A lifetime of listening to classical and jazz has ingrained within me the idea that concerts function as a forum for artists to practice and refine their craft. I’m not sure whether this mindset constitutes serious baggage, a barrier to enjoying other concerts on different merits and metrics. If you go through my long litany of concert reports, you’ll notice certain patterns pop up, mostly along the technical spectrum and how a lot of concerts fail to deliver on that end.
This year’s Anisong World Matsuri – Japan Kawaii Live Concert at Anime Expo might have moved the needle in adjusting my expectations. The two years I’ve spent playing Love Live! School Idol Festival erased any notions that this concert would be wholly about the music. Coming in, I had no expectations about the technical merits, the choreography, or anything of that sort. It would be a night in which performers and fans would, together, revel in idol-tastic idolatry. The representation for the evening would be varied, with THE iDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS and Love Live’s Aquors prominently featured alongside Minori Suzuki and JUNNA from Walkure (Macross Delta) and the entire gaggle of girls from Wake Up Girls.
The concert opened with the opening theme, “Star!!”, from THE iDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS. Its opening line, the ear-catchy outburst of “Say ippai” set the enthusiastic tone for the rest of the evening as the crowd roared in delight. The energy rolled on into “GOIN’!!” and “Yumeiro Harmony” with “Yes! Party Time!’s” funkier vibes adding in a dash of variety. The members also interspersed some segments where they voiced their characters from the anime, providing the fans with a behind-the-scenes look.
Enjoyable as the singing was, the performance, on the whole, was fairly static as the members mostly stayed rooted to the spot. But maybe that was for the best because the subsequent groups to come on stage would seize the lingering enthusiasm and propel the evening to greater heights.
And Wake Up, Girls! would do just that. Their first song, “Tachiagare” started their set off strong. What impressed me most was the accompanying choreography which injected a dynamism that had been lacking up to this point. On top of that, many of the songs featured solo parts, which allowed each of the members to stand out and sprinkle their personality into the performance.
In that vein, WUG woke me up to their abilities and, sacrilegious as it may be, I preferred their performance to THE iDOLM@STER girls (even if you include the discordant “Koi? De Ai? De Boukun Desu!”).
Walkure, with Minori Suzuki and JUNNA, jumped in to shine after the intermission. Of the groups performing, this one was the one that I had the least amount of knowledge of. My last Macross series was Macross Frontier, a series that I’ll look back upon with much fondness, but I hadn’t had a chance to watch Macross Delta, and so, had no idea of what to expect from the music.
Fewer performers means more opportunity for the two to exhibit their personality. Minori Suzuki skipped about on stage, buoyed by a sense of pure joy. Her singing was in that same mold, with cutesy vocals, delivered with a cheerful, infectious smile. Of the songs, “Run ga Pikatto Hikattara” showed us her best side, especially during the “pika tto run ga hikareba” chorus (to which the logical audience response is: “wow woh wow wow woh”).
Comparatively, JUNNA’s vocal performance was stronger, but her movements and facial expressions were far more reserved, even somber at times. But she, together with Minori Suzuki, made an effort to engage the audience — a huge plus. Factor in their technical chops and Walkure was my favorite act from that evening.
Love Live!‘s Aquors closed out the evening. Of the acts, theirs was the one I was most familiar with because (as my wife will tell you) my day starts and ends with the Love Live mobile game.
Predictably, they opened up with the energetic opening theme, “Aozora Jumping Heart”, complete with the memorable “whoooo”, and continued on with fan-favorites like “Koi ni Naritai AQUARIUM” and “MIRAI Ticket” (though they left out my personal favorite: “Mijuku Dreamer”). Their performance included choreography, and though they showed much energy throughout, it didn’t hold up to Wake Up, Girls!, who proved to be the night’s biggest surprise.
But if I had to pick out a true winner, it’d be the attendees, hands down. Not people like me or my wife who were simply along for the ride, mind you. I’m talking about the folks who went all-out wotagei.
For those not familiar with the term, wotagei is where audiences at concerts take out glowsticks and synchronize the movement of said glowsticks to the music and to the characters. At certain segments, they’d be waving them from side to side. Other times, the audience would make a hurling motion forwards. Fans would also raise the glowsticks slowly upwards or even twirl them about.
But it’s not limited to just glowstick movement. It’s also color-coordinated. For example, if a character whose color is green had a solo segment, the audience would change the color of their glowsticks to match the character/performer’s solo. Other songs might have a color associated with them (see: “Koi ni Naritai AQUARIUM”, which was a prominent blue) and the audience would make sure that the glowstick colors matched the theme.
So to see the crowd moving in sync… that was truly a sight to behold. I lost count at how many time my attention drifted from the performers on stage to the audience, moving their glowsticks to create wonderful, wavy patterns to made the night feel magical. That they were even passing out guidebooks on what to do impressed me with the amount of preparation that went into it. Congratulations, fans! You’re the real MVP.
As the night wound to an end, kawaii is as kawaii does, so they say, and the first concert to kick off this year’s Anime Expo satisfied that want by featuring some of the best-known idol groups to have emerged from the anime scene in the last few years. Technical metrics? Ehh, who cares? But entertainment? Absolutely. How often does anyone get to tell Japanese idols to check out In N Out burger anyway (yes, this really happened)?
THE IDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS
Yes! Party Time!!
Wake Up, Girls！
Shoujo Koukyou Kyoku
Koi? De Ai? De Boukun Desu!
Beyond the Bottom
7 Girls War
JUNNA & Minori Suzuki from Walküre (Macross Delta)
Koi! Halation THE WAR
Bokura no Senjo
Ichido dake no Koi nara
Run ga Pikatto Hikattara
Aqours (Love Live)
Aozora Jumping Heart
Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiterukai?
Koi ni Naritai AQUARIUM
Yume Kataruyori Yume Utaou