Tuesday, 31 May 2016

BLOG -- Recap of May

The end of May came really quickly. It took me about two weeks to adjust back to the Toronto timezone so I've been pretty out of it. All I keep thinking is that I want to be back there... among other things, lol.

Outings/Events in May:
- Was still in Japan (blogs will be coming out sometime in June!).

- Attended the Hatsune Miku concert in Toronto, and the short film festival the next day.

- Stayed over at my sister's place x1.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn achievements / news: 
-I re-subscribed... that's about it right now.

- (Food): Chocolate Whoopie Pie Donut -- This was a new limited donut at Tim Hortons (during one of the rare times I was actually there). This was really sweet and yummy.

- (Food): Raspberry Truffle Donut -- This was another new limited donut at Tim Hortons. At first it tasted like any regular donut -- and then I bit into the filling -- and I thought 'Oh! I wasn't expecting any filling!'. I'd like to try it again, lol. 

- (Movie): Captain America: Civil War -- I have mixed personal feelings about this movie... but it's very good. Funny enough... I actually watched Civil War today (weeks, weeks after its release). It was nice to still see a lot of people in the theatre.

- (Movie): Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon -- A little less torturous than the second movie, but oh my -- what a long movie. I started playing Miitomo halfway through, because I figured that the second half would be full of action scenes. I was kinda right, lol.

- (Movie): Chicago -- I'm glad I watched this for free on the plane. I do not like any of the main characters, so I didn't really like this movie. The only song I enjoyed was Cell Block Tango.

- (Movie): Hitman: Agent 47 -- I guess it's crazy to say, but I thought this movie was okay -- a bit better than the original version. I would have liked a bit more emotion on 47, though.

- (Movie): The 5th Wave -- I was expecting a lot of sappy romance due to the trailer, but thankfully there weren't too many moments. This movie was just okay.

- (Movie): Beautiful Creatures -- From movie posters, I had no idea what kind of movie this would be. It was pretty decent. I think there was some nice dialogue between characters.

- (Movie): Terminator: Genisys -- I'm glad I don't watch many movie trailers, so I was able to react to everything genuinely.

- (Movie): The Purge -- This was... ugh.

- (Anime): Ef - A Tale of Memories -- It's nicely done, but I found it to be a bit too artsy sometimes. Plus I really didn't like a couple of the characters. The only two I was cheering for was Chihiro and Renji.

- Nothing this month.

- (Manga): Prophecy by Tetsuya Tsutsui -- The first volume bored me very much. I think this is my second time getting bored from reading manga. It started picking up halfway through the series. Thank goodness it was only three volumes long.

Playing (not all at once):
- (PS4): Dragon Ball Xenoverse
- (PS4): J-Stars Victory Vs+
- (PS4): Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below  
- (PS3): Borderlands 2
- (3DS): Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure
- (3DS): Fantasy Life
- (3DS): Shantae
- (GBA): The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition   
- (PSP): Persona 
- (PSP): Crush
- (PSP): Corpse Party
- (PSVita): Persona 4 Golden
- (Wii): Fortune Street 
- (PS2): Atelier Iris 2 
- (PC): UnEpic  
- (PC): King's Bounty: The Legend
- (Mobile): Dragon Quest II

- (TV Show): The Walking Dead (Season 5)
- (TV Show): Orphan Black (Season 3)
- (TV Show): Criminal Minds (Season 10)
- (TV Show): Six Feet Under (Season 1 - Episode 3)  
- (Anime): Yu Yu Hakusho (don't remember)
- (Anime): Log Horizon (episode 3)
- (Anime): K-On! Season 2 (episode 3)

- (Manga): Elemental Gelade by Mayumi Azuma (Volume 5) 

That's it for May. Here are a couple pics I took this month plus a YouTube movie review I found amusing.

 This is the raspberry truffle donut from Tim Horton's. 
Mmmm, I wanna eat it again, lol.

My sister bought this recently. Do you remember Trix? 
I honestly don't remember eating it back then, but I'm sure I did.

Jeremy Jahns' review of the 5th Wave. I don't know why, 
but I find this pretty entertaining and funny.

Thanks for reading! As usual, if you have any questions / comments about anything, feel free. :)

Monday, 23 May 2016

BLOG -- Hatsune Miku Expo 2016 North America @ Sony Centre (May 20, 2016) + Miku Expo Short Film Festival (May 21, 2016)

You may have thought that my first blog would be about my trip to Japan... but this happened soon after I got back. I already know that my Japan trip will span multiple blog entries so... I figured let's do this now while it's still fresh in my mind -- and while I'm still so pumped that I actually went and experienced it!

Me and Hatsune Miku
For those who don't know, I am a huge fan of Hatsune Miku. I love the whole idea of her. You can read more about my thoughts about her in a previous blog entry, but the thing I love most is the encouragement of creation -- music, art, cosplay, writing, maybe even cooking (are there Hatsune Miku-themed food dishes out there??). I remember attending a Hatsune Miku Panel during Fan Expo Canada 2013 and Crypton (creator of the Hatsune Miku voice synthesizing program) explained that Hatsune Miku live concerts are like a celebration of creation.

And one of those concerts are coming to Toronto? You'd bet I'd attend!


The Little Details
Date of Concert: Friday May 20, 2016
Venue: Sony Centre (Toronto, Ontario)
Time: 8:00 PM
Ticket Price Total: $119.19
Seating: Orchestra 17, Row Q, Seat 44
Went with: Sister, her husband, and a friend

5:00-ish PM -- @ Sony Centre
So we got down to the Sony Centre so early so we could eat some dinner. Before heading into a nearby restaurant, we noticed there was already a small crowd outside the Sony Centre. I thought, They must be so excited for the Miku concert that they'd be willing to wait for 2/2.5 hours for the doors to open!

When we finished eating around 6:30 PM and walked over to the Sony Centre, there was a larger crowd and a long, long line. Why would they need to line up to get in? All seats are reserved. So we followed the line and it led us to...

So that's why there was a crowd outside the Sony Centre so early! Thinking of my past experiences of how crowded the merchandise table got from past concerts like Distant Worlds, I thought having a merchandise table outside the venue was very clever. Now fans can take their time and do their shopping without having to rush to their seats. Even though the line was really long, I lined up, as something to do before doors opened. The wait was about 40 minutes for me.

To the best of my memory, they were selling the following at these prices (some of the prices might be off):

-Black Hoodie -- $60
-T-shirts (3 designs) -- $35 each
-T-shirt (more colourful) -- $45
-Wallscrolls (2 designs) -- $40 each
-Long poster -- $40
-Backpack -- $50
-Tote bag -- $15
-Pouches (2 designs) -- $10 each
-Keychain -- $5
-Wristband -- $5

Unfortunately, nothing at the table was a must-get for me, but I got a couple small things to remind me of this day. The backpack was a bit tempting, but I already bought a backpack recently. Where were the giant leeks??!

Crowd-wise, I was happy to see the diversity. It just goes to show that "geek culture" or "nerd culture" is encompassing more than the old stereotypes these days. I also saw many people dressed up as Miku or wearing pretty dresses or just dressing super nicely. I was in the latter, wearing a pleated plaid skirt that I wouldn't normally wear out (even though I would want to). I think for many of us, the Miku concert was a chance to show our "inner geek" and be comfortable with it. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to take many photos as I was still in the line-up for the merchandise table.

One really neat thing I saw was somebody cosplayed as Kaito and he was carrying around a small doll dressed as Hatsune Miku and setting her on a tripod stand thing at various spots outside the Sony Centre. It wasn't until later that I found out she was a Dollfie Dream. When I got home, I looked up how to order one... and was turned away by the price... ahhh... :( If you want to check it out, here is the link. It looks like the actual doll is out of stock at the time of this writing, though.

There is currently a Snow Miku version up for pre-order, but supposedly the pre-order window goes until June 10. ... just how many other Hatsune Miku-related merchandise could I buy with 650 USD?? The site doesn't specify what currency the price is, but I am guessing USD since it has "USA" in the link name. Ahhh... I am just complaining because I want it, but I can't bring myself to justify the purchase at all, knowing how spread out my interests go... Now, if they released a Dollfie Dream of Kaito, I may think about re-adjusting my spending in other places, lol... <3.

Around 7 PM, the doors finally opened, but I was still in the merchandise line-up. When I finally got inside, there were two more merchandise tables! They were selling about the same things as outside, but also a pair of socks ($20), and a couple more T-shirt designs. Having three merchandise tables instead of just one? Smart move. I took a couple pics of cosplayers and then went to my seat. I was handed a glow stick and I grabbed a guide book that was on a ledge. Inside the auditorium, I saw this really awesome cosplay of Hatsune Miku in her Senbonzakura outfit, but it was five minutes before show time... :(

The Guide Book, the glow sticks, and two keychains I got. 
I was really supposed to get one glow stick, but I passed by 
two people who were handing them out. I... didn't know 
it was one glow stick per person.

Two tote bags I got. It never hurts to get extra tote bags! :3

A paparazzi-type shot of a Luka cosplayer (circled in yellow) 
casually having dinner with her friends. 

Oops! I think she saw me!

A shot of the Dollfie Dream Hatsune Miku in her Mikuzukin outfit. 
Soooo pretty! Click the pic to enlarge. 

Kaito cosplayer taking a pic of his Dollfie Dream. 

The stage! Look at all the cosplays spread all over. 

The glow stick. I used one. The other one is in safekeeping.

8:00 PM-ish -- Opening Act

So... I am a bit embarrassed to say, but I totally forgot there was an opening act. I had my camera ready, just waiting for Miku to pop up any moment. Ten minutes in and no Miku, I thought, They must really enjoy teasing us, lol. And then I remembered reading somewhere that Anamanaguchi was opening the Miku concerts. Once I realized that Miku wasn't showing up just yet, I relaxed and absorbed into the music. I really enjoyed them! I think they were a good choice as the opening act.

My best shot at capturing the Hatsune Miku Senbonzakura cosplayer 
with my phone. This was after the opening act while the stage was getting prepped.

8:30 PM-ish -- Hatsune Miku!
Honestly... I don't think words would ever be able to accurately describe my experience -- but I will do my best.

Through the whole concert, I was on my feet. I should have known that experiencing a Miku concert while sitting down would be kinda impossible -- not with all the energetic tunes being played. Unfortunately, with the standing and all the glow stick waving, it was difficult at times to get a clear visual of the stage. Possible solutions to this in the future would be either getting closer seats or changing venues where the stage was more elevated. Despite those things, just being there among such a high energy audience... just wow.

I have no doubt in my mind that everybody who was there -- really wanted to be there. The cheering, the glow stick waving, sometimes screaming "yeah!" when the song called for it. It was a really responsive bunch! Myself, I didn't scream "yeah!", but I cheered like crazy whenever a song I really liked was performed, and I waved that glow stick through almost every song. I will make a note, though, to keep a light purse next time. My shoulder was aching so much after the concert, hahaha.

The visuals? Just -- wow. I don't know how they did it, but Miku, Kaito, Luka, Rin, Len, Meiko all looked so real and 3D! I could see the reflection of their feet on the stage! I personally don't think video-recordings do it justice. You really gotta see it in person to see the magic.

Song-wise, there was a large number of songs I recognized. There were some songs I was really wishing would be performed, but the setlist we got was very good. Many of the tracks were from the Project Diva F games, which I think was a wise choice. Even for me, my fandom for Miku didn't start until I played the Project Diva game on the PSP. I'll give the full setlist after all my summaries.

When they performed Glass Wall, internally I was floored. That's a track that was created a couple years ago on the Hatsune Miku V3 English software! I remember it was created soon after the English software's release and I liked the lyrics. Again I thought, Lives are a celebration of creation... It's just so amazing, thinking about it.

Some other thoughts / observations:
1. When Len performed Butterfly on Your Right Shoulder, at one point he split into five copies of himself. Immediately I thought (without any malice), There's your next One Direction group!

2. When Meiko performed Change Me and shook her butt at us for several seconds, the audience got wilder and cheered more. Hehe, cute.

3. I was so stoked when she performed Koi wa Sensou. Even though it was a shortened version, I was so happy. The song's got a special place in my heart. I was also very happy when I could hear other audience members singing along.

4. When Miku said she was going to perform the last song, there was a mix of cheers (I think as a way of saying thanks) and "Boo"s from the audience. One audience member shouted, "Don't leave us!" I was a bit sad when she said that.

5. After the opening act ended, an audience member passed our seats, needing to go to the washroom. We never saw him return... o.O

10:15 PM-ish -- Encore
After the last song ended and the lights went down, everybody was still there. One side of the audience was yelling "En-cor-re! En-cor-re!", but then quickly changed to "Mi-ku! Mi-ku!" to match the other side of the audience. The crowd would start cheering whenever movement was spotted on stage. Then "Mi-ku! Mi-ku!" would start up again. After what felt like 10 long minutes, Anamanaguchi came onstage... and then Miku!

Anamanaguchi and Miku performed for three tracks, and then the lights went off again. The crowd yelled, "One more song! One more song!". A few minutes later, Miku appeared. There were no band members this time but a piano was on the stage. She then treated us to what I consider to be one of the most beautiful songs of the concert. So... breathtaking... I didn't wave my glow stick for this last song. I just stood there, drinking in the beautiful notes... <3

The concert ended at 10:40 PM.

Overall Experience
Wow -- just wow. It feels like a dream, my being there. I think that means I enjoyed myself greatly. I really hope she comes to Canada again, because I would definitely go again! Now I really, really want to cosplay as her!

If you haven't yet attended a Hatsune Miku concert, I highly recommend it! Just try to get seats closer to the front or somewhere where nobody or not many can be blocking your field of vision when you inevitably jump out of your seat and rock to your heart's content.

Last but not least...

Snow Miku!

Len in his Dream-Eating Monochrome Baku outfit.
Check out the Miku cosplayer in the Attack on Titan outfit in the back, lol.

Kaito in his Senbonzakura outfit. Those eyes... so intense! Lol XD

If I missed listing any performances, please let me know. I've linked each song to a YouTube video if you were curious about any of the tracks. I've also left commentary on some of the tracks -- often just me gushing.

The World is Mine by ryo / Supercell (Hatsune Miku) <-- A total given
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku by cosMo@bousou-P (Hatsune Miku)
Two-Sided Lovers by Wowaka (Hatsune Miku) <-- Yesssss!!!!
Unhappy Refrain by Wowaka (Hatsune Miku) <-- Woot!
World's End Dancehall by Wowaka (Hatsune Miku x Megurine Luka)
Magnet by minato (Hatsune Miku x Megurine Luka) <-- I really like this song!
Weekender Girl by livetune, Hachioji P (Hatsune Miku)
Deep Sea Girl by Yuyuu-P (Hatsune Miku)
Glass Wall by GuitarHeroPianoZero (Hatsune Miku) <-- The lyrics really speak to me.
Snowman by halyosy (Kaito)
Change Me by shu-t (Meiko)
Tokyo Teddy Bear by Neru (Kagamine Rin)
Butterfly on Your Right Shoulder by Nori-P (Kagamine Len)
Remote Control by Jesus-P (Kagamine Rin x Kagamine Len)
Koi wa Sensou by ryo / Supercell (Hatsune Miku) <-- Yayyyyyyyyy!!! XDDDD <3
Last Night, Good Night by kz (Hatsune Miku) <-- I really like this
Ten Thousand Stars by CircusP (Hatsune Miku) <-- I like the catchiness of this
Just Be Friends by Dixie Flatline (Megurine Luka)
Secret Police by Buriru-P (Hatsune Miku)
The Intense Voice of Hatsune Miku by cosMo@bousou-P (Hatsune Miku)
Prayer of Love ~extend your wave~ by Sugiyama Keiichi, YUMIKO, Wowaka (Hatsune Miku)
Tell Your World by livetune (Hatsune Miku) <-- Love this song
Blue Star by Hachioji P (Hatsune Miku)

Encore (with Anamanaguchi)
Sharing the World by BIGHEAD (Hatsune Miku)
Miku by Anamanaguchi (Hatsune Miku) <-- very catchy!
39 (Thank You) by sasakure.UK, DECO*27 (Hatsune Miku)

Encore (Miku's solo)
Hoshi no Kakera (Piano version) by ...??? (Hatsune Miku) <-- This is just so... beautiful...


The Little Details
Date: Saturday May 21, 2016
Venue: Art Gallery of Ontario (aka AGO) -Jackman Hall- (Toronto, Ontario)
Time: 11:30 AM (Doors opened at 10:30 AM)
Ticket Price Total: $20
Went with: MYSELF

6:15 AM-ish -- My Morning
Well, maybe it was me still feeling jetlagged, or maybe it was because I overexerted myself at the Miku concert the night before, but I woke up feeling very, very sick. My stomach felt weird. My body felt out-of-place. All I wanted to do was stay curled up under the covers, though even that offered little comfort to my mind. I was seriously thinking of skipping the short film festival, but I kept telling myself that I had to at least try. I hate missing out and I hate regretting things!

After dragging myself up to a warm shower, and having some breakfast, I felt well enough and left around 9 AM.

9:30 AM @ Jackman Hall Entrance
I haven't been to the AGO in a long time, so I got downtown early to factor in some time getting lost. Thankfully the rectangular sign with a Hatsune Miku image told me I was in the right spot. Annnd of course there would be a line-up, lol. I was probably the 10th person there, so it wasn't bad. I waved to a friend who was helping out with the event and then I played on my 3DS, waiting for the doors to open.

The Miku Supporter pin that was given with my admission.

A sheet detailing the films that would be shown, a sticker, plus a 
raffle ticket. The winner of the raffle would get a 
Nendoroid Snow Miku. I did not win, awww. Oh well, lol.

10:30 AM-ish -- Doors Open
Things were quite orderly in the beginning. It kinda reminded me of my time in Japan where there is only one path to go when checking out exhibits and such. Then things got a bit messy when we reached the merchandise table. I am guessing they were hoping it would work as a conveyor belt where we would grab items as we go down the table and then pay at the end, but... well... I have to see everything that's there before deciding what to get!

So when we reached the table, I broke away from the line and looked at everything. There was a lot more stuff there than at the concert, though a bit pricier, and many of it was Snow Miku themed. I saw the Snow Miku earmuffs I got a couple years in Japan on sale here, though I didn't get to check the price. After making my purchases, I went into the theater room and waited. I was a bit surprised to see what looked like a full house -- only because I wasn't aware of the event until a friend told me about it. Some people were standing along the walls.

The above is the merchandise that I bought. The multiple CDs are for my friends who attended the concert yesterday. They were originally shrink-wrapped, but I opened them all, hoping to get them signed by Hiroyuki Itoh, the CEO of Crypton. We were told that those who make a purchase of at least $30 can take part in that signing. Then I found out that I could only get one item signed. Woops, awww...

Anywho, here's what I got plus the prices, to the best of my memory:
-CDs (x3) -- $30 each
-Fan -- $24
-Pin set -- $16
-Postcard set - $12
-Fancy bookmarks (x4) -- $12 each

A close-up of the fancy bookmarks. They are really so beautiful. 
From left to right: Meiko, Len, Luka, Kaito. They had Rin, too, but it was 
sold out after the film showing. Too bad they didn't have Hatsune Miku at all. :(

11:30 AM-ish -- The Film Showings
The showings consisted of six music videos and two short documentaries. The music videos were okay, and I unfortunately nodded through a couple of the slower ones. I blame that on my jetlag! >__< The two documentaries were really nice, though.

Documentary 1: Mikumentary Remix
This was a documentary focusing on defining Hatsune Miku, and showing all the different identities she could be. It was very well done.

Documentary 2: #UltraMiku Special Edition
This follows three Hatsune Miku fans who make a 5-day road trip from Los Angeles to New York, the two North American concert dates for Miku Expo 2014. The video condensed their journey and it was very entertaining and neat. There was English commentary text, plus English subtitles of their dialogue. One of them also cosplayed as a nice Hatsune Miku a couple times through the trip. I should note that they are all guys! ^_____^

Little did I know but they were actually at the Toronto concert! I found out when I googled #UltraMiku and checked their UStream channel and their latest videos had a "Thank you TORONTO" sign! As of this writing, they are currently on their way to Chicago. You can check out their videos here, but note that there is no English subtitling:

I doubt any of them would stumble upon this blog, but I wish them safe travels! If Miku comes back to Toronto for a concert in the future, I hope I can take a picture of these guys and shake their hands, hahaha. I just gotta show my respect for them being so Ultra Miku! :)

12:30 PM-ish -- Q&A with Hiroyuki Itoh

Q&A with Hiroyuki Itoh (right). On the left is the translator.

The Q&A was very nice and interesting. We didn't get much time with him, but we made the most of it, I think. The first question Hiroyuki Itoh asked us was where we were coming from. I was surprised to see only a handful of the audience was from Toronto. More were from other parts in Canada or outside of Canada. Actually, given that I had little awareness of the event before I was told by a friend, I'm not that surprised in the end.

Some questions asked included:

-how Asami Shimoda, the voice actress for both Kagamine Rin and Len, was selected
(he wanted somebody who could produce different voices, and he knew she was capable of it due to her previous voice acting credits)

-if he had tried poutine yet
(he said not yet, but he is interested in trying it)

-how Hatsune Miku came to be designed the way she was
(he envisioned a character that would be fluid, flowy, and versatile -- like the essence of music, with traces of technology to indicate the technology of the voice synthesizing software)

-if there were plans for the Hatsune Miku software to be released in other languages
(he said there were no current plans for it as it would involve having Saki Fujita, the voice actress for Hatsune Miku, learn another language)

The Q&A ended around 1 PM.

Overall Experience
It was a nice event. I enjoyed browsing through the merchandise, watching the films, and listening to the Q&A. It was nice to sit back and enjoy myself after such a high energy concert. You know, to heal up my sore feet, lol. I'm glad I didn't miss it!

That's it for this blog! Thanks for reading! *sigh* I wish the Miku concert was still going on in Toronto, hahaha...

The next blog should have something to do with my trip to Japan -- that is, unless my end-of-month blog comes first. I think I am still jetlagged, blahhh...

Anywho, if you have any questions or comments, feel free. Till next time! :)