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Alethea & Athena
Inside the Kingdom, with Heart 
2nd-Dec-2014 05:09 pm
sora
Yesterday was the big Kingdom Hearts launch event. By the time the day came, we were just like, "Whatever, let me stay home and play Birth by Sleep." This is due in large part to the fact that we only just started Birth by Sleep on Friday and reminded ourselves what a great game it is. But the other part is that the whole ordeal had caused us so much stress, we were ready to curl up and hide. The problem is that we have an incredibly hard time asking people for help, because we're too affected by past bad experiences.

So on Sunday, since we hadn't found anyone interested enough in going to the event with us, we texted our old neighbor, who had offered to drive us there and back regardless. It's really hard to ask someone to drive an hour out of their way specifically to not do something at the destination, but we wanted to go badly enough, and we figured after all the babysitting we'd done it wouldn't be too unfair of a favor. She was still up for it, only tragedy had struck her family and she needed to be home yesterday night. She was willing to drive back up to the studio to pick us up if she had to, but when someone's family dies, you try to make sure they don't have to. So we texted our former(?) home teacher and arranged to have his wife, who may or may not be our visiting teacher, pick us up. The whole thing stressed me out so badly I had a headache by the end of it.

But! as of Monday morning, everything was ready to go, and all we had to do was wait for it to be time to go. Of course our concentration was shot all to heck, but we attempted to edit volume one of Let's Dance a Waltz anyway. We weren't even really thinking about the event--it just hovered in the back of our minds and clouded our focus with nervousness. We made abysmal progress. It was awful. Then we got to the part (about page 16) where the one character was looking for music to use, and he suggests to himself "Because You Live." Being the diligent pop-culture reference checkers that we are, we looked the song up, and were only mildly surprised to find it wasn't a Japanese one. What really surprised us was that it was a Jesse McCartney song. And just like that, what little concentration we had vanished away. We threw our hands in the air and said, "That's it! We can't work anymore." (Jesse McCartney is the English dub voice of Roxas.)

(Speaking of this song, though, since it's an American song, we're pretty sure we shouldn't need a note for it, but the fact remains that we didn't recognize it. The fact also remains that songs like "Call Me Maybe" were out for many months before we ever heard them. Also, would people see the title "Because You Live" and assume we localized the song choice? We promise we didn't. Also, speaking of Natsumi Ando and Jesse McCartney, we remembered (when we went to her blog) that Ando-sensei is a Kingdom Hearts fan.)

Then we shook it off (or tried) and got back to work. Soon thereafter, our ride showed up and it was time.


After about an hour on the road, and stopping for gas in our hometown of Glendale♥, we arrived at the studios. Now my nerves were really getting to me. Fortunately, there was clear signage pointing us in the right direction (unlike when we went on a Walt Disney Studios tour before, where we got lost). We went to check in, and the guy asked for our names, and Athena said, "You might recognize them from the credits page of the Kingdom Hearts manga." And he replied, "You might recognize my name from the credits in the game!" I think we acted sufficiently impressed, and then he added that he was just a quality assurance tester. An enviable position, to be sure, but not one that gives you a lot of "hey, I made this game!" cred.

We checked out the shiny merchandise they had--we could have bought the game before its official release date! But we didn't, because we already bought the Japanese version. We did buy a Kairi keychain for our neighbor's Kingdom Hearts loving daughter, and the very shiny 7-8-disc HD ReMix soundtrack. We listened to the first three discs while we worked today, and they are indeed very shiny.

There were a couple of green-screen photo booths where the guys would take your picture and put it on a Kingdom Hearts background. Despite hating pictures of ourselves, we felt we would be remiss if we did not take advantage, so we posed for the Keyblade Graveyard background, because it was the easiest to think of a pose for. Although Athena did have a Twilight Town clocktower idea that involved shoving me much like Axel shoves Roxas in Days. Then we emailed the picture to ourselves and refused to look at it since.

There was catering there, but apparently the caterers didn't get the memo that they were having the event twice, so even though we were there for the second show really early, they were taking the food away when we got there. But not before we each got a delicious brownie! The downside--those tiny brownies were the only thing either of us had to eat all afternoon and into the night. We had brought granola bars, so we did have something to eat, but for some reason, we chose not to take advantage.

Then we waited and waited and waited, and eventually, it was time for the real fun to begin. They let us all into the main theater at Walt Disney Studios. Athena and I had positioned ourselves such that we were among the first in the theater, and we got seats in the second row (the first was reserved for special guests). When everyone was seated, the lights dimmed, the curtain rose, and they started showing us...movie trailers, starting with Into the Woods. We were like, "What's this got to do with Kingdom Hearts?" but more like, "Whatever, Disney." We also saw a trailer for Cinderella, which looks like, "Hey, why don't we make the same movie Walt Disney did, only in live action and adding bits so people will take it more seriously?" It just seemed a little uninspired. And there was a trailer for Avengers 2.

Then, finally, there were trailers for Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMix! They were pretty shiny trailers, too. But we were kind of like, "Yeah, we're already going to buy the game." But I think the point was more to have a montage of awesome highlights, and in that, they succeeded.

And now that the trailers were over, things could really get started. There was an MC, whose name I don't remember despite his making a point of asking, "Got it memorized?" after introducing himself. First, he brought out the producer of Kingdom Hearts, Shinji Hashimoto, who came out and thanked us all for coming and supporting the series. Then there was the Disney-side producer, Emiko Yamamoto, who came out and said much the same thing, adding that there really was an elevator encounter, but she didn't remember it happening the same way as in the urban legend.

The urban legend, from what we've heard, is that the conception of Kingdom Hearts happened when she and Hashimoto-san met in an elevator. Square-Enix (Squaresoft at the time) was in the same building as Disney Interactive (or some Disney thing; I just assume Interactive, because games), and when they met in the elevator that fateful day, one of them said, "Hey, we've been in the same building all this time. Why haven't we made something together?"

Everytime Hashimoto-san heard the phrase "elevator story" after that, he would nod as if to say, "Yup, that really happened."

Next, a gentleman came out and sat at the grand piano we couldn't help noticing when we came in. He played a beautiful arrangement of Kairi's theme, which made me a little impatient to get back to my own piano, partly because I have the sheet music for that same arrangement. They showed us a video interview with Kingdom Hearts' composer, Yoko Shimomura. She talked about how she was never really the type to be able to stick with anything for a long time, but one day she started playing the piano, and she thought even her parents figured she wouldn't be at it very long, but somehow she managed to keep at it, and now she's been writing music for 25 years. She talked about "Hand in Hand," the battle music from Traverse Town (in the second half of KH1), and how she wanted something fun and exciting, that kind of motivated you and stuff, and how it's unusual in game music, because in the first half of the game, the battle music in Traverse Town is on the darker side, but later on it gets to be more cheerful.

After the interview, Livan (the genius pianist) played Hand in Hand (his hands just flew over the keyboard--it was amazing!), Sora's theme (there's a part in it where it morphs into Roxas's theme, and he really slowed down at that part so it became really obvious; on the Kingdom Hearts Piano Collections CD, it doesn't go by that slow, so you almost don't realize until it's over that, "Hey, wait! Was that Roxas's theme?" I like it better on the CD, because it's not as fun when you have to explain the punchline), Working Together (the battle music from Twilight Town), Namine's theme...

Oh right, during Namine's theme, his sheet music kept getting blown over by the air conditioning, so he would sometimes have to pause in his playing to push the music back in place. Hashimoto-san saw it the first time and got ready to jump out of his chair to help. Livan recovered quickly enough that that turned out to be unnecessary...until the AC started playing tricks again. Only this time, Hashimoto-san noticed one of the Square-Enix minions also getting up. He gestured to her, and she went and crouched behind the piano, holding the music in place until the piece was finished. It was kind of awesome. Then another minion came by with tape, so Livan was able to play Scherzo di Notte (the battle music from Hollow Bastion) unhindered.

After that, the MC got up and made everyone very happy by pointing out that there was in fact a reason that there were two grand pianos at the front of the theater, and introducing Yoko Shimomura herself! Yay! (Actually, before the event started, we were in the studio store when we noticed some Japanese people browsing. I overheard part of their conversation, from which I only made out "Shimomura-san," so we already knew she was there. But that didn't make it any less awesome.) Shimomura-san and Livan played a duet of The Other Promise (from when Sora and Roxas fight each other in KH2) and of course, Dearly Beloved. It was really, really great.

Then! the MC said he was going to ask Hashimoto-san to come back up for a Q&A panel. He also introduced the interpreter and the interviewer, who also seems to be the woman who put the whole event together. Hashimoto-san and the interpreter took their seats, and Kaori (the interviewer) said she wasn't going to sit in the third chair, because they were one chair short! So they brought out another chair, and then they brought out the extra-specialest special guest of all, Mr. Tetsuya Nomura-san! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahoooooooo!!!

We were like, "He just went to two Comic Cons. Of course he's going to be here!" But they did almost psych me out when there were only three chairs up there. So I'm glad our hopes weren't dashed to pieces.

And then, of course, most of the questions ended up being for Nomura-san. But I think this post is long enough for today, so I will report on that tomorrow.


Today I'm thankful for two wonderful people driving us two and from the Kingdom Hearts event, getting to go to a super awesome Kingdom Hearts event, making it safely home from the event, getting lots of rain today (while the weather stayed nice and dry yesterday), and making much better progress today than we did yesterday.
Comments 
3rd-Dec-2014 02:56 am (UTC)
Woohooo, I'm so glad you got to go!!! And I'm enjoying your report! (yay Athena for promoting your work on/names in the manga :D) Listening to the pianist and composer playing the music live would be awesome~

...I feel like you could reasonably include a note about the song in Let's Dance a Waltz, because I've never heard of it either (and even if it was popular at one time, it's... *googles* 10 years old now?). Admittedly, I'm spectacularly ignorant about popular music as well, but I'm sure there are plenty of people like us in the manga-reading audience :)

(uh, I'm listening to the song now and cracking uuuup!! Oh, kids these days. (or ten years ago. I probably would've laughed at it then too...))

Edited at 2014-12-03 02:59 am (UTC)
5th-Dec-2014 01:08 am (UTC)
Yay! We're glad you're glad! At least, we're glad you enjoy our reports. Sorry about disappearing yesterday.

We decided not to include a note about the song, because Athena is firmly of the opinion that it is not our job to inform the readers about American pop culture. That's their job. Or, like, Entertainment Weekly's job, or some other thing devoted to American entertainment. (Not sure EW covers the music scene... MTV? Eh...)

We didn't listen to it! I think we were too busy at the time. We might have to go rectify that...or we might have to play more Birth by Sleep.
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