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Days 2 and 3 of AX: AKB48 Panel and Reflections July 7, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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The only idol related thing of note to happen on Day 2 of Anime Expo was the AKB48 panel. Since this thing started at around 11AM me and the friend that I was going with were actually able to get some sleep that morning which was quite welcome.

We actually got into the convention center at around 10:45 or so and she went off to the Nabeshin panel while I headed off for AKB48.

Figuring that it would be ran like last year I took a seat near the back of the panel that was currently running waiting to move forward when it finished. Not so. It turned out that they now empty the rooms between panels and there was a already a line outside for the AKB48 panel. A long line. A line that went all the way outside nearly to the end of the building, I would say roughly 250 people in front of me, and by the time we started to move in, about 80 people behind me. While waiting in line I met a guy in front of me that got into idols through Kayo Aiko and became a big fan of Koharu, really nice guy.

Once we actually got into the hall I was really surprised by the fact that I was able to get a decent seat. The Q&A was set up in Petree Hall, the same place as Morning Musume’s panel last year, but reversed, as in the guests now sat at the opposite end of the hall. I ended up about 6 or 7 rows back on the right side of the table for the guests. All in all I would say about 20 to 25 feet away from the members.

As for the overall turnout off attendees and audience energy I found them both to be much lower than for Morning Musume’s panel for last year. I came nearly an hour before their panel and got a horrible seat where I could hardly see any of the girls, this time though, I came only 15 or so minutes before hand and I got a pretty decent seat. As for the audience energy I would classify it as “appropriate” rather than insane as for last year. A nice benefit of that was that I could clearly hear both the girl’s answer’s and their translations. =D

Once the panel started they played a VTR explaining what AKB48 was and gave a short history of the group and then pretty much went straight into questions. Most of the questions were pretty generic so I’m not going to try and summarize them all but I would like to touch a bit on the first and last people to ask questions. The first guy was a slightly older (maybe early 50’s or late 40’s) Western wota who gave the AKB48 girls a warm welcome, which really was quite nice. Then he spent the better part of a minute brown-nosing about all the times that he has seen them live at their theatre and about how they’re the greatest performers on the face of the planet all before he even got to his question. I know all fans want to express their gratitude to their favorite idols, but in a situation like this you really need to try and be short and succinct in your praise. I would put the limit at a sentence or so, even if you have to make it a long sentence, but anything much more than that just seems slightly inappropriate for the setting. The other person whose question I would like to bring up was the last person, who asked the girl’s if they liked any k-pop girl’s group. Now, I dunno about the girls of AKB48 (their manager answered the question, and I have no idea what he was answering, certainly not the question asked), but I’m pretty sure he did. The question just annoyed me because he seemed to be looking for answer he already wanted rather than simply trying to find out more about the girls themselves. Meh.

On day 3 of AX there were no idol related events scheduled but I actually managed to meet up with Charles, the fearless leader of Group 1 from AX ’09 (I’m going to have to flesh this out in the future =D), and his two friends named Aaron, both of which I actually recognized from the Mano event earlier. We hung out a bit around the HelloStoreUSA booth, and it’s always good time to talk idols with people. Fun stuff =D

So, what were my overall thoughts on Manoeri? I must say, I was really impressed. Her acting in Kai-Ki: Tales of Terror from Tokyo was not only far better than I had expected, but she also seems to just exude this great charisma in person. I’ve never really paid too much attention to her in the past, but I’m definitely going to keep my eye on her now.

This picture was actually taken by my friend right next to me at her movie screening. You can really get an idea of how close we all were to the stage, plus she looks pretty cute =P

As for AKB48? While I must say I really enjoyed their concert, something had been bothering me slightly about it, and it wasn’t until after their Q&A panel that it hit me. It all seemed slightly sterile. While their choreography and MC were all quite excellent, the actual performances seemed to lack personality, like I could have watched them perform the same setlist in Japan and it would have been the exact same show. I believe that the fact that they don’t actually use live vocals contributes greatly to this, but the performance itself didn’t seem to have any interactions or spontaneity between the girls. Now, I know why the producers would want to stamp such things out in a group as large as AKB48, but I couldn’t help but find it slightly disappointing.

Now, don’t let this discourage any of you from ever going to see them live as they do put an a fantastic show, just know that it is a different type of performance from what you would expect from a Hello!Project group.

So, that wraps up my coverage of Anime Expo 2010 and Mano Erina’s movie premier at Club Nokia. Really, a fantastic idol-filled couple of days. I really do feel lucky that in the span of a year I was able to see three of Japan’s major idol acts all within 30 miles of my humble abode. Los Angeles truly is a lucky city!

Note: So, I just realized that all the events that I’ve talked about so far actually took place on day 1, and not day 2 lol. I’ve updated the titles but I left the permalinks alone.

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Day 1 of AX and Club Nokia: AKB48 (Part 2) July 4, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Jpop.
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Okay, so let’s talk about the second big event of Day 2: The AKB48 concert!

So, after Mano’s movie screening I went to go meet up with my friend that worked at AX’s ticketing booth. Now, he had told me beforehand that these were “Premium” tickets but he never really expanded on it any more than that. Turns out these things were second row. SECOND ROW. Now, they weren’t center (more like on the far right side of the stage), but they were second row, and they were amazing.

With my tickets secured I killed some time in the AX exhibit hall with a couple of friends I had made in line waiting for Mano’s event. Since we all had assigned seating there really was no rush to get over to the Nokia Theatre and line up early. It was actually nice to be able to go somewhere without worrying about a line! I think it was the first time something like that has ever happened to me at Anime Expo!

The interior of the Nokia Theatre itself really is pretty grand, a proper concert venue even. It completely trumped the stage that was set up for Momusu last year. The sound and lighting were really far better. Really, the only negative thing I could say about the Nokia Theatre is that my 6th row seats for Momusu’s performance last year were about the same distance from the stage that I was for AKB48’s concert due to the much larger gap between the seating and the stage.

There seemed to be some sort of delay before the start of the concert, as it began about 30 minutes after it was supposed to start.

As for the concert itself? Here’s the setlist from makistar via SacredCultivator:
SetList:
1 – River
2 – Aitakatta
3 – Iiwake Maybe
Intro
4 – Kuroi Tenshi
5 – Seifuku Resistance
6 – Bird – Takamina, Rie (Mariko), Sasshi (Maimai)
7 – Heart Gata Virus – Haruna, Ami (Nozomi) , Mocchi (Maimai)
8 – Blue rose – Sayaka, Sae, Yuko, Miichan
MC
9 – Boku no Taiyo
10 – BINGO! (English version)
11 – Oogoe Diamond (English version)
MC
12 – Sakura no Shiori

ENCORE
13 – Namida surprise!
14 – Ponytail to Shushu
15 – Hikouki Gumo

To be honest I only recognized three of the songs: River, Ponytail to Shushu and Sakura no Shiori. I actually kind of enjoyed their live performance of River, which is odd because I really don’t like that song. It just grates on me. As for everything else? Pretty solid. Except for Sayaka, Sae, Yuko, and Miichan’s performance of Blue Rose nothing really stood out to me. I really liked not only the song Blue Rose, but the performance that went along with it was pretty good as well. I can’t say that the costumes didn’t help, as I was close enough to make out the definition on Akimoto’s abs without the help of the video displays =D

Something else that really surprised me was how well the girls had practiced their English for the concert. Each girl introduced themselves entirely in English, and you could actually understand most of their cute engrish to boot. Another pretty impressive thing was the MC after Blue Rose was entirely in English, and actually very entertaining. The same girls that performed Blue Rose discussed what tourist spots they’d like to visit and mimed various scenes from popular movies for the audience to guess. It really went over fantastically well.

As for the not so great parts of the concert? The lip syncing. You could actually distinctly tell when their microphones were turned up for their self introductions after Iiwake Maybe because their suddenly was feedback >< Also, Sakura no Shiori is very boring live because of this as well, as they just stood around their microphone stands essentially. For someone like myself hearing these songs for the first time I really can't comment on how they "should" have sounded, but I can't help but think that it was just a bit stale. Understand though, that I'm used to watching Matsuura Aya and Morning Musume concerts where everything is live.

Something else that I found a little disappointing had nothing to do with AKB48's performance, but with my section of the audience. Last year at Momusu's concert I was smack dab in the middle of all the other fans and the energy was intense. This time I was surrounded by Anime Expo volunteers who really didn't care about the concert and most likely came just because they got free tickets. To really get the most out of an idol concert you just need to let yourself go and enjoy it. Clap and shout along. Not to say that nobody in my vicinity was as into it as myself, but really, the only part of the crowd that really seemed to embrace the concert was the front center. Their encore chants really were impressive, not that I didn’t help!

So, overall I really did enjoy the concert, a lot more than I had even expected to. Heck, I didn’t even mind River! At a deep level I really do love idol pop, and AKB48 is definitely a good idol pop group. While I can’t say I’m a convert or anything, they’ve certainly piqued my interest.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up with my impressions on AKB48’s Q&A session and a general review of everything that’s happened over the last couple of days. It has certainly been a busy week!

I want to apologize for the lack of photos in this post. I was so excited after being able to meet Mano earlier in the day that it kind of slipped my mind, sorry!