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Shi-gu-ma, Shi-gu-ma... - Somewhere It's Showa

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Previous Entry Shi-gu-ma, Shi-gu-ma... May. 17th, 2009 @ 12:33 pm Next Entry
It's hard to start back.

I was almost done with a longish LJ entry, quit for the night intending to tinker more in the morning before posting it...but then woke to a phone call in the wee hours from my brother. Two days of scrambling later, I was on a plane back to the U.S. for Mom's funeral.

Most of what's after that is a blur of grief and jet lag, but being back with family broke several bright spots through those clouds (my birth mother showing up was memorable, too, let's just say). And way too soon, I was back on the plane, then back in Japan--with us kept on the plane an extra hour as a squad of docs in surgical blues examined us--and then, allowed to enter the country but instructed to wear a mask for 10 days, had to speak daily with the city health department until May 12, when the prefectural health department was officially satisfied that I didn't have the flu.

But even free of flu, it's been hard to find the enthusiasm to do much after work other than sack out with a book or veg out in front of the TV. I kinda recall being like this after Dad died. But it's probably time to climb out of the hole.

From here, need to update the web site, and catch up on e-mail...but first, here's the darn LJ entry from April 22!

- - - - - - - - - -
It's been a whirlwind whack of weeks--extra-busy at work, extra-crazy at play, extra-oogy with two rounds of colds...and suddenly we're well into April!

This has been the most anison event-packed opening quarter in the five-odd years I've been following the fun. Have been driving hard to experience even more than ever before--am underway now on a book on the anison world--but it's taken some thought to sort out what I could write about here and on Anison Central, and what would be best for the book. Have worked out what I hope will be a good balance now, and will do my darndest to post more frequently.

Here's a quickie recap of the wildest weekend yet...The Vernal Equinox is a national holiday in Japan, and this year the Friday it fell on, March 20, launched a monster three-day weekend. I was part of a group of fans that undertook a journey that began soon after noon on Friday, lining up in five sidewalk-filling rows outside Ishimaru Denki's flagship store in Akihabara for the "Samurai Sentai Shinkenger" theme song CD commemorative mini-concert. Featured on Ishimaru's seventh-floor event stage were Psychic Lover (singing "Samurai Sentai Shinkenger," "Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger," and "Dekaranger Action") and Hideaki Takatori (singing "Shirokuji Muchuu Shinkenger"), with a special appearance by Shinken Red and surprise "Engine Sentai Go-onger" performance by Hideyuki Takahashi. There was a photo-op afterwards--bring your own camera for an Ishimaru staffer to snap you posing together with the stars and Shinken Red! (So I did. ;^) )

From there, the gang hurried out to Big Sight for the Tokyo International Anime Fair, where among the jangle of exhibitors' competing stage shows, Ichirou Mizuki and Mitsuko Horie demonstrated a new Namco game for karaoke systems in which you're scored on how well you dub the voices of characters in scenes from various famous anime. (Rising to the challenge of an impish selection of game options by emcee Shocker Oh!No!, Mizuki-aniki served up a memorable turn as Noriko in "Gunbuster" ;^) ).

After a couple hours checking out the rest of the Fair, we all trooped off with our numbered Tokyo Anison Live postcards, which we'd applied for online a few weeks prior, to the corresponding areas of its entrance line that extended nearly the length of the East Hall's second-floor walkway. Once the line was led back down into the venue and the scramble for seats was complete, what had been announced as an hour-long concert got underway. It would ultimately clock in at 90 minutes of anison goodness as Aniki, Micchi, Takayuki Miyauchi, Satoko Yamano, and Mayumi Gojo each took a star turn, and a group whose name I've spaced on (something like The Anison A-To-Z Singers...a dozen 20-somethings who could've been escapees of a Japanese equivalent of Up With People) served up hyper-genki stylings of a Tokyo Movie Shinsha theme-song medley and an out-there arrangement (guest-starring A Famous Lady With An Electric Violin) of the "Tetsuwan Atom" song.

And then we ran like hell to Yotsuya for the latter half of The Kinds' tremendously impressive concert featuring jidai geki theme songs and background music (complete with liner notes!).

The next day, we all met up at Tokyo Station and filled part of a Shinkansen car to speed north to Niigata, on the upper Honshu coast. There we were greeted by the stalwart fans who staff Gataket--a doujinshi event a fraction the size of Comiket, but no less enthusiastic, and now in its 26th year--and were honored to get to party with them the night before Sunday's big 26th-anniversary Gataket. There I was blown away to get to meet the Arakawas: the man who drew the settei for "Voltes V," "Daimos," "Go Lion," and more, and his wife--pen name Ai Naniwa--who had secretly drawn many of the faces on those settei, her husband confided (oops, I told...!), and who'd drawn fan-favorite parody manga for "Out" and "Animage" in the early '80s.

Gataket itself was cram-packed with circles and shoppers, many in costume. I made a couple commando raids into the doujinshi area--first to get Kazuhiko Shimamoto's brilliant new Cyborg 009 parody book from his circle Urashimamoto, and again when I learned the Arakawas had a circle--but mainly hung out in the lobby, watching the swirl of costumed fans move up and down the wide staircase to the cosplay area on the balcony overhead.

Then, at high noon, the darndest thing happened: on the building-wide sound system, Isao Sasaki began to sing. It was the full-length opening theme of "God Sigma," one of the more obscure robot offerings from 1980...and not only was that nearly-forgotten song playing, everyone--everyone, southern visitors too once we caught on--was clapping in rhythm with the chorus: "Shi-gu-ma Shi-gu-ma, God-do Shi-gu-ma..." *clap! clap!* "...Shi-gu-ma Shi-gu-ma, God-do Shi-gu-ma..." *clap! clap!* "...Shi-gu-ma Shi-gu-ma, God-do Shi-gu-ma..." *clap! clap!* "...Shi-gu-ma Shi-gu-ma, God-do Shi-gu-ma..." *clap! clap!* "...Gat-tai daaaaa!"

With the ritual over (a staffer later explained that this began at the first Gataket, although the, heh, dance that accompanied it hasn't survived), everybody returned to what they were doing, and us too: watching the clock for when the line would form to file out to the huge truck positioned in the parking lot, toting a trailer that opened to create a stage, for the day's super-special event: Shocker Oh!No!'s radio show and a concert by MoJo and Youko Ishida!

Our group landed in the first two rows of what wound up being a crowd of over 500, and the cold and drizzling rain of that gray afternoon were forgotten fast once things got underway. The stars took turns onstage, each singing two or three tunes at a time, for nearly two hours. Youko Ishida was dynamite; she's got such a sweet, wonderful voice, and it was especially a treat to hear "Otome no Policy" and her cover of "Moonlight Romance." And MoJo seemed even more mighty in the elements; extra-memorable were his ferocious medley of "Dynaman" insert songs and first in-public performance of "Takarajima" (opening theme of Tokyo Movie Shinsha's 1978 anime adaptation of "Treasure Island"). There had been tears all around when he surprised MoJo Zone attendees with "Takarajima" last year--and he got us again this time when, heading into the final chorus, he dropped the lyric card he'd had for insurance, filled up like the huge sails of a full-rigged ship, and belted the final chorus across the ocean!

Our return Shinkansen's impending departure didn't leave us the chance for much other than a quick meal at a soba restaurant near the station, but once back on the train, three to-go dishes of Niigata-speciality "Italian" soba (soba topped with various Italian-type sauces and garnished with Niigata's famed spicy kaki-no-tane) were passed around for the group to share; they may have been a present from the Gataket staffer who'd recommended we be sure to have some while in town.

I hopped off in Omiya to head on home--another 90 minutes ahead, but with a slew of great memories to help the time fly 'til journey's end.

(Huge thanks to CB-san, Emi-san, and Shii-san for organizing the trip, train tickets, and hotel, and to the Gataket staff for their kindness...and of course to Shocker Oh!No!, MoJo, and Youko Ishida, for the great lengths they go to for the fans!)
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[User Picture Icon]
Date:May 17th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
Might not mean much, but I'm very sorry for your loss. It's scary now, for folk our age, time is passing so fast, too fast, so much unsaid to so many people.

Was getting worried about YOU, not seeing updates for so long! But I knew you had to be OK because I can spot your hand (least I think I can!) in some of the product descriptions over at HLJ. ;)

I wrote about some stuff that might be familiar :)


maybe it'll make you laugh or something. Hang in there!
[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 7th, 2009 10:26 am (UTC)
Thanks, Steve--I appreciate it. Sorry this reply is so long in coming; couldn't climb out of the hole after all. Feel more ready for another whack at normalcy now.

Great Arcadia article! (Awww, but that stubby li'l diecast one is still my favorite...) That '78 Takara ad was fantastic to see. "Albator" being the European "localization"--perfect term, haven't heard that before. Thanks for the link to see!
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Date:June 8th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
Thank YOU for the kind words. Hang in there.

And I had thought about going into the story of how you had gotten that Takatoku Arcadia for me in that little essay thing but I figured that was too personal and didn't need to be...I dunno...whatever.

*sigh* But to be able to go back in time and hit Pony-Go-Round circa 1982 with a buttload of cash...*sigh*

OK, did I ever tell you of my adventure to L.A. for the 1984 Worldcon? Comics & Comix of Berkley had a STACK of the Bandai/Popy DX Big Scale Yamato. A STACK. A waist high stack of them. $60 each. AND I PASSED ON BUYING ONE!! "Oh, I can get that later, I don't know how I would get that home, blah blah blah"


Spent all my money on books and living. Spent some time with Yuji at the Books Nippan table. Bought the Dunbine OST LP from Fred Patten for Tomino to sign.

But I didn't buy a Big Scale Yamato and to this day it hurts, it hurts so bad how stupid I was... :)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:May 17th, 2009 09:01 am (UTC)
The amount of energy you have to do all this stuff never ceases to amaze me! And I'm glad you found the backstory to the "God Sigma" thing... I guess I'd kinda figured it was just One Of Those Japanese Things That Can't Be Explained!
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Date:June 7th, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
Well, doing it as part of a group really helped--it's tons easier following someone else than having to work out the logistics yourself!

With "God Sigma," I'd been wondering if the show's staff or story had some Niigata connection...but, nope! The Gataket crew simply knows and loves 'bots! (It shouldn't have been such a surprise after riding in their van to the party restaurant the night before--robot themes were playing nonstop...and I had a grin the size of Grand Rapids as we all sang along with "Dai Apollon"!)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 7th, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you. This has been hard, and I'm really sorry for ducking back down the hole again before replying.

Isao Sasaki sounds so darn happy as he sings that song...!

Settei (設定) are the approved model sheets of an animated series or movie's characters, mecha, etc.; photocopies of them get distributed to the animators to help keep the designs and details consistent. Here's a distant look at nine settei sheets from "Outlaw Star":

[User Picture Icon]
Date:May 18th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
I'm very sorry for your loss. :/ It's never easy to go back from a foreign country to home for a funeral.

I'm glad that you had a good time with the anison stuff, though. I always look forward to seeing your reports. ^^

Also: God Sigma is AWESOME in Super Robot Wars Z. I want to see the show now. >.>

Edited at 2009-05-18 07:08 pm (UTC)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 7th, 2009 12:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much...I appreciate it. That sounds like the voice of experience, and if that's the case, I'm so sorry. Really hope neither of us has to do that again.

Am so tickled you enjoyed the reports--thanks for reading 'em!

Hey, after all those years of heartfelt claps from Niigata fans, damn straight God Sigma has powered up to all-caps AWESOMEness now! (...although the race is still on to see which '80s robot series will be the last to get a DVD release, God Sigma or Galvion... ;^) )

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Date:June 8th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
Hey, I'm still holding out hope for a StarzanS DVD release!

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