Last year, our reporter headed over to Japan to catch the talented seiyuu-singer Kenichi Suzumura in action over at the Kawaguchiko Stellar Theatre for his “Manten” Live 2015. Fast forward a year ahead and Suzumura delivers what is arguably his most stellar vocal performance yet on the second day of Manten Live 2016. He sang a mixture of long-awaited songs, fan favourites and nostalgic tunes for his long-time followers throughout the two days, delighting and charming the packed theatre!
As our reporter only attended half of the concert on Saturday due to her host university programme, only Day 2 of the concert will be covered in this article. The weather over at Kawaguchiko initially seemed grim but that did not deter the fans who were gathered outside Kawaguchiko Stellar Theatre from taking jidori (selfies) or munching on the snacks provided by the food booths that were set up. Fans even queued in the light drizzle without umbrellas. Our reporter took her own time to soak into the paradoxically festive yet gloomy environment and to look at the food being offered by the vendors.
After being seated, the reporter took note of the audience demographic and was pleasantly surprised to see children, middle-aged women and many boys amongst the audience. The set for the stage this year was slightly less elaborate compared to 2015’s Manten Live but it nonetheless retained the elegant aura that the previous year’s concert possessed. In the middle of the stage was a gigantic window flanked by three candelabras on each side. Two bronze chandeliers hung above the stage as well.
When the slew of Western pop songs’ volume faded out, fans started getting their penlights ready and began to move them to the motion of the music. Following that, an epic rock number with heavy guitar riffs began to play and everyone rose to their feet as Suzumura’s five-member PinPin Band stepped out of the stage and were met with heavy applause. A few seconds later, Suzumura himself ran onto the stage, clad in a checkered red shirt quite unlike his blue get-up the day before and was greeted with even more cheering from the audience. With that, he opened the second day of Manten Live 2016 with ポジティブマンタロウ (ENG: Positive Man Taro), signalling the fans to turn their penlights red.
A crowd favourite that is performed at almost every live appearance made by Suzumura, the fans filled in the bridge for Suzumura and shouted “Haro, Haro!” when the time called for it and this reporter could not help but be sucked into his infectious joy and the combined power of his diverse audience. Right after that, he proceeded to sing 春の日よ(ROM: Haru no Hi yo, ENG: Spring Day!) which turned the sea of red lights to a sea of pink. The fans jumped and drummed their penlights against the air to this upbeat and rocking number. Suzumura himself danced to the music which sent many fans squealing over his spontaneous moves!
With no pause, the opening chords to ミトコンドリア(ENG: Mitochondria) saw yet another change of penlight colour. Green lights moved in unison and the audience sang the vocalizations in the bridge as one entity. Suzumura’s band members also got to join in the fun as he went to each one of them and did exaggerated facial expressions as he interacted with each one of them.
After Mitochondria ended, Suzumura proceeded with his first MC session for the night. He proceeded to greet the audience present at Kawaguchiko Stellar Theatre and those who were watching the live-streaming of the concert over at cinemas in Japan, Hong Kong and Taipei. As announced earlier, Day 2 of Manten Live 2016 was live streamed internationally to cinemas in Hong Kong and Taipei as well and the recording was eventually aired in Shanghai and Guangzhou on 26 June 2016. Suzumura remarked on how weird the weather was, what with its fluctuations and mixed signals. He then asked the audience if they had come across the wonderful and on-point staff and proceeded to tell the audience about his encounter with the wildlife of Kawaguchiko. When he revealed that he was stalked by a deer, the audience broke into squeals of ‘kawaii’ and ‘ee?!’. After concluding his MC on his encounter with the nature and wildlife in the surrounding area, it is no surprise that the next song would have a green theme to it.
ALL GREEN was up next. As this was the reporter’s first time hearing the song live, she found herself mesmerized by the way Suzumura sang his high notes with such fragility and tenderness. The doors at the back of the stage also opened up, giving the audience an unobstructed view of the surrounding forests and Fuji-san. The crowd also filled in the ‘woah-oh-ohs’ in the song. To this reporter, the live performance of this number might be even better than the recorded version on his Shiroi Karasu single and it certainly was a performance she will never forget.
Right after that was The whole world and everyone, including Suzumura himself got their towels ready. The audience sang “saa ikou ka!” and “sonna mon da!” during the bridge, demonstrating how Suzumura values crowd participation in his songs. During the chorus, many members of the audience jumped and swung their towels around. The roof also began to open up, letting in some sunlight and the continuous drizzle as well. That did not deter the fans from jumping and swinging their towels around and we continued to be in high spirits! The staff responded extremely quickly and swiftly put on protective equipment over the instruments’ equalizers without interrupting the performance. Unfazed, Suzumura and his band members gave it their all despite having raindrops dripping on them.
For the next MC segment, there was a long pause and Suzumura stared at the audience only to casually joke that maybe it was difficult to see Mount Fuji on that day due to the rain and fog. He proceeded with his obligatory goods promotion and took out the pamphlet for his concert which has pictures of multiple copies of Suzumura doing all kinds of things in Kawaguchiko, ranging from working at Yurari Sento to just chilling on the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko. He then proceeded to ask all of the audience “Who is this handsome ikemen?” to which the audience responded with an enthusiastic “Suzu-san”. He nodded his head and proceeded to tell us to buy the pamphlet. Then, he began to promote his charity postcard set (which this reporter bought) and revealed that the proceeds would go to the victims of the April 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake. The mood soon took a 180 degrees turn as Suzumura started acting dramatic about the rain forcing the roof to go back over the theatre and the doors to close again. “I’m so sad. What should I do? It won’t end. Is it alright to continue?” he asked. He pointed at each and every one of his band members, each of whom responded with “All right“, signalling what the next song was.
The audience did the usual crowd call and shouted “All right“, filling in the blanks for Suzumura during this high energy number which continued to pump the audience up despite the gloomy weather that sent the concert taking a different turn. Right after that was the Japanese fan-favourite あいうえおんがく(ROM: AIUEOngaku) and the fans started clapping and shouting “Ai ai ai ai ai” alongside the beats. The varied hand gestures and waving during the song was proof that no rain or bad weather can deter Suzumura or his fans from having a blast. After the two back-to-back energy pumping songs were over, he went on with his next MC segment which saw a lot of laughter from the fans! Prior to that, he thanked the audience for lending him their energy despite the gloomy weather.
Suzumura then proceeded to talk about his antics with Daisuke Namikawa the day before the concert. “This is all Namikawa-kun’s fault!” lamented Suzumura. He revealed that he received an email from Namikawa on that day, wishing him all the best for the concert. Perhaps he did more than just wishing him all the best as the rain did fall upon the star of that day. Once again, he jokingly blamed Namikawa for the rain and apologised to all of his fans for the unfavourable weather conditions that day. For the uninitiated, in the seiyuu world, Daisuke Namikawa, a member of Kiramune and famous for his roles as Kazehaya in Kimi ni todoke and Toru Oikawa in Haikyuu!!, is also known as an “ame-otoko” (rainy guy). Suzumura apologised to the live viewing people as they had to watch the live where the rain fell instead of Saturday’s live as the weather was sunny on that day.
With that, he proceeded to sing ひとつ (ROM: Hitotsu, ENG: One). A short number that is played exclusively during live concerts and has never been released in his discography, this reporter found herself teary eyed at the touching message that the song held. During the isolated instrumental part at the end of the song, everyone held up their index finger to denote One – a touching moment indeed. After that was the acoustic version of ハナサカ(ROM: Hanasaka, ENG: Flower Hill) and during this number, Suzumura stepped out of the main stage and made his way up the stairs to reach more audience members. As our reporter was seated near the railings, she had a great look at Suzumura and his winning smile! Before he stepped out of stage, he told the audience to hold up the folded-up crepe flowers that came with the kit of promotional materials that was distributed to each member of the audience before the live. Below is a photograph of this reporter’s flowers for both days. The sight of paper flowers in white, pink, yellow and red moving alongside penlights was an unforgettable one as everyone waved them in unison. As Kawaguchiko Stellar Theatre followed the traditional Greek amphitheatre layout, it really did resemble a hill of flowers. Suzumura and his band then returned to the main stage and ended the song on a high note.
The next MC session held a huge surprise for Suzumura’s international fans. He talked about his upcoming single release, HIDE-AND-SEEK, which is also the ending theme to the anime Handa-kun. He also recapped the dates to his 2017 National Tour. The name for the tour is currently unnamed but he announced on the day itself that the first press edition of HIDE-AND-SEEK will come with a priority ID for those wishing to purchase tickets to this tour. Then, he took the audience by surprise by saying that there was in fact, more news from him. He announced that he will be making his solo overseas debut through Kenichi Suzumura Asia Live Tour 2016 ‘brand new world’, sending the entire audience and this reporter into massive applause. During the concert, he announced that he will be stopping by Hong Kong’s MacPherson Stadium on 5 November 2016 and will be having a two-day gig at Taipei’s Clapper Studio from 12-13 November 2016. To top it off, he gave an open-ended statement saying ‘and more’ at the end of his announcement, implying that more venues will be added to this Asia Tour. This makes him the first male seiyuu to go on an independent, overseas solo tour. The news also came days after Mamoru Miyano announced that he was going to have an overseas solo concert in Taipei too – an encouraging sign that male seiyuu too are stepping up their game and going international like their female counterparts.
Suzumura then recapped his Lantis Matsuri encounter and asked his fans when it took place. Cue a mixture of answers saying ‘two years ago’ or ‘last year’ (although both answers are valid). He then apologised for his forgetfulness and went to recount the time when it stormed heavily during Lantis Festival in Osaka and remarked that GRANRODEO had it much worse than him, timing-wise as lightning continued to hammer down the concert venue. Then he proceeded to talk about his misadventures in Singapore, starting with the red-eye flight and how Kensho Ono was asking Suzumura to protect him during the flight. He also talked about how gloomy he felt in Singapore because of the perpetually rainy weather during the period of Lantis Festival in Singapore despite liking the country for being a hot, summery place.
After his longer than usual MC segment, he took the standing microphone and broke into フランケンシュタイナ (ENG: Frankensteiner). As his first disco offering, the groovy beats got everyone dancing and the audience members ended up providing the backing vocals during the chorus and refrain, making it a shared performance between Suzumura and the audience. Following that was ROBOT from his first album, Becoming. Last sung six years ago during his first solo concert tour, hearing the improvement in Suzumura’s singing was a delight to this reporter who had been following his music career since his solo debut in 2008. No Kenichi Suzumura concert is complete without his iconic シロイカラス(ROM: Shiroi Karasu, ENG: White Crow) which saw everyone turning their penlights white and drumming them aggressively to the fast-paced beats. Suzumura’s near isolated vocals at the end of the song continues to resonate through this reporter’s ears until today.
His next MC session was one of his most touching ones as Suzumura thanked the audience for letting their voices reach him. He thanked those at the venue and those at the live viewing cinemas. He then asked those in the audience if anyone had seen a live viewing before. Having witnessed Nana Mizuki’s live viewing of her Live Circus+ in Taipei, this reporter put her hand up. He then remarked on how a live viewing in special in that people watch it from different venues but the feeling shared between the actual venue and the cinemas is actually universal. With that, he asked us to enjoy the silence for a while.
His keyboardist, Uda, began playing the keyboard. The isolated notes of the piano setting chimed through the Stellar Theatre and echoed through the surrounding forests. Even though this reporter managed to have the privilege of experiencing live 月とストブ(ROM: Tsuki to Sutobu, ENG: Moon and Stove) the previous year, every rendition of Tsuki to Stove seemed to have a different introductory arrangement thanks to Uda’s skilled playing. Suzumura sang the song with such deep passion and loving tenderness once again that this reporter found it difficult to move her penlight as she was so mesmerized by his singing. While it was a pity that the almost a capella vocals only lasted for the first quarter of the song, many in the audience were drying their tears. The next song was ロスト(ENG: Lost) and Suzumura’s gentle vocals continued to shine. In most performances of the song, he tended to struggle with the high notes but on that night, his high notes were on point and touched everyone in the audience. The melancholy ambiance brought on by the preceding drizzle coupled with the somber wave of the song seemed to be a magical combination.
The next song though was a huge surprise as it was the first time it was ever played during his solo live. Landscaper from his second album, CHRONICLE to the future, began to play, sending the entire theatre into a screaming frenzy as Suzumura grabbed the standing microphone. Evidently, fans had waited a long time to hear this song live as everyone turned their penlights red and sank into Suzumura’s passionate and strong vocals. This reporter was extremely satisfied to hear one of her favourite songs from his discography being performed live!
After the emotional and passionate trio of love songs (which managed to tie in with the theme of ‘fire’ on that day), Suzumura broke the mood and joked that it was a bit dark. He then proceeded to thank his band members from the bottom of his heart, complementing them for how amazing they were. Suzumura then proceeded with his obligatory food talk and remarked that his band members were amazing chefs too. He asked the audience if anyone has climbed Mount Fuji before only to be greeted with a few hands up in the air. With that, he rushed backstage for a costume change and the members of the PinPin Band kept the audience occupied through instrument solos, allowing each member to display their skills over the instruments. The audience clapped alongside the band too until Suzumura appeared on stage once more wearing a blazer with orange-red accents and black pants.
He immediately proceeded to sing シンプルな未来 (ENG: Simple Future), inviting even more claps from the audience and synchronised arm waving during the chorus. After that was the time for him to showcase his latest offering, brand new. He sang the isolated vocals at the beginning of the song, enabling the audience to hear the ethereal qualities in his voice before the big instrumentals came in. With simple crowd calls of “Haro, Haro” and the vocalisations in the bridge, brand new was a very easy song to enjoy both live and recorded and this reporter is eager to hear it live more often. Following that was the fan-favourite and iconic in my space which saw a new level of crowd participation as fans sang the backing vocals during the chorus, transforming the performance into one that is shared by Suzumura and his fans. Another fan-favourite and live staple, SHIPS saw Suzumura initiating crowd-calls with different segments of the audience, ranging from those who tied their muffler towels into necktie-esque scarves and those who did not bring penlights.
Once again, the doors behind the gigantic window set opened, letting in the cool post-rain air flow through the theatre. Mid-way through his address to those in the live viewing and live audience, an insect swooped down onto the stage, startling Suzumura and sending the audience giggling over his adorable reaction and efforts to avoid the insect. He then remarked that the live’s conclusion was drawing nearer and that as per his previous lives, there would be no encore. Fans did not seem deterred by this though as for the next two songs, they gave it their all when it was their turn to sing.
During and Becoming, the torches at the outdoor area behind the stage began to light up one by one and Suzumura’s soft vocals definitely warmed up the night alongside the heartwarming lyrics behind the song. When the fans sang ‘lalalalala’ during the instrumentals in unison, this reporter found herself tearing up at the harmonies that filled the theatre. Right after that was none other than INTENTION, the song that marked Suzumura’s debut as a solo artiste. It is a concert tradition that fans would sing to the tune of INTENTION to call Suzumura up for encores during his usual concert tours. However, as there was no encore, perhaps he decided to give the fans the opportunity to do that call once again. He stepped off the main stage and joined the crowd in their usual encore song on an elevated platform on the middle terrace’s walkway. All members of the audience turned to face him as he sung away and the roof opened up. He returned back to the main stage to finish his song as fireworks began to explode in the starless, night sky.
With that, Kenichi Suzumura “Manten” Live 2016 came to an end. Suzumura and the PinPin Band stood together in a straight line and bowed in unison for the curtain call. He thanked the audience for being their energetic selves that night and gave one more bow before retreating backstage with his band members. The nearly three hours that marked the concert passed by in a flash and this reporter wishes she could relive it all over again.
While this reporter was not at the live viewing venues to soak into the atmosphere there, the rain did nothing to hamper Suzumura and his loyal fans during the concert. He remained his bright, sunny self and delivered arguably his best vocal performance since his VESSEL 2014 tour. This reporter also felt that the theming, concert-wise, was done better this year. On the previous day, which was implied to have the water theme, Suzumura was dressed in blue and the latter half of the concert was done almost entirely as an acoustic concert – fluid and calm, like water. Likewise, Day 2’s songs were more passionate and high energy, like fire. With his tenth anniversary as an artiste drawing nearer, fans can definitely expect a lot more musical activities from Suzumura!
- ALL GREEN
- The whole world
- All right
- brand new
- in my space
- and Becoming
Kenichi Suzumura will also be going on an Asia Tour titled Kenichi Suzumura Asia Live Tour 2016 “brand new world” in the fourth quarter of 2016. So far, he has announced stops at the following cities:
Hong Kong, MacPherson Stadium, 5 November 2016
Taipei, Clapper Studio, 12-13 November 2016
Shanghai: Shanghai QWS Cultural Centre, 19 November 2016
Following that, he will also go on a currently unnamed national tour around Japan in 10 different live houses as follows:
Niigata: Niigata LOTS, 4-5 February 2016
Sapporo: Sapporo PENNY LANE 24, 11-12 February 2016
Takamatsu: Takamatsu-festhalle, 18 February 2016
Hiroshima: Hiroshima CLUB QUATTRO, 19 February 2016
Sendai: Sendai PIT, 26 February 2016
Kumamoto: B.9 V1, 4 March 2016
Osaka: Dojima River Forum, 5 March 2016
Nagoya: Nagoya Club Diamond Hall, 11 March 2016
Fukuoka: DRUM LOGOS, 12 March 2016
Tokyo: Toyosu PIT, 26 March 2016
All photographs without watermarks courtesy of AnimateTimes. Photographs taken from AnimateTimes were taken on Day 1 of the concert held on 18 June 2016. Photographs with watermarks were personally taken by the reporter outside concert grounds.
SOURCE for Tour Dates and Venues: INTENTION website