Monday, July 7, 2008

Children of Bodom and the End of Tougeki Qualifiers

Approaching the weekend, I once again was unsure of my team, so I simply emailed everyone in my phone again. Most people didn’t reply and the few who did had already formed teams. This weekend was the very last Tougeki qualifiers (aside from the last chance quals the actual day of SBO, in which entrants are selected at random, meaning there’s no guarantee that people will get a chance to enter). Saturday would be the B-7 block final and Sunday would be the C-4 block final at Shinjuku Sportsland. However, I would only be entering the Sunday tournament because Saturday I had a ticket to see Children of Bodom live!
Friday night, I stayed in Gunma because Amy, one of the other ALT’s in my town, would be going back to the US soon. The Board of Education was throwing her a farewell party and of course, I and the other ALT in our town, Cynthia, were invited. Cynthia asked me to pick her up on the way to the town office so I swung by and got her in my car. On the way there, she dropped something on the ground so I turned the light in the car on so she could see down by her feet. We arrived at the town office and from there, everyone took a bus to the banquet hall where the party would be held. I was expecting a typical traditional Japanese style enkai but this turned out to be totally different. I don’t remember the name of the place but the sign referred to it as a “New York style wedding hall.” Basically the place was extremely modern and trendy looking with really crazy furniture and designs. The staff was mostly girls wearing sorta formal looking suites but they all had really whacky and artsy looking ties. The room where the party was being held had a bunch of round tables just like there would be at a wedding reception. There was also a huge buffet table and a full bar. The food was excellent and they had a nice variety of various things, some Japanese food, some American food, some Italian food, and some Chinese food. I got nice a stuffed, and I also had plenty of beer. The party pretty much played out like most other enkais I’ve been to. The head of the town office give a speech and then a few other people gave short speeches and then Amy gave her farewell speech. After that, Cynthia and I went up and presented her with flowers and a gift that was given by everyone from the town office. I made various small talk with people and stuff and got nice and full of beer. After about 2 hours, the party ended.
Much to my surprise there was no after party planned, so Cynthia and I figured we would organize one last minute. We convinced a bunch of people to go do Karaoke. Amy couldn’t go since her boyfriend was meeting her at the train station soon, but the bus dropped about half the people there off at the Karaoke place. It was the same place that had the panty vending machine in the lobby that I had been to before haha. We drank a ton more beer at the Karaoke place and stayed for I think about 2 hours. I invited Liz to join us since the place wasn’t all that far from her apartment and I had made plans to drink with her some more after the 2nd party. After that, Cynthia, Liz and I, met up with some of Cynthia’s friends who were other ALT’s who came to visit. We went to some Izakaya place for a few more beers but I don’t really remember much after that. Cynthia was in the bathroom for a really long time and she ended up passing out on the toilet haha. Eventually it was time to go, so Cynthia went with her 2 friends and I went with Liz to her place to crash on her couch, since getting back to my apartment at this point was pretty much impossible.
The next day I woke up like soaking in sweat. It was a very hot day and Liz didn’t have air conditioning on. I immediately took a shower and changed clothes. Liz called her family back in Oregon and was on the phone with them for quite a while. I ducked out for a little bit to head to the conbini to get something to eat and drink. I chugged like a 900 ml bottle of sports drink pretty quickly. I got a sandwich and an icecream bar but I didn’t have much of an appetite for the sandwich since my head was hurting pretty bad, as it always does after an enkai. Luckily, Liz gave me some headache medicine. Eventually she finished talking with her family and we headed to the train station to take the train to Tokyo together.
We eventually arrived in Tokyo. We split up at Akihabara station. Liz had separate plans and I was going to the concert soon, but I had about an hour to kill until the venue opened the doors, so I figured id kill some time playing Gear at Club Sega. There were a decent amount of people there but no one that was really noteworthy. I think I probably played about a little over 20 games, and I lost maybe twice only. I ended up staying a bit longer than an hour cuz I had a streak going and didn’t wanna leave. However, eventually I got up and left cuz it was getting pretty close.
When I arrived at he venue (Studio Coast in Shin Kiba), they had already opened the doors. They were selling Bodom merchandise in front of the building. I wanted to get a shirt, but they were all out of medium size and they were selling them for 3500 yen which is sorta expensive so I ended up not getting one. I went inside, got my mandatory 500 yen beer, and headed into the concert room. Tons of people were already in there. Almost right away I ran into Ai (one of the metal insanity event night regulars at Current) and her brother. They said this would be their first time seeing Bodom live (while for me its my 3rd time as I have seen them, twice back in Chicago). After a little bit of waiting they finally turned the lights off and the opening act came out. They were a Japanese thrash metal band called Outrage. If I had to compare them to someone, I would say they sound a lot like Slayer. They weren’t like amazing or anything, but for an opening act that I never really heard much of before, they were pretty good. They played for about 45 mins which was pretty long. After that, there was a brief intermission while they set up the equipment and then the lights went off and everyone started going crazy. From all the previous concerts I have been to in Japan, I had come to the conclusion that the Japanese are simply not a very wild crowd at shows. They are often pretty mellow, don’t make much noise, and don’t really move around too much. But that was before I had gone to a Japanese Children of Bodom show. As soon as the lights went out everyone just went fucking nuts, and immediately just SLAMMED forward towards the front, just squishing everyone really hard (this was an all standing show obviously). Once the band started playing, the place basically turned into a giant mosh pit and people were just going nuts. Plenty of crowd surfing and slamming into eachother, and quite frankly, you pretty much had no free will as to where you were going to move. The whole crowd just sorta would all flow in one direction and then youd get swept along with it. Trying to actually not get completely squished and keeping your balance was actually a pretty good workout, I must say. Normally I don’t mind this, and many of the more extreme metal bands I have seen in the US have been much like this. This time, however, there were a few minor problems. It was a hot fucking day, so I wore sandals, and I wasn’t really expecting the crowd to get this nuts. As a result, people were constantly stepping on my toes and it certainly didn’t feel very good. In addition to that, all the storage lockers were full, so I had to wear my backpack the whole show. At one point, the zipper came undone and it was open for a while. I have no idea for how long but some dude was nice enough to inform me and zip it for me.
Bodom played fucking awesome as always and the sound was pretty good. The keyboard could have been turned up a tad bit higher but it was still audible so it was all good. I don’t remember the exact order of the setlist but the songs they played were…
Sixpounder
Silent Night Bodom Night
Hellhounds On My Trail
Follow the Reaper
Living Dead Beat
In Your Face
Needled 24/7
Banned From Heaven
Mask of Sanity (at this point they introduced the band in the middle of the song and then continued to play)
Someday You Will Cry
Hate Me
Angels Don’t Kill
Blooddrunk
Hate Crew Deathroll
…after that, they keyboardist, Wirman, started to play the intro to some Michael Jackson song as a joke, and Alexi was like, “sorry, but I don’t think that shits gonna fly here, what else do you got for us?” and then he started playing the into to ….
Downfall
…which was the last song. Alexi stressed how much he loves coming to Tokyo and everything and said we were a fuckin awesome crowd and shit. The crowd really was totally fucking nuts which was awesome and was nothing like any other Japanese concert I had been to. There were a few foreigners there, but I was impressed with how many girls were there! Way more than youd ever see at any death metal show in the US! Tons of them were hot too, it was pretty awesome. After I left the show, it became apparent to me just how sweaty and wet I was. I was COMPLETELY SOAKED in sweat, and it was not just my sweat, but hundreds of people’s sweat. It felt like I had just jumped into a pool with my clothes on. One of the most disgusting feelings ever. I headed for the station and thankfully it wasn’t ridiculously crowded, so I was able to get on a train pretty fast. The train was air conditioned and since I was soaking wet it was pretty uncomfortable. I started getting chills, like the kind you get when you start to get a fever. The only thing on my mind at this point was that I wanted to take a shower.. very, very badly! I got off the train at Shinjuku and decided before I did anything else, I would go take a shower and change my clothes… I seriously reaked bad. I went to like 4 manga kissas until I finally found one that had a shower and didn’t have a waiting list. It felt great to clean off and stuff. The problem was that I only had one clean shirt with me which was supposed to be for tomorrow. I wasn’t really expecting this to happen. Also, I only had the shorts I was wearing at the show, and they were still soaking wet and kinda smelled but I had no choice but to put them back on, but at least I had clean underwear. My other problem that while my backpack had opened up during the show, apparently my deodorant and contact saline solution had fallen out. I went to a conbini and bought some axe body spray and sprayed down my stinky ass shorts and stuff and after that it was tolerable aside from the dampness. My backpack was still kinda soggy too so I just c carried it instead of wearing it.
After I was finally cleaned up I headed for Vegas to play some more casuals. Kyle had called me earlier and said he was gonna go there to meet up with me for some games. The place was packed with all the big name players such as Imo, Mike, Kazuki, HH, Kifa, Oguma, FAB, Osaka B, Basara, En-slayer, and several others, just to name a few. At one point I was getting some change over near the Super Turbo machines and this one kinda randomly came up to me and asked me in perfect English if I was that guy who has that blog online. I assumed he was talking about this blog so I said yes. At first I thought he was Japanese but he was actually an Asian-American who used to live in NY and played at Chinatown Fair. He’s mostly just a Street Fighter player. He said to just call him Z. He said he found my blog on accident on a google search trying to search for information about G-Port Las Vegas game center lol! Anyway, hes here in Japan studying English. He wanted to watch me play for a bit so he watched me beat some Jam and Kyle’s Ky. He seemed like a cool guy, so im sure ill run into him again sometime. I talked with Kyle and since I didn’t have any team lined up yet, we decided we would try to team up, but we still needed a 3rd. I figured Id just ask Matt if he wanted to join us. Kyle also informed me that the winner of Today’s B-7 finals was Kaqn/Kazuki/Inoue! An unexpected team, and they are now playing in SBO finals. We played for a bit longer and then I got a call from Matt who was near Current and wanted to eat. I was hungry so it sounded like a good plan. Kyle decided to go home, but he said he would meet up with me tomorrow at Sportsland.
Matt and I ate at a restaurant near Current and had a good meal, he agreed to team with us tomorrow. We then went to Current. I was hoping that Children of Bodom might be there but they weren’t there when we arrived. There were, however, a TON of other people, most of which were people that I knew and were frequent regulars, and like more than half the people there were girls haha. It was a pretty awesome night at Current honestly. Drank a ton of beers, chicks were like making out and stuff, people were just getting wild and having a kickass time. Chip was there also, and he told me that Kunko and the entire staff of Lemon-ya bar in Osaka were there visiting! They were in town for a Motley Crue cover band concert lol. It was cool to see all of them again too. I talked briefly with Chip about Tatsunoko vs Capcom and he doenst really have much inside info on the game, but he thinks its coming along nicely. I will get to test it out next weekend at the location test in Akihabara. They stayed open about a half hour later than usual because it was packed and everyone was having fun. After saying goodbye to everyone I headed to the Manga Kissa. I tried to convince Matt to just stay there too since the tournament was like 2 minutes walking distance from there instead of going all the way home but he wanted to go home.
I woke up in the morning to find an email on my phone from Matt, saying that at some point I guess he found out that Megu has a boyfriend after all, most likely the dude in that Dust and Bones band shes always traveling around Japan to see. Also, he said that he woke up on the Yamanote line after leaving Current, at Shinjuku station… which would mean he rode the entire line at least once around (the Yamanote line goes in a big circle around central Tokyo). When I got to Sportsland there weren’t that many people there yet, but it was obvious that most of them were plobly playing casuals at Vegas since that’s always the case before Sportsland tourneys. I got a good amount of casuals in and around 12 pm, which is when signups were supposed to start, people piled in fast. Before I knew it the place was so packed you could hardly move around. Kyle showed up too and signed up our team. I mailed Matt, who hadn’t arrived yet, to find out where he was. He replied saying that he probably wouldn’t be able to make it on time, so we had to find another team mate. Kyle said he knew this one guy who lived sorta close to there, but wasn’t a very serious player. I said it was better than nothing so he called him up. Shortly after that, I ran into Umemura. He asked if I had emailed him recently and apologized, saying his phone was still broke. I asked him if he has a team for today and he said he already did. However, he said that the well known Johnny player Suzume needed a team mate. I told Umemura to hold on while I consulted with Kyle. Kyle said he would rather team with Suzume than the random friend of his and said his friend didn’t care so I went back to Umemura and told him to lead me to Suzume so we could tell him to join our team. However, I misunderstood Umemura initially. Actually, Suzume already had one team mate and just needed one more. I once again went to consult with Kyle and ask what we should do. He told me that I should just go ahead and join Suzume’s team since I would have a better chance with them, and he said he probly wasn’t ready to take on Ogawa and stuff. I asked him if it was really ok and he said it was fine. I told him we would team up again sometime at another tournament or something for sure. He stayed for a little but decided that he was gonna go home and take care of some business that he was gonna delay to play anyway so I guess it worked out. I told Umemura I would join Suzume so he led me to where he was and I talked to Suzume and he welcomed me on the team. Our other team mate was a Millia player named Zayasu. I was able to hunt down the tournament registration dude and tell him to cancel my original team and to just add me to the other team. He was ok with it even though registration ended since it wasn’t registering a new team. After they made all the brackets there ended up being around 45 teams! That’s 45 teams of 3 people, which is 135 entrants! This is probably the largest tournament ive been to in Japan outside of last years main SBO event itself. People traveled from all over Japan for this. In addition, tons of the other teams that had already qualified this year showed up just to watch and play casuals, so the place was just dead fucking packed. They had 5 cabs for casuals and 3 for tournament matches, but they only had one large screen hooked up to one of the tourney cabs so it was hard to watch the tournament sometimes. I honestly spent most of the time just playing casuals.
Eventually after what seemed like a really long wait, our first match was called. We were to play against a team of I-no, Ky, Venom. Suzume went first with his Johnny against I-no. The first round he was about to get perfected and I-no was just throwing the shit out of him but he started to come back. He still lost though. The 2nd round was a bit ugly too and he lost. I asked our Millia player how he was vs I-no and he said he wasn’t sure so I said I would try. The first round was close but I lost. I managed to win the 2nd round but in the 3rd round I had another narrow loss. I was pretty bummed at this point figuring our final SBO tournament chance was already as good as over. At this point I had no idea how good our Millia player was but not only did he take out I-no, but he proceeded to beat Ky AND Venom for the win! He was just mixing everyone the fuck up and had extremely good footsies! What a great Millia player! This sorta caused me to gain a new hope and I vowed to fight hard! I played a few more casuals and eventually they called our next match which was against a team of Zappa, Slayer, and ABA. Once again, Suzume went first with his Johnny against Zappa. He struggled and once again lost to Zappa. I said I would go next again. This time I managed to take Zappa out 2 rounds, ending the 2nd round with a close victory by a sneaky backdoor teleport from fullscreen away while Zappa was busy throwing ghosts or some shit. Up next was Slayer. I hate Slayer but I somehow managed to beat this guy pretty hard 2 rounds straight. This match was on the big screen and people were getting a bit hype while I was playing. Finally was ABA. Both rounds were very close but I lost both of them. I still really hate this matchup. It was up to our Millia to once again save the day, and sure enough, he pulled out another win for us with a great performance! After this match, Matt showed up saying he caught the end of our set. I played like one match vs an Axl player in casuals and won and then they quickly called our next match. I honestly don’t remember who was on their entire team, but they put this one pink ABA player first. Suzume went first again and lost, followed by myself who got beat up, and then our Millia also got rocked by ABA… and thus the OCV by ABA concludes my SBO 2008 qualifier experience. I honestly wasn’t really that upset. I was glad that we at least got sorta far. This really was probably like one of the hardest tournaments Ive ever entered given that EVERYONE good was there that hadn’t qualified yet and Ogawa’s team was the final boss (lol).
After I lost I told Matt I hadn’t eaten yet all day and suggested we get some food. He said RTL from dustloop was there too and asked him if he wanted to join us but he wanted to stay and watch. So Matt and I went to get some grub and then returned. I pretty much played casuals the rest of the time I was there. I honestly don’t even know who the team was that won the whole preliminary. I wasn’t watching and it was so hard to get near the brackets I couldn’t check who they were. I got to see a few matches in the finals but it started pretty late and I had to leave after seeing like 2 matches. I saw Minami Chipp’s team beat some team and I saw Mike OCV a team. I told Matt to send me the results on his phone. In the end, Ogawa’s team went undefeated but Kifa’s Faust almost took out his team. He beat Imo and Mike and came close to beating Ogawa and pulled off some crazy double pogo bomb combo but it wasn’t enough. So Ogawa’s team is the final team to qualify for SBO!
On the way home I pretty much slept the entire time. When I arrived back at the train station and went to my car which was parked at the town office across the street, I noticed that the battery was dead! I forgot to turn the light off inside my car when I was driving there earlier! Doh! So I called my girlfriend and asked her to come save my ass and drive me home just before my phone died. She picked me up and drove me home and I walked to work today. Im gonna head to the town office by train and get my car back shortly. So yea… in the end, my SBO qual experience was great and I feel like I did my best. I don’t feel ashamed for not qualifying espessially since so many increadibly well known and talented players didn’t qualify either. There’s just only so many spots and it’s a brutal set of tournaments. Im still gonna try for the last chance qual but theres no guarantee ill get to play, just like with last year, so who knows, no real expectations. In any case ill be at SBO to watch and give a full report! Next weekend I will get to play Tatsunoko vs Capcom and my girlfriend, Ryoko, will go to Current for the first time ever! Should be fun times!

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