Last month, I attended the first event ever for Denonbu (電音部), their 1st GAME. I was fortunate enough to be selected through lottery as one of the Akiba area representatives. In this post, I will talk a bit about Denonbu's events, how it works, and tell my experience with it.
LIVE, PARTY, GAME?
When 1st GAME was announced, there was a bit on confusion on whether it's a game release or not. 1st GAME is actually an event name. Let me explain:
For its events, Denonbu decided to do a three-way approach:
- LIVE: LIVE events involve the casts of Denonbu. You know, the familiar format where the casts of the series sings to a set of songs. There isn't a LIVE event announced as of yet, though we can only hope for one in the future...
- PARTY: PARTY events involve the composers of Denonbu. The event format is much closer to actual club events, with composers playing sets of songs as DJs. The first event of PARTY type, 1st PARTY -NEO MIX-, is announced right after the 1st GAME, and planned for an event date of July 10th, 2021. Whether overseas viewing is even possible is an open question.
- GAME: This is the event type I am going to cover in this post. GAME events involve the characters of Denonbu playing sets of songs, with the inclusion of game elements. How does it work? How is it even possible for characters to play songs? That is what I am going to cover in this post.
An entry into the first Denonbu event
The announcement of Denonbu 1st GAME goes back to the planning stream held in February 2021. Its entry was previously announced to be limited by a free lottery. However, due to the demand, it was later decided to also have a read-only tier of the 1st GAME for free viewing.
Aside from the read-only tier (free for all) and representative tier (free lottery), interestingly, there is a sponsor tier that costs around 10.000 yen, but comes with benefits such as an after-party stream, archives, and the ability of have your name displayed on the site. A pretty interesting tier that I unfortunately don't have the money to spend, yet. I'm coming for you, 2nd GAME.
Denonbu 1st GAME uses a platform operated by Bandai Namco themselves, and has been running since last year, the ASOBINOTES platform. This platform is probably critical to how Denonbu 1st GAME operates, since it enables Bandai Namco to do very interesting things with it, as I will later explain in this post.
I initially applied for the free lottery when the lottery opening was announced, and had hoped that I would be able to get in, assuming that I won't be able watch it if I don't get the chance. While Denonbu later on allows everyone to watch the event for free, I am still very glad that eventually I got the representative slot.
1st GAME is broadcasted on 27 March 2021, which is a rest day for me, so it is very convenient, since being a representative means I have to ready myself to help the Akiba area win.
For an area representative, the ASOBISTAGE interface for the 1st GAME shows which area they are part of, along with the ability to send comments and stickers to the stream. Tweets with the Denonbu hashtag are also displayed at the bottom of the stream.
The opening has two casts from their respective areas, Shidomi Yuuka (CV of Hidaka Reina), and Hasegawa Rena (CV of the absolutely adorable Inubousaki Shian).
The stream itself had commentators that talk about the currently performing character and music: MC Shiraishi Minoru, DJs DJ Kazu and TAKU INOUE, Azabu cast Akina (the absolutely adorable CV of Kurogane Tama), and Shibuya cast Sister Claire (the CV of Seto Mitsuki). There are channels for the stream with and without commentary, so it is possible to listen to the stream without the commentary.
How 1st GAME works?
The GAME event type offers a whole new experience for Denonbu as a multimedia franchise. While most series do events with their casts, the people who voice the characters, Denonbu is unique in doing three events with different parts of the series, as I wrote above. The most intriguing, is of course the event with the characters. How is Bandai Namco able to do an event with characters that aren't even real? The answer, turns out, lies in the very first event where Denonbu was revealed in.
Denonbu 1st GAME is the first time BanaDIVE AX is used outside of Mirai Komachi. BanaDIVE AX is an entertainment system combining AI and xR technologies to create immersive DJ experiences with characters, first demonstrated during ASOBINOTES FES, the same event Denonbu was revealed in. This experience involves songs with predetermined points (we are a long way from actually setting up those with AI) and creating a DJ set which is complemented by character animation and VJ effects. This allows Denonbu to create an illusion that is the characters themselves are DJing, and that was what exactly happened, the characters themselves do DJ sets, with each character bringing something in line with their personalities (I will talk about them in depth later).
Game elements are incorporated into the event as the first showcase of the DJ Battle concept, where the two participating areas (Akiba and Harajuku) fight it out to win the reward, in 1st GAME a pretty high-stake one: a new song for the winning area.
Points are earned from the stream's comments, and while a character is playing their set, only representatives of the area the character is from can comment. The other area is locked out from participating, and if they want to say something about the stream, they have to run to Twitter. Yes, this is why Denonbu was able to achieve 3rd Trending Topic on Japanese Twitter!
When the points reach a certain thresholds, a special animation related to the character will play, not that the thresholds are visible later in the stream (the points bar filled up real quick, like first set quick.
User participation is an important part of Denonbu, and I am glad they are giving incentives for it. With the victor determined by the amount of comments, you can guess that I was furiously typing during the Akiba's turn (and furiously commenting during Harajuku's turn).
With all the mechanisms explained, let's dive into what the four girls brought to the GAME!
The girls' DJ sets
Inubousaki Shian: Decidedly Harajuku
Shian's set was generally heavily leaning towards Harajuku aesthetics and internet music. She starts her set off with her unitmate Hina's solo song Milky Timeline. Shian then proceeds to play YUC'e & Aire's Cotton Candy Sheep Night, and the legendary Indoor Kei Nara Trackmaker by Yunomi and sung by nicamoq. After that, she plays her unit's cover of Doki Doki Parirarura (originally sung by CY8ER), before proceeding to drop two tracks by famed music composer Yasutaka Nakata: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's Harajuku Iyahoi (fitting heh) and CAPSULE's Sugarless GiRL. Then, she plays a Yunomi remix (android52's remix on Game Over), and a KOTONOHOUSE song, before going into Future Funk territory, starting with Mikazuki BIGWAVE followed by two Moe Shop songs. Shian then went into Vocaloid territory a bit by bringing songs from picco and livetune's kz, before ending the set with her own solo song good night baby.
Her setlist are all available on Spotify, so I have compiled them into a list:
Kayano Futaba: Idols all the way!
Futaba's set was generally heavily leaning towards idols. A lot of them. Starting with her own unit song Hand Over, Futaba then went deep into idol songs, from groups such as Mi*nA (of which Futaba's VA Horigoshi Sena was part of), Wasuta, Niji no Conquistador, ZOC, Watarirouka Hashiritai, Appare! Harajuku, Mousou Calibration, Band Ja Naimon!, and Dempagumi.inc, before ending with her own solo song Idol Berserker.
Sakurano Mimito: Super cute, super adorable
Mimito's set was generally heavily leaning towards kawaii future bass (understandable, she is the "I am cutest" variety after all), and she starts with her own solo song Princess Memeism. She then proceeds to play songs from several artists, including Neko Hacker (one of my personal favorites), EmoCosine (also one of my personal favorites), Tomggg and HoneyComeBear, and Kano. After that, Mimito plays her unit songs, Future and a brand-new song Siropus Alpha. Then, she proceeds to play songs from several more artists like Nor (as Aice room), Freezer, and Denonbu composer Suou Patra. Ending the set, she plays Hyper Bass, then switched to Dennou Lollipop, also written by Suou Patra (the sudden BPM change and its resulting Mimito acceleration is just hilarious).
Hidaka Reina: VTuber galore!
Reina's set was generally heavily leaning towards songs from VTubers. She starts the set with her own unit song Blank Paper (composed by TEMPLIME), then her unitmate Kazune's solo song Mani Mani (cue TAKU INOUE's "I made this" comment), before transitioning to Uchida Maaya's Heartbeat City, also composed by TAKU INOUE (cue his "I composed this" reaction on the commentary). After that, it was full virtual artists, starting with the legendary Neon Light by TEMPLIME and sung by Hoshimiya Toto. She then plays songs from acts like KMNZ (composed by Harajuku's Snail's House), Shikibu Meguri (composed by Akiba's TEMPLIME), Eru & Sister Claire (Sister Claire was of course happy her song appeared), somunia (composed by Dotnoi and Tom-i), Marpril (composed by Shibuya's PSYQUI), before ending the VTuber train with Hoshimachi Suisei, which I did not expect at all. After the train, Reina plays yet another TEMPLIME song ("Reina really likes TEMPLIME, doesn't she?"), before closing with her own solo song Favorite Days.
Her setlist are all available on Spotify, so I have compiled them in a playlist:
The eventual winner
Each area representatives managed to score some impressive milestones, with both areas achieving more than one million points each. However, ultimately, Akiba prevails (yay for me), which means that the new song will be theirs to keep!
A unique experience
The things showcased during Denonbu 1st GAME made me hopeful for Denonbu's future events, since this is such a unique way to experience Denonbu. The fact that this is done by an AI is even more impressive. The user interaction aspects are also very interesting, Denonbu being user and creator-focused and all, with comments-based scoring and VJ effects at milestone.
While I haven't been able to get the sponsor tier this time (10,000 yen is pretty pricey for me), it is a hope that I'll be able to afford it in future events. See you later in 2nd GAME -Beta Test-!