by Tom Legge
March 29th 2014 was the date for the hippest party in Hiroshima this year. It was to be the 10th outing of the Tsunderation (www.tsunderation.jp) event, a DJ and VJ hosted dance music rave for anime lovers and cosplayers alike. Some of Hiroshima’s hottest disc spinners and video mixers were in town to ensure that the party was wild and the music fresh.
Let me start with a disclaimer. I know absolutely nothing about anime. The only time I have ever seen Japanese animation was when a friend from New Zealand showed me a video on his phone of a chained-up cartoon Japanese lady and a vicious looking octopus. The ensuing scenes were far too explicit to be described on the Wide Island View but, suffice to say, I am often kept awake at night haunted by what I saw.
Nevertheless, the proposed mix of animation-themed house music, trance, techno, speedcore, dubstep and drum and bass was enough to tempt even the most hardened clubber regardless of his/her reticence to embrace all things cell-shaded and 2D. I managed to gather up a small group of willing and not-so-willing friends to join me and we met up in The Shack for some Dutch courage before embarking on our adventure.
Whilst sat at the bar, I decided to check my twitter to see if there was any news on the event. I discovered the #tndr hashtag with messages from excited otaku on their way to the event.
At about 10pm, we set off in search of the rave, which was to be held at a basement space called “4.1.4.” It was quite a scene when we arrived. Outside there were a few stragglers dressed in various outfits, although it seemed rather tame. Hundreds of umbrellas where hanging off the door and the surrounding area, making it look like a rather creepy scene out of Alice in Wonderland.
On opening the door, it was like being transported into another world. Loud music blared over the speaker system and in front of us stood a sea of cosplayers. There were girls dressed as maids, wigs in every colour imaginable, cartoon characters, warriors and animals. All looked shocked to see 5 foreigners come through the door but the reception was warm.
I should point out at this point that Emily and Therese had actually come in Cosplay, Emily as Hello Kitty and Therese sporting a fetching purple wig. (Note to future ravers, there was a 1000 yen discount for coming in costume). The girl behind the cash register literally beamed as they came through, shouting “KAWAIIIII” and giving them their discount and playing card drinks tokens.
Not really knowing what to do next, we defaulted to the bar, which was manned by 6 lunatic cosplay girls who thought absolutely everything was hilarious and clearly had never stepped behind a bar before. A playing card from each of us was exchanged for a drink from what appeared to be a fairly standard menu. Not for Sofara, however, whose ‘Long Island Iced Tea’ translated as half a cup of vodka, some strawberry milkshake and a packet of weight-gain powder. My rum and coke, inexplicably, contained a pink soft candy in the shape of a rabbit. They were also selling hotdogs for 200 yen with custom messages written in mustard.
We headed to the dance floor and you couldn’t help but get caught up in the energy of the place. I’d always thought that otaku were reserved, even antisocial. If this was an accurate representation of the otaku culture then quite the opposite is true. I’ve been to countless raves back in London but never have I seen DJ’s who are enjoying themselves as much as at Tsunderation. Literally every person in the room was going crazy, bouncing up and down, cheered on by the DJ’s and a group on the stage. It was mental. You’d turn around and then, all of a sudden, several really talented amateur breakdancers would be battling right behind you. It seemed that every time you thought it had reached its peak, the energy level just went higher and higher.
Though the music was great and some of the animations incredible to look at, in my mind it was the people that made this event so special. It was clear that everyone was really excited to have foreigners at the event with them. I lost count of the countless conversations I had with people (“Wow, you like anime!”), kanpais, hugs, drink offers and so forth. We met DJ’s, promoters and loads and loads of people who are just passionate about this type of music. Few spoke English but it was fun to hear them shout “ENJOY!!!!!” over and over again.
Of course, there were some slightly odder individuals around too but that was part of the fun. Whilst getting some fresh air, one such individual handed me his ‘cosplay business card’ (see picture below) and then decided to show me every single picture on his camera, explaining in Japanese and in great detail the course of his life to date. As he began describing his 4 hour car journey from Hiroshima to Kochi the previous weekend road by road, à la Google Map directions, I knew it was time to head back inside, but not before he pulled out 4 polaroids from his bag with pictures of cosplay girls on them, each of their faces scribbled out with black marker pen. Creepy.
We finally called it a night a few hours later but not before having to say goodbye to everyone about 150 times each. I can’t stress enough just how nice everyone was, what a crazy party it turned out to be and how much fun we all had. I decided to post a message on twitter under the #tndr hashtag saying how much we enjoyed it and my phone has not stopped buzzing all week such has been the deluge of retweets, favourites and replies from our new friends.
If you are up for doing something a little out of the ordinary, very Japanese and where you get to meet a lot of really cool new people and have loads of fun, anime raves are the way. This was my first but it definitely won’t be my last.
For more info on how to get involved, check out www.a-crash.com/event/ which adds events as and when they come up, http://anievez.com/c/ which has up-to-date regional events all over Japan, or http://hiroshima.otakumap.com/ for local Hiroshima events.