After arriving back at our hostel at around 6 in the morning, we slept as much as we could and left for Daiba around noon. Lauren went off on her own idol adventure for the day, so Misha, Victor, and I got to Zepp DiverCity and met up with Ernest (@erniichan), my friend from college. This will be his first time seeing idols after I convinced him to come with a free ticket.
We arrived just in time for NEO JAPONISM, a group I really enjoy and was looking forward to experiencing live. The set was quite short, but they played my favorite song, “World End Starry Night”. Their edgy and energetic aesthetic translates very well in person. Throughout the set, the crowd around me was quite fun, mixing and doing the calls. Next was “JUMPINPO!!!!!” was a more bubbly and upbeat song that I enjoyed greatly. The set concluded with “Carry On”.
In late November last year, a flight to Japan from Chicago for under $600 popped up for the weekend of January 18. In a matter of hours, the trip was settled, and I would be going to Japan for the 4th time since 2018. This time it will be an entire week with my Chicago wota buddies Nobue (@VVVSnow), Misha (@DJMikeHuynh), and Lauren (@Kan_Kan_Mikan_) and going to see as many idol groups as we could find. We would fly out Wednesday, January 15 and return the following Thursday, on January 23.
Coincidentally, this was the weekend of Love Live Fest so we were able to meet up with some people who were in Japan for that. If you had told me years ago that I would be in Japan during Love Live event and I wasn’t even considering going, I’d call you crazy. Since WUG disbanded, I had been looking for something to fill the WUG-shaped hole in my heart, and I found idols. The passion, electricity, fun musical variety, and closer distance to the fans really drew me in. So unlike my previous trips to see WUG and Walkure, this trip would be idol-focused, and I was as excited as ever.
January 15 seemed to come so quickly after the busy holiday season, and before I knew it I was on a plane to Japan. The trip was uneventful and we arrive in Tokyo on Thursday night. We checked into our hostel in Akihabara and promptly… went to DearStage.
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.
After my previous trip to Japan to see WUG in October, I told myself that I had made my peace with Wake Up, Girls! and I was alright with Osaka being my last experience with WUG. But when they actually announced a final live in back in December, it was simply too hard to resist. A grand climactic final live? In Saitama Super Arena?? I had no choice. I was going for sure.
Nobue (@VVVSnow) and I arrived Thursday night and settled in WUGner Penthouse 2.0. It’s a less impressive setup this time, but it was still a convenient headquarters for operations. We caught the BanG Dream! anime on TV and put enough alcohol in ourselves to mentally prepare for watching the last time WUG will perform. It was going to a be a full, busy day tomorrow.
Since we didn’t get to get up for buppan, we slept in a little bit before heading over to Kishiwada for Day 2.
During the afternoon session, I was with Punster (@Punsster). Some of you might be familiar with his YouTube channel where he subs Minami-related content. I am really glad to have sat next to Punster, because he is responsible for so much of the subbed WUG content I consume. I can understand Japanese given some time, but it’s definitely easier thanks to him. Punster is also just a really chill guy in general. He got a bunch of pictures with various individual Japanese WUGners as well, so I guess they like him on both sides of the ocean.
This is the session where I had the best seats the whole weekend — row 12!
I was dead center aligned with position zero. The section I sat in is right around eye-level for the performers, so every time WUG turned to the crowd, I was making eye contact. Every time Mayu pointed out to the crowd, she was pointing straight at me.
Out of the seemingly infinite constellations of seiyuu, idols, singers, and bands that populate the sky of the Japanese music industry, the group that I follow the most closely is Wake Up, Girls!. I first got into 2.5D/seiyuu idols/whatever it’s called almost eight years ago with Idolmaster, and since then I have been on adventures that had me driving five hours both ways to see a delayed viewing of Aqours, bought me face to face with Nakamura Eriko, and took me to Japan for a weekend to see Walkure. But of all the franchises I have been into, none of them have ever made me feel the passion and love that I feel towards Wake Up, Girls!. So when they announced in June that they were disbanding next March, I knew I had to go see them.
Before I knew it, I was on a plane going from Chicago to my second trip to Japan this year. Don’t get into eventing, kids. Your wallet will thank you.
This adventure was mostly organized as a meetup of the WUG Discord server. Eight of us booked a really nice and spacious penthouse in downtown Osaka. MEM (@MEMgrizzlies7), Vestro, and I flew out from Chicago Wednesday night and finally arrived in Osaka on Friday morning, where we met up with fellow Chicagoan Nobue (@VVVSnow) before dropping our stuff in the penthouse.
A few weeks ago, I went to my local movie theater to see a delayed viewing of Aqours 3rd Live. Anime idols and eventing is a culture I’ve gotten pretty deep into in the last 2-3 years, and the opportunity to watch a performance from the convenience of a neighborhood theater is a welcome one for me. I enjoy the Love Live! Sunshine!! anime and I like the (real and fictional) girls of Aqours just fine. I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore “Love Liver” but I think they have good songs that are really fun to go crazy to in a noisy room.
After the event, one of the first things my friends and I talked about wasn’t the curious exclusion of “MIRAI TICKET”, Inami Anju’s backflip, or the character songs — it was just how many intermissions there were during the set. I remember exchanging furtive glances with those around me during yet another costume change, anime insert, or extended MC session.
This isn’t the first Aqours concert I’ve seen, either. I’ve been to 2nd Live and Hakodate Unit Carnival DV’s and I also remember them having a noticeable preponderance of intermissions. I joked that there must be more intermissions than singing during Aqours lives!