This stop brings us to Nagoya, which will host the May 14, 2016 stop of the LAST VISUALIVE tour. “Nagoya Congress Center” is the English name of the whole convention center; “Century Hall” is the name of the specific hall where the concerts took/will take place.
I don’t recall if I’ve said this before, but I do use “they” as a singular pronoun. I think I’ve tried to avoid that usage in this translation as it might be confusing, but it’s something I’ve done unconsciously since I was little. Perhaps because in my native language, Spanish, mixed gender groups are always referred to with the masculine form of “they” ellos and while that is sexist in a way at some point my brain conflated it all and came to the conclusion that when I don’t know someone’s gender I should just say “they”. It wouldn’t be until after I graduated college that I came to know that there is historical validity to the use of “they” to refer to one person in English.
Anyway, since Japanese can conveniently avoid referring to a person’s gender, and since nouns alone can be singular or plural, sometimes I don’t know if, for example, “record label staff” refers to a man or a woman, one person or more. It doesn’t help that the word “staff” in English is a collective noun, so it refers to more than one person, but as a loanword in Japanese sutaffu can refer to one person. Rather than continue fretting over this, or adding footnotes saying “I don’t know the gender here” I’ve decided to just go ahead and use “they” even when I know there is only one person being referred to but I don’t know their gender.
To read earlier parts, please see the Table of Contents.
November 21, 2002 Nagoya Century Hall (First Day)
“Hey, should you really be doing that?!”
I muttered to myself without thinking when I got into the venue a bit later than everyone else. I arrived just as the acrobatics practice was starting, and there was Gackt, flying about before my very eyes.
“Is your ankle alright?”
“It’s not. Not at all. It hurt really bad so I went to the doctor, but I was told my tendons were all stretched out and in terrible shape. But I have to do this warm-up.”
“I’m glad you didn’t actually break any bones, but…”
“Yeah, I’m wearing a brace now, so it won’t affect the show.”
The midair flips were more modest than they had been, and Gackt spoke as he continued doing cartwheels, which were easier to execute. Even after going back to the green room, he went out into the hallway to keep doing cartwheels, but soon enough blood started seeping through the bandage on his left hand.
“The cut on my left hand is pretty deep… It’s healed up some, but it won’t stop bleeding. But I think that given the injury, it’s actually healing rather quickly.”
Gackt headed out to the stage for the rehearsal, but it couldn’t be said he did so with light steps. However, it was clear the ever-increasing burden he was made to bear was firing up his fighting spirit. What an incredibly reliable man!
“This is a good headset!”
Gackt happily put on the new headset. He got down from the stage and went over to talk to the technician operating the lighting control console.
“A lot of people are saying they can’t see the wire work. Could you make the lights during that sequence brighter, maybe use something other than the strobe light?”
This living thing called a tour was still repeating the process of trial and error. They tried adding some recorded panting to the end of “Doomsday”, at the point when Gackt collapses. Also, they increased the amount of smoke that gets released onstage during “Speed Master”.
At the end of the rehearsal, the stage manager, Mr. Sasaki, picked up a microphone and spoke to all the staff in the venue.
“Today is the very middle of the tour (the 11th performance of the tour’s 22 total shows). The slightest careless mistake can lead to an injury, so put your all into this. Let’s do it!”
“Yeah! Let’s do this!”1
Deep voices echoed throughout the venue.
Can you imagine just how many staff members are needed to run a Gackt tour? Other than the band members, there are roughly 50 or more people that have to run around back and forth all over the country with the tour. Of course, if you included the security guards and other people that work only at each particular venue, that would mean there are always 100 people at work. It would be impossible to put on a good show if such a great number of people couldn’t work together as one.
Gackt headed to his dressing room, and just as he was noting that it was a Japanese-style room and how unusual that was, it turned out the staff had, out of consideration for his battle-scarred body, called over a famous Nagoya chiropractor. Gackt made use of the time lying face-down getting massaged to get absorbed in his reading of Chinese Grammar as he had done in Utsunomiya.
When I went out into the hallway, I saw someone from the record label come up running at full speed with a boom box cradled in their arms.
“I can only get at him at times like these, so…”
They were here to have Gackt listen to and okay the sample short version of “12 Gatsu no Love Song” that he would be performing on TV. The single itself was set to be released on November 27. Time sure does fly! It was already the season for “12 Gatsu no Love Song.” Not even Gackt has the luxury of focusing solely on the concerts. This, too, was destiny.
In front of the members’ dressing room, for some reason, the dancer EGA was doing the moon walk.
“I was thinking of adding this to the choreography in ‘death wish’…”
I see. These guys had also said they wanted to put more of themselves out there, so they were in the process of evolving.
Finally, it was time for the show to start. Everyone gathered backstage, forming a circle around Gackt to get into the pre-show huddle.
“Let’s put on the ultimate show. Today’s the midpoint of this tour, right? You don’t have to worry about tomorrow, so keep dashing all the way to the end. Let’s put our fighting spirit into this and GO!”
As the members appeared onstage, the venue was filled with high-pitched cheers. There seemed to be an unusually high number of female fans today.
I’m going to start with the conclusion: Having come to the middle of the tour, the shows were already rather polished, but there was still room to level up even more. By trying out new things and having them work well, it was clear that the group had succeeded in making the show even more moving than it had been previously. As had been announced, the dancers created a new high point for ‘death wish’. They also added some new elements to their choreography for “Lu:na”, showing off their progress. As I’d written during the rehearsal, the lighting during the wire work was made brighter as per Gackt’s request. Of course, the members were moving about like crazy as if to compensate for the injured Gackt.
Even with his unsteady steps, Gackt was fired up by the Nagoya crowd, which was exceptionally high-energy even on a national level. Gackt made the call and response section during “Mirror” longer than usual, letting it keep going on and on and on.
“Yaa yaa yaa yaa!”
That shriek reverberated through the venue countless times.
As one would image, by the end of the show, when Gackt climbs up the stairs and disappears from the stage after “Missing”, he seemed to get dizzy for a moment and faltered, but I think nobody in the audience could tell he was injured. That’s how much Gackt had controlled his body through willpower alone.
As usual, Gackt passed out and was carried to his dressing room. But he recovered faster than usual, and as soon as he opened the door to his dressing room, he called out to me.
“How was it?”
I told him my impressions of the show briefly.
“I see… So you thought it was good… I always lose my memory of the show, but today there are many things I can remember. It’s as if the pain in my leg kept my memories from disappearing…”
This statement made it quite clear that Gackt himself was in no way satisfied with tonight’s show.
“There were actually some minor problems onstage.”
Were there? In any case, I asked him if his leg was hurting him that badly.
“I’m glad I did my warm-up. If I hadn’t, I don’t know whether I would’ve been able to make it this far… In the first half it didn’t hurt that badly because I was just plowing my way through, but “Wasurenai Kara”, songs like that…that was tough. But it’s okay, because I like this kind of situation. *Smiles*”
Gackt enjoys his burdens; he can turn them into explosive power. Even as I worried about his injury, a smile naturally spread across my face hearing that quintessentially Gackt way of looking at things.
Dragging his foot, Gackt headed to the party venue. With tomorrow’s concert taking place at the same location there was no need to move the equipment, so tonight the band members and staff could get together in one group. It was the first big party of the tour. In all, over 70 people gathered, and Gackt, who had shaken his fatigue away, proposed a toast. One after the other, people started doing such silly self-introductions that the whole room was constantly bursting into laughter; those who didn’t drink were forced to imbibe; and eventually more and more people started doing away with their clothes. It was like a banquet full of rowdy jocks.
At the end of the party, Gackt said in closing:
“I got to know just how stupid you all are. I’m happy!”
November 22, 2002 Nagoya Century Hall (Second Day)
The band members were probably still hung over from the previous night, but they nevertheless made it into the venue on time. Likewise, despite having to be careful with his leg, Gackt was doing some light forward flips. As always, he went through the acrobatics practice, then continued on to the rehearsal at 3:30 p.m.
“Hello, everyone. Let’s do our best on our second day in Nagoya. Akkii, make sure you change. You’re supposed to be naked under your jacket, got it?”
Gackt finished his greeting, adding a puzzling message at the end. Akkii was a young, extremely naive sound technician. I got the feeling there was going to be some sort of trick in today’s show.
Once again, the rehearsal ended without any problems. It would seem the days of endless heated arguments, a displeased Gackt, and doors opening far later than they should—as was the case during the MARS ~Sora Kara no Hōmonsha~ tour—were finally over. I hoped the rehearsals from back then would quickly recede into distant memory, but…
Gackt headed over to the Japanese-style dressing room to continue yesterday’s chiropractic treatment. I don’t recall him being a particular fan of such therapies, but his other muscles must have been overburdened with having to cover for his injured leg.
“I wish there were more time for this treatment, but… I guess my back’s pretty exhausted too. It’s incredibly stiff. Oh well, it’s okay. I’ll forget it once I go out onstage anyway.”
After Gackt, strangely enough, Chachamaru lay down for treatment. Meanwhile, I made use of this time to ask Ryu for his impressions of the tour so far. Since his mohawk could be styled in an instant (ahaha), he spent the least time in hair & make-up so he had some leeway before concerts.
“Maybe this is the result of doing the live house tour, but there’s been this great unifying power from the time of the pre-tour rehearsals. Since we started out at a pretty high quality, I’m looking forward to seeing how far we’ll keep climbing heading to Yokohama Arena.”
“I’ve noticed a subtle change in your drum’s sound throughout this tour.”
“Yeah, I raised the pitch for a more solid sound. I figured this way it doesn’t have to overlap with the sound of the programming.”2
Like the others, Ryu was also continuing to evolve.
The show started practically on time. I realized that today, the cheering for Chachamaru was particularly loud. I wondered if there were many fans of Big Sis—I mean, Big Brother, in Nagoya?3
Gackt Job headed to the stage expecting to put on a show greater than last night’s, but there were so many little things that went wrong that in the end, they couldn’t outdo themselves. However, despite all the unexpected problems that kept stubbornly popping up, their spirit never wavered. Rather, I must add, the energy they gave off only increased with each occurrence. Of course, the audience’s cheers were more passionate than they had been yesterday.
It was truly unlucky that so many unexpected things kept happening. The head of the bass drum tore during “Speed Master”; the intro to “Fragrance” didn’t go well; there was too much time in the segue from “rain” to “Lapis ~ Prologue~”; there was trouble with the mike during “Soleil”; and so forth. However, “Even luck is a matter of skill”.4 The band had to take this all on again next time at the performances in Osaka for a rematch.
With all that going on, the talk portion today became particularly interesting, so I would like to make special note of it.
First, it had become common for Gackt to throw bottles of Volvic water into the audience before the talk portion, but today saw Gackt going to give his straw to someone sitting in the first row—with the straw still held between his lips. It goes without saying that this elicited an outburst of squealing.
As expected, Akkii made his appearance during the talk portion. Before the show, he had gone to Ōsu, downtown Nagoya, and purchased a tracksuit which, to be sure, screamed “yankii”. Not only did everyone get a kick out of seeing him in that outfit with no shirt underneath, but he also presented someone in the audience with a jacket that had a black dragon embroidered on the back.5
“Everyone on this staff is truly a man among men!”
With that one comment, Gackt closed out the talk portion. Then, he even jumped into an introduction of the band members, who had taken the show head-on even as all those problems popped up.
This was Gackt after the show:
“With the first half of the tour done, I had imagined this would happen, but my body feels worn out in a bunch of different places. It’s not just my arms and legs. There’s a lot of strain on my neck, sides, and back… Having looked back on the schedule for the live house tour, this one was set up to have more leeway, so fortunately my throat is alright, but my body hurts all over the place…”
All I wanted was for Gackt to go back to Tokyo and rest up, but after this, Gackt alone had to stay on in Nagoya for promotional activities the next day. On top of that, he had to go directly to Osaka from there, and appear on radio shows and such, so actually, he was the only one who couldn’t go back to Tokyo. Given that Gackt was used to travel, I figured that even on that schedule he could probably take care of his body’s physical condition, but I couldn’t help but pray that his throat, which thankfully had been spared so far, would remain undamaged.
Expecting a cheerful reunion in Osaka, I got on the last bullet train out of Nagoya. The moon beyond the train window moved with a speed completely unlike that of the moon I had often seen from the tour bus. It was just like the “waning moon” that had gone into its second half in the blink of an eye.6
[Continued in Chapter 4, Part 9]
1. What they actually said was yoroshiku onegai shimasu. It’s often said that this phrase is untranslatable, but I don’t agree with that assessment. (Partly because the “Japanese is superior because it has so many untranslatable words!!!” mindset ticks me off, but that’s a story for another time.) The phrase literally means “I ask that you be nice to me” but isn’t always necessarily said with the docile tone those words probably conjure up. While it’s true that there is no single English phrase that can be used on all the occasions that yoroshiku onegai shimasu is used, obviously there are phrases (or gestures) that we use in English when we want to express a cooperative spirit, to show good sportsmanship, to have others do us favors, etc. In other words, yes there is no good one size fits all direct translation for yoroshiku onegai shimasu, but that doesn’t mean English doesn’t have phrases or gestures which perform the same function in the same situations. This is most certainly not the first time this phrase comes up in this book, but this is the furthest I’ve gone from the usual translations of the phrase, so I figured I’d mention it. ⤴
2. Not entirely sure I got this right. What he said was 「そのほうが打ち込みの音とかぶらなくていいと思って」. I don’t know if he’s saying that there is some programming (i.e. a drum machine) along with his live drumming going on and that raising the pitch makes it so the two sounds are distinguishable, or simply that raising the pitch produces a more “natural” sound that is clearly distinguishable from that of a drum machine. ⤴
3. There are several ways to say “big sister” but one of them, onee-san, without the honorific suffix -san and written in katakana (which is what Hirose used here), usually refers to an effeminate man. This can be a gay man and/or a cross-dresser (though, at least while I was in Japan, the general populace seemed to have the misconception that all gay men enjoy wearing women’s clothing). ⤴
4. The saying in Japanese is 「運も実力のうち」which literally means “Luck is also contained within skill”, or perhaps more gracefully, “Even luck is a matter of skill”. I don’t know if there’s any particularly famous saying in English which reflects this although many people have said the same thing in different ways. The most succinct one I found was “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Personally I found the discussion of luck in this article on survivorship bias particularly enlightening. ⤴
5. Yankii (juvenile delinquents) have come up before, but it probably isn’t mentioned in the article I linked to there that one of the preferred clothing items of yankii is the tracksuit. Likewise in this context the dragon jacket also has a thuggish/yakuza feel to it. ⤴
6. Hirose is comparing the moon he’s looking at to “The Waning Moon” (the Kagen on Tsuki tour). ⤴