New York Comic Con, Yatterman, and the Sho Sakurai Riot

Dear Reader: We regrettably announce that the Official Colony Drop LLC. Exclusive Pre-Release Review of Takashi Miike’s Yatterman has been canceled. Please enjoy this replacement programming.

2:00 PM: I’m at the Nikkatsu booth trying to get myself some tickets to Takashi Miike’s live-action remake of Yatterman, the 70s Tatsunoko Pro cartoon about some kids with a robot dog. It’s one of those exclusive convention showings: the Japanese won’t see it for another month and if I don’t see it now I won’t see it for another year at least. So I said fine, fine, I’ll go to the comic convention, if that’s what it damned takes.

We’re huddled—nearly a hundred of us here—in a semicircle around an L-shaped booth, threatening to engulf it. I wonder for a moment whether people are really this excited about seeing a remake of a silly kids’ show from the 70s. I chalk it off to the Miike name, take a look around me, and I see that something else here is strange. Even if people are really that excited about seeing a Takashi Miike remake of a silly kids’ show from the 70s, how come I’m the only male here?

I look more closely. I see little paper fans with messages written in Japanese and buttons with the smiling face of a pretty young man on them. It’s the same pretty young man, in fact, who looks at the camera and smiles softly every 90 seconds during the forever-looping trailer on the booth TV. And then it hits me: boy bands are always involved in this sort of movie.

Yatterman No.1 is a goddamn boy band member.

His name is Sho Sakurai. He sings for a band called Arashi and he is here with Miike for the movie premiere. Nobody here could care less about this movie: they are here to see Sho Sakurai. I know here and now, in my heart of hearts, that I will not get a ticket to see this movie. I have seen a lot of fan crazy in my time. I could tell you a lot of stories. But I have never seen or heard of madness of the caliber of a boy band fangirl, or, as I call them, “Fans most likely to kill for love.” I can only worry for my ears: if Sho Sakurai really does appear in this place, surely the squeals will sound God’s dog whistle, and the contents of my eardrums will spill out onto the floor.

But how could they possibly bring out Sho Sakurai? It would be physically impossible for him to enter the booth without first being gang raped. The crowd has already enveloped the Nikkatsu booth, and it’s only getting thicker and thicker, fangirls spilling out around the outside walls of the booth. The crowd is nervous and every fifth girl is anxiously texting friends with the latest intel—”Sho-chan isn’t here yet.” They’re short, you know? They can’t see all the way up there. I’m six foot two. Sho Sakurai is not here. There are only bewildered staffers. I didn’t know, I thought to myself, but shouldn’t they have known?

2:30 PM: A security officer arrives with an underpowered megaphone and I have to “translate” for the people behind me who just want to see the damn robot dog movie like me, but can’t hear a word. Security tells the crowd—who have to be two hundred deep right now—that they’ve gotten way out of hand. Sho is up in the guest suite, but there’s no way he can come out with a crowd like this in the way. “He’ll come down, you’ll see him, he’ll wave at you,” Security assures the fangirls like a kindly, condescending daddy. “Just spread out and walk around the convention until then.” The crowd is mumbling to itself, but they are considering going along with it. But then Security bungles it. “He’ll be here at 2:45.”

Fifteen minutes. Great. Brilliant. Just because the fangirls are crazy doesn’t mean they’re stupid. The crowd draws in yet tighter, and I formally exit the back row. That, just now, was the final blow: this situation has been clusterfucked and whatever happens from here on in is up to God.

The fangirls are way too close for comfort: the crowd is rumbling against itself, shifting and shuffling like a single, gigantic, awkward teenager trying to get a glimpse of its tiny Prince Charming. As the timer ticks down, people get desperate and the movements become less and less harmonious. Then the fangirls begin to collide. Soon, the only way for a fangirl to move up is to shove. Shove they do: the shoves grow into a wave of movement and before anybody understands what’s going on, the first two rows of fangirls are rushing the empty booth for no apparent reason. The TV displaying the trailer is teetering back and forth on its stand, threatening collapse, and security is holding the fangirls back with wide-open arms.

2:45 PM: “He’s not coming here. There are no tickets.” The crowd disperses. In the aftermath I try to find out what exactly was up with tickets to see this movie that nobody seems to goddamn care about. The Nikkatsu rep tells the ten or so of us who are left and actually want to see this movie that they sent the fangirls to a line at the theater, where they’ll be giving out tickets at 6:30 pm. Then he gives us the math. There are 400-some seats in the theater, approximately 200-some of which are reserved for press. We could draw our own conclusions from there: we all saw how many fangirls there were. Even if we were to forgo the entire day at the convention in favor of waiting on line for Yatterman, it would be nearly impossible to actually get in. The best the rep could offer us, he says, was that maybe a reserved seat or a press person wouldn’t show up.

A second showing was promised for Saturday, but never came. I saw the new Futurama instead. It was OK. Lesson? Next year I guess I’m going to need a press badge.

1 Comment

  1. I started getting claustrophobic just reading this. I know one of these days I’ll go to a con and die an ignoble death by being trampled either by rabid fangirls or people on a swag stampede.

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