Posted in Music, Review

Hora issho ni: “okaeri”

If you think Japonism Show in Arena is simply the Arena version of Japonism Tour, then you are: 1) underestimating Arashi’s concert leader, Matsumoto Jun, and 2) dead wrong.

I was guilty of it too, admittedly. When i first heard that the group decided to do Arena Tour after nine years of holding concerts in bigger venues like Dome and the National Stadium, i thought it was gonna be an extension of the five-dome tour. But it took me only the first a few songs to realize the different setlist, which goes beyond rearranging the songs order. In fact, besides having a number of songs performed in similar fashion, JapoAri as some call it — feels and looks like an entirely different concert.

It is not a spin-off; it has a life of its own. Well, i should’ve seen it coming the moment the fivesome bothered to come up with a special song for the occasion. Because even when the performances are inherently the same, the elements are tweaked — the transitions, the outfits, even parts of the choreo — that not one number is a rehash. Which is quite a feat considering they had only four months to brainstorm and prepare a brand new production since the last one ended, in between their group and individual projects, and approximately three months to prep for the next tour, Are You Happy?

If anything, these back-to-back tours are a testament to Arashi’s creativity, professionalism, and hard work. You can tell these guys never half-ass anything; they’re raising the bar every year and outdoing themselves in every gig. Like, i can go on and on about how good their concert is and how it’s their best yet…until the newest one is out. It’s getting harder to rank their concerts these days, but JapoAri is definitely in my Top 3. I know i mentioned how mesmerizing and a must-watch Japonism is, but this one is otherworldly good and beautiful. (I daresay you are missing out if you don’t watch it. Or own a copy.)

I don’t even know if that’s a fitting adjective to describe the quality. It overwhelmed me with feels from the very first song: Tadaima. Honestly, i wasn’t a big fan of the song in itself. I LOVE the message but found the composition too quiet and the melody too sparse. But hearing it as the opening number gave a totally different impression. Seeing only their silhouettes against the black screen displaying the lyrics phrase by phrase, on top of photos collage, before the venue finally lighted up and brought color to the performers on stage… the chills were nonstop. I also said i could imagine the feeling of singing “okaeri~” to them, but i was wrong. Doing so in front of my computer was already enough to make me nearly tear up; i don’t know what the concert-goers felt in that moment, being there in person. Tadaima has thus officially become one of the most memorable concert openers.

Another Show performance that upped the song’s likability is Mikazuki. Despite having the traditional sounds that fit the album/tour theme closely, this song was left out from the original setlist. Hence my curiosity of watching it sung here, and boy was it ethereal: wisps of member-colored lights flying about then materializing into the real thing; the members draped in full-body white frills which glowed; the penlights twinkled in succession as the moving stage passed through them as if the fivesome were light fairies. It was as surreal as it was mystical.

What followed the glowy gowns were LED light-up suits. Aiba had worn similar kind for his Magical Song solo during the 2010-11 Scene Tour, though this time the costumes had way more (colorful) lights and patterns on them. The result? Magical as ever.

Arena Tour may have shorter concert duration and smaller capacity than the dome counterpart, but it’s also packed with more gimmicks. Shortly after Jun powered up his customized DJxMJ app and played with the venue’s lighting and the crowd’s penlights, it dawned on me that concert stages are his playground, really. He can do whatever suits his fancy ideas, be it creating a sepia-colored world, which wasn’t a camera trick, summoning the other four to the stage like a mojo, or yunno, casually munching on a banana during the MC Talk like nothing. Awe-some.

This also proves that grand production is capable of being implemented anywhere. An artist needs no huge venues to create a memorably magnificent concert. It’s the thoughts and execution that count. 🙂

That said, JapoAri isn’t as ‘Japonism’-heavy as the archetype. While i know the concept went beyond traditional Japanese sounds, that the theme i had in mind, and i felt like that touch/flavor was lost in the middle of the show. For instance, only half of the album tracks were sung. If we include Johnny’s Entertainment in it, however, then yes. There were montages and clips showing Arashi’s earlier works and moments, not to mention nostalgic numbers — Everybody zenshin or the epic “natsukashii solo medley”.

 

‘Cause who doesn’t love Disco Star? The Digitalian Tour’s solo was riotous and the other four were happily mimicking the moves here and there, my only hope was for them to perform the piece alongside Disco Star-sama. Which is granted two years later. It wasn’t the full song; it wasn’t even the one-half version, but it was 1 minute and 35 seconds full of crack. And the members were as thrilled dancing to it as they were for 2012 Arafes’ Shake it!

Next up: Rain. I remember being disappointed when the other four weren’t on stage with Ohno, and that slight displeasure was finally assuaged here. Then, they entered the magic boxes and reappeared in animal costumes to dance to Himitsu. A throwback to Arafes 2013 moment, although i doubt the members were inside the mascots this time. Likewise, Jun and Sho had theirs, Shake it! and T.A.B.O.O respectively, with their kouhais. Of course i wish all five of them could be there for every solo, but i guess this segment completes what’s missing from Arafes 2012-13, so i cannot really grumble about it.

And although none of the album’s solos was sung in this occasion, we still got to see their dome’s gigs: Nino’s tap dance, Sho’s drumline, Aiba’s aerial stunt, Ohno’s mask magic. No parkour from Jun, but we got the super cool DJxMJ-turned-VJxMJ in return.

As if the above gems aren’t enough, there were many combi/OT5 moments. The most notable ones were probably Ohmiya sword fight during Bolero! and Jun’s archery-turned-blowgun shenanigans during Ai wo sakebe. These bakas going along with the youngest’s antics yet not entertaining their leader’s. How dare they! LOL.

Seriously, there’s something worth mentioning in every single song and/or performance. It’s kinda impossible to include everything, unless i list them like my Scene Tour post, but i think i’ve covered most of them here. Super late spoilers warning. Haha. But really, JapoAri is arguably the epitome of Arashi’s brand of entertainment, providing Arashi’s concert experience at (one of) its best. There’s fun, there’s beauty, there’s awe, there’s humor, and most importantly, there’s heart.

I’m grateful JE decided to release this concert, DVD quality notwithstanding.

_
ARASHI “Japonism Show” in ARENA – Yokohama Arena
© Johnny & Associates, J Storm
ARASHI: Aiba Masaki, Matsumoto Jun, Ninomiya Kazunari, Ohno Satoshi, Sakurai Sho

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