From performances by major Japanese recording artists like Moi dix Mois and Morning Musume, to Anime Music Video competitions, to karaoke battles and the annual AX Idol contest, music is just as important as animation at Anime Expo. Many Japanese companies will take advantage of the American otaku community's longing for all things related to Jpop culture by bringing emerging artists out to perform at their booths inside Anime Expo's enormous exhibit hall. Cure Magazine, the Japanese rock magazine that also hosts its own shop in LA's Little Tokyo, took this one step further by hosting an unofficial AX after party at Second Street Jazz.
With four bands ranging from hard rock to dance pop and DJ sets from LA's own Tune in Tokyo clan, Cure's party was a hot ticket on Saturday night. It had, in fact, sold out well before the doors opened, prompting a lengthy line of con goers dressed in fashionable Japanese labels like Sex Pot Revenge to form down Second Street.The event was split into two halves, with the first focused on Jrock and second on Jpop. Of the two, the rock side of the spectrum proved to be the most popular. Openers Auncia attracted a roomful of screams and copious pogo dancing with a punkish, metalish sound that isn't terribly different from what you might here on Warped Tour.
Meanwhile, solo artist Satsuki (formerly of Rentrer en Soi) is the latest in the line of gender-bending visual kei artists that includes Mana of Moi dix Mois and Kaya. He performed in a flamboyant, white neo-Victorian costume to pre-recorded tracks of orchestral dance rock. The singing, though, was definitely live, his voice ranging from a commanding growl to captivating croons.
Since Cure Magazine focuses on rock music, particularly in the visual kei style, the addition of Japanese idols Papillon and Yui x Mino seemed odd. However, the show served as Cure's official announcement that it will be launching and idol-themed magazine in September. If you think that Japanese magazine announcements are pointless in the US, then head down to a grocery store like Mitsuwa and check out the crowds of young people flipping through the latest photo-centric glossies. Particularly for the otaku subculture, Japanese magazines are great finds, even if you can't read the language.
Lest we digress, an idol in Japan is a very specific sort of pop star. Typically, the artist is female and young, or at least appears to be roughly college aged. In a slightly similar fashion to what you might see with teen pop stars in the US, their images are carefully crafted in a way where they can appeal to members of the opposite sex while still maintaining a sort of innocence. In addition to singing, they typically make TV appearances, oftentimes in connection with their music (idols quite frequently provide the theme songs of anime). Their career spans are generally short, it's only been in recent years that artists like Ayumi Hamasaki have gone on to have successful post-idol careers in music.
Musically, the idols that performed at this event -- Papillon and Yui x Mino, respectively -- are heavy on the dance pop, think huge, fast electronic beats like you might here in an arcade. Their vocals weren't top notch, at times it sounded as though vocals on the backing tracks were seeping through the mix, but they had a lot of energy and played the anime angle for maximum effect. Papillon covered the theme song from Gurren Lagann and followed it with the para para dance sequence from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Yui x Mino closed out the live portion of the night by performing in cosplay, fitting in that the duo is best known for placing third in Japan's Cosplay Summit.