Anime, Game Music

Anime Boston 2009: Video Game Orchestra and Too Much Cosplay

May 28, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook Anime Boston 2009: Video Game Orchestra and Too Much Cosplayon Twitter

I went to my first anime convention this year. There were lots of things there that I did not want to see, such as a dude in a Lulu costume and about fifteen too many girls in Yuna cosplay. Over the course of about seven hours I saw more people dressed up as Naruto and Cloud Strife than anyone should ever have to bear witness to in their entire lives. There were teenagers screaming loudly over a Super Smash Bros. tournament, there were people dancing in the convention center halls to J-Pop and, in case you missed it the first time, there was a DUDE in a LULU COSTUME.

Why would I put myself through such torture? Find out after the jump.

One of the reasons was to see the Boston-based Video Game Orchestra play as the opening act before the Kalafina concert that Don told you about earlier this week. Led and emceed by VGO’s creator and musical director, Shota Nakama, VGO – comprised of students from Berklee, the Boston Conservatory and the New England conservatory – took to the stage in their string-based “chamber group” form; not their final battle form, which includes a larger brass section, more violins and… well, more of everything, including an attack that reduces the hit points of everyone in the crowd down to 1. Although I’ve yet to see VGO as a full group, I was very pleased by what I saw and heard from the chamber group. While their set list seemed directed more toward the casual VGM fan, with Final Fantasy and Chrono arrangements about, the performance was tight and was well worth watching whether you’re into mainstream VGM or if you’re one of those weird people that hoard Masafumi Takada CDs. Not like I’d do that or anything.

The set list for the evening was as follows:

1. Final Fantasy VII – “Battle Theme” and “Bombing Mission”
2. Silent Hill 2 – “Theme of Laura”
3. Metal Gear Solid 3 Suite – “Main Theme” and “Snake Eater”
4. Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross Suite – “Premonition,” “Guardia Millenial Fair,” “Wind Scene,” “Frog’s Theme,” “Chrono Trigger,” “Scars of Time”
5. Halo – “Main Theme”
6. Yuki Kajiura Anime Suite
7. Final Fantasy – “Surf Rock de Chocobo”
7. Final Fantasy VII – “One Winged Angel”

The show opened up with a powerful rendition of Final Fantasy VII’s battle theme, which smoothly transitioned into the “Bombing Mission” part of the game’s opening suite. Backed by some strong percussion and guitar-work from Nakama and Brian McCoy, the arrangement balanced the rock and orchestral sounds from the group very well and kept things exciting throughout. Following was “Theme of Laura” from Silent Hill 2, which was mostly faithful to the original but featured some great saxophone solos from Zac Zinger. Hearing the opening chords on McCoy’s acoustic guitar brought shivers down my spine. At first I thought it might have been a recently developed allergy to being in close proximity of large quantities of pocky and people repeatedly shouting out “KAWAII!,” but after hearing a few measures of the music I knew it was actually because of the concert. Thankfully.

VGO then rocked – or should I say orchestrally jazzed – their way through a moving rendition of the Metal Gear Solid 3 main theme and a smooth cover of the song “Snake Eater,” originally composed by OSV’s friend and contributor Norihiko Hibino. Rio Hara sang the lyrics stirringly, and when “Snake Eater” came to a close the group finished the arrangement with a short version of the original Metal Gear Solid main theme.

And then there was the Chrono suite – a good seven minutes or so of Mitsuda goodness, featuring the opening section from “Premonition,” “Guardia Millenial Fair” (which Shota encouraged the crowd to sing along with!), “Wind Scene,” “Frog’s Theme,” (garnering a loud applause from the crowd), “Chrono Trigger,” and “Chrono Cross ~Scars of Time~.” My favorite piece from the suite was “Chrono Trigger” thanks to Zinger’s saxophone work, making the piece sound like a pseudo-orchestral b-side from the Brink of Time album.

Despite their seeming affinity for Japanese VGM based on this particular concert, VGO didn’t neglect Western VGM composers, however, as their “HALO Main Theme” proved. McCoy shredded his way through the arrangement with ease, providing plenty of guitar solos and melodies that would make Satriani blush, while the orchestra laid the groundwork for the wonderful main theme. And for added effect, right as the arrangement came to a close, a very brief portion of HALO 3’s new main motif was incorporated into the arrangement to bring the song to its conclusion.

After a couple of arrangements from Yuki Kajuira’s anime music catalog, Shota told the crowd that he wanted to “see some banging heads!” and the group led their way into a surf rock arrangement of the Chocobo song, which sounded like a darker version of FFVII’s “Electric de Chocobo” and featured some great back-and-forth between drummer Alvaro Morales and the charismatic and perpetually smiling percussionist, Noriko Terada. Seriously, every time they showed Terada on the big screen she had an ear-to-ear grin on her face, proving that she was having a great time performing with the orchestra!

The show ended how most VGM concerts that I have attended or have read about have ended recently: with an arrangement of “One-Winged Angel.” Call me jaded, but I think this song has been done to death – something that Arnie Roth and the PLAY! concert had originally proven by playing the song twice in a row at their first Chicago gig to uproarious applause. Despite my personal feelings toward the song, VGO did a great job with the tune; the arrangement was heavy and took its influence from the Advent Children version of the song, including heavy percussion and some rockin’ guitar solos. It was a great way to end the show for fans, but I’ll be happy if I never hear “OWA” again.

Going by their set list on the orchestra’s Facebook page, they have a well-rounded set featuring lots of styles of VGM from all over the world, including some random ones from God of War 2 and Donkey Kong Country 2, the latter of which I’d love to hear someday. Despite picking a lot of what people consider to be VGM’s “greatest hits” for their show, it was an excellent and enjoyable performance… even for a jaded VGM fan such as myself. I would absolutely see VGO in concert again and if you have the chance I recommend that you do the same!

Just do me a favor: if you choose to go, for the love of God, leave the cosplay at home.

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