Thinking back on last year's anime song concerts triggers a landslide of great memories. Above is a glimpse of just one of 'em: the joyous climax of last May's MoJo Zone Season 4, as MoJo (left) belted out "Kagaku Sentai Dynaman" with a trio of that 1983 show's alumni, Yuu Tokita (second from right; he was Kosaku Nango/Dyna Yellow), Sayoko Hagiwara (far right; Rei Tachibana/Dyna Pink), and Shocker OH!NO! (blue shirt; suit actor for any number of Jashinka Shippohei)! (In the background at center is another of the concert's special guests, singer Isao Taira.)
Am just sorry that 2007 was a particularly hectic year, without much time to sit down and write. I hope to be a lot more productive here and on Anison Central this year...but, before heading into what's great in 2008, here's a look back at the Top Ten Memorable Moments from anison concerts I got to in '07!
March's 15th edition of "Kimi Mo Solo De Utau-zo!", which gave fans the chance to perform Akira Kushida's songs next to the man himself, was the last for the foreseeable future after its home, The Hideaway in Nishi Shinjuku, was demolished.
Honorable Mention (tie!)...Although this list was limited to happenings at anison concerts, it just wouldn't be right to not mention Akira "Qu-cy" Kushida's fan event Kimi Mo Solo De Utau-zo! 15, held March 18 and 21 at The Hideaway in Nishi Shinjuku. With the building that housed The Hideaway set for demolition, it was the final Utau-zo to date, and an emotional one, knowing we could never return to the site of so many great times.
An Honorable Mention also goes to what likely would have been this list's Number 1: Ken Narita's return from retirement to perform Cyborg 009 opening theme "Ta Ga Tame Ni" at January's Anime Fes Japan '07 Fuyu No Jin. The trouble is, I got back to Japan one day too late to witness it...so, instead, it's the Number 1 moment I most regret missing! (It was a huge thrill to meet Narita-san at May's MoJo x 2 Nodo Jiman 5, though, and to hear his absolutely electrifying "Cosmos Dream" [Queen of 1000 Years opening theme]--sung for the first time in more than a decade, he said--at July's Anison Carnival In Ueno!)
Between November 2006's Super Sentai Spirits II and his triumph as an Anime Japan Fes headliner in December 2007, Kenji Suzuki (center, flanked by Akira Kushida at left and Shocker OH!NO!) refreshed his credentials with special guest star appearances in December 2006 and March 2007 at "Kimi Mo Solo De Utau-zo!" fan events.
Nummmber 10 (tie!)...A wedding photographer for the past several years, Kenji Suzuki--who performed anime and tokusatsu theme songs in the '80s, including those of "Grandzort" and "Fiveman"--finally got back on the other side of the camera for the November '06 Super Sentai Spirits II concert. A little over a year later, at the December 15 Anime Japan Fes 2007 Fuyu No Jin Super Anison Spirits X'mas concert, he had become more than a segment of chronology; he was one of the main stars! He belted out "Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman" and "Zudadan! Kinnikuman" to a wonderfully warm welcome.
Another exciting return was made by the Duke Aces, who recorded "Tetsujin 28-go" in 1963 and made the years disappear when they performed it again at NHK's Anime Shudaika Daizenshuu concert April 27. Really superb!
The line for Columbia's Tokyo Anison Festival 2007 began forming six hours before the concert began. Shown here stretching down the length of the corridor connecting Tokyo Big Sight's East and West buildings, the line would ultimately be triple this long.
Nummmber 9..."Tafu-Tafu!" Held March 24 at Tokyo Big Sight, piggybacked with the Tokyo Anime Fair (making it the "TAF-TAF"), Columbia Entertainment's Tokyo Anison Festival 2007 was a tremendous event! Hundreds of tickets had been distributed earlier in a drawing by Columbia, and we lucky ticketholders were treated to an awesome concert from beginning to end, featuring a constellation of 10 stars: Isao Sasaki, Akira Kushida, Masaaki Endou, Takayoshi Tanimoto, Miho Morikawa, Yuka Uchiyae, Mayumi Gojo, Yukiko Abe, Sister Mayo, and Psychic Lover, whose Yoffy and Joe doubled as the emcees. I'll especially never forget Isao Sasaki and his invisible gun in "Midnight Dekaranger," targeting the front-row trio of foreign gals with a wink (and we couldn't help squeeing in response! [*blush*]). Too great!
One of three fans Akira Kushida invited into the spotlight in 2007, Take-chan performed "Uchuu Keiji Shaider" at Shinjuku Loft Plus One's Waratte Fukukin Utatte Haikin event as headliners Kenta Sato (red jacket in back), Takayuki Miyauchi and Kushida observed.
Nummmber 8... During a Japan appearance years ago, the Temptations invited young fan Akira Kushida onstage to sing with them--and Qu-cy continued to pay it forward in 2007. At Waratte Fukukin Utatte Haikin on February 24, he brought fan Take-chan onstage to serve up an enthusiastic take on "Uchuu Keiji Shaider." And on November 25, at his solo concert Tamashii No Engine at Tamachi's Studio Cube 326, Qu-cy invited fans Naniwa No Goinkyou-san and Kaneko-san--who have their own musical groups themselves--onstage to form an unforgettable threesome belting out "Jiraiya"!
Nummmber 7...On July 14 typhoon Man-Yi was sweeping toward Tokyo's Ueno area, but not even its exponentially increasing rain and wind and cold could stop the Anison Carnival In Ueno! Held in Ueno Park's lakeside Shinobazu amphitheater, which has a roof but very little in the way of walls, this second edition of the Anison Carnival featured a star-studded lineup that performed with a fire that helped keep the chill at bay. By the four-hour concert's end, many in the crowd had donned raincoats under leaky portions of the roof, but the enthusiasm never dimmed. The Anison Carnival is now two-for-two as one of the greatest anison shows on Earth!
It's common knowledge that Ichirou Tomita, in the foreground, performs under the name MoJo in the anison world--but in this concert with band ROPS, lead guitarist Tatsuya, at left, was revealed late in the show to be Tatsuya Maeda, famed for the opening themes of "Ultraman Powered," "Ultraman Dyna," "Blue Swat" and more!
Nummmber 6 (tie!)...Like a magician, Shocker OH!NO! surprised crowds by making unexpected stars literally appear before their eyes at two of his shows. At Ichirou Tomita & ROPS Live on June 16 in Shibuya, it was no secret that Tomita is MoJo--but late in the show, emcee Shocker revealed the rest of the name of band ROPS's lead guitarist Tatsuya: Tatsuya Maeda, famed for a flock of '90s Ultraman theme songs! The crowd went wild, and Maeda obliged with "Ultraman Dyna" and "Blue Swat." A month later, at Shocker's Anison Carnival In Ueno, the this-show-only third member of backup duo Apple Pie was brought forward late in the evening and was revealed to be Kumiko Inabe, who'd found fame with the "Shushutorian" theme song in the '80s! She then belted it out for the ecstatic crowd.
Nummmber 5...Minmay sings! And then doesn't! Mari Iijima, who voiced Minmay in "Macross," was the special guest at Zepp Tokyo's Super Robot Spirits 2007 Haru No Jin on April 29. She spoke about living in America and singing for small groups of fans there, and then performed "Tenshi No E No Gu" and "Ai - Oboeteimasu ka." Later, she joined the rest of the show's stars onstage for the event's traditional finale, "Mazinger Z"--but even though Ichirou Mizuki made a point of planting a large copy of the lyrics at her feet, she just stood there with a tight little smile while everyone else was singing. Grr.
Nummmber 4...There has never, ever been an opening charge like the launch of Anime Japan Fes '07 Super Anison Spirits Natsu No Jin, August 19 at Zepp Tokyo! The full versions of great song after great song came pouring out in a nonstop cascade: Ichirou Mizuki with "Game Center Arashi," then Hironobu Kageyama with "Cha-La Head-Cha-La," and then Akira Kushida with "Kinnikuman Go Fight!", and then maestro Masayuki Yamamoto with "Gyakuten! Ippatsuman" (with a third verse written in memory of the late seiyuu Kei Tomiyama and Hirotaka Suzuoki), and then Ken Narita with "Ta Ga Tame Ni," and then Isao Sasaki, topping off the hard-driving half-dozen with "Starzinger No Uta"! (Only then did we get the first break, as emcee Shocker OH!NO! strolled out and impishly surveyed the ocean of near-delirious fans. "And if you think the start was exciting," he grinned, "wait until you see the rest...!")
Fans wrote messages to Takayuki Miyauchi on a huge, colorful card before his birthday live last February.
Nummmber 3...As a survivor of pancreatic cancer, his birthdays mean a lot to Takayuki Miyauchi...and so do his fans. His February 3 birthday live Tomorrow, at Shinjuku Headpower, came to an extra-memorable conclusion: Cheered back onstage for an encore, he returned to be met with a surprise chorus of "Happy Birthday To You" from the crowd, along with a huge card filled with birthday greetings from attendees and a birthday cake decorated with a line drawing of him (both projects organized by fan supreme Emi-san, who hustled for hours before show time on that cold afternoon having fans sign the card and filling them in on the surprise plans). Overcome, Miyauchi-san couldn't stop his brimming eyes from spilling over during encore "Kamen Rider Black RX." It was a deeply touching finish to a fine concert.
Nummmber 2...The most shocking concert moment of the year came in December 15's Anime Japan Fes 2007 Fuyu No Jin Super Anison Spirits X'mas at Shibuya O-East. As the opening notes rang out for the night's third song, "Choujin Sentai Jetman," Hironobu Kageyama came charging straight out at us hard, intending to throw on the brakes at the edge of the stage...but skidded right over, plunging down a good five feet to the floor between the stage and the fenced-off first row! The band continued without a blink, but I went from stunned to scared as Kageyama's manager came bolting onstage from the wings...and then, astonishingly, from somewhere out of sight on the floor, Kageyama nailed the song's opening lines right on time! We cheered with relief as his manager and a staffer grabbed him under his arms and hoisted him back onstage, where he gave the rest of the song his high-energy best. He left the stage with a bit of a limp, but returned sound for five more songs throughout the night. Near the show's end, he sheepishly explained that he was coming down with the flu, and that in rehearsal some band members had warned him against the stop-at-the-edge move, but he had wanted to make a memorable entrance... His sudden plunge, and guts in getting out the first few lines from the floor, made for an entrance I'll sure remember!
Nummmber 1...Things going wrong make for memorable moments, but it's how those problems are overcome that can make those memories great. On October 28 in Ginza karaoke palace Pasela Resort Benoa, "Hero Monogatari: Densetsu" was the first concert together in more than a year for the Tamashii No 3 Kyoudai (Akira Kushida, MoJo, and Takayuki Miyauchi). Late along, MoJo, who had been mercifully free of music malfunctions in 2007 after his karaoke accompaniment abruptly stopped in mid-song at least three times in '06, was driving hard on "Kibou No Siren Builder" when suddenly, silence struck. No more music. Still no more music. Scattered groans of dismay began to rise... And then MoJo let loose a tremendous growl, stamped out a four-beat, and blasted, a capella, on into the chorus! We all leaped in too, many singing in harmony, and that long rectangular hall reverberated with the sound of hundreds of human voices united in song! It was the most unforgettable moment of an unforgettable year of anime song concerts.