Posted on June 04, 2015
Last weekend (5/23 - 5/24), I somehow managed to find myself on the other side of the world for yet another series of JP weekend eventing. While this would mark my third time pulling this stunt, it was notable in that I sacrificed the chance to see Asapon during her visit to Anime North, which is a shame really since that would be my first time missing out on something that I attend every year since 2013. It’s also notable in that this event was a product of a crowdfunding campaign. I don’t know about you but this is definitely a first for me. I signed up for it not knowing how anything works nor not knowing what to expect. There has to be some good reason right? Thankfully there was. But first, some background info.
Idol Recollection (アイドルリコレクション or アイリコ for short) is a mobile game (mobage) by Creative Force Inc, where you play the role of Haruna’s (the game’s heroine) manager. Short version of what you do with the game is take Haruna around to live performances, (starting from literally a street performance), gather “hearts” from the audience, earn coins to pay for/unlock venues and costumes, and ultimately get her to perform at a proper stage. There’s also a novel element to it that you can unlock as you progress in the game. If, however, you open the game and find yourself at the home screen, you’ll be greeted with what seems to be the theme song - except that nobody seems to be singing it.
This is where the crowdfunding part comes in. CF Inc. has turned to crowdfunding platform, Tokyo Rakuichi Rakuza to amass funds to put a voice to the voiceless theme song. The campaign ran from December 2014 until February 2015 with a set goal of 600,000 yen (about 4900 U.S. Dollars). By the time the crowdfunding ended, the campaign has received a whopping 2,155,500 yen (about 17,000 USD), which is like 360% of their goal amount. That’s some good stuff.
So what exactly does this have to do with me? At first, nothing…at least not until I found out that Haruna was going to be voiced by one of the people I follow a lot, Ueda Reina (上田麗奈). Reina, or Ueshama (うえしゃま) as how her fans affectionately call her, is probably best known for her role as Sekiya Naru from Hanayamata or maybe her role as Kousaka Umi if you play Idolm@ster Million Live. I probably have more exposure in the beginning from the former if anything else, which was fine and all because soon enough, I found myself looking for whatever footage (namas) of her were available at that time. What probably did me in was their Tokyo Game Show 2014 announcement of a Hanayamata event in a bigger festival (マチ★アソビ) where you get to meet and greet them as they hand you stuff, taking place right around my stay during my October 2014 trip to Japan. During that time, I got to meet and talk to Ueshama (though for a very short time) and participate in her events that day. I’ve been following her activities ever since.
Back to her role as Haruna, it probably wouldn’t have been something of a big deal, as seiyuu voice stuff all the time. I mean, it’s what they do right? Unless of course, someone throws you a chance to meet/greet her while she gives you an autograph on top of having the chance to participate in her mini-live performance for no more than 100 people. All one needs to do is support either one of the two highest levels in the crowdfunding tiers (18,000 yen or 100,000 yen) while limited supplies last. Pretty straightforward, right? And just like that, my weekender was justified, even when considering what I’ll be missing as a consequence.
The event was held at Toshima Public Hall in Higashikeburo, which was about a few minutes away by foot from the Ikebukuro JR Station. With a few minutes to spare and despite having several heart-attack-inducing situations (including the need for a local address to receive the event tickets that were going to be sent by mail, as well as the apparent requirement for a Japanese proof of residence), I was somehow admitted to the venue, tickets in hand, without any problems whatsoever. They even let paranda in, who was with me at that time (at least until he had to leave a few minutes later for another event), as I have acquired myself two tickets! They didn’t even ID him! I guess my worries were unfounded. In any case, I haven’t felt so relieved in my eventing experience. Thank heavens.
I then proceeded to my seats, which I thought were pretty great enough already in that they were front seats, until I realized that they were also dead center of the stage.
Yea, it was that great. I probably will not be granted a chance to have seats as goods as these anytime soon.
A few more minutes (and not before I took a quick trip back to the entrance to take pictures of whatever few flower stands were there) afterwards, the stage finally went live.
This first section of the entire event involves several key figures who made this entire thing possible who talked about different aspects of the project. It included director-in-charge Kishimoto, scenario and lyrics writer Hamawari Meiji, theme song and game BGM composer Oikawa Kouhei, and of course, the voice of the heroine, Ueshama. The following is a short summary on some of what was discussed from what little I was able to understand. Excuse the brevity and incompleteness.
On the song
The next segment of the event involved showcasing several (three to be exact) illustrations. The illustrations were actually made as one of the perks for supporters of the ultra-premium course, as they called it. It’s really just referring to the the highest tier in the crowdfund. Basically, the supporter gets an illustration of Haruna in any manner of his/her choosing. Illustrations were done by Shobon (ショボン).
The premise was that they were going to put it on the stage, one-by-one for everyone to see, and most importantly, for Ueshama to comment on. Hilarity ensued.
The first illustration was of Haruna in a school uniform that was about her crossing a street, while looking back, a street leading to what seems to be a train station in Toyama. With Toyama actually being Ueshama’s hometown, one can say that it was part of the intent for the motif. Ueshama responded how the outfit reminded her of herself during her school days, even asking if this was supposed to be an illustration of her. Everybody laughs.
The next one actually made me anxious as it was one that I’ve requested. It was an illustration of Haruna at a live performance setting, depicted with microphone in hand and in a pose one would find one’s self when filming for a Blu-ray release of said live. Not really too far-fetched I would say, especially since the reference image is a shot of Ueshama herself from her performance at The iDOLM@STER Million Live! 1st Anniversary.
Left: Ueshama @ ML1st (ref image) Right: Ueshama’s character, Haruna (requested illustration) うえしゃま。。(｡’▽’｡)♡ pic.twitter.com/7VMmadlh6Z
— セブンスレイスP@アイマス10th (@7thwraith) May 28, 2015
Vaguely remember the audience reacting to it as they carried it into the stage while I died quietly in my seat. Meanwhile, Ueshama commented on how the choice of outfit was great and how it cheers her up. I died even further when she pointed out the length of the skirt was notably short (I swear, I didn’t intend for it to be this way!). I died a third time when the topic of copying the pose in the illustration was brought up, which she did partly by the way. Had she proceeded any further, I…wouldn’t know what I would have done. Once again, everybody laughs.
The last illustration was done with no such specifications from the requester. All the details were left for Shobon to decide. It depicted Haruna in an otherwise normal attire, save for the hood with cat ears on them, which she was trying to cling as close to her head as possible, probably to hide her identity. On the foreground is a hand with a microphone, most likely belonging to TV anchor who’s trying to get an interview with the already flustered Haruna. Yet despite the apparent circumstances, Ueshama thought that Haruna must be feeling lucky inside for the media exposure.
Shortly afterwards, an announcement went out for a second season of Idol Recollection, along with an addition of more characters (up to eight) with at least two who would serve as idol rivals to Haruna. They actually had a key visual of Haruna and said two rival idols, in a poster for everyone to see. While little else is known about this project, this piece of information has a few possible implications which blow my mind the more I think about it. If anything, I can say at least that those new characters have to be voiced somehow…right?
With one final stage setup for the band (oh my god they have a live band!) and the dimming of lights, it was finally time for the mini-live. The set-list (probably the shortest I’ve ever experienced) of two songs from the CD that came as a result of this crowdfunding campaign is as follows.
Since this was what would be my first time seeing Ueshama perform live, I was extremely excited. And I cannot stress that enough. Everything was great from following where she was on stage with a point of pink King Blades (the image color of Haruna and coincidentally, a few of Ueshama’s characters), to calling to her as she sang. It was such a feel-good time overall for everyone, including Ueshama herself who commented delightfully on said pink lights. Unfortunately, with a mere two songs, the live was over before we realized it. We even let out a えええええええ in unison when they officially marked the end of this segment.
Last but not the least was the much awaited sign-kai, a chance to talk to Ueshama for a few as she sings you a copy of her script containing lines from the game. For whatever reason the order of the line started with the rear rows first. As we were in the front row, we were naturally last. Our row waited for maybe 20 minutes which seemed like forever due to the hype. They called the rows little by little, with each one adding to my tension and anxiety. I could see that the other guy, thought not as worse as me, was a little bit anxious too. Minutes later, it was finally our turn.
This all took place right by the entrance where the flower stands were. Right before we lined up by there, they asked us to take off whatever bags we had and show them the form we had to fill out so Ueshama knows how to address us for her signing. Right before it was my turn. one of the staff saw I had two such forms (as a result of funding the campaign twice) and had to clarify with another staff if that was okay. I had a little heart attack on the spot as a result, and another one for revealing to everyone there at the time that unnatural circumstance.
When it was finally turn, the first things that came out of my mouth was ‘thank you’ and the explanation of why I had two forms. Great. Just great. I could not have picked a better thing to talk about.
Me (in broken JP): The second copy is actually for a friend of mine who wanted attend this event but could not.
Ueshama: Ah, where is this friend now?
Me: In America….
Ueshama: Ehhh….are you from America too? Did you just fly here (to Japan) for today?
Ueshama: Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! I’d like to visit New York!
Me: I’m actually from around there.
Me (in English): please come visit when you can
Ueshama (in broken English, a bit flustered): (but) n-no English!
It went on for a tad bit more but I was just too saturated with feels at the moment that my brain pretty much stopped functioning, and all I could do was thank her repeatedly. With my turn over, I exited the venue and apparently kept walking and walking trying to relive the moment in my head. Next thing I knew, I got lost in Ikebukuro.
I was a changed man.
This event was a lot of firsts for me, and as a consequence, a lot of instances where I had no idea on what to do. The things that had to be dealt with leading to this event were all nerve-wrecking to say the least. Thankfully, with the help and advice of a several friends, I was able to finally see Ueshama in a very rare setting, which would kill me had I decided to skip it.
As for Ueshama herself, seeing her in person again has definitely elevated my respect for and admiration of her to new heights. She is one person I’ll definitely want to see again given the opportunity. Seeing Ueshama smile is definitely one of the best things ever.
As for the implications of a game sequel, if it’s anything like this crowdfunding campaign, I will absolutely definitely fund it.