Category Archives: Conventions and Concerts

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.

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Asakura Momo First Solo Live: Day 1 Report

Asakura Momo, the arguable “center” of Trysail, had her first solo live (1 and 2 out of 4) on Saturday/Sunday, October 20-21, 2018. She will do a series of 4 lives, called LAWSON presents 麻倉もも Fantasic Live 2018 “Peachy!”, on 10/20-21, and then 11/10-11. All shows are schedule to take place at Maihama Amphitheater just outside of Tokyo proper (it’s Chiba!), which is just by the Disney resort complex in Maihama. She goes by the nickname Mocho. I attended the first of the showing so here goes writing it up…

It helps me to center the experience by explaining a bit about my history with Mocho, and her background as well. On one of my very early eventing trips to Japan back in 2014, I saw her, for the first time, at a stage greeting (for the IDOLM@STER movie) and I was smitten ever since. She was an unknown quality to me at the time. It was really her attitude that got me–someone who is a straight-backed go-getter in the most child-like, natural kind of way. She was still just 19, and was spending her second winter in Tokyo. There’s this twisted sense of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington crossed with Beverly Hillbillies crossed with just good fashion orthogonal thinking. She generally held on to the simple stuff, but it works for her and not most other people in the same disposition, at least in my opinion. Okay, I gave her Fukuoka countryside upbringing a lot of credit, but in reality she is the best kind of airhead, the D&D character sheet of 18 WIS but 7 INT, or at least as close to that you’re going to get in the entertainment industry.

In terms of looks, Mocho is actually rather blessed with her Kirby-esqe style going on, and I mean that in the most positive and flattering way possible. Back when she was really holding her weight (in the winter time) she had these adorable cheeks, which now has been largely tamed. It all makes sense to her fans because she’s the kind of person who gains weight in the winter and loses it in the summer, fairly visibly, and this past summer she did a photo book in Guam (comes out this week), showing off some actual chops in the process. We know how that goes in this industry, even for a seiyuu. But the fact that she’s got the curves (as Kirby does), there’s a lot of Mocho to feast your eyes on, for a seiyuu anyways.

Asakura Momo the seiyuu is part of the trio that marks the second “class” of the Music Ray’n seiyuu agency (Muray for short). This SME-attached, seiyuu-idol management produced the four talents of Sphere for Muray’s inaugural class. Muray has actually moved on officially to the third class with the Music Ray’n 3rd audition last year, but this means the Trysail ladies now have even more solo opportunities as the second Muray class move into the next stage of their development as idol seiyuu talents.

The second class hasn’t been in a whole lot of massively popular shows (when’s the next K-ON guys), so it might be a little hard to hear them if you don’t look for them. Mocho is probably best known from her role in IDOLM@STER Million Live as Hakozaki Serika, but westerners probably would have heard her sing in the Witch Craft Works ending as well as some oddish roles like Sumi from Sakura Trick, Yuka from Pripri Chii-chan, or Ayumi from Charlotte (as we’d call it, Imocho #1). She was the lead role in the first Honeyworks film, and will play Iroha in the upcoming Magireco anime (and of course she’s in the game too, being the equivalent of FGO’s Mash in that).

For those of us following Mocho a little closer, we know Mocho is a big fan of showa idols and shoujo manga. Partly influenced by her family, she is really into Matsuda Seiko, the famed mainstream idol who is a fixture in the Japanese entertainment industry since the 80s. Given how Muray always let their talents drive their solo artist styles, it is little surprise that Mocho first live, and building largely on her first solo album, evokes a strong sense of showa idol-dom, with songs that have a more positive and modern vibe than your standard love ballads and pop tunes.

Speaking of all of that though, while Asakura Momo the anisong seiyuu artist has been releasing singles the past few years, everything seemed to lead up to this October where she releases a single in late August, full album (first, called Peachy) in early October, and photobook in October just after the first 2 shows of her first solo live. It’s planned-out marketing I guess, but it makes things challenging for fans to ramp it up all of the sudden.

Setlist:

Just going to walk things in chronological order based on what happened.

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Reviews of North American Cons, 2018 Summer

Going to do some personal reviews of North American anime cons, obviously only from my point of view:

  • NY-region based – defines what is local (Northeast US, East Canada), what is expensive (flight-wise), and what I think is expensive (not a lot)
  • 20+ years going to anime cons in the US and Canada. And nowadays flying to Asia for events but anyways…
  • Mainly for JP guests – Is Learn2Offkai still a thing?
  • Not that poor anymore? lol – Time is arguably more valuable to me than money.
  • Some cons I have not been in recent years. I’m limiting this list to only cons I’ve attended in the past 5 years.

Goal is to be concise and easy to compare, largely as pros/cons listed. Why? Because cons lend themselves to long-form write-ups as I’ve done on this blog thus far, but I want to change the framing to see what yields from this exercise with short form writing. I’m breaking general estimate on “JP guest count” by “few, some, quite a few, a lot” in incremental amounts.

Notes: I break out cons by small (<10k), medium (10-20k) and large (20k+). Just about all anime cons are < 35k in the US and Canada. Anime Expo is the one exception at over 120k in 2018. (Fanime may be the other exception…) I generally only go to larger cons because of the guest issue–hard for small cons to bring guests, except the very dedicated ones… Anyways.

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Anisama – Animelo Summer Live 2018

It’s not an anime con, but it can feel like one. To me Anisama is a music festival but also kind of like a Japanese festival where people come and hype it up to have a good time. Anyways, thoughts and such ahead.

What dominated my thoughts 12 hours after Anisama day 3 ended and taking this photo were:

It was HOT. Like, the weather. I was talking to some friends while waiting for other friends before going into the venue (~3pm) Sunday afternoon. It was hot all weekend but Sunday was the hottest. Just take a look. There were 2 days in July and 1 day in August that had a higher high temp, during this heat wave. Saturday was hot too, at 95F (an undetectable difference compared to 97F that was Sunday). I didn’t land in Japan until Friday night so I had no comment on Friday’s weather, but the high temperature coupled with the usual high humidity in Saitama meant life was pretty hellish if you were under the sun. As someone pulling a weekender from the comparatively mild NYC weather, the hot weather had a visible impact on my enjoyment of Anisama this year.

I did buppan on Saturday. I was “taking it easy” in that I got to the line at around 7:45, but I already have sweated out about a liter of fluids by then. That was pretty crazy, and it was not just me–everyone in line was in some form of hazard management mode. There was one big guy near me and he was just as drenched as I was. When the sun came out it got tormentingly hot, as a good chunk of the lineup was not in the shade. At some point I did get used to it, but it was draining my energy just by being under the sun, even when I was doing nothing. I had to deal with this until ~3pm, when I went into the venue. And that made day 2 a real chore.

Imagine if you were going nuts at Keiyaki Hiroba because oshijumping at 97F weather really means you like your oshi? I don’t know, maybe that is why things were not as crazy this year compared to last year? LOL. I was talking to Rop about this during the aforementioned Sunday afternoon wait, and we talked about how Animax Musix had proper anikura and I was like, LOL people are gonna die if you do Anikura at Anisama, because this weather is deathly. Shortly after he spotted a guy who has succumbed to heat stroke and had to be taken out of the Keiyaki Hiroba on stretchers. It was bad.

This was a huge contrast to my buppan experience last year in 2017, where a balmy 80F temp with 100% cloud cover meant actually good nap weather. Yeah it was still 80+% humidity, but it did not threatened kill anyone. I got to hang out with Ken P last Sunday, in contrast of this Sunday where he bolted from Station to Inside the Arena because it was hot as all heck, LOL.

The usual eventer oshi whine always come up. Last year’s Anisama was the exception than the norm–it was epic and really freaking great. This year was more of your standard Anisama with the usual hits and misses. For people like me who appreciate anisong in general, it was still an overwhelmingly good time. But if you were at Anisama mainly for a group or two (or even five or six), there will be a bunch of misses you gonna sit through. Even for me, day three’s farewell to Milky Holmes were mostly a miss, although I liked the songs they did and the way they went about giving them the farewell treatment. Yeah, if that rubs you the wrong way (and it does–given how I am into WUG and they too, had a farewell thing), it doesn’t always leave you with a good taste in the mouth as you go home from the venue.

But that’s not the point of events like Anisama. Actually, for the discerning people, you would even realize the Big Three anisong fests in Japan–Anisama, Animax Musix, Lisani–all have their own niches and approaches. I would legit enjoy going to them as their own things and to enjoy their signature strengths. Of course the issue is more that we all have limited time and money and energy and attention span, so we can’t go to all of them. Some of the artists who perform at anisama do a much better job during their one-man lives than as a fest-style performance. The venue sometimes don’t cooperate. The stage presence of some of these artists are completely different in a live house versus at a big arena. The list go on. So yeah, pick and choose what works for you, but realize just because you see so-and-so at Anisama, it might not mean you’ve really seen that artist.

The same can be said of those who go to Anisama for certain artists only–you’re not getting why Anisama exists in the first place. Or why people move to tears to see The MONSTERS jam to Snow Halation. Or many other things that makes me go to Anisama, actually. Anyways, that might be a topic for its own post.

Is Anisama the place to be? I don’t know. Of all the “places to be” in Japan for general western weeaboo-dom, like Comiket or Wonfes or Cosplay Summit or Chokaigi or TGS or whatever, Anisama never gets talked up as one of them. This is the change I want to see. For the longest time Anisama is probably the most directly related thing to anime otaku fandom outside of actually celebrating it in the comiket style or via cosplay. But those expressions of fandom have long since came into their own. Anisong, on the other hand, is still a classic, top-down, pro-to-consumer style cultural distribution and export. Without the marketing there is not much of a scene, and much of the western scene involves importing the marketing (besides, of course, importing the music–which is also becoming marketing itself more often than ever). Unlike video games, anisong is this unknown and not-thought-of category outside of Japan. I guess it’s also a precious thing inside of Japan, which is partly why Anisama exists to begin with.

Because ultimately this is a new genre of a thing. It’s not like we can do anime conventions with just music, like how you can do a show with just a dealer’s room or artist alley or just cosplay meets. Anisama actually fills this gap in its 2018 rendition. Maybe this is why I (and some others) feel the need to import anikura to the west, because it also fills a similar gap.

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Otakon 2018: Wrap

Otakon came and went. This year it was a “miss” for me guest-wise so I spent a lot of time chilling. This is also the first Otakon in a very long time in which I did not get into the con area until Friday morning, breaking some kind of a streak. Turns out the con was so chill I just went to hang with a friend in the area the night before, so there you have it.

Despite DC being farther than Baltimore, it was easier for me to bus down and up. A ride on Megabus or OurBus or any of the many other carriers is easy. There is a Chinatown bus stop right down the street from the con too. Taxi are plenty if surge fares on Lyft or Uber got your tongue, plus it’s so close. In this way DC is already way superior than Baltimore, and I didn’t even mention the Metro, which was partly under repair that weekend.

There was also a whimper of a white supremacist rally scheduled Sunday afternoon but the counter protestors came in droves and it didn’t go anywhere. The lead up FUD (like that kek ANN drama) was IMO more damaging than the actual protests by probably a multiple, in terms of the wet blanket on the Otakon population. To me, the city of Washington DC is more dangerous than any white supremacist (circa 2018) rally, just by default. To put it into perspective, Otakon was in Baltimore all this time until 2016, and even the Inner Harbor is probably 10x more dangerous than the area surrounding the DC convention center. Otakon attendees are already a hardened bunch.

I’m also glad about the good attendance numbers. Otakon had 29k or so uniques, which is a nice bounce back. It shows that a well-run con with reasonable price scheme (lol selling single-day badges this year) will draw.

Otakon this year is just as well oiled as any other year, except I feel they are still not that organized if you want to do year-to-year comparisons. The downstairs concourse was basically completely screwed during the lead up to dealers room opening, as there is nowhere to put that line and not enough staff to police it. Swelling lines snaking along the walls choked the actual thoroughfare. Sunday morning, even, I was stuck in that passageway to the panel room areas (along with Nagai and the Bandai/FUNi folks) trying to get there on time, LOL.

Dealer’s Room supposedly had some issue with vendors unable to show for whatever the reason, but it was overall an improvement over last year (not the least without a giant leaking problem this time). The rain was a minimum.

Autographing was done somewhat differently this time, but it was clubbed with the dealer’s room which meant doing two lines if you wanted in. It has to be addressed next year because it is compounding the problem, although I don’t know what that would be like. Right now, everyone gets into the autograph area and form a single lineup, which is parsed into buffers for individual sections that lines up by the autograph tables. If the lineup exceeds the area by the tables it backs up into the main line into segments. It’s a mess.

Still, mailing badges was good. I picked up mine on site and it took 20 minutes or so from Friday morning. Getting into the con took a while Friday as well, and during peak hours both the front-of-con and the Marriott underpass can get backed up. The latter is a tad slower, but it is air conditioned.

What did I do at this con…mainly attended the two Kawamori panels, in which he goes over some ancient history and explains his approach in designing stuff and creating stories. They weren’t mind-blowing but all very interesting in beyond just an academic sort of way. I got a couple autographs from the IBO guys, and attended part of Nagai’s panel on Sunday plus the IBO panel on Saturday. I also went to the wotagei workshop friday after midnight but that was just anikura with a bit of cringe leading in. Amazingly, there was this Japanese dude there who was a passing traveler at Otakon. Knows his wotagei!

That is probably more panels than I have attended since a long time ago, which is just to say Otakon this year is a big snooze, or actually chillax enough that I can go to panels. I passed on the Final Fantasy music stuff, although I’m sure it was good. I killed some time goofing around to anikura guerrilla style on Saturday night, after Otabrew.

Otabrew was also an unusual experience, since the organizer used it to launch a manga publishing imprint/company. I guess it is very Ed to have this happen. The beers were all pretty good and conversations are fun, so is getting tipsy. This is the year of the Sours, isn’t it.

I tried to not go into the dealers or do autographs, but I ended up walking the dealers and picked up some Million Live things. Thanks Sahvin &c for bringing back the first anniversary stuff for Million Live in July. Compared to Otakuthon, which I did not plan to spend anything, I spent almost nothing at Otakon dealer’s room. I guess I bought a couple keychains and pin badges, and that was it.

What else are of note?

  • There’s a makerspace this year, which was neat
  • I did the preview screening for Release the Spyce, that was neat.
  • Our hotel room got upgraded to a suite in the Washington tower. It had a walk-in closet lol.
  • Breakfast was business as usual, but we didn’t go to the lobby restaurant this time.

PS. Eat-wise, we hit up a Cajun place a short way across from the Marriott Marquis, across the square. It was restaurant week a weekend earlier there, so we used their promo menu. It was very good. Friday I also went to have small plates at a modern Greek place, supposedly kind of famous, that was just blocks south. Both very Instagram-worthy and the price was reasonable (for a Manhattan kind of person). Beats Fogo I think. After LA’s M-Grill I’m not sure I’ll be in the mood for Brazilian cuisine for a time anyways.

Looking at the photos, only the glazed roast duck over dirty rice is worth posting here…