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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Taking a break from hiatus: AWA 9/29/12 Trip Report - Kikka is awesome

So I originally wasn't going to go, despite living in the same state as the Anime Weekend Atlanta convention that Kikkawa Yuu is attending. Why? Well, I'm not really a Kikka fan (though I've always respected her skills) and I only really like one or two of her songs. I was feeling too lazy to drive down there and spend who knows how much money (you can't just go to a convention and not buy stuff, right? lol). But, at the last minute this morning, I decided to get my butt down to the convention to see Kikka. And I'm so glad I did.

I started my day pondering whether or not I should go. I didn't go Friday and so I missed out on the Q&A and the first autograph session, but today she'd do more signings and of course there would be a concert, so I wasn't too bothered by missing the first day.

At about 11:30 AM I finally decided I should go and so off I went, driving through downtown Atlanta to reach my destination. It normally would take about 45 minutes to get there from my house but I was slightly lost having never been to the area and there was also a ton of traffic on the interstate, so that delayed my arrival by a bit.

I made it there at about 12:45 PM, which would have been perfect since the autograph session was scheduled to begin at 1:00 PM, but of course it wouldn't be that easy. I played the (not) fun game of finding a place to park that was both free, and wasn't so shady that I would get my car towed. After playing musical chairs: parking garage edition for a while, the clock read 1:10 PM. I had already lost 10 minutes for today's singing session that would only last an hour. I sped walked my way through the huge building where the convention was held, bought my one day pass for $30, and managed to get to Kikka's booth at about 1:23 PM.

Surprisingly enough, there weren't that many fans in line (even some random voice actress across the room had more people waiting). I'd say no more than 20 people were there, maybe a few more. That's kinda sad, but at the same time, there were huge benefits to be had.

It didn't take long for everyone to get their one thing signed and since the autograph session was scheduled to last an hour, we were allowed to get back in line for a double dipping of Kikka autographs. Actually in most cases, fans were able to get 3, 4, or more things signed. Since I was a bit late, I "only" got 3 things signed (at that time at least; I eventually got a fourth, but more on that later). Those going all 3 days could probably get around 20 things signed. That's so awesome.

(btw no that's not me; that's a random fan)
Explaining the feeling that I got when it was my turn to stand in front of her is difficult.

Like I said, I'm not a big fan, so I wasn't quite sure what I'd feel, but a combination of it being the first idol that I've seen in the flesh as well as Kikka being just so darn cute (I finally get why idols are considered to be the "perfect" incarnation of girls; like seriously, during the concert she often did fierce head movements and every time afterwards, her hair would flow perfectly back into place. As a guy whose had long hair for most of his life, I was in complete awe) made me feel incredibly happy.

In the end, I wasn't able to say something to her (in English or Japanese) as I had originally planned. As soon as I got in front of her, it was if I suddenly had forgotten how to speak. (This is why you'll see below that the items aren't personalized with my name like some other fans' stuff; I didn't think to ask her.) And then after she finished signing whatever item I had in front of her, she looked at me, smiled and I melted. I'm sure that you think I'm overreacting (and I probably am), but for me, this just confirms that I really truly do love (UFA/H!P) idols and that all of the time and money I've spend supporting them over the years was totally worth it.

Even though I barely said a word each time (I at least managed a few "hai"s and "thank you"s lol), Kikka certainly wasn't shy. I know she's an idol and she's used to being on stage in front of thousands of fans, but for her first time in the United States, she didn't seem nervous at all. And she seemed to legitimately enjoy her time there. Good for her.

Anyway, the first time I went to the autograph line, I pulled out my copy of Kikka's 3rd single, Konna Watashi de Yokattara. I had also brought all four copies of her debut single that I own and was just going to get those signed too (time permitting), but that all changed when I saw the goods for sale. It was a very limited selection, but the prices were pretty decent. There was a photoset for $2, your choice of a pink or black T-shirt for $15 (that was the best deal in my eyes), or her album for $38 (I think; I saw the price and I instantly deleted it from memory). I ended up buying the photoset for my second turn in the autograph line, and then I caved in and got a black T-shirt the third time around.

By then, it was past 2 PM and a kind Japanese staff member (I'd guess it was her manager but that's a random guess) stopped allowing people to line up. From there, Kikka talked to her staff for a bit, displayed some randomness,

and then she went around to the various other booths in the room and said hi to the dealers there and handed out fliers to her concert later today. I (and a few other fans, it seemed like) had nothing better to do so we did a bit of stalking.

Before long, Kikka had magically disappeared into the sea of people so I decided to go get something to eat before I starved, since I skipped breakfast (and lunch - so far). I didn't want to spend too much money (more money left for goods!) and there wasn't much of a selection of food in the hotel (that I could find at least; I was already tired of wandering around), so I settled on a typical Americanized Chinese fast food joint. At that point, I wanted to walk back to my car so that I'd know where it is (I have the worst memory ever you guys, like really) and so that I could dump my backpack and wouldn't have to lug that (and my signed stuff) to the concert.

Time flew by very quickly and before I knew it, it was about 4:10 PM. The concert was scheduled to start at 4:45 PM so I hurried back to the convention to find the concert "hall". Map reading has never been a strong suit of mine so of course it took me a good few minutes to find it. When I finally did, another Japanese singer (a voice actress, actually. She did a really cute example of an Anime character she voiced) was in the middle of performing so I found a place somewhere in the middle to stand and watched her perform. She wasn't a bad singer and was totally adorable when she attempted to speak English, but soon my legs started to feel the toll of having walked around a huge building all day (and standing in line too), so I just wanted Kikka to appear already.

After the Japanese voice actor lady finished her mini-live, a lot of people left (lol you guys totally missed a superior concert) and so I managed to squeeze in to the front row. Right before Kikka appeared on stage, a kind guy handed out yellow glowsticks (which is still lit btw. I'll have to hide it so I can actually sleep tonight), which made the experience that much better. Its literally been 10 years since I last had a glowstick (this was my first idol concert and I didn't really have a need for glowsticks otherwise) so I wasn't exactly sure how to make it glow, but after seeing someone crack theirs nearby reminded me that you just have to give it some force, snap it, and then you'll have a lovely colored light to wave around.

At last Kikka entered, much to the crowd's pleasure. There were maybe 150 people there (the room wasn't exactly huge to begin with), but that just made the concert more intimate (especially for everyone in the first few rows). I'm really honestly glad I was able to get into the front - not because I deserve more than anyone or anything, nope - but because I'm freaking short for an American guy so I'm glad I was able to see Kikka properly. I was so incredibly close to her, it's unreal. Of course, I was even closer to her during the autograph session but this was much more amazing since I could see her doing what she does best - performing live. I don't know if I'm overrating her because of it being my first concert ever, but I left having the impression that she's a real professional when it comes to doing lives, which isn't necessarily true for most of the idol population.

At one point (at many points actually), the sound system decided to not work properly (ghetto equipment ftw?), and Kikka didn't even blink. She also messed up on at least one occasion (starting a line too early during Tan Tan Taan!), but once again, she carried on as if nothing had even happened. I'm sure the non-fans in the room didn't even notice the mistake. Also, her dancing was pretty cool. Seeing this stuff on DVDs really doesn't do her or the idols justice. Whenever there was a short dance break in a song, the crowd would erupt in excitement from Kikka's skills, and rightfully so. She was amazing.

Speaking of the crowd, overall I'd say we were pretty good. At the beginning we were a bit disorganized (save from a few pro wota-chanters in the center, props to you guys), but by the middle of the concert mostly everyone caught on (myself included; I didn't really know the songs so I certainly didn't know most of the wota chanting). I can't give exact details on the setlist, but she performed about 7 songs, including Kikkake wa YOU!, Romantic Ukare Mode, Tan Tan Taan!, Haprirapi Sunrise, Konna Watashi de Yokattara, and Daite! Hold On Me (not in that order). I can't remember/recognize the remaining songs. Daite! Hold On Me was flawless, like really.

She also had a few MCs and she did this without a translator. As a result, a lot of it was in Japanese, but she definitely did her best at English. Her self introduction was completely in English and I'm pretty sure everyone in the room understood her perfectly. Her English accent was awesome lol.

Unfortunately, the concert was way too short. It was definitely the highlight of my day so of course I didn't want it to end (neither did the crowd, since, when she announced it was her last song, most of us gave a very Japanese-like へ~~ response). Most likely due to my placement, Kikka looked at me (and in my general direction) a lottt and that was too cool. She also worked the tiny stage really well. She stayed in the middle as a default position, but she also went to both corners frequently. The concert was definitely filmed (as was mostly everywhere Kikka went) so there will probably be some sort of DVD release or something. I saw the camera on me a few times but I'm kinda hoping that I don't make it in because for most of the concert I was just flailing my arms like an idiotic seal or something because of my lack of knowledge of the songs/wota chants. I had fun though!

After her final song, Kikka mentioned that she'd be heading back to her booth for yet another autograph session, which is where I got my fourth signed item. Only this time, a staff member mentioned that to get an autograph, you had to actually buy something from the booth. That was fine with me (though not with my wallet) since remember, my bag was in my car, along with all of my Kikka goods. I bought a pink T-shirt as my final purchase, which prompted Kikka to say "OHH PINKU!" when it was my turn. She was too cute.

All in all, I had so much more fun than I ever imagined. I was really unprepared for this since it was a spur of the moment decision, but that didn't take away anything from the experience. I'm not quite ready to call myself a Kikka wota yet, but I'll definitely be paying more attention to her in the future because, well, Kikka is awesome.

P.S. yes, I'm still on hiatus, sorry guys. But if I ever do return, I'll give away one of the signed items in a contest (probably the black T-shirt but we'll see).