For this day's gallery please see the gallery of JapanExpo - saturday 7th July 2007 and JapanExpo - sunday 8th July 2007 in the OnStage section!
07th July - JAPAN EXPO 1
Here we are, ready for another of the peak events of this trip, that is the visit to the Japan Expo, in the Exposition Park of Paris.
We are a little bit confused about what we should expect because we have been hearing different comments about the organization of the event, but the program seems rich and interesting, and Nat once again guides us and helps us in filling in the forms for the press passes once we get to the place.
As soon as we get off the tube we are welcomed by the usual chronic lack of indications and information, so we decide to follow the FCC (French Convention Current) up to an endless snake shaped queue at least 500 meters long.
We've never seen anything like that, even at the Comiket.
At first sight the general impression is quite good.
Large spaces, modern and well managed structure, easily connected by a train with a cheap (considering that the following stop is airport Charles de Gaulle) ticket worth 3.50 euro.
After getting our press passes, we dive in the human tide entering the huge complex.
The exhibition area is quite large and it resembles vaguely the Italian Cartoomics, mostly because of the width of the passageways available between one booth and another, that allows easy movements and avoids the forming of human traffic jams.
There's even a little garden at the center of the exhibition area.
One of the most important attractions that could be visited after a long queue (for the others) was nothing less than the full scale reproduction of Nana's flat, the famous 707.
The interior reproduced faithfully to the manga every single detail, including the glasses with the strawberries which are so important to the two Nana; useless to say, the set was perfect to take some unforgettable shots.
If there's something noticeable about this convention, it is the way it is faithful to its own name, trying to show a glimpse of Japan from a 360 degrees perspective.
In fact, besides the usual comic and gadget booths, there's a complete “Japanese quarter”, depicting what from time to time looks like a matsuri.
There the booths of Yokoso Japan, JAL, the museum of manga of Kyoto can be found, but there are also booths selling kimono and kokeshi dolls, a large place for car tuning, a ring for wrestling and tatami for demonstrations of judo, karate and kendo.
The games area was crowded with latest generation console, but also with NES, NEO GEO and other videogames memorabilia.
Challenges and tournaments for Singstar, Dance Dance Revolution and other bemani were among the most important events of each day.
Meetings with big names like the Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sagakuchi or “our” Keiko Ichiguchi were not missing either, along with visual kei and Jpop concerts, fashion shows of Harajuku's important shops like LaForet and an area completely dedicated to young and promising artists.
The strong feeling you have while wandering around this booths is that French comics world really has a special eye for these young authors, offering opportunities that are missing in the Italian scenario.
Besides, it must be pointed out how each of them doesn't only imitate someone else's style producing a beautiful yet sterile reproduction of someone else's work, but develops a personal and recognizable style.
This can be applied not only to figurative arts, but also to the other forms of expression chosen by the author.
In a few words, this means that there are booths where some girls create embroidered corsets or other gothic lolita products , or booths where some boys create dioramas for Saint Seiya's toys.
But each one of them has a clear picture of their core business (as some would call it today), without forcing to try to explore other markets that could be more profitable but also not suitable to the personal ability of the artist and that could thus lead to produce the jam usually seen in The Boot.
In fact, the general impression shown by these booths is that of greater tidiness than the amateur corner that can be found in some of the Italian conventions.
Let's get to cosplay, which we could follow closely from the backstage thanks to our press passes and to the right people... after all, am I Giorgiacosplay or not? ^_^
On Saturday there were two different competitions, following one another.
The first one was the individual and the second, not open to the public, was for the selection of the couples competing the following day for the World Cosplay Summit.
The individual contest was on the main stage, located in a huge hall where some thousands of persons could easily fit and watch the performances, thanks to the great width of the stage itself, provided with an extension and supported by three big screens.
The environment was dark and, being used also for concerts, it was provided with a matching light and audio system and even a smoke machine.
The presenters of the show were two guys wearing improbable costumes, who were logistically supported by two even more improbable rabbit shaped puppets.
The 112 contestants pass one after another, fully exploiting the 40 seconds they have for their performance, usually based on a dance or a pre-recorded track, and no one would eventually try a monologue or other performances based on the use of the microphone.
We will have Nat explain us that speaking in the microphone is common in small conventions held in small towns, while other kind of performances are preferred in the more important conventions.
Besides, all the contestants have a performance because the 40 seconds have been assigned for them to stay on the stage and if they don't have a music track, the organization provides for a default one, keeping the cosplayer on the stage.
So, instead of staying on the stage like a statue, everyone prefers to have an even simple but personal performance.
Costumes were not a match for the beauty of the stage, maybe because the best cosplayers were busy for the WCS selections.
Truth is that after having seen for years clips of the French cosplayers, our expectations were not matched by the quality of both the costumes and the performances.
Luckily the depicted characters varied much and there wasn't the feared invasion of Naruto, Bleach and Full Metal Alchemist.
There are some costumes worth mentioning, among which a well done Harley Quinn, a puzzled Inspector Gadget, a Death that on the stage dances “Born To Be Alive”, but most of all a 53 years old professor of Maths from Germany, who gets to the convention with a magnificent couple of red wings that was visible in the distance for miles even at night time.
For this occasion I wore my Mai Shiranui costume, simple and light, but granted to have a huge impact on the young minds of the French, who relentlessly followed me ever since I left the changing room, jumping on me and asking for pictures or dates at each step.
Even the reporter from the web TV ho interviewed me in the backstage were clearly confused; and as a final treat, I have been requested by the organization to go on the stage for an acclaimed special walk, among self explanatory and noisy approving cheers by the audience.
Each Country has its own traditions: in Mexico girls are asked by the audience for “vuelta, vuelta”, meaning a 360 degrees turn around themselves to show the B side, here in France the most wanted is “la rue, la rue”, which despite the fact in the beginning I thought it was the name of the introducer, it later proved to mean a more simple “wheel” asked to all the cosplayers wearing tight costumes... but also to the presenters themselves.
Curiously enough, there were also some guys from the Free Hugs movement, born in the States some times ago, who came to us with large smiles on their faces, open arms and a huge will to show us all their love.
From time to time we are tempted to answer that our hugs are not for free and they are expensive :)
We closed the day eating at Ovidius together with Florian, a long time friend and buddy for thousands of adventures in Japan, who was celebrating his 29th birthday.
08th July - JAPAN EXPO 2
You can easily tell how much French believe in cosplay by reading the first couple of rows of the leaflet included in the press kit, from which I quote the following:
“There's an event of which we haven't spoken of yet. Without it Japan Expo wouldn't be as appealing. Media regularly look into this continuosly growing phenomenon. Last year more than 10000 people attended the event to see more than 300 contestants. What are we talking about? Cosplay, obviously!
(...) Cosplay is a total show; along with the two usual contests, Japan Expo once again welcomes the French selections for the World Cosplay Summit (...)
Cosplay is drawing more and more attention and it is easy to understand why.
50% playing and 50% creativity = 200% artists. Come with us to check by yourselves what these cosplayer are able to do when they give their best to catch for a short instant the glory of walking the stage of Japan Expo, the largest cosplay theatre in Europe!”
Nuff said... the famous French grandeur *_*
Today's cosplay is for groups only (since the individuals competed on the previous day) and for the ten couples that were selected for the World Cosplay Summit.
There are about forty groups and even if the quality of the costumes is below of what can be seen in any Italian convention, the performances seem to be a more than adequate replacement, very well welcomed by the audience who like especially the Bioman performance that sported even a transformable robot and kuroko villains.
Parodies, fights, parades, dances, while any kind of performance is covered, vocal performances are not in the lot and, just like the previous day, there's no microphone on the stage and the audio is always provided by a pre-recorded audio CD.
After the contest it's time for the conference of Yoshiki, former leader of the X-Japan, one of the first group to start the visual kei phenomenon.
And then it's time for the concert of HaruKari, welcomed by their fans (something that is unimaginable in Italy) and then a further emptying of the hall (after each event the security forced the audience to leave the hall, while the people waiting, even for hours, for the following show were queuing in a different lane.
And eventually there was the award ceremony for the two contests (I don't really know why, but both the Saturday's winners and the Sunday's one were awarded their prizes only on Sunday evening... a subtle operation to keep the cosplayers there for two days?), and then the final contest to select the French representatives for the World Cosplay Summit.
Even if I could sound biased, and I grant I would have no reason to be, once again I must say that the costumes seen here were no match for those seen in Romics.
The performances were strictly connected to the costumes (a minuet for Versailles no bara, a fight for Rg Veda, a parade for Parakiss, and so on).
The winner is a mixed couple wearing really cute costumes from the manga Alichino (for which I've seen better costumes around) who performed a funny para para like dance on the notes of a j-pop song.
The boy, once the winners had been called, will faint in the back-stage due to the stress and for the drop in adrenaline level, poor boy! ^_^
The prize is awarded by a real living legend of the world of Japanese animation opening themes, Ichiro Mizuki (legendary singer of opening themes of the 70s) whose career spans over more than 30 years.
Mr. Mizuki is a real myth and after the contest joins me to congratulate for my performance singing Mazinger Z opening during last year's WCS *_*, so, pushed by Mr.Shirakawa and Hiroshi from TV Aichi, we improvise a not bad at all duet quickly taken by the TV Aichi's camera, and we leave with a promise for a live in Nagoya ^_^
Who could have possibly knew?