Friday, February 28, 2020

Rockman Live 2020 Impressions by Pablo Montero

Hello, my name is Pablo and I’m from Mexico. At the start of the year I went to Japan for vacation, right during the time of the Rockman Live 2020 concerts in Tokyo. The shows came as part of promotion for the upcoming Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection releasing this week, presenting music from the Classic, EXE, Zero and ZX series. I live-tweeted about the event here and Rockman Corner asked me to write a retrospective on the matter, so here it is!

I originally intended to travel to play with the Japanese Rockman EXE online community (in case you don’t know, EXE/Battle Network has an online scene which is a lil’ lowkey, but it’s very hype), so seeing EXE in the roster was enough of a selling point for me to attend since I was already in town during that time. Funnily enough, the day of the first concert (January, 4th) there was a 4-man online tournament that night, so it was a pretty good day for Rockman stuff.

But before attending the event you need to get a ticket, which was a tad more complicated than you would expect. I went with 7-Ticket out of the multiple options they had online like Lawson, Rakuten, etc., but the website is only in Japanese, which prompted some Google Translate from my part to make an account and clear a captcha in hiragana.

An Super VIP pass was the objective, the highest type of ticket you could acquire, giving you extras like a bluetooth speaker and a card signed by the band/special guests, but it was already sold out for the Tokyo concerts (this happened around November 2019) so I got an S pass instead. However, after going online you are provided a 24-hour code that you need to show at a 7-Store in Japan to actually get the ticket. This could have been an issue but luckily I had a homie on the ground able to pick it up for me, so keep that in mind if you ever attend a concert or use these ticketing systems in Japan.

The morning of January, 4th  I woke up and headed to Shinagawa Intercity Hall blindly following Google Maps with no idea of what to expect. The concert started at 5PM and when I arrived at 2:30PM there was already a line, though I wasn’t exactly sure if it was for concert entry or something else. Closer to 3PM two event staff members started giving instructions through a loudspeaker and I caught on that the line was for merch as people started moving closer to the entrance desks and gacha machines were brought out.

The gachas had keychains and they sold out FAST. For reference, only a certain amount could be bought per person (to prevent scalping) and they still ran out before it was my turn, even being within the first 50 persons to buy. It wasn’t the only thing to sell out either, some other items like the Battle Network colorway of the event wristband sold quite fast too, so I got the Classic one instead.

After buying merch it was chill for a while with people hanging out close to the concert hall entrance. During this time I saw someone with a Lan/Netto cosplay and asked them for a photo, there was also a separate person cosplaying as Lan’s dad and they took pictures together (the only two actual cosplays I saw throughout the event), then someone recognized I had a t-shirt with the NeoVaria chip on it, we chatted for a bit and I got to say “Double Dream Sword” out loud to another person in real life. I was elated.

At about 4:30PM event staff came out again to tell people to line up for entry into the concert, forming different lines for each ticket type. It was strange because, despite lining up, people were called to enter one by one based on the number they had on their pass (all tickets are numbered, I was S-105). It was around this time that Reploid 21XX reached out to me through Twitter DM asking about the Rockman VS Forte EXE statue, which apparently was on display at the event, so I got into the concert hall and started looking around for it.

Upon stepping inside there was a reception area populated with different tables, activities and stands. At the very entrance there were flower arrangements beautifully paired with posters of the event, as well as panels on the walls and along the ground with characters like Phantom, Pandora and others from the Zero/ZX Collection. On the left side were various displays: one showcasing artwork and another displaying physical figures like the X3 and Zero Kotobukiya models, or the Rockman VS Forte EXE statue which was still a greyscale prototype, so I took the chance to snap some pictures of it for the homie Reploid.

There were two more tables dedicated to the actual games, one showing the series’ current generation releases for Switch/PS4 with some artwork on the side, and another one highlighting each Rockman series represented in the concert alongside their original releases, with a Rockman 2 Famicom cartridge for Classic, a GBA cart for EXE and the upcoming Zero/ZX Collection case.

The right side of the hall had two large blank cards that people could write in and leave messages, and next to that was the actual merch area within the venue, selling whatever was left after the early sale. At the back, close to the entrance of where the concert would take place, was a line for a photo with Rockman.EXE and Blues.EXE. At first I thought it was VIP only due to a sign in the back (you can see it in the picture below), which demoralized me for a moment, but after reading carefully it was just an indication for the VIP entrance to the concert, so I lined up for a photo myself. Rock and Blues were very nice and played along cheerfully with the audience that came for a picture, it was very fun!

After exploring the reception for a bit and taking photos for people online to follow along, I entered the actual concert area, a large interior floor sectioned by ticket type, with S-VIP at the very front, VIP along the upper half and S for the rest room. It was standing-only, but I think I saw a few chairs towards the very front too, and a production area in the back for audio mixing. The exits were at the sides, and above them were two balconies with a view to the stage, which had the Rockman Live logo on screen and a Zero/ZX Collection trailer on loop before the show. I managed to find a spot right against the barrier separating S and VIP, which gave me a pretty good view of the stage and screen, and close by I heard a group of 3 persons speaking English, the only other foreigners I saw throughout the event. We chatted briefly and soon after the lights went off and the screen turned black. The show is about to start.

Everything’s dark, a synth creeps in and “1988” appears on screen in pixelated letters, followed by Mari Matsubara on violin playing the opening melody for Rockman 2 as the intro animation plays out on the large screen behind her. The take begins to move up and MOS enters for build up, then the entire band breaks in with the title theme as the logo appears. It’s lit! The concert starts in full force and kicks off with Classic music, going into Stage Select followed by Air Man’s theme. Between tracks comes Nozomi Yuzuriha in a red kimono, then Rockman Unity’s Ucchy-san, the MCs for the event; they introduce themselves and talk for a bit before the show continues with more Classic themes.

Some more songs pass, the music stops and the room goes silent for a second, then a voice of excitement is heard. It’s Netto (Lan) Hikari and Rockman.EXE talking about the concert, with an image of the two appearing on screen while they talk. The MCs come out and they introduce Kumiko Higa and Akiko Kimura, the seiyuus for both characters. They talk about the EXE series and the anime, mentioning it has been 19 years since and how back then people had to use broadband to connect to the Internet, also giving their thanks to the audience for coming and supporting the series up to this day. To finish their appearance the two played out a short voice scene doing the GigaCannon Program Advance, then the next section of the concert started with the theme of Rockman EXE.

This part of the concert was the bulk of my interest in attending, so I was looking forward to it, specifically the Net Battle theme which is a personal favorite. The arrangements were great but shorter than I would’ve liked, with Fire Field and Vs. Dream Virus sticking out as highlights. Looking back at it, this section seemed like the fastest from the entire concert, which may have felt so due to not having any breaks in between tracks, but overall it was still very enjoyable.

With the last song over, the seiyuus appeared one more time to say goodbye, the band also leaving the stage to give way for Captune, the Capcom Sound Team band. For those interested in the instrumentation used, both bands had their own gear, with two drum sets on stage for example (one for the concert band and one for Captune), so transition was pretty smooth and had a super crisp intro tune as their logo appeared on screen. They played one track out of each of the series starting with Running Through The Cyber World, then Esperanto (a banger btw) and Dr. Wily Stage, also doing a band roll call that intermixed the Get Weapon tune from Classic in it. Their performance was energetic and had a refreshing sound to it that made me appreciate each band’s arrangements rather than feel as listening to some of the same songs again.

Captune finished and the MCs came out to chat with the band lead (I forget who he was, either Shinya Okada or Yasumasa Kitagawa). At one point they were talking about the previous sound work made by the members of the team, with X8 coming up at one point in the conversation (though unclear on the specific context) to much audience hype at anything closely related to the idea of X9.

The next part of the concert really surprised me the most. When Captune left, the original group didn’t show up again, but rather four girls of different primary colors doing the hypest choreography ever. It was idol group TEAM SHACHI performing Rocket Queen, a collaboration with Rockman that also has a game available for mobile and browsers. I had never seen this before in my life but I was blown away and jamming to the track within seconds, then rapper MCU came out to do a verse and they all finished off the song together in great fashion.

More conversation ensues between the group and the MCs, followed by the appearance of Kazuhiro Tsuchiya, producer for the Rockman series. There was a moment between Tsuchiya and MCU were they made reference to Tokyo 2020, but I didn’t understand much of the context beyond that to say what it was entirely about. After that he talked about the Zero/ZX Collection, the delay and new release date, and thanked the fans for attending, bowing before leaving and setting the stage for the last part of the concert.

This last section was entirely dedicated to Zero and ZX. After some songs there was a small pause similar to Classic at the start where the band did a funny bit between concert band lead Noriyuki Iwadare and Noriyuki Kamikura on keyboard/guitar (I have no idea if they are related or not) acting like they were the EXE seiyuus. It’s hard to explain through writing, but trust me, it was funny. But something else also happened later on, with Iwadare asking for a moment of silence for Yu “Masshoi” Yamauchi, a band member that had passed away prior to the concert. The audience obliged and respect was given, RIP.

Kamikura then took the mic to introduce the last set of tracks they were going to play. It was stacked with bangers, starting with Cannon Ball from Zero 3 and paired with others like Trap Factory / Trap Phantasm. Despite going with a main interest for the EXE part, the arrangements for this section were off the hook and made Zero/ZX justice as the highlight of the event, and it was after this that the announcement was made for the Rockman Zero & ZX SOUND BOX release on March, 25th. A lot of people were expecting some type of announcement during this concert, and it may not have been what they expected (I will admit I personally yelled out for X9 at one moment of the evening) but the concert alone could really sell you on the sound box, which you can pre-order now.

Thus the show was coming to a close, but not before a few more surprise tunes, with the band doing some final Classic songs including the Password Theme (which was fire) and Game Over, then leaving and the lights going off. A few minutes passed and nothing changed, with the audience starting to clap and chant for an encore. It took a moment, but then someone came up on stage, it was Rockman! Then Blues appeared too, and with a flute! The two of them fooled around for a bit before the band got back on, playing Running Through The Cyber World as encore along with the ending theme to Rockman 2 while concert credits rolled on screen, with Tsuchiya, MCs, Captune, TEAM SHACHI and MCU all going on stage as well. It was a celebration and an uplifting finale to the night, it was wild!

The first date of Rockman Live 2020 ended and lights turned on in the room. A voice came from the speakers and thanked the audience for attending, indicating how to exit the venue. The reception hall was still open if people wanted to buy merch or see any of the stands, event staff handed out a survey and promotional flyers, one being a poster for the event and the other a schedule of future concerts in Shinagawa Intercity Hall. Some people gathered around the entrance similar to when merch was being sold, but the event itself was over and everyone slowly dispersed. I met a fellow fan on the way to Shinagawa Station who recognized me as one of the few foreigners, so we chatted while waiting the train and talked about EXE 6, with them mentioning they were coming back the next day for the second concert date.

I got back to my Airbnb at around 10PM, just in time for the weekly EXE online tournament meet up. At this point my retrospective on the concert has basically ended, but the next day I woke up at around 9AM, two hours before doors opened at 11:30AM for the second date, and the only thing I could think of is whether I should go again or not. One of the persons I played EXE with the night before told me they were attending, so I messaged them to see if there were still tickets at the door, to which I got a positive response. It was decided. I got dressed pretty quickly and ran to get the train, grabbing yakitori on the way to the venue a few minutes past 11:30 and successfully snagging another S pass. We’re back at it!

There weren’t many differences in the event itself the second time around. The reception area was pretty much the same, even the large cards that you could sign were the same from the day before, still having open spaces for people to write. Reploid 21XX asked me to get a few more pictures from the stands and while I was doing that I saw the Netto cosplayer from the day before, who also recognized me. We chatted for a bit and introduced me to their friends, with one of them also recognizing me from my message in one of the cards just mentioned, gifting me a gacha keychain. Unbeknownst to me one of the persons in the group was Mint, a famous EXE youtuber in Japan with whom I ended up playing a bunch of matches the days after, he’s very good and I recommend you check him out. It was great to meet Japanese EXE fans, they were very kind and receptive!

In terms of the concert itself there was only one notable change, which was the Classic stages played, this time performing Wood Man, Quick Man and others instead of the ones from the first date. The only other things that I could note are subtle ways in how the show plays out, like the seiyuus doing Cross Fusion instead of a Program Advance, or talking about different topics during breaks, but it was pretty much the same thing, which I had no issue with whatsoever. This time around I wasn’t tweeting or taking photos so I got the chance to further appreciate the arrangements and see how the production was handled, living the moment. There were no other foreigners in sight, with the exception of a person on one of the balconies above, which I can only speculate it as a special/Capcom-related invite, though it’s just a wild guess.

But the one thing I did get to vibrantly perceive was that shit is real out there. Japan loves Rockman, man. I knew it was a thing, but seeing people cry when the seiyuus  got on stage, when the Theme of Zero played, or just about any moment when the audience could show their affection, they really came through. The first date was milder in comparison, but this second one made me really feel the energy and bask in the experience.

To conclude: Rockman Live 2020 was DOPE. LIT. Whatever adjective you use to say something was awesome. I had a legitimate good time and enjoyed myself very much, so I’m satisfied by the event and recommend it to whoever has even a moderate appreciation for Rockman music. Even if you’re not deep into it the music itself is already good enough and to hear it live is a real treat, so if you can spare the opportunity to do it I would definitely say it is worth it. A few personal highlights were the Captune intro, Esperanto, Game Over and Cannon Ball, but the entire show was great and doesn’t drop the ball at any moment. GGs!

That’s pretty much it from me, I hope you enjoyed this retrospective and thank you very much for reading it. If you want to know more stuff in particular from the event you can hit me up on Twitter and I will get back at you. Also consider checking out Mega Man Battle Network 6 online, it’s a wild game! There is a tournament coming up at the end of February by N1GP that uses the Master Class format which is popular in Japan, involving extra chips and the e-reader mod cards for added gameplay depth. And if you want to see how it’s like, I have a bunch of matches up on YouTube.


1 comment:

  1. i wished i had been in Japan around that time.


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