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All Hail the Monorail


I want to write about about the absolutely awesome (though slightly short-notice) trip I took to Sydney this weekend just gone!  Indeed, it was so awesome last time, that just about any excuse did to go again.  An Eminence concert was more than excuse enough, I thought.

Went with my flatmates, who were lured with false promises of orchestrated Evangelion music.  There was lots of monorail riding.  The monorail is just great.  Brisbane needs a monorail.  Monorails are the WAY OF THE FUTURE, and have been since the 1980's.  It was an effective means of both getting around and sightseeing at the same time, until we figured out that it was cheaper to walk, and that the distance between the stops was not nearly so far as the monorail made it seem.  So after that it was just a matter of following the monorail tracks on foot.  It was rather convenient, really, as it stopped very close to almost everywhere we wanted to go, and all spooky alleyways seem to eventually lead back to a monorail station.

Even though we weren't really doing the proper tourist thing, sometimes I have to admit that it didn't really feel like we were actually in Australia.  This may have been because we wound up hanging around China Town a lot, but it was a persistent sensation.  This was sort of cool, as it made it feel like were on a holiday overseas rather than just on a weekend city trip.  Sometimes it was China...


...And sometimes London.

In upper class London, I also found what had to be the most incredible Christmas tree ever.  It was over THREE STORIES TALL.  The scale was almost frightening.  I am not exaggerating the size.  It was impossible to get a shot of the tree in its entirety, so I instead journeyed up several flights of ye olde escalators to get a full look at it.

Apparently sponsored by that highly suspicious store Swarovski, which appears to be everywhere but which I've never once see sell anything.

Books Kinokuniya turned out to be highlight of the trip. Lots of books were bought and then dragged around the city to the detriment of both my bag and skeleton, even though I knew that would happen.  But when confronted with such a wide array of books that just can't be found anywhere else, WHO CAN RESIST? Admittedly, there was preparation and planning for the purchase of books, but it gets progressively easier over time to forget how heavy multiple hardcover books can be. It’s like that extra binding is made of lead, and then the words printed in a lead-based ink, on paper that was made from trees which grew in a forest next to a polluted port.
Heavy hard covers aside, I even found some D-Boys magazines!  I picked up 'D-Boys Start' and Yanagi's 'Nagiland' (since he is now my hero) in the Japanese section, and felt like I was fourteen all over again.  Seriously, it's been years since I last bought a pop idol sort of photobook.  It was a pleasant sort of nostalgia.  Also, Yanagi is complete dork.  I admire his ability to get people to buy books with pictures of him playing with toys and throwing paint on walls.
Next to Kinokuniya, though, I have to say that the next most awesome place was GatchaStation.


I utterly FAIL at SkillTesters, but Gashopon dispensers?  AWESOME.  And I appreciate that sort of specialisation.  I tried to come back the next day to spend the rest of my change, but my wallet was spared when the place was closed.  It was located in what I am going to call the Haunted Abandoned China Town Mall of Pure Whiteness.  It looked like it might have just been brand new and thus lacking in stores, or was perhaps just BRIMMING WITH POTENTIAL?  Though admittedly the GatchaStation manager seemed surprised to have customers.  Maybe it was just the time of day.  The standard opening hours in Sydney do seem to be delightfully in line with those of the more nocturnal persuasion, with most stores opening after 10, and others opening at midday and staying open until 10 at night.  Truly a vampire-friendly city.
Aside from the unusual shopping sprees, eating was another major facet of the adventure. There was much eating to be had. The number of dining establishments was quite extraordinary. 

Some of the food was good.  Some, not so good.

Perhaps the most important food-related revelation was that KRISPY KREME IS OVERRATED.  Recently in Brisbane, a couple of 'Dreamy Donuts' stores opened up and started selling incredibly delicious donuts that made the only fare previously available (the plastic-covered rolls of sugary dough provided by Donut King) taste like dog food by comparison.  It has been causing something of a donut revolution locally!  However, many people have decried their success, stating that Krispy Kreme donuts from Sydney were even better, and likened eating them to a religious experience.  We finally had the opportunity to try these legendary Krispy Kreme donuts that apparently are the Holy Grail of all baked treats, and while the donuts were indeed tasty, I can say with some confidence that Dreamy Donuts are better.  This is a good thing, as Dreamy Donuts are local and thus I need not travel some thousand kilometres to enjoy them.  But still, what's the deal?  Dreamy Donuts are light and fluffy and practically melt in your mouth, whereas Krispy Kreme donuts, while still excellent, taste exactly like a better than average donut.  MYTH BUSTED.
While all of that was quite exciting, the part of the trip I’d originally intended to write about here was actually Eminence’s “A Night In Fantasia 2007: Anime Edition” concert held on the Sunday, with Yuki Kaijura as a special guest in attendance. For the ignorant, Yuki Kaijura is a rather well-known music composer from Japan, counting the soundtracks to Noir, .hack, Le Portrait de Petit Cosette, Madlax and Tsubasa Chronicles as just some of the many popular titles she’s scored. She has a very distinctive style - look her up on Wikipedia, it shall amaze you.

There was a signing at Books Kinokuniya the day before the actual concert. I admit to getting suddenly star-struck and shy when actually given the opportunity to meet Yuki Kaijura.  I own a great number of her soundtracks and have been following her career with rather close interest, so getting to meet her in person was quite the opportunity!  So of course when the signing at Books Kinokuniya came around, everything I was going to ask/say to Yuki Kaijura just flew out of my head, and I wound up just proffering a CD for her to sign, then squeaking out a 'Thanks!  Looking forward to the concert tomorrow!' before scurrying away with my prize.  How embarrassing!  But at least I got a memento:

I also managed to stalk a photo after the concert the next day, though, before we had to hurry off to the airport.  In retrospect, there's bound to be much better pictures on the internet anyway, and this one is at such a strange angle and so out of focus it could be nearly anyone anyway.

As for the concert itself, my opinions about it are somewhat mixed.  I love live music, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the pieces played, and it really was an excellent performance, but it was still mildly disappointing.  Even knowing in advance that it wasn't a full symphonic Night in Fantasia, the ensemble was still much smaller than what I expected, with just one representative of the major instruments and no brass or choir whatsoever.  The encore, 'The Song of Storm and Fire', just wasn't quite the same without the amazing choir.  They did an excellent rendition of it for such a small ensemble, but the main theme for 'Le Portrait de Petit Cossette' wound up being my favourite piece of the afternoon simply because it was bombastic yet still well suited to such a small group.  It seemed to be the one the musicians enjoyed the most, too.  That poor Oboe player looked so sad and bored for most of the time! 
Alarmingly, the theatre was also half empty.  There were swathes of empty seats in the auditorium.  This I think was primarily due to poor publicity.  Certainly when my friends and I were running around to the music stores, book stores and anime stores and the like on the Saturday, we came across several people who were shocked that they didn't know about it.  We were probably directly responsible for at least an additional five ticket sales.  Though given the only reason even we knew about the concert is because I've been stalking the Eminence website for the past couple of months (having long wanted to attend their concerts but only recently possessing the means of doing so).

Here's a picture.  There was a sign saying that no photography was allowed, but I figured it should be okay during intermission.  Hence, picture is sadly sans muscians.

The track list was as follows:
Xenosaga II – Opening Theme
Tsubasa Chronicle – The Dreamers
Tsubasa Chronicle – Femme
.hack//Liminality – Mai
Xenosaga II – Lamentation
Evangelion – Fly Me to the Moon (Which is a pretty dodgy way of saying they're playing Evangelion music, when this is hardly Eva exclusive and wasn't even written by Shiro Sagisu.  :P)
Le Portrait de Petit Cossette – Main Theme (Probably my favourite piece of the concert. The musicians seemed to actually enjoy playing this one, too, and it suited the arranged ensemble quite nicely.)
Noir – Melodie
Tsubsa Chronicle – Hear Our Prayer
Xenosaga II – Sakura
Elfen Lied – Lillium
Noir – Lullaby (I liked the concert rendition far better than the original for this one, so props to Eminence for that.)
Porco Russo – Porco Russo Medley
Tsubasa Chronicle – Break the Sword of Justice
Not listed on the program was ‘The Song of Storm of Fire’ from Tsubasa Chronicle, which was another incredibly obvious encore. It was good that they played it, though, otherwise there probably would have been blood drawn. This was the piece of music that fooled you into thinking you were actually enjoying watching Tsubasa Chronicles, after all.

While I have my gripes, it was still an excellent performance. Hiroaki Yura, the concert master and violinist, was just a marvel to watch.  I may have even developed a crush! XP Honestly, though, his violin... just wow.  Amazing.  It made me a little jealous, really, and nostalgic for the days when I used to play in concert bands.  Maybe I should start taking lessons again.
Surprisingly, Yuki Kaijura didn't perform at all, which was a bit weird for a special guest.  I suppose she must be more of a composer than a performer?  She did come out for a question and answer session, even though most of the questions asked were stupid and could be found through Google.  The one that probably took the cake was the 'What sort of fashion do you like?' and she ostensibly pointed to what she was currently wearing.
I was impressed with the level of her english, actually!  She seemed to speak and understand a fair amount, and probably could have managed without any translator at all.  Very quiet and serious-looking all the time, though.  It was a little intimidating.  Though I wonder if maybe she just wasn't having much fun?  When I saw how few people turned up to the signing and the first concert (though that was likely mostly due to poor publicity), she might have been a little unimpressed. I certainly was. Eminence needs to find a new publicity machine. Perhaps the people from the Capitol Theatre promoting Billy Elliot.  Seriously, you couldn't turn your head without seeing that dancing kid.  TOO MUCH ADVERTISING.

Anyhow, it was glorious fun - I mostly just wanted to get the word out about how awesome Eminence was, but wound up going on and on here instead, oops.  Oh well.