AniCrush!!! mascot Annie illustrated by Hiroyuki-Mitsume Takahashi
Japanese music is loved by anime fans all over the world, with anime songs being a particular item of fascination due to their prominence in the shows themselves. It wasn’t until I met Washington D.C. native Bennosuke (who requested to go by his pen name), however, that I learned that in the otaku culture, there are events being held in cities throughout Japan that bring fans together who love both anime and its music. The name of this genre of event: anikura.
Anikura—short for “anime club event” in Japanese—gathers together talented anime song DJs who mix the music while VJs display clips of the anime the songs are from on a screen. The audience interacts with this music enthusiastically, often by cosplaying or dancing “otagei,” a kind of dance often performed by hardcore otaku. Bennosuke, the main organizer of the anikura event AniCrush!!!, explains the genre as sort of a synesthesia, where all the elements present at the club the event is held at play a part in making the full experience for anime fans.
But Bennosuke isn’t a DJ himself—he doesn’t even technically work at an anime company—he’s a fairly regular businessman working at an IT company in Tokyo. Although Bennosuke discovered anime in college with works like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, it wasn’t until he came to Japan in mid-2005 to live at his wife’s family’s home and complete his PhD in Meiji period science fiction that he found himself enthralled. Luckily for him, this was also the period when anime was going through another boom, with shows like Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya broadcasting on late-night TV.
Around 2012 or so, however, Bennosuke was requested to help draw non-Japanese patrons to an anime-themed music event by Japanese new wave music producer Kenzo Saeki. The event, called J-Geek, was similar to what AniCrush!!! is now.
“I really just fell in love with it. I had no idea there was this way of enjoying anisongs (anime songs) and enjoying anime culture,” he explained, “That was my first contact with it.”
Happy that he had discovered this form of entertainment, Bennosuke found himself disappointed when the events ended after only a year. Well-connected in the anime and idol industry at this point, he decided to continue the spirit of J-Geek by creating AniCrush!!!. He did so with the help of anisong DJ B.S.R., the sub-organizer of AniCrush!!! who wished to introduce the genre of anikura to an international audience.
Bennosuke went on to gather DJs GuySaaN, DJ Amaya, Momochi Minami, kaxtupe, Taahii and VJ Kunahara for their first AniCrush!!! event, fittingly titled “Volume 0.”
“It was relatively small-scale, but that’s where we got started.”
Since beginning AniCrush!!!, it has had multiple events, including one in Singapore and Switzerland, and the AniCrush!!! team even performed at famous anime song band JAM PROJECT’s kickoff event for their album tour last year. With so much to do when it comes to running AniCrush!!!, I asked him if it is difficult to balance his normal everyday life with his activities with the event.
“It’s a very hard balancing act because I have a family and a full-time job. I have to find the time for it, but right now, I’m more in the background. I try to get things in motion, I meet people, I contact various event promoters, and see what opportunities we might have.”
Although AniCrush!!! is no longer a regular event, Bennosuke told me that the party isn’t over—he’s involved in starting up a new regular event at famous Akihabara club MOGRA called AniSphere. Organized by AniCrush!!! DJs GuySaaN and B.S.R., this new event will launch on Friday, April 21 and will be held every third Friday thereafter. The event aims to bring together international anime fans and Japanese anikura regulars who want to make friends with them. Clearly, Bennosuke’s love for anikura and the international anime community has not waned.
“Anikura is a way of heightening the experience of anime. If you appreciate in any way how the songs serve to improve the experience of watching anime, I think you would enjoy anikura.”