Fan Review of the amazing Sakura Gakuin experience for our member and collaborator Daniel Fuentes (Mexico) in Japan. Daniel went to the last 2 shows of the Sakura Gakuin Nendo 2014. Part one of his experience in the "Road To Graduation 2014 'Be Ambitious, Memorial Summit'" at Tsutaya O-East. Read the fan review below!
Sakura Gakuin Road To Graduation 2014 experience
Review by: Daniel Fuentes from Ciudad de México (Mexico City), México.
"I had pondered going to Japan to see Babymetal for a while. Up until December, when I began planning for this, it didn’t seem possible they would be coming to my country as soon, so it seemed like a good idea that, if I should go overseas to watch them live, it might as well should be to Japan. However, a combination of bad timing and ignorance of how the system to get tickets in Japan works had kept me postponing this decision. So when the much smaller, yet much more organized and welcoming Sakura Gakuin international fans community decided to organize a journey to see the 2014 graduation, I decided not to think about it twice and just do it. While I had become a big fan of SG recently, I must say I was not anywhere near the level of some of my fellow fans, and overall I don’t consider myself an Idol fan at all. It is through Babymetal and kawaii Metal that I had gotten into this, so being this the situation I decided to make the best out of this trip to understand better Sakura Gakuin and the nature of the idol movement.
I arrived to Japan on the night of March 25th, just hours before their first graduation concert. Fighting jetlag and tiredness, but completely hyped about going to see Sakura Gakuin for the first time, I head to Shibuya O-East early in the morning with a couple of my fellow fans in order to get in line for the merch. We headed for Shibuya metro station to meet the rest at the Hachiko statue right outside, so then we could walk together to the venue. It was here that one of the best moments in my vacations would happen next.
As we were waiting there, my fellow fan Lars casually mentioned to me “Oh, the Sakura Gakuin girls are right there”. Thinking he was just messing with me, I looked behind me and saw a girl who looked like Rinon with a small group of friends, carrying backpacks and luggage and dressing sweatshirts and caps. I looked ahead again to Shibuya crossing when something just clicked into my mind and made me look back again. That girl WAS Rinon! And together with her were Sara, Megumi, Aiko, Moa and possibly Ooga (she had a surgical mask on her face so it would be hard to be 100% certain). I was maybe 4 or 5 mts away from them, as they seemed to be expecting for a signal from a couple of female tutors that accompanied them to move on. I moved back a bit and stared in awe at them for a little while, until I realized Sara was looking right back at me, which made me think perhaps she felt they had been recognized, so I walked a bit further behind as they started moving towards the crossing. They walked right past us and headed possibly straight for the venue. Still trying to recover from the shock, a minute or two passed when again my fellow fan pointed at the Shibuya crossing: “hey, that’s Hana and Yui” (notice the lack of exclamation mark in here, as he was awfully calmed as the events unfolded). Freaking out entirely, I looked frantically at the dozens of people in the crossing until I saw their tiny figures right at the front, waiting for the light to turn green. Hana was carrying a backpack while Yui was pushing a pink suitcase. I walked over there and positioned myself next to Hana and decided to cross the street next to her. I looked discretely to my side to confirm it was indeed them (Hana is surprisingly taller than I expected, especially after having seen how tiny Moa and the rest actually are). Once we had crossed, I walked away again not to disturb them at all. I was surprised to see these girls, who seemingly inadvertently move masses of fans, actually take the subway and walk around just like regular people, a phenomenon that could only happen in a culture as respectful and with a big sense of personal space as the Japanese one is.
Once at the venue, I went straight to get in the line. The actual access to the venue is numbered, so this line is actually for merch only, which after getting,
people can just go home and come back for the concert later. Here in the line I got to meet the rest of the international fans who had come here to see them. Several of the most well known fans
were here, as you can imagine, and overall there might have been a dozen of us. Line for merch opened up at around 1 PM and it was then I started to notice how the marketing strategy works for
both the artists and the fans here. While none of these items was limited nor exclusive, the Sakura Gakuin towel came with a random photo from of a set of 10 for only about USD
$10, so it was impressive to see fans buying huge amounts of them (sometimes more than they could actually carry lol) just to make sure they would get as many different photos as possible. I went
a bit insane as well with my merch so, as the rest of the fans went for lunch or gathered outside the venue to exchange cards as Sakura Gakuin songs played on the street courtesy
of a fan with a pretty impressive portable speaker system, I headed for my hotel/apartment to drop all the stuff and head back for the concert.
The venue was actually smaller than I expected, and all 1300+ fans went in in an orderly fashion by number. Each fan made himself a spot in the venue and was to remain there for the whole concert, as protocol mandates you don’t really get to push your way further or anything of the kind. I positioned myself to the left of the stage, about 6 mts from the stage and got ready for the show.
After a short introduction by the grad students, the show started with Verishuvi (I think we were all waiting for Mezase Super Lady, but as we know, Yui is known for arranging set lists in creative ways). In this and the next one, Makeruna! Seishun it is impressive to see the great work the new members have done to cover the parts of the graduates in a seamless fashion. Continuing with a song from their newest album, Gokigen! Mr. Toropikakori turns out to be an amazingly fun song to watch, and even though I was not a big fan of it at first due to it not being as rock-sounding as I would expect, the choreography makes the experience absolutely delightful. After a long MC and a short set of old songs (Fly Away, IJI, which had me headbanging like crazy, to the surprise of most of the fans who surrounded me, and Otomegokoro), the show continued with Marshmallow Iro no Kimi To and the sentimental Sayonara Namida, at which point the atmosphere started getting sad and it was noticeable some of the fans there had started tearing up. Luckily there was a cheerful MC right after those, and the show continued with the much lighter set of Animal Rhythm, Hana-Hana and Message. I should mention that, during Hana Hana I received a graceful nod from Moa-chan herself, no doubt consequence of me being the only sad guy who had been headbanging to every song through the whole concert (Laughs). These sorts of gentile acknowledgements are common from her and they are some of the things that contribute to her popularity among the fans, though I understand she has become “wiser” in how she gives them unlike in her early years (she also pointed happily a fan wearing a Pikachu suit, whom she no doubt recognized from Babymetal’s concert). Finally, the last MC was focused on the next graduates and their plans for the future. Yui and Moa talked extensively about Babymetal and their wishes to continue going further with it, while Hana made the most surprising announcement of the night by letting people know she would be joining a theater company and start performing at Amuse theater in Asakusa by August, which was immediately followed by a large surprise reaction from the crowd and shoutings of support for her. Hana being one of my favorite members because of her upfront and confrontational attitude, I can’t wait to see what will become of her in the future (Laughs).
The show closed with the new anthem Kimi Ni Todoke and the old one Friends, finishing up a most fun and enlightening show, as the nature of the dynamics between Sakura Gakuin and their fans really help you to understand how the Babymetal phenomenon came to be. Surprisingly, the fans continued chanting for a while, asking for a second encore, until the admins of the venue directly instructed them to leave.
While the show had it's sad moments, it was mostly entertaining and full of laughters from the girls. This I believe is the idea former member and leader Suzuka Nakamoto had in mind when she proposed to have two shows instead of one. The sadness and nostalgia will surely come after, as everything that was anticipated for the second and final show will soon come to be. This was merely the beginning of the Sakura Gakuin experience and I was just about to get in fully into the fukei world."