Unlike Kate I don’t think I have ever been tempted to go to a convention solely due to a musical act. I will even stand by the blasphemous statement that even JAM Project is more of perk rather than a decision maker. That is from someone who went down to Baltimore just to hear JAM Project. I don’t dislike musical acts. If you made me choose I would rather a convention’s budget be spent on an anime production guest over a band but at the same time I have enjoyed more concerts at anime conventions than I have outside of them. In Maslow’s hierarchy of anime needs it is more like music is often the second or third tier on the pyramid.
All that talk aside I was the only person in our little group that saw both musical acts for this year’s AnimeNEXT. Thankfully both performances were very different in the style so they both satiated a different audio desire. The ROOKiEZ IS PUNK’D is a high energy band that is all about pumping up the audience. Luna Haruna is more of a soulful balladeer. One is spicy and the other umami. Other than that analogy making me hungry for a spicy umami burger it also encapsulates the interplay of the two acts during the weekend on my musical palate.
ROOKiEZ IS PUNK’D felt like the first real concert I’d participated in a while. The venue wasn’t a huge stadium, the front of the stage was standing room only, the band was loud, and I nearly shouted myself hoarse.
ROOKiEZ sound is eclectic running from rock to hip-hop to even metal moments sometimes all within one song. Their songs have a spontaneity that keeps you on your toes, even more so during the live.
They kicked things off with an extended opening featuring hard guitar and bass riffs which lent an epic feel to the start of the concert.
After they warmed-up the crowd they began encouraging everyone to join in from clapping, to jumping, to throwing melodies back and forth. ROOKiEZ made the concert a fun one and clearly everyone was getting caught up in the atmosphere.
As much as they could pump you up, pieces like “Song For . . .” from Bleach created softer moments in between so the entire concert had a thoughtful pace.
The band didn’t spend a long time chatting it up, which is just fine because that means more music! Front man Shinnosuke of course held the stage well but amusingly admitted to using a cheat sheet. The crowd didn’t mind a bit! About midway through the other band members took some time to introduce themselves. Drummer U boldly told us he loves anime and revealed an Asuka shirt under his ROOKiEZ shirt. Things got a little weird for a second when the crowd tried to shout the drummer into taking off his shirt completely.
They ended on my favorite song, “Complication” (the 2nd DRRR!! opening), which brought out energy I didn’t know I had left. The song has heart and drama and all of that was present in the live version.
But of course there was an encore! The last treat, their latest anime offering, the opening to Yowamushi Pedal which rounded out the night perfectly.
It was great to find a special CD featuring their anime related tunes, plus a couple of bonuses, available. If other musical artists aren’t doing this already, they should definitely consider it when coming to conventions.
Much like Otakon has done for the last few years is seems that AnimeNEXT has picked up the formula of having a rocking musical act on Friday and a more subdued sound on Sunday to close out the event. At Otakon 2013 T.M.Revolution was on Saturday and that was followed up by Yoko Kanno on Sunday. So to send off AnimeNEXT 2014 on a bit of a more soulful note they brought in Luna Haruna.
I know my roommate was slightly disappointed that he missed the Luna Haruna concert. Sunday is usually the least attended day of the convention so I did wonder how many people could not attend like my roommate. As it tuns out quite a good deal people showed up so those thoughts were unfounded. As Sunday at the convention is always a bit of a lazy day the concert was a good way to unwind and decompress before leaving. The more relaxing Sunday musical event leaves a lasting impression but does not require all your energy.
It is a great end cap for people who stay for the third day but I know some people feel a little cheated if they have to leave early to get back home. It is a bit of a damn if you do, damned if you don’t. If you don’t have something like the Luna Haruna concert of Sunday it can easily feel like the skippable time-wasting day but if you do have it near the end of Sunday it can feel a bit closed off from the broadest audience of the convention. I myself feel like it needs to be there so each day is a draw but I understand why some people might feel salty.
While I have heard all of her anime contributions I mostly only knew Luna Haruna as the lady who did the second ending to Fate/Zero. But in my defense my retention for information that is Type-Moon related is far higher than for anything else.
Luna’s set mostly consisted of ome song she did for anime and then one of her own songs. Sort of “One for you and then one for me.” All the video cut between footage of Luna on stage, music videos for the song, and footage of the anime where appropriate. That meant a lot of songs from Nisio Isin’s Monogatari with some Fate/Zero and Sword Art Online as well. Luna is not Ichirou Mizuki so she does not have over 1,200 songs for Japanese film, television, video and video games under her belt. That meant she had to add a cover of the Madoka opening into the mix to round out her time. But overall Connect fit her style so it felt fairly seamless.
A random note: Certain characters get cheers when they show up on-screen whenever you play video clips during your songs. That is just the way otaku work at a concert. The thing was you might assume the character that got the strongest reaction was Saber, Madoka, or Senjougahara especially considering the audience. No, that was not the case. It was Deishu Kaiki. When did he get a really vocal fan following? He is a mixture of greasy and slimy with sort of despicable. It reminds me of how Adachi from Persona 4 has a weirdly fervent fan following.
My only complaint was Overfly reminded me of Leafa, ALfheim Online, and the overall major decline of Sword Art Online into darkness. The song itself was lovely. It just invoked some disappointing memories. As long as she sang Up on the Sky, the Wind Sings I was going to be happy. That was the last song in her set but overall it was a good way to end the day.
AnimeNEXT does a very good job of reaching out to a wide variety of fandoms while keeping things in the overall wheelhouse of otaku and Japanese culture related. Their musical acts have that same spirit of being inclusive of a broader audience while remaining on topic. I look forward to seeing that in the future as well. As much as it is not the main draw for me I am always curious to see who they get to fill the musical slots and next year will be no exception.
Other AnimeNEXT 2014 Coverage: