Hyper Japan Festival 2015 at the O2
Summer arrives and so does the annual Hyper Japan event in London. But this year the Hyper Japan Team have set a new bench mark for themselves with a new venue and a array of class acts for all to enjoy.
Falling over the weekend of the 10th -12th July 2015 the three day event moved to the 02 Arena in the heart of London's Docklands.
I was wondering how the event would work here ,but after three days at the event I think it went remarkably well and the only big downer of it all was that there still was not enough time to see and experience everything, yes we need a extra day .
Using the 02 Arena in a way was a clever move as the Arena plays host to other events at the same time and with it's cinema and restaurants attracts a lot of people , this makes for probably a lot of extra people buying tickets for the event on the spur of the moment.
All the usual features where evident for the summer show but split up into various areas through out the 02 Arena.
After collecting our press passes the first stop was the gaming area as it was the first area you see when entering. The dedicated area was host to regular supporters Nintendo and Bandai Namco . Surrounding them where seller stalls selling games and anime based product.
Nintendo had a huge stand which showcased some of their recent releases and a few of their forthcoming games for this years Holiday season.
Fans Queue for Star Fox 0 and enter the world of Mario
With a live competition zone with hosts and a large video wall Nintendo got visitors battling it out in Mario Kart 8 and Smash Brothers. As well as hosting interviews and talks about new games.
Gamers could get hands on forthcoming games like the new Starfox title and Mario Maker which launch towards the end of the year. These where the first time these games where shown in the UK along with Mario Ultra Smash Tennis and Zelda Triforce Heroes on 3DS.
But there was also recent releases like Splatoon and Yoshi Woolly World to play as well .
Add to this a Spot pass area where you could get spot pass notifications on your own 2DS/3DS consoles and they also provided a charging spot for your handheld as well.
For us the highlight of Nintendo's stand was 'STARFOX '0' on Wii U which sees the franchise return to a home console for the first time since the GameCube era.
Mario ultra Smash Tennis was also a very fun game and looks like it will give many fun times with local multiplayer.
Bandai Namco also had a good showcase of games ,mostly playing on PS4 , we got hands on with Sword Art Online and Dragon Ball among others.
Opposite the gaming zone was the entrance to Hyper Live Stage which is held in 02's Building Six a dedicated bar with a live sound stage giving the many music acts a professional stage to showcase their acts.
Building Six also has a theatre which held Anime screenings over the three days ,screening Anime films,series and hosting talks.
Add to this a Retro gaming Maid Cafe which was on the second floor above the Gallery surrounding the sound stage.
After our first stop at the gaming zone it was building Six which got our attention before we ventured into the main Hyper Japan Festival area.
Trying to plan around the different areas we got in position for the appearance of ILU GRACE , this duo who consist of Ayane on vocals and keyboards and Kazu on Drums and Rhythm are quite unique in their style compared to the usual Jpop,Rock ,Visual Kei which dominates Japan.
Ilu Grace takes to the stage
Ilu Grace are a R&B / Soul duo which capture a time in music I have not heard in many years , unlike modern R&B from the States which often ventures into Hip Hop and rap , I was sent back in time to classic soul from the eighties but with that slight modern twist.
Ayane's sultry voice captures you as she hits notes that literally send your head reeling with nostalgia. I really could have been back in the eighties in the London Nightclubs I used to haunt back in the day. With a little under a hour they performed a great array of mellow ballads and more upbeat tempo numbers.
For me at this point Hyper Japan had just upped their game , I new I was in for a special three days.
After Ilu Grace we ventured to the Festival area situated just out side the exit of Building Six,
On the festival stage where the Gothic Lolita duo Die Milch who gave a performance of their electro pop , with Coco on vocals and Mocha on Violin , combined with their visual living doll style the performance was entertainingly visually as it was sound wise.
Die Milch on the Festival stage
This also gave us a chance to have a quick gander at the festival show floor and see where the other activities where happening, we caught a synchronised dance trio who encouraged others to join in on the culture stage ,they where very energetic and was fun to watch.
I also caught up with my friends at the Terracotta Far East Film who where on the Third Window Films stand.
Next was time to get back to Building Six for the appearance of JPOP Idol Rio Hiiragi , the nineteen year old Rio is a very bubbly Otaku Jpop idol who has performed within a Idol group as well as solo.
Rio Hiiragi was entertainment by the bucket load- her energy was amazing
This was one of the most liveliest performances I have seen , Rio's music style has quite a bit of heavy bass and is quite edgy compared to other J Pop idols .
And her fans where out in force who new each of her songs , Rio also got the fans jumping to her call as she sang and literally bounced around the stage for the entire set, I was tired watching her. But the fans also where very energetic with some well timed dancing routines organised by Rio as she gave instruction as she performed, it was really clever the way she improvised around her set to get the desired effect from the crowd.
Check out the video of Rio Hiiragi at Hyper Japan at the bottom of this page
I must admit Rio Hiiragi was definitely something to see and I was so glad we caught her.
Next up on the Live stage was a traditional music set with Hyper Japan regulars Hibiki Ichikawa and Akari Mochizuki. . Hibiki is a Tsugaru shaminsen player and the only professional player in the UK . Hibiki teaches in the UK and actually brought along two of his students to perform with him.
Akari Mochizuka and Hibiki Ichikawa
Akari Mochizuka is a Minyo and Enka singer who has been singing since a young age and sings a range of traditional enka songs , and offbeat style of traditional Japanese minyo which she herself describes as a style of Rap .
If you have visited Hyper Japan before or even the Japan Matsuri in London then the chances are you have seen them perform. As always their performance a delight and fun .
For us Friday was over as we planned to head out before the big exodus.
But we new Saturday was going to be a long day as we had a lot to see on what is usually Hyper Japan's busiest day .
Hyper Japan at the O2
Saturday 11th July 2015
Must admit we did not get there as early as wanted on Saturday , partly due to some extra waiting for trains , but in the end we got there, We had planned to see Dempagumi Inc perform and arrived well into the performance , we managed to get some shots from the balcony, and decided to see the act in full the next day.
After Dempagumi we hung around because the Honey Spice Girls and Heisei Kotohime where due on stage.
In this collaboration performance we where treated to a mixture of the JPOP idols from Honey Spice entertaining with their own brand of Trance style JPOP , consisting of five members Honey Spice had quite a few members since there conception in 2012. As early as May 2015 the group had three new members due to others leaving the group for pastures new.
The Honey Spice Girls entertain the crowd
Heisei Kotohime is traditional inspired JPOP Idol group infused with there unique electronic synthesiser instruments based on the traditional Koto Japanese instrument , by updating the design and making them lighter the new instruments designed for the group are ideal for them to have on them at all times when performing ,even when dancing.
Heisei Kotohime and their unique Instruments
First up came Honey Spice consisting of Tachibana Arika (red) ,Sugaya Saki (Yellow) ,Ito Saori (Blue), Yamashita Yuna (Green) and Hirano Honoka (White) , the colours are their assigned colours
which identify them .
Tachibana Arika is the only one in the group from the original four which formed in 2012. Honey Spice opened the performance with a couple numbers which definitely pleased the crowd which was quite packed in , sitting in the press pit I was in a nice position for some great shots .
Next up Heisei Kotohime entered the stage to accompany Honey Spice which now with two Idol groups on stage the crowd became even more excited.
We where then left with Just Heisei Kotohime on stage to perform a couple numbers , They also introduce themselves to the audience in a novel way ,getting the audience to shout their names, well their nick names of Momo-Chan ,Yui Chan ,Miyu Nya and Chi -Chan.
Their music style is very much a contrast to the Honey Spice girls which gave the performance a varied selection of music. The heavy oriental themes to Heisei Kotohime's music is quite upbeat yet with a traditional edge.
Another quick switch over and we where back into a more dance orientated club style of sound as the Honey Spice girls returned to the stage.
The Honey Spice Girls
There was a lot going on which kept the audience entertained to the fullest. This was a fun performance which had everyone tapping their feet and another hit with the crowd.
Next for us was the Tokyo Girls Style group ,who where originally formed as JPOP Idol group by Avex trax in 2010 . But as the group has got older Avex has re- envisioned them into a mainstream JPOP group whose sound has transformed from the quirky happy Idol sound to a heavy bass dance style more associated with Avex Trax.
Tokyo Girls Style
We did not stay for this as it was so busy in the whole of the building , We spent the first number in the press pit and the bass was so high it was literally moving me as well as killing my ears along with a few others in the pit, after the first number I had to get out , thinking I could get some good photo's maybe from the gallery but the place was rocking and there was no way to get a good position .
So we decided to take a break and venture round the festival area. , our next event to cover was on the culture stage ,though we where in dilemma as it clashed with another performance on the live stage.
Anyway we headed to the culture stage for the arrival of the Sword Masters Katanaya-Ichi who are a a performance stage group led by stage and TV actor Dai Mizuno (Samurai Princess -2009) , they mix Samurai swordsmanship with Aikido and Japanese dance to good effect and gave a great demonstration of their choreography and skill on the culture stage matted area with fast well timed fight scenes including tumbling and rolls.
I did think the demo was a bit short as after it was a case of inviting visitors on the matt to try and have ago at recreating the scene they just performed. After getting some volunteers they set out to teach them the strikes they needed to know and then once shown each volunteer had to go through the demonstration we had seen at the beginning .
Sword masters Katanaya Ichi in action
It was all a bit quickly done and I must admit Dai Mizuno and his troupe are very good at anticipating and reacting to what a bunch of novices can throw at them , because you never know what's going to go down when you thrust a group of strangers into such a situation.
Of course I would have liked to see a fully featured stage show with them much like Kamui did back in 2012. But for what was shown it was quite entertaining ,but the martial artist in me wanted more.
After I managed to catch Ilu Grace performing on the Festival Stage to a good crowd. Even though I had seen them on the Friday on the live stage I enjoyed them so much I just had to hear them again.
Ilu Grace performing on the Show Floor Stage
It was time for the first session end and the lunch time for the staff and vendors at the show. So we took time to grab a seat and get some food until the show reopened .
Saturday 11th July
Slightly rested and watered our main agenda for the afternoon was the cosparade taking place on the festival stage and Kuroishi Hitomi on the live stage , so this gave us time to wander , we still had a couple games we wanted to try , namely Nintendo's Mario Maker on Wii U which launches this coming September .
Mario Maker celebrates thirty years of Mario Brothers , Mario Maker is the first in the series that lets you the player create your own Mario game levels either using the original eight bit style of the NES , sixteen bit style of the SNES and the more up to date Super Mario Brothers Wii U edition.
Getting hands on with the game it offers one hundred pre- created levels to play out of the box and also will come with a book showing level design to help players create their own levels.
Levels can be as big or small as you wish and it's a simple interface of just drag and dropping items and drawing platforms .
The levels you create will be up loadable for other players around the globe to play , so you can share with your friends and family on Miiverse.
Of course your have to actually complete the level yourself before this is allowed , making it impossible for players to upload levels which just are not possible to complete.
It looks like Nintendo have another winner on their hands and it may give the ailing and underrated Wii U another much deserved boost .
Next it was time for the cosparade to start , getting their a bit early we saw the Nintendo's Karaoke on Wii U by Joysound being demonstrated on the festival stage with many hopefuls lining up to burst out a song.
Very brave with quite a large audience viewing I thought , amazing really before the cosplay start I bumped into a friend and got chatting, so crazy I saw a few friends at the show , thousands of people everywhere but you manage to meet people you know.
It must have been the power of Zen that brought us together .
Anyway in position for the cosplay which was just a cosparade , no competitions this year, also the cosparade this year was open to all ,so actually making the costume was not a rule implied.
But in all honesty most I saw where well crafted by the cosplayers themselves .
There was a slight hold up as quite a few had signed up and wandered of, maybe got stage fright ,the poor host was announcing their names and they where not there , but in the end the ones that did actually have the bottle to come up on stage did so with zest..
Maka Albarn from Soul Eater cosplay
I didn't have much chance snapping cosplayers while walking about as I usually do due to getting to and from the various stages for the live acts. But the cosparade more then made up for it and we got some good shots of the costumes .
With themes like Dragon Ball,Naruto,Frozen and Tangled being some of the most popular.
There be more on the cosparade on our sister sites feature where we will go more in-depth on both cosparades held over the weekend.
After the cosparade the Culture stage played host to some martial arts , Jiujitsu was on stage or Tatami we should say.
Hyper Japan regulars the Mizu Ryu Jiu-Jitsu club where on hand to demonstrate their art, Their founder and head teacher Anthoney J Bailey gave some demonstrations of throws and locks along with his pupils which ranged from Black Belts to Yellow belts.
Mizu-Ryu Jiujitsu (above)
Different from the previous times I have viewed there demonstrations they turned their attention to the crowd to come onto the Tatami and try a few moves to see how effective Jiujitsu really is.
Even though the visiting participants where only going to do the moves and not have them performed on themselves , of course for safety reasons, it takes regular lessons to be able to fall right in Jiujitsu and visitors being thrown on the floor and leaving on stretchers may have not gone down well.
But I was surprised that the moves shown where quite upper belt moves like sweeping hocks and a variation of the stomach throw which utilised the upper thigh for the throw instead of the stomach, by rolling back you throw your opponent over your head.
This is where I thought .ohh accidents might happen , one participant did nearly take out one of the Jiujitsu's guys knees , I was on the verge of shouting stop ,but the Jiujitsu's guy managed to move the guys foot just as the throw was performed.
The session lasted about twenty minutes and it did give a idea of the effect of Jiujitsu for all age groups.
For more on Mizu Ryu Jiujitsu visit our dedicated Jiujitsu page where I talk more about Mizu Ryu's founder and to view the official site please visit our links page .
Next up for us was back to the Live stage where Kuroishi Hitomi was about to perform,
Usually just reffered to as Hitomi . Hitomi is a author ,composer and singer and in the West is known for her songs for Anime series ,particularly ''CODE GEASS'' , the style mixes modern pop with a traditional flavour ,it was a very relaxing style music mused with light effects.
By the end of the performance I must admit I was starting to feel the day creeping up on me , but we did venture back into the festival area for a last peruse and managed to catch the end of the Creative Dance Company Takarabune entertaining the crowds with their vibrant dance and drum based performance .
We decided to call it day as I new by the next day I would be feeling it and we had a bit to get in the next day .
Sunday 12th July
Like all plans I never get to where I want in time, we really wanted to see Dempagumi's early performance but due to waiting for batteries to charge for the cameras among other things we arrived just in time to see Tokyo Girls Style perform their set . After taking a break the previous day after finding I might go deaf in the press pit.
We got in position on the balcony upstairs in front of the stage and the crowds where flocking in. I had already heard the first two tracks the previous day so new what to expect , Tokyo Girls are signed by Avex Trax who have some major players on their books ,their style of music is usually quite club dance orientated ,so knowing that Tokyo Girls Style was a JPOP idol group who are changing their style to a more conventional JPOP style was surprising .
From the minute they came on stage from the first heavy beats the crowd was into it. The girls mix of energetic dance moves and toe tapping tunes had the fans happy to the hilt.
Their slightly evocative style of dance also kept many of the guys happy no doubt.
Tokyo Girls Style
I had a real dilemma for our next session, having not stayed for Lost Ash the previous day I was in two minds to stay or go and see May J and the Cosparade .
Now another press member the previous day said you really have to see May J as I had missed May J on the live stage due to watching the Katanaichi swordmasters.
In the end I decided May J so headed back to the festival area.
May J hosts J Mello on the NHK network ,which is the only English language channel in Japan.
May J meets all the stars from the Music world and performs many songs with them , first up was the introduction of Domo ( the NHK Mascot) after some shenanigans on stage with Domo and the crowd learning bits of Japanese May J was announced .
May J talked about her role on NHK and J Mello and then performed two songs for the audience. One in Japanese ( Sparkle) a new song for Disney which will feature in a new Nintendo 3DS game.
The stunning May J
Next up she performed the Frozen balled from Disneys film , Let it Go in English, May J was chosen by Disney to sing the song for the closing credits of Frozen for the Japanese release of the film.
Of course in the film she performs the song in Japanese for the home market, but here we heard her sing the title in English.
Now even from the first song it was evident that May J has got to be one of the most talented singers around, her vocal range is amazing. It actually brought shivers up my spine as she sang. It was quite unbelievable to be hearing this as a live performance. And even though she sang only two songs for this session the audience could have not given her a better response.
I really hope Hyper Japan bring her back for another event.
While we waited for the cosparade to start we went to the culture stage and happened upon a Karate demonstration by the Shinboku Karate club.
I didn't catch the beginning but saw some of the clubs techniques before they got volunteers from the audience involved in learning some techniques from wrist locks and a rear strangle hold ( quite a dangerous move) which cuts of the blood to the brain by squeezing the arteries in the sides of the neck , people can usually black out in five seconds or less with this move.
Shinboku Karate of London perform
But of course the only people in danger where the Karate students. But it was OK they all lived to tell the tale.
Vocaloid Cosplay - Hatsune Miku
The Cosparade for Sunday went a bit smoother then the previous day where some of the entrants had run of, probably due to stage fright.
Their where some great cosplayers on Sunday , I think their where more cosplayers on Sunday then on Saturday .
Five Nights at Freddy's cosplay
Sunday's cosplay was a roaring success with varied costumes from the likes of Black Butler, Earth Defence Force Gintama and more.
The Infamous Black Rock Shooter - cosplay
I do think the crowd watching could have been a bit more enthusiastic for the entrants though, usually their clapping and cheering each entry ,but they seemed very reserved.
Cosplay done and it was time to head back to the Live stage for the solo performance of Heisei Kotohime who we saw on the Saturday morning with the Honey Spice Girls.
It gave us a chance to get some other shots of the girls on stage and chill out a bit and enjoy the performance without bothering to take pictures all the time. Once again Heisei Kotohime got the crowd going and everybody was having a good time .
Back out and it was game time , heading back to the game area where I wanted to see what Bandai Namco had going on , Bandai had brought quite a few games ,i think all where playable on the PS4 ,though quite a few titles are appearing on the PS3 as well as multi platform releases.
We tried our hand at Sword Art Online , based on the famous Anime. It's basically a beat'em up adventure style of game with some good effects and is quite fun. I'm sure fans of the Anime will snap it up.
Godzilla was another game to play which is like the old title Rampage if you ask me.
Others included J Stars , Dragon Ball and a new Tales game as well.
But it was not long before the final performance of the day . Dempagumi Inc where about to appear and for the final performance and Dempagumi's Inc third time on the live stage the crowds where packed in tight , fans where in position with their glow sticks and even JPOP Idol group Honey Spice had turned up to see Dempagumi perform .
Dempagumi Inc! take to the stage
One of them chatted up the security guy on the press pit and she got a seat alongside us ,while the others stood outside and looked sad at him.
Well I must say if their previous performances at Hyper Japan that weekend where considered manic then this must have been the ultimate for the fans.
From the outset the place was like some one had flipped a switch as the fans just kept going crazy as Dempagumi danced and sang on stage. Their non stop kinetic energy rubbed of on the crowd and in the press pit staying low was the key .
The Press Pit - danger zone with fans with glow sticks and towels behind you
I think I had two glow sticks in my head and some one whacked me with a towel during their infamous Towel song.
Dempagumi Inc are obviously the goal all Jpop Idol groups seem to be aspiring to , the screaming girls standing behind me waving glow sticks (and I saw a few older men to) did not stop for the whole set of their performance.
By the end of it I think everybody was tired. Hyper Japan had come to a end for another summer , though they will return for their Christmas show at Tobacco Dock .
Three days and we managed to see quite a few acts, play some games and see the cosplay shows.
Maybe we did not see as much of the Martial arts as we wanted but many of the martial art performers I had seen previously at past shows.
The heavy music orientated theme this summer added a fun kinetic energy to the proceedings and the Live stage set up in building six gave a real club atmosphere.
It's funny really ,after the last Christmas show I wrote that I felt that some of the music acts needed a floor space for people to dance if wanted , it's funny that that's exactly what the crowds got this time and they utilised it to the full.
Another highly successful show ,which seem to bring in more visitors In on the Friday then normal according to various sellers I spoke to at the show.
Whether next years show will be O2 based I don't know ,it seemed to go down well with past visitors.
Though some did find that queueing for the wristbands even though they had bought tickets online a chore when the queue is 400 people strong.
But I did explain that it's the same for many events .
Maybe Hyper Japan could offer a postage service for tickets bought two weeks prior to the show where wrist bands are needed. I'm sure people would pay a couple of pounds extra to have their wrist bands posted to them prior to the show to save waiting in a queue.
We thank Hyper Japan and Spreckly Partners for the Press passes to the show.
I do believe we do some of the biggest features of the show and hope to continue to do so.
Don't forget our Cosplay Special featuring the cosparades in full at our sister , link below.
But until the next time , Be Safe , Stay Fit and above all Enjoy life.
Hyper Japan Festival 2015 Cosplay Special - Go there Now