Anime Expo 2018 is off to an explosive start with Aqours’ performance on Day 0.
While this was the third year in a row the nine shining idols were able to perform at Anime Expo (and, more specifically, during Anisong World Matsuri), this year’s performance ushered in new beginnings which have never been seen live before in front of the excited American fanbase.
First and foremost, this night belonged solely to Aqours. In 2016 and 2017, Aqours had to “share” the stage with other Japanese artists during Anisong World Matsuri. But Aqours finally holds the drawing power to justify the group having their own concert.
Bear in mind my memory isn’t perfect and that I may make a few mistakes here or there from this point onwards. I apologize in advance if I spread any misinformation.
The two-hour (roughly) event opened with brief on-screen character introductions in case the audience needed a refresher on the names and the image colors associated with each school idol. After all, this is a concert where it’s basically expected for all audience members to wave penlights and change colours to show support for characters during their speaking and singing roles. So the reminder, while considered to be unnecessary by hardcore fans, was actually important to make sure everyone was approximately on the same page.
Once the girls filed in, they sang and danced to the Love Live! Sunshine!! S2 OP, “Mirai no Bokura wa Shitteru yo.” For those of you who haven’t been to an Aqours live (or seen Japanese artists perform at Anisong World Matsuri, even), these sort of concerts can be overwhelming – in a positive way.
You have these amazing idols dancing on-stage, first of all, but there are also the left and right screens which alternate between showing the group as a whole and doing close-ups for specific members as well as the central screen which either shows the animated MV from the anime or single (for the songs which were given such treatment, at least). There’s a lot to take in. The recorded footage will likely just be what’s being shown on the left and the right screens and will unlikely capture the joyous feeling to be experienced when you see both versions of Aqours jump and dance and sing in-sync.
They then performed the B-side to the previous song, “Kimi no Hitomi o Meguru Bouken.” I’m not as familiar with said song, but there were some juicy yuri moments with Riko x Yoshiko (memory is hazy here, unfortunately, but they do have an extended duet), You x Dia (rare pair spotted!!!), and Hanamaru x Ruby.
Afterwards, the girls introduced themselves to the audience. Each member was able to successfully do the call-and-response with the audience, which certainly wasn’t done in AWM 2017…excluding Riko, however, who showcased her masterful grasp of the English language before she proceeded to forget about her own call-and-response. Thankfully, You noticed and allowed Riko to get hers in since You has always been a team player.
Every member is popular and received plenty of cheers, of course, but I felt the audience’s reception towards Yoshiko, Riko, You, Kanan, and Dia was particularly enthusiastic.
Following that, they performed their very first single (and song), “Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiteru kai?” The song is so important to the group to the point that it basically had to be included as it marks the start of their storied legacy while setting a precedent by being the first Love Live! single to feature a double center!
The girls then left the stage momentarily to change costumes (if I recall correctly, they were wearing the costumes associated with “Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiteru kai?” The audience were then entertained with an animated and voiced short of sorts where the girls are all teleported to the Japanese savanna of Saitama (Yoshiko’s brain went into overdrive and took some leaps to justify this classification of Saitama). Hanamaru lives up to being called King (as requested by her lovely seiyuu) as she became the Lion God who was then worshipped as Zuramaru. It’s as nonsensical and funny as it sounds.
The three members of CYaRon! then took to the stage. You, Chika, and Ruby impressed everyone with their energy as they danced around the stage for “Genki Zenkai DAY! DAY! DAY!,” drank water (an Aqours staple, to be honest), and went wild for “Kaigandoori de Matteru yo” (this one is a bit iffy – might have gotten the song wrong since I was unfortunately unfamiliar with the tune).
Azalea then replaced CYaRon! Hanamaru, Dia, and Kanan were noticeably more graceful and truly resembled refined flowers swinging to and swaying in the wind. The sub-unit sung (and twirled their ribbon wands to) “Torikoriko PLEASE!!,” showcased the pretty fabric and design of their costumes, and then sung “LONELY TUNING.” I loved how the girls acted like DJs by scratching discs (and Hanamaru really got into it during the bridge which made everyone laugh). I did notice that Dia (and to a lesser extent, Kanan) was pointedly looking down and to the right at the small screen near the center of the stage. Hey, idols have got A LOT to memorize. I don’t fault her at all for doing that.
After that, Guilty Kiss came on stage. For their first song, “Strawberry Trapper,” Riko, Mari, and Yoshiko performed with mic stands even though they already have hands-free microphones (still, doesn’t change the fact that it was very cool). The girls then talked about the charm parts of their sub-unit uniforms (Mari had a ribbon at her lower back, Yoshiko had bat wings on her shoes, and Riko had a buttoned ribbon at her neck) and asked the audience if they were kawaii (the answer obviously being yes). Afterwards they performed “Guilty Night, Guilty Kiss.”
Then we watched another animated and voiced short where Riko and Mari walk into You (the mother), Yoshiko (the father), and Dia (the child) as they suffer under how the reception towards their performances are so cold (which was ironic considering how much we loved this live and this short). Mob boss Hanamaru then shows up with her henchwomen, Chika and Kanan, and demands laughs before Yoshiko promises to do her best. The (animated) girls then start chanting “Ganbaruby” over and over, much to the confusion of Riko.
Oncr the short ended, the girls of Aqours then showed up and performed “Taiyō o Oikakero!” and “Yuuki wa doko ni? Kimi no Mune ni!” (the S2 ED) before the girls went on to make a celebratory and farewell speech (as the concert was coming to a close). Mari was nominated to represent USA for something (I’m not in the know, unfortunately; perhaps it has something to do with the title of the live which is quite the mouthful). Aqours then performed “Sunshine Pikkapika Ondo” (with Chika slamming on the festival drums!!!). Edit: the Aqourainbow, in which everyone waves their penlights set to a particular colour according to the row they’re in, which results in a rainbow-like effect, came during the conclusion of the concert which left Chika on the verge of crying tears of happiness, along with Riko, whereas You couldn’t help but beam her usual radiant smile. I’m sure all of the other girls were besides themselves with bliss, too, but the screens focused primarily on the second-years…
The girls walked back and forth on stage several times before leaving and causing us to feel empty.
While I felt like many of us could understand what the girls were saying, the fact remains that not every American fan is fluent in Japanese so some bits and pieces were missed. Be that as it may, there was a translator on-stage at times…who always chose the wrong times to butt in and to stay out. No offense, lady, but we don’t need a translator when Yoshiko is asking if the bat wings on her shoes are kawaii (they are mad cute). But it would have been good if you chimed in while Mari was being chosen to represent USA for something I didn’t fully understand.
I also felt that Dia was a bit underenthused during this live. Maybe she was feeling a bit off tonight. Still, she did great as with everyone else. Ah, Aqours, you’re incredible, inspirational… I’m so glad I learned of you girls. I’m so happy you were given a chance to become top tier idols. What a blessed life and age we live in.