Okay, so I’ve been kind of slacking when writing about my experiences at at Anime Expo 2009. But once you read this you’ll understand why. I have never been so emotionally & physically drained from a convention ever. But enough of my bitching, on with the show.
Concert day. WARNING VERY LONG POST COMING UP.
I woke up late for my appointment at the Westin Bonaventure & made a mad rush to get ready & get there on time. I even overpaid a cab driver just so I could get there. I saw members of the JPH!P crew sitting outside & eventually the rest of them pulled up in a shuttle car. We rolled into the lobby & joined up with everyone else.
I was given a ticket that was for a meet & greet with the guests of honor. I was pretty much like “what?” & was stunned at what I had fallen into. As we followed all the other ticket holders to the reception room I looked behind me & saw the guests of honor behind us. One group of them being Morning Musume. We watched them walk by us in awe. I tried to take a picture but of course I ended up with a blurry mess instead of nice shot.
Once the GOH’s were in place the law was laid down. No pictures or video, just sit down & chill with the guests for a while. There was a 15 minute time limit to speak to each guest, after which time we all rotate to the next table. Of course everyone was strategizing to get to Morning Musume. It was like a game of chess. The group I was with ended up at the table for Takashi Okazaki who is the creator of the Afro Samurai. I didn’t have a lot of questions for him but decided to go with the flow & see if I could think of something. All the while catching glimpses of MM. I could see Lin Lin, Aika, Ai & Eri from where I was sitting. When I returned to reality someone else (more knowledgeable about this man’s work than I) started the Q&A.
I asked my question by the end of the session. I wanted to know if he thought Afro Samurai would translate well into a live action movie. He referenced old Japanese Samurai movies and similar movies from the 60’s. He believed that Afro Samurai if translated to live action would be similar to those kinds of films. Nice. 15 minutes ended and another move. This time to the table of Kari Wahlgren who is a famous voice actor who has done anime such as Samurai Champloo (Fuu) and Witch Hunter Robin (Robin). She was quite awesome. She first asked why we were all wearing the same shirts. (JPH!P’s AX T-Shirt) That was explained & then she asked where we were all from. One from our table (Sev) was from Sweden & she focused on him for awhile because she also happened to be of Swedish descent.
When she was done conversing with her fellow Swede she went around the table again. There was one Japanese, a couple of Americans and of course myself & another fellow Canadian (Daigong). The conversation turned to hockey where we talked about The Oilers vs. The Flames & how the L.A. kings could suck less in the next few years.
She also asked about the JPH!P shirts and a sort of business card exchange happened after that. The 15 minutes went by like nothing. She was really cool and inviting and there were no gaps in the conversation. It felt like having brunch with an old friend in a way, well that’s how I kind of saw it anyway. Great stuff. I was also catching glimpses of MM during this sit down as well. From my point of view I could see Gaki, Sayu & Koha fairly clearly.
Again the mad dash for the Momosu table took place & we were moved back to a table where Satoshi Nishimura and Atsushi Nishigori were sitting. This was one of the more interesting sit downs as the 2 had great chemistry & basically spent a lot of time making fun of each other while answering questions from people at the table. It was really entertaining. There were a couple of hardcore fans with me at this one & they were asking many questions about Trigun and character design and things of that nature. I asked nothing but found these 2 guys to be hilarious because they played so well off each other. This was another 15 minutes that went by fast.
Another sprint closer to Momosu, this time landing at the table of Seiji Mizushima who is the director of Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Next to him was this very attractive young translator who was really easy on the eyes. Beside them were Yosuke Kuroda and Yun Kouga and a younger male translator. I had my back turned to the MM table on this one so I couldn’t steal any quick glances away without being extremely obvious. Mr. Mizushima was aware of what were all doing at his table as he didn’t really want to talk about his own stuff but about Morning Musume. Surprising, but it was explained that he is actually a huge fan of Momosu & that he would even be attending the concert later in the day.
He noticed that we were all wearing the same shirt & wanted to know if he could buy one. Daigong gave him a business card & said it was on the house if he would remind them of who was ordering a shirt. That was like the 2nd or 3rd shirt that was pimped out during the breakfast. Impressive. To be honest the JPH!P shirts do look much better than the official concert shirts. I think it would be really nice to have those cool fan club type shirts if there is a next time for this kind of thing. Just saying.
Anyway, he went around the table asking who our favorite musume’s are. I thought he meant currently so I said Takahashi & Koharu which got a big reaction from Ms. Kouga as she was a Koha fan too. Whoo! As we were chatting Morning Musume got up to rehearse for their concert. Well damn… There went that. They waved goodbye & the entire room waved back to them. Surreal. After that the jovial mood in the room went away & the chat at our table actually went back on topic with questions about Gundam & such. It was a good Q&A as Mr. Mizushima was amusing & knew that we wanted to talk to Morning Musume. He rolled with it fairly well since he too probably wanted to move tables with us.
The 15 minutes ended & the H!psters gathered around the Morning Musume table. Some of us disappointed by missing our chance. Others happy that they got to talk to them for a little while. I being part of the former group took a seat at the table. I ended up sitting where Aika was. We talked to the other members about their discussions with Momosu for the next 15 minutes. Cool stuff happened for sure. At the end we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the chairs, or us with the chairs or anything like what we were able to do at Sakura-con. So no humping of chairs this time around. Oh well, at least we tried. I did hear that someone presented Mr. Mizushima with Reina’s chair & he was very happy about it.
After that I met up with Rick & he said he had a seat saved for me at the Momosu table. I was cockblocked by someone & couldn’t make it was my reply. Oh well, at least I got to breathe the same air as them & stare at them from afar.
We left the room & met with Paul & his friends. Paul & I were going to try and upgrade to the designated press seats to see if they were better than our regular seats (which weren’t bad at all). We all made our way out of the Westin to the convention center. I’m not sure where Rick went but Paul’s friends went back to their hotel & we continued on to try and get our seats upgraded a little. When we arrived we were told that the seats had sold out by 8:30. That was surprising I guess. So we parted ways for the time being after.
What happened after Paul & I failed to acquire tickets was interesting. We went to the Exhibitors hall and dropped by the JapanFiles booth. I finally got to meet Dave who I had been corresponding with via e-mail & the man himself George, who is the guy who not only runs JapanFiles but also YesJapan. Both are very cool guys in person too. Somehow I ended up at the H!P merchandise booth again where I made the decision to give UFA all my money by buying the entire set of Hangry & Angry dolls (minus the one that was sold out already). I won’t say how much I dropped on these items because it is quite the stupid amount, but those who were with me at the con know exactly how much they were. To put it into a simple example, the total cost of the dolls equals the total cost of my entire hotel stay. So yeah… A lot.
That purchase pretty much made me infamous with the H!P merchandising booth. The lady running the thing will surely remember me now & should there be a next time I reminded her to have my bag of swag ready when I show up at the next event. =) After that I had about 3-4 bags of just Hangry & Angry merch in my hands. Not a bad haul. I decided to drop the stuff off at my hotel because I would be damned if I were to have to carry all that into the concert. I ran into several H!psters along the way back to the Wilshire Grand & they pretty much thought I was crazy (like everyone else) for spending so much.
I could really care less what anyone thought. There are few things I will instantly drop a stupid amount of money on & these just happened to fall into that category. I’m happy & I know that I’ll have to look at my credit card statement & will laugh when I see how much I spent but whatever. It’s only money, might as well spend it something I like. I made it back to my hotel, dropped off all my bags & took a quick shower. Then back to the convention center.
Before lining up I went & got myself an energy drink. I figured I would most likely need it. After that I met up with Terrie from JPH!P who was trying to get into the line without actually being in it. She tried the old press pass trick which didn’t work at all. Instead she & I were instructed to go outside & line up. The history of line-ups at AX so far has not been good & this was no exception. I watched as the staff starting slowly filtering people in. I followed Terri who cut in line & got myself in without having to wait outside. Strange how I tend to avoid line-ups at this thing. Paul was a few people behind me, he caught up & we searched for our seats.
We ended up in row F-1 which was the first row to the left side of the stage. Not bad… Not bad at all. Looking back I could see various members of our group sitting many rows behind us so I would consider ourselves fortunate to have secured these kind of seats.
The first 2 rows in the middle were the press seats we tried to get tickets for. Those looked pretty cool but alas we were stuck. Paul went to buy glow sticks while I took in the enormity of this event. Really this has to be world changing shit for North American fans of H!P. To have the flagship group here & ready to perform was just hard to comprehend. Paul returned with a plethora of glow sticks & I put my camera & stuff in his bag so they wouldn’t fall out of my pockets during the show.
To complete the pre-show stuff I have to ask something. Who’s bright idea was it to play AC/DC while we waited? How about playing something appropriate like say… Morning Musume? You know, just an idea that it might be relevant to the occasion? Eventually videos started playing on the monitors. They were cheesy promos for Anime Expo 2009 that were more than groan inducing. Especially the ones about Little Tokyo, they were so bad. At least the background music for those things was Morning Musume which was somewhat of a plus until the song stopped. The promos kept going & going & going so much that the audience started groaning when another one started.
The awful promos were thankfully stopped & the show started around 14:15 and the concert was a go. The crowd went nuts as Morning Musume came out, just like one of the Japanese concerts. Glow sticks in the air, yelling, screaming, and all that good stuff. There they were in front of us performing their first mainland U.S. show. “Holy shit” is all I could think of in my head. It was so awesome to see them there & I was thankful for first row ticket. I was taking in every moment & not even looking at the monitor in front of me. Why look at that when I can seem them just fine out front? It was so fun to wave the glow sticks in the air & do all the chants. Neither Paul nor I were experts in all the chants & wotagei moves but we did our best to keep up with the Japanese fans behind us.
I loved every performance. It was exactly like on the concert DVD’s. It was amazing to be able to participate in such an event. The most exceptional performances for me were How Do You Like Japan? (that track was a great choice to put in the first set) Resonant Blue (just kick ass all around), The Medley of old school Musume (I Wish & Happy Summer Wedding were in that set. Woot! Woot!) and Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Sasenai Darou? (That Lin Lin sure has a hell of a set of pipes & it was awesome to hear that song live. There was a pre-song anti-global warming promo done by Ai-chan completely in English. She sounds hot in Japanese & even hotter in English.)
I don’t know what to say really. It’s hard to describe the kind of energy & positive vibes you get when you’re at a Morning Musume concert. Being in the crowd for one of their shows is a hell of a work out. All that glow stick waving & jumping up & down & stuff is crazy. Not to mention the chanting that if done properly will wreck your voice for a while. I have to say that this show has made up for the lack of securing an interview & the debacle that was the 1st autograph session. I mean that’s why I flew all the way from Canada & it’s been worth every single penny I’ve spent. So thank you to UFA, JapanFiles & AX for putting this together for all the North American fans. I hope that we all made a good impression that will allow for more UFA acts to come across the pond every once in a while.
Now that I’ve gone & praised everyone I do have some small observations that might be taken as complaints but I don’t think they are. During the show I would take glances at the press folk in the primo seats to see what their reaction to the awesomeness around them was. All they did was sit on their hands the entire show. I don’t know if they were just stunned or what? Were they expecting the rest of us to just be sitting there quietly & slow clapping after every song? I’m guessing that some of them obviously did not do their homework or just wanted to scribble in their notepad the entire time. Hell there’s plenty of time to do that after but I guess some people have to be stiffs.
Speaking of stiffs. I think Paul & I were sitting on the less fun side of the front row. We along with the Japanese fans around us were the only ones who actually appeared to be having fun. Whereas the entire right side of the stage were setting an example of how to have fun at an H!P show. We did our best to represent & school all the people on our side though. I mean Koharu kept waving at us & slapping her ass afterwards & we got some waves from Mittsi & Sayu as well. So I think we did a damn good job in that respect.
I think besides the crappy press people we were sitting around a bunch of noobs. The noobs I can excuse as they probably have no clue what’s going on. Press? Well I always expect them to be better researched so they have no excuse. It took me a couple of months to figure out the entire Hello! Project structure. Doing a small bit of research on a 9 girl group should be a piece of cake compared to writing up the entire label. Yeah, I’ll end my rant here. Sorry.
Um.. What else? I did find the 3,2,1 Breaking Out OPV contest winner announcement during the show kind of odd. Athough it was awesome to see Yossy & my hero (& yours) Tsunku up on stage. It did take some of the energy out of the room but it was fun watching Mornining Musume essentially watch themselves on the screen. Like I was going to watch the actual videos. I could do that anytime. Anyway, it looked like Risa was having the most fun watching the videos followed by Jun Jun who perked up once the mention of a Chinese winner was announced. I think that maybe another 10-15 minutes of actual concert performance would have been more appropriate as they had the crowd begging for more at that point. But that’s just my opinion.
The last item I would like to go over is that there was no encore. The lighting was set for it but I guess a tight schedule did not allow for that to happen. Which was fairly disappointing but I guess understandable. Although shouting a Japanese accented “Encore!” was kind of fun. The crowd did manage to get pretty loud about it. The deflated but still hyped up crowd slowly made their way out of the hall. The hardcore Musume fans knowing that they were part of history. For me? Well it’s the 2nd time I’ve been part of a historical event in H!P. The first being Hangry & Angry at Sakura-con. Should there be another event like this I’ll be there too writing these long, long posts about what went down after.
I’m sure many of you have probably already heard a rip of the concert somewhere. If you didn’t know that would happen you’re just not in the loop are you? =) Anyway for those who have been good people & didn’t hear that, here is the set list.
2. 3, 2, 1 Breakin’ Out
4. Shouganai Yume Oibito
5. How Do You Like This Japan?
6. Resonant Blue
– a. I WISH
– b. Happy Summer Wedding
– c. Koi no Dance Site
– d. Souda! We’re Alive
– e. The Peace!
– f. Renai Revolution 21
10. Love Machine
11. Sono Bamen de BiBiCha Ikenaijan!
13. Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Sasenai Darou?
14. 3, 2, 1 Breakin’ Out OPV Contest winners MC with HANGRY & Tsunku
15. 3, 2, 1 Breakin’ Out encore
After the concert was Hello! Party. I actually went back down to the exhibitors hall to meet Paul who had left as soon as he found out the encore was non-existent. He was in line to get a Hangry doll signed & he had all my stuff. So I kind of had to go & get it all back. At the same time I met up with the guy who dressed up in the Panda suit at the Momosu Q&A panel, Mike. Since we both got kinda screwed the first time we decided to team up & strategize about how to get a good place in line for the next autograph session on Saturday.
Paul had finished getting his Hangry doll blessed by Yossy & we were invited to a Taco Bell lunch but were then notified that the place didn’t exist. Left to fend for ourselves we joined his friends & we walked to some Mexican Grill across from the Sheraton Hotel where the party was being held. This was a total new experience for me. I had never been with people who have never eaten a burrito before. Ever. But it was all good as it was explained that in England their concept of Mexican fast food amounted to something like eating crap on a stick. Ah… Interesting indeed. I don’t see the difference. =)
After polishing off our burritos we went our separate ways to get all spiffy for the Hello! Party. I took another shower (because damn if ain’t hot in L.A & you get all sweaty fast.), emptied my pockets of all unnecessary stuff & changed jackets. After checking that I still had my hotel key I went back to the Sheraton. There were already signs outside indicating where to go so I just followed them down to a big ballroom type place where I could hear someone doing karaoke. I guess I was in the right place.
At the registration desk were Maize & Joh along with a young girl I instantly recognized as Amy from IW. On the table were stickers with the pictures of each member of Morning Musume. You had to pick one as your favorite. Tough choice considering that I had just seen their concert & I thought they all kicked ass. But since she gave my side of the room love (& did the ass slapping for us) I chose Koharu. On the sticker were 3 fields where you fill in your nickname/handle, real name (optional) and any websites or affiliations you are a part of. The first 2 were easy but the 3rd required some creative writing since I am part of many groups.
In the end my shorthand versions of stuff ended up looking kind of messy and more like doctors writing than anything else. Oh well. I went in and it was indeed people doing karaoke. I noticed that there were a lot of people already in the room for just after 10:00. I got myself a glass of water & went back out to the front desk to chill with May & Joh. We talked about the concert for a bit & that’s when I formally introduced myself to Amy. I saw some H!psters walk in & register. I saw Jabronisaur, and a few other people who after chatting for a bit learned were JFC, Sayah & Canongirl.
We took seats at the back row near the entrance & chilled. Then some old dude came by & started talking to us. He had a press badge around his neck. Not the kind I had, but the separate smaller one that said PRESS at the bottom. He said he was from USA Today & was covering this event for them. He seemed to be less than pleased about it for some reason. Slow news day for him? Fluff piece he didn’t want to write? Whatever. He asked a lot of questions about who JPH!P was & about our t-shirts.
Then he asked us about the concert & why it was such a big deal to us. So I was right, no homework done by mainstream Western media. If he had done his homework he wouldn’t even have to ask. But oh well. JFC did most of the answering with Jab & I just kind of interjecting every once in a while. We were about to go more in depth when the party started.
There was a large group of girls on the stage who said they were some sort of internet girl group who did Morning Musume covers or something like that. The USA Today guy had this strange look on his face when he heard them start their performance. Like he smelled gold & he took off to record the singing. Or at least I think that’s why he took off. Honestly I think the guy was full of shit & just didn’t want to be there & was asking us crap questions because he had nothing better to work with.
Anyway, back to the girls on stage. In the event that any of them are reading this I’ll be kind & say that I gave you guys a nice golf clap after you were done doing your thing. Um… Yeah. I don’t want to be an ass so I’ll leave it at that Then there was a short break where I went over to the area where they had set up the Ustream link so the rest of International Wota could join in on the party via live feed. That’s where I met Rocky & CKB48 from IW. I recognized Rocky right away, but not CK. It was cool to finally meet him in person.
I stuck my face in the camera and said hello to all the IW people & everyone else watching the stream. Then I ran off & sat back with the H!psters in the back row. By then a few more had joined us. I saw Rick & CKD hanging against the wall. Rick eventually joined the rest of us in the peanut gallery. Then the games began with guess the song.
This is where the name sticker came in. You were on the team of the member you picked & poor Aika & Lin Lin got the lowest numbers so their team was combined to make fair numbers. For this game & all other games after you weren’t’ forced to go up. You just volunteered to represent your team should you choose to.
As people went up to volunteer & introduced themselves we discovered we were surrounded by a large contingent from Hello! Online. Given their rather unprofessional diatribe after the press junket they were booed for a little while every time one of them came up. Back to the game, it was just listening to a 1 second clip of each song & running to the mic & taking a guess. Us in the peanut gallery were joking that someone would run off the stage in the mad rush to grab the mic.
Which didn’t happen but it was pretty close. Some of the songs were kind of hard to guess, others had some obvious intros that any self respecting H!P fan should be ashamed of not knowing. After that came trivia. Again more people volunteered to rep their favorite member & again more Hello! Online folks up on stage. There sure were a lot of them. Most of the questions went from fairly simple to somewhat difficult. The one question about what time Sayu compulsively does her Usa-chan peace each day was one I had no idea about.
After the trivia ended there was another performance from a group of dancers. I called them rhythmically challenged (which they were) although I honestly don’t remember their group name at all. But whatever, I stand by my statement. Then another 15 minute break to go out & stretch, smoke, get a drink from the bar, whatever you wanted to do basically.
Around that time the rest of the H!psters started showing up along with many other people. CFB had a stack of DVDs in his hand. There was some old dude in a plaid shirt selling stuff. I ended up buying the Mini Moni movie & Honey & Clover from him for $35. Not a bad deal considering that the Mini Moni movie itself was $39.
The room was getting real full & it looked like there was a strong response to the party. While waiting for the next game to start I took a look at the flier on the chair. I was credited for helping out under the IW section. Uh… Well that was unexpected but I was glad to do my part by pimping the party (somewhat drunkenly) on my radio show & on my web site. The next game was last line karaoke and the punishment was a silly string shower.
Big Freaky from JPH!P was one of the first people assigned to spray people with the string. It was funny watching him because he was spraying like he had an uzi in his hand. Point & spray the area & hope you hit your target. I gotta give credit to the people who went up there to sing. Some could hold a tune but most were like tone deaf American Idol contestants. But it was still fun to watch.
After that was the dangle game which I didn’t really pay attention to. I was too busy talking to a few peeps that I last saw in Seattle. It was good to see everyone I was hanging with there & to catch up with them. I think I ended up going back inside to the games around the drawing game but kind of lost interest & went to bug the wotachat people watching the party instead.
The end of the drawing game concluded that portion of the party. An improv wotagei session broke out which was hella interesting to watch. People from different forums, groups or whatever, coming together for a common good. H!P.
After the bit of wotagei was done it was karoke time. Many people signed up to sing & some were good & some were not so good. I floated in and out of the room chatting it up with my fellow IW people or going back into the main room to talk to other folks.
During this time I ended up talking to Dave from JapanFiles. He gave me a brief explanation of why the press people were sitting on their hands. They apparently had no idea how to react to the show. Seeing people with glow sticks, jumping up & down & chanting & stuff must have just been a sensory overload. That made sense I guess. Still I (& most likely Paul) wanted their seats. =)
I stuck around until the karaoke ended at which time I went back to my hotel to try & get some sleep before camping out for my autograph. Before I went to bed I took a few pics of the stuff I acquired over the day. That’s it for now. Next post is all about the 2nd autograph session.