World Shaking: Anime Expo 2019 Love Live! Sunshine!! Concert Review

For the past few years, I’ve been attending Anime Expo (AX) in a limited capacity, and it means I often don’t get to see everything I want to. In this respect, the AX Love Live! Sunshine!! concerts have been something I’ve wanted to see but regrettably kept on missing. But this time was different, and I finally, finally saw Aqours live. While it wasn’t my first time seeing a Japanese idols concert—I saw Morning Musume as part of a multi-act performance at Anime NYC—it was the very first time I had specifically sought out anything even resembling an idol group. It was an enlightening experience in terms of both performers and fans, and a unique experience thanks to a strange AX weekend filled with literal seismic activity.

The adventure that was attending LOVE LIVE! SUNSHINE!! Aqours World LoveLive! in LA ~BRAND NEW WAVE~ (how’s that for a mouthful?) began a couple of months before Anime Expo, when it came time to purchase tickets. I’m no stranger to being part of a massive online crowd trying to buy tickets for the same thing. However, difficulties I had never seen arose. After waiting in the queue, the ticket page would open, but every time I tried to select a ticket and check out, it would say that the ticket I selected was no longer available. This would happen no matter what I selected, be it general, VIP, or the mysterious balcony option that would appear and disappear randomly. I think the issue was that, as the site was trying to choose a ticket for me, it would somehow immediately get snatched up by someone loading the page a split second earlier. I can only assume all this was because of Love Live!’s sheer popularity, Los Angeles being a convenient location for fans in both the U.S. and Asia, and the Showclix website being not fully equipped to handle this level of demand.

In other words, I already had it in my head that an overwhelming amount of people wanted to see Aqours. I managed to get a general admission ticket, and then counted the days. There were two Aqours concerts at AX, but I wasn’t quite hardcore enough to attend both.

I flew to AX the day before the concert, and luckily the plane had free Wi-Fi, so I could see what was going on in the outside world. As the plane was getting ready to descend, I saw that Southern California had just experienced a roughly 6.5 magnitude earthquake—one of the strongest in a long time—and attendees on social media were talking about it, wondering if the tremors would keep coming.

Friday came, and after taking the time to rest my feet (the general admission ticket was standing only), I went to the Novo in downtown LA. The doors opened at 5:30pm and the concert started at 7:00pm, so there was plenty of time to kill. Some new information came out during that time—like the release date of the film Love Live! Sunshine!! Over the Rainbow, an accompanying trailer, and details about the Love Live! Sunshine!! x Shadowverse collaboration—but most of the lull was spent waiting in anticipation. Eventually, the crowd started pulling out the glow sticks and singing along with almost everything on the speakers as a way to pass the time.

Then, at last, out came Aqours to raucous applause, a trend that would continue throughout the concert. I had about as good a spot as possible without being in the VIP section, and I was pretty close to the of the speakers, but there were times when the un-mic’d crowd was louder than the singers.

One of the nine members, Komiya Arisa (aka Kurosawa Dia), could not make it to the concert due to health issues, so I had wondered what they would do in her stead. Would they change the choreography at all? Would they adjust the songs to have other people take her parts? They decided to basically just leave a gap where she would have been, and have a recording of Dia for her parts. I don’t know if this was the intent, but it gave the feeling that they wanted to convey her being there in spirit.

I’m not well-versed in all Aqours songs, especially not compared to that of μ’s from the original Love Live!, so I was surprised by the heavy bass that seemed to show up out of nowhere during one performance. After the song finished, however, a message came in over the loudspeakers: the concert was put on hold, and what I thought was “bass” was actually an earthquake. At first, I was confused, because we were on the 7th floor and I didn’t notice a thing. But then I looked up and saw a set of lights swinging back and forth, clear evidence that the voice wasn’t kidding.

Impressively, Aqours had danced through the earthquake, and to my untrained eyes, they didn’t miss a step. After a few minutes of waiting, the concert was deemed safe to continue, and they went straight into the next song with little issue. Given that Japan is no stranger to earthquakes, I wonder if this is familiar territory to them.

A little before the earthquake, a guy standing nearby handed me a spare glow stick, perhaps taking pity on my merch-less self or wanting to make sure we as an audience looked as good as possible. This was also my first time with an official Aqours “Blade”—one of at least three he had on him—and I had no idea that these things were so complicated. A Blade comes with nine colors (one for each girl), and adept fans have all of them memorized, quickly shifting to the proper one given the song and point in the performance. The only one I could figure out immediately was Yohane’s, thanks to the Yohane cosplayer in front of me with two lights permanently set to white. I actually looked up the color for my have Aqours, Matsuura Kanan (CV. Suwa Nanaka), and taking a hint from the aforementioned cosplayer, kept it on “emerald green” for most of the rest of the concert, making a few exceptions when I could figure out what to do. At one point, the guy who lended me his spare light got so into a song, he pulled out two additional generic glow sticks and accidentally elbowed me in the gut hard. He didn’t apologize, but I honestly think he was so entranced by Aqours that he didn’t even notice.

After a fun and exciting main performance, they followed with a whopping four-song encore, which included a song where the performers would encourage everyone to bring out their official Love Live! Sunshine!! towels and swing them around. It was about the most “buy our stuff” moment of the concert to me, but I didn’t mind all too much.

When all was said and done, my only regrets were my aching feet (I had to do a lot of standing that day, concert aside), and the fact that they didn’t perform “Happy Party Train,” the song led by Kanan. It turns out that they actually did “Happy Party Train” the second day, whereas we on the first day got “Koi ni Naritai Aquarium” and its focus on Watanabe You (CV: Saitou Shuka). I’m sure some You fans wish they could’ve switched places with me, so in the end it was simply luck of the draw. Also, seeing Suwa’s pouty face during the performance was a treat in itself.

If I have the opportunity next year, I’d be interested in seeing Aqours again. At the very least, it would give me a reason to use the Aqours Blade I purchased the next day. And even if I don’t attend, I’ll still have the memories of an earthquake concert. However, given that there’s a mega live event in January that will bring together the old and new school idols of Love Live!, maybe Anime Expo 2019 will do something special as well. And if it so happens that the girls of Nijigasaki or μ’s show up and render my Blade obsolete, then so be it. I’ll be glad to see them too.

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Cutie Panther is a Creepy Song

Cutie Panther is one of my favorite Love Live! songs. It’s intense, has a catchy beat and melody, and stands out from most of the other stuff that comes out of that franchise. When you actually listen to the lyrics though, it ends up sounding like something a stalker (or maybe a yandere character?) would be thinking.

Below are some of the choice lines. Translation is taken from this School Idol Festival wiki.

(Who are you with?
No way, you’re not allowed to be with anyone besides me)

I love you! You should be falling in love with me
I love you! That’s the right thing to do

Icy words, a gentle gaze… The prize at stake is you!

The rules of love are so hot
They exist to be broken

I miss you! It’s not wrong if it’s out of love
I miss you! That’s what intense love is like

Again, I don’t think this ruins the song, as it’s still my #2, but it sure does make them sound like stalkers! Also, there’s a history of catchy yet creepy-sounding songs, including a lot of old denpa songs (is that still a thing?) from visual novels. The most famous stalker song is probably “Every Breath You Take” by The Police:

If you’re curious, my ranking for Love Live songs is 1) After School Navigators 2) Cutie Panther 3) Shocking Party

 

Another Kind of Radio Exercise

I don’t remember when exactly it happened, but at some point in the 2000s, New York City got a couple of new Chinese radio stations. Currently on AM 1480 (Cantonese) and AM 1380 (Mandarin), these stations provide much-needed entertainment and news to people who are not as comfortable listening to English language radio stations. But they also provide something else, something I can only describe as “mind-boggling song selections that appear half-born out of geekery.”

What do I mean? Well, back when the radio stations were first starting out, I noticed an oddly familiar song amidst the usual selection of Chinese-language pop music. It stood out for a number of reasons, not least of which was that it was purely instrumental. As the ominous tune played on, it suddenly hit me: It was Kefka’s Theme from Final Fantasy VI.

“What? Really?” What was this doing on Chinese radio? What absolute nerd was in charge of music programming?

But aside from the occasional Utada Hikaru song, there wasn’t much else. Not much else that is, until the station started playing the theme song from The A-Team.

And no, it was not that one song from Full Metal Panic!

Once again, I had to question just who was in charge of selecting the songs for the Chinese residents of New York City. I have no idea how popular The A-Team was or is with Chinese people, but I don’t even think that’s a factor.

Then yesterday, I heard the most unusual song of all. This time the song was entirely in Cantonese, but it sounded odd, or at least odd for a tune on the radio, resembling more the theme of a TV drama or 80s anime than anything else. Like Kefka’s Theme years earlier, it started to sound more and more familiar. Then the chorus hit and I realized that it was a Cantonese version of Sentimental Over the Shoulder from Megazone 23 (Part 1).

So here I am, trying to find this mysterious Chinese rendition of Eve’s famous song, and I simply cannot do it. I definitely did not imagine it, but I honestly have no idea what I should even be searching for. Does anyone out there listen to WZRC AM 1480? And are you a huge anime nerd? Because if so, maybe you can help me identify just where exactly this song came from and who exactly sings it.