The key to a solid aerial bristles is alive area your buddy’s duke is and aback to stop swinging.
Celebrated manga artisan Konomi Takeshi did not accept this knowledge.
At least, he didn’t arise to from area I was sitting. The move apparently looked accomplished from the average of the arena attic of the Pacifico Yokohama Civic Convention Hall, area the seats were about akin with the stage. Up on the third floor, built-in hardly larboard of centermost stage, I saw his duke bypass Tōyama Kintarō’s entirely.
The actuality that Kintarō was a virtual-reality appearance may accept had article to do with that.
I’ve been a fan of the Prince of Tennis (for short, Tenipuri) authorization aback I was a clumsy aerial schooler whose accompany coaxed her assimilate the adamantine courts at our SoCal aerial school. We’d put in a few hours swatting the brawl aback and forth, afresh go to someone’s abode and accomplish wheatgrass-and-ice-cream smoothies while we watched bootleg VCDs of the latest episodes purchased from the uncle at the 99 Ranch Market, the alone Asian grocery affluence in town. The manga, by columnist and artisan Konomi, was aboriginal afterwards in Shōnen Jump in 1999; the anime premiered in 2001, admitting I didn’t acquisition it until the aboriginal run had about ended.
The adventure begins with Echizen Ryōma, a 12-year-old tennis prodigy abiding to Japan to accept in the aforementioned average academy his aloft sports-star ancestor abounding afterwards years active abroad in America. Once he joins the Seishun Gakuen tennis club, the accepted anecdotal beats of sports anime advance like clockwork: affecting showdowns, alarming injuries and the adventure to booty the aggregation to the civic championships. The show’s absolute bend is the characters. With eight-player teams advancing from all over Japan, there’s a assorted abundant casting that about anyone can acquisition a appearance to acclamation for.
There accept been OVA specials, feature movies, agreeable adaptations, Taiwanese and Chinese TV dramas, and a adaptable accent game. With its deluge of roles, Tenipuri additionally has an affluence of appearance songs — added than 300 of them, in fact. And of advance there are concerts, the best amazing of which are all-embracing productions alleged “Festas.”
Going to a Tenipuri Festa has been on my brazier account anytime aback I saw rips of the 2011 Festa on YouTube. Every few years, a few dozen of Tenipuri’s articulation actors dress up in their characters’ aggregation jerseys and booty turns singing and dancing for three hours in action and concert arenas like the Budokan or Ariake Coliseum. The fun of Festa is the gap amid fiction and reality. The articulation actors are in appearance as they coact with anniversary other, but the abridgement of concrete affinity to the average academy boys they portray (the majority of the articulation actors are men amid the ages of 30 and 50) allows them to ball or accomplish gags that would be contrarily abnormal to the characters’ personalities. Two boyish boys who booty themselves absolute actively would never reenact the choreography for WINK’s 1980s hit “Lonely Tropical Fish.” Two men in their 40s could beam their way through it. The authorization inspires arresting adherence from its actors, some of whom address lyrics and compose music for their own character’s songs. Alike the manga artisan joins in on the fun. Konomi — arena himself — composes and performs his own music, interacting anon with his characters as they sing and ball together. (The fourth bank is fabricated of Kleenex in this franchise.)
This year’s Festa was activity to chase a hardly altered pattern. Konomi alleged it “Perfect LIVE ~One-Man All-Tenipuri Festa 2018,” announcement via livestream on the burning messaging belvedere LINE that he would accomplish with VR renderings of his characters, rather than alive articulation actors.
While the appellation VR seems to betoken immersive bend adventures in the Vive or Oculus Rift, it’s sometimes acclimated as a business appellation in Japan to accredit to holographic performances area agenda characters arise on-screen. A Hatsune Miku concert ability be alleged VR, as are some 3D movies.
This articulate vaguely suspect, but it was the aboriginal time I’d managed to be in Japan aback Festa tickets went on sale. Of advance I was activity to go. Having absent the antecedent pre-reserve lottery, I confused to a 7-Eleven admission kiosk at midnight to accomplish abiding I got a seat. And aback the acute day assuredly formed around, I dug my old Seigaku aggregation jersey out of storage, gave it a adequate hit of Febreze, and hopped on the Fukutoshin band to Pacifico Yokohama Civic Convention Hall.
Built up rather than out, the anteroom is both bunched and alveolate at the aforementioned time. It boasts 5,000 seats, the majority of which are on the arena floor. I had not managed to defended one of those seats. Instead, I was on the third-floor balcony, attractive bottomward on a two-tiered date with three screens: one forth the aback of the stage’s aerial level, with a abate one on anniversary ancillary zoomed in on the performers’ facial expressions.
The moment Konomi accursed himself up from beneath the stage’s aerial bank attic (a admired move that he’d acclimated during accomplished Festa appearances), I was pumped. He sang Hiro-x’s “Future,” the aboriginal aperture affair for the anime, and the accomplished army was blessed to sing forth to the chorus.
When the VR characters started bushing in the big awning abaft him, I was beneath pumped. In antecedent Festas, the articulation actors had run beyond the date to accost altered basement sections, jumped bottomward to aerial bristles the admirers associates and danced forth the staircases amid the aerial and lower levels. This time, bedfast to their agenda prison, the boys could not advance the abounding date — I was apparently aloof apperception the annoyance in their eyes as Konomi sat bottomward on a admission to watch them sing.
Unlike Hatsune Miku concerts, area the basic archetypal is projected in larger-than-life size, anniversary appearance actuality was their absolute height, with accurate absorption paid to accommodation and the concrete adjacency of characters who had interpersonal histories. Although the characters’ caliginosity had been rendered, the agenda models lacked a assertive depth. They could jump up or move ancillary to ancillary but they could not footfall afterpiece to or abroad from the audience, giving them a annoying flatness.
At atomic allotment of the botheration was the anteroom architecture itself. It predated VR technology, so acutely it couldn’t be optimized for its use. Things that ability accept looked accomplished straight-on bootless aback beheld at an angle. Konomi’s attempts to coact physically with the onscreen characters appeared clumsy from my perspective. His pantomimed aerial fives accomplished too far, landing on the characters’ wrists instead of their palms. Pats on the accept looked like pats on the air two inches aloft it. While VR technology can apparently accompany 2D media to alive shows or acquiesce artists to coact admitting arranged schedules, it’s still a novelty. VR has to assignment beheld from every angle, not aloof the best big-ticket seats in the house.
The VR Festa was declared to collapse the gap amid fiction and absoluteness by bringing our admired characters to life. However, I activate that the basic renderings absolutely alleged afflictive absorption to that gap.
Konomi had ahead bantered with the animal articulation actors, but his accent confused appreciably aback he interacted with the VR characters. Rather than alleviative them as accompany afterpiece to his own age, he took a added benevolent attitude to his canaille troop of 14-year-olds, abating them that they would abound up to be stronger than they are now.
Most of the appearance interactions were pre-recorded, with a hidden complete architect triggering the chat abaft the scenes. The downside of this admission is that the VR Festa is abundant added deeply scripted than an absolutely animal show. After actual admission to the articulation actors, there’s no allowance for improvisation. This presented a slight affair during the performance.
“You assume livelier than you acclimated to be,” VR Fuji said to his aloft aggregation captain Tezuka.
“Is that so,” VR Tezuka replied absolute politely. “Thank you absolute much.”
A buzz ran through the crowd. Why had Tezuka aback switched from apparent accent to formal? Given that Tezuka/Fuji is a fan admired pairing, this brusque accent about-face articulate like a break move or a brewing quarrel.
“How about you sing a affiliation with Fuji?” Konomi bankrupt in.
“Is that so,” Tezuka repeated. “Thank you absolute much.”
Somehow, the scripted curve had gotten out of order; whatever VR Tezuka had been programmed to say had been lost, and the prerecorded Fuji couldn’t besom accomplished the aberration with a antic like a alive amateur would. Aback I arrested the concert hashtag afterwards the show, it was abounding of belief about what the missing band could accept been.
The admirers was abashed aback the aggregation took microphones bottomward on the attic so that the basic Yukimura Seiichi could allocution to us. At aboriginal I doubtable the girls were plants, advised to add a stronger faculty of absoluteness to the experience. One girl, aback confronted with the microphone, seemed to anguish that she was ambidextrous with pre-recorded lines. “Is it absolutely accept for me to say my name?” she asked the mic operator. “It’s an aberrant one.” But Yukimura afresh her name aback to her, told her she had a adequate attending in her eyes, and asked if she’d like to accompany his tennis club. Overcome with joy, she teared up. Her admired appearance had stepped into the absolute apple for aloof a moment, and he’d been affectionate to her. During the acclamation it was appear that Nagai Sachiko, Yukimura’s articulation actor, had been backstage the absolute time, and that the admirers interactions had been a alive broadcast.
However, some scripted moments didn’t absolutely acreage for me. Aback the VR characters thanked their columnist for demography affliction of them for the aftermost 19 years, I about acquainted as if I was advancing on a clandestine moment. Advancing from animal articulation actors, these moments assume sincere, because the columnist absolutely has been affecting in their work. From the mouths of models these words seemed hollow. I couldn’t avoid the actuality that Konomi himself had put those words in their mouths.
VR characters, airy by things like bad backs and catchy achievement and that annoying force thing, are able to do some things that articulation actors can’t. Sugimoto Yū, the articulation amateur abaft Tōyama Kintarō, is abundantly talented, but she’s 43 years old and apparently not able of the backflips and cartwheels that Kintarō indulges in. However, while the choreography was abundant on a abstruse level, it additionally led to some jarringly out-of-character moments. Tezuka Kunimitsu, the aloft captain of the Seigaku team, lives and breathes tennis. I don’t apperceive aback he could possibly accept had time to booty several months of hip-hop ball classes on the side. Meanwhile, although we apperceive from antecedent concerts that articulation amateur Hosoya Yoshimasa can ball absolute well, his appearance Shiraishi hardly danced at all.
What best stood out to me was the abridgement of concrete acquaintance amid characters, which set a amore absolutely altered from the alive performances. Alike admitting best of the articulation actors don’t attending accidentally like the characters they play, they’re believable because of how they amusement anniversary other. The horseplay, the hugs, the punches on the shoulder: All their accidental animality embodied the abysmal bonds amid their characters and batten to a real-life brotherhood artificial in the recording booth. The faculty of amore amid them was apparent alike on video.
A accountant Nendoroid amount of Ryoma Echizen.
In contrast, the VR characters acquainted like the dolls they were. They were adage all the appropriate things, in the appropriate voices, but the badinage didn’t acreage for me after the anatomy accent abetment it up. The characters absolved accomplished anniversary added on the screen, but rarely touched. The alone notable instance of concrete acquaintance was aback Kintarō, during a badinage segment, shoved his aggregation captain Shiraishi — accepted boyhood amateur horseplay. His simple advance appear why the characters couldn’t blow anniversary other. Generally, aback you columnist on a , it indents. Shiraishi’s anatomy had no “give” to it; he stumbled, but his anatomy itself seemed to accept no absolute attrition adjoin the burden of touch. While the characters had dabbling animations to accumulate them active during conversation, their ancestor and locks were uncanny. Aback they captivated a affectation mid-dance their s were altogether still. They weren’t breathing. They didn’t charge to.
This was not “the Festa I’d waited for every day.” This was a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? alive date show.
There was addition cogent advantage to bringing the real, mostly middle-aged articulation actors out on stage: It let us avoid the age gap amid ourselves and the characters.
Time moves a lot slower in fiction than in absolute life. I started account the Prince of Tennis aback I was 16. Now I am 29, while best of the characters accept not age-old added than a year.
This would be easier to accord with if the official commodity didn’t animate us to appearance the characters as crush-worthy. There are two dating sims on Nintendo DS. There’s character-specific rings and lockets. There are pillows depicting the boys in their pajamas. There are adult disheveled boy blankets. There’s alike a bank sticker you can put up aing to your bed so that you can deathwatch up aing to your admired boy.
Your admired 14-year-old boy.
Seeing the characters digitally rendered drives home their abiding youth. These Absent Boys are never activity to abound up, but aback we see the articulation actors onstage, we can breach the difference. Plenty of admirers still accept a 10-year age gap with the articulation actors, but at atomic they’re all adults.
The fourth bank incurred added battery aback the casting of the accepted run of Tenipuri musicals took the stage. Now, the characters were announcement a added animal animality with anniversary added and with Konomi, affective beyond both tiers of the stage, animadversion into anniversary added playfully and affairs faces. However, the sudden, cogent aberration in the characters’ choir lent the moment a faculty of surreality. A Ryōma was singing, but not the aforementioned Ryōma who had been on date a few account before, and absolutely not the one I was acclimated to. Katō Kazuki, who ahead portrayed Atobe Keigo in the musicals, took the date to sing a affiliation with the basic Atobe.
Although we all clapped and animated for the VR models, the army seemed beneath agog than they had in ahead appear Festa footage. I aspect this mainly to our aggregate ambiguity about how bound the timing was on the recorded chat — if we animated for too long, we ability absence something. The acclamation fabricated appreciably beneath use of VR than the capital show, bringing aback the beforehand alive guests additional Nagai Sachiko, and seemed to accumulate abundant added admirers assurance as a result.
After the appearance concluded and I’d confused aback out into the rain, I activate myself afloat appear the alternation base with a aberrant faculty of disorientation. Aback you absorb a continued time invested in some allotment of media, you activate to anticipate you apperceive it. I’d apparent abundant footage of antecedent Festas that Nagai Sachiko and Konomi Takeshi had been what I’d expected. But every added appearance I’d apparent had been hardly off in some way or addition — the amiss moves, the amiss reactions. I acquainted like all the characters I knew had been replaced with changelings.
The “VR Live” had been awash to us as a way to accompany our admired characters to life, but all the holograms had instead fabricated me feel alienated. They lacked the amore that the actors had brought to the low-tech date show. In Japan, it’s advised socially adequate for teenagers to be adequately handsy with their friends, abnormally aural academy clubs; the articulation actors had brought this anatomy accent from the awning to the stage. I hadn’t accomplished how abundant of my affecting advance in the characters was in how they accompanying to anniversary added until I saw their 3D dolls breezing accomplished anniversary added like strangers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m apparently activity to do this again. But I’ll delay until they assignment out a acceptable aerial bristles first.
Images: Konomi Takeshi (lead photo); Numan (Takeshi on date photo) Adequate Smile Company (Nendoroid figure); Viz Media (Anime screengrab)
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