Prior to their long awaited concert Morning Mususme held interviews at the AX Press Junket and held a panel for all of their fans. While we were unable to get an interview it seemed clear that their handler exercised a great deal of power in being able to pick which press group actually got a chance to interview the group. During the panel the handler also acted as the translator for the Q&A Session. It was there that the prowess of their handler was most evident as she would go as far as alter questions to suit her needs, though in the majority of cases justifiably so.
As a rule there are no restrictions on what questions may be asked at an Anime Expo Panel, with exception to asking for an autograph. Thankfully no one asked for one, though there were cases of fans asking the girls about things that were beyond their scope of expertise and about things pertaining to the group's interpersonal relationships.
Given their popularity and the sheer size of the crowd the handler willed that there be no video taping, audio taping, or photography during the panel. Due to the controlled conditions most of the questions remained family friendly with nary a marriage proposal being given, though many fans made a point to mention who their favorite Morning Musume Girl was. Tanaka Reina was a clear favorite.
Of their fandom, there were both males and females in attendance. Their fan base even spanned generational gaps as they even had their share of older fans. Many of these senior fans were proud of being 40-year olds, who's adoration of the group remained strong.
Despite the limitations imposed by the handler, the fans still turned out in droves to line up for a chance to ask the group questions. While there was no audio recording allowed, I did manage to get a few interesting tidbits of information as I furiously scrawled upon my note pad as the Q&A segment started:
1. The group likes soft cream and went so far as name drop Pink's Hot Dogs as a place they would like to go before they left LA.
2. Among Lin Lin's favorite anime series included Naruto, Bleach, Inuyasha, and One Piece. She also likes Tom and Jerry.
3. Kusumi Koharu's favorite shojo manga is Kirarin Revolution.
4. They will probably do a group blog, or at least according to their handler are considering a group blog.
5. If given the chance, the girls would like to work with American singer Beyonce Knowles.
6. They confess to not disliking anything in particular.
7. They have some mild interest in MySpace, who they collaborated with for the OPV contest.
8. The group will accept challenges, on occasion, for Rock, Paper, Scissors Battles and are willing to play the Punishment Game with fans. (One fan challenged Tanaka Reina, and lost. The fan in question had to meow.)
9. The group is, as a whole, interested in doing voice acting roles for anime, though fans of Kirarin Revolution would have already noted that some of the girls had already done VA roles in anime. Kusumi Koharu for instance was the leading voice actress for the Kirarin Revolution anime.
As for their concert, the hall was certainly full with the center being a veritable sea of fans. Within this sea of humanity almost all of them were waving glow sticks. In the case of one fan, two racks of glow 5-10 sticks.
Most of the audience stood up for the majority of the concert and their enthusiasm was evident. Glow sticks were waving (Probably glow stick "calling" which looks like synchronized air traffic controlling), people were bellowing, people were jumping. Some members of the security detail even started cheering and fist pumping as they sang.
Security was lacking as seat stealing did occur, as our seats in Section B had a few squatters who stole their way into our seats. Scant minutes later it seemed the same thing had occurred in another row. Thankfully security, eventually and belatedly, made their presence felt as they inspected each person's ticket. The squatters were told to return to their designated seats though some may have simply left the concert instead.
Their concert was very good and they performed almost flawlessly. But towards the end you could see that some of the girls were starting to get tired. And nevertheless the girls made a mistake. Midway through the concert they gave a small speech about global warming, which wasn't welcomed by a significant portion of the audience. It was the only time the audience sat down for the concert.
This year AX chose Morning Musume's "3,2,1 Breakin' Out" as the theme song this year. In celebration of this, a contest was held for best fan made music video of roughly 2 minutes featuring this year's theme.
Despite the low point that was the global warming lecture, the contest results for the fan made OPV contest were announced. The Morning Musume Girls chose an entry by an American (which they chose because it made them look good), Tsunku chose a Chinese entry (which he chose because he could see the hard work that went into it), and the Grand Prix Prize (chosen by Morning Musume and Tsunku) went to a Japanese entry. Summary of the results were as follows: (when was the contest held? I'm guessing it was global and pretty big.)
* GRAND PRIX (Morning Musume and Tsunku): zUNGRY&MYUNGRY (Japan)
* MOMUSU PRIZE (Morning Musume): Claudia and Ivet (Miami/United States of America)
* TSUNKU PRIZE (Tsunku): Jasmine (Hong Kong/People's Republic of China)
Hangry (Yoshizawa Hitomi, former member of Monring Musume who graduated on May 6, 2009) from Hangry&Angry was also present at the ceremony, though her presence seemed to have no other purpose than to add to the air of formality for the award ceremony. (I suppose she was only there as part of Tsunku's overall agenda as he runs the overlord group that both musical groups belong to, the super group Hello Project.) (So you can say that in the main text)
I suppose the greatest testament to their talent for me was that I did not go into the concert as a fan, but I did leave as one.
Last but certainly not least, as participants of AX 2009's annual charity auction Morning Musume raised a significant amount of money for the Children's Hospital of Orange County. The group generously donated three signed copes of their Platinum 9 disc, and a signed poster that fetched a handsome $1,700.