When it comes to the Japanese subculture, Akihabara MOGRA(hereinafter referred to as MOGRA) is widely considered the most renowned Anisong (anime song) nightclub and the source of an unexplainable culture, and it has recently announced a partnership agreement with the major live streaming platform, Twitch.
MOGRA is a super popular nightclub in Akihabara in Tokyo, having a lot of enthusiastic fans not only from Japan but also from all over the world. Their activities are not limited to running the club itself, but they also act extensively to engage in planning and production as well as cultivating talent as the leading pioneer of the Otaku DJ culture.
Furthermore, they are ahead of the game in recognizing the importance of live streaming faster than most other club proprietors and have earned their proactive reputation by live streaming their club events.
On the other hand, Twitch is a major platform known for game streaming with an overwhelmingly huge number of users from all over the world.
What made these two parties decide to have an agreement on their partnership? What kind of content do they have in mind to focus on and to present us? We invited Mr. Yamada, aka D-YAMA, the club manager of MOGRA, and Mr. Makino from Twitch for a relaxed interview.
MOGRA×Twitch, interview at a sushi bar
（One fine day at a sushi bar in Tokyo）
Yamada Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and coming to Tokyo today. Don’t be too tough on me, please.
Makino Nice to meet you. Same from me. By the way, is this the right place for the interview? Why are we at a sushi bar?
Yamada I know. Well, I deliberately had them to set this up at a sushi bar today to invite someone from Twitch, a foreign corporation, but both of us are unfortunately Japanese and it’s now kind of awkward. [laugh]
A bewildered Makino at the sushi bar for the interview [left] and Yamada with his wickedest expression, taking it for granted that this interview should be held at a sushi bar [right]
──Okay then, let’s start before our sushi arrives. First of all, what brought you to your partnership agreement?
Yamada To begin with, Mr. Makino, what made Twitch want to give us, MOGRA, this agreement in the first place? Your platform is majorly for game streaming, correct?
Makino Correct. Twitch is indeed a platform originally dedicated to game streaming. But many users started giving us feedback requesting “ more content other than games on Twitch”.
Then we started to consider adding some creative contents that could give positive influences to the community.
Yamada I see. Is that why you recently added the music category?
Makino We added Creative as a new category and music is under it as a sub category.
Yamada Right, I now remember you have many others like Art, Programming and so on.
MOGRA “Got a Twitch account deleted in the past”
Makino Twitch has been quite well-known as a game streaming site for particular games, has recently organized a system for the Japan team and we have also got our comprehensive content categories in good order, and we thought that we’re ready for this. We decided to talk to you because you, MOGRA, have original and unique Japanese content that can appeal well to the world.
Yamada It’s kind of embarrassing to hear that in person. To tell you the truth, we once tried to make use of Twitch in the past, but back then we got our account deleted right away for some reason…
Makino I guess that’s probably because Twitch used to have content limited to games. We didn’t have a music category before.
Yamada It’s a relief to hear that. Our account got deleted instantly like in a flash, and I was scared that you hated us or something.
──Please tell us about this partnership at Twitch.
Makino We have a Partner Program to invite popular content producers who create great content and have a strong supporting community, to make the Twitch brand what it is today together with our partners.
Yamada Here it is, our sushi, in the middle of the talk.
Makino Indeed. Let’s eat it right up now.
Waitress Anago (conger-eel), Ika (squid), and Hamaguri (common orient clam) are with Tsume (simmered soy sauce-based sweet sauce) applied, Maguro (tuna) with Zuke (soy-sauce marinade), others with Nikiri (reduced soy sauce-based sauce). They’re all flavorful and you can enjoy them as they are.
Makino What? Without dipping them into soy sauce?
Yamada That’s right! These are called Edomae-zushi, a particular type of sushi in Tokyo and …
Makino (His mouth filled with sushi) I’m listening. Sounds like your explanation will take some time, I beg you’ll pardon me for listening while eating [laugh]
Merrymaking with Japanese and non-Japanese jumbled together
Yamada By the way, great work on the first streaming in Aprilnwith “Anisong (anime song) Index” ※. How did you like it, Mr. Makino?※A regular monthly club event of an anime song party at MOGRA, Akihabara, on the third Saturdays
Makino I’m amazed that so many people were watching it at the same time. It’s not very common to see 1600 viewers watching live at once . Which venue would be a realistic equivalent spot to accommodate 1600 people at once?
Yamada Let’s see, we previously had 2200 or more visitors at one of our events called “Aki-net” in ageHa, Shin-kiba, so it would most likely be the main floor of ageHa.
Makino Thinking about that, it sounds like such a major event. [laugh]
Yamada Yeah, major, isn’t it? [laugh]
Watch MOGRA’s streaming video on www.twitch.tv
Makino You had about 300 viewers when you started, and then it surpassed 600 viewers within 20 minutes, and then it stayed around 600 to 700 for a while. The next thing I knew was that you had more than 1600 viewers watching it at one point and then kept more than 1000 viewers watching it to the end. It was like a festival.
Yamada I hadn’t seen that big a figure for a while since online streaming became common in Japan. The chat was also buzzing, and we enjoyed our new experience with different reactions thanks to your platform. We were made acutely aware of the huge number of Twitch users, who were not our target community before.
Makino The chat was really amazing. You know we projected the Twitch streaming to show on the screen at the lounge, right?
We were checking the chat contents there too, and it was so awesome to see all the jumbled up communication between Japanese and non-Japanese altogether. Twitch isn’t just a streaming platform, but it’s “a platform that forms a community by streaming” and that’s an important concept of ours. I believe we actually managed to embody that very concept.
Yamada Many said it was like the very early days of MOGRA when we first started streaming. We also communicated with foreigners on chat back then.
Makino I personally enjoyed seeing so many people drawn to the projection screen at the lounge. They were actually right there and they could always go inside the main floor to check it out for real. But instead they stayed there and were enjoying the chat to see the reactions from foreigners.
They even went ahead and created new accounts there to join the chat. We often enjoy the real-life atmosphere through the internet, but they were enjoying the internet atmosphere at the real place at that moment.
I was fraught with emotion to witness that one loses awareness of their physical location or being in a particular place. The internet has been evolving as a new form of media for sure but it is still groping for the actual bidirectionality. I hope Twitch makes that happen.
The agenda addressed to Anisong DJs to deliver their contents to the world
The chatting on Twitch MOGRA channel
Makino In my opinion, the first streaming of “Anisong Index” the other day was very successful. What do you think, Mr. Yamada?
Yamada Yeah, I do believe the streaming was successful too. On the other hand, I also believe that it shed light on the agenda.
By the agenda, I mean, not about streaming, but rather about the contents themselves, addressed to the Anisong DJs . I’m sure you have also seen that comment by some foreign viewer right after the streaming started, asking “ looks like their [sic] just pretending to dj, pretty sure i could do the same performance with an ipod ”
Makino English speakers are often quite frank and straightforward with what they have in mind.
Yamada I assume they just had some simple information of “music streaming by a DJ”, and what exactly the event was about or who were doing it hardly mattered to them. They might not get what the big deal is with Anisong DJs , I take it.
Makino Right. Twitch has extreme strength in spreading words to the world outside Japan, and perhaps it might have been that they were just a Twitch user who didn’t even know what MOGRA was.
Yamada Anisong DJs are quite often very self-enclosed. Needless to say that they are supposed to have watched many anime series to make their work enjoyable, the majority of them find it significant to attach meanings to a sequence of songs to reconnect you to the background information tied to anime.
For example, the songs share the same string of characters in their titles, the artists, the broadcasting companies, and so on. So, how can it be enjoyable for those who aren’t familiar with such information, you know? I’m sure it’s not something easy to get for some foreign users overseas who just happened to take a look.
Makino I see.
Yamada Of course, many clubs also attach meanings to their music mix with similar background information, but such information is for clubs or DJs to get hyped up about or to dance to. The audience doesn’t need to know the background information to enjoy it, you just get driven by the feeling.
What this reaction taught me is that I have to be even more aware of the quality and talents of DJs, instead of Anisong DJs. Currently, the successful DJs in the anime and club scene are those talented ones with a legitimate music background.
We can only assert our stance of MOGRA based on the assumption that the mismatched fusion of the club culture and otaku culture is accepted. What we have to do is to deliver our culture to the world by creating original content that we take pride in as a unique club from Japan.
Enclosing ourselves by labeling us “Ani-kura (anime song club)” to praise one another and foster satisfaction does no good at all. Creating entertainment as a genuine DJ is an absolute requirement.
Makino I think we did see the interactivity between MOGRA and the people overseas at the first streaming event of yours. I’m looking forward to seeing how you develop and expand it with the events and updates you’ll implement in the future.