Glowstick trails… anime themes at warp speed bpms… legions of cosplayers dancing and laughing in the dark… My heads-spinning summer of Anison (otaku-speak for “anime songs”) began last month in Tokyo with a visit to a club event called AniLOVE!!, which you can read about here.
And it was at AniLOVE!! that the gang there suggested that we check out another regular anison event that’s been active in Japan for nearly 4 years now… Anison Disco, a name which conjured up images of big afros, funky platform heels, and wide lapel shirts. While there was a giant mirror ball involved, it was a bit different from the Saturday Night Fever-like experience I was half expecting. For starters, Anison Disco is funny. Deliberately so. A pair of comedians from the famed Yoshimoto talent agency – most notably BAN BAN BAN Yamamoto who certainly cuts a striking figure in his tail swinging Frieza cosplay - are the main organizers of the event, and are backed up on stage by a gaggle of up-and-coming aspiring comedians. You’ll probably get some sense of what Anison Disco’s agenda is simply by looking at the quite intriguing staff pic below…
The Anison Disco event I went to was held on a Sunday afternoon at club WOMB in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward: a massive venue that’s a ground zero of sorts for music and DJ events of all genres (it is also home to “Asia’s largest mirror ball” according to some rumors / reports). I had seen the anison groove work its strange magic at the small club where AniLOVE!! was held… how would things turn out in a much bigger place? Watch the video below to find out!
First things first: the place was PACKED with attendees, as in “no place to move”. Most folks (both sexes equally represented, early to mid-20s seems about right) were in cosplay. Pretty much everyone had at least one glowstick to wave around wildly. All attention was centered on the stage where the Anison organizers held court, leading the wota dance moves, and putting on short “cosplay masquerade” skits based on whatever anime theme the DJ spun. People from the audience were welcome to jump on stage and do their thing as well, although groups of similar cosplayers tended to travel in packs, like the Madoka glowstick gang seen in the video, or the air swimmers from Free! in the pics below.
The result was controlled chaos; some degree of planning and professionalism was clearly at work behind the scenes. This was not a free-for-all: everyone was encouraged (in a very Japanese way) to follow the leaders, unify, and have fun together, resulting in a feeling not entirely dissimilar to the exercise portion of a particularly crazy morning kids show.
The one major goof in the Anison Disco experience was the near total lack of actual anime itself. As BANBANBAN Yamamoto explained to us, since this event was also being livestreamed to the internet, they opted to just spring for generic VJ visuals (other smaller Anison Disco events do include anime video though). Too bad… I can only image how much more crazier the event would have been with some opening and ending title sequences layered on top of the mayhem. Still, I emerged from WOMB sweaty and half-crazed by what I had experienced, wondering (as I am increasingly these days) why aren't more anime fans doing this kind of stuff outside of Japan. But no answers were to be found...my Anison summer still wasn’t over by a long shot…