Friday, March 17, 2006

Lemon Angel Project 11

This is such a simple show, and yet I enjoy it every week. Because of the characters, the attractive character design, and how the characters are played. Miki, Miru and Tomo are all quite effective this week -- for those of us who actually like Shihono Ryou's voice, anyway.

And this week there is some plot. The impending debut of the new Lemon Angel Project looks to be derailed by the reappearance of the original Lemon Angel Project. And Miki comes clean about her role in making that possible.

The new LAP is trained and ready. They look forward with enthusiasm to their debut. But from their bus, they see advertisements for the LAP that look like the original group. Weird.

Miki discovers online that something is up. Then they actually see ads for the rebirth of the original LAP. Shock all round. Their producer ("good salaryman") storms in front of the company's board, but is summarily shot down. Sharp-guy-with-glasses just laughs at him. Baaad.

Back in his own office, the producer apologizes to the girls and says there is nothing they can do. Saaya says they should just go ahead and prepare, and not think about what they can't change. Enthusiasm rekindles. Miru, however, is not really ready to supplant the old LAP, if it still exists. She desperately wants to meet her heroine, Yui, the founder of the original group. She thinks she is still alive.

Katagiri, the musical director, confronts Miki and worms the truth out of her. Miru happens to overhear the programmer of the old group and secretly follows him down to his basement, where she discovers the awful truth that the original LAP was just a computer program. She calls Tomo on her cell phone, and all the girls come down to the basement and find out.

The New LAP team is all together -- producer, manager and all six girls -- and wondering how such a complex program got fixed. To the accompaniment of flashes of lightning, Miki admits it was her. More shock all round. She repaired it, removed the things she thought were not according to Yui's intentions, and passed it to the company. She calls it her "revenge."

I don't understand Miki's thinking. She fixes the program, but then gives it back into the hands of the man she blames for Yui's death, the producer who changed Yui's music and rejected her love.

I'm expecting that Miki will find a way to re-destroy the program, clearing the field for LAP2, and exorcising her own ghosts. But we still can't be sure how it will play out. Remember that Yui designed the lead singer based on her young friend Tomo. The question for Miki is: what would Yui want? Are you taking revenge on the wrong people?

This week was Miki-sempai's turn to sing the OP (Maruyama Miki). She's a trained singer, like Hirama Juri and Chihara Minori. And she has a little more color and interest in the way she sings. Almost as much as Tomo. Next week: Tomo and Yui (Shihono Ryou and Shimizu Kaori).

For a show about an idol group, this series has very few songs. Having each seiyuu do the OP is interesting, but hardly a substitute for something new. There's no question this show was put together cheaply to make a profit. Fortunately, that doesn't mean it can't also be enjoyable to watch.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lemon Angel Project -- live event

Last Saturday, 11 March 2006, was the last of three live events for the release of the Lemon Angel Project character CDs. It was extremely successful, according to accounts on the Japanese message board 2channel and elsewhere. But there were other stories behind the scenes.

(l-r)Maruyama Miki (Miki), Shihono Ryou (Tomo), Chihara Minori (Erika), Hirama Juri (Fuyumi) The event hall at the Tokyo Animation Professional School in Shinjuku was apparently filled with otaku. The entry price was buying one of the CDs. The seiyuus entered through the crowd, in costume, no doubt to the show's OP music and cheering from the fans. (mouseover photos)

These events are like little performances with autograph and "handshake" sessions added. A chance for fans to meet the seiyuus face-to-face. Only four of the six main seiyuus in LAP were there: Shihono Ryou (Tomo), Chihara Minori (Erika), Hirama Juri (Fuyumi) and Maruyama Miki (Miki-sempai). The two most successful seiyuus in the cast -- Koshimizu Ami (Saaya) and Kadowaki Mai (Miru) -- didn't make it.

(l-r) Miki, Tomo, Erika, Fuyumi The MC coordinated a talk/interview session with the four. There was a rock-paper-scissors game featuring the seiyuus and some audience members, with prizes. The seiyuus each sang their character songs. And there were handshake sessions and autograph sessions with each seiyuu.

Posts on 2channel from otaku who attended the Tokyo event sounded like publicity pieces. The relaxed, funny atmosphere. The great singing. Plenty of time for each person to get an autograph or a handshake. The friendly and amusing personalities of the girls. Their banter sometimes had the MC running in circles. One poster described the moment when Tomo and Fuyumi pulled off each other's gloves for the handshake session as "thrillingly moé." Another ended his paean by saying: "I love the Lemon Angel Project. I'd follow them anywhere." Classic fanboy.

Shihono Ryou signing autographs Shihono Ryou is a tall (170cm=5' 7") 14-year-old whose main claim to fame is popular photo-books and DVDs featuring her in swimsuit, gym shorts, school uniform, etc. But on Chihara Minori's web page, Chihara calls Ryou-chan both extremely cute and extremely steady. From Shiho~n's radio show (that's the nickname she uses there), you can tell how confident and natural she is. And garrulous. One 2channel poster who was at the event said she gabbled on about everything from Yokohama shiu-mai to Osaka okonomiyaki. A growing girl likes to eat.

Minorin herself (Chihara Minori) is apparently quite amusing. But Hirama Juri was the big hit. Not just for her singing, but also because she is a non-stop-nervous-activity comedienne. On her home page, Minorin says that Maruyama Miki, who seems so calm, is secretly a comic fool. And she says that just as they were about to go on, one of the staff got them together and said: "When you talk, be sure to make people laugh within 30 seconds." Great idea to increase the pressure just as we're about to go on, comments Minorin drily.

Shihono Ryou after the show At the end of the interview session, the normally unflappable Shihono Ryou apparently burst into tears. A note on her agency's blog site says that she was tired out from constant work on LAP, taking no time off, working on her part at all hours to improve her performance. The photo of her with that blog entry is quite moving, when you know the circumstances. She's a 14-year-old who has been in show business for exactly a year. Perhaps it's coincidence, but what is put as her "dream" on Ryou's blog page has recently changed from "to win the Academy Award as best actress" to "to be an actress who can play many roles." The real world of entertainment can be harsh, like many reviews of Ryou's performance in the first couple of episodes of LAP.

What the performers really think as they are up there entertaining and shaking hands with a bunch of dirty-minded otaku is hard to know and easy to guess. I can't help wondering if someone said something salacious about Shihono Ryou to set her crying. But both Minorin and Shiho~n posted on their websites how good it was to see everyone, and Minorin said she had become addicted to live events. Performers love audiences, after all.