Ok, so I spent last month running around being a maniac in Tokyo. Since time is valuable (it’s all we have, really...) I will spare you the dull details, like the flight, the hotel, the rain, the heat and just get to the good stuff. Expect more such reports in the days ahead as I sift through the wreckage of 30+ days and nights in the land of the rising FUN. And first up on the hit list is… AniLOVE!!
AniLOVE!! is all-night club event held monthly in Tokyo. Nope, I had never gone to an AniLOVE!! session, let alone been to the club where the event was held: a funky dark space called Ikebukuro mismash. All I knew before dipping in was that the DJs there spin nothing but anime theme songs and Vocaloid tracks. Cosplay dress code is (of course) preferred, but not mandatory … I found out about AniLOVE!! from friend, artist, and collaborator Hiroyuki Takahashi who routinely creates the characters on the AniLOVE!! fliers (see below) and seems about plugged into the Anison (anime song…) club scene as much as anyone I know.
I’d been to a few Anison events before in Japan, notably at club mogra in Akihabara which is pretty much purely dedicated to getting nerds to shake it to anime themes both old and new, idol music, and other otaku-friendly sounds. But I’d never seen anyone lose their mind there. By contrast, AniLOVE!! felt like a serious trip to the cutting edge of Japanese otaku culture. Although all the elements you would expect to find - even at a mediocre US con rave - were on display like DJs, anime freaks, cosplayers, and big screens playing anime footage – the dynamics were different enough to make me think that there’s something going on here. But before we go any further, watch my illuminating little video report! I shot it and edited it myself!
Although the clip is a little under the two minute mark, keep in mind that the level of manic energy stayed at exactly that frantic pace all-night long, from last train to dawn’s first light. When you get enough fans together in one place with enough music and enough glowsticks (I lost count at about a million), the anison groove is incredibly strong.
Traditionally, otaku culture can be a little segregated: cute cosplay girls occupy one side of the room, socially awkward guys habitate on the other, and rarely do the two meet in the middle (except for when the dudes bug the girls for photos). But at AniLOVE!!, both sexes appeared to freely mingled, socialized, boogied, and just plain got down on the same level without it being weird or anything. Good for everyone: the club, the event, the human race.
Most dance club events – even non-anime one – seem to have a vaguely pyramidal structure, with the DJ placed front and center where they are worshipped like a living god of sorts for the act of playing back pre-recorded music. Meanwhile, AniLOVE!! did things a little differently. They had the turntables, along with DJs (most of whom came in cosplay), placed off to the left of the stage. The main view was instead dominated by a big screen onto which non-stop anime videos were projected (usually opening titles). The stage was open: a free-zone. Anyone could jump on stage and act like a headless chicken, or create glowstick trails with their carefully memorized wota dances, or do whatever the heck they wanted. More places should do this! Why don't more places do this already?
Looking back, I can’t think of a single downside or bum note to the AniLOVE!! experience. They've got it all figured out. If someone outside of Japan could figure out a way to replicate this head spinning mix of anime, music, and people mingling with each other, they might actually find the makings of a bona fide global youth culture movement here. But for now a tiny underground club event somewhere in Tokyo has got the goods. Here are some links to help you follow the fun in real time:
BONUS! More AniLOVE!! flier art from Hiroyuki Takahashi