of fun, both days, even before factoring all the sentimental or psychological reasons. Just in terms of accessibility, this is an easy live to get into even if you are just casual about the IP presented here. Obviously you might like it a lot more if you are inclined to like character songs and IM@S output, but it’s also a good sampler for people into those specific verticals and are just curious about the stuff on the other side.

Bandai Namco Festival 2019 is like that American chain diner sampler dish you order before your meal, it has like, 4000 kcal in calories and you crave it, except you know you’ll probably hate yourself if you eat it whole, before the entree comes next year. I understand why it’s good, but I feel bad for those who actually eats the whole thing. I don’t want to think much about it.

PS. I was able to hit the MLB cafe to catch the end of the ALCS. Thankfully the maitre d’ spoke English.

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