You see idols: Live report from the Zenbu Kimi no Sei da Budokan show

Zenbu Kimi No Sei Da. may be on hiatus, but that hasn’t stopped Codomomental from working behind the scene in order to immortalize their biggest show to date. If you read last week’s weekender, you’ll see that they recently launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to release a blu-ray of the show, and they reached the goal necessary to carry out the project in less than a week! In order to celebrate, we’re offering you a highly personal account submitted for publication by Richimetal. Because I’m not great at timeliness, the editing process took a while, so I’m glad we have a topical opportunity to bring it to light. Please enjoy!


Well they say life is all about those “moments” in between the normality and struggles of everyday life. I believe the same is true for music. It’s all about the moments.

This is a highly personal account of Zenbu kimi no sei da’s  solo performance at Nippon Budokan on 15th March 2023. Before talking about the show I feel I should offer some perspective by boring you with my life story 😉 ☺.

Background

My earliest memory of listening to Music was 1970. I have been going to live concerts since 1979. So I have heard and seen a LOT of music. It has always been an important part of my life. Those truly special unforgettable “moments” at live shows don’t come around very often. There can be years/decades between them. Yes of course there have been loads of brilliant, wonderful concerts where I have had the best time. However I am talking about those REALLY special moments that are forever imprinted in your Heart and Soul. These are nearly always created by the audiences.  In 1979 my first ever concert was AC/DC at Hammersmith. In the Bar long before the show started everyone was chanting “Angus! Angus!”. How often do you get that? 

In 1987 for U2 at Wembley Stadium, they finished with the song “40”. This has a crowd singalong bit where we sing “How long to sing this song…”. U2 were at their peak and the concert was incredible. After the show finished everyone was still singing it when filing out of the stadium, still chanting in procession along Wembley way to the station. Still chanting it on the station platform.  I went to sleep with it in my head.

 In 1989 The Wedding Present did a Ukrainian gig (imagine a Ukrainian version of “Those were the days”). They also were the support Band for themselves, playing new tunes that became the excellent Bizarro album. The feeling of expectation in the crowd was incredible… electric.  Everyone went crazy. 

My Bloody Valentine in 1991 at London’s Town and Country Club. My all time favourite album Loveless had just come out. They were so breathtaking and stupendously loud i.e. where body fat and muscle was vibrating to the Bass. The crowd alternating between wanting to hug the person next to them and ripping their throat out. I thought my car hadn’t started when I got back to it. It had started but I couldn’t hear it. Same was true for the car stereo. 

 

In recent years I have been lucky to have gone to some live events in Japan. Despite the real frustration of it being really hard (sometimes impossible) to get tickets for Japan gigs from outside Japan, I like the way tickets are sometimes allocated for the bigger shows. You apply for a show and you go into a lottery. This is then drawn at a later date and you are notified if you are successful or not. So much fairer. Also you can print the tickets at convenience stores.

Japanese audiences have a legendary reputation. At the shows and festivals I went to, I was trying to think to myself why is this so much better than UK gigs?. Well the main reason is that mobile phones recordings are not permitted, so everyone is actually interacting with the performers. Just like the old days in the UK. In case of general admission, you are called into the venue in ticket number order. So if you are a superfan and have ticket number A1, you get in first and get the best position. Everyone respects that and doesn’t push in front (though of course if a serious mosh pit forms or it all gets lively, then that all changes). 

It is true though that there are a huge number of really small venues in Japan and tickets can be bought at the door. Where you are in the crowd, etc. is less formal.     

Why Budokan is special to me

So on to Zenbukiminoseida. at Budokan.  Incidentally the group name translates as “It’s all your fault”. For me this was to be a special event even before tickets went on sale. For those who don’t know, Budokan has always been a legendary venue. When I was 15 my favourite and some of the best live albums ever made were recorded there. Every band’s dream was to play there (it still is, both Japanese and Western artists). Everyone has played there from Abba to Zeppelin. For their 10th anniversary, Babymetal even did 10 shows there.

 

The venue was built in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics (so it is the same age as me, but has aged better). It was the venue for the combat sports –  Judo, Wrestling. Budokan translates as “fight arena”. After the games it became a prestigious venue for the martial arts, with competitions, etc. So when the Beatles with their rock’n’roll and long hair were the first band to play there in 1966 it caused some controversy and outrage.  As The Beatles said though, they went there because they were invited to play, not to offend anyone. 

So since I was 15 I have had the dream to see an artist I love perform there.  It always seemed an impossible dream, being here in the UK and even considering being able to get tickets even if I knew who was going to play there.

Why an Idol Group?

In a pathetic attempt to keep this short, I have been heavily into Japanese Idol music since about 2015. It saved and changed my life.  At that time it would be true to say my mental health wasn’t at its best. Then BABYMETAL’s first album came and found me. That led to seeing them at Reading in 2015, then at Wembley Arena in April 2016, just after Metal Resistance was released. If it wasn’t for them I would never have gone to Japan in March 2017. I would never have listened to the “Miss Sins” EP by Yukueshirezutsurezure in Tower Records and track three on that EP wouldn’t have completely blown me away and changed my life. Then after getting their back catalogue and investigating them I further discovered they had a “sister group” called Zenbukiminoseida who’s music  I also completely fell in love with.

 

For most of the time since then I have been oblivious to Idol live shows in Japan and could have no idea of knowing who was playing where. Google searches reveal nothing.  My only experience of Idol was purely the music, through buying CDs and live DVDs. Discovering new music mainly by going there or CD shopping sites. In fact I didn’t even know the music I was listening to was ‘“Idol” or that it even existed. I was happy with it being Japanese music, in fact just “Music”.

I did, of course, develop a dream to one day see one of these groups playing live in Japan. Top of that list was Zenbu Kimi No Sei Da, mainly as I had watched their live DVDs which looked like my idea of the perfect gig.  

Relatively recently I have become more aware of what Idol actually is and the source of my new music has come from an excellent blog called, “Homicidols”. It was also great that they seemed to love the same groups that I did, which eased my own feelings of isolation being a UK fan. If it wasn’t for that site I would never have known that one of my favourite Japanese groups (one of my fav groups full stop, in fact)  Zenbukimi  announced they were playing at Budokan on 15th March 2023. Furthermore it was to be their last show before going on indefinite hiatus (which usually means they are disbanding). I also discovered Twitter, where all my favourite artists post about what they are up to, gigs, releases etc.  Sometimes they will even respond to comments.

So when last year my fav idol group announced they were playing their last show at Budokan, well I just had to be there. 

So how the hell do I get to go to Budokan?

Slight problem was that the Japanese government hadn’t yet re-opened Japan to overseas tourists. Also, despite daily checks, there were no details of ticket sales for the event. So anxious times until earlier this year when Japan finally reopened.  I booked my flights and hotels for March the very next day.  Still no ticket details for what seemed like weeks, and then it came. It was quite pleasing the way they did the initial allocation and was really fair. They offered tickets to those that had been on previous shows on the tour, i.e. priority to the loyal fans (so like some football teams do when the team reaches the later rounds of a cup competition, where priority tickets go to season ticket holders or those that went to the earlier rounds). The problem with that being, well, I am here, and they are there, so, no chance. Also, in order to apply you need to have a Japanese phone number and address.

I actually wrote to the band’s management company president and all the band members on twitter asking about how overseas fans can apply for tickets. Yes, that’s how desperately I wanted  to go. To their credit, both replied to confirm there would be a future announcement.  Meanwhile I received an offer from someone living in Japan who applied for the lottery and got me a ticket. I can’t tell you how happy I was. My lifetime dream was to come true: I was going to see my fav Idol group at Budokan!   

https://twitter.com/zenbukiminosei/status/1697082030084002187?s=20

The Day Has Arrived

The days leading up to the show and the day itself were so great.  As it was such a special day for me and that merchandise sales began at around midday, I went to the venue really early. Actually, that reminds me of the other great thing about Japanese gigs compared with the UK: they start nice and early, so they finish at a time where you don’t have to panic about catching the last trains home. You can relax, have something to eat, hang around chatting and chilling with other fans, meet the group etc.

Budokan is in a park which is also part of the Imperial Palace grounds, so it’s a good place to walk around and sit and have something to eat. Whilst waiting outside the venue, I heard the band soundchecking. It was the most fantastic sound because the bass and the drum were making the whole building vibrate. It gives you such a great feeling of expectation. I love the drummer in that group (called Risa). She is so cool, is an amazing drummer and is metronomic and technically astonishing. Also, she is always grinning when playing and is someone who clearly loves their job. 

https://twitter.com/RISAR13A/status/1635991077210685440?s=20

The vibrating building structure reminded me of when I used to go to all night hardcore raves. In particular to a purpose built warehouse venue in Milton Keynes called The Sanctuary. It was cladded with corrugated iron sheets, so when queueing outside to get in you could hear and feel the metal sheets vibrating to the bass …. And there is a LOT of bass in Rave music.

Purely by chance there were a small number of other non Japanese people milling around who turned out to be sort of meeting up in a group of foreign fans. Some were from overseas, but others lived in Japan. The latter kindly offered to help people at the venue with what to do, where to go, etc. It was actually so lovely to be with these people because they were MY people. Also because it increases the feeling of expectation and anticipation of the show when sharing it with a group. 

As mentioned I had already been to the merchandise sale before meeting them. This at first was not looking like a pleasurable experience due to my ignorance at not learning Japanese. But when I got inside that all changed. For one thing, one of the staff spoke English, so that saved me having to use Google translate (my best friend in Japan) to discuss things like T-shirt sizes. Even better though, was that the other “staff” there were all the members of at least two of my other favourite Idol groups. Some of them, genuine legends. So I was able to marvel at being so close to them and be handed a “T-shirt, size large” by them. 

https://twitter.com/nonamera_/status/1636004074926784513?s=20

The other overseas fans had yet to go to the merch sale. So when they went in, it was a priceless opportunity to go in again. This time being with them meant I was less of a rabbit in the headlights, more relaxed and could even interact with some of the idols.  

To be honest I was feeling a bit worried when it was time to go into the venue for the show. I already expected that Zenbukimi wouldn’t sell out Budokan (which can house up to 14,500 people depending on stage and seating layout). With the throngs of idol groups currently existing in Japan, most idol groups would feel lucky to have more than 30 dedicated fans at the tiny venues they perform in. Most shows feature several groups, so being able to have a solo show like Zenkimi did is a dream to them. Zenkimi’s biggest shows up to that point were the defunct Zepp Divercity and Tokyo Dome City Hall, both of which have a maximum capacity around 2,500 people. However when going in to Budokan there was not the throng of people you normally see at large arenas or when say BABYMETAL or PassCode are playing. 

 

 Doors opened an hour before the start time and it seemed like there was no one there. Even quite close to start time.  It did, though, start to fill up quite nicely and suddenly. COVID restrictions were still not fully lifted and the seat arrangements meant that every other seat was kept empty, so there was a chequerboard arrangement. I had an OMG moment when it became apparent my seat was eight rows back and even closer to one of the side stages which I was in front of. Having the spaces between seats was really good actually because you had room to spread out and leap about. Plus you stood a chance of having a good view of the stage through the gaps. Downstairs became full while the upstairs balcony had plenty spare.

Anyways the idea of this show was to be a celebration of the group’s eight years, to share the experience with their fans and say thank you and goodbye in style. Japanese fans and their fans are so passionate. It didn’t matter about numbers. 

So as I said covid restrictions were being lifted and even on the day of the show, more easing was announced. Up until the day before, the restrictions didn’t allow for any calls or screams. There were PA announcements about no crowd surfing, to remain seated. Thankfully, the day before, Codomomental announced via Twitter that cheering would be allowed.

 
The show begins (OMG the show is starting!!!)

So on they came. I was sooo excited. Some of my favourite artists, there, on stage …. Live! I was in row eight!! Due to the above covid restrictions, the crowd responded with enthusiastic applause. Then their first song started called, “Cult Scream,” at which point the whole audience had the same thought simultaneously as me, which was, “Restrictions ?! Fuk Dat” (and whatever that is translated into Japanese.) We all leapt to our feet and started chanting and leaping around punching the air etc. So having the space to fully express ourselves was brilliant. Then the second song, “World End Crisis,” came on. A genuine classic by anyone’s standards. Please check them out, all on Spotify etc. The guest vocalist on that record was my (still) number one favourite Idol (Shidare). She was in Yukueshirezutsurezure at that time and took the already fantastic track to a whole new level.

 

I won’t go into all the songs they performed in detail. But they did around 20 songs in the set. Then two encores, one of eight tracks and the second of three tracks? (who’s counting? The trouble with having seven albums is just, what do you leave out?) The setlist was indeed a celebration of their career. I went crazy, leaping around and singing/shouting like it was my last day on Earth. Everyone did. The singers and band were truly fantastic. The idols had this ability to make you think they were looking at you and performing for you only. Kasane was especially good at that, she really impressed me. They were all (better than) great. For example, when Mei Yui Mei was doing the screams in “Dada” she was on the side stage in front of me. She is the queen of screams anyway but on this occasion, it was Godzilla-like and practically blew the roof off. She physically choked with the effort. She is so cool and the impact of the stark emotions being expressed amplified by the fact she is about 4’9” tall. I don’t know why but the screaming parts of their songs are sometimes in English as they are in this. The combination of Mei Yui Mei’s and Kotetsu’s screams are the best ever. They scream, “I can’t live without you, there’s no point in living. I can’t live without you, there’s no point in living!” I was screaming with them. Then Nene Komochi whose voice is so beautiful and pure and strong. Her voice filled the venue with no problem and could have kept going to fill an even bigger arena. 

https://twitter.com/no0206canon/status/1641516699139866624?s=20

I am not being disrespectful by not mentioning the other singers. They were equally amazing. I don’t have to say anything about Megumi Kisaragi. She is the leader and has been with them since the beginning and has never missed a show or rehearsal, so there is no question about her commitment and awesomeness. Kotetsu is a legend because she has been in all of my top 3 idol groups and on my favourite albums ever. As well as Zenbukimi, she was in Kaqriyo Terror Architect and Yukueshirezutsurezure.  Her cute image and costume contradicts the edgy music she has made and her screams sound like a Banshee warrior war cry which goes perfectly with Mei Yui Mei’s.

The sound and the Band and their musicianship were tremendous.  

I heard that one of the reasons why Budokan live albums are considered the best is because of the acoustics giving a great live sound and because of the enthusiastic Japanese audiences creating a great recording atmosphere.  The concert was being filmed, so I will get to relive it all when the DVD comes out.

An unforgettable moment 

So onto the encores and why this concert provided one of those unforgettable audience  “Moments”. When the group left the stage after the main set, it was odd. I didn’t know whether this was a standard Japanese thing, unique to this group or people just adhering to the “No shouting” covid requirement. Whichever it was, the audience applauded, then people sat down, checking their phones or whatever and the hall was completely silent. No shouting for more or hand clapping. Quite eerie in such a large venue.

Then suddenly a single lone voice started shouting. It was one of the Japanese fans, whose seat was center front of the stage. He was screaming with a sound of despair, desperation, anguish and pure angst. Being that he was speaking Japanese, I had no idea what he was screaming, but it was clearly something distressing. I was just astounded by his bravery with everyone looking at him. Was he being silly and defying the rules? Was he annoying people and would he be kicked out? Then a couple of people started clapping in time with him. Slow and regular. Gradually  more and more people joined in and it spread wider around the arena, slowly but surely,  like a ripple in slow motion. Then a few people responded to his calls with a low “Dou shite, dou shite”. I pronounce it a bit like “Door Shtay”. Those words were familiar to me as they appear in some of their songs, in particular the absolutely  wonderful, “mudaigashou”. The song is, I believe, about a girl expressing how screwed up she is, feeling sick after being rejected by her loved one. It covers all those various feelings we can all relate to when we’ve lost someone we cared about.

There is a refrain in the song, to which, “Dou shite, dou shite,” is the answer which means, “Why why”. The fans up in the balcony joined in the singing as well,  some started singing the lines from the refrain and others replied, “dou shite”. It sounded so beautiful. Sweet, pure voices in harmony. Despite the balcony being sparsely populated, them being so high up made it sound like angels singing from the heavens. Little by little, this spread throughout the entire audience and we all sang the refrain. But we were singing/chanting in such a quiet, soft murmur, almost as if to ourselves. So it was like a low monastic  chant that kept repeating and repeating and we were clapping along. The original is actually a fairly fast track but we did it slower. It sounded like a lament. It was so beautiful and I wept.  

It was especially poignant as up to then the show had been a joyous celebration. But then suddenly the realisation of what we were going to lose hit. The words to the song struck a chord and seemed so appropriate to the occasion. We felt bereft with our collective sense of loss.  I’ll never forget that haunting sound and being a part of it for as long as I live.

The group came back onstage and sang that song, so you can guess the reaction.

Then before the second encore, it happened again. Emotional wrecks – one and all. When I got home I researched the song again and found a translation of the lyrics. It was always an emotional song which I loved, but now when I play it, I think of that Budokan moment and start sobbing uncontrollably. The mantra sometimes comes back into my head which is kinda calming and therapeutic. 

After the show

I do have one regret. The group had announced they would, after the show, go to another venue where fans could go and buy merchandise and cheki (cheki is that wonderful thing where you have a polaroid photo taken with the artist, which they sign and date and write a personalised message. I wondered whether to go, but decided not to as it would have meant missing the last train back. I also couldn’t decide which of the five members to meet. I would have wanted all of them but didn’t know how big the queues would be to do this and if there would be time. I was inexperienced in these things so didn’t know what usually happened. I had also ordered an online cheki, so I was expecting it in the post. It hasn’t arrived at the time of writing these lines.

Unfortunately I found out later that the cheki actually went on for as long as people were there wanting it and it ended at 11 the next morning!!! So I would have had time and, if I’d known, I could even have gone back to my hotel and gone back the next morning. Massive respect to them for doing that, having prepared for the show the previous day, performed the concert, then off to the cheki. Also, big respect to the other idols who helped them with the merch sales and admin at the cheki. They were the same group members that were at the merchandise sales at Budokan, so they worked so hard and for well over 24 hours. But then idols are like that. Their work ethic is incredible and workload unbelievable. They give their everything for their fans and in return the fans give them undying support and devotion.

More Idol experiences

I will briefly mention that later in this trip to Japan I went to the Lupinus Rock festival. Located in 12 small venues and a full day’s worth of artists for around £30. How did they do that? I was able to see from very close up more of my favourite groups who I have wanted to see. Namely KAQRIYOTERROR and Rei (who was a former member of Zenbukimi) . I also did manage to enjoy my first live cheki experience when I went to an event with several groups, but was mainly there to see the brilliant Miho and meet Derek Vasconi . I also saw Miho live the following day. Miho and Derek were so kind and treated me so well . That is just a brief summary, those events all deserve a detailed write up of their own. I must have seen over 30 groups/artists during this trip to Japan. I finally got to experience Idol first hand…. And I like it.

I appreciate that I have expressed a lot of feelings of high emotions (but these things are important to me). It amazes me, the power music has over people like that. Why is it that five girls singing and dancing in a large concrete building can evoke so much emotion? I realise that a lot of people around the world are struggling in various ways. A couple of days after Budokan, I travelled to Hiroshima. It was mainly to visit the atom bomb memorial site, Peace Gardens and Museum. The museum didn’t hold back on showing the grim truths and graphic photography about what happened. So much about the museum and various memorials in the park were so powerfully overwhelming and left me desperately sad. Big sigh. Crikey ended on a bit of a down note there.

Thanks for reading this (congratulations if you actually managed to get through it).

***

Words by Richimetal

Editing by Daemon and Papermaiden

One thought on “You see idols: Live report from the Zenbu Kimi no Sei da Budokan show

  1. Thanks so much Daemon and Papermaiden for even considering publishing this. Also for the considerable time and effort you put into the editing and adding all the extra videos, photos, twitter posts etc.
    Special thanks to Papermaiden for helping all the overseas fans who were there at the concert. With translations at the buppan, knowing when it was our turn to enter the venue and bringing us all together :-).

    Reading this again has rekindled lots of memories and excited anticipation of the Blu-ray release.

Comments are closed.