Thursday, October 31, 2013

OTAKON 20th Anniversary – August 9th-11th, 2013

For OTAKON’s 20th anniversary I’m happy to say that C.Thomas and I ARThomas were in attendance. This was our first OTAKON experience, and coming all the way from Atlanta, I can say hands down that it was certainly well worth the trip. I hope you’ll enjoy my report of our adventures, and be sure to read C.Thomas’ “Five Attractions – OTAKON 2013” report as well!

T.M.Revolution_OTAKON-2013__by_ARThomas (1)

[tab:Friday, August 9th]

Friday August 9, 2013 – Though we were present even before the doors to the Baltimore Convention Center opened, for us the OTAKON experience truly began at the Opening Ceremonies. After a few words from members of the board, we were treated to a performance, including a fantastic show by an Okinawan drumming trope who even performed along to PSY’s “Gangnam Style” much to the amusement of audience.

After a few words from the chairman of OTAKON, and very cute intro video featuring the conventions mascots, the guests were introduced onto the stage one by one. Todd Haberkorn (a voice actor whose recent roles include Soul Eater’s Death the Kid) had fans laughing and cheering as he boldly took the stage dressed as Superman. Even though all of the guests weren't present, the stage seemed quite crowded as they lined up shoulder to shoulder, taking turns introducing themselves and make a brief statement from right to left.

Following the Opening Ceremonies was T.M.Revolution’s panel. Beginning with screening of his “FLAGS” PV which immediately had fans hyped and cheering, it was with a collective chant of “T-M-R! T-M-R!” that, T.M.Revolution came onto the stage. “I’m happy to be back at OTAKON after so many years away.” He greeted in Japanese when the applause and music had subsided.

The panel continued somewhat like an interview as the host/translator asked him various questions, T.M.Revolution’s answers were all met with a healthy round of applause. They discussed his first OTAKON appearance back in 2003, memories of the event, and what he’s been doing in Japan over the last 10 years.

In the second half of the panel, the mic was opened to the fans so that they too could ask questions. When the host welcomed members of the audience to line up in front of the mic positioned in the center aisle, it was practically a stampede as fans enthusiastically rushed over.

The fans were lovely, all of them very sweet, funny and excited. On young lady came all the way from California and to the amusement of the audience announced that she had practiced her question in the shower.

- A few of my favorite topics/moments from the panel;

  • STAND UP! JAPAN - When asked by the host to tell us about his charity work with STAND UP! JAPAN, T.M.Revolution had a very in depth response about its activities. “STAND UP! JAPAN is a charity that a lot of artists are helping me out with. Of course I’m a part of this charity but in addition to myself many musician and creators, including creators of anime and manga are helping me with this charity effort with STAND UP! JAPAN. The charity effort is going to be required for a long time, so in order to make sure that artists are helping us over a long period we designed this charity so that they don’t need to really strain themselves to help with the charity. In terms of events that STAND UP! JAPAN does; once a year, every year, we perform – we gather all of the artists and creators and we have one very long live performance. In addition to that, the artists and creators donate items that we auction off for charity, and of course all of the proceeds go towards the earthquake effort. So we try to make this charity something that the artists and the fans can work together on.” After a strong round of applause for his passionate explanation he added, “I would like to take this time to thank everybody here. During the earthquake in 2011 lots of people in America gave many words of encouragement to Japan, much charity efforts to Japan, and not just America but people worldwide sent forth encouragements and helped Japan in its time of need. So I would like to take this time here at OTAKON to thank each and every one of you for helping out.”

  • Shiga Prefecture Sightseeing Ambassador - “I was born in Shiga prefecture and I wanted to give thanks to my hometown. In order to give back to my hometown I organized INAZUMA ROCK FES. It’s going to be held this year from September 21st to September 22nd. In Shiga prefecture there is a very big lake called Biwa lake; it’s the largest lake in Japan and part of INAZUMA ROCK FES. is to preserve the environment of this lake and contribute to environmental efforts around the world.”

  • Live action – A fan who came to OTAKON for the first time just to see T.M.Revolution expressed how much he loved the work he did for Sengoku Basara series, confessing that when the live action was announced he was sad to see that Nishikawa wasn’t in it. “Instead, GACKT was in there, I mean, he’s pretty cool but… I was wondering if you were ever approached to be in it, and if there was a scenario in where you could be, is there a character you would like to act as?” To this question he gave an amusingly thoughtful hum, asking the fan which character he thought he should play. “I think you’d be a great Yukimura.” The fan answered. To this, T.M.Revolution bolded called out a short phrase in Japanese. With the audience immediately bursting into cheers, I could only assume that it was a line associated with Yukimura. After a little more reassurance that he would be well suited for the role he said “Okay, if they ever make another live action, I’ll tell them I want to play that character.”

After the handful of questions from the audience, it was time to move on to poster giveaway. T.M.Revolution kind-heartedly offered words of gratitude and apologies again and again as the rest of the people in line took their seats. From there the host gave a brief explanation of how the trivia would go about, stating that he would ask a few trivia questions about T.M.Revolution, and if fans knew the answer they should jump up and down, wave their hand and try to get their attention. If chosen they’re allowed to answer the question, and if correct a lovely autographed Preserved Roses poster was all theirs!

The trivia questions were as follows;

  • “T.M.R.” - what does it stand for?

  • T.M.Revolution’s first anime tie-up song was HEART OF SWORD – what is the name of the main character in this anime?

  • In Gundam SEED, Nishikawa-san played the role of Miguel – In Gundam SEED Destiny, which character did he play?

It was quite hilarious seeing the crowd go wild, whooping, jumping and flailing to get called on. T.M.Revolution personally handed the posters to each of the winners and was sure to shake their hands as well.

As the panel drew to a close there was a final surprise for the audience; a screening of the full music video for T.M.Revolution’s collaborative single with Nana Mizuki, “Preserved Roses”. This would be the first time that the full video would be screened outside of Japan, and also it was noted that even in Japan the full video was only available for one day. With a final round of applause for T.M.Revolution, he left the stage and fans settled into silence, eyes on the screens as the gorgeous and lengthy music video was played.

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Next on the to-do list was HOME MADE KAZOKU panel which began by screening a video featuring live footage from some of their shows. With a loud round of applause, MICRO, KURO and U-ICHI walked onto the stage, taking their seats and introducing themselves one by one.

As with the previous panel, it began with a brief interview conducted by the host, topics included what it was like to return to OTAKON after three years, their debut mini-album “Oooh! Ie~!”, their hit song “Thank You!!” and the success of their first album “ROCK THE WORLD” which reached #5 on the ORICON chart.

Next came the section in which fans could line up at the mic and ask their questions to HOME MADE KAZOKU, and wasting no time fans boldly made a mad-dash to the mic-stand. Again the fans were all lovely with their kind words, eager to welcome them back and tell them just how much they love HOME MADE KAZOKU.

- A few of my favorite topic/moments from the panel;

  • Kimigaitakara - “Kimigaitakara means “because of you”. In this musical piece we wanted to give the love back that they give to us. We couldn’t have come this far without your support, so that’s the concept of Kimigaitakara.” KURO explained, followed by MICRO who added. “This song is dedicated to our fans, including you guys!” As a treat for the fans, the music video of Kimigaitakara was then screened, after which the host asked about the theme behind the video. KURO answered, “If you look closer to our HOME MADE KAZOKU logo there’s the shape of a house, right here in the capital O. So we made that house in our music video, meaning that we build this; HOME MADE KAZOKU, with you guys.” When asked about the many photos that appeared in the video MIRCO stated, “We wanted to make our video with our fans. So we just collected all the pictures from fans and we made it together. If we had a chance making a video like this next time maybe you guys from the US should send us pictures.” Of course this idea was met with an excited round of applause. “Let’s make it together next time.

  • Hey Mr DJ! – Asking how their recent nation-wide tour of Japan had gone, MICRO said “You want him to talk?” gesturing towards U-ICHI. The host asked him nicely and U-ICHI’s response was, “It was awesome!” To show us just how awesome it was, they played a great video set to their song Signature Sound. After the video it was revealed that it was made by U-ICHI, he stated that “For me, making music and videos are the same.” When the host asked about the location of large shrine that was seen in many of clips, KURO began “It’s a very famous-” but U-ICHI softly interjected saying “My house.” Giving everyone a good laugh before truthfully answering “Hiroshima.

  • Jay Z and Jogging – “I follow MICRO’s twitter account and he was talking about the Jay Z and Justin Timberlake concert. I was just wondering either did you go or is there any fun activities that you guys would like to do before you go back home to Japan?” MICRO confirmed that they had gone to see the show at BMT stadium on Thursday night, and that it was great, but he assured the fans “But we are going to have a better show tomorrow. It’s going to be great, so don’t you worry!” this statement was met with loud cheers. “Thanks for checking me on twitter” he added, before continuing to answer her second question. “Before going back to Japan, like, this morning I went running through the city with Nishikawa-san, jogging with him. So tomorrow maybe we’re going to jog. There’s a little boat; sea dragon, that you can ride. Maybe we’re going to try that tomorrow, in the morning.

Similar to T.M.Revolution, HOME MADE KAZOKU had autographed posters for fans who correctly answered the trivia questions. The trivia questions were as follows;

  • Which State did MICRO live in when he was a child?

  • Where in America did KURO come from?

  • How tall is U-ICHI?

  • Their band name is HOME MADE KAZOKU – what does KAZOKU mean in Japanese?

  • The first anime tie-up song is called “Thank You!!”- what is the anime?”

The fans did their very best to get HOME MADE KAZOKU’s attention to be called upon, the antics grew more and more hilarious each time, fans going so far as to start break-dancing or sassily prancing past the stage to get their attention. KURO, MICRO and U-ICHI were all very amused, as were the rest of us.

With all the posters given away, HOME MADE KAZOKU was given one last roaring round of applause as they left the stage.

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[tab:Saturday, August 10th]

Saturday August 10, 2013 - First on our to-do list for the day was Chiaki’s panel. The incredibly sweet singer wore an adorable cat-eared hoodie. Unlike the panels we had previously attended this weekend, Chiaki jumped right to answering questions from her fans, the line filling up quickly as she thoughtfully answered their questions one by one.

- A few of my favorite topics/moments from the panel;

  • Who I’d really love to work with! – When a fan asked if there was any group of singer that she’s always wanted to collaborate with Chiaki answered, “There’s a large anime song festival in Japan and I collaborate with some musicians there. Last year I had the chance to work with Minori Chihara and this year in Shanghai I had a chance to work with Maon Kurosaki. I’ve had chances to work with young female artists but now there are some male anime song artists too and I’ve love to work with a good-looking male artist.” That last part brought on much laughter and giggles from the audience.

  • Road to composing – “You were the vocalist for See-Saw, but before you started working for See-Saw were you making songs and how did you start composing?” was another fan question to which Chiaki answered, “It’s all in the flow of how things happened. I started out in the church choir and that led to me being part of chorus group. At that time I really didn’t think that this is where I would end up, but then I met Kajiura -san to do the band with her, and of course I told you that didn’t really work out so well. But in order to try to sell ourselves we created a lot of songs. It got to the point where Kajiura-san got so exhausted that she couldn’t really create anymore songs. That was around the time when she was asked to compose a song for an actress, but she was spent, she could not do it. So I told her “Maybe I’ll do it.” so I took the opportunity, I bought computers and started composing. That ended up being produced as a single CD with that actress as singer. That’s how the flow happened for me to end up composing.

  • Audiences – Another fan question addressed the trend of how fans take part in synchronized calls and guests such as waving light-sticks during the concerts of Anison artists, wanting to know how she felt about that. Chiaki’s response was intermixed with giggles as she stated, “Well, what I actually see more often is that even where there’s multiple artists there are lively audiences for every artists, but when I come up, everybody stops that. There isn’t any set dancing or anything, they’re just standing there; it’s almost like it’s their rest period.” With more giggles she added, “It’s a long event, sometimes it’s like five hours. People are jumping and staying really active all the time, drinking like 2-liter bottles of water to stay hydrated. I usually show up about halfway through, and I think they’re doing that by design.” The fan asked if she preferred people doing that during her songs and she said “I’m glad as long as people are enjoying the music, and if that’s how they want to enjoy my music then that’s wonderful!

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Saturday’s concerts had fans standing in an intensely long line that wrapped around the 1 Mariner Arena as they waited for seating to begin. When the doors were opened they flooded inside, and the seats quickly filled up more and more. As they waited for the concert to begin, fans took pictures of the stage, of themselves, and group shots with fellow friends, doing the wave and cheering loudly for a cameraman who strolled down the aisles recording fan messages for HOME MADE KAZOKU and T.M.Revolution. C.Thomas and I definitely had an excellent time, singing and dancing through both of the live performances.

Following the intro track of “AKATSUKI”, HOME MADE KAZOKU’s concert really kicked up with the popular Naruto theme “FREEDOM” Fun crowd interaction occurred during “Itoshi no Mic Check 1,2” where MICRO and KURO claimed one half of the audience, letting them be a part of the song by having every repeat after them.

After the screening of “Kimigaitakara” at their panel on Friday, I was especially looking forward to hearing it live. Without a doubt it was fantastic, and like so many of their songs, it was all too easy to get wrapped up in the rhythm.

Their cool and soulful performance came to a close with a song that I’m sure many fans were anticipating. “Thank You!!” During this song, fans went wild as MICRO jumped down from the end of the walkway, making his way down the aisle to the sound of rampant screams.

During their panel they mentioned that they kept their word to their fans when they promised that they would come back. As they left the stage they confidently stated "We'll be back!" and fans have no reason to doubt their word.  I can't say enough good things about their show, C.Thomas and I had an excellent time, we're already looking forward to their return.


01. AKATSUKI (Intro)
03. L.O.V.E.
04. Shonen Heart
05. Live On Direct
06. Itoshi no Mic Check 1,2
08. We Are Family
09. Shooting Star
10. Superman
13. Kimigaitakara
14. Thank You!!
[gallery columns="5" ids="12956,12965,12961,12957,12966"]

T.M.Revolution’s concert was absolutely incredible, as active as everyone was during HOME MADE KAZOKU’s 5-star performance, you’d think that the crowd would be tired, but they were anything but. These two acts filled the audience with so much energy that I truly think they could have danced through the rest of the weekend.

With a setlist of titles familiar to T.M.Revolution fans and anime fanatics alike, the show was nonstop fun, with hits like “Invoke”, “resonance” and “HEART OF SWORD ~YOAKEMAE~”. Once T.M.Revolution stepped out on that stage the enigmatic solo artist didn’t hold back, not for one moment.  His band was equally as impressive throughout the entirety of the live.

I have a deep fondness for collaboration songs, so I definitely enjoyed "Preserved Roses", but hands down things just couldn't have gotten any better when T.M.Revolution welcomed HOME MADE KAZOKU back out to perform the last song, "Tomorrow Meets Resistance".

Words can't describe how powerful his show was, the intensity that T.M.Revolution and his band created together was nearly overwhelming at times; overwhelming in the best way possible. C.Thomas and I are eagerly awaiting his return as well.


1. Preserved Roses
3. Zips
4. Invoke
5. Save The One, Save the All
6. resonance
7. Naked arms
9. ignited
En 1 The party must go on
En 2 Tomorrow Meets Resistance (with HOME MADE KAZOKU)
[gallery columns="5" ids="12931,12926,12928,12932,12944"]

Still reeling from the concerts, there was one more event on our hit-list before we could call it a night. At 10pm, the staffers of held their own panel.

There representing JRR was an awesome group of ladies that we had the pleasure of seeing throughout the weekend. They shared some of the history of the website, as well as a look behind the scenes, letting the audience know the kind of work that goes into what they do, and what they’d like to do more of in the future.

Several members of the audience were eager for music recommendations. The environment of the panel was very nice and open, the hosts readily encouraged discussions, accepted suggestions and thoughtfully answered fan questions.

During their panel JRR graciously held a giveaway of their own, doing a “Name That Artist” song trivia to win prizes like Violet UK CDs and even an autographed Yoshiki poster.

I hope I can attend more of their panels in the future!

[tab:Sunday, August 11th]

Sunday August 11, 2013 – Our final day of OTAKON and our main events for the day were the Sunday concerts. Seating was limited for this event, but no one was left out as in addition to the room that housed the concert, there was a live simulcast taking place in another room.

Chiaki Ishikawa gave a brief but impactful performance, stealing the hearts of the audience with her romantic voice and dreamy melodies. Soothing not only to the ears, but to the eyes as well with her elegant stage presence and graceful movements; she was a joy to see live. I was especially happy to hear Uninstall on her set list after hearing how important this song is to her. An amazing voice, and and amazing show that left fans wanting more. C.Thomas and I just loved her show and could have listened to her for hours on end.


01. TW

02. Uninstall

03. Gyakko

04. Fukanzen Nenshow

Yoko Kanno’s piano me concert was gorgeous and heartwarming, taking creativity to the next level. I was especially happy to hear my favorite Cowboy Bebop and Wolf's Rain songs, especially when the audience joined in to sing along, it was very beautiful. Yoko was cute and endearing, I'll never forget how happy she looked as her piano filled with hearts seemingly spurred on by the audiences applause as they cheered for an encore. Her performance was a wonderful way to end our weekend, the masterful piano renditions of her pieces paired with the spectacular lights and LED displays on her piano pulled up a myriad of emotions and leaving us very fulfilled.

Following the concert, Yoko Kanno had this to say to the fans;




piano meを通じて出会えたすべての皆さんに感謝します。」

Thank you for not leaving me by myself on the stage. I was very happy we could make music together. To the people who were waiting for me, to the people who gave me this opportunity, to everyone I met through "piano me", Thank you!- YOKO KANNO

Yoko Kanno piano me

2013.8.11@Otakon, Baltimore

Nomad Soul
Innocent Green
Resonance of the earth
Gravity ~Baltimore special medley

Apollon Blue
Power of the Light

Someday My Prince Will Come
The Real Folk Blues
Wo Qui Non Coin

- encore2-
Star Spangled Banner

- encore3-
Tank! (reprise)

Future song requests: For all the fans, submit song-requests for piano me to:
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OTAKON | T.M.Revolution | HOME MADE KAZOKU | Chiaki Ishikawa | Yoko Kanno

[author][author_image timthumb='off'][/author_image][author_info]

This OTAKON 2013 report written by Alicia R. Thomas and edited by C.Thomas. Thank you so much to everyone who made our OTAKON experience so memorable!


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