Anime Expo 2005
Anime Expo - Maaya Sakamoto Concert

by Sean Broestl and David Chang,
Maaya Sakamoto, prolific anime VA and vocalist for many anime songs, made her first US appearance and performed in her first US concert at Anime Expo 2005 in Anaheim, CA. Sponsored by Geneon, it was a rare first chance for American fans to listen to her music live on this side of the ocean. Her concert took place late Sunday afternoon in the Main Events hall of the Anaheim Convention Center to a full house.

Fans started lining up early in the morning (around 8 a.m.) at the convention center box office for the passes required to get into the concert. Ticketing was finally processed around noon, where attendees were each given a colored wristband. They were then directed to yet another line to wait for seating. Though a bit later than promised, once the lines started moving, they were relatively fast and extremely organized. Pass-holders were ushered in bits at a time to ensure a steady traffic flow. With everything pre-determined by the color of the wristbands, attendees were led through specified doors to their designated seating areas. Both the lines and waiting areas for the concert were closely watched by staff security in case of line-cutting and mishaps. Normally relaxed and easygoing for most events, AX Staffers vigilantly seated everyone to make sure that no one saved seats or disrupted the line.

Amazingly, unlike the other main events at AX, the Sakamoto concert started right on schedule. Cheering crowds greeted Sakamoto-san as she came up on stage. Unlike the KOTOKO concert, the Sakamoto concert had no live instruments, but was instead all set to prerecorded music. A video screen behind her provided some videos and visualizations, but other than that, she was on her own.

The musical performance itself was excellent. Sakamoto's voice was in excellent form, sounding as good as the original recordings everyone knew. She sang a set of eight songs, with another fan favorite as an encore.

Song List:

  1. Yakisoku wa Iranai (No Promises Necessary) - Visions of Escaflowne op
  2. Platinum - Card Captors Sakura op
  3. Mameshiba - Arjuna ed
  4. Kiseki no umi (Sea of Miracles) - Record of Lodoss War op
  5. Yubiwa (Ring) - Escaflowne Movie ed
  6. Gravity - Wolf's Rain ed
  7. Gift - CLAMP School Detectives ed
  8. Pocket wo Kara ni Shite - Escaflowne character song
  9. ENCORE: Kaze ga Fuku hi (Windy Day) - Escaflowne image song

Unfortunately, while Sakamoto was wonderful musically, the concert was a bit bland. Sakamoto was up on stage all by herself, swaying occasionally to recorded background music, with videos behind her. Some actual instruments up on stage would have helped immensely. The audience clapped along to the music, but was seated the entire time. Some people tried to stand up, but other people at the concert and the con staff told them to sit down.

After her first song, Sakamoto expressed her surprise to the audience that such a large amount of fans had come to see her sing. She spoke to the audience in English the entire concert, to the surprise of many fans. The crowd responded to her with excitement and cheers between songs. Some confessed their love to her, and others even shouted proposals for marriage.

The end of her concert was met with a standing ovation, something that remained until she came back out for an encore. Even after that, the crowd burst to its feet the second she was done.

Overall, Maaya Sakamoto's debut US concert was one of the most memorable events at Anime Expo, with thousands of fans imprinted with an experience they will never forget. Fans and convention attendees were truly blessed by this rare opportunity to see one of their favorite singers and voice actresses doing something she loves so much.

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