Kikkawa You at Anime Weekend Atlanta (Part 1) October 31, 2012Posted by Nights4Saturn in Jpop, Kikkawa You.
Tags: AWA, Kikka
Preface: This post is taking so long to write that I decided to split it up into three parts: the first two days, the second two days, and my reflections on the event. Sorry for the wait everyone! m(_ _)m
In the weeks and days before I left for Atlanta I was progressively getting more and more excited. I’m a big fan of Kikka, and while I’ve seen and interacted with several other idols beforehand, never were they ones I was already really into. I was a casual fan of Morning Musume and Mano-chan when I saw them in Los Angeles, and I attended AKB48’s concert mostly out of curiosity and convenience. But Kikka? I was already smitten with the girl, and was going in with preconceptions that I was afraid that neither she nor the event would be able to live up to. Boy was I wrong.
It is truly a rare occurance when something comes along that blows away all of your expectations so completely that you are almost left in a complete daze after it ends. Kikkawa You’s visit to Atlanta, Georgia was just one of those events for me.
To be fair I’ve been putting off my write-up about this event for a while now. Sure, part of it is that I’ve been busy desperately trying to get caught back up at work, but mostly I’ve simply been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do the event justice.
Better late than never, lets get this show on the road!
My plan to get to my hotel and the convention center started with coercing my best friend (😀 ) to drive me the 80 or so miles to LAX for a midnight flight to Atlanta. I got to LAX around 9 o’clock on the 26th and it was surprisingly not very crowded. My plane boarded on time, and we were in the air as scheduled.
One neat thing about that flight was that there was a fairly major thunderstorm in our flightpath over the New Mexico/Arizona area, so the plane climbed to 40,000 feet to be above the storm. Watching a thunderstorm from ABOVE the clouds at night is an incredibly cool experience!
At 7:00 AM Eastern time my flight arrived in Atlanta. I don’t know how many of you have ever been to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, but it’s HUGE. It has six 2,000+ foot long terminal buildings each separated by over 1,000 feet between them. The airport even has its own internal subway system underneath the terminals to ferry passengers between them!
It was after my arrival at the airport that my travel plans got to be a little dicey. One thing you may not know about me is that I’m frugal to a fault. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel (the location of AWA) are pretty much on the opposite ends of Atlanta, and I was not going to pay the $50 it would take to hire a cab to get me out there. So I decided to take public transit the 18 miles from the airport to convention center.
From the MARTA rail station at the airport I took the red line to Midtown Station, and from there bus 12 to the Cumberland Mall which my hotel sat across from. Overall, the journey lasted a little shy of two hours and took me through some pretty diverse areas of Atlanta. From the rather nice (downtown, and a surprisingly upscale neighborhood) to even the “less-touristy” places (that appears to be half a house?), it was quite the cultural experience. Also: cheap. Only five bucks!
After departing the bus I slogged through the early morning mall, made it into my hotel, checked in (surprisingly quickly too, I might add!), went up to my room, and promptly passed out for seven hours. This was now Thursday morning, and I hadn’t slept at all during the flight over. Furthermore, I had put in my eight hours at work on Wednesday, AND watched Kikka’s NicoNico stream that morning, so I was running on about three hours of sleep at that time!
By the time I had woken up in the late afternoon and headed across the street to the Renaissance Waverly to pick up my registration badge the surrounding area had changed dramatically! Namely, lots and lots of cosplayers! It was quite the contrast from that morning and took me a bit by surprise! I would say on a whole, actually a far larger percentage of the people who attended AWA were cosplayers compared to the likes of AX and AM2. Yay Georgia? Well, I’ll also add that most of the cosplayers there also had a far better understanding that a 250lb man shouldn’t cosplay Yoko from Gurren Lagann, so yeah, definitely yay Georgia.
So I traveled through the lobby of the Renaissance Waverly to the upper level and found about 150 people in line waiting for registration. Not too bad. The thing was though, that those 150 or so people were actually blocking my view of the line that I was supposed to be in. I had actually been given a “Media Pass” by the convention, and as such, was allowed to register via the special VIP line. You know, like a boss.
So I acquired my badges and got out of there in a timely fashion without any issues. The rest of the night was relatively uneventful. Went back to my hotel room to rest a bit more, got an incredibly over-priced hamburger for dinner from the hotel coffee shop, and attended my only actual anime-related event of the convention, “Old School Classroom.” Sure, it might have been the only event happening Thursday night, but it was still quite a bit of fun. Quite a few very odd 1970’s era Anime were shown, and it was presented by Dave Merrill who was actually the convention’s chairman!
On Friday Kikka had two events scheduled, an autograph session in the exhibition hall, and a Q&A session entitled “Behind the Music with Kikka.” Her autograph session was set to start at 1PM with the exhibition hall itself opening an hour earlier at 12PM. Now, I had figured that there would be quite a few people there to see her, but not a massive amount, so I thought that getting in line at around nine would probably be a pretty safe bet in order to get an autograph.
I got into the convention center around nine and started looking for the large line for the exhibition hall, but I couldn’t find it. Was there really no line? I was pretty sure I was in the right general area. So just to be sure, I took up a seat next to a pillar and waited for about 20 minutes, and lo and behold!
She came out of the exhibition hall, talked briefly to the fans lined up (wait, THAT’S THE LINE?!?!) and went off on her merry way with her manager and photographer down the hall.
For me I still get a magical feeling that first time I see an idol in person. A mixture of amazement and awe, the kind that gives you goosebumps on the back of your neck. It’s a feeling that will never get old.😀
So, since I now knew where the line actually was, I went over and introduced myself to the other Kikka fans, who naturally were in the very front of it, though, to be fair, there were only about six other people behind them at that point so they pretty much were the line.
While I was up at the front of the line Kikka came back to re-enter the exhibition hall! In an odd bit of something that someone could almost call luck, the several doors that made up the entrance to the hall seemed to lock and unlock in a different configuration anytime anybody would enter and exit! This meant that it took her staff a good minute or so of bewilderment to even get back into the hall! During the wait she came over and talked to us fans a bit more. Here, and all throughout the convention, I was really impressed by just how open and friendly she was with everyone! All good things must come to an end, though, and her staff did eventually find the unlocked door and away they all went again.
I stayed with them for about a half an hour until the rest of the AWA attendees started to show up for the opening of the exhibition hall. In a striking display of competence the organizers actually were able to properly manage the line! As soon as the line got too long, they wrapped it around, repeating this a total of five times. No confusion, no fuss, everything was very professional and the attendees themselves always seemed very willing to comply. Very impressive!
So, while waiting in the relocated line Kikka walked by again! This time she seemed to be taking an interest in checking out all the cosplayers in the hallway.
Noon did eventually arrive, and as it did we were all allowed into the exhibition hall. All that I knew about the location of Kikka’s booth was that it would be in the far right corner of the hall, so that’s were I headed off to, and sure enough, that’s were it was.
Now, going into this event I didn’t expect a massive number of people to show up, but I did expect a bit of a crowd. Imagine my shock when the only people that showed up at the booth were literally the exact same 15 or so people who were at the front the line plus about five new stragglers and two Japanese wota! I was taken aback a bit. Could this really be everyone who was going to show up?
Yup, it pretty much was.
As for the goods on sale, they had a black and pink t-shirt, a 2L photoset, and the regular edition of her album One for YOU! Now, as for the t-shirts, the black shirt was available only in large and extra large, while the pink was only available in small. This wouldn’t have been too bad except for the fact that they were all exclusively in women’s cuts, which bummed me out quite a bit. On the plus side, though, the photoset was only $2 which was a great price considering that they normally sell for 500 yen, which is a bit north of $6.50 at the current conversion rate!
So all of us fans bought our goods and more or less just stood around in something that could loosely be considered a line waiting for 1 PM to roll around. Well, it turned out we didn’t even have to wait that long as Kikka and her staff arrived about 15 minutes early at 12:45! With little delay, the signing session actually started. Kikka was an absolute blast to meet up close. One of the things that she was doing on that first day was forcing everyone to pinky swear with her that they would stay her fan, which I thought was absolutely adorable.
Considering the relatively low number of people at the signing session (although a few regular con-goers did hop in the line) we all got to loop around several times. While waiting in line on my second pass we saw one of the regular con-goers request a picture with Kikka AND SHE WAS ALLOWED TO TAKE A PICTURE WITH KIKKA.
Oh. my. gosh.
Let, that sink in a bit. Two shots. We got to take two shots with Kikka. It still seems crazy. Two shots with an idol outside of some crazy inclusive and expensive fanclub only bus/tram/Hawaii tour is crazy talk.
So what does one do when given an unprecedented opportunity? Well, you take it of course!
After the (glorious) two shot there was still enough time in the event to loop around a few more times. Once the event was drawing to a close one of the staff suggested that all the fans and Kikka take a group picture together! So the photographers that were traveling with Kikka took a few shots of us all (including one with Kikka’s own camera!) and they went off on their way out of the exhibition hall.
Kikka’s second event of the day was a Q&A session but it wasn’t scheduled to start for a few more hours, so most of us fans all decided to grab some lunch at the food court in the nearby Cumberland Mall. I picked up some rather generic canjun style steam table fare that was tasty enough. One of the fans there came all the way from England and decided to “experience” Taco Bell for the first time, and I have to admit that I got a bit of a kick out of how someone could possibly find “Taco Bell” to be new and exotic. 😀
When we tried to head back to the convention center we all got caught in a light rain that very quickly became rather heavy. We all (about 6 of us) ended up taking cover under a small awning. Hoping that the rain would dissipate just as fast as it came about we waited there for about five minutes all bunched up. It didn’t show any signs of stopping. Luckily, though, that awning happened to be over the entrance to a P.F. Chang’s bar and it was summarily decided that it was indeed a fine time to have a beer. By the time that we had all finished our pints the rain had cleared up so we finally headed back to the convention center.
We all still managed to get back with about 30 minutes to spare. Not surprisingly, there weren’t all that many people already waiting in the hall before us. Actually, there were no people waiting in the hall before we came. =\
Eventually Kikka’s staff came into the room and started setting up at the table in the front. When it was actually time for the event to start we were told to start chanting for her. By this time some regular con attendees had slipped into the room, so in total we numbered about 30 strong, which made our chants pretty darn impressive for a modestly sized room.
So chant for Kikka we did. After about a minute, she still hadn’t entered. Something must have caught her interest because one of the staff ended up having to run out of the room to let her know what was up.
When she did eventually (:P) decide to show up for her own Q&A event she jogged through the center aisle waving to everyone as she went up to the front of the room. At this point we were allowed a brief period of time to take pictures. So I naturally took a video instead:
The staff wanted to show us a DVD before the start of the session, but apparently there were a few technical issues, so they dived right into the event. The first questions of the event were actually directed towards us, the fans. We were asked where we had first discovered Kikka and a few people mentioned the Morning Musume 8th Generation Auditions, and a few others the anime Kirarin Revolution. The second question we were asked was what was our favorite song of hers, to which I was able to reply with “Fuyuzora Hanabi.” This received an approving “oooh,” and thumbs up from Kikka, which I was pretty stoked about.
At about this point the DVD was ready to watch, so Kikka commanded us to “DVD watching now!” in an absurdly serious and low voice. She has such an amazingly goofy sense of humor that it’s absolutely adorable.
The DVD itself wasn’t particularly exciting, as it was just a series of clips from her history corresponding with a scrolling timeline of her career. It repeated the obvious for those of us that already knew her, and was far too brief to really give much back story for those who where new to her.
After that the Q&A session continued. One person asked her what it was like to star in the movie “Cheerfu11y” with a bunch of other idols, to which she responded that seeing how hard everyone else worked really pushed her to better herself. Another fan asked her about what it was like to lose the Morning Musume 8th Generation Auditions. She actually gave a pretty interesting answer to this in that before she auditioned she thought being an idol was all fun and lollipops and she was really surprised by how hard it was to take the scolding from her instructors and the disappointment of her loss. Another similarly serious question asked her if she had ever thought about dropping out of the eggs and going about a normal life. She answered that she was seriously considering giving up on her idol career and going to college after graduating high school, but (luckily) was offered her gig with Universal before she had to make that decision.
Another person asked her to come up with a pun (something that she is known for) involving AWA, Atlanta or Georgia. To which she thought for a while, and responded something along the lines of “Jaguchi, jyo, ja.” Which apparently means faucet, drip, splash. Yeah, not bad for being asked to come up with something on the spot!
I asked her a question along the lines of, since she had covered a few Moritaka Chisato songs on her last two singles, were there any other artists that she would like to cover. She responded that she found group songs too hard to sing because of the timings, so she preferred to cover songs by solo artists, and gave Goto Maki as an example. I would also like to point out that I asked this well before Vocalist? was actually announced. Yeah, pretty poignant, no? ;D
One topic that Kikka really went off about was food. Apparently she thought Atlanta looked “delicious” coming over on the plane, and kept exclaiming that every single restaurant she passed on the way to the convention center looked delicious. She also got really excited about how awesome the Cheesecake factory was, and how the MOST AMAZING THING IN THE WORLD were foot-long sandwiches at Subway because they are only 6″ in Japan. She made a joke about how she wanted to eat so much that she’d go back to Japan 30kg heavier and become “BIG Kikka,” to which she stood up and proceeded to roll her blanket into a ball, shove it under her shirt and exclaim “BIIIIIIIIIG Kikka” in her faux-serious deep voice. It. was. AWESOME.
Her food rants were actually pretty neat in that they actually got the locals, aka the non-wota fans, involved in the discussion with her. The locals were shouting out foods and places for her to try, with each new suggestion getting her just that much more excited. It was fun to watch them get involved with her, and everyone seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Hopefully a few new fans were created that night!
For the last question of the event, someone asked her if she had a boyfriend, to which she gave the standard diplomatic reply. I guess I should be happy that she managed to attract someone to her event that obviously knew nothing about how idols worked, but meh, I still facepalmed.
To close out the event Kikka lead us in a chant of “Kikkake wa… YOU!” and left along the side aisle.
After the end of the Q&A a few of us fans decided to enjoy a nice steak dinner and dined at Stoney River Legendary Steaks, which was also located at the Cumberland Mall (yes, this is a recurring pattern). Their specialty is a filet mignon cured in coffee, molasses and brown sugar. I’m not a huge coffee fan myself, but oh boy, that thing was delicious.
After dinner someone had the idea, that hey, why don’t we print out our two-shots with Kikka and have her sign them tomorrow? A signed picture of Kikka and me together, how awesome is that? So a few of us crammed together in one of the guy’s rental car and headed off to the nearest drug store to print out our pictures. The process of printing out the photos took a bit of time, but they all did come out quite nicely.
After getting back from the drug store, the few of us still together headed up to one of our hotel rooms to enjoy a few brews and watch the Buono! concert in Paris, that apparently everyone else there had gone to! An fantastic way to end an unbelievably awesome, and in it’s own way, surprisingly relaxed day.
Please look forward to my post on days two and three!