[Concert] – Anisong World Matsuri @ Otakon 2017

 

8udub9thOtakon 2017 is Anisong World Matsuri’s final announced leg for this year and also the where Anisong World Matsuri will be making its US east coast debut. Guests featured over two days of performance include JAM PROJECT, T.M. Revolution, FLOW, and Yousei Teikoku.

The former 3 had all performed at Anisong World Matsuri at Anime Expo 2016 while Yousei Teikoku was at A-Kon 2016, meaning none of the artists are unfamiliar in performing in front of a US crowd and hyping them. With a star-studded lineup and each group having 15+ years of experience in anisong, it was the perfect stage to kick off what hopes to be annual event for Otakon and possibly more for the east coast.

DAY 1: JAM PROJECT + T.M. Revolution

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JAM PROJECT

JAM PROJECT is Lantis’ iconic artist with the group being as old as the company itself. While there were some member changes in its early days, the current lineup has been fixed since 2003 consisting of founding members Hironobu Kageyama and Masaaki Endoh as well as Hiroshi Kitadani, Masami Okui, Yoshiki Fukuyama. It should be noted that all five members are also well known for their solo careers even prior to the group’s formation, meaning all members are no stranger to the world of Anisong. In addition, JAM PROJECT was last at Otakon in 2008.

Set List:

  • Crest of “Z’s” (Super Robot Wars Z Opening Theme)
  • Hagane no Resistance (2nd Super Robot Wars Z: Saiyo-hen Opening Theme)
  • Garo ~Savior in the Dark~ (GARO Live Action TV Opening Theme 2)
  • The Brave (Yuusha Yoshihiko Opening Theme 3)
  • THE EXCEEDER (Super Robot Wars V Opening Theme)
  • Hero (Get over the Border ~JAM PROJECT Best Collection VI~ album)
  • THE HERO!! ~Ikareru Kobushini Hiwo Tsukero~ (One Punch Man Opening Theme)
  • VICTORY (Super Robot Wars MX Opening Theme)
    • Medley with GONG
  • GONG (3rd Super Robot Wars Alpha: to the End of the Galaxy Opening Theme)
    • Medley with VICTORY
  • ROCKS (Super Robot Wars: OG PS2 Opening Theme)
  • Rescue Fire (Tomica Hero: Rescue Fire Opening Theme 1)

This is definitely the longest JAM PROJECT performance I’ve been to out of the four or five times I’ve seen them live. With only two performers for the night, it allowed JAM PROJECT to dish out many of their famous classics while also introducing pieces that may be less familiar with the overall crowd.

JAM PROJECT is well known for their mark on the Super Robot Wars game franchise so this set list is sure to please that crowd with half of the set list dedicated to it. In addition, “THE HERO!!” and “Rescue Fire” are considered staples in the set lists. “Hero” was to some extent the troll song of the night for those unfamiliar with JAM PROJECT’s full library, especially given the way JAM PROJECT introduced it and its similar name with “THE HERO!!”, which most are more familiar with from hit series One Punch Man. Lastly, “GARO ~Savior in the Dark~” and “The Brave” are likely to be less familiar given their association with Japanese TV dramas that have not seen the light of day in the US though the former may soon arrive thanks to Section23’s Kraken Releasing.

JAM PROJECT’s vast library always makes them an unpredictable performance and is a testament to their success in the anisong industry. Fan or not, they are one of the key pillars in the anisong industry and one of the reasons why we can have events like Anisong World Matsuri today.

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T.M. Revolution

While JAM PROJECT is a key pillar in the anisong industry, many really came to T.M. Revolution, who was a guest at Otakon in 2003 as well as 2013, though it seems as if the 2013 appearance was long forgotten by TMR himself as well as many fans for some reason. T.M. Revolution’s influence among US anisong fans is likely due to the larger series he was associated with including hit classics Rurouni Kenshin and Gundam Seed/Seed Destiny as well as more recent titles like Sengoku Basara, Kakumeiki Valvrave (Valvrave the Liberator), and Soul Eater.

Set List:

  • Inherit the Force (Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme VS. Force Opening Theme)
  • INVOKE (Gundam Seed Opening Theme 1)
  • ignited (Gundam Seed Destiny Opening Theme 1)
  • METEOR (Gundam Seed Insert Theme)
  • resonance (Soul Eater Opening Theme 1)
  • HIGH PRESSURE (Single)
  • WHITE BREATH (Single)
  • HOT LIMIT (Single)
  • FLAGS (Sengoku Basara: The Last Party Opening Theme)
  • SWORD SUMMIT (Sengoku Basara Ni Opening Theme)
  • Heart of Sword (Rurouni Kenshin Ending Theme 3)

Encore:

  • SKILL feat. JAM PROJECT (2nd Super Robot Wars Alpha Opening Theme)

Kicking off the set list is a quartet of Gundam songs. “Inherit the Force” is from the first western release of a Gundam VS. title, which is a nice touch, followed by his staple sequence of three remixed songs from the Gundam Seed universe. It should be noted that the mic died at the beginning of the “INVOKE”, forcing TMR to throw the mic away in frustration and encouraging the audience to sing along until he got a new mic. Not much to say about “resonance” aside that it got many members of the audience hyped, possibly more so than the crowd at Anime Expo last year. I’m guessing Soul Eater was more popular or stuck better on the east coast than on the west coast.

Up next was a trio of songs that was a real treat for TMR fans as he has rarely sang any of his 90s classics internationally if at all. “HIGH PRESSURE,” “WHITE BREATH,” and “HOT LIMIT” are all from his early career circa 1997-98 and it’s great to see many members of the audience familiar with the songs. A trio of songs from anime set in historical Japan including Sengoku Basara and of course “Heart of Sword” from Rurouni Kenshin closed out the core set. By the end of all this, TMR was topless and made jokes about it while the crowd chanted TMR (or USA) like a cult.

The biggest “disappointment” was probably the lack of “Preserved Roses” and “Kakumei Dualism” as I know many were looking forward to this, myself included but being able to see him perform his 90s songs is an unforgettable experience, especially in the multiple times I’ve seen him perform internationally.

Now, if you read the JAM PROJECT review above, you may have noticed that their most iconic song “SKILL” was missing. Well they certainly didn’t forget it and instead made it a collaboration with T.M. Revolution as an encore! You can’t leave a JAM PROJECT concert without “SKILL” and it certainly was not going to start today, thus concluding Day 1 of Anisong World Matsuri at Otakon.

 

DAY 2: Yousei Teikoku + FLOW

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Yousei Teikoku

Arguably the underdog of the weekend, Yousei Teikoku certainly brought a performance to remember. As a gothic metal band, Yousei Teikoku is a unique artist in the anisong world that ends up being a hit or miss for many. Their arguably most famous for their involvement in Mirai Nikki (aka Future Diary) in the anime world but also known for crafting songs centered around their band name Yousei Teikoku, which is translated to Fairy Empire in English.

The current Yousei Teikoku consists of five members, including the original members consisting of vocalist, Yui Itsuki, and guitarist/keyboardist, Takaha Tachibana, as well as  3 additional members whom joined only after 2010.

Set List:

  • Kyuusei Argyros (Tokyo ESP Ending Theme)
  • Kyouki Chinden (Mirai Nikki/Future Diary Blu-Ray/DVD Opening Theme)
  • Mischievous of Alice (Queen’s Gate Spiral Chaos Opening Theme)
  • Baptize (Seikon no Qwaser/The Qwaser of Stigmata Opening Theme 2)
  • DISORDER (Big Order TV Opening Theme)
  • filament (Mirai Nikki/Future Diary TV Ending Theme 1)
  • Astral Dogma (Pax Vesania album)
  • Patriot Anthem (Gothic Lolita Propaganda album)
  • flamma idola (Single)
  • Geki (Big Order OVA Ending Theme)
  • Kuusou Mesorogiwi (Mirai Nikki/Future Diary TV Opening Theme 1)

Yousei Teikoku kicked off their performance with a slew of anisongs ranging from the relatively recent Tokyo ESP and Big Order to Mirai Nikki and even to lesser known anime and game titles they were involved in prior to the current rendition of Yousei Teikoku. As mentioned above, they are most famous for their involvement in Mirai Nikki, where they eventually played all their songs from the TV airing as well as the revised opening theme from the home video release. The biggest surprise for me personally was “Baptize,” which was the only song in the set list from the original Yousei Teikoku group. While Seikon no Qwaser (aka The Qwaser of Stigmata) was a terrible series, “Baptize” continues to be one of my favorite Yousei Teikoku songs so very happy to see this one live (and not forgotten!). “Mischievous of Alice” is a lesser known song seeing as it’s a spin-off of the Queen’s Blade franchise and the accompanying game itself, Queen’s Gate Spiral Chaos, never saw the light of day in the west.

The remaining songs: “Astral Dogma,” “Patriot Anthem,” and “flamma idola” saw Yui-sama don her empress outfit and had commanded the audience to sing with her, which by the end of the the three titles, everyone in the audience had become subjects of the Fairy Empire, just in time to close out with “Geki” from the Big Order OVA and of course “Kuusou Mesorogiwi” from Mirai Nikki.

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FLOW

If you have watched any mainstream anime in the US over the last 15 years, you probably have heard at least one FLOW anisong with those from Naruto and Code Geass being their most well known. Whether you know them by name or not, FLOW’s music have made a significant mark on western fans in since the early days of anime.

Set List:

  • Sign (Naruto Shippuden Opening Theme 6)
  • BURN (Tales of Berseria Opening Theme)
  • Steppin’ Out (Durarara!!x2: Ketsu Opening Theme)
  • DAYS (Eureka Seven Opening Theme 1)
  • Ryuusei (Single)
  • Re:member (Naruto Opening Theme 8)
  • WORLD END (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion/Hangyaku no Lelouch R2 Opening Theme 2)
  • CHA-LA-HEAD-CHA-LA feat. Hironobu Kageyama (Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods Theme)
  • GO!!! (Naruto Opening Theme 4)
  • Kaze no Uta (Tales of Zestiria the X Opening Theme 1)

Encore:

  • COLORS feat. Yui-sama from Yousei Teikoku (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion/Hangyaku no Lelouch Opening Theme 1)

This list is fairly similar to what was performed at Anisong World Matsuri at Anime Expo last year and generally a standard FLOW set list for overseas performances. “BURN” helped break the ice for the RPG fans in the audience but the party didn’t really get going until “DAYS” from the classic Eureka Seven, which was also celebrating the premiere of the new movie trilogy at Otakon.

From there, the concert only got better with their classic “Ryuusei” setting up a high energy marathon of songs that required little to no introduction, including “WORLD END” from Code Geass, a special duet performance of “CHA-LA-HEAD-CHA-LA” with the original singer, Hironobu Kageyama, and of course “Re:member” as well as their most famous song “Fighting Dreamers” “GO!!!” Closing out the main set was a personal favorite, “Kaze no Uta,” which is from the recent Tales of Zestiria the X anime series.

Like Day 1, prior to curtain call we got a special duet performance featuring Yousei Teikoku’s, Yui-sama, returning to the stage to perform “COLORS” from mega-hit series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion/Hangyaku no Lelouch with FLOW. A fitting way to end the two days of concert given the 10th year anniversary of Code Geass as well as the supposed sequel coming soon.

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Overall

For the first year (and hopefully not the last) at Otakon, Anisong World Matsuri appears to have been a success. While ticket sales prior to the convention seemed lacking and concerning, it looks like space filled out during the con itself, which should be a big plus for hopefully a repeat event next year!

To be honest, I questioned for the longest time whether I wanted to go to Otakon’s Anisong World Matsuri despite buying tickets so far in advance. The artist line up was not something I was overly enthusiastic about that I would do a weekend trip for (50/50 to be honest), especially still coming off of Anime Expo a month ago. However, now that it has passed, I can say that I’m glad I did attend as Otakon provided a different perspective on the Anisong market in the US. Outside of the “eventers” in the room and me popping more UOs than I had intended for the weekend, it’s clear that anisong has not fully penetrated the east coast market the same way it has in the west coast market likely due to fewer opportunities. Having said that, the lineup makes much more sense now and was a good way to break the initial barriers hopefully leading to additional opportunities next year and beyond. It certainly will be interesting to see how Otakon and Anisong World Matsuri proceed from here and whether Otakon will be the only east coast con holding this going forward, especially with the growth of Anime Boston and Anime Weekend Atlanta recently.

Regardless, this marks the end of Anisong World Matsuri concert tour for 2017 (or so I think)! Thank you Anisong World Matsuri staff for another great year and hopefully we continue to see more of these events next year. Next up in the event schedule is the heart and soul of Anisong events at Animelo Summer Live 2017 -The CARD- at Saitama Super Arena. If you are from the US and going, let’s hang out!

As a side note, having been to both Anime Expo and Otakon’s Anisong World Matsuri this year, here is a highlight of Otakon’s Anisong World Matsuri strengths and weaknesses. More detailed review to come at a later date reviewing both conventions themselves.

+Cheaper tickets ($100 for VIP, $25 for General) compared to Anime Expo ($130 for VIP, $65 Orchestra, $35 for Loge)

+World of difference in VIP perks with laminated and hand signed (not stamped) autographs on posters for each individual artist whereas in Anime Expo there was nothing this year. This is in addition to the high-touch event after the concert

+Longer performances for each group made the concert feel much less rushed and allowed the artists to have more personal time with the audience (quality over quantity)

-Smaller crowd (Otakon’s AWM venue is 1/2 the size of Anime Expo’s and overall convention attendance is typicall 1/3 of Anime Expo in recent years) meaning smaller hype train compared to the atmosphere at Anime Expo. Also starting the concert at 3pm on Day 2 feels strange to me but not a real negative.

-Lacking preview videos/songs from the artists to hype the crowd up like what was done at Anime Expo

-Mostly larger and older name groups, which was understandable for the first year at Otakon but also lost the opportunity to try newer groups, especially since anisong seems to still be far more niche on the east coast compared to the west coast

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