I apologize for not reporting in sooner but, quite frankly, I have been having too much fun at Saboten Con. It has been three years since the chika idol faithful gathered in the Arizona desert for Labor Day weekend and there was a palpable eagerness to reboot what had become (pre-COVID) an annual event for US idol otaku. It was a weekend filled with reconnecting, reminiscing, staying up late and waking up exhausted. That was all in addition to the main reason that brought us to Phoenix in the first place: the opportunity to spend four days with our favorite idols from outer space, MELON BATAKE A GO GO.
The highlight of Saboten Con 2022 took place on the evening of the opening day, namely, the US debut performance of MELON BATAKE A GO GO. The Friday night live was raucous and kicked off in style with MELON’s signature tune, “Sick Idols”. The set list featured songs from the entirety of the group’s catalog, from vintage classics like “She Said” and “Surfin’ Bird” to multiple tracks from their latest album. “Ikasuze Idol” got especially intense with Run launching herself into the throng for a crowd surfing session. It was a high energy crowd throughout the whole set and the performance of Yuffie, Run , Chiyo and Usako seemed to grow in intensity as the show progressed. The foursome didn’t skip a beat, and none of the new fans they made Friday night realized that they were down a member (Soze being, unfortunately, unable to make the trip to Arizona). Soze’s spirit was felt throughout the weekend, however, channeled through the perpetual presence of Canada-chan, a small plush dog usually under the care of Chiyo.
— めろん畑a go go (@MELONBATAKEAGO2) September 3, 2022
With the debut live successfully crushed, fans got the first of the weekend’s multiple opportunities for chekis and autographs. Chaotic Harmony was again in charge of managing the idols’ appearance at the Con, and did a stellar job as always. This year they offered a choice of cheki formats with 2-shots using a traditional Polaroid or personal cellphone. While the Polaroid cheki are an essential element of chika idol culture, the cell phone shots are very convenient for sharing on social media. With several cheki sessions held over the course of the long weekend, by the end of Saboten Con, most fans had at least one set of each.
— Daemon 🖤 Aimless (@DaeMetal) September 3, 2022
One of the best parts and biggest perks of a trip to Saboten Con are the unprecedented opportunities it offers to interact with the idols in ways that would be difficult or impossible in Japan. The best example of this came on Saturday evening, at he MELON VIP event hosted by Chaotic Harmony. For obvious reasons, this year’s event required a bit more social distancing than in the past, but participants were still able to get closer to the members by playing a few rounds of “Two Truths and a Lie”. The attendees also got to take a special, oversized four-shot cheki with the whole group, which was made even more unique since the members showed up for the VIP event in variations of school uniforms.
On Sunday we got another cheki/autograph session and a Q&A with MELON. We also received word from the staff at the Chaotic Harmony booth that Yuffie had brought over a bunch of GRARUDA merch that was now available. When we arrived to snap up as much as we could finance, they also handed out stickers that Soze had hand-drawn, each one unique, to anyone who had purchased merch over the course of the weekend. The merch booth also offered random checki pulls which are as addictive as crack. I’ll be entering rehab tomorrow.
For the Sunday cheki session and Q&A, MELON dressed in summer yukata.
Thank you for the autograph session!
Next MELONBATAKE A GO GO,
Let's move to the talk show right away! Come with me～♬
— めろん畑a go go (@MELONBATAKEAGO2) September 5, 2022
The Q&A session was very informative and well-attended as MELON picked up new fans over the weekend. Among the things we learned were:
Q: Why does Run have short hair?
A: When she was little she had very long hair, but she fell asleep under a kotatsu with gum in her mouth, and it fell out and got stuck in her hair. She had to get all of her hair cut off, liked how it looked short and has worn it that way ever since.
Q: What inspired the members decision to become idols?
- Chiyo – Wanted to be an idol since she was a child but never did any idol related activities while growing up. Then she learned about chika idols and challenged herself to become one.
- Usako – Was always a fan of idols and wanted to be around cute girls because she felt like it might make her seem cuter.
- Run – Started a band with friends in high school, but the vocalist soon left and another member suggested starting an idol group instead. After that ended, she wasn’t sure what to do until she learned about chika idols.
- Yuffie – Was more into bands until she found Dempagumi Inc. and Momoiro Clover Z who impressed her with how hard working they were. She thought they shined more because of this and it inspired her to become an idol.
Q: What music do you listen to?
- Chiyo – Spitz, BiSH, Cho Tokimeki♡Sendenbu
- Usako – Hololive (specifically Pekora), Dempagumi Inc., Pinocchio P
- Run – Gorillaz, Aoi Shiori, Neru (vocaloid P)
- Yuffie – Rammstein, QUEEN BEE
About a week ago when I was looking through the MELON BATAKE A GO GO Wikipedia page, I noticed that it said that Run was born in Cameroon. I asked if that was true and Run reminded me not to believe everything I read on the Internet.
— Daemon 🖤 Aimless (@DaeMetal) September 5, 2022
On Monday, the final day of the con, we had one final cheki session with MELON, who appeared this time in street clothes. It was a nice, casual way to wrap up the long weekend. A bit later, I also had the opportunity to sit with the group for a Homicidols interview which will be publishing in the next several days.
Yuffie, Run, Chiyo and Usako were amazing all weekend long: cute, cool, kind, patient and funny. They were also incredibly generous with their time, energy and snacks (between events, Run would hand out rice crackers and squid snacks to any fans she encountered). The members of MELON BATAKE A GO GO left us with a lot of special memories over the course of the four days.
Overall, it was truly an amazing weekend and probably my favorite Saboten Con yet. It was especially nice, after these two long years of relative isolation, to get together with old friends and new during what is, hopefully once again, an annual chika idol pilgrimage. In addition to the extensive quality time with the amazing MELON BATAKE A GO GO, the rest of the Con had lots to offer as well including several sessions with Paprika Mari who I hadn’t seen since East Meets West Fest. She showed excerpts from Derek Vasconi’s documentary, Flowers of Passion and talked about Hanako-San during a panel on idols in anime. Saboten Con has also made a habit of bringing over At Home Cafe’s legendary maid, Chimu, and premier maids Hitomi and Mizukin who are always fun.
— めろん畑a go go (@MELONBATAKEAGO2) September 4, 2022
At the Saboten Con’s closing ceremony there were a few changes announced for next year’s event that are potentially exciting. Of most interest to us are plans to move musical acts to a larger venue and expand musical guests to four or five per night with a headliner each evening. That could mean up more than a dozen musical guests next year, and the potential to have multiple slots filled by acts we cover here is pretty tantalizing. MELON had a great reception, so perhaps we could see them again with Soze in tow this time? Let us hope.
So pencil in Labor Day, 2023. I’ll see you in Phoenix! And start saving now for random-pull cheki.
Youth, enthusiasm, and a little courage. A game that can be played with a friend who has it.
I think it's really great to have an event like this.
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We want to come back to next.
Tomorrow is final day.#ありぞな畑agogo#MELONBATAKEAGOGO#sabotencon2022 pic.twitter.com/TyaVL28ooz
— DJワタル (@irockwataru) September 5, 2022