Hey, check it out--the first 15 seconds of the first clip below are on the spectacular Anison Power 2008 concert at Nakano Zero on Sept. 27, the grand finale of this year's Nakano Anime Bunkasai!
The rest is on the event that became the when-will-it-end? prelude to Anison Power--the All-Japan Wotagei Dance Grand Prix--and its winsome winners, the Nakano Broadway Cats.
The Grand Prix had not originally been scheduled to take place on the same day on the same stage. It was not even part of the Nakano Anime Bunkasai...but, the Bunkasai's producer later explained, Bunkasai organizers were asked if the Wotagei event could please be shoehorned in to use the stage before the concert, so that it could be filmed for TV. They were given the go-ahead...and then held their event at a leisurely pace and even did an extra take of the winning dance, delaying the start of Anison Power for nearly an hour while a sullen full house of 1,300 mostly sat on their hands.
Not sure how long those two quick clips will stay up, but, they're from the TBS (the Japanese TV network, not that U.S. biggie) nighttime program "Lincoln" (featuring Japanese comedy guys secure enough in their manhood to mock otaku, not that U.S. biggie). Was startled to stumble across it last night while flipping channels; "There's Japanese George Lucas!" Spoony yelped, I made a dive for the video camera, and we couldn't look away from the show's coverage of what happened leading up to and behind the scenes of the event that had simultaneously frustrated and fascinated us a little over a month ago as we awaited the start of epic Anison Power 2008.
In the "Lincoln" feature, which filled most of the hour, reporter Goto is initially skeptical of the average-age-40 Nakano Broadway Cats he's interviewing after hours in a shuttered-store-lined hallway of mania mecca Nakano Broadway...but finds himself becoming a substitute member of the group when apple-obsessed Neko (the "animated piece of beef jerky" in Spoony's observations below) is hospitalized from exhaustion as the Cats practice for the upcoming Grand Prix. They practice after hours in parks. They practice at the beach. They practice in the mountain-shack "secret base" of cat-ninja-esque member Nyao, arriving to find that vandals have spray-painted insults on the place both inside ("Baka no Heya") and out ("Baka no Ke"). Their practice there gets sidetracked by their manager disappearing into the forest; when the cameraman's light at last finds him in the darkness, he's sobbing his way through an identity crisis. Neko eventually rejoins them but "Lincoln" liaison Goto stays on, they all dance their hearts out in the Grand Prix--and they're awarded the grand championship! Then comes the Cats' tearful farewell to Goto, who can't help weeping in response...and who looks almost like Ichirou Mizuki when he does so, the manly comedians in the studio jibe their returned reporter.
(Not shown in the clips above was the feature's claim that the Wotagei Grand Prix was part of the Nakano Anime Bunkasai--complete with a shot of the Bunkasai's distinctive red flyer, followed by a faked "close-up" of a blurb on the Wotagei event--text on a background the same red color as the flyer--to make it look like it had been listed among the Bunkasai's other events on the flyer. Sleazy.)
That's the Japanese Reality TV take on it. For an entertaining take from someone who'd been unexposed to wotagei--and who'd been happier that way--before that fateful September day, heeeeere's Spoony!
Note: Spoony wrote the following in her locked-to-the-public LJ on Oct. 5, and has kindly let me reproduce it here.
Last weekend [ii_jidai] and I went to Nakano Zero to see Anison Power in Nakano--a concert featuring lots of great anison singers. Since the concert was held in a place with seats, I could sit during the concert rather than stand--so I could enjoy the music rather than concentrate on how much my legs and feet hurt.
We arrived plenty early, went to check out the Shotaro Ishinomori exhibit upstairs (you can find out more about that here), and since the concert was slated to start at 2 pm, we went into the hall and found our seats. Unfortunately [ii_jidai] and I weren't sitting together--she'd bought my ticket after she bought her own, and so we were quite a ways apart. The seat I had was amazing, though--it was smack in the middle of a row slightly back from the stage, with an aisleway in front so I had lots of room for my legs.
When we came in, an unfunny comedy duo were working the stage. (They kept telling jokes, but only a couple of people in the audience were laughing.) When they cleared out, everything went dark, there was a rumbling sound as a bunch of people trooped onstage in the darkness... and then the lights came up on a cookie-cutter-pretty young Japanese lady with glasses, wearing a floral lolita dress that looked like she'd gotten it at Sears and a white bow on her head. She was standing on a little riser in the middle of the stage, and there was a ragtag group of people arrayed onstage in front of her, maybe a dozen of them--all dressed the same in matching t-shirts and with white bows on their heads, just like the singer. Most of the group were guys--a lot of them markedly out of shape. I blinked.
And then the megane lolita started to sing to a prerecorded karaoke version of some perky, peppy Japanese pop tune, and the shabby group in front of her started to dance.
They didn't dance terribly well, either. A lot of them were out of step with each other; quite a few of them seemed to have no discernible sense of rhythm, kept losing the beat, and in fact looked a bit desperate. Some of them performed the moves backwards--right hand up when everyone else's left hand was up, for example. It was as if someone had rounded up a bunch of slightly overweight otaku who'd never danced in their lives, had cursorily taught them a 5-minute long dance routine, and then had shoved them onstage in front of a couple hundred people and TV cameras. (Yes, there were TV cameras. One of 'em was mounted on a boom, and kept swooping way down close to the audience... including within inches of [ii_jidai]'s head. Yikes!)
It should be noted that the lolita singer was dancing as well, although she was quite a bit more practiced than the chorus boys in front of her. Even so, her movements were a bit robotic, although it's also true that talento singers tend to blur together after a while in one's perception.
Megane Floral Lolita finished up her song, waved merrily to the crowd, and she and her otaku dance troupe headed offstage. And then it went dark again, and the lights came up on another megane lolita, this one in a nurse's costume and toting an oversized stuffed plush hypodermic needle. She too had a group of guys to dance for her. She started to sing, and during the course of her song, she came down off the riser and, giggling breathlessly, began to smack the guys with the hypodermic needle, bowling them over in comical fashion. Her dancers were no better than the previous lot.
I was starting to get mightily confused. I'd expected to see the typical lineup of professional anison singers that [ii_jidai] and I are familiar with, not the rejects from auditions for Madame Souzatzka's Dance Academy And Idol Singer Factory.
The nurse idol and her dancers cleared the stage, and the next act came on. This one was truly the stuff of nightmares. Instead of just one singer, this time we had two--and they must have been someone's twisted idea of the hostesses from a demented children's show. One of them wore a blue metallic minidress, a blue yarn wig, and what must have been a model of the Tokyo Tower on top of her head. The other wore a pink metallic minidress, and a pink yarn wig topped with two metallic-pink cones that apparently had been scavenged from an old set of speakers. This pair had a larger than usual complement of dancers, divided into blue and pink camps--one guy even had a pair of hand puppets that resembled the singers. Best of all were the "mascot characters" behind the dancers; one of them was a large lizard-like creature, and the other was sort of a bland Ultraman-like character.
The girls sang, the boys danced, the mascot characters twitched adorably, and I began to wonder if I'd somehow accidentally wandered into an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, or perhaps one of those "Let's stage some ridiculous happening and watch how people react!" TV shows.
And the singers-and-dancers kept coming. The next singer was another lolita in a white dress; the one after that wore a pink lolita dress, cat ears and tail, and her singers all wore pink t-shirts and shorts, all rolled up to expose pretty near obscene amounts of plump fanboy flesh (oh yeah, and cat ears and tails as well). And the final singer was in wa-loli gear, carried a fan, and her dancers wore obon-inspired outfits and also carried fans.
The kitty-girl's dance team really caught my attention--not because they were more talented than the rest, but because two of them were pretty much the last people you'd expect to find dancing attendance on a wanna-be idol singer. One of them was probably in his 40s or early 50s, bald, and somewhat resembled an animated piece of beef jerky. Another one I glanced at--heavy-set, salt-and-pepper beard--and my mind immediately said, "Hey, look, it's George Lucas' Japanese twin!" Bear in mind, please, these gentlemen were wearing bright pink t-shirts that were rolled up (I got to see waaaay more of Japanese George Lucas' midsection than I ever wanted to), kitty-ear headbands, and kitty tails stuck to their butts.
(Seriously, when I think "backup dancer for idol singer," I think of someone sleek and young and ferally pretty, with years of training. These guys were all... resoundingly average, I think would be the best way to put it.)
After the final act had cleared the stage, they were all brought back ontstage, and the unfunny comedy team came back out as well. Some older guys in suits came out too, and a big shiny trophy was awarded to ...the kitty-girl and her team! The singer was of course all full of happy tears, and the dancers were jubilant.
Then came a bit of a break in the action, and [ii_jidai] came up to me to see if I wanted to trade seats with her, as mine was a bit exposed. I told her that would be fine, and then I begged an explanation from her of what we'd just seen. I was slightly afraid that someone in a lab coat was going to grab me and take me away to get a sample of my brain tissue or something.
She explained that this had been the All Japan Otagei Dance Grand Prix. This is apparently an Akihabara phenomenon; you start with a girl who wants to be an idol singer (there are apparently no shortage of these in Akihabara). She collects a bunch of guys (and sometimes girls) who are her "fans." They develop this song-and-dance routine and present it; what we'd just seen was apparently the world championships (?!).
The kitty-girl and her dance team then came back for an encore performance. [ii_jidai] told me she saw one of the dancers perform a rather spectacular move, but I missed it. My head was still hurting from all the question marks that were popping out of it.
After all that, the anison concert was very enjoyable.
So that, friends and neighbors, is the latest piece of evidence for my statement "I love Japan, but there are many aspects of it that I will never understand."