View from the Show Floor: Niconico Chokaigi 2by Andrew Osmond and Melissa Francis, May 3rd 2013
The weekend of April 28-29 (which was the beginning of Golden Week, a holiday period in Japan) saw Niconico Chokaigi 2, the second event held by the video-streaming website Niconico. It took place at Makuhari Messe, a giant hanger-like venue in Chiba which overlooks Tokyo Port - it's about 40 minutes’ train ride from Tokyo station, on the same line as Disneyland. Makuhari Messe had also hosted the Anime Contents Expo just a month before, although the Niconico event sprawled twice as far through the venue. It was reported last year that the Niconico site had 27 million users, and that nearly 100,000 people attended the first Niconico event in 2012, though visitors who went to both days of the weekend were counted twice.
Niconico is not specifically an anime event, although there were numerous anime and game-related displays dotted around the floor. One might be forgiven, though, for thinking that it was a Hatsune Miku event, as the starlet and her fellow Vocaloids could be found here, there, and everywhere. Of course, Miku owes much of her stardom to the fan-created, fan-supported videos on Niconico. (“Vocaloid” is a specific video category on the site, and at one stand fans were busily wielding software to create new songs.) Still, it's striking that the blue-haired avatar still has such a high profile, after what's already been a long career in pop-culture terms. Can no new icon topple Miku from her throne?
The event saw the demonstration of a “Miku Miku Hockey” air hockey game, although there no current plans to release this to retail. In addition, the performances at the evening “Cho Party 2” included a sample of the British stage version of Princess Mononoke, just before it began its week-long run in Tokyo. According to the twitter feed of the actress who plays San, 5,000 people saw the performers at the event, and a further 33 million followed them online.
The Japan Times website has a broader video overview of the Niconico event, including its political side; there was even an in-the-flesh appearance by the (real) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Vocaloid technology was prominently on display. One stand was demonstrating the motion-captured nature of the characters, while elsewhere animated Vocaloids were thrown up on a transparent “SORIS” screen, or performed in miniature in a prism. In the meantime, Miku's fans were engaged in writing her next song album…
Elsewhere, Miku was hard to miss, incarnated as lifesize models, cosplayers, and on promotional cars…
… as well as gracing the covers of a new book extolling User Generated Content, and a wall bearing such fan messages as “Miku is God.”
Despite Miku's domination of proceedings, some other anime got a look in, including a heavily overwritten Evangelion. Customers also had the chance to recreate that shock moment from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Over at the Aniplex stage, a massively silly knock-the-other-person's-hat-off contest was allegedly meant to be a restaging of Sword Art Online, but we're not convinced. Meanwhile, cartoonists were busy drawing their own manga art.
Among the games represented at the event were Ace Attorney 5, Battle Girls, Biohazard, Monster Hunter 4 and God Eater 2.
Other performers included a representative of niconico, plus girl singers, robots and a famous anime director (okay, we think it was a cosplayer). Not forgetting the chicken…
The karaoke stages were one of the liveliest places at the event, including one of the most alarming music acts we've ever witnessed – a male singer screaming at deafening volume while carrying a blithe-looking baby! We only hope the infant was his, and not someone he'd snatched from the audience… On another karaoke stage, contestants sang anime and Vocaloid songs, striving to hit the most perfect notes.
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