Attention please! We are looking for a new writer!

電波の世界 started in December 2007 and while our passion for the genre has only increased over the years, it's been difficult to find time for new articles and features. That's why we (denpanosekai and mandichan) are looking for an enthusiastic new writer! Here are some typical articles and tasks:

※ album previews and reviews
※ event reports (comiket, M3, live, etc.)
※ artist spotlights and interviews
※ denpa watchlist renewal
※ a new theme would be nice!

Do you want to make a difference and contribute to the original and leading source for English denpa news worldwide? Please contact denpanosekai [at] gmail [dot] com today!

Friday, 27 June 2008

CD検討: CODE SPEED アニメトランス BEST vol. 1

It's fair to say that I am no stranger when it comes to anime theme songs remix collections. I have spent a lot of time with Shimokawa Mikuni's "Seishun Anime Song House Album" and enjoy all of its tracks, with her over-the-top rendition of "Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan" high on my list. Similarly, Yoko Ishida's "Hyper Yocomix" series have fueled many of my late night programming/study sessions. But in general, I am not the biggest fan of trance music on this planet. I did give months of my life to the Ghost In The Shell game soundtrack and I appreciate the majority (if not all) of I've Sound's trance work simply because they tend to feature real instruments and their vocalists are top of the line (KOTOKO, MELL, PEKO, SHIHO, etc.). When music is closely associated to anime or video games, whether it's trance, rock, denpa or what have you, I just have to check it out. So when I found out about "CODE SPEED アニメトランス BEST" and its impressive track list, I knew I had to get my hands on it ASAP. But before you go on any further, why don't you play the following youtube link in the background? I assure you it's not a trap.

1. KNEE SOCKS - もってけ! セーラーふく
(Lucky Star Remix) (3:56)

The remixers obviously wanted to go with what is currently the most popular anime OP as an ice breaker, it definitely makes sense if only from a financial point of view. While I am sick to death of hearing the original version, I caved in and gave this remix a try. KNEE SOCKS' rendition is pretty faithful to the original, only turbo charged and a bit more sterile.

2. Ma15 - ハレ晴レユカイ
(The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya Remix) (3:45)
Before there was Lucky Star, the world was blessed with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya... oh wait that wasn't that long ago, wasn't it? We all know this track, and the trance remix doesn't stray far off from the original. In fact, I can't tell of any liberties that were taken. Ma15 does well in this one, but her voice is a bit flimsy overall.

3. chum - 創聖のアクエリオン
(Sousei no Aquarion remix) (4:05)
Hell yes! Being the huge AKINO fan that I am, I was most pleased to hear this new take on one of the best kept secrets in anime music. I wouldn't say "創聖のアクエリオン" compares to "Go Tight!" however, which is leaps and bounds above it and so many other themes while we're at it. It's such a damn shame that she wasn't approached for more solo songs, since her voice is so captivating. Did you know she was born in Arizona and grew up there along with her brothers and sisters? Well now you do! Lately, all of the siblings formed a band called "bless4" and have been playing concerts around Japan. However, my personal opinion is that their new songs don't quite match the quality of her two OP themes.

4. KEIKO - God Knows...
(The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya) (3:50)

There we go again with another Suzumiya track. There's really nothing bad to be said about the remix, and KEIKO does a wonderful job of keeping up with the beefed up pace. If you liked the original, you'll like this. If you hated it... you wouldn't be here reading this right now.

5. NINE - Butter-fly
(Digimon Adventure Remix) (4:19)
Meh. At last we have the first male vocalist of the bunch, but the chosen song does little to hold my interest. It doesn't help that I've never watched Digimon, so I have no idea what the original sounds like. What I do know is that I still have no interest whatsoever in doing that after hearing the remix.

6. chum - 緋色の空
(Shakugan no Shana Remix) (4:01)
YES. Kawada Mami is one of my favorite I've vocalists, and "緋色の空" is definitely one of my top 3 songs from her. It was beautifully crafted from the ground up and became an important component of a strong series. The remix is impressive, save for the sometimes timid and reserved voice of "chum". They sure decided to pick some random artist names before putting this comp together.

7. KEIKO - 晴れてハレルヤ
(Mahoujin Guru Guru Remix) (2:52)
A bit of a weird remix, I'll just assume the original is every bit just as odd. The remix comes out sounding very much like "happy hardcore", one of the many trance sub-genres. I can't seem to enjoy this song properly so I'll usually just skip it.

(Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s Remix) (4:06)
Another solid offering from chum. While I have not watched this anime, I have watched parts of one of its sequels, "Nanoha StrikerS" and it just couldn't hold my interest so I dropped it. The song itself though is pretty appealing, especially in this remixed form. After the weird "晴れてハレルヤ", it feels good to hear something with a more serious approach.

9. chum - 夢想歌
(Utawarerumono Remix) (3:12)
chum is everywhere! Utawarerumono is a fantastic series that I highly recommend, and by proxy, its opening theme has become one of my favorite songs. Unfortunately here, while the remix is very well done, I feel it is a bit uncalled for. The original 夢想歌 by Suara is awe-inspiring and will definitely become a classic as it ages. Its slow pace and unique harmonies are standout features that shouldn't be altered. Sure, there's always room for remixes, but you absolutely owe it to yourself to check out the original at least once.

10. YURiE - ゆずれない願い
(Magic Knight Rayearth Remix) (2:45)
Ahh Magic Knight Rayearth. I remember the Working Designs / Media Blasters fiasco like it was yesterday. What's that... you don't? That's OK, the Sega Saturn game was pretty forgettable. The Clamp-produced series though, has proven itself a timeless classic. Not so much for the theme however. It starts with a really annoying melody that has me quickly reaching for the "next" button and doesn't offer anything worthwhile.

11. chum - Re-Sublimity
(Kannazuki No Miko) (4:06)

Unsurprisingly, this fantastic KOTOKO song lends itself to a trance remix very well, considering it is a trance song in the first place. Notwithstanding that fact, Re-Sublimity is easily one of the best tracks on this comp. My judgment might be slightly skewed considering I am a huge fan of the original in the first place... but what are you gonna do about it? I like that new alarm siren that they added, I don't remember it being in the original. But apart from that addition and an upgraded BPM, the songs are fairly identical and chum delivers her best imitation so far.

12. chum - ひぐらしのなく頃に
(Higurashi no naku koro ni Remix) (2:58)
Wow, that's 2 great remixes in a row, this time from one of my top 5 Japanese songstress of all time, Eiko Shimamiya (also known as PEKO on her earlier opuses). This sounds a bit more spaced out, with very little bass abuse. I wish the remixers would have respected the huge sonic breakdowns prominently featured in the original, but overall I am very satisfied with this new version. Too bad it's one minute short of the 4 minute average.

13. Ma15 - 最強○×計画
(Sumomo Momomo ~ chijou saikyou no yome Remix) (4:04)

By now you've watched the youtube video I made, so here is my appreciation. At first, I was apprehensive and just couldn't look past the different direction. The original is brilliant and untouchable, so why should I waste my time with a remix when I can have the real thing? But then the fast beat got to me and I realized that within the context of this compilation, the remix works very well. It helps that Ma15 delivered some beautiful vocals for this track and that they kept the male shouting. But the "musical" parts are pretty poor and sound rushed. I may not be the best person to comment on this remix as I am completely sold to the original version, but overall this is fairly enjoyable if taken at face value.

14. YURiE - DANZEN! ふたりはプリキュア
(Futari wa Pretty Cure Remix) (3:04)

Another skippable YURiE track. More "happy hardcore", nothing interesting. Best thing I can come up with is that she really seems to push her voice on this one.

15. Ma15 - 宇宙で恋は☆るるんルーン
(Galaxy Angel Rune) (3:47)
Two "happy hardcore" tracks in a row? 助けてください!I'm really taking a bullet for you guys by reviewing this. Ma15 delivers one of her poorest performances, or perhaps that is the fault of whatever vocal plug-in was abused. Put simply, she sounds like an お婆さん.

16. chum - プラチナ
(Cardcaptor Sakura Remix) (3:52)
The last chum song for vol. 1 of this series is a decent mix of techno and trance, with interesting melodies that don't stand out in the end.

17. KEIKO - Feeling Heart
(To Heart Remix) (2:47)
I think I've had enough "happy hardcore" for the rest of my life. Next PLEASE!

18. KONEKO PROJECT - 聖少女領域
(Rozen Maiden -Traumend- Remix) (3:07)
Oh, now we're talking! While I'm certainly not the biggest Ali Project fan on earth, I'm not one of their detractors either. Refreshingly, this track contains no vocals but since I haven't heard the original, I'm going to have to guess that it didn't either. Which is odd because I've always felt vocals were one of the most unique things Ali Project had going for them, along with the superbly crafted gothic melodies. This is one of the top tracks, by far.

19. NINE - 真赤な誓い
(Busou Renkin Remix) (3:36)
Busou Renkin was my favorite anime of the 2006/2007 season, mostly because of the series itself, yes, but also in large part due to its KICK ASS opening track. Imagine my surprise when I heard the trance remix without having seen it listed first. This new version isn't bad at all, but it will never replace the screaming guitars and balls-to-the-walls attitude of the original. I'm just glad they gave respect where respect is due. My only complaint is that the vocalist (NINE) lays it on a little thick. Understandably so, however, as this is a song that inspires strength, courage and hot-blooded emotions. I would have done the same, but I would have also painted the studio's walls red with blood due to an explosion of joy. That's it, I'm watching this anime again.

20. YURiE - アンインストール
(Bokurano Remix) (4:46)
Two great songs in a row, what a great way to end this comp! Uninstall is one of the hardest, most powerful theme songs out there and it goes hand-in-hand with its series, Bokurano. Songstress 石川智晶 has a deep and mature singing voice which YURiE respectfully emulates. She is also part of SEE-SAW, a popular group which has been pumping out quality themes since 1993. At long last, YURiE redeems herself after 2 lackluster performance. Musically, this may be the slowest song on CODE SPEED, but rightfully so as the original crushes everything in its path while moving like a ton of brick on a donkey's back.

As a last observation, all of the tracks are connected together, so you never get any awkward silence. This is probably standard fare for trance comps though, but I thought it was a nice touch. Now that the first volume has been reviewed, what about the others? Vol. 2 and 3 don't contain anything from MOSAIC.WAV, so there's little incentive for me to write about them on here. If I get some positive feedback, I may look into reviewing them, but my initial impressions are that Vol. 2 is a lot worse than 1 and 3 is in the middle. But one thing for sure, despite the number of duds, this thing is worth checking out as the comps harbor a number of solid remixes that will definitely challenge your aural sense, for better or for worse.

Friday, 20 June 2008

CD検討: Perfume 「GAME」

Because of the very nature I decided to give this blog, I've limited myself with my reporting duties. I think I can count on my two hands the number of artists that I can effectively cover without leaving the realm of denpa/akiba-pop. Not that I can't do whatever the heck I please with this blog, but there are already a number of sites where one can obtain information about general Japanese music and the interweb is certainly filled to the brink with Utada Hikaru fansites. Which is why I've decided to concentrate on denpa, not to mention that the genre drives me nuts, in a good way. Enter Perfume and their most recent release, "GAME". Mostly because of their earliest singles, the trio has been closely associated to akiba-kei, despite being produced by one of the most influencial shibuya-kei artists of the past 10 years, more on that later. Additionally, the band was backed by Haruko Momoi in 2005 when she produced AKIHABALOVE (アキハバラブ) both in single and DVD form. So I guess it's safe to say that they somewhat fit the bill and that I can report about them without fear of unleashing the fury of my numerous readers.

But the last thing I want to do today is come up with the history of Perfume as a band, I'll leave that to the excellent PPN wiki. Suffice to say that before the multiple GAME-related singles started to come out from late 2006 on, they were a relatively unknown trio. When "Polyrhythm" came out in late 2007, that's when things really picked up for Perfume. It helps that the song was (appropriately) chosen as a theme for recycling by the NHK, Japan's largest public TV network. However, it was also then that they really started coming into their own, after a compilation of cute but certainly not time-proven singles that went by the name of "Perfume ~Complete Best~". As I will demonstrate throughout my review, Perfume went from drab, generic JPop to complex, mature electronica that remains unpretentious, a rare quality in the genre.

Several elements can be listed to explain the appeal behind Perfume as a band. The girls are cute, the songs are catchy and there is a huge 萌え aura surrounding everything they come out with. But for myself and other musical elite know-it-alls, the mere presence of 中田ヤスタカ (Nakata Yasutaka) at the helm more than justifies the entrance fee for this wild ride. I don't mean to bash anyone here, but if it wasn't for that man, I wouldn't even be writing this review today. It seems that in North America, "artists" get the majority of the credit for their songs, but if the pandering masses knew but a figment of what goes on behind the scenes, they would scream their deception through boycotts, as they should. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the slimy music industry is fucked. But at least, the Japanese seem honest about admitting that bands like Perfume are but a front for real artists to express their creativity. Not that I want to take away any of the credit that the Perfume girls do deserve... but have you seen them live? That's right, they lip-synch most of the time due to their elaborate dances, but when they don't... yeah. Thank Jeebus for that studio magic. One quick word about the cover: I love it! Whether they are holding oversized glowsticks or are giving their own twisted homage to Star Wars, I don't know. But I can't help but be reminded of Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes, who would definitely be a huge Perfume fan if he was for real. Let's RIP into those songs!!!

1. ポリリズム
As I've said before, this is the one song that gave Perfume their first taste of househould success, and it's not hard to see why. Instantly, the impressive production values hit your senses: everything happens for a reason here. Don't be fooled by the slow start, the song is only building up momentum as it quickly steps up the pace. On the other hand, if you can't get past that song then don't press on, as most of the album revolves around the same elements that made "Polyrhythm" a success in the first place. Do yourself a favor and check out the PV.

2. plastic smile
This one is a bit more energetic and happy-sounding than "Polyrhythm", but is still very much in line with the opening track. Far from being filler material, "plastic smile" possesses multiple hooks but will not surprise you as the structure is fairly simple and is reused until the very end. This is perhaps one of the weaker songs of this album, but it is not a dud and as you will read, they may just have kept the best ones for the end.

You can call me crazy, but this song greatly reminds me of The Cardigan's "My Favorite Game", not just in name, but musically as well. In fact, I could draw many parallels between "GAME" and "Gran Turismo" (the album, not the game!) not the least of which is that both albums marked a significant shift in style for both bands. But back to the matter at hand, I love how "GAME" starts with a phat bass line (as much as I hate the term, it's appropriate here) over caustic percussion and later on, a guitar screaming its head off as if choked to death. In the middle of this orchestrated confusion, the girls take turn singing until the crushing chorus is introduced. There is no clear direction in this song, only the feeling that despite being in the dark surrounded by evil bloodthirsty creatures, things are gonna work out just fine. After all, this is just a game we're playing, right? Love the song.

4. Baby cruising Love
Compared to the three previous tracks, this one opens much less busily, with some clear singing over a relaxing piano line. But it isn't long before that heavy "GAME" bass rears its awesome head again, transforming what would normally be a lousy ballad into an above-average electro song with plenty of heart and some real drums to boot. The chorus itself is a powerful head-bobbing magnet but like most songs so far, there aren't any surprising moments, just a whole lot of fantastic parts elegantly glued together.

5. チョコレイト・ディスコ
Old-time Perfume fans will surely appreciate this one the most! It does sound as though "Chocolate Disco" would belong more on the previous "Complete Best" than on "GAME", but with the new heavy and uncompromising style that was adopted, it fits in quite snugly. Again, the deep booming bass accounts for a huge chunk of the difference, but the snappy cadence is also quite noticeable.

6. マカロニ
I said there were no duds, right? Guess this one is as close as it gets, though. "Macaroni" has very little going for it and if it wasn't for the pouncing drums, it would be a real bore. Even the girls sound a bit drowsy when doing what they do best. But hey! For the first time so far, some creative liberties were taken towards the end of this song, as a number of dissonant sounds are thrown left and right in an attempt to wake up the listener.

7. セラミックガール
"Ceramic Girl, It's brand new world!" It's funny how songs always sound tons better when they're placed after a monotonous one. Kinda like how average papers get scored higher after correcting a terrible one. I guess only teachers will get that one. But average is not a bad thing here, considering the overall quality of the record. Furthermore, "Ceramic Girl" introduces some of the fastest lyrical delivery so far. While nothing compared to what Mi~ko and KOTOKO can accomplish, it does have a invigorating effect that can't be ignored. I also like how the beat can sometimes go wild in this one, without disturbing the flow.

8. Take me Take me
THIS SONG IS PEDOBEAR APPROVED. Sorry but I couldn't help myself. Maybe they had something entirely different in mind when writing these lyrics, such as being taken to the movies or the amusement park. But a trio of fresh-on-the-market ladies singing "take me tonight" to legions of underaged girls and obsessed otakus just screams wrong to me. Not to mention the beat is highly suggestive in itself, yet of course it has nothing on the grand-daddy of them all, Ravel's Boléro. Still, Madonna and Britney Spears would be proud of their international influence, but then again so should 中田ヤスタカ. Despite the trashy vibes one can get from the lyrics, the song remains highly enjoyable with its minimalistic orientation and soothing attributes.

9. シークレットシークレット
Holy shit, if "Take me, Take me" was soothing, then "Secret Secret" is downright spellbinding. This one takes all the positive elements from the eight previous tracks and brings them together in a graceful manner. There is absolutely nothing bad to say about this song. Perfect beat, perfect execution, perfect delivery. What did I say about saving the best for last?

10. Butterfly
So are you done listening to "Secret Secret" in a loop? Great, 'cuz here comes your next favourite Perfume song. In terms of creativity, this one takes the cake. It opens to the sound of the Amazonian jungle, complete with tribal percussion and an arpeggio that sounds like it was taken out of a... well you know those fantastic dreams of flying that come up every once in a while? Don't lie, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Well this song would be the perfect soundtrack to such dreams. And if you really don't dream about flying, then you will after listening to this. The harmonious arrangement that Yasutaka-san came up with will work wonders next time I can't fall asleep and I say this with the utmost respect. There's a difference between soporific and hypnotic, and "Butterfly" doesn't induce the latter. Sadly this one doesn't have a PV, which is odd considering how good a video this would make.

11. Twinkle Snow Powdery Snow
Just to remind you that you're still listening to the akiba-kei Perfume, not the Amazonian goddesses from "Butterfly", they threw together this song that, again, draws from the best elements that everyone has to offer. This one is delivered allegro, no effing around with unconventional techniques or anything crazy. In the end, it comes out sounding like a lounge version of an original song, except this is the original song as well. Very clever!

12. Puppy love
As the last song of such a beautiful record, "Puppy love" has a lot going for it. It delivers admirably but even if it hadn't, I would still be satisfied given what I have experienced going through this album. It's almost a bonus that the song doesn't suck, as "last songs" are wont to do. If you've had your share of electronica by now, then never fear as this one opens with carefully palm-muted acoustic guitar over some real drum and bass. It quickly works itself into a relaxed tempo that is just the perfect send-off.

Two recurring factors instantly come to mind for this conclusion: one - Perfume will never be known for giving deep meaning to their lyrics. This is simply feelgood music, much like comfort food and watching hockey are simple pleasures of life that can turn your shitty day around. Two - 中田ヤスタカ is a fucking musical GENIUS. Could you imagine if he started collaborating with MOSAIC.WAV? The best part is that you can enjoy tons more of his musical prowess by listening to capsule (his original band) and really, any artist from his "contemode" label. However, if you want to enjoy cute voices over complex electronica arrangements, capsule may be a little too rough around the edges for you, making Perfume's 「GAME」 the top contender in this category.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

準備 GET!!! Akiba-kei vs. Shibuya-kei

In preparation for this weekend's article (yeah, 'cuz we have weekly features now, 4+ a month or BUST!) I would ask all of my already well-educated readers to familiarize themselves with the following article. Written by the always fascinating W. David Marx (who writes for Diamond Agency's Clast, Néojaponisme and META no TAME), this article carefully highlights the various differences between two of my favorite contemporary Japanese styles of art (musical, visual, written). Despite both prefectures being nearly side-by-side (Akihabara is in Chiyoda-ku) it so happens that the two are absolutely incompatible, both in mentality and execution.

If you can't be bothered to even skim the article diagonally, then let's just say that Akiba-kei is very geek-oriented (anime, denpa, manga) whereas Shibuya-kei itself has always been about importing foreign culture elements (Jazz, European and Western influence) and transposing them into a Japanese environment. I've always seen Shibuya-kei as fairly pompous compared to the anything-goes Akiba-kei, but that won't stop me from enjoying some of their highly addicting music. Note that the article itself seems slightly skewed in favor of Shibuya-kei (calling Akiba-kei a cash cow) but if you read it with an open mind, you should be set for tomorrow. Virtual cookie goes to whoever correctly guesses which band I am about to cover.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Momoi Halko AnimeNorth 2008 Live Report

Remember when I said I would cover momo-i's AnimeNorth performance, given my relative proximity to Toronto and my overwhelming appreciation for her music, past and present? Lies, filthy lies! Something came up and I was unable to make good on my promise. But wait, don't browse away from this blog out of disgust and spite. Dedicated 電波の世界 reader and full-time momo-i fan MandiChan has gracefully accepted my invitation to compose a summary of 桃井はるこ's recent performance in Toronto, Canada. No details were skipped, no stones left unturned, so grab a coffee or some お茶 to help you plow through the coming flurry of paragraphs. Note that the promoters didn't allow for live pictures, which sucks but is usually the norm.

Hi, nice to meet you readers of Denpa no Sekai! I'm Mandi, sometimes also going by the noobish sounding name of "mandichan". I was asked by Mr. Denpa to write about Momoi's live at AnimeNorth 2008 (Toronto, Canada) since he was unable to attend. I'm going to focus this report on the concert, but that still requires a little build up. Personally, I've traveled to see Momoi twice before this: first at Anime Expo in California, and then again in Honolulu, Hawaii. Each time I met up with the fans from Japan and other parts of the world and worked together to try and make the live a big success! With this experience, I think everyone was a little more prepared to take on AnimeNorth.

Those of us in America prepared the glowsticks and since I was close enough to drive, I paid up front and had them shipped to me and everyone paid me back. I was a little worried what customs would think of me bringing 1200 glowsticks over the border... but they almost all fit in the trunk and there was no problem! After arriving in Toronto, everyone worked together to put little Momoi stickers onto each one, though everyone had gotten so efficient at this by now they finished while I was in the shower! And as always, the Japanese fans made plenty of call books, professional looking and very informative as usual! They also made a website explaining the moves detailed in the call books. Even including great 3D animations showing how it's done! These guys (and gals) really go all out for Momoi, it's very touching to see everyone come together for her. By the way, I would recommend the site to anyone interested in attending idol or seiyuu concerts to learn about the otaku method of cheering!

There was one more step to preparation this time which was a first - we gave a workshop detailing how the cheers are done! I say "we", but really I was just a support member, Coverman and Catsspat were the leaders in the demonstrations. This was a last minute decision, so it wasn't in the program guide. But we hung up flyers and got plenty of endorsement from Momoi herself, so we had a good amount of people show up. Though maybe the sound of everyone's enthusiastic cheering had the most draw of all! The staff of AnimeNorth was very nice for allowing us to do it on such a short notice and even letting us do it in the live hall where the concert would be held. So, before the concert itself, we had gotten permission from the staff to have an area in front and to distribute all the glowsticks and call books. Most people were happy to get free glowsticks, and we were happy to give them! Almost anyone who refused one changed their attitude instantly when told "It's free!" Turns out we had lots of extras, so plenty of people had 2 or 3. Finally the glowstick chaos dies down a bit, everyone gets into place and... music start!

1 - Party!
Momoi busts onto the stage right away with a high energy song! She wore her Yume no Baton sailor fuku outfit. She once said that she thought it was her most recognized outfit by overseas fans, so that's probably why she also wore it for her lives in both California and Honolulu. Everyone cheered very enthusiastically, and I was really excited to see all the crowd behind us getting into it also, which just feeds into Momoi's energy and then comes back out into the audience again. Momoi gave a little self introduction. It's tradition that when Momoi introduces herself, the audience yells back "MOMO-I". However we also had a little plan to release some streamers when we yelled. But, the timing messed up... and no one did it. D'ohh!!

Next came the very cute and classic song GURA GURA with a focus on retro video games. Too bad Momoi didn't wear her power glove this time!

3 - Tondol Baby
Picking up the pace even more. Tondol comes from the word for "jumping", so this song is full of jumps! Also, lots of spins so you can see the audience behind you going just as crazy. It was a lot of fun to get some glimpses of the room behind me lit up with glowsticks.

4 - Ai no Medicine
OP Theme of Nurse Witch Komugi-chan. FEVER FEVER! Hearing this song is always nostalgic, fun, and more than anything... cute! This time, I was able to pull off the chant (detailed on the call site) without a problem!

5 - Mail Me
Slowing things down just a bit with Momoi's first CD single song. I don't remember her singing it at any of the other lives I've been to, so it was great to hear. Also important to note; it was the original single version, and not 2.0 version from the more recent Haruko Update album. I think a lot of people know the movie Suicide Circle so they are familiar with this song. Personally, I'm a little afraid to watch the movie and associate the song with something gory! But anyway, it was great to hear this classic song live.

6 - Shooting Star
During the opening ceremonies of the convention, they played an intro AMV movie which used some clips from this, which Momoi noted before performing. I wonder if that inspired her to choose it?

7 - Tenbatsu! Angel Rabbie
Classic UNDER17 song. When UNDER17 broke up, I was really sad when I thought I could never hear this song live. I was wrong, because Momoi continues to sing it, and she has sang it at all the lives I've been to! But, just like all the other ones I've been to, she just replaced the "beep" censor with "koroshicha ikenai" instead of a funny ad lib like she usually did on the DVDs I've seen, I guess due to the language barrier she just keeps it simple.

8 - Hide and seek
Before starting, Momoi explained the calling of "mou ii kai?" "mada da yo-" but at first some were a little confused and saying "mada da yo" instead of Momoi saying it. But, once the song got going it got fixed up!

9 - Popotan
Before this live, I had been wondering why Momoi never has sang any Popotan songs at the overseas lives, when she has sang many other anime/game songs like Komugi, Tenbatsu, Kujibiki... I guess she just needed a little inspiration to sing it again after so long, which in this case came from a young fan. Momoi was a guest at a special brunch where you could drink tea and eat snacks with the guests, but you needed to buy tickets to get in, so it was not very crowded and had a relaxed atmosphere. Amidst this scene, some chaos began when a little girl skipped in... dressed as Mii from Popotan! It was really surprising. She was excited to meet Momoi and they took lots of pictures together. Then she asked for Momoi's autograph - on a pair of custom printed Popotan panties!!! Momoi laughed and said in Japan no one ever asked her to sign panties before. Of course she signed them happily and everyone laughed and took lots of photos. So Momoi said because of this, after 4 (or 5?) years she would sing this song again. Personally I was a little surprised she went with the game OP instead of the anime, but either one is great.

10 - Naito de naito
Straight into another high tension game song. As usual, Momoi is showing no signs of fatigue, and much to my surprise and happiness the crowd seems as revved up as ever, hard to tell if they were feeling as exhausted as I was! In this song Momoi yells out "Nii!" which I thought was very weird. Usually she would yell out "hey!" or "fuu!", right? And the song is called "Night de knight"... it's gotta be THAT right? Monty Python? I was so sure of it, but during the Q&A it was confirmed to be just a complete coincidence! How weird is that?

11 - Ima, anata ga suki
Anyway, after so many fast and upbeat songs, Momoi let everyone take a little break by singing her newest ballad. Everyone sat down, but many still continued to wave their glowsticks slowly to the beat. Really, I think I like this song best live.

12 - 21 seiki
Thanks to the Avex translator, Momoi gave a great introduction to this song explaining her thoughts behind it. She always admired the 21st century, thinking it would be peaceful and full of advanced technology like in a futuristic anime. But even though there's still a lot of problems, it's a wonderful time and we should be proud to live in this century and be the best we can be. It was great that she had a translator with her to help express the thoughts behind her songs unlike previous lives. I hope they'll keep up that support in future overseas lives.

Thank goodness we had a little break with slow songs before this! For Wonder Momoi, everyone's gotta pull out all the stops and go wild! It's always impressive hearing Momoi manage the voice changes live while still being so energetic. For this song, everyone usually breaks out the ultra orange glow sticks. Unfortunately, I spent way too long on my regular glowsticks and didn't have any ultra orange prepared. Thankfully Catsspat, who was next to me, let me borrow a yellow at least.

14 - Romantic summer
Momoi introduced the OP theme song to Seto no Hanayome and did a little voice of San-chan before beginning. She sang the original version and not the new album version, of course either is good. Next Momoi announced "This is my last song!" and the crowd gave the usual response "Ehhh? We just got here!". Momoi laughed and explained this tradition to the audience then said it's not really the last song.

15 - Thunder shot!
The translator had a little trouble explaining her intro to this song, which was written for tamiya's mini 4wd cars. I was very glad to finally hear this hot blooded song live! It's one of my favorites on her latest album. Some report that they heard her say "sora no canada made" in place of the usual lyric "sora no kanata made", but I missed it!

16 - Saigo no Rock
Maybe a bit less hot blooded and a bit more ROCK, a great song as we are sadly nearing the end of the concert. Like many of Momoi's songs, it's just made to be heard live! Jump! Jump! Now for the "real" final song...

Yeah! One of the best songs for crowd interaction, and of course a fan favorite (isn't every song a fan favorite?) Everyone did their best to demonstrate the hand motions of E X E which the audience seemed to catch onto quickly. Of course hearing this song now just makes me remember getting up on stage with Momoi in Hawaii, which makes it all the more wonderful. After the song finished, Momoi waved and left the stage. The call for encore was the Japanese traditional "an- co- ru-", I guess it is a little easier on English speakers than the custom Momoi call "Mita-i mita-i, mou ichido haruko mita-i!" Everyone called out wonderfully until Momoi hopped back out onto the stage wearing her new world tour t-shirt.

18 - Yume no baton
Of course, the perfect song to end Momoi's live! Hearing this song live is so moving, especially as the last song. The final lines were "No matter how many seasons pass, no matter how far apart, I won't forget you. If you dream, we can meet again. Thank you!" Just perfect!

Momoi thanked everyone many times and even after leaving, she popped back out on the stage for more words of thanks, including shushing the audience and yelling it out without a microphone. Of course, in the end, we should be the ones thanking Momoi for such a great performance. Overall the live was a great success, right afterwards Momoi went straight to signing autographs. Talking to people who saw the live, it seems like both those who knew her before and those who didn't were touched by the performance. And of course, for me, no matter how many times I can see Momoi's live, once it's done I just start thinking about the next performance. It's really an addiction that I recommend to all readers of this blog, try it at least once in your life!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Massacre in Akihabara; more Otaku backlash?

Tomohiro Kato, a 25 year old man from the Shizuoka Prefecture was arrested today in Akihabara after killing at least seven, five of which he ran down with the aid of a two-ton truck. After his arrest, the man only told police that "he was tired of living and came specifically to Akihabara to kill people". An additional 18 people were also stabbed or wounded. This happened on a Sunday, when most of Akihabara's streets are closed to traffic and full of Japanese and foreign tourists alike.

I am surprised this did not end in suicide, as is usually the case with these "things" (not that I want to banalize the event) Now while my heart goes out to the victims, I have another concern. It has not been specifically said yet that the crime is to be blamed on video games/anime/manga/subculture (that usually pops up 2 or 3 days after the crime, out of respect for the families of the deceased), but I wouldn't rule it out. Sorry, what I meant was it will happen. Now Japan, even though it has given us Elfen Lied and cockroach porn, has been ramping up control of violent and pornographic content. While there will always be an underground scene, one only needs to look at the censored Japanese release of No More Heroes, whereas we got the intended version. Otakus in Japan still bear a heavy stigma, thanks to Tsutomu Miyazaki and his manga-inspired murders of the late eighties. Undoubtedly, this new episode will end the same way: Tomohiro Kato will end up on death row one day, and Japanese Otakus will suffer from a new wave of moral panic backlash.

But subculture finger-pointing or not, this event will shake up Japan greatly as it happens 7 years, day-for-day, after the "2001 Osaka School Massacre" in which Mamoru Takuma slaughtered 8 and wounded 15 elementary school children in Osaka. He was later executed. Look at how Wikipedia is including today's killings as an "aftermath" of that event. It's a bit hasty, but in a sense they're all connected. We've all heard this countless times, but just recently my 日本語 teacher was proudly telling us about how safe Japan is, that ATM are closed half the time because people aren't afraid of being mugged, houses don't use alarm systems, etc. Perhaps it's time they get off their high horses and realize our whole planet is fucked.

For pictures of the crime scene and additional reporting, head to Akibablog.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

MOSAIC.WAV: Before and after the Live [updated]

[updated 06/08/08] As expected, アキバ総研 have posted a live report, complete with superb pictures. That last one is particularly breath-taking, but it's also good to see what kind of costumes were used. It looks as though even Koike-Aniki took part, as he can be seen wearing... a funny hat of some sort. His sunglasses though? He sleeps with them on. And Kayamori-san's usagi-mimi hat? Don't forget he is the rabbit on all of the "Amusement Pack" drama tracks. Other than the pictures, the reporting is a bit dry and offers no interesting tidbits about the live performance itself, reactions from the crowd, etc. But they do have a Shiren 3 launch article! If SEGA's reading this: English version! NAO!!

[original] Reports and reviews of MOSAIC.WAV's second live have just started to make their way online, but before we get to that, there were some extremely interesting pre-concert articles that escaped my attention.


The first of two articles from アキバ総研 is an interview with Susumu Kayamori and Mi~ko, about a month before the concert. They start by expressing their surprise at selling out their first show within one day. In true Japanese nature, they expressed chagrin at not being able to perform for all of their fans, which obviously led them to choose a much larger capacity hall the second time around. When asked what lessons were learned from the first live, smoother flow and improved stage choreography were noted, as well as using a broader range of songs from their vast catalogue, to cater to fans of all "eras". They also discuss their new single, explaining that the song was intentionally made wacky-sounding to reflect the complex life of Kyouka-sama. Finally, they touch on the subject of electronic music played with real instruments. They convene that in some cases, the songs will sound completely different than on CD and although live mistakes are to be expected, the extra "punch" of live instruments totally makes up for any possible slip-ups.

The same website struck the iron while it was hot and managed to sneak into Club Citta for a rehearsal preview. This one will be interesting for fans of UNDER17 as it features some insight into the mind of the Dark Wizard of JPop guitar himself, lord Masaya Koike. But equally interesting are pictures of the newly-formed live band hard at work, complete with a drummer and bass player. Mi~ko kicks off the interview by stating that even though the venue is much larger, the spirit of Akiba Pop is untouched: for the fans by the fans. Then they touch back on the fact that the sound of the live will be fundamentally different that what can be heard on their CDs. The new arrangements are powerful, and Koike-san states that only with a live band can songs be brought to life at a concert. Kayamori-san then jokes that this statements implies that his keyboard position is at stake. Of course, MOSAIC.WAV would not be the same band if it wasn't for the wacky electronics, but they agree that the additional live elements will considerably enhance their music. But then their interviewer presses the band with a real issue: won't the constantly rapid tempo used by MOSAIC.WAV be difficult to reproduce live with said instruments? Yes, it's hell, they laughingly admit. They consider songs like "Love Cheat!" and "Amusement Pack" to be of violent Punk Rock caliber, with sweet Moe qualities of course. But they worked really hard at getting those down, as well as carefully selected new costumes, so they urge the fans to look forward to the performance... which leads us to:


The first place to have a report is also the least informative, but is arguably the most fun to read. Mi~ko states on her blog that her back hurts like hell, and that she will be sleeping Sunday all day to let her sore muscles heal! She also apologizes for not being able to meet all of her numerous fans. Just after waking up (girl is a diligent blogger) she mentions that she has more presents from her fans than she could possibly imagine. She wishes to thank the lighting technician, who did a good timing job. Finally, she hopes that fans enjoyed the varied set list they came up with.

Masaya Koike actually showed some emotion on his blog, with signs now pointing at him not being just an über-cool extraterrestrial with soldered-on sunglasses, but rather an everyday, futsu human being with supernatural guitar skills. In a first entry, he profusely thanks the fans who shouted his name and sang along to all the songs. This surge of adrenaline made it possible for him to endure the scorching heat on stage, brought forward by the lighting system (I know what that's like, aniki!) But then in a second entry, he admits that while the breaking up of UNDER17 made him extremely sad to the point of crying, it gave him the opportunity to work with Susumu Kayamori and Mi~ko, which he considers two of the best people on earth! Such a beautiful story... so why won't they join forces on a permanent basis?

Little by little, fan reviews have begun to pop up and with them, the setlist:

1.We Love "AKIBA-POP"!! [NEW TAKE]
3.Pain Paint Car
13.アキバ in ワンダーランド
14.Nursery Time
15.Amusement Pack
18.光のエレメント~for"We Love AKIBA-POP"~
19.Love Cheat!

The biggest surprise here is that they performed the Naoko-san songs, even though it was slightly hinted at in the first pre-live interview. 百合星人ナオコサン is by far one of the better singles you've never heard, so it's awesome to see the band giving this song some recognition. Surely the hardcore fans reacted accordingly, but the fact remains that even in Japan, the CD is absolutely impossible to find. Meaning that despite the song being brutally powerful, it is likely one of their least popular due to lack of exposure.

Onto the fans review. This one has a picture of a fan-made call book that was distributed prior to the show, along with a picture of an area where loving fans could deposit their gifts. As you can see, it is covered with flowers from the legion of Mi~ko suitors. The person says that this is the best live he has ever been to! Another, more voluble, fan describes his brave tale of waiting in line under the rain for 2 hours to get access to the live goods before they'd disappear. He was the 900th to get in, and was a bit bothered by some people who, according to him, didn't know how to behave at a live. While the lighting was highly appreciated, this show-goer wishes that the volume of the vocals were higher. A third fan report includes answers to an enquete (アンケート is Japanese for questionnaire, believe it or not) that was handed out to fans. Among other things, MOSAIC.WAV wanted its fans to rate the performance, state which live song was their favorite, what aspect could be improved, how interesting the live goods were, etc. Now I've played and attended hundreds of concerts in my life, but I've never heard of such a thing as surveys being passed around after shows. Is this common practice in Japan?

Of course, there should be an entry on the official Live Info list within the coming days, as well as another article on Akiba Reasearch Institute, who certainly seem to enjoy covering them as much as Denpa no Sekai does. But of course, this is your only source of English-language information for all things MOSAIC.WAV-related, so please look forward to exclusive material in the future.

Thanks to アキバ総研 for the pictures.