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Interview

Interview with ‘Blade Runner 2022’ Animator Bahi JD

October 30, 2017 6:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

When it comes to interviews I’ve been dying to bring to life since the very conception of OTAQUEST, formally exchanging words with rapidly-rising animator Bahi JD was definitely somewhere near the top. There’s not a single day that passes that I don’t learn something new about the Austria-born creative, and having the chance to further develop on everything I had already discovered was something I couldn’t help but desire. If you don’t quite know his name yet, I can only hope that changes soon.

With an entire catalogue of work that can be found in series such as “One-Punch Man,” “Space Dandy,” the more recent “Blade Runner Black Out 2022,” and an ever-developing list of different titles, he’s a powerhouse force that won’t be disappearing any time soon.

There’s a lot of different reasons to appreciate his work as a creative — from his self-made position in the industry, to his persistence in everything he does, Bahi JD wins us over in every regard. That’s why we’re so excited to bring you this interview with Bahi JD, which can be found in full below:

It’s a pleasure to speak to you today Bahi JD, before we get too into things, can you give us a brief introduction?

My name is Bahi JD and I’m an animator from Austria who is currently working in the Japanese animation industry. You’ll sometimes see me working in the field of illustration too. 

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into animation, as well as the steps you took to break into the Japanese animation industry?

I’ve always been fascinated by the world of animation; as early as my school years, I’d constantly be scribbling in my textbooks to create small flipbook-style animations. Perhaps the point where I found myself completely captivated by the world of animation, however, was when I discovered the animators behind some of my favorite titles. Classics such as “Princess Mononoke,” “Akira,” Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell,” “The Iron Giant,” “FLCL,” and a long-list of others had an extremely strong impact on me.

The discovery of these animators eventually lead me to an article about an animator called Ryo-Chimo who utilized an unfamiliar tool to me at the time — the digital-drawing tablet. Ryo-Chimo was especially noteworthy due to his online-postings of his works, and his eventual breakthrough into the animation industry. It was after this I decided to pick up my own digital-drawing tablet, and began practicing animation for fun. It was at this time that I also got in contact with other animators through the internet to ask for their advice — animators such as Cindy Yamauchi, Keisuke Kojima, and Majiro are the first to come to mind. 

I made some gif-animations and sent them to anime producers, but it just wasn’t enough to land me a job. I was undeniably rejected quite a few times. 

Cindy Yamauchi gave me some particularly good advice on the aspects I would need to improve and further develop. It’s not just about being a good animator, it’s also about having strong and flexible drawing skills. You have to show you can draw anything in any style, and you need to be capable of drawing good layouts, which is perhaps one of the most important aspects. During this time I had no idea what “layouts” were, so I picked up and studied a book called “Studio Ghibli Layout Designs.” 

I kept working on my portfolio and would send it back and forward with Cindy Yamauchi, who at the time, was working on a new TV series. She showed my works to the director and producer of the company, and eventually I was hired to work on Shinichiro Watanabe’s “Kids on the Slope.” It was at the same time that director Takuya Hosogane approached me to animate for his Vocaloid music video alongside Shingo Yamashita and Ryo-Chimo. 

In those early days, there was a lot of trial and error involved for me, but the director, producer and animators were very supportive. It was during my learning process that they taught me a lot of different aspects of anime production, and it’s for that I'm very thankful.


You mentioned a few before, but what were some of the animated series you grew up on? Was there much of an anime scene in Austria, or did you have to discover it all on your own?

When I was a child, I grew up watching various Nippon Animation productions such as “Peter Pan no Bouken” and “Heidi.” Later on in my teenage years, however, I would go on to discover “Akira,” “FLCL,” “Ghost in the Shell,” as well as a number of Studio Ghibli films, all of which influenced me. I also enjoyed the animation within works such as “Gurren Lagann,” “Dennou Coil,” “Cowboy Bebop,” and held “Samurai Champloo” in particularly high regard, especially due to it’s incredible soundtrack by Nujabes and Tsuchie.

There was, and still is a strong anime scene in Austria and Germany — TV channels used to broadcast a lot of anime back then. I include Germany as well because a lot of our TV channels were actually the same; even MTV Germany used to broadcast anime. 

With all that being said, there was still a lot of anime that didn’t make it to the television. Those are the series that I discovered through both my friends and the internet. I think with the internet, there’s even more of an anime scene all over the world now. 

Jumping forward quite a bit, you most recently worked on the Watanabe Shinichiro-directed “Blade Runner Black Out 2022” anime short. Can you tell us a little bit about your work on that?

Being both a fan of “Blade Runner” and Watanabe Shinichiro’s works, I was definitely excited to work on the short. We had an entire meeting at Cygames Pictures where Shinichiro Watanabe showed me the storyboard, and we discussed which scene I’d like to work on. I animated the scene where both Trixie and Iggy are fighting the guards. The scene was split into two parts; the first part was animated by the legendary Hiroyuki Okiura, and the second part was my own work. 

It was a great pleasure to work with Shinichiro Watanabe and his team. The character designer Shukou Murase is one of my absolute favorite character-designers. The soundtrack by Flying Lotus was also really great, he captured the atmosphere of “Blade Runner” meticulously, all while adding his own touch to it. 

In your work on the animated project, there’s a mix of fluid motions and dramatic reaction. Can you describe how you went about planning this scene?

Shinichiro Watanabe had a rough storyboard for my action scene, though since it was a rough storyboard, I had a lot of room for new ideas. He allowed me to change up both the action and choreography, as long as it followed the continuity of the other cuts and worked well. You’re always able to try new things during layout and show it to the director for approval. 

The choreography was a real challenge for me, I hadn’t animated any scenes where a single character is pitted against a lot of others before this. I ended up researching a whole bunch of martial arts videos as preparation for the choreography. 

When characters are fighting, you try not to make your choreography look “choreographed.” Making it look natural, that’s always the main challenge. I wanted the audience to be able to follow the action without issue — when there’s a lot of characters on screen it can become hard to follow during fight scenes. I started very roughly with the drawings, almost like a storyboard while planning the action.

Regarding the question about fluid motion and dramatic reaction, to give an example; when Trixie jumps for a kick, I slow down the action to allow time for the motion of the leg to build up energy — in animation, we call this “anticipation.” This way when it snaps super fast, you have the reaction. You can tweak these actions by experimenting with both the “timing” and “spacing” of slow and fast motion. 


When working on the “Blade Runner” project, you had some big-name individuals working alongside you. Was there anyone in particular who really impressed you with their talent during the creation of the short?

I was honestly impressed by everyone’s work on the short film. Especially the cuts by Hiroyuki Okiura, Shinji Hashimoto, Shinya Ohira, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, and Mitsuo Iso.

Every time Hiroyuki Okiura finished a cut, I would ask the producer to let me take a look at it. I’d sit there for an entire hour just staring at each and every frame — his work is absolutely brilliant, and extremely educative. His sense for realism is incredible, and it’s totally his own imagination and skills. He doesn’t use any reference, so when you look at it, you can truly learn the technical work of a master. 

It was also nice to have Tatsuyuki Tanaka on the project. More recently, Tatsuyuki Tanaka’s mostly been active as a director, illustrator, and character designer. As a fan of his work, I was definitely excited to see his key-animation again. He’s a very strong animator, and also worked on “Akira” when he was only 22 or 23. 

In a previous interview you conducted, you mentioned you consider Shinya Ohira to be one of the greatest animators. What do you think of his work on “Blade Runner,” and did you get the chance to talk to him?

Shinya Ohira is someone with the ability to be both stylistic and realistic at the same time. He has extremely high technical skills, and a great artistic vision. On top of that, he manages to balance those two traits well. His work is emotional, expressive, and dynamic. His scene in “Blade Runner” is a flashback to the past, where I felt he captured the feeling of that “memory” very well with the rough artstyle and animation. 

I met him one time at Comiket at an animator booth with Yoshimichi Kameda and others. At Comiket, there’s a lot of different animator booths, and you can find sketchbooks, art books, and flipbooks by a number of great animators such as Mitsuo Iso, Shinya Ohira, and Yutaka Nakamura. I recommend checking out the animator booths if you ever go to Comiket, the art books are great.

From the very beginning with “Kids on the Slope,” then “Space Dandy,” and now “Blade Runner,” what is it about Shinichiro Watanabe as a director that keeps calling you back?

I’m more than happy a great director like him continues to work with me. It’s always a pleasure, and I learn a lot each time I work with him. He also allows me to be very expressive when working on his projects.

It’d be fair to say that none of the anime projects you’ve worked on have been “ordinary.” Series such as “One-Punch Man,” and “Ping Pong” immediately spring to mind, but what is it that draws you to these out of the ordinary series’?

I’m just a fan of the projects, and of the people who end up working on them. I like to work on projects where I can learn a lot as an animator from the team members. These kinds of projects can be very challenging, so it’s always exciting and interesting.

Where do you see the anime industry 10 years from now?

That’s a hard question. I’ve not been in the industry for a very long time, but in the time that I have been here, I’ve seen much improvement over the years. I see a good future for the anime industry, and things are improving step by step.

Young animators in the industry are very passionate and are improving every single day, so I think there’s going to be a new wave of big-name animators in the future. More generally, the people here work with strong passion and enthusiasm. They love to animate together, and it’s this strong passion for animation amongst these young creators that gives me hope we’re heading towards a promising future.

Working as a foreigner in the Japanese animation industry, is there any advice you’d give to others looking at following in your footsteps?

Learn the Japanese language, communication is very important. There are English speakers in the anime industry, but they aren’t always going to be there when you need to communicate with everybody.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to those following your works?

Thank you for all of your support, and thanks for appreciating animation! 

Jumping over numerous hurdles presented by the industry, Bahi JD is a name we’re certain to see for years to come. He’s a creator with clear inspiration, but also someone unafraid of paving his own paths — and we can’t wait to see where he goes next. If you’re interested in checking out more of his works, you can find him on both Twitter and Tumblr where he frequently shares what he’s working on, as well as sharing glimpses into the life of an animator.

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Hunter x Hunter Editor Teases ‘God-like Chapter’ for Series’ Return

September 21, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Another year, another hiatus for Hunter x Hunter. At this point, there’s not much that creator Yoshihiro Togashi can do to alleviate the ennui of long-time fans who have been disappointed with the slow pacing and intermittent publishing schedule ever since the series moved onto it’s latest ‘Dark Continent’ arc all the way back in 2012. Or at least, that's how it seemed, with recent comments from the editor of the series would have us believe that things are really going to start heating up.

Hunter x Hunter series editor Moji’s comments come from the NHK series 100 Cameras, which sees one hundred cameras placed in the Weekly Shonen Jump office to chart the activities of the editorial staff as they struggle with the various problems that come from the hectic environment of weekly publication. Moji was featured in a short scene from last Monday’s show, where the following exchange happened between him and a cameraman.

Moji: “I’ve just gotten my hands on something seriously crazy.”
Cameraman: “What?
Moji: “A God-like chapter?”
Cameraman: “...what god-like chapter?”
Moji: “It’s been a long time since I received a manuscript that brought me to tears.”


The manuscript that Moji clutches in the scene is of course none other than the latest chapter for Hunter x Hunter, which has come out of hiatus for the second time this year to resume in next week’s issue (September 24).

It’s easy to get excited at comments such as these, especially since fans have been waiting so long for the newest arc of the series to pick up and show us it’s full potential, but it is important to take these comments with a fairly large pinch of salt. It’s in Moji’s best interests to get fans excited about the new chapter so that the magazine’s sales can be boosted, so it’s possible that he may be overexaggerating for publicity purposes.

That being said, Hunter x Hunter is penned by the mad genius Yoshihiro Togashi, and he’s done some pretty crazy stuff in the past. But with the current arc still in the midst of heavy exposition in order to set up the new breed of Nen powers, the only shocking thing I can really think of is a major character death - and there’s certainly a fair few candidates. Obviously, Kurapika himself would be the most devastating death, but since he has effectively become the main character at this point, it’s unlikely that Togashi would shoot himself in the foot in such a way. If anyone’s going to die, then I’d argue it to be Leorio - he’s never served much of a purpose anyway and would be a good way to add some stakes to the current arc for Kurapika.

Either way, we don’t have long to wait to see what the true nature of Moji’s comments was, with the latest chapter of the series releasing next Monday. I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on it.

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‘Karakuri Circus’ to Get Hardcover Reprint in Preparation for Upcoming Anime

September 21, 2018 1:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

The announcement of an anime adaptation of Kazuhiro Fujita’s Karakuri Circus earlier this year came as a surprise to everyone and brought a lot of attention to a series which had previously enjoyed a fairly small cult following. So to prepare for the anime’s premiere next month, publisher Shogakukan will be releasing a new edition of the series, featuring never-seen-before material in an all-new format -- perfect for long-time fans and newcomers alike.

Titled “Complete Edition,” this new reprint of Karakuri Circus will be A5 sized, making it slightly bigger than original takonbon releases but slightly smaller than the original magazine print. Still, the bigger size will let you appreciate Fujita’s excellent artwork all the better, and will come in handy when it comes to some of the Complete Edition extra features, which include never-seen-before production notes, illustrations, and character sheets, along with all of the original color pages from its initial run in Weekly Shonen Sunday.

For longtime fans of the series, this is a fantastic opportunity to dive back into Fujita’s masterpiece in an all-new fashion, and for newcomers to the series, it’s a fantastic opportunity to read the manga before the anime begins airing. Even though the anime begins in merely a month from now, since two volumes will be released each month from now on, it’ll keep a good pace with the anime adaptation, and will perhaps tide over those viewers who’d prefer to wait for the Blu-rays to release.

Furthermore, with VIZ recently announcing their English release of Naoki Urasawa’s similar cult hit 20th Century Boy’s Japanese hardcover, deluxe edition under the name The Perfect Edition, it definitely wouldn’t surprise me if another publisher follows suit by licensing this deluxe edition of Karakuri Circus, especially when considering the hype for the upcoming anime. Nevertheless,  both volumes one and two of the Complete Edition are now available in Japanese stores. They are priced at 1400 yen each, and you can check them out via Shogakukan’s official website.

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Taito Brings The True Space Invaders Experience Home In Japan With Arcade1Up

September 20, 2018 4:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

Arcade pioneer Taito has announced this week at Tokyo Game Show that they're teaming up with US home arcade startup Arcade1Up to bring their 3/4th sized cabinets to Japan starting in December. 

Priced at 58,000¥, the newly designed and manufactured cabinets are made to provide as close to an authentic gameplay experience as possible to the original machines released back in the late 1970s. Arcade1Up announced their products for the US market earlier this year, featuring an array of influential and popular classic arcade titles to be released in an affordable and size-efficient manner for anyone who has dreamed of owning an arcade machine with their favorite game. What makes the Tokyo Game Show announcement so exciting (aside from the release in Japan) is that two new offerings, Space Invaders & Pac-Man, are being shown off on the show floor.

These arcade replicas are actually a brilliant solution for the Japanese market as space is often very limited in the average building. These smaller form factor cabinets are perfect for any office or homeowner looking to add some fun to their surroundings. They even use the original artwork and design of the classic cabinets, making them an eye-catching decorative piece as well!

The first 3 cabinets are going to be released in December of this year, with pre-orders for Japanese buyers currently available on Amazon. If you're in Japan and want more details on how to buy, check out the official Taito website for the product. If you're in America and want to see Arcade1Up's other offerings, check out their official website for more information.

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Rhythm Game Legend Naoki Maeda Announces New Game, SEVEN's CODE

September 20, 2018 3:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

Longtime rhythm game producer Naoki Maeda announced the first title from his newly founded venture, Unlimited Studio, in collaboration with developer Applibot at Tokyo Game Show. After his departure from Capcom last year many fans were wondering what was next for the man who helped define the rhythm game genre. The announcement that he was creating his own studio prompted a lot of speculation as to what direction he was moving in, and it seems that he's sticking with familiar territory.

Being billed as a music game that's "not a music game", the concept actually seems pretty novel. A deep story is being woven in the title, with episodic content being released over the course of the title's first year of release. General gameplay hasn't been described in detail yet, but in game battles/action are going to incorporate a rhythm game element of some kind. The story of the game involves solving a series of mysteries that may save humanity from extinction. Depending on how players perform in the game, results will change globally in-game for all players as the story progresses. Maeda has long been concerned with accessibility for players worldwide and of all skill levels, and that seems to definitely still be the case. His initial announcement stresses that the focus on the game is fun, while still offering a challenge for skilled players.

In addition, an audition event for illustrators and musicians is being planned, allowing for even more interaction with the game for all types of people. Longtime rhythm game fans will be pleased to see some familiar faces popping up in the title as well. Rhythm game veterans such as cranky, t+pazolite, REDALiCE, and newcomer KSUKE have been announced as participating with the title. The four of them appeared during a special announcement & talk event at Tokyo Game Show today to discuss the upcoming game.

There's still a lot more information to come, and we're definitely going to be keeping an eye on this title. Maeda's last creation, the short-lived CROSSxBEATS, was a blast to play and featured an excellent array music. His determination to create the next evolution of music games is something that should excite fans of all kinds, and it'll be really interesting to see the development of this new project. In the meantime, you can check out more details at the official website, or follow SEVEN's CODE on twitter for more information.

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Hiroshi Fujiwara & Pokemon Team Up For Thunderbolt Project

September 20, 2018 2:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

The Pokémon company has officially announced that they're partnering up with streetwear legend Hiroshi Fujiwara for a new line of boldly designed & striking products featuring some of their most iconic characters. Originally teased on Fujiwara's Instagram a few weeks ago, the collaboration is titled THUNDERBOLT PROJECT and is being promised as an ongoing series of different pieces to be released through 2019 "and beyond". At first glance, this might seem like an odd pairing; but given Pokemon's long history with outside designers that have a unique style, this seems like a no-brainer for a brand that is loved by so many people worldwide.

There hasn't been much in the way of information about the project made available yet. We do know that the first item from the collection is slated to drop at the upcoming Hypefest event, taking place on October 6th & 7th in New York, at which Hiroshi Fujiwara is a member of the organizing committee. So far we've also caught a glimpse of a few minimal but amazing looking items from the collaboration including a black t-shirt with Pikachu's silhouette in white and a hoodie featuring a grey colored Mew on the back. Both items incorporate a thunderbolt shape that seems pulled directly from the logo of Fujiwara's Fragment Design label and are a stark contrast from the typically colorful designs seen in most Pokémon merchandise.

While Fujiwara is no stranger to collaborations with pop culture icons (we covered his recent Bikkuriman collaboration a few months back), it's always exciting to see two behemoths in their respective industries team up like this. Both parties are known for pushing boundaries and have years of significant experience in trying new and exciting things, meaning that the possibilities here are endless. For me personally being a massive fan of the Pokémon franchise and an avid streetwear enthusiast, I'll definitely be copping as much of this collaboration as possible.

You can find more information on the official THUNDERBOLT PROJECT Instagram account, and we'll be sure to report as more details become available!

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Lupin the Third to Take Over Universal Studios Japan in 2019

September 20, 2018 12:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

With the likes of Detective Conan and Sailor Moon receiving themed attractions as part of Universal Studios Japan’s “Cool Japan” initiative, it will perhaps come as no surprise that Lupin the Third is next in line to be featured in the ever-changing line-up of Japanese popular culture-themed attractions. But with the franchise only recently emerging from a lengthy TV anime hiatus, it’s a sign that the series is back and better than ever.
 
Lupin’s entrance into Cool Japan comes during the initiative’s fifth year, and there’s perhaps some poetry in the fact that the Lupin franchise celebrated it’s own fiftieth anniversary last year, with the original manga launching in 1967. Perhaps due to this seniority, then, Lupin will be kicking the almost equally legendary Neon Genesis Evangelion off the XR Ride attraction (which was previously occupied by Final Fantasy) to deliver it’s own VR attraction. While the details on this attraction are few, having rode the Final Fantasy VR ride earlier this year, I’m sure that the surprisingly effective combination of a VR headset and moving carriage will be entertaining, to say the least.
 
Furthermore, there will be a new restaurant themed around the Lupin series, which will be both comedic and “hard-boiled” according to USJ’s official website - perhaps suggesting that the food served in the restaurant will be a little out of the ordinary, or perhaps that the diners will be treated to some kind of show during their meal, much like how the Detective Conan Mystery Restaurant had diners solving a mystery as they ate. Themed restaurants such as these are common at USJ, and it’s worth bearing in mind that it will most likely require reserving ahead of time, unlike the VR ride.
 
Finally, the official website teases an “original story” that can only be experienced at the park, through the attractions, which is sure to excite any fans of the Lupin series. Detective Conan did something very similar this year as it had attendees solving mysteries alongside Conan and the gang through the various park attractions, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Lupin followed suit, perhaps letting us do some thievery with the gang, or perhaps putting us in the shoes of the hapless Inspector Zenigata as he attempts to bring the gang to justice.

Either way, the attractions are expected to launch sometime in 2019, so we have a while to wait for more concrete information. Keep your eyes on the official website for more details.

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Lounge Neo Announces 家-Yeah- Anniversary Event Lineup

September 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There are few events I look forward to more than Lounge Neo's legendary annual 家-Yeah- anniversary event, and today we finally got a look at what we can be expecting from this year's event. Calling on some of the greatest talents from Japan's massively diverse club and internet music scenes, I'd dare suggest that no amount of planning could prepare you for November 25 when the back streets of Dogenzaka are taken over. Just to give you a scope of the scale of this event, 家-Yeah- will be utilizing not only Lounge Neo, but also Club Asia, Vuenos, and Glad.
 


This year celebrates the fifth anniversary of the 家-Yeah- event, as well as the 16th anniversary of Lounge Neo itself. With an incredibly stacked lineup of talents, including regularly featured talents such as Ujico*/Snail's House, Yunomi, Tomggg, and more, this really is set to be the ultimate party. Possibly the wildest part of this all, however, is the fact that this is only the first wave of announcements, with more to come for the event in the near future. It's a long one, but the current lineup can be seen below:

AMUNOA
Batsu
BUDDHAHOUSE
Cola Splash
Chordal Poem Secrets (Redcompass/Hercelot)
DJ DJ機器
DJ WILDPARTY
D-YAMA(MOGRA)
Genick
imai
isagen
JABBA DA FOOTBALL CLUB
KAN TAKAHIKO
Keita Kawakami
Kick a Show
KO3&Relect 
KOTONOHOUSE B2B Ujico*
国士無双
HyperJuice
has
長谷川白紙
Masayoshi Iimori B2B Maru
 feat. ONJUICY
マザーファッ子
三毛猫ホームレス feat. lulu
Miii
melo B2B Oblongar
okadada
Pa's Lam System
pavilion xool feat.ノレ
PARKGOLF
パソコン音楽クラブ
Seimei & Taimei (LOUNGE NEO Special Set)
SIRUP
TENG GANG STARR
tomad
Tomggg feat. ボンジュール鈴木
TORIENA
TREKKIE TRAX CREW
UNSQ
WATARU
ゆnovation
YONEDA
YonYon
YUC'e
yuigot / Applekid
Yunomi feat. アンテナガール, ローラーガール, 桃箱 with きあと

Amps
栄免建設株式会社
gu^2
hype
K8
LADY’S ONLY
monolith slip
テクの幸太朗
VIBES MAFIA
XYLÖZ
Ryuki Miyamoto
YOCO ORGAN
HAKA GANG VS なーどーぷクルー VS v.o.c crew
103i
BREADSHOP
JunyaUtsunomiya
kyo
Miyabi
NES
ryuzk
skmt
shucream
SUNOKO
taros
Yackle


Taking place on November 25 at Lounge Neo and surrounding venues, 家-Yeah-  is being priced at 3,500 yen + 1D for an advance ticket and 4,000 yen + 1D for door sales -- not a bad price for what's quite literally a club music festival with some of the greatest talents right now. Those interested in checking out further information on the event can hit up Lounge Neo's official website.

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