Almost every day since arriving here in Akihabara, I’ve walked past a big poster in the train station for Game Party Japan 2018. I wasn’t initially too worried. I was already in an Otaku wonderland that felt like a games convention every day.
Quite coincidentally, I’d been keeping up to date with the news about the Off The Hook live concert that was coming up. When I realised the two events were one and the same, my interest perked up. When I realised it was only a short metro ride away, and affordable enough to enter, I made up my mind.
So there I was, on Saturday morning, rolling up to a big hall and not really knowing what I was getting myself in for. The chap at the ticket booth was pleasant, and I strolled in late enough in the day that I’d missed all the queues. Based on the fencing and signage, they’d been pretty big originally!
Inside, the layout was similar enough to things like the Eurogamer expo that I’ve attended in the UK. Obviously, the games being given top billing were a little bit different. The crowds were far less rude and boisterous, and it’s worth mentioning that the typical comic-con scent of BO wasn’t anywhere near as prevalent.
Other than that, the big difference was a focus on big stages showing contests and tournaments and presentations, rather than lots of pods offering players a chance to try out demos themselves. It actually made for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience. Rather than queuing for hours at a time to play five minutes of some new videogame I’ll be able to buy next week anyway, I would park myself somewhere comfortable and take in a show.
After a little while strolling around taking everything in, I naturally gravitated to the Nintendo sections. I parked myself in place to catch some of the Splatoon Kanto Regionals and the ARMS Japan Grand Prix, both of which I’ve written about in another piece right here on gintendo.
There was a real joy to being surrounded by so many people with the same love of these Nintendo games as me. I got my picture taken as though I were in Splatoon’s Inkopolis Square, I saw cosplayers and fans galore. I sat in on competitive games for the first time and really enjoyed it. The language barrier is still up, obviously, but I seriously felt like I was among my people for the first time since I got here to Japan. This was never more true than the concert at the end of the night.
Things started off with a blunder. At the end of the Splatoon 2 tournament, they announced that the concert would be taking place in another hall. It took me a moment to understand, and by the time I’d cottoned on and made my way there I’d missed most of the first song and my chance to be at the front of the enormous crowd.
I was there, though, and it was magical.
There were prior examples, featuring the Squid Sisters from Splatoon, but the news was that this was the first concert for Splatoon 2’s duet Off The Hook. Perhaps the simple fact that these concerts were only happening on the other side of the world was what fascinated me. Splatoon is semi-popular in the west, but nothing like it is here in Japan, so there was little chance for me to experience this nonsense living in the UK. But I landed in Japan, saw the reports on twitter that another performance was coming, and I just had to see it.
For the uninitiated, this might take a little explaining. This was a “live concert” by two holograms of fictional squid ladies. They were playing songs in a gibberish squid language, songs which were familiar to me from the Nintendo game’s Splatoon and Splatoon 2.
I know that sounds weird. I don’t care. I was dancing and clapping and bopping along to the music. When surprise cameos happened, big tracks started or remixes kicked in, the crowd whooped and hollered. The atmosphere was electric, the love all on display.
This was one of the first times I’ve properly felt the concert experience. I was into the artist, into the music, one with the crowd. Who knew the way for me to enjoy one of the quintessential life experiences was to come to Japan and watch some cartoon characters?