Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Waku Waku +NYC Event and Concert Report

by Kenya Michelle Evans at My JHouse Rocks

August 29th, 2015

A brand new Japanese pop culture convention, Waku Waku +NYC, began on August 29, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY in the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. It is a convention for fans of everything Japanese pop culture-related from anime, music, games, fashion, food and more. The two-day event took place in local venues such as the Brooklyn Expo Center, Verboten, Wythe Hotel and the Brooklyn Bowl.

The first day of Waku Waku +NYC began early in the morning with an opening ceremony
consisting of opening words from program officials such as the president of Azix, Chikako Ichihara and Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi.

It continued with event opening activities such as a ribbon cutting,kagami-biraki(a traditional sake barrel breaking ceremony) and an announcement of this year’s guests. Guests were from the various areas of Japanese pop culture in music, anime, games and fashion.
Musical guests were J-pop and ani-song singer, Yun*chi and famous ☆DJ Taku Takahashi from the musical duo m-flo. Guests from the anime world included Dragon Ball Z screenwriter, Takao Koyama and his son, Makoto Koyama, who is the screenwriter for Dragon Ball Super. Game producer and main illustrator for the Rockman/Mega Man game series, Keiji Inafune including several members of the Japanese fashion industry were also in attendance.

The Brooklyn Expo Center held the main events of the convention holding a variety of vendor booths, contests, performances, guest autograph signings and other interactive events on the main stage.

The Brooklyn Expo Center held the main events of the convention holding a variety of vendor booths, contests, performances, guest autograph signings and other interactive events on the main stage.
Shortly after the opening ceremony followed an opening performance by musical guest Yun*chi performing the anime ending theme of Log Horizon called “Your song” and “Lucky Girl*”, the main theme to the CG anime short Wooser's Hand-to-Mouth Life on the Brooklyn Expo Main Stage. Later on in the day, other fun activities could be seen on the main stage.
FUNimation and NHK World held contests and giveaways. Some lucky participants were able to play the new Mighty No. 9 game with famous game creator, Keiji Inafune. Other performances such as cosplayer and dancer Yue Sumeragi’s dance performance of the theme songs from the 
Attack on Titan anime.
Many panels and anime screenings were held at the nearby Wythe Hotel. Kodansha Comics held their industry panel announcing their newly licensed releases for the upcoming year with manga titles such as Princess Jellyfish and Persona Q. Anime screenings such as One Piece and Princess Jellyfish as well were being shown in the screening room.

More special anime screenings, panels and fashion shows were also being held at the Verboten. Highlights from the Verboten included a special panel with Dragon Ball screenwriters Takao Koyama (Dragon Ball Z) and his son Makoto Koyama (Dragon Ball Super) on Saturday and Sunday. 

The panel on Saturday followed with a special screening of the movie Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan and Sunday’s panel followed with Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might. Both screenings followed with a Q&A session with Takao Koyama, who wrote the screenplays for both movies.

Saturday events at the Verboten also included back-to-back fashion shows, the PUTUMAYO Fashion Show featuring designs by Shunsuke Hasegawa and NHK World “Tokyo Above-Underground” Fashion Show featuring a variety of fashionable Tokyo styles gathered by Misha Janette. J-pop singer Yun*chi was featured as a guest model during the NHK World fashion show.

PUTUMAYO Fashion Show

NHK World "Tokyo Above-Underground" Fashion Show

Events at the Verboten ended with a big party called “Waku Night” featuring DJ Eqknock, DJ Keiichiro and major guest from Japan DJ ☆Taku Takahashi of m-flo.
Much like Saturday, Sunday’s schedule was filled with more autograph signings, anime industry panels, screenings, performances and fashion shows. Highlights at the Brooklyn Expo featured the Cosplay Contest with Jacky Dosai and Rosiel. The Wythe Hotel held industry panels from Aniplex and screenings of popular anime such as Kill la Kill. In addition to the Dragon Ball screenwriters’ panel, the Verboten also held the Mighty No. 9 Keiji Inafune panel, FUNimation Industry Panel and a fashion show for the NYC-based lolita fashion store, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright. The night finished with the big Music Concert Waku Waku Finale nearby at the Brooklyn Bowl. The line-up featured Yun*chi, BELLA GAIA Live, DJ ☆Taku Takahashi(m-flo) and the debut of the NYC-based music duo SMEB.

Led by director-composer Kenji Williams, BELLA GAIA mixes stunning instrumental performances, vocals and dancing with images and video collected around the world, including images of the blue Earth rendered by NASA satellites. It is no doubt their music and stage performance directs attention to the global environmental issues and concerns plaguing the Earth as well as the importance of protecting the Earth.

Yun*chi gave a power and super genki performance for her stage. Being produced by ASOBISYSTEM, a company known for artists such as Kyarypamyupamyu and CAPSULE, this should be no surprise. The fashionably kawaii (cute) singer surprised fans with an early debut of her new song, “Jelly*” produced by DJ ☆Taku Takahashi(m-flo).

Setlist:1. Intro
2. Reverb (Short)
3. Tenshi no Yubigiri (short)
4. Fairy (short)
5. Jelly (full)
6. Starlight (short)
7. Your song (full)
8. Waon (short)
9. Lucky Girl (full)
10. Wonderful Wonder World (full)

DJ ☆Taku Takahashi(m-flo)
The concert turned into a dance club with DJ☆Taku Takahashi's presence on the stage...

Electro house dance mixes of popular old and new pop/hip-hop songs were played including samplings from famous m-flo tracks such as “miss you” by m-flo loves melody. and Ryohei. Later on in the performance, Yun*chi comes back to the stage to perform a remixed version of the Space Dandy opening theme “Viva Namida” and a reprise of “Lucky Girl*” along with DJ☆Taku Takahashi at his mixing table.

The night comes to a close with the live debut of a NYC-based singing duo, SMEB. Born in Japan but raised abroad, Miki Erihara and Shiho Natsukawa combined their love of Japanese and western pop music to create an exciting pop sound consisting of playing live instruments and using megaphones in their performance.

1. Amusement Park
3. Good Girl X Bad Boy
4. X Factor
5. Early Birds and Night Owls
6. To Hell and Gone

Overall, Waku Waku +NYC was a surprisingly successful event for its first year that celebrated many areas of Japanese pop culture. It felt more like a cultural festival than a convention. Hopefully we will see Waku Waku +NYC back next year here in Brooklyn!