Summer in L.A. Part 1: Mano Erina report
Posted July 4, 2010on:
Normally I would be posting Mixi updates about now, but they’re going to be delayed for a few days as I am still in Los Angeles. My hotel, while beautiful, wants thirteen dollars a day for Internet, wired or wireless, and I’d rather be spending that on Alo Hello 4. I do, however, want to keep you guys posted so I’m typing this entry up at my hotel and then posting it from beautiful Denny’s via their free wi-fi.
I went to Manoeri’s movie premiere, the AKB concert, and the AKB Q&A. This report will be pretty detailed, so I’m going to start with Manoeri in this entry.
MAX for my boyfriend and myself began with a visit to the Animaid Cafe. The cafe experience included breakfast, a ticket to Kai-ki, and an exclusive keepsake that granted premier access to the Yoshiki Foundation event in the evening for five dollars more than the cost of admission to the film alone, so I figured it was a worthwhile investment. I also was honestly curious as to how a maid cafe ran, and the deal was sealed when I saw that the maids had performed several H!P dances in previous shows according to their website.
The maid cafe turned out to be very enjoyable. The group is a collection of fans who are dedicated to putting on a good show but who also have a great sense of humor. Their attention to detail and thoroughness of execution really impressed me – they had photocards of the maids and hosts available for order outside and as the guests entered the hall for the morning all of the maids and hosts were lined up in two lines to bow and greet them. It was an impressive experience!
We were served breakfast by two enthusiastic maids. Rose was a veteran member of the group who joined a year ago when she was headed to AX by herself and wanted something to do. She performed in two dance routines of the five or so that occurred sporadically throughout the event. Mari was a newcomer to the group and was very excited to experience her first event. We talked at length about different aspects of the anime convention scene.
As I mentioned, dance was a large part of the experience. Among the songs performed were Hinoi Team’s “Ike Ike” and a Super Junior song. The dances were well rehearsed and the performers enthusiastic. My thanks to the AniMaid Cafe for a very fun performance!
While AniMaid entertained very well, their hosts at MAX were not particularly diligent in making sure that their end of ticket distribution for attendees was in place. Following the show, there was mass confusion as we tried to figure out where we were supposed to go to get our movie passes and Yoshiki Foundation keepsake thingies. While we waited around for answers, we got an early shot at Hello Store USA’s table. My boyfriend picked up a t-shirt and I was thrilled to find that they had brought several copies of Hello! Channel. Eventually pink wristbands were distributed for the Yoshiki event, which I guess we were to exchange for the keepsakes later?
But there was still no answer on the tickets. We had to talk to several Club Nokia and MAX staff and got different answers wherever we turned, resulting in us bouncing between two different lines. It took my boyfriend asking for management before the head of MAX caught up with things and brought us and four other attendees our tickets.
After many headaches, we finally rejoined the line for Kai-ki. While we were in line we were sitting on the ground and had our various purchases next to us, including some Naruto trading card game packs we were given for free when we signed in for the maid cafe in the morning. A gentleman came by and asked us if he could take a picture of us with the cards. We obliged and then found out through discussion that he was the writer of the film! Apparently he is friends with someone deeply involved in Naruto. Also during that time a lady came by and gave everyone cards that we could use to write down questions for Mano-chan. Both my boyfriend and I wrote questions and submitted them when we walked inside, where we were given commemorative keychains and postcards.
The film itself was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it to Mano fans, fans of J-horror, or anyone who wants a fun film to watch with friends. The film is broken up into two stories. The first, “Tsukimono”, played like a college urban legend come to life. Mano-chan and Kitahara Sayaka scream and run for their lives from a creepy hiccuping possessed girl. There isn’t any excessive gore, and suspense comes from waiting to see where the possessed girl pops up next. The second, “Nozomi” is a nerve-wracking but ultimately sweet drama. Mano-chan stars as a girl whose sister died in an accident on her birthday several years prior.
As the film ended, the credits began to roll, and a song started to play. As the lyrics started, Mano-chan herself walked on stage singing! The first verse of the song was in Japanese, but the second was in English, and Mano did a wonderful job. It was evident that she spent a good deal of time practicing introducing herself in English as she did so with confidence and, while certainly not perfect, an impressive degree of fluency. Go Mano! (For those who saw Morning Musume last year, she was a bit above Ai-chan’s level but not quite at Junjun’s.)
The event schedule was very tight so the mini-concert and Q&A were quite short. In a fun ironic twist, Mano performed “Sekai wa Summer Party” before answering about three questions, one of which involved a shout-out to her Japanese fans.
Mano left the stage and autographs were announced. My boyfriend and I went to the back of the room, the line was started in about three places, and then I was told by Club Nokia staff that I had to move away from the line because only 25 people were allowed autographs. A quick glance told me there weren’t yet 25 people in the newly formed line, but we were pushed away anyway. This seemed starkly in contrast to the information we found on the Tales of Terror Facebook page. Fans were told that autographs would be available to all fans following the performance while priority would be given to those who purchased official merchandise.
The Facebook page had also said that limited photographs would be available upon request following the show, but photography was prohibited during the program. We were also told – quite firmly – by Club Nokia staff in the morning before AniMaid Cafe that photography would be grounds for ejection. That said, I was rather surprised at the amount of photography (and flash photography) occurring during the mini-live. I understand that at the first show there were a lot of press members, but I also felt like a rule that needed to be enforced may not have been.
So my Mano experience ended on a bit of a disappointing note. For the second year, I made a cross country trek to see a Hello! Project act and for the second year I missed out on autographs and more importantly getting to say “thank you” to a girl whose work I deeply admire and respect. I wish US shows would institute handshake events. You know? I understand that handshake events don’t happen every day in Japan but a fan who is there and has time and money (not even a lot of it – a lucky single purchase or a photobook purchase will do) will eventually get to at least meet his or her idol and spend five seconds of face time with her to express their thanks. The idea that the girls know you are there and cheering them on means the world and when they come to the States that’s all I really want.
But perhaps she knows I’m here. During the live Mano looked my direction multiple times. I think she was happy to see female fans in the audience – we certainly weren’t the majority, but we were there. And that is why, despite all of the hassles and headaches surrounding this event, my experience was ultimately a happy one. We got to talk quite a bit with the JapanFiles staff, the content of the events themselves was fantastic, and I was FIFTEEN FEET AWAY from MANO ERINA. And she saw me.
Postscript: It turns out my boyfriend has been keeping a secret from me. He saw me writing this article and mentioned an incident he experienced during the autograph confusion. While we were being pushed away a group of Japanese wota were complaining that they couldn’t get autographs. Turns out that the guy running the show – the guy who they had to call in order for us to get our tickets – told the J-wota that they were special guests here and told them where to stand. Mano-chan would be coming out that way, he said. You can’t ask her for an autograph directly but if you hold something out with a pen she will probably sign it.
I appreciate the withholding because it salvaged my ultimately good experience with Manoeri. What learning this information now does do is increase my frustration as a fan. If this event was touted as Mano’s US debut, why were Japanese wota given preferential treatment? Again, I understand that autographs are rare and I understand why the Japanese fans wanted them so badly. However, when I make sacrifices to go to an event just like everyone else does I don’t want anyone else to be treated as if they are above the rules.
It makes me wonder if the idol groups who come to the States truly receive the added exposure they are looking for. If I, as a longtime fan, couldn’t get autographs, ask a question, or get even a split second of face time with my favorite groups (and not for lack of trying, let me tell you), what of the general convention attendees they are trying to win over as a new audience? As a volunteer who has worked on the convention circuit for several years, I firmly believe that we can – and must – do better. Ultimately, though, two years ago who would have imagined that any of this would be happening?