06 March 2010
This is (very) late, but in January this year I had the opportunity to go to WaiCon in Perth! This was mostly driven by the fact that Eminence Orchestra (I may have mentioned them many times before) was doing an ensemble performance there, which was WELL WORTH THE LONG JOURNEY. But I'll get to that later.
The brief summary: WaiCon was amazing. Far smaller than Brisbane's Supanova, but so much better for it. There were so many interesting things to see and do! In addition to the usual stalls and artist alleys and screenings, there were game tournaments, a gundam-building competition, and a series of panels and demonstrations in the various theatres.
Just for starter, there was a kind of hilarious ninjukai demonstration! (Ninja arts, apparently, though it mostly involved hand-to-hand combat mixed in with a little bit of a history lesson) Mostly hilarious because when they reached the audience participation bit, they called up one of the Naruto cosplayers to teach her some throws, and she kicked ass. Nailed them all first go! I rather expect they were hoping to embarrass the young wannabe ninja.
In the same vein, there was also a Mugai Ryu demonstration. They tried out a few of the anime-style swords to comedic effect. Silly Mugai Ryu practitioners, of course no human can wield Sephiroth's sword, that's what makes Sephiroth so AWESOME.
It turned out to be quite a musical weekend as well, as in addition to Eminence performance, there was the Sakura Choir! A collection of little old Japanese ladies (and some men) singing traditional Japanese songs interspersed with the ending themes to just about every Ghibli movie. They did a lovely job of 'Teru no Uta' from Earthsea, and I was especially happy with the Mononoke one. And for icing on the cake, Taiko drumming! Just three drummers, but an extremely energetic performance. Have to love those taiko drums.
So much fun to be had! Would have probably done even more at the convention if we weren't saddled by such human weaknesses as the need to eat and occasionally sit down. But what you really want is to look at cosplay pictures, right? Who doesn't. There were a lot of great cosplays, and this but a smattering of them, in no particular order:
(Captions and alt text are kind of busted at the moment, so don't look for them). To begin with, Aeris from Final Fantasy VII. I've seen a lot of Aeris cosplayers over the years, but this may very well be the first one to get the hair right. The flower basket was a lovely touch too.
Anya from Code Geass! She's looking kind of evil in this picture, so let's pretend this is the 'Marianne is awake' version.
A stunning Chii from Chobits. I believe she took out the award for best female cosplay on the Sunday.
Fully-grown Lal Mirch and Colonello from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! An unusual choice, but it came out great.
Cornelia from Code Geass! Looking far happier than I ever remember Cornelia being.
THIS WAS AN INCREDIBLE FINAL FANTASY DISSDIA GROUP. From the left there's Ultimecia from FFVIII, then Cloud of Darkness from FFIII, then Tidus from FFX in the centre, then Squall from FFVIII, then Kuja from FFIX.
You can't see in this picture, but Cloud of Darkness and Ultimecia were wearing transparent platform heels to simulate the floating effect! Had a chat with Ultimecia, apparently they found them on special at an adult store. Clever! I also asked if she wasn't at all worried about 'popping out', given, ahem, the nature of Ultimecia's clothing, and it turned out she'd glued herself into it. Guys! That's dedication! My skin burns just thinking about it.
Final Fantasy XIII cosplayers are starting to turn up! Lightning and Noctis. It amuses me that people are cosplaying games not yet released.
We ran into a Fuu from Samurai Champloo at the train station. Nicely done!
A very cool Gintama group - Okita, Kagura and Gintoki. I kept running into these guys everywhere. Hopefully they did not think I was stalking them.
An uncommonly excellent Grimmjaw from Bleach. Even had the abdominal hole! You'd be surprised how often that gets left out of Arrancar cosplays.
This guy was awesome. Captain from Hellsing! Had the scary contacts and everything. Remained entirely in-character on stage - deadly, deadly silent. Might have been awkward with another host, but the MC ran with it fabulously.
Hetalia group! Not a bad cross-section of countries represented. They were very clearly having fun.
Inphyy from Ninety-Nine Nights. I did not like Ninety-Nine Nights at all, but that's quite an ambitious costume to tackle by hand.
Prince from Katamari! Rolling around the convention floor, picking up merchandise.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn group, Ten Year Later versions (except for Chrome).
LINA INVERSE! From Slayers. Old-school! I have never seen a Lina Inverse cosplay before, and this is an amazing one.
A moogle! Cute as a button.
Neku from The World Ends With You. There was also a Kariya and a Sho Minamoto kicking around, but failed to catch them.
This was kind of hilarious and disturbing at the same time. Ash and his Pokemon harem. A Squirtle, a Pikachu, a Charizard and a Meowth there!
Road Camelot from D Gray Man! Complete with Lero the talking umbrella.
Requisite Sailor Moon cosplay! First time I've seen Sailor Jupiter with the right shoes. And right hair, too!
An amazing Terra from Final Fantasy V! She was actually part of the Dissidia group. Check out those shoes!
Tieria from Gundam00. It's a bit weird, but Tieria is so girly he almost NEEDS to be a crossplay to be convincing. Aside from the five o'clock shadow though, not too shabby! Got the right glasses and everything.
And lastly, Vocaloids! They are becoming a new staple of conventions.
I should spend a moment talking about the cosplay competition! It really stuck out for me - I'd heard con-goers go on and on about how wonderful the MC John was, but I didn't really understand until I witnessed it for myself. There were no awkward moments on stage that so regularly punctuate cosplay comps when he was in charge. He found something to get excited about with every single one, and was frequently hilarious besides. Even after the most awkward and embarrassing of skits, he'd have the whole theatre genuinely cheering. Thus for the first time in a long while I didn't have the urge to walk out of the cosplay competition halfway through.
So that's the cosplay report. The other highlight of the convention was, of course, Eminence: Destiny Reunion on the Saturday night. It was just the ensemble performance, but I'm starting to think I prefer the ensemble! Better arrangments, generally. Set list breakdown as follows:
My Neighbour Totoro Main Theme
River from that Day - Spirited Away
Always With Me - Spirited Away
Tokiniwa Mukashiro Hanashiwo - Porco Russo
Teru no Uta - Tales from Earthsea
These were all stunning arrangements, though to be honest I've heard Ghibli music orchestrated so often it is no longer particularly special. It probably didn't help that Choir Sakura already tackled some of these earlier in the day. Teru no Uta was again my favourite from the Ghibli set.
Then they performed a selection of pieces from Makoto Shinkai's work. Apparently Eminence recorded the music for Shinkai's next release!
Kanae's Feelings - 5 centimetres per second
Letter from Mikako - Voices from a Distant Star - my favourite of the set, brought a tear to the eye. Though secretly I was hoping for 'Through the Years and Far Away'.
She and Her Cat Theme - all piano.
Sayuri - The Place Promised In Our Early Days
Your Voice - The Place Promised In Our Early Days
Then in the second half, it was Yasunori Mitsuda's work (he was guest composer again! He is fond of Australia) and 'miscellaneous'.
Hako no Niwa - Graffiti Kingdom - Nice piece, but considering I haven't played Graffiti Kingdom, it was a bit weird to discover that I already knew this piece of music! I suspect this is a symptom of Mitsuda reusing a few too many of his celtic phrases from Chrono Cross in this era of his career.
Circle of Eternity - Kirie - same deal with this piece! Although this was definitely more reminiscent of Xenogears.
The Dream That Time Comes - Chrono Cross - It's really nice to see Chrono Cross pieces other than just 'Time's Scar' getting some attention!
Radical Dreamers - Chrono Cross - one of my all-time favourites. I have to admit, though, it's hard to go back after hearing the fully orchestrated version they did for ANIF09.
Then the 'et ceteras' part of the performance wound up being some of the best ones!
Canta Per Me - Noir - I was practically bouncing in my seat through this one. It was a lovely arrangement, and didn't suffer for the lack of vocals at all.
Grandpa's Violin - .hack//Liminality - I don't actually recall this piece at all. Possibly was still high from Canta Per Me.
Thanatos - Neon Genesis Evangelion - this was an unexpected highlight. Having heard the Evangelion soundtrack so many times over the years, I expected nothing from this, but they infused so much emotion into this arrangement - it got to me, it really did. Made me want to go listen to the original soundtracks again, in fact.
The Song - Gundam Seed - another absolutely stellar performance. Haven't even seen Gundam SEED, but I'm familiar with the song, and they did a marvellous job. Makes you want to cry it's so good.
THE FIRST ENCORE WAS MERIDIAN DANCE FROM SECRET OF MANA.
I have only wanted to hear this live, orchestrated, FOR THE PAST FIFTEEN YEARS.
This was an incredible surprise! I would have travelled much much further than Perth to hear Meridian Dance orchestrated and performed live, and it was a HIDDEN ENCORE.
BUT IT DIDN'T EVEN STOP THERE. Hungry for more, the audience demanded another encore! Then they played the opening theme for Final Fantasy III! That was a wonderful surprise.
And then they did the best damn Mario suite I have ever heard. These are tall shoes to fill. The Tokyo Philharmonic did a pretty incredible Mario suite! Video Games Live took a rather good shake at it too. But these seven musicians from Eminence upstaged them. This is how amazing Eminence is. They got a standing ovation. Eventually they had to come back out and admit they didn't have any more music to play for encores (lies, we all know you've memorised entire pieces, Hiroaki!), and we were forced to admit that three encores was pretty good and they looked kind of tired. So then it was out to signing.
Then next day, Eminence did a panel as well! The first half was actually painfully boring - the sort of thing you could find out on wikipedia or a few minutes on google - but there were much better questions in the second half. I was considering asking Yasunori Mitsuda about his opinion on the melody vs atmosphere debate that's rather sharply dividing Japanese and Western instrumental music composition these days, but some previous answers came down pretty heavily on the melody side of things. It was fun to hear about all the members' favourite experiences with Eminence, though! And also interesting to hear about how they recruited - pretty much straight-out neoptism and cronyism. At least they're honest about it. And they're starting up a Youth Orchestra in the States apparently. Good news for fans from the US! But that'll be some time away yet, so don't go looking for tickets just yet.
All in all, probably the best convention I've been to yet. Haven't had that much fun at a con since the very first Brisbane Supanova. And all the way over in Perth, too! The small size and speciality of it lent itself to a much friendlier atmosphere - I felt like I could strike up a conversation with anyone, a feeling that is noticeably absent in the more recent Supanovas.
And then, to top off a fantastic trip, on the long flight back I took a detour to SPACE.