K-ON! Live Event ~Let’s Go!~ (2009.12.30 in Yokohama Arena)
As some people are already aware, the K-ON live concert that took place at the end of last year at Yokohama Arena was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 30th. It was near the end of this live event that the surprise announcement for a second season was made. While that came as a pleasant surprise, the concert itself was what I dying to see at the time and here we are six months later. Most of Houkago Tea Time’s songs were performed to a karaoke backtrack with the seiyuu only pretending to play each of their characters’ instruments, but they did learn how to play a couple of songs themselves. The actual live music performances were saved until near the end of the concert, but things started off with a bang and an opening performance of “Cagayake! GIRLS” after a crowd countdown.
Yokohama Arena’s max capacity is 17,000 for those wondering, and by the looks of it, it’s a sold-out crowd they performed in front of. One side of the arena was sectioned off for the stage area, but I’d wager that there are at least 15,000 attendees at this concert. When things are put into that perspective, it’s pretty easy to see why K-ON!! is airing on 28 different stations right now.
It seems like it’s all about the glow sticks at Japanese concerts and this one is no different. In fact, it’s like everyone bought one of each color, because once the character image songs got underway, most of the crowd switched to the one that matches the character’s seiyuu on stage. The songs at this concert were all preformed live, but as with most DVD/BD concert releases, I suspect that the audio was touched up afterward. Still, Toyosaki Aki (Yui) deserves a lot of credit in this concert, since she not only sang the majority of the songs, but was also the MC for it. I never doubted her talent, but I must say I have a new-found level of respect for her after watching this two and half hour live event. She’s only 23 years-old yet looked like a complete natural on stage the entire time. In terms of outfits, all the seiyuu had “HTT” jackets on for this opening theme performance, saving their actual full outfits underneath for the solo performances that followed the obligatory opening words to greet all the fans in attendance (not included here).
For those unfamiliar with the character image CDs that were released, each feature two character specific songs and their version of “Let’s Go!”. Only the first track was performed by each seiyuu, but each song was accompanied by pretty cool instrumental solos performed by the musicians actually playing the live music. Naturally, things start off with the star of the series, Yui.
(Hirasawa Yui Character Image Song)
As per the above, Aki looked like a complete natural on the stage and this performance was a prime example of that. She was appeasing to the crowd the entire time and dancing around on stage in that mini-skirt like she was having the time of her life. It definitely helps add to the appeal when she’s fairly tall for a Japanese girl at 169cm and has legs to show off. I just loved her hand gestures and constant smile, with her mad air guitar looking really cute and Yui-like. She was also pretty easygoing with her exit line of “There’s a lot more on the way!” (Mada mada tsuzuku yo!) too. This was definitely one of my favorite character image song performances of the concert. I find myself constantly flipping to this song on my mp3 player now too.
(Akiyama Mio Character Image Song)
Out of all the character songs, Mio’s were naturally some of my favorite ones, so watching Hikasa Youko perform one live was quite a treat. The crowd wasn’t really in sync with the glow sticks for Aki’s performance, but most of them whipped out the blue ones for Youko’s here. I’m not sure if they were told to match the seiyuu’s character color for each of their solo performances, but I get the feeling it’s just something the crowd figured out on their own after looking around. In any case, Youko’s outfit wasn’t very flashy or revealing, but the zettai ryouiki she highlighted with her black stockings more than made up for it. I thought she looked pretty cute, especially when she gave the crowd a bit of fan-service with Mio’s “moe moe kyun” at 3:28. One of the most endearing things about Youko is that she embodies a lot of Mio’s personality, such as her nervousness and overly emotional nature, which is seen later on.
(Tainaka Ritsu Character Image Song)
Satou Satomi probably had the goofiest-looking outfit thanks to that extra frilly dress she had to wear. I was never much of a fan of this song, but I’m a sucker for live performances and Satomi made it very Ritsu-like, so that was fun to see. The somewhat deeper voice she uses for Ritsu isn’t her natural one, yet she sings the entire song in it. With character songs, I tend to take notice of seiyuu going to that extra length to try and sing them in character. It sort of fits the whole idea of a “character” song after all.
(Kotobuki Tsumugi Character Image Song)
In terms of instrumental solos, the piano one was undoubtedly the most soothing one. I probably could have kept listening to that piece, but seeing Kotobuki Minako come out in that pink dress made me quickly focus on her instead. She is undoubtedly one of the prettiest in the group and amongst seiyuu all together. As the youngest cast member at only 18 years-old, Minako was surprisingly one of the least nervous out off the entire group. She is in the seiyuu group sphere with Aki though, so I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s where they both get their composure from. After hearing a lot more of her singing voice in sphere, I’ve been hoping we’d be treated to a K-ON song where Mugi sings, but I doubt the group will ever break out of having Yui and Mio as the vocalists. A shame to say the least as I love Minako’s voice, even when she’s trying to sound a bit like Mugi. Music Ray’n seems to agree too, as Minako’s going to see a solo debut later this year. Much like how Yui’s character song was about Giita, Mugi’s one is about her keyboard. Incidentally, she’s the only seiyuu with the same last name as her character — Kotobuki (…albeit with different kanji).
(Nakano Azusa Character Image Song)
Of all the girls, Taketatsu Ayana came off the most nervous to me, simply because it looked like she was really concentrated on her dance movements and singing. She didn’t look like she was going with the flow that’s for sure, but I commend her for giving a good performance regardless. I figured she wouldn’t have any problems either, having played roles like Ako in kiss x sis, but I guess being perverted in a studio behind closed doors is very different from being outgoing on stage. That’s okay though, since it had a very Azusa-like nervousness to it. She can shake that tushy of hers all she wants too.
(Yamanaka Sawako Character Image Song)
DEATH DEVIL! If there’s one performance that blew the whole cutesy feel of K-ON out of the water, it had to be Sanada Asami’s one. She had the whole heavy metal, headbanger, “Catherine” look going on too. I loved how she pretended to play her guitar with her teeth at 2:35 too, in pure crazy Sawa-chan fashion. She even came out with the mask and cloak seen in the first season, and of course had the actual outfit on underneath. They even brought in a special heavy metal guitarist just for her song. Rock on!
The next part of the concert was a fairly long MC, but introduced Ui and Nodoka’s seiyuus, Yonezawa Madoka and Fujitou Chika, for the first time. I didn’t bother including most of it since it was all about a “Call and Response” game (if you can even call it that), where each of the seiyuu said part of a character line and had the crowd follow up. Yui’s one just so happened to be the “Un Tan” from playing castanets, which turned out to be pretty amusing because a lot of people actually brought one. The best laughs came from Asami coming out dressed like Sawako as a prim and proper teacher with glasses, and later taking them off to become her other self. It was pretty hilarious how she complained about the crowd’s response being too damn quiet the first time around and all other seiyuu acting all scared of their teacher shortly after. Youko had the knees buckling just like Mio would too, and later went on to make a sales pitch for Blu-ray reservations. “I’ve been waiting for you bastards to show up!” (Omaera ga kuru no wo MATTE IMASHITA!”) Awesome, just awesome.
(Hirasawa Ui Character Image Song)
It was during the Call and Response that I got a good sense of how Aki’s able to keep things entertaining as the MC, some of which was simply calling Madoka her little sister in Yui’s voice and wishing her good luck for her character song performance. As the very capable Ui though, Madoka didn’t have any problems whatsoever in giving a very cute one. If there’s ever going to be a spin-off of the music club at Sakura High School, Ui may just be the perfect candidate to pick up where her sister left off.
(Manabe Nodoka Character Image Song)
Admittedly, I hadn’t listened to Ui or Nodoka’s character image songs since the singles came out a couple of months after the other five, but Chika deserves a lot of credit for giving a very crowd pleasing performance of “Coolly Hotty Tension Hi!!”. Someone’s got to write some plot in the second season that gets Nodoka singing a song! Her role in K-ON happens to be her first one as a seiyuu and to be able to perform so well at a live event of this magnitude that many seiyuu will never even get a chance to deserves a lot of credit. She had her family in attendance too, so I can completely understand why she was so emotional during her final words for the concert at the whole. She wasn’t even the most emotional one either, as a lot of the girls were bawling their eyes out uncontrollably at the end.
Those without sufficient understanding of Japanese probably won’t get too much from the live picture drama-like mini episode, but I gather it’s still interesting to see everyone voice their characters live. Being a bit of a seiyuu fanatic, I love seeing live performances like this, as they showcase just how professional Japanese seiyuu are and how they can record almost all scenes in one-shot, plus time their voices to the animation on-the-fly. They didn’t have to do the latter here, but still had to pace the dialogue themselves. Anyway, this “Day in the Light Music Club” episode involved talk about the group breaking up due to their differences in musicianship after reading about how another band did the same, which naturally drew some wary reactions from everyone except Yui who suggested it. Sawa-chan on the other hand liked the prospect of Yui finally coming over to “her side” of the music world and how she might have two bands to go to for tea parties. After Yui added how she’d be with Azusa forever and become “Old Age Tea Time” (Rougo Tea Time) together, the idea of renaming their band came up when Ui asked where “Houkago Tea Time” came from.
As a name Sawa-chan gave them because they couldn’t decide on one themselves, Yui figured something more upscale would help their image, which a vote where Mugi comes in as the unexpected tiebreaker led to some good laughs. This isn’t the first time Mugi joined in on one of Yui and Ritsu’s “interesting” propositions, but the names thrown out were even better. On top of Yui’s “The All-America” (Za Zenbei) and “Explosive Laughter” (Daibakushou) ones, Mugi suggesting the rice angle with “Rice Riots” (Kome Soudou) proved to be good stuff. If it were up to Mio, it’d be “Chocolate Melody” though, which was cute because it was just what I’d expect from her, but hilarious when Yui put the “Rice Chocolate” spin on it, much to Ritsu’s frustration. Naturally, Sawa-chan has the best suggestions, throwing out “After A Beating Bloody Time” (Oudago Bloody Time). That was easily one of the funniest ones next to “Za Zenbei” with the way Yui suggested it. Unsurprisingly, nothing changed when talk about a theme for them involved tea, snacks, and fluffiness. Things end off with the start of the Light Music Club’s live performance getting announced and everyone rushing off to give us just that.
After all the character image songs, it was nice to finally see Houkago Tea Time back together as a group. Aki’s introduction about how they never touched any instruments in their “Rajion!” radio program performances led to a nice jab (tsukkomi) by Satomi asking if they’re just a comedic band. For most of these performances, it was all about Aki’s vocals since none of the girls were actually playing live, but it wouldn’t be the same without them all on the stage together with instruments in hand.
Fude Pen ~Ball Pen~ turned out to be one of the nicer performances because Aki helped sing a bit of backup for Youko, which sounded really nice live. This is definitely one of my favorites HTT songs from season one, so I was really looking forward to hearing it. It would’ve been pretty cool if this was one of the songs they learned to play, but I’m not complaining when they took the time and effort to learn a couple. I absolutely love Youko’s vocals and am often left wondering why she hasn’t been scouted into some seiyuu group or even a solo debut after all this time. Her singles would probably sell like hotcakes to all K-ON fans.
(Live music performance!)
The crowd reaction to Aki’s announcement that they were actually going to perform a song live was pretty awesome to say the least. After hearing how they tried to keep their practicing fun with their characters in mind, I could already get a sense of some of them starting to feel a bit emotional (e.g. Satomi). Their performance is more than passable for amateurs and pretty impressive at the same time, since Minako is the only one that I’m aware of with any sort of musical background. (Her mother is a piano teacher.) What’s more, Youko went so far as to learn how to play the bass left-handed to fit the Mio part when she’s actually right-handed. It didn’t look like the two of them had too much difficulty, whereas Satou Satomi and Aki seemed pretty confident on the drums and guitar respectively. It wasn’t easy for Ayana though, as she expressed her struggles learning how to play the guitar during her tear-filled final words at the end. I think she managed to get through it just fine. Go Azu-nyan!
(Live music performance!)
With their first-ever live music performance in the bag, it looked like all the girls were feeling the fruits of their labor realized in front of the sold-out crowd. Emotions were starting to show after Yui told everyone they gave it their all practicing and expressed concern over how everyone would react to their performance, which of course drew another heartwarming response. Tears were already coming down before they even started singing this supposedly last song, but luckily only got through to Aki near the end of the performance. Much like Fude Pen ~Ball Pen~, I loved the sound of Youko singing backup to Aki this time around. They even went so far as having instrumental solos part way through, with Minako showing everyone up with her piano skills. Youko wasn’t too bad on the bass either, while Satomi looked like a natural on the drums. The girls all facing one another giving it one more go was right out of episode twelve, so that was pretty cool to see. I have no idea how Aki held up as well as she did compared to everyone else, but it was easy to pick up her shaky voice when she laughed about it. It was kind of funny how they messed up their group bow, but it did help lighten the overly emotional mood.
It wouldn’t be right without a performance of “Don’t say ‘lazy’” and saving it for an encore was befitting given its popularity. The crowd was so into it and Youko sounded pretty damn awesome, making it the perfect song to satisfy the encore chants. This is still my favorite song from K-ON even with the season two ones considered and the one I’ve been dying for a live performance of ever since I first heard it a year ago. Being a seiyuu sung song, I thought I’d never get a chance to, but this live event delivered just that in one of the best possible stages. I got goosebumps watching this.
As with most concerts, the encore was planned from the very beginning. Along with it was the surprise announcement of the second season, which sent a thunderous roar of excitement throughout the arena. Needless to say, that response got the waterworks going again. If DVD/BD sales of season two do well and another live event draws on this many attendees, we may just see another one of these announcements for season three at the the end of this year.
For this encore performance of “Cagayake! GIRLS”, the girls looked like they finally loosened up and tried to end on a happy note, but most of them couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment of it all. After the big season two announcement, Aki managed to keep it together to sing another full song, which I don’t think Youko was in any position to do. Youko was completely taken back, extremely choked up, and in dire need of that group hug at the end.
I didn’t include everyone’s final words because they took around twenty minutes to get through, but it was waterworks city for everyone except Aki (Yui), Asami (Sawako), and Madoka (Ui). The rest were very deeply moved and it didn’t look like Ayana and Satomi would be able to get through what they wanted to say at all. Youko was pretty much the same, whereas Minako ended up crying even though she said she was trying her darndest not to. I actually found it a bit hard to watch and felt bad for them, hoping that someone would just let them end their words short so they can cry on someone else’s shoulder. Eventually, they did all get through it and gave us a pretty good group performance of “Let’s Go!”, which this live event is titled after. Somehow, everyone’s voices were fine again when they had the support of the entire group, with Asami bringing out the Sawa-chan craziness at 3:27 again. God damn she’s awesome. Anyway, I really enjoy these anime seiyuu concerts, because without them we’d never get to hear any of these songs performed live. As mentioned above, this whole event lasted two and half hours and was a blast the entire way through. Here’s to hoping that they’ll hold another one following the second season!