Friday, July 4, 2014

Idol Matsuri & Me, The Final Chapter

Sunday morning I ate and then went down to the convention to talk to people, popping in on the Western guests autograph session.  I wanted autographs and photos with all of them, but as I was running short on money I had to pass on a photo with Ally Sally and Beckii Cruel, since they were charging too much money.  I was able to spare a dollar for a SHEawase photo, which Melissa and Tara were nice enough to sign.  They then posed with me while someone took our photo.

Beri! New Day posed with me too, and reminded me of their concert at 1:30 p.m.  I wanted to see this since they are very nice girls.  For those unfamiliar with this group, they are a Seattle-based J-Pop cover group consisting of three girls, Jenn, Danielle and Sophia.  It was Beri! New Day that helped translate for me when Aither arrived on Thursday night.  Before the concert began they needed to do a sound check, and their concert got a late start, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Beckii Cruel was scheduled to perform next, and I wanted to see this too, but I had a panel scheduled for 3:15 p.m.  I had brought along a USB flash drive with videos and documents that I needed for my panel and I just needed to know how to play the videos with the laptop and projector set up.  Unfortunately there was only one working projector and Beckii was using it for her concert. Bethany Walker was running all over the place to do multiple things including getting a mouse for the laptop and a cable needed for the projector.  Beckii’s concert ended while I was still in the room where my panel was to be held waiting for the projector.  Eventually the projector was brought in, hooked up and set up so I could access everything on my flash drive.

Bethany tried to corral people and get them to come in to see my panel, which I called “Young Idol Singers” (also the name of a Facebook page I created).  People came and went but I think 20 or so people were there at various points during the next hour, including Melissa and Tara of SHEawase, Ally and Sally and Beri! New Day.  I did an intro explaining that I think there are many talented kids who sing and dance in the Japanese idol industry and their songs are fun and energetic.  The first question was, “What is the youngest idol singer?”  Ally and Sally spoke up mentioning that they shook the hands of a seven-year-old idol in Japan and that some were young as five!  I mentioned that Onigo Musume a.k.a. Onigokko were promoted as the youngest idol group when they formed in 2012, saying that the three oldest members have now graduated and that the girls auditioning for Onigokko’s new members are as young as seven.  This lead me to select “Running Fighter” by Onigokko as the first video I shared.  What surprised me was that after showing the video the audience clapped!   In fact, they clapped after every video I shared with them.  For the most part I let the audience select which videos they wanted to see, and gave updates on the group and the members.  I asked if anyone wanted to see a soloist, and some of the people said “yes”, so I selected a 2012 fan video of my second favorite idol, Nakano Yuuka.  Sophia of Beri! New Day was particularly impressed!  I showed videos for groups and soloists such as KAGAJO☆4S, NA-NA, Prism☆Box, SpringBell feat. MIKA, Cookin’ Idol I! My! Mine!, Shugo Chara Egg! and Sakura Gakuin, all with applause from the audience.  Doing this panel was a lot of fun for me since I enjoy talking about the idols I love and support.  Unfortunately I ran out of time, since the projector was required for the closing ceremonies.  Given the opportunity to something like this again, I would in a second!

The one thing I forgot to do that Bethany said I should do was show my OPV for the canceled OPV Contest during my panel.  I had entered a video that I worked hard on titled “Sakura Gakuin’s Amazing Feats”, which showed clips of Sakura Gakuin members doing some sort of trick. Unfortunately I was the only one who entered the contest so the contest got the ax before the program booklet was even printed.  Actually, this wasn’t the only canceled contest as there was supposed to be a Cosplay Contest as well.  Again, there was only one entry in the Cosplay Contest, so this got the ax too.  Bethany then suggested that I show the OPV to everyone at the closing ceremonies.  Nathan Walker, Bethany’s husband, said the DJ who owned the projector had to leave right after the closing ceremonies, and they were getting a late start as it was.

The closing ceremonies consisted of giving away the badges signed by the artists to lucky people who bought a raffle ticket.  I didn’t buy a ticket so I didn’t win anything.  I regret this since I really would have liked to have won a badge from any of the Aither members, especially Konno Yuuka. The new mascot for next year’s Idol Matsuri was also selected.  This ended the first Idol Matsuri.

I reserved a bus ride from the hotel back to the airport for 5:20 a.m. Monday, and to my surprise RYUTist and their staff went on the same bus!  They sat in the back, and I would have loved to chat with them (through their translator), but they all seemed so tired so I didn’t say anything.  Of course this didn’t stop the bus driver from asking questions, all of which I answered.  I told the bus driver “ohayo” is “good morning” in Japanese.  He then said I could be the translator.  I had to inform him that I only knew about five words in Japanese!  He asked more questions which I thought the translator for RYUTist should answer, but she was half asleep.  I told him about the convention, who RYUTist were and how to pronounce their name.  He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment, RYUTist!  You can sing anytime.”  The girls cheered when they heard their name called, but didn’t sing.  After the long bus ride we got off at the airport.  I told RYUTist that I enjoyed their concert, but I’m not sure they understood me.  I saw them go one way to get their tickets and I went in the opposite direction.  I walked for a bit, then looked back.  I just needed one more glimpse.    

Idol Matsuri was the first convention of its kind in the United States, and a lot of fun for me personally.  As the “pilot convention” (Bethany’s words), it wasn’t 100% perfect.  Besides a mix up with documents by the hotel staff, there were other problems.  One of the projectors didn’t have sound, and another overheated.  Because of this, some of the video programming had to be canceled or shown at a different time than originally scheduled.   Events had to be relocated to another room and / or start at a later time.  Worst of all, Bethany overworked herself and went three days without sleep.  Of course, you can’t have something like Idol Matsuri without negative comments from people who obviously don’t have a clue as to how much hard work it took to make this convention happen.  I applaud Bethany and Nathan both for working their hardest to make everyone, including the idols and Western guests, as happy as possible.  They deserve nothing but praise for their efforts and everyone’s full support!  Although I am reluctant to try flying again, I might just put up with it next year to be a part of Idol Matsuri 2015.