After Free! Eternal Summer ended, I think everyone was pretty convinced there’d be a movie, based on the pattern of KyoAni’s recent original TV anime. The question was what such a movie would be about. Would it be about Makoharu university life in Tokyo? Or would it be an adaptation of High Speed, the original light novels set during Haru and friends’ younger days? As it turned out, it’d be the latter, which is perfectly fine by me. The bigger news that’d be revealed a month later was that it wouldn’t be directed by Hiroko Utsumi, who had directed Free!. Instead, it’d be Yasuhiro Takemoto at the helm.
In the last year or two, everyone’s been talking about Naoko Yamada as the hot new KyoAni director who’ll save anime and that assessment isn’t exactly misplaced. Tamako Love Story is one of my favourite anime movies ever and Sound Euphonium is great. But Takemoto is still my favourite KyoAni director in large part because he speaks to my soul. Takemoto was the director for The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi and Hyouka, so you might see why I am enamoured with him.
But it’s not just his work on shows that I like that makes him great, it’s what he likes and chooses to focus on. For instance, here he is at the KyoAni CTFK event in 2013 talking about his favourite character:
Takemoto-san, who’s your favorite character?
I think everyone knows, but I’ll say it again to clarify; I really love Houtarou Oreki! (laughs) I like male characters more than female characters. (laughs)
He also directed Amagi Brilliant Park, which some would consider a more fanservicey cute girls kind of show. And yet, the main character was still weirdly adorable. As it turns out, Takemoto explains how this came to be in an interview from the Amaburi guidebook:
The protagonist Seiya is a cool yet narcissist protagonist who’s a bit detached from the other characters. What did you focus on when depicting him?
You could say that about him, but I personally find him to be an awfully cute boy. He’s not used to being frank in public, so he spontaneously begins to act that way in front of others. That’s why I always worked to bring out that cute portion of him since it was so important to his character. If perhaps everyone thought he was “cute” it would make me very happy.
The takeaway is that Takemoto has a fairly unique way of treating and portraying male characters no matter what kind of show it is. This is something that really appeals to me and it’s why Oreki is my favourite character and why Hyouka is my favourite show. I had no doubt that Takemoto’s High Speed would be great and I really looked forward to how he’d depict a younger Haru and Makoto. And the hair. I noticed in the trailer that the hair seemed closer to what you’d see in Hyouka or Amaburi than in Free. This is good because I am a huge fan of the hair from Hyouka.
And so with that, I decided this would be a perfectly fine reason to go to Japan. Well, okay, I didn’t just fly to Japan to watch a movie in a language I don’t understand, but it was pretty high up there on the list of reasons.
Once I was actually in Japan, the most daunting part was trying to figure out how to buy a ticket, mostly because it involved trying to communicate with another human being in a language that I didn’t know (why yes, I do not understand your language but would like to purchase a ticket to see a movie in said language). I figured that Ikebukuro was the closest place to watch it and I decided getting in on it early was probably a good idea, so I chose the earliest screening.
One nice thing about being in Japan at this time was that High Speed advertisements were everywhere and there was a ton of Free! goods in general. When I was in Japan two years ago, it was right in the middle of the airing of the first season of Free! and none of the goods had been released then. This time, I had the luck of encountering the High Speed train on the Yamanote line twice and was able to visit Iwami later while all of the High Speed stuff was still going on.
On the morning of movie day, I got up relatively early and went through twitter and noticed that people were in line at Shinjuku already and were starting to get goods. I got worried and got up and got to Ikebukuro as soon as I could. Once I got there, the line actually wasn’t too bad. Not too long after, they started letting people in and the line split into two, for reasons that I didn’t get yet since, lmao I don’t know Japanese.
I went with the line that didn’t stop by the box office and assumed that the other line was for people who hadn’t gotten tickets yet. The line I followed went up some stairs. Maybe half an hour later, I saw people coming down with bags of stuff and I guessed that I was probably in the line for goods. So getting to Ikebukuro when I did turned out to be the right call since I managed to get to the top and get my goods with a few minutes left before the screening time. They were also giving away Nagisa and Haru coasters for the first week; luckily, I got a Haru coaster.
It’s been a while since I’d watched a movie in a theatre with other people and I don’t think I’ve ever caught the first screening on opening day of any movie, so this was quite special. The movie wasn’t too hard to follow with my really cursory knowledge of Japanese and I got a lot of the jokes and all the main plot points. There was one scene where I noticed the tissues coming out, which coincidentally was my favourite part too.
So how about the movie? I loved it. Takemoto’s direction gives High Speed a pretty distinct feel from Free, which works better with the movie format. I can’t speak to any differences with the novel, since I didn’t read it, but everything felt right. The middle school versions of Haru and Makoto are extremely moe. The new two main characters are great too. Ikuya is a tiny ball of anger for the most part, but when he’s not? Super moe. Asahi is the dumb genki but he’s not annoying at all. Middle school Kisumi is also great and is still a little shit disturber (although I guess that should be the other way around). The senpai, Nao and Natsuya, are good senpais and it’s easy to forget that they’re like fifteen years old max.
Like Tamako Love Story, I think it can work without having seen the related TV series. If you watched Free and didn’t like it that much but really wanted to like it more, I’d really suggest giving High Speed a shot. If you liked Free, then you’ll probably like High Speed. If you’re a Makoharu, then you’ll die happy. The only truly unfortunate thing about the movie is knowing that everything is going to get blown up soon to set up for Free.
About a week later, I watched it again, this time in Kyoto, so I could get the new set of coasters (Ikuya, Natsuya, and Kisumi; I got Ikuya), but only after taking a visit to this place:
I wish I could watch it again, but that’ll have to wait until the BD comes out. My other wish is for Takemoto to be able to get his wish and continue to work on works that focus primarily on male characters. Thank you, Takemoto.
Back in 2008, the concept of The IDOLM@STER for me existed only as a category on Nico Nico Douga. And it was out of curiosity that I started the iM@S anime. That turned me into someone who you could say enjoyed iM@S. I liked the characters and I liked the songs, so yes, I did fall into the anime idol trap and I do enjoy me some IDOLM@STER now. Of course, a lot of iM@S was out of reach for me at this point and so I never really got deep into it.
2008: idolmaster sounds dumb 2011: the idolmaster anime was pretty good 2015: please i need help ordering these idolmaster penlights
— tim (@monoids) September 5, 2015
For a few years now, it’s been a running joke of mine to occasionally jump in with “What about IDOLM@STER but with boys?” It took Scamco a while, but they did it (after a months-long delay to get servers that wouldn’t immediately explode). Now, being new to the whole mobage
scam scene, my initial foray into The IDOLM@STER SideM was short-lived. I immediately figured out that Kyosuke and Yusuke, the twin former soccer players, were my favourites and I just tapped through the first event to claim my SR Idol Debut Kyosuke and R Yusuke. The mobage isn’t really big on gameplay (literally tapping) so I was content to leave it at that until the next W event (this ended up being about eight months).
What I wasn’t prepared for was Scamco’s next move, adding voices and releasing CDs, which they announced in March. And then I wasn’t prepared for the announcement of the 1st live. And then I wasn’t prepared for pouring money into lotteries and losing. And then I wasn’t prepared for my relatively unpopular unit to get voices and perform at 1st. And then I wasn’t prepared to be destroyed by ippan. And then I wasn’t prepared for actually sealing the deal and booking the flight long before I knew whether I’d have tickets.
In the end, I flew to Japan to watch a liveviewing in Shinjuku, which was not quite what I had hoped for, but I really couldn’t be picky after going through the lotteries and ippan and seeing everyone else get crushed by Scamco too. Of course, there was still one more battle left and I told myself that I wouldn’t go unprepared.
Since this was my first buppan, I had no idea what to expect, except that I’d be taking the first train. Luckily, I received some helpful advice and made sure that the train I was taking would actually be the first one and to watch out for where the line actually starts (at the station, not the venue). Going from Ueno to Tokyo, I didn’t really see anyone obviously heading for Maihama until about halfway when a girl with a huge bag covered in Pierre buttons stepped in the car.
The transfer at Tokyo station from the Yamanote line platforms to whatever train gets to Maihama was a couple hundred metres and I was worried I’d get lost, but everything turned out fine since there was already a convoy of people covered in SideM goods heading in the right direction. Once we got on the train and arrived at Maihama, I was told to prepare for everyone rushing the stairs. That didn’t quite happen until a bunch of dudes set everyone off. Luckily, my car was right by the stairs and it was a short jog to the start of the line.
The venue, Maihama Amphitheatre, is actually about a ten minute walk from the JR Maihama station, so what happens is that the line starts at the station and staff leads a parade of people to the venue. This is actually great because I was worried about finding my way from the station to the venue. Once we got to the venue, I’d estimate that there were about thirty to forty people ahead of me and there were about two hundred in total. Over the next hour, that’d grow to about 800.
The gender ratio was quite interesting to observe. As might have guessed, the iM@S fanbase is pretty male-heavy and you’d expect the SideM fanbase to be the opposite. Since this was the first SideM buppan, we weren’t really sure if it was necessary to take the first train (it was). I think the estimate was 8:2 female-to-male in the buppan line. For comparison, this was way more guys proportionally than the ratio I’d encountered at the cinema watching High Speed the day before.
But I also noticed a lot of dudes with SideM goods too, and not just stuff that you can pick up at Animate or something (not that there was a lot you could pick up at the time). Some guys had custom shirts made and quite a few of them had the unit muffler towels from the CD release events. Of course, it made sense that the people who’d trek out on the first train would be the most hardcore. And obviously quite a few of them had regular old 765 or CG stuff, but I think it was a good sign of how SideM was being received by guys.
This is also another one of those instances where I wished I could at least Chaikaspeak some Japanese because, I mean, you’re stuck with a bunch of people who love the same things you do for five hours and there were some interesting-looking conversations going around. I did manage to chat a bit with a P just in front of me and we traded cards. Anyhow, according to reports, the line was at about 2000 people by 8:00. The goods went on sale at 10 but they ended up letting us in at 9:30. I was out in about 15 minutes, which was a bit longer than it would’ve taken if I didn’t have troubles with my credit card.
So, about the live itself. Live viewing is actually not a bad experience if it weren’t for the fact that it meant you weren’t actually at the live. The camera-work was a lot more dynamic than I was expecting; it was like watching a BD in real-time. The theatre we were in was pretty large and the crowd knew what to do with calls and lights, so it was still fun. Again, the gender ratio was pretty decent for what’d be considered a female-focused franchise. There were probably more guys in the LVs than at the actual venue because of the lower commitment required. I didn’t get my SideM penlights in time so I picked up a plain old colour-changing penlight, which worked well enough.
They started with Drive A Live and ended with it too, which I guess is the only real choice they had. Everyone was wearing the outfits from the CD release events and I recognized some of the performance from the snippets that were shown on the niconamas, although the stage must’ve been a lot bigger than for the CD release events.
High×Joker was really high energy and fun and they were just jumping around all over the place, and also Naganyan doing the cat pose in Joker Almighty at 「校舎裏 にはネコさん♪」. Dramatic Stars were really cool, especially in Dramatic Nonfiction when Yuuma throws away the glasses that he’d been wearing. I actually don’t remember much specifically for Beit or Jupiter because they didn’t do anything super-crazy except that they were really good. SEM killed it with their crazy dance and I’m very glad I could finally see it. W were very cute and I liked their dance that started with pulling each other in Victory Believer at 「つかめVictory!」 but the part that was new to me (since I didn’t see it in the niconama) was in Pleasure Forever when they were sitting back-to-back with the platform rising.
I don’t really have much to say about the talk parts, being unable to comprehend their language and all. For the one in the middle, I remember TakaP being incredibly nervous; you could see his hand shaking while he was reading his part. In the last talk segment, there was crying. For Jupiter, it was finally their time to shine. For most of the others, SideM gave them their first big role and 1st was their first time being on such a big stage. Oh, there was Hirohiro hugging Naganyan, that was very kyaaaaaaa.
After it all ended, everything felt unreal. SideM is real and a SideM live just happened and I flew to Japan to watch it. The thing with SideM is for a long time, no one was quite sure how long it’d last until the first voices and CDs got announced. Even then, it was kind of its own thing and I don’t think it was until after 1st that it finally felt like it fit in with the rest of iM@S. Seeing the Project iM@S and other logos come up at the start of the live was kind of exciting in that respect.
Even though it was just a live viewing, I’m glad that I was there for it. There’s a lot more that I wish I could remember because there was just so much stuff going on. I really need the BD to come out soon so I can take it all in again. And of course, I feel like doing this live thing all over again, but odds are against me going to 2nd (even though it’ll have nyansu live). Who knows, though? Now that I’ve done it once, going to 2nd or 3rd or whatever eventually doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.
Ever since being introduced to Real Akiba Boyz’ rendition of the opening for Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the world of anime breakdancing. Now, RAB is good and all, but the real fun started when I stumbled upon a video in the Niconico dance rankings titled アニソン2on2ダンスバトル 『あきばっか～の vol.7』 予選ダイジェスト, or in English: Anison 2 on 2 dance battle “Akibaccano vol.7” Preliminary digest. And then I discovered an entire mylist of Akibaccano videos all the way to the first edition and spent a weekend going through those.
Anison breakdancing is fascinating to me because much like a lot of the other great stuff you find on Nico Nico Douga, it showcases people putting their incredible talents to the service of their favourite anime. You can find tons of videos of incredibly talented musicians and dancers doing covers of anison (or Touhou or iM@S or whatever) and breakdancing is just another one of those things.
Well, it’s not exactly just another one of those things. There’s this breakdancing culture that you can sort of see in the videos and I do know quite a few of the participants in Akibaccano also participate in actual non-anime break dancing events. So there’s this really interesting mixture of breakdancing and otaku culture, where you can have dudes in weird cosplay step onto the battle area and pull off the sickest moves you’ve ever seen and you also have serious looking bboys step up to do windmills to an Aikatsu song (which turn out to be fantastic for dancing).
And the best part is everyone loves it! I’m always amazed at how everyone somehow knows every anison for every show that ever aired, no matter how old or new. The dancers clearly know all the songs because they know all the cues and can pull off moves that incorporate some obscure reference to the show or the lyrics (for example, I’ve noticed every dancer knows the dance for the first Love Live OP). The audience also knows all the songs because they flip out at every song that comes up and they all know all the calls to the songs. It’s a good time all around.
While getting started on the volume 7 videos, I noticed that the date for the next Akibaccano had been set for 12/12, which happened to be while I was in Kyoto. So I did what any normal person with a Japan Rail Pass would do and Shinkansen’d my ass to Tokyo for a day. Unfortunately, the last Hikari train from Tokyo to Kyoto was before most of the final rounds (which I hadn’t anticipated because I screwed up reading 24h time), so I ended up leaving during the best 16 battles. I wish I’d planned things a bit better so I wouldn’t have to miss out on the most exciting part, but it was a blast. I’m really looking forward to the videos getting up loaded so I can find out what happened after I left and revisit some of the really excellent moments I was there for.