Category Archives: Conventions and Concerts

Million Live 6th SSA

The final stop of the 6th Live Tour for THE IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE was in good ol’ Saitama Super Arena, in September. Unlike Million 3rd, this whole tour dragged on from April into late September. It crossed from Spring to Summer and ended on the second day of Autumn. That is a really long stretch.

I was only able to go to the Fukuoka stop in June prior to SSA. But that made a big difference. I guess it’s fair to assume even if people did not go to all the stops, many have live viewed at least some of them, if not all. It’s a big commitment to go to SSA for the live, in terms both of obtaining the tickets through one of the lotteries or by other means, and the effort of doing so. Producers across the country attended the biggest stop of them all, even if many traveled less as I did. It is still quite the effort to travel from the edges of Japan. I remember seeing tweets of the guy from Okinawa, trying to bribe tickets with local delicacies.

My crusty, jaded mentality aside, I thought 6th SSA was a lot of fun. Like what I tweeted for day 2, it left me with this sweet aftertaste as Tokugawa Matsuri in the form of Suwa Ayaka came up from the elevated stage and ended this illumination festival.

Day one and day two both followed the format where each subunit came out and do a part of their Angel/Princess/Fairy stop sets, with the collab/guest songs thrown in there and mixed with covers. During the 3 non-Kanto stops, each unit had more time to themselves, and the last 1/3 of the live each day was dedicated to covers and solos. So for SSA, they cut basically almost all the solos. For new content, we got the TB songs and some new covers.

Overall I thought this was fine, purely in terms of going to a live and looking for the songs we like. But this format does not flow very well, since we know what is coming, and the units have to do their key songs. Like, you knew EScape had to do LOST because of the way the song fits their group concept. Or that baller mix of Art Needs Heart Beats has to go with Jelly Pop Beans. It was more a toss up for, say, Charlotte Charlotte and D/Zeal and their covers (which both were new for SSA). But it also felt like day one’s groups were kind of a bore as a result.

In some sense, the overall limp malaise-y feel I get from SSA has to do with the way the approached the tour. It felt less like a live tour, and more like just 4 different shows, for some reason, that had to take place inorganically and in far reaches of Japan, so they had to get the tokyoites to move out by holding back the 4th one until the end. During 3rd it was almost the opposite–you didn’t get to go to the remote one because it was hard to get in those smaller venues; the small venues also made the lives a bit more intimate and different than the big shows Millions do. Tokyo types who want to camp out for the Makuhari stop are free to do so, that one felt fine because you knew it was its own thing, and not a summary like 6th SSA. Maybe that’s why it took me months to finish this recap, lol.

In terms of practical things on the ground, I was able to squeeze in a Kayafesh event on Saturday. That’s basically a really bad costpa sake festival with seiyuu content. I liked it because I can be a lush at times and it’s my first sake fest in Japan. Plus, you can’t go wrong drinking with seiyuu. I also stayed one extra day to enjoy Takagi Miyu’s birthday event, as things turned out to be. It was nice to stay that extra day and hang out with some local friends. Rest of the time, it was business as usual.

As of the latest update, the splash screen for Theater Days changed over to a new quintet, so maybe this post is apropos. For this flower project, we utilized the same shop we did for 5th’s flower stand, and it was a bit more on the cuff with Miri helping out big time. Funding-wise, we basically broke even like last time, but we needed a bit more of a push since the suggested donation is lower this time around, and everything cost more. No pin badges… Again, I cannot thank y’all enough.

It’s a weird feeling, thinking about the live again. In a way the hype was way less than 5th, but the live itself was way better than 5th. I liked how the tap dancers, at least, came back for a nice encore performance from Sendai. It does make me want to look forward to both that and the SSA version, which is a slightly bigger presentation. There are other touches that was nice for 6th. The streams of small videos promoting the live, the goods, and now the blurays, is appreciated but not too sure if it added much. Well, they did a good job promoting that costume book at least?

I mean, they could just say it smells good and I’m sure it will sell oodles.

Set list here: day 1 and day 2.

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Anime NYC 2019: Wrap

This year, Anime NYC brought in some mad luxury guests. Kugimiya Rie probably is the headliner, after Lantis Festival 2019’s lineup of JAM Project, True, ZAQ and Guilty Kiss. In the middle there’s old man Tomino being weirder than ever, as well as the director and writer behind Code Geass the movie and Yukana. There are also fresh youngins like Itou Miku, shilling Bang Dream and Fragtime. There was a surprise visit from Tanezaki Atsumi. Ise Mariya came to the States again–I’m going to go to the same con she traveled out of Japan for this year all three time at this rate–but I missed her panel. Yuki Aoi and Okubo Rumi rounds out the industry heavy fire power with their Fate/GO promo. And that’s just the most notable ones. I got a signkai with Science Saru’s Eunyoung Choi, which was nice! The mangaka/writer duo for Dr. Stone was hard at work, location scouting the USS Enterprise earlier in the weekend. I didn’t even see TAa (well, I guess I saw that group in the hallway), or people like Vofan or Poppy. Poppy. LOL. And this is not even all the JP production or artists at the con. There were way too many guests. I’m just glad a lot of them don’t have a lot of engagement or are outside my interests.

To me this is the first half of the recipe of happiness. The other half is competently executing the “con” part. The pre-con communication, the online sales, the right autograph process, the right ticketing process, the at-con line management, et cetera. And for the most party ANYC 2019 did okay. Other than the Lantis Fest line craziness I think everything was good, but that did sour my experience.

The funny thing was by Sunday I barely had anything to do at the con. Outside of Kugyuu programming, there were not much going on. This is great! Please program your top tier seiyuu guests outside the other ones. Granted I still missed on all the Yukana programming, but that was more my fault than the con’s. The concert only was one day this year, which helped also make time for the crazy pile of programs going on saturday.

Not having to get up early and go to the con was a nice bonus. I still end up getting up pretty early all 3 days, but at least I was at the con unlike prior years, and two of the 3 days I commuted from home, not from my friend’s place which is much closer to the city.

Yes, overall, ANYC 2019 was great. It leveraged the vacuum of NYC anime con-ness and blew up big. It was run by folks who knew what they were doing, and by people who had enough vision and capability to host a large con 46k strong. I’m glad this is my local con.

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The Harvest Is Plentiful: Live Venue Valuation

Lantis Festival NYC 2019

As someone who goes to concerts once a blue moon, I have some criterias as to the quality of the venue. Here is how I ultimately judge it: if I had a good time at the venue, and if I will likely have a good time at the venue, then that venue is good. This is similar to the “tears” criteria.

That being said, every venue has god-tier seats and you can have a personal encounter with Jesus anywhere. I don’t think that ought to make every venue good; or rather, it’s for any given person at the venue, how good will their seats be.

In Japan I have a bias towards taller venues, just because stacking people vertically gives them a better sense of intimacy. That, plus short people aren’t always shafted this way. It also means more seats have acceptable views, even if in the end there are not too much of a difference of god-tier seats from venue to venue.

As I get older and are less min-maxing my experience based on cost, I also come to value amenities like ease of transportation, the amount and diversity of restaurants around the venue, and how good the seats are. This is particularly a thing I dislike about the Javitz con center in Manhattan, because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, and not very well-serviced by subway stops. In Japan I sat in some uncomfortable seats, as a fat guy in a country of skinny small people, so you really appreciate venues with nice seats.

After proximity and amenities is fidelity of the performance. To explain, every live show should come off as exactly what you think it should. For a band in a live house, it’s literally that musical performance in which you engage with the group on stage. For a typical band (in anisong terms, say, fhana), it means you have to engage with the act on stage through its performance, and that means via the sound and what the band is doing on stage (largely, making said sound). For a “karaoke-style show” which is most idol-character content, it’s the way the CVs on stage dancing and bringing their characters to life (which is also largely about the sound, but not as much). For a flashy light-and-sound show, it could be also about (what I call) the production value: lights, on-stage displays, fireworks, whatever. I mean if Mizuki Nana wants to do her song on top of a whale, more power to her.

These things are not really related to the venue, but the venue can add or subtract from the fidelity of the experience. If you are all the way in the back of a flat arena (or outdoor field), and you are living up the show through the screen near you, that is taking away from the experience. You might still experience the full thing, but it won’t be as good as if you were close enough to not have to use the screen. This is just one example. Generally, this is often related to intimacy, but some venues that are small can still have really irritating aspects that knocks your experience back via poor sound stage, blind spots (usually due to support pillars), weird acoustics or what not. At the same time, some venues can boost this if they sound really good, or have unique features (like using the roof of a dome as a laser show display).

So my calculation goes as such: what are the odds of me, entering this pre-sale lottery, will be able to buy tickets that give me an assigned seat that doesn’t suck? To use my last concert for example, which was in Tokyo Dome, you can bet that far majority of seats are not going to be great, just because it has a large capacity. But how many seats are still acceptable-to-good? If this is a large value, that means this venue is on the way to being a good venue.

(And as an aside, what is a good seat in a huge venue? The performance and performers move all around. If you are in A block Arena, you might get a close view often, but it becomes no better than, say, F block Arena if the performers go to the center stage. Maybe worse because they’re not even facing you. Well, that is the kind of thing that factors into the calculation. And yes, it vary from the type of show as well, if I haven’t made that clue obvious yet.)

What makes Tokyo Dome, in my opinion, a decent dome venue, is that it has fairly modern seats, especially towards the home plate area. It is also a very vertically-structured ballpark (like a lot of modern ballparks), so even up in tier 2 or 3 you get the feeling of proximity to the action. This, on top of its prime-time location and amenities nearby, makes it a good venue. It also helps a lot that it is temperature-controlled! I had G block Arena seat for a day and I was able to see okay from the venue, and that is the back-most Arena block. I need to use the screen, sure, but it was not terrible.

  • Proximity: 6/10 – It’s a bigass baseball stadium, but fairly close even on upper levels
  • Amenity: 8/10 – Convenient, centrally located, modern
  • Fidelity: 7/10 – Better sound than average venue of this size. Flexible production.
  • Odds of getting an OK seat (OOGAOS, or OogaOs, or Oog@Os) – Fair

Let me rank the other venues from my eventing trips this year as a sample.

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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.
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Otakuthon 2019: Wrap – OTAKUSON

When the word dropped for Otakuthon this year with its concert lineup, I decided to go despite the somewhat more fitting lineup out at the usual Anirevo event. Otakuthon, in Montreal, is a cool city to visit because it’s as European as it gets in North America, and frankly it’s not that far from me.

I was able to carpool with 3 other folks and split hotel with 2 others. The good exchange rate between USD and CAD helped. What didn’t was our tough schedule leaving so late, and the strong storms in upstate NYC which made driving challenging in rare spurts, both to and fro.

The tough schedule was a late arrival into Montreal and getting up early to move my car, and to work remotely for the rest of the day. I did sneak out of the room to get an autograph from the lovely Marina Inoue, who played a role of Japanese CV here to see her fans and dispense answers to questions. She took on a pretty strong persona and it felt a bit intimidating, but she was enjoyable overall to see in person.

There were two autograph sessions and a panel and it was fun as you would expect. I missed part of the panel due to another autograph session with Rica Matsumoto, but overall it was pretty educational.

For Matsumoto, I was only able to see her at the autograph session on Saturday. Frankly the con didn’t do a good job keeping her events on time. The lineup and the handling of the guest didn’t sync up in terms of info, and I see how the line control struggle to implement whatever they were doing from the industry group that brought over the guest.

JRock North did what they could for TMR, Matsumoto and Faky, another Avex Trax idol group. Unlike Wa-suta, Faky has a lot of international appeal with 3 multilingual performers. One of the even speaks French fluently and that won her tons of brownie points in Montreal. You can look them up here. The group recently just had a member change so 2 out of 5 were finally getting a song that’s coming out just now? Well.

Here are some Youtube teasers for their new single, which they performed at the con: Akina (From California), Hina (New member from Kyoto), and Taki (New member from Tokyo, speaks Fr/En/JP). I guess the rest will come up shortly…

Somehow Otakuthon also scheduled all their Japanese guests on top of each other. I wasn’t able to do much else besides get 2 autographs and catch part of the panel for Marina. I didn’t see Faky’s panel, nor Matsumoto’s panel, nor TMR’s panel… And also there was Miyavi’s stuff by Fake Star and I didn’t participate at all in any of it.

Oh yeah, TMR was great. His abridged set is collaboration with another Nishikawa brand, TNNK. So it was TMR x TNNK. TNNK is mostly just his later output from Thunderbolt Fantasy and the like, and it was great since I dig those songs a lot. I had a good spot for the live too, thanks to premium badge.

Otakuthon this year had a $200 CAD premium badge. The concerts were 20 or 30 each. I went to two. So I am still spending $95 or so on top. I also got some perks from going to the TMR concert, like a poster watashikai/handshake. Well, I’m more here for the luls and to enjoy the show, so it was not a big deal. The badge helped me get a front-ish seat without having to camp much, so I think value-wise it was a push. If I wanted to I probably could have gone to another concert on Saturday if things were less CF than it was.

What else did I do? I got an autograph from Irie, which I will have to frame somewhere. Takkyu Musume is great stuff. There was fooling around with the locals at night. I mixed some drinks and sang some karaoke, while trying to buy Million 6th SSA tickets.

Overall Otakuthon was fun, laid back, and I approached it kind of small. Part of it was that I also worked for much of Friday so not much was getting done. Montreal is a fun and enjoyable city.

PS. I drove to the city, and dealt with the EV infrastructure. It was educational. Montreal uses its Electrify system and FLO, which is largely interoperable. The parking situation in downtown is kind of bad, but I still only paid less than 50 CAD for the weekend. There are some street-side chargers which are level 2, and the Indigo deck under the con also has level 2 chargers.

I also rode on a Lime scooter, which went live in Montreal just a couple weeks ago. It was fine. I was going somewhere out of Downtown but since I couldn’t park in that area I ended up walking half of the way.

PPS. La Banquise was dinner on Friday, Reuben’s Deli was dinner on Saturday. On the way up we stopped in Queensbury NY at a local diner, and on the way down we stopped at Albany for Five Guys (even if we had only 4 Guys). Aforementioned scooter ride was to get some bagels at St. Viateur to bring home. There was a huge parade on Sunday downtown which obstructed traffic but celebrated LGBT rights, a push in my book, so I had to uber, ride, and walk to get those bagels.

Also, I finally got to have some orange julep. It’s a Montreal specialty that probably most closely resemble SunnyD but more like actual juice. The recipe is really more just orange juice with flavoring extract and egg whites.