Posted in Music, Review

Hajikeyo~ze!

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I was actually waiting patiently for the news around the release of Popcorn Tour DVD when AraFes took a head start and jumped into the scene a few months earlier. Little wonder given that AraFes was held months before Popcorn Tour officially started, which also gave us ‘teaser’ of what to expect from the upcoming album tour. However, its release was kinda unexpected that it sorta served as a warm-up before the big prize arrives. Yet, it’s the unexpected that breaks bar of built-up expectation, right?

AraFes was thoroughly enjoyable due to the intention behind it — a concert for the fans and performing songs requested by the fans. Not that regular Arashi’s concerts aren’t fans-centric enough, but to think that they’re willing to go the extra mile and exert extra effort to make such a special project happen is… <3. Nevertheless, I was still uber-excited when Popcorn DVD’s finally out 😀

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I’ve been watching and keeping up with Arashi’s concerts since 2007’s TIME (except Beautiful World *sadface*) to get a gist of what their concert’s concepts are. Some components are inevitably perennial, which can get humdrum over time (chide self: stop being a claimer!), but they never fail to come up with several new antics for the next concert that never fail to delight me. Popcorn is no different. More on this later.

My top two tracks from Popcorn (the album) become the concert’s first two opening songs. I got hyper, moreover since I’m lurving Up to you’s choreo. I’d imagined that Welcome to my party ought to be the concert’s opener to hike tensions up, alas the hand choreo kinda kills the fun — too denotative and lack ingenuity. Upon listening to Popcorn the album, ideas were popping out as to what would make a perfect performance of a particular song and thus what I’d love to see at the concert. The different approach taken and implemented doesn’t make the concert less enjoyable, but ineluctably less effectual.

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What makes this concert more alluring is the spilled fact that Ohno was the choreographer behind four of its dance numbers. It’ll be interesting to know what Ohno’s dancing styles and preferences are. However, which four songs exactly they are weren’t spelled out, so let’s take a guess, shall we? In this concert, the new songs that are accompanied by full choreography are Up to you, Welcome to my party, Cosmos, Kakenukero!Tsuite oide, and Kimi ga iru kara. Anything else I missed out? Should I add Waiting for you to the list? Tsuite is one, how about the other three?

(Yes, Tsuite oide’s performed here!! What a pleasant surprise. A solid and strong track that could’ve been promoted as a single as well, which I liked better than the A-side song before the jaunty single eventually got me spellbound, till now. Kimi ga iru kara is also a coupling track, in case you don’t know.)

Cosmos is particularly intriguing because it has two sets of dance moves — Sakumiya vs Juntoshiba. I personally like Sakumiya’s manly energetic moves better than Juntoshiba’s graceful sways with many turns. How nice it’d be if both choreos are shown in full, each takes half a screen, repeating the favor Love situation got on AraFes DVD.

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Popcorn also employs animated characters to tell stories, which then materialize into the real Arashi. Deservedly scream-inducing spectacles. And don’t forget the appearance of our lovely popcorn men. What is Popcorn without popcorn men and those zany popcorn garbs AND heads? The corn kernels are irresistibly cute, with kernel Ohno’s unexpectedly emo and kernel Jun’s annoyingly persistent. The moment they pop out to life, the hall becomes irrepressibly uproarious. At that time and space, our popcorn men act all cutesy and childlike — check out Jun’s epic butt wiggle, Nino’s girlish dreamy pose in front of a camera, or Sho’s theatricality, giving out part of him. Haha.

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My concern on this, fangirling side aside: they are cute and all, but don’t they appeal only to (younger) female audience? Arashi fans may largely be female and at adolescent age, but they shouldn’t alienate male fans who would probably be wowed by cool moves or maneuver. But who am I kidding? Popcorn also shows off those so-called cool effects from lighting sweep-plays to dancing rain/waterfall to shadow casting, not to mention each and every gorgeous visual projected onto the background screen as Arashi belts out Cosmos, Akashi, and Refrain.

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Backtracking, trust Arashi to slip in and out of character at a moment’s notice. All popcorn pretense is soon dropped as Jun transforms back into his usual stoic self and proceeds to his solo We wanna funk, we need a funk. Consult Jun for the most thought-out, showy, gimmick-full performance. Nino reprises Niji’s setting, sitting behind a grand piano as he croons Sore wa yappari kimi deshita. The other three present familiar concept, performing with backdancers.

Dancing-wise. Arashi isn’t a group that dances in sync. Sometimes they do, many times they don’t. That isn’t the aim, I believe, and I don’t really expect them to. Well, I expect more synchronization at single promotion appearances or in PVs, but not during energy-draining concerts like this. As long as the intended effect is achieved, I’m not that nitpick. For me, it is to create a bond with everyone present, be engaging, and most importantly for them to enjoy themselves.

Here, we got Ohno who’s in high spirit; Sho who shows that gesture at a number of occasions — is that heart you’re making?; and Jun who’s totally into being playful with the members — we’re missing out Sakumoto moment though. All things considered, Popcorn is one of their liveliest concerts.

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One particular concert element that always catches my attention in both good and bad ways is the outfits. There are sets of outrageous garbs which have rendered me bewildered… until I read a blogger defending those vibrant, bright, mismatched colored costumes to be one of the factors that enables Arashi members to be seen from afar. Well, that makes sense. However, at such a vast concert hall with tens of thousands of concert-goers, depending on seat location, I believe it’ll be very hard to take a proper look at the performing artist(s) on stage. Let alone if you can only afford to get that uppermost back seat.

Arashi-san always puts their fans in mind and thinks of those who get that most-undesirable seat — sets/tricks to get themselves up and closer to them, or giant screens at different spots, but even so with the bright spotlights and such they won’t help much I guess? If I ever got the chance, I believe binoculars is the ultimate concert-saver must-bring item. Fortunately, the clothing spread gets better with time. I don’t recall a coordination that I dislike from this Popcorn Tour — or even AraFes.

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Regardless, attending an Arashi concert is a doozy experience. Another point made which I agree with. This seemingly simple seasonal avocation is a dream-like involvement for many overseas fans. While going to concert(s) is still one of my goals, with going to Arashi’s concert is a completely separate point to be ticked off, I won’t refer to it as dream because to me dreams scream ‘unattainable’.

That being said, watching these recorded concerts released at a later time and date, I get to enjoy seeing each member up, close, and personal, though merely through computer screen, and lose myself in that moment. It’s a different sensation altogether, one’d argue, but for now, that’s enough of a pleasure for me.

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Popcorn tour DVD – Tokyo Dome
Concert Tour © Johnny & Associates
ARASHI: Aiba Masaki, Matsumoto Jun, Ninomiya Kazunari, Ohno Satoshi, Sakurai Sho

~stills captured from the video subbed by mirei~

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