Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hirano Aya Riot Tour in Shibuya

"This is the 'Riot Tour,' and I'm going to get riotous. Let's start a riot!" said Hirano Aya at the beginning of the first in her four-concert tour of Japan.

It seems they did. The fans in the pit were so riotous that at one point someone was pushed to the ground and Aya had to ask if they were okay.

As you can see from the photos, she was pulling out all the stops.

It seems to have been a highly successful concert. Fans posting on 2channel were thrilled, and said her live singing and performing were getting better and better, and the atmosphere in the hall was great.

Even someone who said he thought her work at last year's Suzumiya Haruhi concert was "awful" said that this year she had risen to "average." Lol. Hard work is part of who this woman is.

She's not doing big halls -- this one was filled with 1200 people -- but sales are good enough that they have added Yokohama (16 Nov) to the original three-concert tour of Tokyo (Shibuya, 24 Oct), Nagoya (30 Oct), and Osaka (14 Nov). True to her ambitious nature, she said she wanted to do bigger and bigger venues.

Aya, who tears up easily in performance, said she was determined not to cry...until Yokohama. I believe, without a lot of justification, that her family home is around there.

One 2channel poster said he saw Shintani Ryouko and Sakakibara Yui at the concert. Kei, whose blog says she is a "trance singer," was there and said she loved the concert, and thought Aya and the band were both excellent. You can hear some of Kei's work from the links at the right-hand side of her blog page. She says she went with her friend Rapbit, who is a rap singer with the same agency and is a big fan of Aya's. In his blog, he says he loved the concert, too.

Aya acted as her own MC, and according to a report on Sanspo said at one point that Hello! Project producer Tsunku♂, with whom she worked on her recent single, told her to let the rhythm soak into her whole body when she performed. Reports on 2channel suggest that is just what she did.

In the Sanspo report it says that she wore three different pink lame dresses, and sang 17 songs. The concert lasted about two hours, and was entirely her and her new band, which is called Goshasei. This name means "Five Chariot Stars" and refers to Auriga, the charioteer constellation.

This is also a reference to the Nantou Goshasei, a band of fighters in Fist of the North Star, which is one of Aaya's favorite manga series. She has said she hung out with the boys in junior high.

Reports on 2channel were generally favorable about the band, and posts said that the drummer and lead guitarist were both excellent. Aya herself has been featuring the band in recent blog posts.

There was a special section set aside for women, and a couple of posts on 2channel mentioned being surprised at how many female fans were there. Some girls even posted.

Set list:
2. Bouken Desho Desho?
3. MonStAR
4. Aimai Scream
5. Namida, Namida, Namida
6. God knows…
7. Lost my music
8. Maybe I can't good-bye.
10. Harmonia vita
11. Hoshi no Kakera
12. Unnamed world
13. HERO
16. For You
17. Yorokobi no Uta

Most photos above are from the Sanspo report. Below are some photos from Aya's blog, showing the band, and the final rehearsal.

The last photo is of her at a pre-concert mini-live for the media. Below are some photos from her week of rehearsals, including shots of her sleeping, and of her poor feet: because her shoes were chafing her heels as she danced, she went barefoot -- which was almost as bad.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Too Many Good Anime

Mouryou no HakoThere are just too many good anime this season.

Here's my own watch-list of raws:

Monday: Vampire Knight - Guilty, ef - a tale of melodies. (2)
Tuesday: Kurozuka, Hakushaku to Yousei, Mouryou no Hako. (3)
Wednesday: Toradora, Hyakko, Bounen no Xamdo. (3)
Thursday: Chaos;Head, Tytania, Nodame Cantabile Paris, Clannad After Story. (4)
Friday: no new anime I want to watch! Eve no Jikan every second month, Candy Boy every month and a half. (0)
Saturday: Kannagi (at least twice). (1)
Sunday: Skip Beat. (1)

And there are other shows I am only phasing out gradually and somewhat reluctantly: Michiko to Hatchin, Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka, To Aru Majutsu no Index, Kemeko Deluxe, Kyou no Go no Ni, Macademi Wasshoi. And of course there are other shows that other people rate highly.

Vampire Knight - GuiltyClearly, something has to give. Your selection may be different, but I imagine everyone is having the same trouble I am: what can I drop?

The shows I will definitely not drop are: Kannagi, Vampire Knight, ef, Kurozuka, Mouryou no Hako (all outstanding), Hakushaku to Yousei (guilty pleasure), and Skip Beat (I love the manga, and I have to see how they do it).

Anyway, I take an optimistic view of the anime industry. Despite the howls from companies about online viewing and file-sharing, the industry continues to pump out shows, seemingly more shows in the past year than in any of the previous few years. They must be making money somehow. The shows cover a range of genres, and the quality is high and getting higher. Or at least that's how it looks to me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kurozuka -- Give It a Try

I'm not much for violent anime, but the sleeper hit of the season for me is the unheralded Madhouse show Kurozuka. Even if you aren't into bloodbaths, this show just grabs your attention and runs with it. Give it a try.

I'm not sure what genre this might fit into. Maybe it's a genre of its own: vampire historical science-fiction bloodbath erotic romance.

It's from a popular manga that I just couldn't make head nor tail of, but director-writer Araki Tetsurou has fashioned the story into a gripping anime. Araki-san was the director of Death Note, and he has brought in Paku Romi and Miyano Mamoru as the leads. They are both terrific, but Paku-san is just brilliant. Absolutely riveting.

Add Nakata Jouji, Fujiwara Keiji, Kuwashima Houko, Miki Shinichirou, Ohkawa Tohru, and Irino Miyu, and you've got one heck of a cast.

I won't say much. I don't want to spoil the plot for you. And there's a lot of plot. Suffice it to say that the setting has changed in each of the first three episodes, so don't expect anything to last.

Whatever the case, it's a beautiful show. The dark backgrounds are gorgeous. The animation is the rough perfection that Madhouse can provide. The overall feeling is lush, sensual, romantic, dark. Gore and flying limbs abound. Animation director Shino Masanori did Black Lagoon. The pics here are a selection from episodes one and two, just to whet -- or perhaps dampen, lol -- your appetite. (Click images to enlarge)

For more info, check ANN. The show doesn't even have a proper official site. Here is its Animax introduction page.

I think what got me onside with this show from the beginning is the fact that every episode is prefaced with a brief Noh recitation and dance. And the OP (YouTube), by Wagdug Futuristic Unity (basically Maximum the Hormone) is a great driving punk shout that really gets your blood moving. The ED (YouTube) by Shigi is beautiful and beautifully sung.

Search "Kurozuka" on YouTube to see streamed versions of the episodes themselves.

And by the way, another Tuesday night Madhouse show is also a sleeper hit for me: the shoujo-ish (or at least shoujo-ai-ish) supernatural mystery based on a well-known novel, Mouryou no Hako. Try it, too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Japanese Otakus' Choices -- What 2channel Likes This Season

After three episodes of most shows, 2channel has declared itself.

The Japanese anime fans who post to that vast complex of message boards favor Clannad After Story and Gundam00 among new seasons of old shows.

And among new shows, they like Toradora and Kannagi, with To Aru Majutsu no Index only a little behind.

Threads for sequels tend to continue numbering from where the earlier series left off, so it is hard to tell how many posts a sequel really has. But in this case, Clannad and Gundam look to be far ahead, at 276 and 250 threads each (each thread holds a thousand posts), with ef - a tale of melodies at 46 and Rosario to Vampire 2 at 34.

Among new shows, it is easier to see what's what, with Toradora and Kannagi in a virtual tie, at 27 and 26 threads, respectively. I myself think Kannagi is an outstanding moe comedy, with stunning animation, voice-acting, and storyboarding.

To Aru Majutsu no Index has 21 threads and Kurogane no Linebarrels has 20, but that means that Linebarrels is sinking like a stone, since it had almost half that number before it aired. And Index is rising fast, probably due to its moe quotient, which is almost off the scale, especially for a show that involves fighting, as well.

Ga-rei Zero, Hyakko, and Tales of the Abyss come in the next rank, at 12 and ten threads.

Of course, TV ratings are quite different, as reported here, with the top-rated new shows being Nodame Cantabile Paris, Gundam 00 S2, Yozakura Quartet, Kuroshitsuji, One Outs, Mouryou no Hako, and Clannad.

Here are the figures. Some shows are missing because I only report the hundred or so most recently posted-about shows:

Clannad After Story 276
Gundam 00 250
ef - a tale of melodies 46
Rosario to Vampire 2 34
Vampire Knight - Guilty 8
Jigoku Shoujo 3 6
Hokuto no Ken 3
Nodame Cantabile Paris Chapter 2

New Shows
Toradora 27
Kannagi 26
To Aru Majustsu no Index 21
Kurogane no Linebarrels 20
Ga-rei Zero 12
Hyakko 10
Tales of the Abyss 10
Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka 8
Shirabane Hime Aka 8
Chaos: Head 7
Kyou no Go no Ni 7
Kemeko Deluxe 6
Mouryou no Hako 6
Kuroshitsuji 4
Skip Beat 4
Tentai Senshi Sun Red 4
Yozakura Quartet 4
Casshern Sins 3
Michiko to Hatchin 3
Tytania 3
Hakushaku to Yousei 2
Inazuma Eleven 2
Kurozuka 2
Macademi Wasshoi 2
One Outs 2
Bihada Ichizoku 1