Friday, June 30, 2006

"Master Donut"

I love so many things about this tiny flier, the size of a name card, that I picked up at a club somewhere in Tokyo.

First off, there are all the funny characters: it's not clear why the girl in ponytails and the guy holding a single look surprised, but in the case of the guy on the bottom left, there's no mystery--I'd be pretty terrified too if I woke up to find a black demon banzai-ing over my bed.

Then, there's the fact that the band performing is called Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro.

And that the event itself is called MasterDonut. Why? The backside of the flier explains that this is a "cult party" where DJs spin only 7-inch funk, soul and jazz records, Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro plays, and--oh here it is--during the event donuts are provided free of charge, and audience members can eat as much as they please.

Wacky Tokyo!


I also got my hands on a flier advertising a gig by a band called Soshiki Bo-ryoku Yochien (組織暴力幼稚園) , or, Institutional Violence Kindergarten. They are playing with a group named Very Ape, which describes itself as a 'hentai, cross-dressing, deafening-noise alternative rock band'. I think I should go to this show (at the Ikebukuro Shuto/Chop on July 8)...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

2 Cool Stories On J-Music Making It Abroad

Stumbled across two great articles on a subject I should probably be more interested in: how Japanese bands might hope to sell better abroad, especially in the U.S.

One’s a Japan Times feature called “The D.I.Y. route to rock stardom” by David Hickey, one of the guys behind Japanese underground music site

The other is a blog post called “Missionary Position” by Ian, the creator of the music review site Clear and Refreshing.

The first thing to note about the Japan Times story is that it has a sidebar article talking about Fanime Con in San Jose that leads with:

‘A grand collision of two Japanese subcultures—anime and Japanese indie music,’ was one blogger’s take on Fanime Con 2006…

Three guesses on who that ‘blogger’ is…

The lead article looks in depth at the fact that while other Japanese pop culture exports like anime and manga are selling well in the U.S., Japanese pop music, with very few exceptions, is getting hardly any play at all. Some musicians are trying to break into the U.S. music market on their own, the article says, by networking through MySpace and other message boards and by crashing U.S. industry festivals like South By Southwest. But big-time success has eluded the Japanese musicians because they just don’t yet have the connections and PR know-how that U.S. bands do, the story concludes. It's an interesting read.

Ian’s blog post, meanwhile, is a penetrating look at the current state of Japan’s indie music scene, warts and all. Here’s his description of his disillusionment at finding out that the band Afrirampo wasn’t quite as out-of-this-world different as they first seemed:

When I first saw them, they were like a riot of colour through the sometimes rather staid and technically-obsessed Tokyo noise circuit, but as the other pieces of the Osaka scene jigzaw puzzle fell into piece around them, what had seemed like a radical inversion of muso orthodoxy became more of a generic repetition of a locally prevalant wackiness-at-all-costs, performance-over-content motif. The wildness and discarding if inhibition wasn't something magical, beamed in from Mars to save us all; it was in fact a strictly enforced code of conduct, without which it would be nigh impossible for any Osaka band to get noticed.

In his view the major problem with Japanese indie musicians is that they are splintered into strict musical cliques. That means bands don’t communicate enough with musicians with different styles, preventing them from cross-pollinating and making music with crossover appeal, which is essential if they are to make it outside of Japan. “A lot of responsibility lies with the Japanese bands to make a mental leap outside their self-defined boundaries,” he writes.

(By the way, the geeky Japanophile that Ian describes in his post shares uncomfortably many traits with me: they “pass their days [in Japan] in a kind of happy stupor”, he says. Check. They go to anime conventions, he says. Check. ((Though I went to this year's Famine for the music rather than anime.)) They are dedicated fans who are friendly with band members. Check. They write for Sort of ((I contribute interviews)). They hang around blogs. Check. Hmmm.)

For Japanese bands wanting to make it big overseas, I’d add that the language barrier is a big obstacle. There are, of course, fans that don’t understand a word of Japanese but still love J-Pop. I myself like songs in Korean and Cantonese, two languages I don’t speak. But the sad truth is that for many, lyrics in Japanese or any other language they don’t understand are a turn-off. Japanese bands could do songs in English, and many do. But then there’s the problem of pronunciation—it’s often hard to understand what is being sung. Plus, because English isn’t these singers’ native language, it's harder for them to sing with emotion. In Japan you don’t find a lot of bands like The Cardigans that aren't native speakers but have flawless English.

With anime, what leaves the biggest impression is the art, so that it doesn’t matter that much if the voice-overs sound strange or there are subtitles. And on top of that, Japanese anime has its own distinct style, whereas, for the most part, Japanese pop music imitates music from Europe and North America.

Maybe eventually more Japanese musicians will appear that sing like native English speakers and have their own style that appeals to foreigners. Or, maybe, there will be a revolution in global pop sensibility that will make Japanese music so cool that kids will want to buy it even if their knowledge of the Japanese language is limited to ‘sushi’ and ‘karaoke’. I won’t be holding my breath.

The thing is, I just don’t get that excited about how many CDs Japanese bands are selling, because I’m not in a band and don’t run a record label, and I like the music for the music and not for its popularity. If a band is good, it doesn’t matter to me whether they sell out multiple nights at the Budokan or they only get a few people to come to some tiny café on the Inokashira Line. Having said that, it is a good thing if more Japanese bands are traveling abroad, creating MySpace pages, offering MP3 samples on their web pages, and doing other things to make themselves more accessible to audiences outside of Japan, because, as I hope it is clear to regular readers, I do want people to know about good Japanese bands.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Strawberry TV Show Meets Advantage Lucy

Last week was a good week for advantage Lucy fans—they did two shows within a few days of each other. Of course, I went to both.

The more interesting gig was the one on Saturday at the Shimokitazawa Que, featuring two groups from Seoul: Strawberry TV Show and Mongoose. Strawberry TV Show was especially wonderful. They are a seven-musician group that plays jazzy R&B and consists of guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and three dancing chorus girls, who, along with the woman on keyboards, wore matching, bright, polka-dotted summer dresses. The chorus trio was the chief attraction: they were pretty, looked like they were having fun, and their singing voices melted together pleasantly as if they were meant for each other, like strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

But after the show I had drinks with Strawberry TV Show and the other bands and found out that maybe the Que show wasn’t as fun for them as they made it look. In fact, it was probably nerve-racking. The problem was a familiar one in Tokyo: club audiences are often pretty subdued, not cheering much and clapping only quietly. To the Korean musicians, the low-key response must have felt like they weren’t going over well. I knew from going to shows in Seoul that an unknown band from abroad gets a much louder, more welcoming response from the audience. But in truth, that was just the Tokyo crowd being their usual selves, and the Japanese musicians tried to tell them that but I’m not sure if they were believed.

When I chatted with Strawberry TV Show they asked me what I thought of their performance, and when I replied “Cute!”, I gathered from their expressions that wasn’t the best answer. Maybe I should have said something about the music, which I did like enough I was ready to buy their albums and was disappointed to hear that the first CD wasn’t coming out until August at the earliest. Still, I stand by my view that this is a cute band—one of the cutest I’ve ever seen.

Strawberry TV Show


During advantage Lucy’s set at the Que, in front of me in the audience was a girl who kept on explaining to two guys she was with that Lucy was exceptionally good that night, which I found annoying, because I’ve been to most of their shows recently and I know that they’ve been playing at a consistently high level and the Que show was certainly no fluke. In their laid-back way, they’ve been intense these last few months. Guitarist Ishizaka-san said they are aiming to release an EP in August, and it does feel like a new work is around the corner (it’s certainly not years away).

At both the Que show and the O-Nest gig earlier in the week, they played a new song called “Late Show”, a lovely, quiet tune that starts out sounding bossa nova (they say they are working on lots of quiet songs now). At the Que show one of the Strawberry TV Show girls joined them in singing “Nanaramia”, a relatively obscure song from the album Station, a song that’s like a simple kid who doesn’t stand out in the schoolyard of advantage Lucy’s collected works, but it’s still a beautiful tune that shone in a different way when sung as a Korean-Japanese duet.


For the record, Vasallo Crab 75 and Condor 44 also played at the O-Nest show, and Gomes The Hitman and Mongoose performed too at the Que. They were all great, good enough I can write a post longer than this about each if I had the time.

advantage Lucy with Strawberry TV Show girls

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Store Called Janis

A long time ago, before iTunes and MP3s, before even CDs were invented, in the Era of LPs, there were record rental stores in Japanese cities where kids borrowed LPs to take home and tape. In Tokyo in the 90’s, one of those stores, called Janis, helped create a music scene.

Janis was one of the few (the only?) stores in Tokyo that stocked LPs by bands like the Smiths, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout and other New Wave and neo-acoustic artists. Guys like Keigo Oyamada and Kenji Ozawa, who formed the influential band Flipper’s Guitar and helped launch the Shibuya-kei scene in the 90’s, devoured Janis’ Ochanomizu store catalogue. They also left notes on comment cards on albums explaining what the music was like and whether it was good. These notes were the guiding lights for aspiring Tokyo musicians in the 1990’s trying to get a full view of all the good, new music coming out of Europe and North America at the time.

One of the kids who frequented Janis was Yoshiharu Ishizaka, advantage Lucy’s guitarist and composer of its music. He said he bicycled down to Ochanomizu from Adachi ward, a one-hour trip, to rent records at Janis. Then, after going home and taping a record, he sometimes took ANOTHER trip to Ochanomizu to return one record and borrow another, listening on a Walkman to the just-recorded album on the way and back.

Can you imagine, all those hours of bicycling to get one metal tape of a rock album? It’s hard to in these days of instant music acquisition through the Internet. But still, I can understand that willingness to spend hours to find a new work by some musician, who, to you, is the most mysterious, coolest, most perfect musician there ever was.

Another friend of mine, DJ Kamaage, also rented records at Janis, but not at the Flipper’s Guitar hang-out Ochanomizu shop, and instead at one in Ikebukuro. There, there weren’t all the Flipper notes to help make renting decisions, so DJ Kamaage said he picked records based on how the covers looked, thinking that if the album art was classy, so must be the music (a reasoning I believe has an element of truth to it). The end result was that many customers at the Ochanomizu store developed a musical taste in line with Flipper’s Guitar’s, whereas the tastes of the regulars of other stores were more varied.


Janis still exists, but as a CD rental store. The above entry is based on a conversation I had over drinks, and I never personally went to any of the Janis’s, so I’m not sure if I got it completely right, and would appreciate it if you would let me know if there are any things to add or correct.

Saturday, June 17, 2006



At the Fanime anime convention in San Jose, California I talked to a few of the Japanese rock bands that put on shows there (story here). I asked them all the same set of questions because I thought it would be fun to see how the answers would turn out differently.

The third and final group I interviewed was the two-girl electric pop/rap unit Miami. Ai Kobayashi and Ai Kajiya create music that sounds both contemporary (they rap over digital samples) and retro (Kajiya plays the violin and some of their melodies sound early-20th century). The two Ai’s that make up Miami are a duo to watch.

JAPAN LIVE: What was your first impression of the U.S.?

KOBAYASHI: The American audience was the greatest! Everyone’s expressions were dazzling. We really had fun.

KAJIYA: I felt the same way. Their power to have fun was tremendous, and we were able to do a very fun show too.

JAPAN LIVE: How would you describe Miami’s music?

KOBAYASHI: Music genre-wise, it’s electric pop. Our sound and everything else have a free feel.

JAPAN LIVE: Are there any American bands or musicians that have influenced you?

KOBAYASHI: I like the Beastie Boys. But I guess that’s about it. To tell you the truth, I’m not much of an expert on music, and I haven’t listened to all that much. If we’re talking about America, the Beastie Boys are clearly my favorite.

KAJIYA: None, in my case.

JAPAN LIVE: How did you come up with the name “Miami”?

KOBAYASHI: It’s just something that we thought up. We’ve never been to Miami in the U.S. and it wasn’t named after that. Japanese girls often have names that start with Ma, Mi, Mu, Me, Mo, and those names have a round, soft image. “Miami” has a round, cute feel to it.

JAPAN LIVE: Anything else you want to say?

KOBAYASHI: Well, the main thing is, thanks so much for listening to us and watching us. We will remember this fondly, and we want to meet all of you again.

KAJIYA: We were welcomed warmly, and so we were able to do the best live we could. We wouldn’t be doing this if not for people like you, and we want to work hard and have fun together with all of you.


You can listen to samples of Miami's songs on their MySpace page, and their music is available in MP3 form at


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

CHAT IN SAN JOSE 2: Swinging Popsicle

From left to right: bassist Hironobu Hirata, vocalist Mineko Fujishima and guitarist Osamu Shimada of Swinging Popsicle

On the sidelines of the Fanime animation convention (story here), I interviewed a few of the Japanese bands that flew across the Pacific to play there. I asked all the bands the same questions because I thought it might be fun to see the different ways they answered.

One of the bands I talked to was the trio Swinging Popsicle. If you are a J-Pop fan and have never listened to Swinging Popsicle, you’re missing out. They are a band that consistently makes some of the brightest, catchiest, most melodious pop songs in Japan. As their guitarist Osamu Shimada says, Swinging Popsicle is a group that “plays beautiful melodies, and treasures good melodies”.

JAPAN LIVE: What was your first impression of the U.S.?

SHIMADA: It's the first time in my life to come here, and I feel that while everything in Tokyo is cramped, here the roads are wide and there’s a lot of space.

HIRATA: The climate is very pleasant, everyone is kind, and there’s all this space. It’s a lovely place like I imagined it to be.

JAPAN LIVE: What was it like playing for an American audience?

FUJISHIMA: This is different from a normal music festival and the people that have come to see us are those that already love Japanese culture, so the atmosphere is warm, and it’s easy to perform. If we came here and no one knew who we were we would have been very nervous, and worried about how the audience would respond, but we knew there were people here who had listened to our songs on MP3s, so even compared with when we play in Japan we haven’t been nervous at all.

JAPAN LIVE: How would you describe Swinging Popsicle’s music?

SHIMADA: I think we’re a band that plays beautiful melodies, and treasures good melodies.

HIRATA: Yesterday an American guy asked me what were the words that came after “I just want to kiss you” in the song “I Just Want To Kiss You”, and when I said, “if I was there baby”, he said, ‘ohhh!’ And the fact that he asked me that means he probably wants to sing along, and really relates to the song. I’m happy that people feel close to our songs, and I’d like them to love our songs even more.

FUJISHIMA: We’re not a loud band, so if people want to go wild our music might not do the trick. I'd be happy if people enjoy our music for what it is.

JAPAN LIVE: Are there any American bands or musicians that have influenced you?


SHIMADA: I listen to the Beach Boys the most—I was listening to them just now. I listen to them every day.

FUJISHIMA: I listen to Laura Nyro a lot, and on the West Coast I often listen to A&M stuff, and I like soft rock. I've really been into Chicago post-rock music recently too. When I started out I really liked Madonna. American music has truly influenced me.

HIRATA: What got me into music and led me to take up an instrument was L.A. metal, which was popular when I was in intermediate school. Now I like music with beautiful melodies by people like, well, he’s a huge, but Burt Bacharach.

JAPAN LIVE: Anything else you want to say?

HIRATA: I want to come here again. I truly loved playing for all the people that came here and met me.

FUJISHIMA: I think if it were this festival, everyone would accept us next year too. If it were other festivals I’d feel nervous. I visited Los Angeles and San Francisco about ten years ago on a regular sightseeing trip, but compared to then, this time around everyone was nice and good things kept on happening to me.

SHIMADA: Everyone was warm, and easy to become friends with.


Swinging Popsicle's music is available in various places, including Amazon, CD Japan, and as MP3s in

Some cool person has also uploaded a video recording of Swinging Popsicle playing at Fanime, here. It's not exactly a professional video, but you still get a feel for what they are like live (despite what Mineko says in the interview, you can really go wild listening to them live!).

Monday, June 12, 2006


From left to right: Mai, Wadagaki and Shino of Poplar

I chatted with a few of the Japanese bands that performed at the Fanime convention in San Jose (story here), and asked them all the same questions.

The first band I talked to was Poplar, a trio that plays a unique style of music that might be described as experimental/retro-Japanese/hip-hop. They were also the most visually arresting group of the six Japanese bands that made it to San Jose: Mai, the female singer, always wore a yukata (a summer kimono), while Shino, the guitarist, kept his face hidden behind a red Mexican wrestler’s mask, never revealing his true identity.

JAPAN LIVE: What was your first impression of the U.S.?

WADAGAKI: What I felt right when I got here was that the sky is very big, and everything around me was of a larger scale than back in Japan. I felt big too.

JAPAN LIVE: What was it like playing for an American audience?

MAI: The way people responded to us was very direct. They didn’t hold back, and that was great.

JAPAN LIVE: How would you describe Poplar’s music?

SHINO: Back in Japan, people often tell us our music isn’t like anything they’ve listened to before. We ourselves have trouble explaining it. But it’s music that regular people can enjoy: Mai [sings] melodies, I do aggressive guitar parts, and we have both male and female vocals. You need to listen to our music to know what I’m talking about, but we frequently use Japanese scales, so there’s a lot of Japanese melodies.

JAPAN LIVE: Are there any American bands or musicians that have influenced you?

MAI: Yes, many. What got me into music in the first place is Hanson, but from there I listened to hip-hop, R&B, rock, and I used to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers, melocore, pop…American music has really influenced me.

JAPAN LIVE: Anything else you want to say?

MAI: Listen to Poplar!

SHINO: If people get excited about us, we will be invited again, and we do want to come here again, so please listen to our CD.


Poplar's MP3s can be sampled and bought at, where they are currently topping the in-house charts!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Teenline & The Garage Rockers At The Shelter

The Shelter is a tiny, dark, dusty-looking basement of a rock club in Shimokitazawa that puts on some of the best shows in Tokyo. I went there to see a new group called Teenline.

Teenline's a band formed by bassist Chiharu after the split-up late last year of the group she was in, the great garage rock girl trio the Clicks. She got together with three guys from bands Mirwelts and Supersnazz, while the Clicks’ guitarist and drummer started their own group called Newbie.

These ex-Clicks girls are a part of a Tokyo music scene I’ve only recently started to get into, a garage rocker punk scene. Its supporters aren’t pure punkers—you never see mohawks and there isn’t much slam-dancing at shows. But they aren’t conventional Shimokitazawa rock musicians either—they have their own influences, which seem to center on 60’s to 80’s American and British rock and punk.

Like their idols, they act working class, whether or not they really are. Their drink of choice, for example, is happo-shu, the poor-man’s Japanese beer (equivalent, I guess, to malt liquor in the U.S.). I’ve never understood why people drink happo-shu. It’s about 100 yen (about US$1) cheaper than regular beer, and the first gulp tastes pretty much like beer. But then, there’s the aftertaste…it makes it abundantly clear you are drinking something different, a phony beer that tastes vaguely vegetal. Is the 100-yen difference really worth it? If you just want to get drunk, can’t you just knock back some cheap shochu? Not according to the garage rockers, who happily dive into the wannabe beer.

In fact, when I turned the corner that leads to the Shelter, I saw a loitering gang going through cans of happo-shu before the start of the event. Down the stairs in the club there was almost no one in the audience, but right before the music started the Happo-shu Proletarians came down, so that in the end there was a decent crowd.

High Vox

Teenline had invited three bands, High Vox, Beehive and Havenot’s, and all of them followed the same musical formula: loud repetitious passages of guitar power and barre chords, tight rhythm parts and passionate vocals, punctuated by guitar solos about three-quarter of the way into songs. It reminded me of grunge when grunge was a new thing, before it became huge. This was music you’ve heard before; these guys weren’t trying to create a new chapter in musical history. But what they lacked in innovation, they made up for in overflowing, captivating energy: their music makes you move.

In front of me in the audience was a group of well-perfumed ladies wearing silky, pleated skirts, and one of them, who was apparently a friend of one of the bands, showed the others how to do the “devil’s horns” hand sign, and all of them proceeded to stick out their pinkies, index fingers and thumbs in a studious manner.

They had come to see the second band, Beehive, which was led by an eye shadow-wearing glam singer who kept on calling out “Hello, TOKYO!” to the Shelter audience and otherwise acted like an arena rocker facing tens of thousands of fans, rather than tens of club-goers. A fun band.


The most popular, and best group of the night was the Havenot’s, a trio that crashed non-stop through fast, short, intense hard rock tunes.

Teenline went last, and their show was less absorbing than the three that went before them, probably because they had less experience. Still, they seemed promising. Chiharu was the one girl in the quartet, and her three guy partners seemed to give it more rock ‘n’ roll horsepower than the Clicks had, though at the expense of the Clicks’ cuteness.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Japan Live Radio Updated; Rock 'n' Roll!!!

I've updated Japan Live Radio's playlist. This time the focus is on rock and punk groups like Art-School, Eastern Youth, Guitar Wolf, Triceratops, Noodles and Moga The 5 Yen, though there's also a regular serving of the usuals: Spangle call Lilli line, advantage Lucy, and my current faves including Supersnazz and Myuury. Rock on!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Anime Fans Meet J-Rockers In San Jose

Definitely not for the first time, I found myself last week watching a rock show with a crowd of people that were younger than me and dressed differently. But no one in the whole city dressed like these guys. There were chubby masterless Samurais, carrying cardboard swords the height of two adult males. There were Lolita maids in black lace, and schoolgirls in primary-colored school uniforms that don’t exist in real life. There was a whole battalion of galactic officers in sky-blue uniforms with gold sashes. And hundreds others like them.

I had come to San Jose, California, as a participant in Fanime, a convention that brought together thousands of anime fans for a few days of costume wearing, video watching, and animation merchandise buying. But I myself wasn’t there because of anime—my knowledge of Japanese animation ended around the original Gundam. Rather, I had flown from Tokyo because I found out that Swinging Popsicle and five other Japanese rock groups were going to be performing at the convention, and I wanted to see how that would turn out.

What it ended up being was a grand collision of two Japanese subcultures, anime and J-indie, that didn’t have much in common other than that they were both from Japan and were popular with the young. Probably not one of the twenty or so musicians from Japan were active fans of anime: seeing all the cosplaying youth, a member of Swinging Popsicle asked, how come no one is dressed up as Doraemon, or Atom (Astro Boy in the U.S.)? And if the anime fans had their choice, they probably would have preferred to watch a heavily-made-up, big-haired visual-kei group rather than these understated indie rockers.

In spite of that, the shows were a success, no doubt much to the relief of Steve Laity, the guy behind, who brought the bands over from Japan for Fanime (whose organizers were looking for a form of Japanese music entertainment at the convention that was a bit more affordable than some big-name visual-kei band).

Two of the three shows were held in a depressing, fluorescent bulb-lit meeting room of the sort usually used for a business presentation. The sound was lousy. But the room was packed both days, and the crowd was a squealing, head-banging, devil-horn waving mass of enthusiasm. In fact, for once, it made me a bit proud of my fellow Americans. Listening to these bands for the very first time, these young anime-worshipping fans, with little exception, appeared to intuitively grasp the structure of songs, knew where the songs would climax, and where they should let out their rock ‘n’ roll roars and screams. Rock music was in their blood. “You are the greatest audience in the world!” bassist Hironobu Hirata of Swinging Popsicle said at the end of one of their shows, and I think he meant it (and he got even more cheers for that remark).

Of the six bands that played at Fanime, Swinging Popsicle seemed to be the only ones who had at least a few previous fans. With their crisp, heartfelt performances at the convention, they made new fans of their melodic, sometimes jazzy pop music. All 80 of their CDs they brought with them to the U.S. sold out by the second night. And whenever they walked through the convention floor, new fans, some in Lolita uniforms, rushed over for autographs and photos together.

Swinging Popsicle

I liked the five other bands too, comprising Mothercoat, Goofy Style, Up Hold, Miami and Poplar, but the last two I thought were especially interesting. Miami was a two girl electro-pop unit, with one of the girls playing classical violin, and were like an underground Puffy or Halcali. At the big Civic Auditorium show on Saturday night, the girl who doesn’t play violin caused much consternation among the auditorium staff by whacking the crash cymbals of the drum set with her mike, and standing up unsteadily on a table to play her sampler (the photo at the top).

Poplar was a trio that featured: a rapping Japanese guy; a girl in a kimono who wailed melodically; and a guy in a bright red Mexican wrestler’s mask who did guitar solos. Their songs used traditional Japanese scales, lending them an exotic Asian feel.

Surprisingly, the most popular of the six bands turned out to be Mothercoat, one of the more eccentric acts I’ve seen in Tokyo (its vocalist stumbles around on stage as if in a straitjacket). I guess it was their virtuoso instrumental playing and wild stage antics: at the Civic Auditorium show, the singer jumped off the stage at one point, and was chased by a couple of over-protective staffers as he ran a lap around the audience. At the end of that show, a long line formed to get autographs from him, a sight one would never see back in Tokyo, because, well, they aren’t THAT popular over here.


I flew across the Pacific Ocean to take part in Fanime, but I exchanged very few words with its actual anime-loving participants, and I figured there was probably little common ground between us. I couldn’t see myself getting into the mildly Lolita-erotic, offbeat humorous, brightly colored world of contemporary anime. The cosplayers, in particular, were true weirdos, in the way that Trekkies at conventions are weirdos. Still, I felt sympathy for them. Every once in a while, outside of the convention center, where a constant stream of costumed anime fans walked between their hotels and the convention, there would be some redneck in a passing car, who would yell out a quick insult to the anime fans, as rednecks do. It was the same sort of epithets hurled at punk rockers in an earlier era, or at any group of people who have tried something new and different. Maybe there was going to be some great new thing to come out of this scene, and in the meantime, the convention was a place for like-minded people to meet and party day and night (which they did). At least I knew that many of these guys have good taste in music.