Hullo everyone! Pointblanket here: long-time Anime Instrumentality lurker and first-time contributor. I’ll be sharing my impressions of the recent performance of up-and-coming anime rock cover band, Ani-On Live!, who played a series of shows during Anime Expo this year.
For those who are unfamiliar, this Boston-based group is led by the emphatic producer, Shota Nakama (of Video Game Orchestra), who also plays guitar and keyboard for the band. The other members normally include Maho Azuma and Luis Rivera on vocals, Masato Ito on lead guitar, Louis Ochoa on Bass, and Takuma Anzai on Drums. Ochoa and Takuma were unable to attend the shows out in Los Angeles. Instead, their parts were pre-recorded and mixed in as background accompaniment for each musical number. This tricky feat of coordination was made possible through the efforts of underground sound engineer and mixer Falk Au Yeong who is known for his contributions towards the original soundtracks for the Sonic: Before/After the Sequel fan games and his close collaboration with many of Shota’s projects.
But enough of introductions, and on with the show! When considering the limited nature of the Lounge21 venue at Anime Expo and the fact that blaring rock performances aren’t usually my type of show, Ani-On Live! put on a powerful yet fun performance whose energy was clearly reflected by the attending crowd. There was even a full line of fans performing “wotagei” throughout the evening to make the mood feel just right.
Shota and crew began their set strongly with an arrangement of “We Are!” from One Piece, which prompted several cosplaying fans to scramble towards the stage and give the kind of rally that can only be had at Anime Expo. Luis’ voice carried clearly during the song, backed by Maho and some great riffs from Masato. The band then continued with “God Knows…” from Haruhi without losing any steam. “God Knows…” continued to showcase Masato’s effortless shredding through the well-known solo parts. Offsetting that was Maho’s vocal experience, which was not quite strong enough to maintain a good tone during the more difficult ranges of the song. This, combined with the peaking volume levels from unideal microphone use, served to produce a few karaoke-quality patches to an otherwise great rendition of the piece. Other notable songs performed that evening included “Don’t Say Lazy,” from K-ON!, and “Connect,” from Madoka Magica, both of which suffered slightly due to similar vocal balance issues with Maho as the lead singer. To her credit, though, Maho’s vibrant stage presence never let up and most of the crowd likely did not have the same sort of qualms as I did.
The pinnacle of the evening’s set was definitely “Pegasus Fantasy” from Saint Seiya. While the song holds no nostalgic value for me, its 80’s hair-metal vibe was great for rocking out, carried once more by Masato’s incredible skill at the guitar. Luis also displayed his chops while belting out the sustained parts of the piece, capturing the essence of the song brilliantly. In comparing that energy to the similar crowd response during other songs on the set such as Fullmetal Alchemist’s “Ready Steady Go!” and Attack on Titan’s “Guren no Yumiya,” you might have convinced me that old-school anime was back in style! (Or perhaps people simply had more to drink at that point in the show…)
All things considered, Ani-On Live! did a great job in providing lively entertainment to weary con-goers (myself included) after a crowded day. Furthermore, they were able to overcome some difficult logistical hurdles to execute a well-paced, spirited concert that left the audience clamoring for more. Given Shota Nakama’s vision to spread his love for anime and game music and the successes of their convention performances both at Anime Milwaukee earlier this year and now Anime Expo, I believe and sincerely hope that we’ll be hearing more of Ani-On Live! in the future. If you didn’t get a chance to see them this year, I would definitely encourage you to check them out the next time they play! Or, if you can’t wait, you can check out a demo track on their Sound Cloud page.
This is Point, signing off until Zero pushes me to review some soundtrack down the line. Until then, keep exploring new music and supporting lesser-known artists!