For two days in late August, the scene at the packed Saitama Super Arena was of glowing multicolored lights illuminating the venue as pop songs filled the air to the delight thousands of pogoing fans.
It was Animelo Summer Live 2012, a large-scale anime song concert that attracted more than 54,300 fans, according to the organizer.
During the two days of "Anisama," 40 groups performed 86 songs on the gigantic stage. Their performances lasted about five hours each day.
"Are you on fire, Saitama Super Arena?" enthused one of the artists on stage, while another shouted: "Anisama's awesome!"
Anime songs, or "anison," are no longer just for geeky "otaku." Anison has become more mainstream and many of the artists also look as awesome as they sound.
Ayumu, the lead singer of the cool-looking female duo Zwei wore a black jacket and a pair of sunglasses. Singer and voice actress Yui Horie appeared in a cute idol-like costume, sporting a hat with a sunflower attached on top of it. Anime rockers GRANRODEO also looked sharp as they entranced the crowd with their intense melodies.
Making it debut in 2005, Anisama's specialty is exclusive collaboration projects, with singers Chiaki Ishikawa and Minori Chihara sharing the stage this year, among others.
At both concerts, the stands were shaking from the beginning of the show. The enthusiastic audience was on its feet for every song, with many people jumping up and down to the rhythm of the music and waving glow sticks of all the colors of the rainbow.
A 24-year-old from Saitama Prefecture attended Anisama for the first time with two of her friends to see GRANRODEO. When their idols appeared, she and her friends took out orange-colored glow sticks.
"It's my way of telling them 'I love this song,' " she said.
More than 27,000 others must have agreed with her as Saitama Super Arena was bathed in a warm orange light from thousands of glow sticks.
As to why she loves anime songs, she said: "They remind me of my younger days when I enjoyed listening to the songs. I thought I would quit when I grew up, but I couldn't."
In anime's formative years, the best known anison singers were men, notably Ichiro Mizuki, with the theme song for the "Mazinger Z" robot series, and Isao Sasaki, who sang the theme song for the "Space Battleship Yamato" TV series.
But around 2000, voice actresses started getting in on the act and were doing the theme songs for popular anime. Nana Mizuki helped boost the profile of anison when she appeared on Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK)'s popular live music program Red and White Year-End Song Festival in 2009. An increasing number of male anison artists who attracted female fans also arrived on the scene.
Anison artists are also finding greater exposure thanks to an increasing number of anime slots on Tokyo MX, satellite channels and other networks.
The popularity of anison prompted the Anisama concert to move to a bigger venue, Saitama Super Arena, in 2008. Animelo Summer Live is now the biggest anime song concert held in Japan.
"There are not so many singers who can fill this venue," Anisama producer Hiroyuki Uchida said. "We feel proud to be able to organize a pop festival-style live event with anison."
Thanks to YouTube and other video-sharing websites, the enthusiasm for anime songs is also growing outside Japan.
A Shanghai edition of Anisama was held in February last year, attracting about 8,000 people, according to the organizer. There is also a plan to invite anison singers from Japan to hold live concerts at music venues in China on a continuing starting this autumn.
Anison singers have also found fans in the United States and Europe, leading the way for Japanese subculture trends often referred to as "Cool Japan."
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