Greetings! Apologies for rarely ever updating this blog, I always have a lot of things I want to say but can never find the time and motivation to writing them down. Anyway as I usually do each year today I'll be writing about my experience at Anime North which I've once again been lucky enough to be a part of. But since I don't want to just repeat what I've been doing the previous two years and reporting about the event itself, this time I want to focus more on my feelings and impressions.
You might be asking why I don't just write this over at our HPT website that I'm a part of. For one we'll have something else for that up soon enough (I think), and two this website, although small, is quite important to me as well. The very first Anime North I attended in 2013 was a very pivotal experience for me and the report I wrote then is still very meaningful to me. I'm interested in seeing how different these blog posts become year by year, so I'm deciding to stick to this blog even if I don't update very often.
Anime North 2015
This year we planned it to be the biggest Anime North to date for Producers. And by we I'm referring to HPT, the overseas group of Producers I'm a part of. There are many skilled individuals in HPT who are very experienced with eventing so this year we had a couple projects in store for all the Producers attending, notably the awesome Saturday off-kai.
The con itself was pretty standard, not too different from previous years other than that the God-Event Momiji Brunch from the previous year was unfortunately canceled, but somehow that didn't matter. Anime North 2015 was still an incredible experience and that's all thanks to Asapon.
Asapon has been very influential to me as a Producer from the get-go, being the youngest member of the original im@s cast. Among Producers and on the internet she's known as "tensai" or genius, simply for her incredible talent and personality. The oldest video of her on Nico Nico Douga is a performance by her for im@s at the age of 16. Since then she's been a huge contributor to the im@s series' popularity both in and out of the games. The twins were quite famous for their tiny speech slurs in songs, the most well-known likely to be "tokachi", which helped gained a lot of attention to im@s during the days that Nico Nico Douga played a crucial role to im@s.
I've seen Asapon in a countless amount of videos and livestreams by this point but it's nothing quite like meeting her in person. She really is a genius. Her MC talks are very different from Eriko and Harami's. While they're all very professional, Asapon has a very unique ability to seemingly turn even the most off-topic question into a much more in-depth story or anecdote all the while still putting her Asapon spice onto it. For example, a simple question such as "which is your favorite Ami and Mami song respectively?"
Asapon first of all amusingly slipped up and said Houkago Jump for Ami and YOUou MYshin for Mami (it's the reverse). But she went further and explained that she loved Houkago Jump because the recording used for the song is not actually what was originally intended by the producers. Asapon herself sang a part of the melody incorrectly in the recording but the producers decided to keep the changed version since they liked it more. For YOUou MYshin, Asapon came to love the song especially after 9th Live in Tokyo because it's the first im@s song to ever use towel spinning at a live (also detailed in my 9th Live report). On a side note when she explained that, a few other Ps and myself who were lucky to bring our im@s towels that day started spinning them in the air and she pointed to me "ah, like that". I was so happy I brought my towel that day ;_;
Pon was also incredibly popular this year! Even to my surprise being a veteran of the previous two years, I was surprised how many people wanted to ask Asapon questions that she had to janken the final question on each day. I really wish everyone could have been there for her Q&A talk sessions though... They were very Asapon-rasshi ww. She told stories that I've both known and several new stories to me as well. Like how when she got the audition for im@s, she would bus out to Tokyo every weekend for 10 hours. Since the flight to Toronto is about 13 hours, she thought she was already used to it and could handle it. Something new to me however was that she originally auditioned for Iori but got Ami instead who was only one character at the time. She also loves Liam Neeson and Terminator!
I'm always going to say this every time I get a chance to meet one but the im@s seiyuu are just so friendly. But Asapon was even more special. You could sincerely feel she wanted to talk to each and every fan for an extended amount of time but simply couldn't due to time and regulations ;A;. Every time she would sign your goods she would ask you where you're from and try to engage in chit-chat, even though the AN staff was clearly getting upset www. Of the three im@s seiyuu who have been to Toronto, Asapon felt the most like a tourist who just wanted to have fun and that really made being around her fun. That's probably why once Anime North was over everyone felt like an irreplaceable friend is missing. ;_;
I'm going to start this section off with a quote from my very own blogpost here after Anime North 2013.
I was envious but not in a hostile way, it was an amazing feeling to be able to converse and relate to people whom value the very same thing I do at an even higher level than I do. One of the worst things I've come to experience of being a hardcore idolm@ster fan in America is that it is actually very lonely. It was the first time for me to be able talk about things that I can't really talk about and relate with anyone else.
That was me from two years ago. That was the first time I had met other Producers and those were my sincere feelings at the time. If I look at myself now though I see someone completely different. I no longer feel that loneliness, in fact it's the very opposite. Several times throughout the weekend Producers would come up to me and shake my hand and say thanks. When they did I wondered "eh? for what?" But I really appreciate everyone who did. And during the off-kai... the people who surrounded me during (and after) Yakusoku, the people who shouted "ganbare!" while I teared up during my speech, the individuals who came up to me to personally thank me for various things afterwards, after seeing all of that there's no way at all I could feel lonely. That is the strength of im@s that has been able to cross over several countries and languages. We Producers all understand the same thing, the love for im@s.
This year there were more Producers than I have ever met before at Anime North. There were several familiar faces, even more new faces, and some important comrades who were unfortunately not able to make it this year. But I think above of all this year was able to create a feeling that "im@s is loved all around the world". And if Asapon herself was able to understand that feeling then I feel our mission was accomplished. GJ guys!
The off-kai meeting on Saturday was just amazing. I'm sure everyone who attended would agree. While everything didn't go according to plan, it was still more incredible than I was planning originally. A big thanks to several names to putting it all together so professionally. Seeing so many Ps join together to sing and do calls was very touching. And there were several exciting moments, like when Landro accidentally put in the wrong disc starting off with Acceleration but Ps instinctively already break UOs www. I think my favorite moment was when Jibun REST@RT played by the twins, since I was the only one who knew about it ahead of time. I was wondering if people would enjoy it since it wasn't a twins original song, but when I heard that IKUZOOOOO I knew everyone was already really hyped. Yakusoku was... what you expected it to be. I'll just never be able to sit through a live performance of this song and not cry inexplicably. But the most touching part to me was when the second chorus came up, everyone began to sing at the same exact time. This wasn't planned ahead, there were no cues in the live, just everyone at once started singing together. I was already crying, but that was the most touching part for me.
Words of Thanks
There are several people who deserve recognition for making this year as great as it was. Some names from HPT like Omo, Kei, and Kurotsuki deserve a lot of thanks for establishing the off-kai venue and securing those ridiculously awesome Ami/Mami cakes as well as the pop outs. You too Neo and Ran. Seriously without you guys Anime North would be a very different con.
Also thanks to Landro-niichan and Minh for always being the first ones to surround (I'm too embarrassed to say hug ////) me during Yakusoku. I'm often lost in thought when stressed, and despite being fun Anime North is a very stressful con for me. But several times when I'm out of it and staring into space like a weirdo, Landro would come up to me and ask how I'm doing and what I'm thinking about. Thanks for that. Minh always makes fun of me but I think Chihaya P's just aren't really honest with their feelings. のヮの；
Big Boss Shini, thanks for always securing goods and sorry for losing your pens m(_ _)m. If I had a big sister I'd have introduced you to her a long time ago! Matt I don't get to see you enough, and you're always helping me out with Japan stuff. Get your leg better so we can drink it up!
A big word of thanks to the Ninbin-family for flying all the way out here from Japan a second time. I honestly couldn't believe people would fly OUT of Japan for events but Anime North was so special this year that I don't deny it being completely worth so. The Ninbin-family in particular I've grown especially close to since meeting them after Harami North and again at 9th Tokyo. I've never seen such a close group of friends and family before, it honestly made me very jealous!
To be friends with such a wonderful family though, I'm truly happy about that. I really enjoyed meeting all the members from the Ninbin-family this time including Komad-san, Wasabi-san, Kouya-san. For Sky-san and Ninbin-san, you guys are like family to me. My own brothers, though maybe Ninbin-san can be my uncle? ww I'll never forget the words Sky-san and Ninbin-san said to me at the ending ceremonies and after we parted on the final day. Thank you.
To everyone else I met this weekend, whether from Toronto, Germany, or Japan, and to all those who attended the off-kai thanks for coming and making it a success. There were a lot of first-timers there that I didn't get much of a chance to speak to but I swear I'll be back one day so we can properly chat! I'm really looking forward to when that day comes, whether it be 10th anniversary or Anime North 2016. I'll definitely see you guys again since you guys are what make this fandom awesome.
And last but certainly not least, a big big shoutout to Berry Risa, the translator for Asapon this weekend who did an amazing job interpreting for Asapon as well as helping the a lot of the fans out incredibly. There's simply no way I could have ended this without mentioning you Berry, so if you're reading this we're expecting to see you back next year you got that! ww
Every year we do a little bit better. Anime North 2013 with Eriko, we asked to take a group photo with Eriko but requested at a pretty poor time when they were already running late. Next year with Harami, they asked us instead if we would like to take a group photo at the end of the final day which she later posted to her blog. This year Asapon took three different full group photos at the end of her panels (available to see on her twitter). It feels that each year we're shortening the distance between Japan and the west with im@s.
I have decided that I wanted to become the bridge between the east and west among idolm@ster fans and will continue to support im@s from America.
These are again words I wrote down from two years ago. Have they come true? Am I still walking towards that path? I can never decide things for myself with certainty, so I'm always fumbling the way I do things. But I do know one thing for sure and that is right now I'm happy. I've been walking hand-in-hand with im@s for four years now and my friends and family have grown much, much larger since when I started. There have been many times of laughter and tears, but this is only the beginning. I really can't wait to see what the future holds in store for im@s, and for all of us.
PS - Afapon 最高！！！！