Before I begin, I would like to sincerely apologize for not blogging immediately. I needed about a week or two of *return to real life* recovery after the seemingly long but hyped weekend at Crunchyroll Expo 2022. It’s events like these that gave me a huge smile and pride that I am a Yay Area local. Other events have taken place around my area throughout the years, but if my favorite acts, like MADKID, ever appear in any of the local events here, I will surely be there. For example, another anime con that takes place in the same location, Fanime Con, but they usually take place during Memorial Day weekends. If I were a die-hard anime/manga otaku, I would seriously go there, but because I’m at a casual level, plus it’s also Memorial Day weekend, it will be difficult. Memorial Day weekend is family time for me.
After three long years of absence because of the pandemic, Crunchyroll Expo is back in person, with the virtual method still continuing. CRX has become a hybrid event, so everyone around the world can watch many of its big events!
Awrighty, let’s go!
On August 5 to August 7, the sixth annual Crunchyroll Expo (CRX) was held in person for the first time in three years since the beginning of the pandemic. Attending this year’s CRX would be the second time I will be attending in person. I first attended this (not-so) local event back in 2019 when my favorite J-Pop boy group, MADKID, was invited to appear and perform that year, thanks to the isekai (another world) anime series, The Rising of the Shield Hero. I am a casual anime fan, but at that time, I haven’t been keeping up with the latest anime and manga, and that Shield Hero was the only anime I was watching after some years of being anime-dormant. I ended up watching other current popular anime right after that, such as Demon Slayer and a little bit of My Hero Academia.
This year, my latest anime fix is SPY x FAMILY. That anime series is so wholesome and feel-good that I even ended up re-watching the entire series (English dubbed this time) right after watching the original Japanese version. Of course, the series hasn’t ended yet. After that, I decided to buy the manga (Kindle edition) and hopefully I can be current with it. I haven’t seen Season 2 of Shield Hero yet and I also haven’t kept up with the light novel series also. Maybe I should go back to the light novels first before I start watching S2.
During these three days of CRX, we got engaged in many events and not just one unlike three years ago. Besides MADKID, we also got to see Atarashii Gakko! and a J-Rock band BURNOUT SYNDROMES. Most of the time, we went around the shopping district to purchase some goods of our favorite anime characters. I got quite a lot of SPY x FAMILY-themed perch, but that will be for later (in another blog perhaps).
For this blog post, I will be writing my own reviews of the three musical acts we’ve seen: MADKID, Atarashii Gakko!, and BURNOUT SYNDROMES. Rather than going from top favorite to casual, I will go in order by days these groups performed.
I plan on writing about CRX 2022 on my personal blog one day, so with this one, I’m only going to focus on the J-Pop artists who performed at CRX’s New Crunchy City Music Fest stage.
Alright, let’s go!
CRX 2022 DAY 1: MADKID and ATARASHII GAKKO!
During my long hiatus for about a year (from this blog), I have been branching out with my musical tastes within J-Pop. I started getting into some soloists, a few bands here and there, and even girl groups. The latter has brought me to discovering one of J-Pop’s notable girl groups as of late: ATARASHII GAKKO! (New School!).
But before I talk about AG, I wanted to talk a bit about MADKID. My friend and I manifested that somewhere around downtown San Jose that we will be running into MADKID again, just like how we ran into them near the entrance to the San Jose State campus, the day before their scheduled live. Only this time, it was a lot earlier than expected and it was also at an unexpected location too.
When we entered SJCC after going through some COVID-19 checks, the first time we decided to stop by was the massive shopping district. We were just going to shop for some stuff and also to snag some limited signed copies of MADKID CDs for our friends outside the Bay Area. But just as we entered, my friend immediately spotted a noticeable "red head" just a couple of feet from where we were standing.
Yep, you guessed it. It was YOU-TA, the main vocalist and leader of MADKID. When we got closer, we didn’t even notice that there was another member standing next to him: my MADKID oshi, SHIN.
Three years ago, we got shy when we ran into them. We just said hi and that was it. This time, we decided to have a bit of a "welcome back" chat. I finally introduced myself in person after many years of us communicating through their livestreams. SHIN obviously remembered me, he called my name first before I even said anything. YOU-TA was really graceful then and said "Nice to meet you— finally."
The lottery-based meet & greet gave us the opportunity to get a bit closer to them, and MADKID was holding meet & greet and signings on Friday (8/5) and Saturday (8/6). My friend won a spot for the Saturday M&G. I got lucky and won both days.
The Friday m&g was held around late afternoon. Because this was an entire Shield Hero M&G, that meant that others involved with the music production (including composer Kevin Penkin) was also in the panel. We weren’t allowed to bring personal stuff for them to sign, which meant we can’t even bring MADKID CDs for the boys to sign. Fair enough, I thought.
MADKID were the first in line, with YOU-TA being the first. He started signing a Shield Hero poster when I said hi, and he remembered me then saying "Hey Adrianne, nice seeing you again! Thanks for coming!" We briefly talked about how it had been three years since CRX 2019 and the whole mess with the pandemic, etc. When he was finished, we waved at each other and he said "See you tomorrow!"
When I approached SHIN next, it looked like he was already expecting me. Even though we had our masks on at all times, I could tell by his eyes that he was grinning. I mean, we may be artist and fan, but at the same time, we were kind of like online penpals through his frequent livestreams before. I kinda stumbled a bit with the Japanese because I was a bit nervous (despite that we ran into each other hours earlier), but he said to me in English: "Good to see you again, I’m so happy!" After he was done signing, I said "See you again tomorrow!" And he joked with "Don’t be late!"
LIN was next after him. At first, I was a bit nervous about LIN considering the stories I’ve heard from fellow Axcels (MADKID fans) of his views towards fans (and I get him). But when I approached him and said hi, I introduced myself in Japanese first. He answered me in English with the lines of "Hey wassup, I remember your name! Thanks for coming!" We chatted a bit while he was signing the poster, even a bit longer than I did with YOU-TA. After he was done, I said that I’ll be returning tomorrow, and he answered in the lines of: "For reals? Dang lucky! Aight, cool! See ya!"
When it comes to me, MADKID, and language barriers, KAZUKI would be the toughest for me. Being the only member who is English language-deficient (and both of us know it), I cleared my throat first and re-introduced myself in Japanese. After all, we were wearing masks and it’s not like KAZUKI would even remember how I looked like from three years ago and online. At first, he looked at me as another fan saying in simple English: "Ah, Adrianne, thank you for coming…" Then few seconds later, he realized something: "Chotto matte… Adrianne?… Onaji… Adrianne desu ka? Ehhhh?!" I mentioned my friend’s name and he opened his excitement in Japanese, telling me how it’s been years since we last saw each other, etc. After he was done, I said "Ashita, Kazuki-kun mata aimashou" (Tomorrow, we’ll meet again, Kazuki) and he replied with "Sou desu ne. Bye!" I chuckled a bit as I approached YUKI last.
I first greeted him "Hey Yuki, long time no see. It’s me, Adrianne." Right when he heard my name, he gave me the best reaction of them all: "OMG IT’S ADRIANNE!!" We chatted a bit, mentioned that when I had the time that I still follow his Tiktok and he responded with a bit of his banter saying "I’m still psyched that we were even able to come back here. It’s really looking good from now on." I agreed. Then I said "I’ll be back tomorrow!" and he replied with "Nice! See you tomorrow!"
And so, my first day with MADKID ended then. Because that’s the entire Shield Hero M&G panel, I don’t have any photos, plus we were in a line and we’re moving quickly. I promised to myself that we would be having photos tomorrow. We went back to the shopping district again for the rest of the afternoon until it was time for our one-night appointment with Atarashii Gakko!
Just a quick background regarding this four-member quirky but powerhouse girl group: AG! were formed as an indie/underground girl group back in 2015. Right after, they ended up signing under one of Japan’s notable companies, ASOBISYSTEM, and made their official debut to the mainstream in 2017.
Fast-forward in 2020 during the pandemic, the girls were discovered by an artist or a rep from the (Asian-)American independent label, 88rising, and eventually the girls signed under the label for their American activities. In 2021, 88rising began releasing short videos of the girls with their "instructional" intros to Japanese school life and anything Japanese culture. The girls succeeded in capturing attention of the worldwide audience, and in 2021, AG! made their official American debut by performing in 88rising’s annual music festival, Head in the Clouds, as its first act. Right after their rising global popularity, Japan finally gave attention to these girls that in spring 2022, their first single of that year, WOO! GO! was featured in a Nike Japan commercial titled Nike Juku (Nike Cram School).
Summer 2022 came and AG! returns to California for a series of live event tours. They started by performing at the San Diego Comic Con 2022 in late July. Then weeks later, they arrived in the Bay Area for the first time, to perform at the Crunchyroll Expo 2022.
One of CRX 2022’s newest features since returning in-person was the New Crunchy City Music Fest (NCCMF), where the stage is bigger and a lot roomier to occupy more attendees to watch many events taken place. In comparison to three years ago, this year’s CRX had a long lineup of artists to perform for these three days. On Day 1 (Friday), AG! was the last act of the day, with their live beginning at 8:30 pm until 9:30 pm.
The NCCMF venue was a lot larger, a lot wider, and the stage was large enough for the performers to be free. In addition, the conference room used fo NCCMF can hold twice (make that more than two times) the population capacity from the nightclub three years ago. Compared to three years ago, we knew the final lineup will begin their show with a bang. My friends and I arrived at NCCMF about an hour before, rested and waited at the side seats, then thirty minutes before the show starts, we approached as close as we can to the front. We were close enough, about fourth row, but there were too many taller people in front of me that I wasn’t able to take any videos for this blog at all.
In the beginning, I was the only one who knew about AG, even though I was still new to them (and loved their entire discography by the way). My friends were curious, and I knew it would be hard to convince them because they were mostly boy group/band/male artist fans, like I am. Rather than just having them download their discography from Spotify, etc., I let them be the judge, once the girls come up on stage.
However, a fellow local fan shot the entire footage of the concert. Rather than writing everything here, I’ll let you all be the judge. Still, the ladies are a true powerhouse and they have won me over again.
My friends shared their thoughts and were completely wowed and amazed by the girls’ performance on stage. They all felt the same as I did when I randomly discovered them on YouTube and then later learning that AG already began their U.S. debut last year after signing with famed (Asian) indie label 88rising back in 2020. These girls are quirky, no nonsense, and a lot of fun. But the major plus points here is that they are crazy talented: can dance, can sing, can do acrobatics, they’re like the quirky female mix of Johnny’s groups and E-Girls. They don Showa-era (1930s-1999) seifuku (traditional sailor-style schoolgirl uniforms) and broke the stereotypes of Japanese girls being kawaii brimmed with moe. Nope, not AG— they are the new school leaders, after all.
Mind-blowing powerhouse is all I could say with these girls. They even got cooler when they wore those long gakuran-style (traditional schoolboy uniforms) trench coats to perform the Pineapple Kryptonite Remix and the more "hip" tracks like their latest, WOO! GO! and the single that made their name globally known, NAINAINAI. Of course, there are also awesome J-Pop girl groups of a similar caliber as AG, but after that stage performance, these ladies truly shown that they weren’t playing around.
I wouldn’t say that AG would be my favorite J-Pop girl group. In fact, I currently don’t have a favorite among J-Pop girl groups. I used to have one, but they are long disbanded (SPEED). They were part of my youth from ages ago.
Among AG, I also don’t have an oshi, however, their quirkiest leader Suzuka is slowly about to reach that title. Rin is close to second. Her hidden natural swag is undeniable, both with her rapping and her swaggy Rie Hata-style moves. Mizyu, the oldest who looks like the youngest, and "graceful beauty" Kanon just balances out the all-out dynamics of Suzuka and Rin altogether.
I’ll definitely write more about AG in the future. They just had their solo live in San Francisco a few days ago (8/17). Sadly, I couldn’t come, because of distance, and the fact that it’s a weekday too. But their presence in CRX will definitely not be the last time I would see them live. They already began their revolutionary place right here anyway.
After the live, we had our late dinner at an open food truck just outside of my hotel that serve a fusion of Asian (Chinese) and Mexican dishes. Californian Cuisine is known for its cross-cultural fusions, and I ended up having pasta instead. After we finished our dinner, we parted ways to our respective hotels and retire for the night.
That’s it for Day 1! Day 2 coming soon!