Becoming Otaku: Going to a Release Event for the First Time
If you’re not in Japan it makes sense to buy your music and DVDs online because that’s pretty much the only way to get it. But if you’re in Japan, there are several more exciting options!
The Japanese music industry has been criticized for its dependence on sales of physical media while the rest of the world has embraced digital methods of distribution. While it cannot be denied that many of the tactics employed in Japan can be seen as artificially inflating sales numbers, there is a value to fans that goes beyond just the music or video on the disc. In a world becoming increasingly high tech, human interaction (“high touch”) has become equally important.
Groups like AKB48 are the most well known when it comes to doing handshake events but, did you know that there are other events where you can be rewarded for supporting your favorite group or artists and not have to ride all the way out to Makuhari Messe or some other large arena? “Release events” are a big part of selling music, DVDs, and video games in Japan. It is said that the maid café boom came from having girls cosplaying as game characters at electronics stores on the day of a release.
I had walked past several events for Babymetal and Cheeky Parade near the Gundam in Odaiba but I had never considered participating, especially because the mini-lives were free for passers by to watch. Having followed idols through my computer screen for so long, the idea of actually meeting them in real life was not particularly a priority even though they’re practically everywhere in Tokyo.
On September 30th, Pla2me reminded their followers on Twitter that they would be having an in-store event at Tower Records Shibuya to commemorate their first single “Plastic 2 Mercy” going on sale. As someone who was thinking of getting the single anyway after being impressed by their performance at Tokyo Idol Festival 2014, it made sense to go and see them, instead of staying home and ordering it online. Rushing through the crowded scramble intersection in front of the station, I paused briefly in front of the display, pondering whether or not to buy more than one copy. Doing so would have made me eligible for the cheki (two-shot) event as well. Since this was my first time going to one of these events, I settled on one CD, grabbed my ticket and went downstairs to the CUTUP STUDIO to wait for the event to start.
While I knew that Saki Kamiya and Mari Mizuta were capable of giving a high-energy performance, I was not fully prepared for what I was about to experience. They walked on stage wearing cosplay from the popular anime Kill La Kill: Kamiya as the main character Ryuko Matoi and Mizuta as the ditzy Mako Mankanshoku. In total, Pla2me performed 5 songs (the first and last song was their debut single “Plastic 2 Mercy”) and as it had been Kamiya’s birthday a few days prior, fans took it upon themselves to surprise her with balloons, flowers, blue cyalume kechas, and a birthday cake. Just as she had done at the Tokyo Idol Festival, Saki went out into the audience and finished the last song while being lifted. It was amazing!
As this was also my first official handshake event, I racked my brain for something to talk about for the few seconds I would have until being moved along by the staff members standing behind me. I complimented Mari on the clean Romaji that she wrote on a towel for Saki’s birthday and encouraged her to improve her English, adding, “You can do it!” I wished Saki “Happy Birthday” and told her that I was going to watch Kill La Kill once I got home. There was a counter outside where fans could purchase additional CDs if they wanted to go back for another round of handshakes. I almost got in that line but figured once was enough for the first time.
Although this may not be the case for all groups, some will wear different outfits on different days. Below are pictures showing what Pla2me wore at the release events in Shinjuku and Kinshicho on October 1st and 2nd.
With several friends/acquaintances in the greater Tokyo area working to become professional musicians, I have definitely paid more than 1000円 to support them on multiple occasions. For the price of a CD single which I was going to buy anyway (1080円 tax included), I got to see a 5-song mini-live by a new group, meet them face to face, and have them thank me personally for supporting them. It’s easy to see how one can get hooked on going to these kinds of events.
This is probably something that more experienced fans already know but, if you are planning to get the CD or DVD anyway and the group/soloist is having a release event nearby, buying it there is ALWAYS the better option! The only thing you need to worry about is what to say to the artist when it comes to the handshake event, or you might end up impulsively purchasing multiple copies to keep going back in an attempt to say something smart or cool. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with that either, as long as you have fun. You can always give the extra CDs to friends in an attempt to get them to come with you next time? The next time you’re in Japan, remember that aside from whatever concerts you might be aiming to go to, there are many smaller events going on every day!
Written by Okkun
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