02
Dec
08

AFA08 Report Part 5

Here we are, more than a week after AFA, and we’ve come to the 2nd last part of our AFA coverage, this time covering the guest singers for AFA, Ichiro “Aniki” Mizuki and May’n! For many people, these were the deal sealers for AFA, with many paying alot extra for VIP or Diamond passes to get up close to their idols for their performances. So how were the performances themselves? Read on.

Click here to return to our coverage contents page.

Ichiro “ANIKI!” Mizuki

Ichiro Mizuki is a legend in the anime music scene. The man has been a dedicated Anime song (Anison) singer since the 1960s (He just celebrated his 40th anniversary) and remains very influential today, being a founder of the Anison band Jam Project. For that, he is often called the “big brother” or “Aniki” of anime music as well as the King of Anison. He has many iconic songs under his belt, including stuff from Tokusatsu shows like kamen Rider or Daitetsujijn 17 or anime like Captain Harlock, Babel II and most famously, the Mazinger series. Many an anime/Tokusatsu fan has grown up listening to Aniki’s songs and recall them with great fondness. As evident from the blog post on the AFA announcement that Aniki was coming to the event, I myself am a big fan of his, and I’m sure other fans shared my shock and excitement when the news first broke.

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His concert was scheduled for the evening of the first day. The devoted few non-VIP pass paying fans (myself included) camped out at the concert grounds as early as 2 hours before concert start so as to get good spaces to occupy. Just before the concert, the area was reasonably packed but not too cramped and everyone was on their feet. It’s hard to get fired up for a concert sitting down, standing is the way to go!

After the long wait, the MC got on stage to herald the arrival of the main man himself. Responding to chants of “A~NI~KI!” from the anticipating audience, Ichiro Mizuki burst onto stage to much fanfare and cheers, and immediately kicked things off with his fan-favourite song from Mazinger Z, sending the fans into a frenzy.

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Decked out in his signature colours Red and Black, the 60 year old showed no signs of age as he belted out one song after another, replete with his trademark poses and actions, with such energy that left him sweating after each song (which he used as an opportunity to show off his custom Ichiro Mizuki towel). Lasting more than an hour, he covered quite a huge list of songs including “Ore wa Great Mazinger” (Great Mazinger), “Combattler V no Theme” (Combattler V), “Oo, Daitetsujin” (Daitetsujin 17), “Lupin III no Ai theme” (Lupin III series 2), “Captain Harlock”, “Ima ga sono Toki Da” (Getter Robo Armageddon), “Tao” (Gekiranger), “Tatakae, Golion!” (Golion) and a few others including some Kamen Rider songs I’m not familiar with.

He finished off with “Natsukashikutte Hero ~I’ll Never Forget You!” , a compilation of a few classic anime songs, which to me was the biggest highlight of the show, as he actually descended down the stage and waded among those standing in the VIP section as well as shaking hands over the railing with the lucky few in the front row of the free section (I’m never gonna wash my hand ever again). He even altered the lyrics abit when he reached the Space Battleship Yamato section of the song, inserting a small reference to Singapore.

The song ended to huge applause, and he took a bow before retiring backstage for a while. But with cries of “Encore!” from the audience, he returned to the front again for another two more songs. He sang “Z no theme” from Mazinger Z which he mentioned is a special song for him. His very last song was another reprise of the Mazinger Z theme. This time however, he requested that the audience help him sing the second verse of the song. Thankfully the song is so iconic that just enough people sang out when he gave the cue, earning a thumbs up from Aniki himself. After this performance, the concert finally came to its end. Aniki stayed back for an autograph session with the paying VIP audience, signing any personal item they brought over. I kinda regret not shelling out for vip passes, apparently there were still alot of tickets left over, it would ahve been so worth it.

What can I say about the concert, I was still reeling from the euphoria long after it ended. A powerful performance coupled with strong electrifying atmosphere makes for one killer concert. A testament to his years of experience, Aniki has great showmanship and really knows how to fire up the audience, thanks partially to the nature of his songs as well. Audience particiaption is key to a good concert, and Aniki knows it well as seen by his willingness to come downstage to interact with fans, making the audience join in his songs, as well as sharing his thoughts and joking with them in between (He mentioned he has compilation album of his songs called “”Michi” (Path) coming out to celebrate his anniversary, acknowledged that it would expensive to import to Singapore, so he quipped that local fans can maybe try to get it off the Internet instead). Thankfully, the audience also knew how to respond in kind, singin along where appropriate, shouting at the right parts, as well as emulating Aniki’s gestures. If they remained unresponsive, it would have totally killed the concert.

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For those who did not attend his concert fortunately there were a few extra chances to see him perform. On the first day at the opening ceremony, he gave a special preview of his concert by singing everyone’s favourite Mazinger Z theme song as well as sharing his views on being here in Singapore. On the second day he was there as a guest judge for the Cosplay Mania competition (covered earlier) and he gave a small mini-concert, singing three songs, Mazinger Z (making it his fourth time singing the song over the two days) Babel II and Captain Harlock.

Sharing his views as a veteran of the industry and an old-school anison singer, he has a different take on anime music than his younger contemporaries. He tries to fill his music and performances with themes like love, courage and friendship, and it is the messages present in these songs that he feels helps distinguish Anison from other types of songs. Believing that children represent the future, he especially hopes for his songs to continue to be heard by the youth. Knowing that he and his songs will help serve as a source of inspiration for them and his fans fills him with pride for his career choice, and he wants to continue doing so for the next 20 years at least. At the end of his concert, he asked the audience whether they would follow him in guiding the youth into the future, and the audience uproarously responded affirmatively, and he thanked them profusely for their support.

Having Aniki here at AFA made for a real great experience and was an inspired choice on the organiser’s part. Not only did it fully satisfy exisitng fans, but he probably earned quite a few converts as well through his outstanding performance. Here’s hoping to see him next year at AFA (hopefully with friends *hint**hint*)

Intermission: Quis Band

Before I continue on to May’N, let me talk briefly about the local amateur band called “Quis”, whose performances preceded both concerts. Quis is a group of four guys who mainly cover heavy J-rock songs, and they performed a few of them during AFA, including some from Anime like Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist and Bleach. Though their selection of songs performed was small (there was repetition between the two performances), to my untrained ears they sounded pretty good, especially for a band supposedly started only this year. Lot of potential there, I hope to see more of them, with hopefully a bigger repertoire of songs, at future such events.

May “May’n” Nakabayashi

A relative newbie to the scene, May’n made he debut on the music scene in 2005 with her single Crazy Crazy Crazy. After that, she put out a few more singles, including one for the Anime Love Get Chu before getting her real big break. She was cast as the singing voice for the character Sheryl Nome in  Macross Frontier, which is part of a franchise thathas a strong reputation for high production values when it comes to music.  With the popularity of the series and its music, May’n rose from relative obscurity to instant fame, and within the year has become a recognized name in the Otaku community.

Sorry folks, No pics of her at AFA.(Sorry folks, No pics of her at AFA. Pic from the Interwebs)

When she was one of the first announced guests for AFA, otakus were taken by surprise because they did not expect that the latest hot thing on the Anime music scene would make her first overseas trip here to Singapore. Nevertheless, they rejoiced at the prospect that the voice of the Galactic Fairy herself was coming down to Singapore. Where previously, the community had no inkling on the scale and direction of AFA and were thus semi-indifferent to it, the announcement instantly elevated the event to “die-die” must attend status, even for overseas otakus who flew in from as far away as the US just to attend her concert. Tickets to her concert VIP pass tickets and the even higher priced Diamond pass tickets sold like hotcakes, with the Diamond pass tickets selling out within days.

As an up and coming personality, she is still very much in the process of building her image as an idol. Hence, compared to the well established Ichiro Mizuki, her appearances are more limited and restricted, probably under orders from whatever label she’s under. This allows the public’s perception of her to be more easily controlled. Hence other than her short concert at the end of AFA, she was no where in sight  for the main two days of the event and the no phtotography rule was more strictly enforeced during her concert. Likewise when fans were called upon to mail questions to May’n to answer online, only the most usual typical questions were picked and were answered with usual typical answers.

From her blogFrom her blog

That did little to dampen the fan’s anticipation for the event. They arrived in the droves far bigger than the crowd that turned up for Aniki’s concert and way in advance to get the best seats standing space in the house. With more space cordoned off for the VIP and Diamond pass special areas, the free section was puched further back and coupled witht he larger crowd, resulted in much more cramped elbow room (I really should have applied for a media pass). Nevertheless, even while waiting for the show to start while packed like sardines, the crowd found themselves with something to amuse themselves with momentarily as ballooons had been passed around the crowd.(shoutout to balloon suppliers Junjie and Denise. AFA staffers you know who to arrest) Needless to say their lifespan was short. On the other side of the fence, the VIP and Diamond pass holders could sit around in relative comfort (ie. more space to sit on the floor) and didn’t have to wait as long in advance, all part of the package they paid for. After a long agonising wait holding our positions, the MC finally announced May’n’s arrival (after torturing us with several instances of false hope)

May’n took to the stage singing, rather appropriately, “Welcome to my Fanclub’s Night” from Macross Frontier, flanked by two backup dancers she brought in from Japan. The crowd just went wild. With her coordinated dance routines and surprisingly great live singing voice , she sang mainly Sheryl Nome based songs from Macross Frontier, namely “Diamond Crevasse”, “Northern Cross” “Iteza Gogo Don’t be Late”, “Infinity” and “Yousei”. After that rather short song selection, she thanked the audience in attendance for making her first overseas live a memorable one and departed off stage. Before anyone could make any “Encore!” attempt, the organisers quickly rushed a table onstage to signal the end of the concert.

Also from her BlogAlso from her Blog

I’d had expected May’n’s live performance voice to be not as good as the recorded versions, glad she proved me wrong, it really surpassed my expectations. Great vocals, even when battling the overly powerful bass which was drowning out her singing and causing the stage walls to vibrate noticeably even from a far-off distance. Her showmanship was also pretty good, though in a different direction from Ichiro Mizuki. In contrast with Aniki’s style of trying to fire up the audience, May’n goes for the more titillating approach, captivating the audience with her exotic moves and striking some stimulating poses.

The audience themselves were pretty okay. People in the VIP/Diamond section chanted “Mei-I-En” and a shook lightsticks in a preplanned routine coordinated with her songs, both apparently learnt from a visiting Japanese fan who has attended previous Macross Frontier concerts. On the other hand, people in the free section could not do much unless they wanted to knowck their neighbour’s eyeballs out. The crowd cheered after every song and phrase she vocalised in her native Japanese whether they understood it or not, leading to some rather awkward moments. The alternative where everyone keeps quiet would have been worse though.

After the May’n had an autograph session for those who payed for Diamond pass tickets. While some had expected her to sign their personal items, they were instead presented with a handshake and a presigned cardboard square, each having their own subtle difference by May’n. This practice is apparently very common with Japan. While some were satisfied with what they got considering what japanese fans get, others were rather upset that this is what the extra they paid amounted to, leading to much dorama in the online community. As one not affected by these happenings, I’ll leave it up to you to read up more about it elsewhere.

Aniki or May’n? The Baseline

Stolen from the Comcis Ensemble blog. Apologies to Shufen!Stolen from the Comcis Ensemble blog. Apologies to Shufen!

Now if you were to ask me, in my opinion, which concert I found better. Well i say I had a great time at both, but May’n’s concert did not leave me with the same euphoric heights Aniki’s induced. Sure, I’m an Aniki fanboy, but I am a rather big Macross fanboy myself.

First thing, May’n’s concert was really short in comparison to Aniki’s, barely half and hour compared to Aniki’s full hour plus. True her song pool is alot smaller than Aniki’s, but even then she restricted herself to just songs sung by Sheryl Nome in Macross Frontier. This might be due the organisers wanting her to sing only Anime songs for an Anime convention, and that her managers still want her to ride the Macross Frontier wave that shot her to fame for all its worth. But I’d have like her to have attempt a few more songs, including collborative songs like Lion and Triangular, she did after all do Infinity for this concert.

Secondly and more importantly, i feel audience participation is a big key to enjoying a live performance, and I got more of that out of aniki’s concert. As I said, Aniki’s had years of experience, and there’s no doubt he is the better showman who knows how to motivate and interact with a crowd. His fired up spirit and the nature of his songs just lend themselves to more action and reaction from the audience. Sure I like “Northern Cross” and the like, but they don’t particularly inspire me to punch into the air and shout out the lyrics (except than the instances of Tondeke/Motteke for “Iteza Gogo Don’t be Late”). So while i though both concerts were really good, I really enjoyed myself more at Aniki’s concert and that’s the real cincher.

I’m real glad these singers actually came to AFA, they were truely the biggest highlight of the event and really made it a worthwhile experience. I hope this paves the way for more guest singers coming down to Singapore in the future.

Next! Finally! The last part of this series of coverge. My own final opninions and thoughts on the event.


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1 Response to “AFA08 Report Part 5”


  1. December 4, 2008 at 5:27 am

    It’s enlightening to see that the arts scene in singapore is improving. We were so wayback 5 years ago. Right now, there just seems to be a huge number of singapore tourist attractions. Both the locals and tourists are all benefiting


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