Most Awesome 3 Nights, 2 Days

After a total of 31 hours (2.5+14.5+14) of awesomeness, my arms are aching so bad I have trouble lifting them outstretched up to the 90 degree angle. I'm also having trouble walking due to very aching calf muscles. But it was all worth it. $357 for such an experience. It'll be very difficult to forget that.

It's a first in many ways for me. It's the first time I've:

  1. Actually been to a concert other than classical. Been to a rock concert. Been to a J-pop concert.

  2. Gone crazy during the concert for the songs I like best and the singer whom I support.

  3. Got an autograph from a celeb. Got it from a singer. Got it from LiSA.

  4. Been to the AFA knowing some significant stuff about it.

  5. Stood so close to the stage such that I can feel the interaction between the singer and me.

  6. Been to a festival for the full duration from door opening to closing.

  7. Spent so much on a festival. (still haven't done the tallying, but it's around 500+ not including meals and transport.)

  8. Brought my full photography gear for a shoot.

  9. Walked around the entire day with all my gear.

  10. Was mistaken for a professional photographer. (I was allowed to exit through a door while my friends following behind were stopped and asked to show their pass.)

  11. Sneakily took pictures when not allowed. (Of Chiwa Saitou during the live dub, and of May'n while she was signing autographs)

  12. Managed to learn what's the best gear to bring for mobility and yet have good shots. (I'm actually pretty comfortable with my setup now.)

And on to the event. I really enjoyed going through all the booths seeing what was being sold. It's not something you can describe easily � the feeling of joy and appreciation of seeing so many figurines, t-shirts, and other merchandise of all the characters you are a fan of, and more. And most importantly, ALOT of people buying them. All together, one really humongous group of fans crazy over these kind of stuff. Best of all, there was an electronics fair just in the last hall. The juxtaposition is just soooo damn bloody strong! You can see these indian workers, old folks, china workers like, wondering what the heck is this crowd of people in fancy costumes getting so much attention from so many people taking photographs of them, enjoying it, and doing all sorts of poses. Our crowd just filled the entire place, and one of the "out of place" shoppers asked me, "Where is the Electronics fair? It's in Suntec right?" Bingo! We made the place another planet to them! I was laughing, as well, at the look of one of the Indian workers when he saw all the otaku merchandise as he flipped through the flyer he received for the Muse booth after immediately after coming up from an escalator. A look of total confusion and bewilderment.

I feel so much better during this AFA that I at least know a significant bit of what's going on. Luckily I had just finished Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica that same week, so the stuff was fresh in my mind, and more importantly, it was the latest craze. My Japanese has also improved alot. Alot, because the previous AFA, I practically couldn't speak. This time, I could understand a fair bit of what the performers said during their concerts, and I also managed to understand an entire sentence of what one of the producers said during the interview for the anime "Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai". She said (regarding where she drew inspiration for the story line) that, "She took it from her experience in her daily life." Yes! I'm quite happy I did not need to wait for Danny to do the translation.

I've managed to practise quite a bit of my photography thanks to the many cosplayers and figurines on display. Also, opportunities to sneak shots at celebs when they tell you that you can't. Special thanks to Justin who lent me his EF 70-200mm F4 USM lens. That telephoto allowed me to get awesome shots during the stage events, like Danny's premiere of Culture Japan Season 2, and sneak shoot the Live Dub of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica by Chiwa Saitou who did Akemi Homura. I'm always really impressed by voice acting. I mean, holding a script in front of you while watching an animation and having to throw in all those emotions isn't easy. Yet... somehow, as I imagine myself doing the lines, my eyes do fill up with some tears, and that's usually when I stop trying to go any further. Might I remind you that I cannot remember the last time I cried. It's probably around 7 years already.
Anyway, back to the point, I got quite alot of practice. My wireless flash trigger came in time on Thursday, so I brought it out, and went around shooting with flash in one hand, camera in another. My shots are getting better already.
Oh yea, and as I mentioned, I was mistaken to be one of their hired photographers for the event. How nice. Now I know I look somewhat professional. I was also mistaken by one of the members of the audience when I went in to the stage area and set up the telephoto lens on a tripod to prepare to take Danny Choo and his Culture Japan showcase.
Just for the record, for anyone who wants to know because they didn't see me all suited up. I was carrying:

  • A tripod over my right (or sometimes left) shoulder.

  • A photographer's vest containing my EFS 18-55mm F3.5-5.6, and my flash unit when I'm not holding it.

  • My EOS 450D slung around my neck, and usually in my right hand. (with a EFS 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 mounted)

  • My flash unit with an A4 size reflector in my left hand.

  • A bagpack, which contains:
    • A hard file case with 2 other reflectors, one made from 12 A4 papers, and one made from 2 backed with aluminium foil.

    • The EF 70-200mm F4 USM lens (which Just in lent me) until I need to use it.

    • My EF 50mm F1.8 II lens.

Most of the time, I alternate between the ultra wide angle EFS 10-22mm F3.5-4.5, or the EFS 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 II. First one's for cosplayers, since many people like to crowd very close to the cosplayers, and second one's for shooting figures since it has a magnification of x0.25 which is higher than all the other lenses under $3k (save for its own remakes like the EFS 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS)

Saving the best for last, the concert each night was awesome. I don't care what other people said about the Miku concert not being as good as the one in Japan. I've seen videos of the technology used in the projection. It's a mosquito-net-like thingy. It's not totally transparent, and can never be. From certain angles it might look like so though. Also, it depends on the surrounding lighting. The one in Japan is made from the same material. They haven't changed it. So, the setup is exactly the same, save for the fact we don't have Supercell playing. Nevertheless, it's an awesome experience. Especially since I know about 3/4 of the songs they played, just from playing Project Diva 2, and from youtubing Hatsune Miku every now and then. It's a pity they didn't play the iconic "World Is Mine". But they played "Hajimete no Koi ga Owaru Toki" as the opening! It's actually my favourite song in Project Diva 2. Also, I was really hoping that "Time Machine" would come out, and it did! It's such an awesome song by 1640mp that makes use of Miku's lower range for the verses. This lets her sound much more natural. The instrumentals for that song starts of blissfully with a piano intro, and then goes into the awesome electric guitar stuff. No doubt I was cheering my heart out for those songs I liked best.

Saturday night was the best concert night because I managed to see LiSA perform live!!! I've been a fan of her songs since I caught Angel Beats! a little earlier this year, and I knew she was good from all the recordings and youtube previews. But I never expected her crowd interaction to be SOO FREAKING AWESOME! I must make a special mention to Joshua, or Josuwa the Definitive Otaku for helping me get front row tickets for all these concerts. (Row A C A for each of the 3 nights. Our row C was aisle too, so I just used the space.) I really screamed my heart out. Yes, I discover that I can still scream.

LiSA opened with a song from her new album "Letters to U" which I'm not that familiar with, but definitely heard it several times already (just not too sure of the lyrics). Being so up close to these artists really makes you feel them as they're singing. I regret not knowing many of the other artists songs after knowing what it felt to be in front of LiSA. She even cried (and almost made me too) when she sang "Ichiban no Takara Mono". If you knew the lyrics and the scene it played out in, you'd definitely feel it too. Putting so much emotion into the song is really a mark of a true performer. I'm definitely not surprised she's risen fast and is still a young star. She then followed up with "Crow Song" which is probably her most famous. It's very strong upbeat rhythm really gets everyone moving. I was jumping up and down throughout this entire song screaming out the parts which I had memorised, and echoing after each line in the bridge. Was totally awesome! Then, just as I was totally exhausted, she just had to do the Angel Beats! OP which was "My Soul, Your Beats", Yui-nyan version. Oh gosh, I thought I was gonna collapse. Even in the army, I never felt this exhausted, but yet so keen in screaming out for that song. I'll never forget LiSA. Not to mention I have her hand-autographed poster and even managed to say "shingaporu ni kita ga arigatougozaimashita!" (lit trans: for coming to singapore, thank you) to her when I received it!

Aniki... I must really admire him. 40 years of Anisong. Can anyone beat that? How old are you in fact? He's probably been singing before you were born! His songs are the powerful punchy type. Reminds me of all the old-style anime (and yes, he did sing them that's why). Or you could compare them to the old Cantonese songs. I don't really know much about him, but 1000 songs? My friend was mentioning that you could literally make him sing for 24 hours. He's got enough reportoire that he won't need to repeat any song at all! And as the pioneer of Anisong he's definitely.... our "Heeroooo~! I'll never forget you~!"

As for FLOW, unfortunately, I'm not a fan of long anime series, nor is my experience in Anime alot, so I'm sad to say that I don't know ANY of their songs. They are sure a powerful group though. And I could see their shirts slowly getting drenched in their sweat as they danced the night away. Such an awesome group. I really must go find out more!

Sea*A was those cute type of groups that were at the very least, entertaining, if they didn't brighten your day. I'm proud at least, that as a local J-Pop group, they actually made it in Japan! Now that's something. Although it was kind of wasted that because of such famous artists performing the same night, they only could do 3 songs.

But Sunday wasn't a night where I only listened either. Kanako Ito came to perform Steins;Gate songs, which I'm currently watching. Sadly, she's not very well known, except for the main song "Hacking to the Gate", which is awesome by the way. Milky Holmes was cutsey as expected. Comparable to Sea*A. And I was really surprised there was a really hardcore fan that ran up the aisle to the front to cheer all out for Milky Holmes. He was the only one I spotted. This time they were even more pitiful than Sea*A in that they only did 2 songs because of the great artists that came after them.

Kalafina gave me a really interesting perspective on Anisong. Their songs were rather gothic, and their vocals really hit the spot. If you're singing solo with instruments, it requires less accuracy than their trio. The harmony and blending between all of their voices were absolutely perfect. They opened with "Magica", which is of course, from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. I was perfectly happy to sing along with them in my falsetto, which, under the loud instrumentals, couldn't be heard except for myself. I must really go listen to this group more.

Angela's towel thing was very unique. Luckily I had Demel prepare me for it. I'm not familiar with any of the songs she sang save for a song I heard before (I think it's Shangri La OP or something), and so I could cheer along properly. Her voice is great and powerful just like the other famous female artists. What I found really awesome, however, was how Angela was a pair, rather than just a singer (like LiSA or May'n). Atsuko's performance also brought the spotlight to her guitarist (Katsu) who shared about an equal amount of limelight. His riffs were really awesome! Best of all, he came down stage to run past the front row high-fiving all of us who were there! Awesome stuff. (these people are real! for all you conspiracy theorists)

Then came the queen of the night � May'n. I have a feeling she's a tad more powerful than the rest. She also sang her most recent release, "Brain Diver", which was the only song I fully remembered. But I was rather disappointed that she didn't sing "Diamond Crevice" which I had sort of prepared for. I haven't caught Macross Frontier although it's sitting around somewhere ready to be watched, so I had to just listen to her songs before that. Somehow I do remember hearing some of her other songs too, just that I'm not sure where. Regardless, it was a TOTAL ROCKOUT with her! Her backup dancers are amazing in their support, and adds spice to the entire act. One thing I find really funny though, is this indian guy who came up to the front where we were (and took up extra space). He said to Joshua, "You came just for May'n too right?" in his light indian accent, and Joshua was like, "yea kinda." (I mean, the rest were awesome too you know. It wouldn't do justice if he said otherwise.) So I thought this guy must be really crazy about May'n like I saw the two guys in front of me who were crazy about LiSA more than I was (they had like way more lightsticks than me when we were cheering!). Or at least I expected him to be as crazy as I was about LiSA. No... he wasn't. He was in fact, more tame than I was for May'n. Any good artist deserves a good cheer on, and hey, her songs are REALLY AWESOME YOU KNOW? So why was he leaning against the railing with one hand down, the other elbow on the railing, and just slumpily waving his lightstick back and forth? Joshua, on the other hand was demonstrating how to go full out by jumping, air-headbanging, and standing on the railing's lower bar. Even I was jumping up and down cheering her on. If he came here just for May'n.... well, he's definitely got money to burn. He's not even really enthusiastic about it!

I just couldn't believe it though, when they ended the concert rather promptly at 10.30pm. Sat night was 11.30pm and I nearly missed the last train home. Sunday had as many big artists, but they ended so much earlier. I was kinda disappointed really... Why? AFA... Why? The last night, and you don't allow them to do a whole lot of encores?

But I must say, this AFA is just TOTALLY AWESOME experience. Never have I reached home so satisfied after burning 31 hours like that with only 6 hours of sleep each night.

Something to leave you with: /人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

00:23 15 Nov 2011