May’n The Movie: Phonic Nation in 3D

You know you’ve been geeking out a little too hard when a seemingly random Japanese guy approaches you in the local convenience store in Kawasaki and asks if you were at the Yoko Kanno concert in Kobe. For those not in the know, Kawasaki is a looooong way from Kobe!

Then again, maybe I shouldnt have been too surprised. After all, Kawasaki Cinecitta was right next door to the convenience store in question – and in 20 minutes time it would be showing the premiere screening of ‘May’n the Movie: Phonic Nation in 3D.’

Maybe ‘Premiere’ is a bit of a misnomer – there were 3 ‘Premieres’ staggered throughout the day, with the first being in Ikebukuro in the morning, followed by Saitama at midday, before Kawasaki in the mid-afternoon. The reason for the staggered schedule was to allow both the director and the leading lady herself to hold a small talk after each screening.

When I arrived at the cinema there was a long queue of fans lined up to purchase the official movie booklet at the cinema merchandise shop. Fortunately, the staff were savvy enough to have a small counter setup inside the ticket gates dedicated to selling only the May’n booklet, so I picked one up literally 3 steps before entering the cinema and taking my seat.

I had no idea what to expect going in. All I knew was that the movie was supposedly a mix of documentary and concert footage from May’ns 2010 Phonic Nation Tour (split into Side A and Side B). Oh and it was going to be in…THREEEEEEEEEEDEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

And to be honest, that’s pretty much exactly what I got.

(See what she’s doing in the poster? OMG she’s actually coming out of the screen!!!!)

The movie jumped back and forth between 3 key events – Side A of the tour, May’ns 2nd trip to Singapore, and Side B of the tour. There were also segments from her trip to Malaysia and a bit of her Anime Expo performance.

Structurally, the center of the whole thing was a song that May’n was writing called (surprise, surprise!) ‘Phonic Nation.’ The idea had come to her while the last few performances of Side A were wrapping up and she was about to leave for Singapore. She had first been to Singapore exactly 1 year ago (for AFAX) and was surprised by how the fans all sang along with her even though they obviously didn’t speak Japanese. This lead to her wanting to write a song that expressed the fact that all fans of music live under the same sky, regardless of geography – a country of music, or Phonic Nation, as it were.

The movie followed her progress writing the song and showed her meeting friends and traveling around Singapore, Malaysia and a bit of the US.There was a scene of her singing from her hotel balcony that was particularly good – although some late shots of her scribbling lyrics in a seemingly empty airport terminal made me wonder whether or not they emptied out an entire transit lounge just to take some footage.

These scenes were intercut with songs from her final Side B tour gig at Zepp Tokyo. She did 2 shows at Zepp Tokyo – Sept. 20 and 21 – and the gig on Sept. 21st was the one time she performed Phonic Nation (I went to the previous night’s gig so I missed it, d’oh!).

It was these scenes that were done in 3D – there were probably 8 songs or so at least, the majority of them being from Macross Frontier. The 3D effect worked well – adding depth to the stage May’n was on, etc – and few post-prod. 3D sfx were also added, such as 3D stars in the background, etc. Any scenes that werent shot at Zepp Tokyo were in regular old 2D, so I took the 3D glasses off in between songs. Ultimately, I’d say that 30 minutes of the 90 minute movie were in 3D, tops.

The movie ended with May’ns performance of Phonic Nation. After the credits rolled, security and camera spotters took up positions around the cinema. I’ve been to my fair share of anime related events and this was by far the most spotters I’d ever seen. There was absolutely no way anyone could get a camera out without being jumped on. They all had black suits and earpieces too. Very…Matrix-ish.

Finally, May’n came out, followed by the Director, Hideaki Sunaka. Both took their places in front of the movie screen along with an MC to do a short talk session.

(c)animate tv

Yes, that’s right, May’n DID actually come out of the screen, so to speak! If she did this after every screening, I suppose it would make the whole 3D thing rather meaningless, in a way.

It turns out that May’n The Movie wasn’t the first time that Sunaka had worked with May’n. In fact, he had directed her first ever music video back when she was 15!

When asked what his impression of her was now, having filmed May’n The Movie, he replied ‘she has become much more of a woman now.’

…yes, I thought it was a little creepy too, but it sounds worse in hindsight than it did on the day.

As far as regrets go, both Sunaka and May’n agreed that unfortunately they hadn’t shot any scenes of her eating Taiyaki! At one point in Malaysia May’n had run off and found a local Taiyaki stall but unfortunately the cameraman had failed to keep up with her. May’n had learnt one important lesson though – no matter where in the world you may be, Taiyaki….tastes like Taiyaki.

May’n also pointed out that what the audience saw in the movie was pretty much her being herself – there were shots where she didn’t have (much) makeup on. There was even a shot of her wearing huge bottle bottom reading glasses while chewing a pencil and thinking of lyrics.

All in all, while a fun, somewhat unique experience, it’s difficult to recommend ‘May’n The Movie: Phonic Nation in 3D to anyone but hardcore May’n fans. As a documentary its cute, yet limited, as a concert recording its gorgeous but incomplete, as a 3D movie its 60% in 2D.

I’ll give it this much though. It’s definitely 100% May’n.

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Gwyn Campbell

Project Manager, Macross fan, Podcast host, Anime nerd & sometime-gamer. Here in Akihabara we don't just 'like' Macross, we LIVE IT! 龍が我が敵を食らう!

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