Note: All opinions are mine and do not reflect the overall opinion of those who attended.
June 30, 2017 was a tumultuous day in a number of ways for me. It marked the sad day that YuiKaori (Yui Ogura + Kaori Ishihara) officially disbanded as a duo, the 7th anniversary of Love Live!’s beloved µ’s, the second anniversary of Aqours from the same project, and of course, the same day that four powerhouse Anisong idol groups from Japan came to Los Angeles, California for a 3-4 hour long performance at the Microsoft Theater.
Collaborating for the second year straight, Anime Expo and Anisong World Matsuri kicked off Anime Expo’s first ever preview night (Day 0) with an all start line up, including six member of The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, two members of Walkure, Wake Up, Girls!, and Aqours.
A couple months ago I mentioned this lineup announcement took the Anisong community by storm, and the crowd size and ticket sales certainly proved it. I was incredibly lucky enough to snag a front and center seat for this concert considering this was definitely the more highly demanded concert of the two offered.
Fans flew in from across the US, North America, and around the world, including Singapore, Japan, Scotland, China, Germany, etc… just to see even one of these groups. In addition, hundreds queued up for artist goods for over 2-3 hours prior to the concert in what was already considered mild weather for LA during this time of year. Given all this and the fact that this was still Day 0, the hype was definitely apparent with all the happi coats, nesoberis, other live t-shirts, call books, etc. but did the performance deliver and will it warrant future appearances from these star-studded guests?
The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
Kicking off the exciting night was The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, which featured 6 of the many members of 346 Production:
- Asami Takano as Frederica Miyamoto
- Haruka Yoshimura as Mika Jougasaki
- Hiromi Igarashi as Anzu Futaba
- Rei Matsuzaki as Kirari Moroboshi
- Tomoyo Kurosawa as Miria Akagi
- Yuko Iida as Kanade Hayami
The concert started actually a bit later than the scheduled 7pm (not unexpected) as fans continued to trickle into the theater. Some members of the audience were surprised to see them on stage first considering they were likely the second most popular group in the crowd but seeing as how I have been out of the iDOLM@STER loop and more of a 765 Production fan, it personally worked out for me.
- STAR!! (The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls TV Opening)
- GOIN’!!! (The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls TV Episode 13 Insert)
- MC/skits from The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Theater shorts
- Yumeiro Harmony (The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Season 2 Ending)
- Yes! Party Time!! (The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls: Viewing Revolution Game)
- Onegai! Cinderella (The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Master “Onegai Cinderella” single)
Based on a few people I talked to, to be frank, it sounds like iDOLM@STER was an overall disappointment. Outside of “STAR!!” and “Onegai! Cinderella,” which are staple songs, iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls were definitely the biggest wildcard of the night given the vast song library and somewhat random lineup selected to represent the group, especially without Ayaka Ohashi, Sayuri Hara, and Ayaka Fukuhara in the mix. I was hoping for “SHINE!!” given that it’s an opening theme of the anime so was disappointed that it didn’t happen. Some were expecting as much as solos or duets, which was rather unrealistic given their short time on the stage. The skits from the recent short anime was pretty much a bonus live voice acting demo that you would see at a guest panel at some conventions. This was okay if you had seen the anime or know Japanese but otherwise it probably fell flat on the average audience member or non-iDOLM@STER fan.
Having said all this though, hopefully the mixed reception doesn’t deter Lantis and Anisong World Matsuri from bringing them again as there is certainly a proper fan base for the iDOLM@STER franchise. The disorganization in planning and coordination of the performance seemed rather apparent, which may be a result of the busy schedules of the seiyuus/voice actresses themselves leading up to the event, but the result is in line with my past personal experience at other iDOLM@STER events performed outside of Japan with a small subset like this. Events in Taiwan have so far been an exception though from what I have been told. Personally, I enjoyed seeing Hiromi Igarashi and Rei Matsuzaki on stage and Tomoyo Kurosawa is a hot item as a seiyuu recently so that was a plus as well for me.
Wake Up, Girls! (WUG)
Up next was the 7-unit idol group based off the anime by everyone’s favorite Yutaka Yamamoto (Kannagi, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and his Studio Ordet (Black Rock Shooter). Some may remember his appearance along with the idol group at Anime Central 2014 when they were still in their debut phase as a very unknown group. Having just seen them back in November for a performance of similar length, there has only been one new song since then so I sort of knew what to expect. This time though I’m not stuck in the corner and that definitely changed the experience.
- Tachiagare! -Full Member Version- (Wake Up, Girls! Movie ~Shichinin no Idol~ Theme Song)
- Shoujo Koukyoukyoku (Wake Up, Girls! ~Seishun no Kage~ Ending)
- Koi? De Ai? De Boukun Desu! (Renai Boukun Opening)
- Beyond the Bottom (Wake Up, Girls! ~Beyond the Bottom~ Ending)
- 7 Girls War (Wake Up, Girls! TV Opening)
- Gokujou Smile (Wake Up, Girls! TV Episode 8 Insert)
What made WUG stand out during the night was their amazing choreography that synced with their wide range of vocals. While their list of songs consists of the same core songs since I last saw them with the addition of “Koi? De Ai? De Boukun Desu!” which is the opening theme to the anime “Renai Boukun” (aka Love Tyrant), they have come a long way since their debut a few years ago. Like many artists, some songs don’t get old though, with personal favorites being “Tachiagare!” and the emotional “Beyond the Bottom.”
There was a very apparent but expected lack of knowledge of WUG’s calls throughout the performance given that the US only got the first movie (Shichinin no Idol), the 2014 TV series, and the “Zoo” spin-off. The sequel movies (Seishun no Kage and Beyond the Bottom) have not been picked up by any companies meaning the only legal way to watch them is via Japan import at the time of writing. However, new interest in the group after the concert was arguably the greatest of the four, which certainly bodes well for Wake Up, Girls!’ future popularity here. Hopefully that means Sentai Filmworks or Crunchyroll will pick it up in the (near) future.
JUNNA and Minori Suzuki from Walkure (Macross Delta)
Walkure was definitely the least known group of the night likely due to the corresponding anime, Macross Delta, not being readily accessible to most viewers outside of Japan via legal means. Not to mention the anime itself was very mediocre at best (more on that in a future post maybe). While music is always a smaller barrier to overcome given CD albums and singles, the average anime audience is unlikely to just buy a CD for a foreign group they never heard of, let alone one established solely for an anime series.
- Koi! Halation THE WAR with Freyja version (Macross Delta Episode 1 Insert)
- Ikenai Borderline (Macross Delta Episode 1 Insert)
- Bokura no Senjou (Macross Delta Episode 3 Insert)
- Ichido Dake no Koi Nara (Macross Delta Episode 2 Insert)
- Rune ga Pikatto Hikattara (Macross Delta Ending Theme)
Just because they were the underdog though didn’t mean they couldn’t put on a fabulous show. While both looked particularly nervous for their first performance overseas, JUNNA especially in the early parts of the performance, if there was one song that the audience responded to, it was “Ikenai Borderline” and that really popped a lot of people off their seats to release the tension and get the party started for the remainder of their act. Two memorable tidbits: 1) The audience’s recommendation of In-n-Out Burger became a trend for the rest of the night not only for Walkure but also the other performers, 2) JUNNA is only 16 right now and her vocals are absolutely stunning. Can you believe she was recording Macross Delta two years ago at the age of 14 with this kind of voice and just released her solo debut album?
What was interesting is the songs all debuted at least within the first 3 episodes of the TV series, and thus the first Walkure album, even though they recur many times throughout. This was probably for the best since there was a bit of deterioration in the quality of the music in the latter half of the series. From a personal standpoint, JUNNA’s vocals really made this act stand out. From “Ikenai Borderline” to “Ichido Dake no Koi Nara,” both of these really made this duo’s performance shine. Minori Suzuki’s closure with “Rune ga Pikatto Hikattara” was such a fun song live even though I don’t normally enjoy it much from the original CD itself. “Bokura no Senjou” was a bit lacking without the remaining singers from Walkure since it’s normally not a JUNNA or Minori Suzuki focused song.
Without a doubt the most anticipated act of the night with at least 60% of the crowd likely coming just for Aqours. Having brought six members last year, Aqours is back this year with all nine members and a live performance!
- Aozora Jumping Heart (Love Live! Sunshine!! TV Opening)
- Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiteiru Kai? (Single)
- Koi ni Naritai AQUARIUM (Single)
- MIRAI TICKET (Love Live! Sunshine!! TV Episode 13 Insert)
- Yume Kataru yori Yume Utaou (Love Live! Sunshine!! TV Ending)
The set list was fairly predictable with the exception of Yume Kataru yori Yume Utaou, which typically requires pom poms for the performance. Luckily, they had them handy. Arguably the most well received performance of the night barring a few random and unreasonable complaints I heard about lack of call and response, subunits, “HAPPY PARTY TRAIN,” etc… Regardless, the crowd was prepared with penlights, callbooks, et al and Aqours delivered. The consensus next step of course is a full solo live performance!
which of course won’t happen but we can dream right? or maybe let’s hope for a true live viewing for their 2nd Live Tour in August and September.
If there was one thing I was looking forward to that night though, it was the location of where I was sitting relative to the Aqours stage position (see if you can guess it), i.e. best girl right in front of me for 4 of the 5 songs! Dreams do come true I guess?
Finale and Final Thoughts:
Once Aqours finished their set, the rest of the performers (ex JUNNA because curfew/labor laws) returned on stage for a final bow and goodbye. VIPs got an extra special “goodbye” event, which was really just a hand waving event in the basement of the Microsoft Theater instead of the hi-fives that happened last year/ Day 1 after Super Live. Makes sense because Japan idol rules of purity and “no touching.”
Overall, Japan Kawaii Live delivered what it needed to. The hype was there and the audience enthusiasm in a packed venue helped propel this into a fun night. Hopefully these kind of sales help justify future performances from one or more of these groups in the US be it solo or as a multi-unit performance. It was arguably also the best day of the convention despite it being only Day 0!
Unfortunately, I had to miss the amazing off-kai after party at the Novo since I had worked until 2am the night before, arrived on a early morning flight, ran around all day prepping for the concert, and was planning to queue for Super Live autographs in a few hours. Oh well, can’t win them all…onward to Japan Super Live on Day 1 of Anime Expo!
All photos are official photos belonging to @AnisongWorld or their respective artistes. You can find a few more photos of the events on their Twitter, LINE, Facebook, and/or Ameblo pages.