Event Report: i☆Ris at Anime Weekend Atlanta

Last year, after the announcement that Wake Up, Girls! was disbanding, in my rage I swore that I would never follow another Avex artist again. While that pledge was obviously extemporaneous, devoid of gravity and bought on by frustration, it is ironic that I have since seen three different Avex artists in 2019. WUG themselves in March, The World Standard in the summer, and now i☆Ris last weekend. Doing an event report for Wasuta at Anime North had completely slipped my mind somehow; why do I even have this blog if I can’t write up such a memorable experience? But I will not make that mistake again, so here is what went down this year at Anime Weekend Atlanta.

When i☆Ris was announced for AWA several months ago, my friends and I confirmed almost immediately. I really like their uptempo music, and from their tangential collaborations with WUG, I was familiar with the group.

Anime Weekend Atlanta

Lauren (@Kan_Kan_Mikan_), Misha (@DJMikeHuynh), and I flew in on Thursday without any issues. By sheer luck, we bumped into our hotel roommate nemu (@nemu_no_mune) at the airport, along with my good friend TheBigN. There was not much to do until later at night, when a Mogra rave was happening. The rave was fun for a while, but like all Mogra raves that happen at major conventions in North America, it was watered down for the more casual audience. I wasn’t expecting Anisong Index, but the energy really just wasn’t there in general. I felt like the bass in the room was really unbalanced and the overall audio quality could have been better. It’s nothing like the Mogra you see on Twitch or in person.

A view of the dealers hall

On Friday, we mostly just hung out at the convention. Oddly, Lumica’s booth was not in the dealers hall, but in a food court. Like usual, they had the DJ’s from Aniparty spinning most of the day and I generally just hang around there. I’ve seen enough anime conventions in my time so I don’t really go to panels or browse the dealers hall anymore. At the Lumica booth, I can drop my stuff off, chat with friends, drink, and do chikagei for hours. That’s my idea of a fun time.

I would say most of my idle time at AWA was spent here. It’s a great venue to catch up with the anisong/idol music crowd that gathers from around the country during conventions. The folks that DJ at the Lumica booth, Aniparty, run events periodically that are a ton of fun. I’ll be going to Aniparty vol 7 next month in New York City, check it out!

i☆Ris Live

Flowerstand made by fans

Saturday finally came, which meant it was time for i☆Ris. Like all events worth going to in North America, the front of the line was a few crazy fans who came from Japan and camped out. The venue was standing, just like a live-house! I got to be one row behind the rail (just behind the Japanese people) and I had a great view.

i☆Ris are in a very unusual niche because they are actually seiyuu chika idols. They are heavily associated with anime and the members do actual voice work, but they are a bona-fide idol group who appear at festivals and have fans that mix. I cannot think of another group that fits so clearly into these categories.

Mixing during a live is one of the most fun and refreshing sensations I can think of. Some English-speaking fans went through the effort of making a really pretty and informative call book that was helpful in teaching the basics to people less familiar with the culture. I think the effort paid off because I heard the standard mixes pretty loud throughout the performance.

My view, taken before the live

The first song was “Dream Parade”, which means I proceeded to bust out the World Chaos mix during the ochisabi, and I was promptly joined by the degenerate yakkais around me, much to the surprise of the Japanese fans in front of us. One of the guys behind me, Shen, brought a bunch of crazy bright rotating lights, and we lifted him during “Fantasia Wonderland”.

The set concluded with “Make It!” and “Realize!”, staple songs that really spiked the energy. One of my favorite qualities of i☆Ris is how well they dance, and “Realize!”, besides being a banger of a song, has wonderfully expressive choreography. Getting the chance to see i☆Ris perform live turned out to be an absolute treat that I could not have imagined months ago.

After an encore call, the girls finished with my favorite song, “Ultimate Magic”. I was kind of worried I wouldn’t see it, but in the back of my mind I always knew it would probably be the closer. The “chou kawaii” call in the bridge is incredibly fun.

It was great experiencing the event with the hardcore Japanese i☆Ris fans in front of us. I’ve flown across the ocean to see artists before, but they get to see i☆Ris whenever they want and they still made the trip. That’s dedication. I think (and hope) they enjoyed our company and we exchanged pleasantries after the event ended.

Overall it was just a great fun party of mixing, jumping, screaming, and overall nonsense — something we need a lot more of in terms of lives in North America. I’m so over sitting there with penlights and doing PPPH for 2 hours. Give me a chance to scream so hard lose my voice, jump so much I can’t bend over, and clap so hard my palms hurt, any day.

Rave, Q&A Sessions

There was another Mogra rave that night, and it was a lot better than Thursday. Capping off the night at 3am would be DJ Azuki: i☆Ris member Shibuya Azuki herself! We showed up to the event at around midnight, but quickly realized it was daylight savings tonight, and we would experience 1am twice, putting Zucchan’s set 4 hours away.

Lauren and I made our way to the front pretty quickly just as TeddyLoid started spinning. I last saw him at Mogra in Akihabara last year and just like with my previous experience, he was excellent. A much younger me used to be pretty into EDM, so it was almost nostalgic for me to be busting whatever “moves” I had while being kind of drunk and tired out of my mind. He played his standard anthems, which is fine by me. I didn’t really care about hearing anisong at this rave, it was more about the beats and the atmosphere.

DJ WILDPARTY did a set next, which I thoroughly enjoyed as well. I find it hard to write about specifics when talking about a rave because it all kind just blends together. Also, how do I describe dance music? The beats were good and it was a fun time?

After a few hours, it was finally time for the last DJ of the night. I was quite surprised to see the room start clearing out after TeddyLoid, D-Yama, and WILDPARTY as I had assumed a lot of people were here for Azuki. I guess it was indeed getting late.

I knew Azuki was a DJ as kind of a side-hustle, but I have never actually watched any of her sets. My was I surprised. I have been in my fair share of raves and nightclubs in my time, and I can confidently say Azuki spun like a seasoned pro. Despite having negative amounts of energy left in my body, I felt like a 20-year-old kid again, jumping to Azuki’s set.

By the time things were over I think it was like a million o’clock in the morning. We got like 3 hours of sleep before having to wake up on Sunday for the VIP Q&A session, which was quickly followed by a regular Q&A session. The girls looked pretty tired, but Azuki (for good reason) looked especially dead. The best question we got was when someone asked whom each member would like to live with if i☆Ris had to live together. The girls simultaneously made X’s with their arms before Azuki bluntly declared that if they had to live together, i☆Ris would disband. We all got a good chuckle there.

Final Thoughts

I got to sit right between my two favorite members: Yuki and Miyu!

Overall, i☆Ris was 100% worth going to. As for Anime Weekend Atlanta itself, it was a very good and well-managed convention. I never had to wait in line for too long, the place was not crowded at all, and things more or less got started on time. It was the polar opposite of the hellscape of Anime Expo. The convention seemed a bit small, but I had plenty to do. Staff were attentive, friendly, and knowledgeable.

The location of the convention was very convenient. Refreshments were readily available throughout the convention itself, and the place was surrounded by food options. SunTrust Park (home of the Atlanta Braves) was a 15 minute walk away and the complex is stuffed with nice places to eat (yes, including a Yardhouse). Even closer was a mall, which was right across the street with even more food options at various prices. Our hotel had a free shuttle during the day and the airport was a reasonable distance away.

Anime Weekend Atlanta was my first time visiting an anime convention in the American South. It was an excellent experience, and should they ever give me a reason to return, I will definitely not hesitate to be back.