Category Archives: Conventions and Concerts

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.

“Wotagei 101”-type Panel Thoughts

Since someone asked about this and I have definitely thoughts on this over the years, it’s time to write them down. Basically, a dance cover group out in DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) called μnite hosted panels at Otakon this year and last year to teach people the wotagei thing. Or the idol thing, I guess. I was asked by some guy to provide some feedback. So here it is.

The context doesn’t matter that much–I guess it’s an anime con in the US/Canada, and a panel at said con. So we are talking about pretty low stakes to start. And that it’s out here US East Coast.

These are extremely low stakes. Like I’ve rarely seen better jizos. And that is okay.

I’ve spilled some ink on the topic very generally, but in redux, basically, there are layers.

  1. Common sense layer: don’t be a dick, don’t be obnoxious/KY, obey the rules (to the degree that it follows common sense).
  2. Wota layer: do the calls, do the right colors (if any), do the right team coordination, wotagei responsibly
  3. “It’s art” layer: do what enhances the show for yourself, for the artist, and for everyone.

We can wax poetry for the 3rd layer all day long, so I won’t here. But we could, over drinks.

If we assume a panel at a con with a title “Wotagei 101” is mainly about education, then I am assuming we should be presenting information about layers 1 and 2.

And layer 1 is really a thing that should not need to be taught, at least in this format. It’s maturity and life experience. Go to events, see for yourself. It can be any live shows or similar events. And sure, Japanese idol events are not the same as, say, a free concert in Bryant Park during a summer night, or a Babymetal concert–actually that one is kind of the same! So maybe, yeah, go see Baby.

(Joke aside, metal is a great gateway to eventing. It sets the “average” high bar–things can always be more crazy but on average metal shows are more crazy than non-metal shows. At least in the States. There are nutsos in Japan as much as any other country but the average is well below the States I think. It’s more like, there is an initiation, a learning curve, in which kids get their tigers out of their system after a while. If you do a lot of headbanging I guess it accelerates the process.)

OK really joke aside, after a certain amount of life experience I expect most people to get for layer 1. The complication with layer 1 is when you get into the weeds, there will be differences between a con concert, an AX con concert, a Japanese anime-content-style concert, an underground idol show in Japan, and all kinds of different shows where different protocols are needed. The best example I can give is attending a similar panel at Anime Next this year the panelists pointed out even when you wave lights at a Japanese live for anime content, you don’t go all out and extend your arm, you do it so you your arms/stick don’t block the view for people behind you. People do not fully extend at certain types of shows. This is kind of a big deal that people rarely ever talk about. Even if it’s kind of a “layer 1” sort of thing.

Then there’s the other kind of knowledge I have liberally spelled out in this post–there are different kind of concerts in which different rules apply, but also some same rules apply too. How does one know what to do at an Aqours concert versus an idol concert? I mean most people at Otakon probably don’t know the difference. And does it even matter?

These are the kind of knowledge that forms the first steps to go from layer 1 to layer 2, and I wish more panels covered this.

But that’s not even the truly important kind of knowledge for layer 2–which is what to do when the song comes on, for the person in that particular time and space at that event.

We really should be teaching this. Maybe people learn it when we do Days of Dash or Rising Hope, but there’s a lot more to it. I think there is room for a panel just teaching people anikura moves. But that isn’t even it.

Before anikura you need to learn non-anikura, which is the standards: The calls and moves for the anisongs if they were performed at a proper venue by the right people. Then that is the real platform where wota can jump off into the deep end.

I talked to some folks about this and I feel we could do a lot better to address the knowledge aspect of all this. From attending, say, the Fakku sponsored MOGRA events, and other anikura stuff, my feeling on the matter is that people are hype and a lot of people actually know the music. But people don’t know what to do when the song comes on.

So it could be the ankura-style stuff or the normal wota stuff (which becomes more background and less crazy during anikura if people were doing wotagei or foolish anikura wazas, and less intimidating). People need that association.

Maybe what a future panel could do is go over the actual moves and cut the rest. Like, spend 5 minutes doing the very basic (could be a tutorial video). Then we would do each song’s “special part” like twice, once demo and once with everyone. Or once “live” style and once “club” style.

This would equip everyone with what to do. If we can get an cover for actual anikura at an anime con late at night, so much the better.

Otakon 2019: Wrap

This was my 21th Otakon, and it was the 25th Otakon. I enjoyed it, it was fun and kind of laid back.

Laid Back Camp, the new Fruits Basket, and Tensura were the three big IP being pushed at the con, guest-wise. We had director, producer, and CV Hara Sayuri for Yurucamp; CVs Iwami Manaka, Shimazaki and Furukawa for Furuba; and lastly director, character designer, and CV Kobayashi Chikahiro for Tensura. Well, those and Promare (Koyama, Wakabayashi, Imaishi). On the side we also had the usual Maruyama panel, but Nagahama also did a thing, so that was cool. Inoue Kikuko had a thing also, both a panel for her and a panel for Mix with producer Suwa. Well, I wish I could have gone to all those.

I went to see the music producer Wada Kaoru, who has produced a ton of anime soundtracks over the years. Only got him to sign Princess Tutu though… I also wish I could have gone to his panel. I might be beholden to my past as an anime OST kind of guy but I am innately interested in this stuff…

It also feels like this Otakon had a lot of conflicts for JP guests, it was conflict-town all weekend. I don’t know why but it felt like by committing to getting Yurucamp signs I missed out on everything else. On the side, I was able to score autographs by industry purchases (Funimation’s lol twitter thing aside), and just hitting Wada Kaoru’s line is e-z mode. It was a nice haul in that sense because I even got a couple light sketches, without doing a lot of work.

Guest-wise, Otakon always hits my spots when it comes to non-seiyuu, but this year it wasn’t off the mark either on seiyuu, making the situation sort of annoying. But somehow it felt completely opposite of how Acen was.

Music-wise, there were 4 things going on at the con, practically–Nano, Diana Garnet, the Nujabes tribute group, and Bradios. I caught the latter half of Bradio’s set and they were great. I wish more bands like them gets US booking. I missed out on the Nujabes tribute concert despite buying a priority ticket, because I kind of had too much food and am tired? LOL. Should’ve went. In retrospect, it felt like the scheduling of Bradios concert could have been a lot better.

Sunday’s usual concert slot went to Nano and Garnet. Garnet was better this year than last year. She did that medley stuff but her original songs are alright. The tie-in with Dragon Marked for Death is actually great, so maybe she can do that one more at more shows. Feels like she’s destined for Otakon though, just in terms of who would pay for her to come and do stuff… I guess on some level she is still mostly a panda and doesn’t have that millennial appeal, even if she is talented and an overachiever in some sense.

Nano, on the other hand, brings in that usual neutral-tone, positive energy that is also as dark as her eyeliner. I don’t know how to parse her appeal but the music always do more of the talking than anything, so it is easy material to get in to. I should have brushed up on her songs before the show, but most of it were tie-ins I have watched.

I did go to her panel and that was really my first look into her as an artist. It was both informative and not really turning my light bulb on, I guess. It could have been more illuminating. As an asian-American of sorts I wonder how she feels about America.

Big reason why I was able to hang out with friends at all at this con is Hara Sayuri. The woman who plays Honda Mio has a following and I happen to know some producers? What a coincidence. I got my penlight signed but I was really on the fence on what else to get signed, so I ended up with a shikishi as my second autograph. I liked how the line for Yurucamp was literally a very laid back camp, and the line wasn’t even that long. It was just the right length (and long enough to possibly be looped actually)…

The guests with Meshiya were pretty friendly too, director Kyougoku worked on also Yama no Susume so it’s a nice drop that I did. Rest of the time they were polling us who we liked most in Yurucamp while Meshiya telling us to pick Chiaki. I yielded on day 2 and said Chikuwa.

There were both a solo Hara Sayuri panel and a Yurucamp panel. In the former Hara panel we just asked random questions, varying from Yuru Camp and IM@S and about Detective Conan. She gave a straight answer to the Detective Conan one, which was kind of like Nano’s “favorite anime and why” answer. Is she also a shotacon I have no idea.

You can really tell Hara is brimming with a certain kind of sharp energy underneath. Rather than to say she is intelligent, it is more like she is sharp. Small difference but that’s how it came across. She opened the panel saying she had a really long delay during their layover in Seattle, and they missed their original flight due to long lines at immigration. In the end they took a red eye to DC so they have not had real sleep for over 24 hours by the time the panel had started. But it made her more hyper? I guess.

I ran out half way in the second panel, dedicated to Yuru Camp, to get an autograph at the Bannam booth for Tensura. I didn’t have to do that, in hindsight, but I did anyways just in case. It was kind of a long hike to get into the dealer’s hall.

The Fruits Basket content at Otakon was great if you are into seiyuu entertainment. It was also great just in general for fans. There was a genuine “second generation” feel and Iwami Manaka is also kinda like the real deal Honda Tohru, which helped no matter if you were female-leaning or male-leaning, interest-wise.

The most amusing thing was in line for the watashikai and seeing the excited fans getting emotional after their chance with them face-to-face. It did not “happen” in the same manner for me but I enjoyed it nonetheless. These are the real jewels of JP guests that needs to be brought over, but it’s not so simple. And “enjoyed” it short I think.

I mean, for starters I think FUNi did it correctly, other than messing up the ticket distribution. Secondly I think it’s good that they took a lot of questions ahead of time, because that also seemed like a better way to do it given the style of the people on stage. It’s not a perfect method but they did it the right way.

I wasn’t able to attend any Tensura stuff. So it was just mainly Fruits and Camping. I was able to attend part of the MIX panel, and got a glimpse of Kikuko-san!

Let me wrap up by saying I had a blast at Otabrew again. It was a great way to meet some more people I normally don’t see on my normal con tracks, and good to hear what’s going on. This year the brews were real nice and I need to figure out how to get that nitro blonde stout from Modern Times Beer… The panel part was fine too, I enjoyed it.

PS. This was great. Like, Kikuko-san just walking around the con in cosplay? Maid cosplay?? LOL.

PPS. There were some tributes to Kyoani at Otakon. There was these drawing walls set up and one company was doing crane collection at the exhibit hall. I guess what I did was rep Liz merch at Eleven Arts, who also had some cheap good movies…

PPPS. Food-wise, we were pretty tame this year. I hit Yard House. We went to Otabrew without eating before that. Sunday night we had early dinner out around in NoVA at a Korean place. It had fairly authentic and fairly cheap food, which I cannot complain. It is the only photo-worthy thing probably.

I was just going to get some jjajangmyeon but well. Ended up getting both.

Anime North 2019: Wrap

I should add a huge question mark to this post, in that I YOLO’d Anime North to see Toda Megumi during Memorial Day weekend (in the States). I skipped Friday, mainly because of work reasons, but I carpooled with fellow Million Live P Moy Friday night and arrived in Toronto early Saturday. I stuck around and went home Sunday. It was a really quick sort of a deal.

Toronto has this great aspect to it for me in that it’s a well-equipped city that runs on Canadian Dollars, which currently has great rates against the USD. Road tripping again this year was fun, now that I know the routine and can just pace myself.

The con only gave Toda 2 signkai and 1 panel, so it was fortunate that I was able to catch the panel at all, and the signkai on Saturday. She was more or less what you would expect and she approached the oversea panel challenge in a fairly fun kind of way even if the crowd was pretty quiet.

I did prereg and picked up my badge pretty fast. The rain on Friday and Saturday was more annoying than any crowding, although there were a large group out and about in the parking area as per usual Anime North. Parking was quickly going by the time I got there at around 10am.

I didn’t really expect to do much at Anime North this year nor did I. The rain definitely put a damper on things. There were other exciting exigencies, which I’ll detail later.

Toda’s panel was not really eventful and now a couple months later it’s hard for me to recall much. There were some Japanese guys asking her role in New Game. That and Million Live were the bulk of it. She did end up going to the Falls and downtown Toronto, and seemed to have a good time? She also got a nice view from the CN Tower, which is a nice deja vu moment for me.

I asked her about weight training because she tweeted about it around that time, but it was mostly her training for more stamina for Fukuoka. I was kind of out of it due to lack of sleep so it was a bit more embarrassing than usual to think about to that experience.

For signkai, we talked about Meisou Mind being her favorite song, which she also mentioned during the panel. I had Makoto gear on so, lol.

The remainder of the weekend was for The World Standard, the fun Avex Trax backed idol group. Fun because, well, they’re fun. They are also in the middle of their prime years as idols, ranging ages 18-21 I think? Wasuta had a nice turn out since GTA is now a tiger’s den, but a lot of Japanese visitors also flew in. All of Wasuta’s events at the con were Saturday and Sunday, so that was nice for me, had I cared enough.

It was a crash course in learning about the group. I have only heard of them maybe a year-ish ago but before the con I looked them up on Twitter and IG. Not bad but still kind of stilted. I guess that’s what it means to be a Japanese idol this day and age.

Their live show Saturday night was fun and reminded me of WUG a little lol. Definitely some of the dance moves and the way their live videos are used are similar. I went to their panel Sunday. Really the only thing I did there, plus a signkai, on Sunday. Then it was time to bid the con farewell.

What else happened at the con? (Foregoing my usual postscript…)

  • We ate at a new steakhouse and it was great. The dessert was tops. We also “heard” game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at the steakhouse. Toronto is serious about their Raptors. “Heard” because it was a really loud crowd.
  • On the way to GTA I realized about 4 and half hours in that I left my passport home. Well, we ended up getting into Canada anyways because I had my Global Entry card. The thing does not substitute for a passport, but at discretion of the Canadian officer they could let you in. The main thing is, you can re-enter the States with it. If I was denied entry I at least can drop off Moy so he can mass transit into Canada, so we got to the border earlier than planned. As a result of this we ended up with less sleep than initially planned Friday night into Saturday, and we ended up stopping at a charger somewhere south of Toronto to have breakfast and kill some time. I didn’t even get to eat that complimentary breakfast at the hotel in Syracuse…
  • We stopped at around Niagara-on-the-lakes to buy booze to bring back to the States, on the way home. With just Wasuta, we got lots of time going home.
  • We also stopped to eat some pickled pizza in Syracuse.
  • Saturday was a pretty straining day, so after we were done with Toda’s events, we ate at Zets and I just crashed pretty hard.
  • Wastua girls were at the con exhibition area Saturday giving out flyers to their show. Their show was pretty decently attended and probably what you would expect for a 25k+ con.
  • Some JP fans definitely came and camped for it, and I saw some signs of at least normal wota behavior.

Toronto isn’t too far from Buffalo, so I guess the wings are legit enough.

Anime Expo 2019: Wrap

I went to AX and had that very special, only-at-AX experience, then I went home. Unusual for this year, I went to AX from Japan, and invariably flew from Tokyo to LA on a plane with JP industry on it. It also meant I had to pack for Japan and LA before I left, meaning I probably omitted a few things in the process that could be useful (like more WUG stuff for repping it).

Also, my body doesn’t really know which jet lag symptom to apply so I just feel generally fatigued now. It did not help I flew back on a redeye from LAX to EWR but at least I had the faux premium economy [booking a premium economy seat on flights that has the hardware but not selling the software] experience, which is something I cannot complain, even as someone who somehow has airline status.

Nor can I really complain about any of my flights this trip, both to LA and just in general between leaving for Fukuoka and coming home. The funny thing was, I wanted to see what flying is like for the JP industry side, but I ended up getting a bump to business so I really was in a strange, strange place that doesn’t give me any stalking options. The business cabin on that UA 787-9 was the older style which proved to be spacious if not very private, but I can’t complain about that. Oddly it probably served the most expensive meal I had all trip until I blew it open at M-Grill.

As usual AX is about eating, so let me get that out of the way first. We went to a Hakata-style yakiniku place one night (Aqours Earthquake night) and it was great, because after the grilling we also had motsunabe. I don’t mind it after eating it twice in Fukuoka. It is my kind of food.

The M-Grill trip was great too because we got a ton of pineapples, plus the meats were great as usual. Again, the MVPs have to be that, the chicken heart, and the ribeye.

I also had the privilege to attend the “dimsum panel” at a Shanghainese place, as well as some home cooking for homesick Chinese expats who were doing the AX thing without going to AX. Giant vat of slow-cooked chicken soup? It felt more China than any con.

Other than the earthquake, which I won’t go into detail here, the other relevant thing was that Yard House lost power that same evening. Great if you just got brews right before, not so much if you haven’t gotten anything. or had to wait until the power comes back to pay. They had to shut the place down and evac because the grills all had to shut down as there was no ventilation.

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