Thursday, July 9, 2009

Momusu at AX! (Part 6)

Alright...some final thoughts on my time at AX, and how I feel that it has affected myself and the community. And yes, I know I sound crazy at some points, but I don't care. Momusu high, baby! :D

The first thing I must say is that Momusu's current lineup has completely won me over, although I think it was more a circumstantial victory than one of pure merits. It's one thing to see an artist you love perform live for the first time and be able to greet them in person. Of course I'm going to come out of that experience with an even greater appreciation for said artist...anyone attending their first concert for one of their favorite artists will gain at least that. But this was a special case...having the opportunity to see the members of Morning Musume interact with their English-speaking fanbase for the first time, and seeing Momusu's reactions to our excitement upon finally being given the opportunity to show our love......words cannot express how that makes me feel (this is going to sound a little silly, but I'm getting a little teary-eyed even as I type this XD). I left the weekend with such an unbelievable high, and I can't help but associate Momusu's current lineup with that rush of emotions. It is no surprise, then, that I come out of Anime Expo more passionate about the 9 current members of Morning Musume than I have ever been about anything else before in my life, let alone my previous favorites in H!P...and yes, that does mean that Miki has been surpassed** (I suppose it was bound to happen eventually :P).

There is a specific moment from my 5 days in LA that stands out to me. At the Q&A Panel after the introductions, the translator started with the question "how do you welcome (the fan's) craziness/excitement", which was directed at leader Takahashi Ai. She started to answer the question, then paused for a moment, looking out at those attending the panel...then she smiled and waved, saying "hi everybody!" in Japanese, and everyone in the crowd cheered and waved and went crazy in response. That moment...with this girl, whom we had only been able to adore from afar on our computer and TV screens, sitting right in there in front of our eyes, in the same room as us, waving to us in person...and finally being able to wave back at her and cheer for her and show her how we all felt like a huge wall between the girls and the fans had been demolished. That memory really opens up the emotional floodgates for me, and I have my doubts that anything could ever beat how I feel when I think back on that.

And it was moments like that which caused me to come out of AX with a completely rehauled understanding of the wota/idol relationship. Sadly, I wasn't able to make it to either of the first two autograph sessions, so I got very little of the one-on-one communication that some fans had the priviledge of experiencing (not to say that I don't appreciate the rushed experience I had at the third session - being just a table's width away from Momusu and being able to greet each member face-to-face is something I'll never forget). Still, hearing how enthusiastic the girls were at the first two sessions from those who attended - and seeing Momusu's enthusiasm at the Q&A and concert - has pretty well squashed any suspicions I ever had of the girls resenting their fans. It is clear to me now that the girls (or, at least, the current members of Morning Musume) adore their fans almost as much as the average fan does them, and knowing that only makes me want to support them more...which is why I came out of the third session fairly agitated at how poorly it seemed to have been handled. By the end of my time at AX, I was more concerned about whether the girls' experience was a good one than I was about my own. XD

That dynamic - the kind of support system between wota and idol - has now become a large part of the allure of H!P for me. In fact, almost immediately after attending the third autograph session (Momusu's last event at AX), I was ready for them to come back so I could do a better job of showing my support...say more to them at the autograph session/handshake event/meet & greet/whatever, learn the chants better for the concert, wear an official Japanese t-shirt of my favorite member instead of the one being sold at AX (not to say that I dislike that t-shirt, it's actually really awesome...but I'd like to make myself stand out a little more :P), and so on. I hope other fans left AX with the same drive and inspiration that I gained, because it will make H!P's next appearance in the West all that much better. :)

I also have to say that Momusu's appearance at AX was not only an incredibly enjoyable and enlightening event, but also a rewarding one. Anyone who has seen my collection (or keeps an eye on my blog :P) knows that I buy a LOT of H!P stuff (as do a decent number of other H!P fans who are capable of throwing money around like that). As a fan outside of Japan (or even in Japan, for that matter XD), what better way is there to ensure the continued success of the girls you love than to give money to the company that manages them? (and to anyone who disagrees - sorry, but when it comes down to it, idols are all about turning a profit...sad but true :P) And, of course, we all created communities and wrote about H!P in our blogs and made a general ruckus about our love for these girls. So when it was announced that Morning Musume would be coming to Anime Expo, it felt as if all the time and money and efforts of English-speaking fans had finally born fruit. We were being rewarded for our dedication (some of us for dedication lasting nearly a decade or more o.o), and I knew from the first day it was announced that I wasn't going to miss this reward - the opportunity to see Morning Musume perform live and show them our support in person - for the world.

I also want to take this time to apologize for my previous selfishness as a fan. Until it was announced that Momusu would be at AX, I had been pretty strongly opposed to the idea of H!P's movement to the West. I felt that, if H!P became more easily accessible in the West, it would take away from the unique niche aspect of it, which has always been important to me in my hobbies. Even after deciding I was going, I justified my trip to LA by saying it was an excuse to see the girls, not because I wanted to contribute to their success in the English-speaking world. I realized after attending AX, and especially after attending Hello!Party, that we have created a really amazing community around these girls, and that it's actually quite nice having a large group of fans to commune over a common passion with (who'da thunk it? :P).

And since we're on the subject, I'd like to say that we as a fanbase should work together and keep our focus on what matters. While I'm all up for a little forum pride (I bought a Hello!Online t-shirt...even though I basically never post there XD), the real reason we came together in Los Angeles wasn't to promote ourselves or the communities we've was to show our support for Morning Musume. I think the biggest potential resource for a fanbase as large and enthusiastic as ours is the ability to join together as one and really blow the girls away, for lack of a better phrase. It was obvious at the panel (where I heard that almost the entire room was full...? can anyone confirm this?) that the members of Morning Musume were amazed at how many of us there were and how much noise we were able to make. XD The same stands for the this interview, Risa said "We didn’t imagine there would be so many people, it was a little overwhelming". And it was so much easier to overwhelm the girls like that when, during the panel and the concert, we all forgot about which forums we normally post on, or how some of us may not like the way a particular community approaches the fandom, or whatever, and just put all our energy into showing the girls how much we love them.

I'm not trying to criticize anyone here...I think everyone from all the different forums and whatnot got along just fine throughout AX, from what I saw. But I present this idea as food for thought...what if, instead of wearing t-shirts at AX promoting the forums we post on, people had worn t-shirts of their favorite members like the Japanese fans do? Now, obviously there were fans who did this for the concert and the panel...but I'm talking about the rest of the convention, when some of us had the opportunity to talk to non-fans (or even members of the press or the people who will decide if Momusu comes to the West again - staff from JapanFiles, UFA, etc). I think it would have been even better if, instead of saying "oh, my t-shirt? it's for the forum I go to, it's awesome, you should check it out", people could have said "oh, my t-shirt? it's for my favorite member of Morning Musume, she's awesome, I wanted to show my support". I'm sure this all sounds a little cheesy...but I think coming off as an enthusiastic fan is more important than trying to get more people to look at your website. If interest in the group is there, people will find places to talk about them. I don't think any English-language H!P-centric forums are struggling for members right now. :P

Anyway, enough preaching. I'll make my plea short and say that attending AX (and Hello!Party) has shown me how valuable a unified community is in creating an enjoyable experience for everyone...and for showing the girls that we love them just as much as any other fanbase and, hence, showing UFA that we are just as valid - and as much of a cashcow - as any other fanbase. I think it would do everyone a lot of good to at least consider the option of some kind of primary hub for the members of all the different forums and communities and so on to get together...even if it's only to plan for special events (such as, say...Momusu's potential next appearance in the US? :P). Because I think we could make an even bigger impact on whoever UFA may decide to bring over next (and, of course, on UFA itself) if we can organize ourselves as one single entity working together for a common cause instead of multiple entities all trying to do the same thing separately. (hopefully that all made sense, I'm obviously still organizing my thoughts on this :P)

Regardless of what I just said, I am truly grateful to everyone in the H!P community for doing such a great job of showing their support to the girls during their time in LA. I went into AX expecting great things, and somehow the events that transpired during my time there managed to exceed my expectations and a lot more. I think both Morning Musume and UFA now know full well just how powerful of a force we are in the world of H!P fans, and I would be shocked if we don't see another H!P group on US soil within the next few years. The only thing I would like to ask is that everyone who is able to buy things from HelloStore USA (whenever it opens :P) please do so, as that's going to be the best resource we have to show UFA that we want things like Momusu's appearance at AX to keep happening in the future.

And to JapanFiles and UFA (whether they end up reading this or not :P)...thank you so, so much for taking the time out of Morning Musume's busy schedule to fly them over here for our sake, and allowing us the opportunity to spend some time with them at Anime Expo. I really can't say enough to express my gratitude, and I'm sure other fans feel the same way. I earnestly look forward to (hopefully) being able to see other H!P acts here again.

- cfb

**Most people who know me are aware that I've been a big fan of Fujimoto Miki for a while now (a little over a year, actually). And as I'm sure most of you know, she announced her marriage to Shouji Tomoharu a few months ago, which made it tough for me to continue on as a fan of hers (it's extremely difficult to be a wota when the girl you like is no longer an idol D:). It is fitting, then, that while Miki was getting married (literally...Miki's wedding and the Momusu concert occurred on the same day O.O), I was at Anime Expo enjoying the greatest week of my life and having my heart stolen by Morning Musume. And to be honest...even though I went into AX with no intention of giving up the Miki love, I'm glad it happened that way because it allowed me to move on from her quickly and painlessly. (sorry to all my Mikitty fan friends! x.x) Through this, I've discovered that the world is a much cheerier place for a wota when the girl(s) you're into are actually still idols. XD

...also, some of you may have noticed that I have yet to post a picture of my signed Momusu poster on here. I'll be posting it eventually, I just want to get it framed first. Don't panic, people, it'll happen in due time! :P


Anonymous said...

>It was obvious at the panel (where I heard that almost the entire room was full...? can anyone confirm this?)

Judging by when they ran out of the 500 tickets, I would say the room was densely packed for the first 1000 seats then it started to filter out. I would guess there were about 1700 people (a lot) but I wouldn't say that the entire room was almost full. You have to understand that room was huge.

CatchFiveBats said...

Yeah, I knew that it was a REALLY big room, that's why I wanted to confirm...the idea of it being full seemed kind of far-fetched, haha.

Anyway, thanks for the response. :)
- Zac

Mozenator said...

Again, great post! I feel the same. I was extremely moved by my experience, both with the girls and with fellow H!P fans. I love your enthusiasm, I share every bit of it, my friend.

jyoru said...

I was at the back of the occupied seating for the Q & A, and can verify that it was *not* completely full, although the good seats were hard to get, and there were a lot of people in there. Agreed with anonymous that the room was huge. I was glad that I was able to get in even though I showed up after it started.

As far as supporting the girls vs. promoting a fan website, I agree with a lot of that. No problem with people wanting to support their cause, be it Hello!Online or whatever-else. But you make a good point, and all self-righteousness (on my part) aside, I was there to support the group. I mentioned my blog to a few people, but only those who requested some contact information about me. Besides being a great place to show your support of H!P and the individuals therein, AX was a great place for us fans to get together and connect with each other. So it works both ways.

As for your *huge* collection of H!P stuff, please post your street address and a schedule showing when you'll be out of the house... j/k, totally.

You read mine, I'll read yours...