Situated in that happy spot partway between payday (when I splurged on the S.O.C. God Mars [although am only brave enough to keep the Cosmo Crusher out on display!] and the R.A.W. silver-version Cyborg 009 statue) and the start of Golden Week, NHK's fourth annual Anime Shudaika Daizenshuu ("Anime Theme Song Great Complete Collection") concert was held on Thursday, April 24.
Having concerts on weekdays is common at cavernous NHK Hall. Each month the schedule is packed with events intended to be broadcast--sometimes live, but most often taped--on NHK's array of channels. Their concert series BS Eien No Ongaku ("Broadcast Satellite Eternal Music") is filmed in high definition to be part of the premium content on NHK's BS2 channel, and the Anime Shudaika Daizenshuu is part of that series.
Tickets are distributed by lottery a few weeks in advance; for the last two years, it's been limited to only NHK members. To enter, you send in a double postcard (writing NHK's address on one of the two connected postcards, and your address on the other). The portion with your address will be sent back to you, with its reverse side printed to be either a ticket or a "sorry" message. Tickets are limited to one per person (but one ticket admits up to two people). The first year I sent in 30, and then 10, 5, and again this year 5, and have been lucky to be a winner each time.
What with it being on a weekday, some people simply can't go until after work (fortunately, my boss understands I'm a freak and lets me take vacation that day to make the trip ;^) ). NHK accommodates by assigning seats at random when you enter the hall, so that it doesn't matter if you're the first one to arrive or the last. And with last year's opening of adjoining Studio Park, there's even something to do from 3pm until NHK Hall opens to the ocean of folks at 6pm.
Arrivals were directed through a corner of NHK Hall's entryway to receive their seat assignments, and then back outside to hang out or go to Studio Park. I got a second-floor seat in the 11th row of the center section, first time I'd ever scored a place in the center. With the second floor shaped like a huge horseshoe, though, with its left and right sides curving toward the stage, that didn't promise to be the most prime territory--but tons better than the first year's spot on the ground floor, buried far back on the right.
Studio Park offered plenty to pass the time with. My favorite parts are on the history of radio and TV broadcast in Japan, getting to see sets being prepared for filming, the mini-newscast show in Studio Q, and the astonishing high-def 3D (no 3D glasses needed!) mini-movie on the beauty of the world. (And the warning on the window of NHK World Radio Japan Friendly Studio is fun to read, and soooooo tempting, too: "Please do not knock against the glass. The sound will resound all over the world.") I was startled to see Dave Spector in person in the Studio Park Studio as a "YouDoki Network" show was being shot before passersby's eyes on the other side of the glass. (Although what kicked off the jolt was my first thought: "Teller!! What's he doing here?! Are he and Penn Jillette going to tour Japan?" ;^) )
After a spin through the complex's gift shop (and a wary circle around its mountain of Butt-Biting Bug paraphernalia) and scarfage of a quick hot dog and pop in the standing area outside its restaurant, it was time to head back to NHK Hall. Bumped into friend Nu-san enroute, who couldn't help but show off his great seat assignment (first floor center, fifth row!); far behind and above, mine turned out to be high up the back of the second-floor horseshoe, on an aisle. What with the performers going to look the size of your thumb's end joint from there, I was feeling not so lucky...until a familiar face went by, making the steep trek up the aisle: Shocker OH!NO! He and some friends took their seats several rows behind me, almost on the rear wall--and suddenly I was a lot more appreciative about my seat assignment! Felt even luckier after seeing people being seated in the distant overhead reaches of the third floor.
The bulk of the crowd was seated by 6:45, when the audience warm-ups began. After sound levels were taken, we were shown a high-def promotional video on the vast screen centered on the wall above the stage. Then the lights dimmed. Three floor cameras and a camera crane cruised into position in the smooth expanse between the stage and front row. Lights still low, curtains opened almost silently on a dim stage of dark shapes, 40-piece orchestra poised at the rear, and above, the familiar curve of the bulbous bow of a certain space battleship. 6:59. We held our breath--and then the stage erupted into dazzling lights, brass and strings, and the arrival of Isao Sasaki, to launch a fantastic concert that ultimately ran almost three hours.
The edited-to-two-hours result was broadcast on May 4 on NHK's BS-2. Recordings are sure to be out and around soon, if not already, so I'll just run the set list here and a few memories.
1. Uchuu Senkan Yamato (Yamato): Verse 1-Isao Sasaki, Verse 2-all cast
There's nothing in the world like this song with a live orchestra! The second verse was extra-charged up, when Sasaki was joined by the rest of the performers; the whole hall was singing! (Interestingly, on the broadcast, a Reiji Matsumoto copyright was supered beside the Yamato.)
ANIME SONG HISTORY CORNER:
2. ComBattler V No Theme (ComBattler V): Ichirou Mizuki
& 3. Mazinger Z (Mazinger Z): Ichirou Mizuki
4. Hana No Ko Lunlun (Lunlun): Mitsuko Horie
& 5. Himitsu No Akko-chan (Akko-chan): Mitsuko Horie
6. Ribbon No Kishi (Ribbon No Kishi): Youko Maekawa
& 7. Cutey Honey (Cutey Honey): Youko Maekawa
A musical flub in its brassy intro got this two-song Youko Maekawa production number off to a less-than-sharp start, although things got back into gear quickly. It didn't seem like cause for a retake (now, Akira Fuse blanking on the words of Disney song "La-La-Lu" the first year, that was cause for a retake...), but they returned for another take after the show's finale.
8. Getter Robo (Getter Robo): Isao Sasaki
& 9. Tatakae! Casshan (Casshan): Isao Sasaki
Sasaki has held a long last note before in "Tatakae! Casshan"...but never like this! It soared on and on and on through the song's outro, and very nearly reached the end. It seemed effortless, Sasaki looked so pleased, and the crowd reacted like we'd witnessed a world's record!
10. Doraemon No Uta (Doraemon): Satoko Yamano and NHK Tokyo Jidou Gasshoudan (NHK Tokyo Children Chorus)
11. Sazae-san (Sazae-san): Yuuko Uno and NHK Tokyo Jidou Gasshoudan (NHK Tokyo Children Chorus)
This was unexpectedly neat--Yuuko Uno looked just fit to burst with happiness at being there! She can still belt out that song, too. (Am still wondering, though: What was that handjive juju the kids were doing?)
12. Tonari No Totoro (Totoro): Azumi Inoue and NHK Tokyo Jidou Gasshoudan (NHK Tokyo Children Chorus)
Some sort of happy magic sweeps the place whenever this gets sung. Doesn't seem nostalgic, nor caught up in cuteness--it's just plain joy, and everyone is singing, from tots to oldsters.
SPECIAL GUEST CORNER:
Seiyuu Akira Kamiya, Mayumi Tanaka, and Sachiko Chijimatsu got a roaring welcome. Much of this segment was cut from the broadcast--maybe because of length, maybe because of copyright clearance for certain characters' voices?--but Kamiya and Tanaka performed several voices by request (Tanaka's Monkey D. Luffy was especially fun to see, spazzing with delight at the size of the crowd, and Kamiya's Kenshiro got a workout in several hypothetical situations). Chijimatsu had only Pyonkichi in her arsenal, but the Flat Frog turned out to be all she needed, quick-witted and funny. The three seiyuu then each teamed up with a singer for a favorite theme song.
13. Kinnikuman Go Fight! (Kinnikuman): Akira Kushida with Akira Kamiya
Although they've shared the stage previously over the past nearly-three decades, this was actually the first time the two Akiras have performed "Kinnikuman Go Fight!" together, Kushida later told us at his May 2 solo live. It was supercharged!
14. Makafushigi Adventure (Dragon Ball): Hiroki Takahashi with Mayumi Tanaka
With "Laputa" theme singer Azumi Inoue being there, I'd really thought Mayumi Tanaka would be reprising Pazu (as had happened at the 2005 "Anime De Sukuou!" Niigata earthquake charity event)--but, nope! Tanaka served up a thoroughly engaging Kuririn, and introduced Takahashi. It's really too bad she didn't get the chance to sing, too...Extra-energetic Takahashi sure sang, though!
15. Dokonjou Gaeru (Dokonjou Gaeru): Susumu Ishikawa with Sachiko Chijimatsu
Like Tanaka, Chijimatsu as Pyonkichi only introduced Ishikawa. And out he came, a grandfatherly fellow...and it was so startling when that "Pyokon petan pittanko!" came out of his mouth! Getting to hear him sing it live was a tremendous thrill!
SHOTARO ISHINOMORI CORNER:
16. Let's Go! Rider Kick (Kamen Rider): Hiroshi Fujioka and Ichirou Mizuki
Yowza, Hiroshi Fujioka is one mighty movie-star of a guy! (And lo, many ladies in the audience did become giggly...) His performance was interrupted by the arrival of evil fiddler-crab-guy Shimaneking and two Shockers, trying to beat the crap out of him on national TV. Well, that left Fujioka no choice but to transform into Kamen Rider (and mannn, did the crowd roar!). Fortunately, Mizuki happened to be nearby, and stepped in to continue the song as the battle raged across the stage. (At one point Aniki was accosted by a Shocker himself; bummer that the broadcast didn't show the Rider Kick that he served up!)
17. Cyborg 009 No Uta (Cyborg 009): Tokyo Meistersinger
This was historic. Clad in matching suits and performing together for the first time in 40 years, according to show co-emcee Shin'ichi Nagai, these six majestic elderly gents stood and delivered. At times the components got slightly unsynchronized, but hearing that combination of voices being created again, backed by the orchestra, gave my goosebumps goosebumps!
18. Ganbare Robocon (Robocon): Ichirou Mizuki
19. Susume! Goranger (Goranger): Isao Sasaki and Mitsuko Horie
NHK ANIME CORNER:
20. Bokura No Sekai (Ojarumaru): Reiko Mizumachi
This was the highlight of the evening for the row of eight tots in front of me. Standing in front of their seats, a few even raptly swayed along with the motions of the Ojarumaru costume character who was part of the production number for this gentle song.
21. Sekai Yo Warae (Kyou Kara Maoh): Jungo Yoshida with M-Tone
The pair of teenage girls seated beside me were wild for this duo.
22. One Day (Major): The Loose Dogs
NEW WORLD CORNER:
23. Sousei No Aquarion (Aquarion): AKINO with bless 4
Yowza--talk about a whole 'nother level! AKINO and her backing group of siblings were astonishingly great! They'd grown up in the U.S., and before their performance, co-emcees Shin'ichi Nagai and Shouko Nakagawa asked them about anime in the U.S. AKINO mentioned seeing "Tiger Mask" and Arale-chan and "Dragon Ball" on TV in the U.S.--and no sooner had the "What?!" popped out of my mouth about "Tiger Mask," Nakagawa was already questioning her about it! I'd heard that Nakagawa is an anime otaku of the first water, but wow, she seriously does know her stuff! (One of AKINO's "bless 4" sisters stepped in to explain they'd seen "Tiger Mask" on video sent by relatives in Japan.)
24. Sorairo Days (Gurren Lagann): Shouko Nakagawa
My respect for Nakagawa grew even more with this performance. She really belted it out, with the whole hall rocking in support--and then afterward came right back to resume her emcee role!
ENDING THEME CORNER:
25. Sukisuki Song (Akko-chan): Ado Mizumori
26. Romantic Ageru Yo (Dragon Ball): Ushio Hashimoto
ANIME SHUDAIKA KOUHAKU UTAGASSEN:
Unlike past editions of this concert, this time there were no team-ups of performers singing others' songs. (Kinda wonder whether last year's Youko Maegawa/Akira Kushida rendition of "Dokonjo Gaeru," great fun as it was, had anything to do with real-deals Susumu Ishikawa and Sachiko Chijimatsu returning to the public eye here...) But for the first time, there were teams of a different sort: the men's White team and ladies' Red team, to stage an anison version of NHK's traditional New Year's Eve music battle, the Kouhaku Utagassen! The team captains were Ichirou Mizuki and Mitsuko Horie, who sent members out in strategic match-ups in quest of victory for their teams.
27. Tiger Mask (Tiger Mask): Hideyo Morimoto
vs. 28. Oshiete (Heidi): Kayo Ishuu
Two absolute classics..."Tiger Mask" was especially a thrill, and Morimoto looked so happy to be singing it!
29. Obake No Q-taro (Q-taro): Susumu Ishikawa
vs. 30. Tongariboshi No Memoru (Memoru): Satoko Yamano
Felt a little bad for Yamano, having to follow Ishikawa..."Obake Q-taro" was fun, and again, I couldn't help but feel the tiniest touch of amazement that the song was coming out of a real human being!
31. Yume O Kachitorou (Pro Golfer Saru): Ichirou Mizuki
vs. 32. Ashita He Attack (Ashita He Attack): Mitsuko Horie
After having only heard the karaoke version something like, yikes, 25 years ago, it was great to actually get to hear "Ashita He Attack" being sung!
33. Makkana Scarf (Yamato): Isao Sasaki
vs. 34. Meguru Kisetsu (Kiki's Delivery Service): Azumi Inoue
Here's a big oops: Co-emcee Nagai introduced Sasaki's song as "Akai Scarf." An almost physical jolt went through the place! Reeeeeeeetake...! Once correctly introduced, "Makkana Scarf" was breathtakingly beautiful. "Meguru Kisetsu" was a standout too, but "Makkana Scarf"...*sigh* Sasaki-sama is always great, but this night his powers were extra-potent.
35. Wai Wai World (Dr. Slump): Ado Mizumori
& 36. Shippu Xabungle (Xabungle): Akira Kushida
"Wai Wai World" is always a joy...but ohhhhh my, Qu-cy letting loose, backed by the full-blast firepower of the orchestra, made for the ultimate "Shippu Xabungle"!
37. Majokko Megu-chan (Majokko Megu-chan): Youko Maekawa
vs. 38. Ginga Tetsudou 999 (Ginga Tetsudou 999): Isao Sasaki
Fantastic, and fantastic! So, who won the match-up? The audience, natch, getting to witness performances like these!
39. Mahou Tsukai Sally (Mahou Tsukai Sally): Three Graces
vs. 40. Babel II (Babel II): Ichirou Mizuki
Both were fun, and brought the battle into the homestretch on near-even terms.
41. Candy Candy (Candy Candy): Mitsuko Horie
vs. 42. Ashita No Joe (Ashita No Joe): Isao Bitou
This final contest pitted Red captain Micchi, with her always-great "Candy Candy," against the White team's specially-shod Isao Bitou, in shoes featuring Joe Yabuki on both the tops and bottoms of one, and rival Tohru Rikiishi on the other, for his only performance of the night. Two of my biggest thrills--ever, not just at anison events!--have been hearing him sing "Ashita No Joe" at the first two editions of this concert. The first time was great, the next time even greater...but this third time even topped those! It was tremendously moving, and the parts that especially grabbed me did it all over again on the TV broadcast, even without the crowd response and the accoustics helping amplify the experience.
43. Anpanman No March (Anpanman): Dreaming and all cast
With the Kouhaku declared a draw (although the audience didn't quite agree, having poured on the applause for the White team when the emcees tried to determine a winner from the clapping), that left the show-closing celebration, finale "Anpanman No March"! All the performers joined the Dreaming duo and a passel of Anpanman costume characters--even the other costumed characters returned, with Shimaneking cutting loose on a center-stage riser, swinging his mondo claw with gusto, as if orchestrating the finale was the first step of his plan for world domination! Meanwhile, as a pre-show announcement had alerted us would happen, four giant, lightweight, colorful balls were let loose (two of 'em dropped down from the horseshoe ends of our second floor onto first-floor noggins below, yay!) to be bounced around by the audience.
Show over, the audience was asked to stay seated as the stage was cleared and the retake of Ribbon No Kishi and Cutey Honey got underway. It went perfectly. (Last year also had an after-show retake, with Yukihide Takekawa [you may know him as Godiego's vocalist on "The Galaxy Express 999" and "Taking Off"; he wrote the music for both songs too] nailing Captain Future opening theme "Yume No Funanori" on the third try...we were pulling so hard for him each time, and he was rewarded at last with a huge roar! But even that was a fraction of the time that Akira Fuse needed the first year for "La-La-Lu," when the show got stopped midway through the Disney medley [because he hadn't finished his portion there wasn't a Fuse-exit/next-person-entrance safely in the can, so there couldn't be a retake of just the song itself after the show; it had to be redone then so the show could continue], complicated high-def cameras resynchronized and live orchestra readied, Fuse re-making his entrance--and goofing again; everything stopped again, the process repeated...blurg...)
The NHK Anime Shudaika Daizenshuu, already superb its first year (aside from that B-list-a-riffic Disney medley--and there hasn't been a whiff of Disney since), has gotten better and better each time. This fourth edition's celebration of 40 years of anison energy was a gathering of greatness that I'm so thankful to have had the chance to see. It's going to be a tough one to top!
Edit: An eclectic assortment of this year's performances (with an unfortunate lack of Sasaki, Mizuki, Micchi, and many of the high points) is on YouTube so far:
Ribbon No Kishi (with Cutey Honey chopped off, sheesh...): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc4nTn3vydI
Doraemon No Uta: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aWUGOW6rCU
Kinnikuman Go Fight!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbAyBJ_WCj0
Makafushigi Adventure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOxAMYeGWIU
Dokonjou Gaeru: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWJk7QCtxZw
Cyborg 009 No Uta: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Onvd3lBDJUA
Sukisuki Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cogrFnA2GS8
Romantic Ageru Yo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-aX6st-9_4
Sousei No Aquarion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auDh-Y95E90
Tiger Mask: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGymUA_8_D4
Obake No Q-taro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEQ2aRKBZz8
Mahou Tsukai Sally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiG4WM9w610
Coming up next: Super Robot Spirits 2008!