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Otakon 2013

Otakon has shown once again why it's one of the top conventions in the nation. And in 2013, it was arguably the best convention to attend. Otakon brought back both T.M. Relevolution, who had appeared a decade prior in 2003, and Yoko Kanno, who had last visited Otakon in 1999. Returning from 2010 was Home Made Kazoku, and appearing for the first time at Otakon was Chiaki Ishikawa.
A decade prior T.M. Revolution was known for Heart of Sword, the opening for Rurouni Kenshin. This year, the Gundam Seed theme songs Invoke and Meteor were what fans knew him for. Chiaki Ishikawa is a singer/songwriter and one half of the band See-Saw. Her list of anime theme credits is too long to share here, but most any fan who has watched shows from the last ten years will have heard her voice. Home Made Kazoku is a hip-hop band whose upbeat style fits in well with the often-joyful style of anime theme songs. Yoko Kanno is the preeminent composer for both anime and live-action films, whose accomplishments in a huge variety of musical styles is unrivaled.

Home Made Kazoku opened for T.M. Revolution at a pre-masquerade concert on Saturday. T.M. Revolution took over half way through, but the surprise finale had both groups playing together in an unexpected mix of pop and hip-hop. Chiaki Ishikawa performed ahead of Yoko Kanno at the Sunday concert. These guests also delighted fans with several panels and autograph sessions during the week.
Yoko Kanno appeared only on Sunday for the concert. Titled "Piano Me," the Sunday event was more than just a musical experience. Most concerts limit photography for reasons of copyright. The Sunday event allowed absolutely no photography, videography, or recording of any sort. Playing a solo piano, the clatter of shutters and movement of press members would have disrupted the intimate, delicate atmosphere. And there was more to the atmosphere than the music.

As the concert began, all the lights dimmed. Projectors splayed lines, shapes, figures, and sprites all over the stage. Aligned perfectly with the piano, it came alive with movement as Kanno played. Much more than just a musical experience, this was a visual one, too. Each carefully composed note married a carefully composed dancing light. This is likely as close to experiencing synesthesia -- the mixing of sensory input in the brain which has some people seeing sounds and tasting textures -- as most people will ever come. My conjecture is that this was deliberate. Kanno has often spoken of her experiences with this condition, and how it has shaped her work and her style. The concert, with that in mind, became a small window into her mind.

To give you an idea, Otakon has provided a brief video message from Yoko Kanno, which can be found at Otakon's YouTube Channel.

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