CUE! 2nd Party took place over two sessions on 2021-08-15, and it was one of the events I enjoyed the most this year! The characters and seiyuu mean a lot to me, and the event was full of great performances. Though I couldn't go in person—not being a resident or citizen of Japan—it was wonderful even on a screen.
There's not much about this event in English, so I wanted to write about some context behind it, the content of the event, and my own thoughts. It's... a few thousand words longer than I was expecting and several parts may not make much sense without watching the footage. But I hope someone somewhere finds something of value here.
Official event website (in Japanese): https://www.cue-liber.jp/live/sing-about-everything
Where can I watch this?
A short digest of most of the full-group songs from the night session is up!
The full concert is included with the anime's CUE! Blu-ray Vol. 1, which released 2022-03-16.
There are also official Spotify and Apple Music playlists for the setlists of the day and night sessions of 2nd Party. (Minus the unreleased songs.)
For more AiRBLUE live content: the CUE! 1st Anniversary concert is included with the Blu-ray edition of the Talk about everything album! That's also a great one. Here's footage from the day session and night session of it as a taster.
Background: What's CUE!?
(I'm not sure how many people are going to read this without already being somewhat familiar with CUE!, but hey, who knows?)
CUE! is a multimedia franchise from Liber Entertainment and Pony Canyon. Its first content was released in mid-2019, and it focuses on 16 characters, all newcomer voice actresses affiliated with an agency called AiRBLUE. (When they perform as a group, they're called AiRBLUE.)
They're split into 4 teams of 4: Flower, Bird, Wind, and Moon—the four components of the concept 花鳥風月.
The main content up until now:
- The mobile game CUE! where you play as the characters' manager. This was our main window into the world of the characters. It operated from November 2019 to April 2021 and is currently on hiatus while the developers prepare an overhaul. (There's no timeline for the renewal, as of August 2021.)
- Music sung by the AiRBLUE seiyuu.
- Live performances, where the seiyuu sing & dance, as well as read plays in character. The major live concerts are labeled "Party", and the first one was CUE! 1st Anniversary Party in November 2020. (There was a 1st Party scheduled in April 2020, but it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
- Talk shows featuring the seiyuu, including CUE! ROOM (an occasional live stream on YouTube) and A&G Chou! CUE! & A (a radio show that airs every Monday-Thursday).
- The TV anime CUE!, which will air starting January 2022.
Fans of AiRBLUE are called "managers" since the game puts you in that role.
For more info on CUE!, there's an English wiki (not sure how much info is there), and this Spotify playlist has all the music released to date.
(The Flower and Bird seiyuu also perform as themselves in a separate group, DIALOGUE+, which is occasionally cross-promoted with CUE!.)
Background: A bit of context
Once the game went on hiatus in April 2021—the same month that AiRBLUE's first album Talk about everything was released—there was a lot of uncertainty in the air.
The anime had been announced at 1st Anniversary Party without a timeline for its release. Along with the game being indefinitely suspended, that meant there would be no character-focused content for a long time. And the game's suspension left the music releases in an awkward state: for the 3rd set of team singles, only 2 of the 4 teams had songs announced.
While seiyuu-focused content like CUE! & A and release events for the album continued, us managers (and the seiyuu, by their admission) were feeling a bit lonely, not knowing when we'd get to see more of the characters or get more music releases.
Amidst this dearth of content, 2nd Party was the last thing we had a definite timeline for (besides CUE! & A). With the event's title—Sing about everything—following the same idea as Talk about everything, AiRBLUE would certainly showcase songs they had yet to perform from the album.
For more invested fans, it was bound to pack an emotional punch: a reunion with the characters, a reflection on AiRBLUE's journey via their music and acting, and hopefully a more definite sign of their future. Many of us expected an announcement about the game or anime since this seemed like the best timing and it'd be an emotional critical hit.
Background: Vocabulary and people of interest
I'll introduce some terms and people involved in 2nd Party. Come back here if you come across something confusing.
Squad #1-4: This is a loose translation of 1-4番手 since there isn't an official one. (Sorry that it's so close to "team". I should get better at words.) Lines in songs are often distributed by these "squads" of four members. Squad #n consists of the nth member from each team in the official ordering. Each squad also got a center song on Talk about everything—these were also the four completely new songs on the album.
- Haruna, Yuuki, Miharu, Rie (the leaders of their teams)—"Mirai Canvas"
- Maika, Chisa, Aya, Satori—"My Sustainer"
- Shiho, Airi, Mahoro, Rinne—"Shizuku no Kesshou"
- Honoka, Yuzuha, Riko, Mei—"Radio is a Friend!"
Seasonal groups: The non-leaders are also grouped into seasons, and the seasonal songs focus on them:
- Spring: Honoka, Chisa, Mahoro, Mei—"beautiful tomorrow"
- Summer: Maika, Yuzuha, Riko, Rinne—"Colorful"/"Kaleidoscope"
- Winter: Shiho, Airi, Aya, Satori—"Saikou no Mahou"
Parts of songs: Most of these songs are organized in an A-B-A-B-C-B pattern.
- A: verse
- B: chorus
- C: bridge (I also reference the "climax", which is often at the end of this)
Romanization and nicknames can vary, so I'll list the names I use here to be clear. I order names by "Family Given"/"Last First", the same as in the original Japanese.
They're in the same order (left to right) as on the official site's cast page, if you'd like a visual reference.
- Uchiyama Yurina, or Yurinya (voices Haruna)
- Hieda Nene (voices Maika)
- Moriya Kyoka, or Kyon (voices Shiho)
- Ogata Yuuna (voices Honoka)
- Takamura Ayaka, or Yakan (voices Yuuki)
- Miyahara Satsuki, or Sappi (voices Chisa)
- Iizuka Mayu, or Mayuyun (voices Airi)
- Murakami Manatsu, or ManaT (voices Yuzuha)
- Anzai Yukari, or Zaichan (voices Miharu)
- Matsuda Saki, or Kiichan (voices Aya)
- Yamashita Megumi, or Mamechan (voices Mahoro)
- Tsuruno Arisa, or Tsuru (voices Riko)
- Tachibana Hina, or Hinachi (voices Rie)
- Komine Ami (voices Satori)
- Satou Mai, or SatoMai (voices Rinne)
- Tsuchiya Rio, or ChanRio (voices Mei)
The first three people here had a retrospective stream on 2021-08-20, available to those who bought the stream for the main event. It was really informative and entertaining, so I'll reference some of that discussion in this post.
(I thought about including more from the retrospective, but there was so much content in those three hours, and I'd never finish this post...)
- Tsuruno Arisa: not only is she Riko's seiyuu, but she was also responsible for the script for the various character stories within the event (assisted by the staff at Liber). She's a (self-described) huge fan of the franchise and has reportedly read all the game stories. It's fun to watch her geek out!
- Nojima Teppei: a producer at Pony Canyon, and directed many of the aspects of the event. He cracks some pretty good jokes.
- Sawaguchi Kanami (nickname: Mi-sen, short for Kanami-sensei): the choreographer for all the dances accompanying each song. Doing choreography for so many 16-person songs is real tough, but she's so good at it.
- Atarashi Tomoko: the costume creator responsible for designing the seiyuu's outfits.
Songs #1-3: Go forth! (Outfits: Forever Friends)
Onto the main event. The night session was the only one that was streamed, so that's all I can substantially report on.
- I split it into parts based on what outfits the seiyuu wore, except for the team-focused section. Conveniently, this also happens to be a good way to conceptually group the songs.
- When describing the contents of a skit, I use the character names even though the seiyuu are the ones acting it out in real-time.
- There are links to Spotify or the music videos so that you can listen along if you want to.
Introduction: A letter from Haruna
The event opened with an emotional music box melody, and voiced over it, a letter from Haruna. The text appeared on screen as she said it, "written" on some nice pink stationery.
Haruna said in her letter that there's so much she wants to talk about—in other words, she wants to Talk about everything, bringing in the album's title right away. Remember the title of the event—Sing about everything? Their singing is how they "talk" to us, tying the concepts together.
(The idea here is inspired by this tweet from the CUE! staff account, which mentions you can interpret that line as both the album title or event title.)
Song #1: Sayonara Ready-made (さよならレディーメイド)
"Ready-made" is the first song on Talk about everything, so combined with its theme of beginnings and determination, it made for a perfect opener.
During the instrumental introduction, the seiyuu walked onto stage from the center entrance. This was actually a fresh take—they usually start performing this song while already in position, with some choreo accompanying the intro.
They hadn't met the fans with all 16 of them on stage since 1st Anniversary Party, so while this is a serious song, you could see plenty of smiles from the seiyuu, glad to see everyone after nine months.
My favorite bit from this performance was the "amai dake no uwabe dake no yasashisa iya dakara" at the beginning of the second verse—Squad #4's voices sounded just right. The choreo there is also great: another member faces away from the singer, offering the superficial "kindness" from the lyrics, and the singer turns it away. It's a very nice way to convey the line.
Song #2: Watashitachi wa Mada Sono Haru o Shiranai (私たちはまだその春を知らない)
This is the B-side from beautiful tomorrow—a fitting follow-up to "Ready-made", the B-side from Forever Friends.
While they're both serious songs with similar musical atmospheres, and both involve pushing forth, this one also looks forward differently by musing about how you often don't recognize the importance of an experience until after it happens, and wondering how the present will look in the future. It's hopeful in the sense that perhaps the best is yet to come, and assures us that whatever happens, we'll have each other in our hearts.
Personally, I like the choreo in the chorus where they move their hand in a diamond shape in front of them. You could interpret it as a mirror where they look at themselves, either literally ("when you're left alone" 一人になる時) or figuratively ("is there something important" 大切なものはあるかい). At the beginning of the second chorus, it's instead "a space in this sky" (この空の隙間).
This time around, you could see them take the lyrics "smile, smile" (笑って笑って) quite literally, following up on the energy of the last song.
Song #3: My Sustainer (マイサスティナー)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live.)
This song features Squad #2, and before performing it, they started off with dialogue between the Squad #2 members.
Maika: We're finally here! We can finally see them! How does it look?
Aya: Now that I've left behind the part of me that was always looking down, what's in front of me is just amazing—I don't have the words for it.
Satori: Indeed. As the seasons change, both the scenery and our hearts follow. Just like you, what's in front of me is an incredible sight.
Chisa: Let's tie these songs together—we'll cross the boundaries of both the seasons and their expectations!
It's only a few lines, but there's a surprising amount to unpack in how it relates to the lyrics of "My Sustainer":
- In the first verse, they sing about seeing "sights"/"scenery" without compare (例えようのない景色), similar to how Aya and Satori describe what they see.
- When Aya leaves behind the part of her that's always looking down, she's making good on the beginning of the second chorus, which tells us to leave behind overdependence and our regrets (どんな甘えも後悔も／さようなら 塗り替えてゆけよ).
- Satori and Chisa's discussion of seasons foreshadows a sequence of songs later on that evokes the passing of the seasons.
- Chisa's line has a couple of references to the lyrics too: "tie these songs together" (歌を繋いでいく) is directly from the first chorus.
- Then the last line in the second chorus is about "surpassing expectations" (期待を超えて), with just about the same wording as Chisa.
Moving on to the song itself, I enjoy how the vocal melodies makes good use of their lower registers. Squad #2 often naturally sing noticeably deeper than the other squads, and many parts of this song bring everyone else down with them. This helps continue the "cool" feel from the two preceding songs in a brighter tone. (Though Squad #4 gets some real high notes in the bridge.)
"My Sustainer" hadn't been performed before, so the choreography was new to everyone. At the staff retrospective stream, Tsuru and Mi-sen agreed that the dance was quite difficult (Tsuru: "demonic"). Yurinya actually said that this was the most difficult dance in the AiRBLUE repertoire on her CUE! & A episode on 2021-08-23. Given the variety of formations and some complicated movements, it's pretty understandable why after seeing it. (Maybe it was a good thing to get it out of the way earlier in the setlist.)
Songs #4-6: Get hyped! (Outfits: Casualwear)
These outfits are casual clothes they might wear in day-to-day life. These clothes strike a nice balance between simplicity, cuteness, and elegance, and everyone looked great in them!
Video: Group chat
Everyone left the stage after "My Sustainer" to change clothes, and we got this character story to fill the time. It was a prerecorded video of a group chat with text bubbles and names next to them.
The chat is set before a radio recording involving all 16 characters. Haruna and Yuuki were missing at first, but they showed up eventually, having brought some cute animal-shaped chocolates from the convenience store. Haruna saw one that looked like a turtle... and she just had to buy them since it reminded her of her pet turtle Kamei-san. The chat cut off right before their recording session started.
(Fun little gag: it started with Yuzuha asking which studio their recording session is in and Shiho said it's at studio 9—9 is pronounced "kyuu"... or "cue".)
Since this is part of the lead-up to Squad #4's song "Radio is a Friend!", those members got most of the lines. Even so, each character got at least one line here, which was great to hear after the radio silence during the game's hiatus.
Skit: Please clap
You know how long that group chat video was? About 2 minutes. That's not very much time to get everyone changed, so Squad #4 got changed first and went out to buy them a few more minutes by entertaining the audience.
Once the group chat ended, Tsuru walked onto the stage to start this skit.
In the night session, she started with "this time, I won't mess up names"—a reference to the day session where she mixed up her name with Riko's during one of the roll calls... (Both incidents got a lot of applause.)
Then the other three walked on. After Yuzuha asked what exactly they were doing, Riko said that they were doing a public radio recording and Yuzuha insisted on having the audience clap furiously for them. Riko tried pointing out that's not really what you do at a public recording, but eventually, they got everyone clapping along. (Mei clapped very calmly.)
Apparently, this was all ad-libbed with only the general idea and roles set, so it was pretty cool how well they stayed in character.
Song #4: Radio is a Friend!
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live.)
After the skit, the drum and bass beat at the beginning of "Radio is a Friend!" started looping, and each of Squad #4 got to say a line to express their enthusiasm (Mei's was a little more lukewarm). They finished up just as the beat stopped—just right.
A brief pause, then the song proper started. The other four seiyuu with lines in the introduction walked on first, and together they got to the "Go on air!" line just on time here too.
Tsuru said the timekeeping was especially tricky with all the dialogue in and before the song—she and surely the other seiyuu had practiced a lot to get the timing right. It was really impressive to see. (To hear?)
I love songs with a lot of dialogue (...or a lot of DIALOGUE+) and this one is no exception—so many fun and cute moments. It really lets each of them show off their character's quirks, from the voices to their expressions and gestures.
Personal cutest moment: when Yuzuha/ManaT mentions the dessert "helo-helo" and Airi/Mayuyun corrects it to "halo-halo". ManaT and Mayuyun's faces there were great, and they brought out Yuzuha and Airi's cuteness really well. (...they're also my favorite two seiyuu and characters in AiRBLUE.)
To finish the song off with a nice transition, Tsuru replaced the final line—instead of "this program was brought to you by our managers",
Riko: Next up, please listen to this suuuper cute song— CUTE♡CUTE♡CUTE♡!
Song #5: CUTE♡CUTE♡CUTE♡
And super cute it was.
I'm thankful for the dance practice videos—they give a nice clear view of everyone, so you can watch whoever you want and notice details about the choreography.
Very cute parts:
- It's kind of an obvious idea, but I really love that three-heart formation, matching the three hearts in the song title.
- The choreo where they alternate between making Cs and hearts with their arms is also very nice.
- Squad #3's "kodomo no koro egaiteita fancy" in the second verse.
- In the bridge, they each pose one by one from left to right, with the pose inspired by what their character might do. (The camera didn't catch everyone's pose this time around...)
- ManaT's face right after that last "kyun" before the last chorus.
Song #6: our song
"our song" finished off the set of energetic + cute songs—this one's on the energetic side.
Circle formations aren't that prominent in AiRBLUE songs, so it's a bit of a fresh experience to see in this song. (It looks even better with an overhead camera, like the one they had at 1st Anniversary Party.) It's also nice how everyone else forms two circles right before the climax when Squad #1 sings their lines.
(Are there circles because the song title starts with an O?)
It looked like a lot of fun for those at the venue—the choreo in the chorus is relatively simple and the arm-waving with the "lalala"s at the end is always fun. Fitting that it's easy to join in "our" song.
Personally, this time around I really liked Squad #4's lines at the beginning of the second verse—"watashitachi ichido atsumattara/wakuwaku ga tomaranai"—since they sounded great and we got close-ups of Yuuna and Tsuru making really nice faces.
Songs #7-14: Teamwork makes the dream work
This section features two songs from each team with varied outfits.
Before each of the first four songs, the corresponding team read a short skit. You could feel each team's growth in these—at times in the game story, you could see personalities clash, while in these skits each team's dynamic was more harmonious.
Skits like these really bring home the fact that these are seiyuu—they don't only sing and dance, but bring the characters to life through their acting.
(Apologies in advance: my dialogue summaries aren't especially colorful.)
Skit: Scene. -1- (Flower)
After "our song", the stage lights faded out, and everyone except Flower left. An image of a dance practice room from the game flashed on screen and Flower got illuminated on stage, starting Scene. -1-.
Shiho asked Maika to help with dance practice, but Maika pointed out that it was almost time to close up the lesson rooms. After reflecting on how quickly time flies, Honoka reassured them that "tomorrow we'll be able to do what we couldn't today!" Haruna agreed, but uneasily.
Since Haruna had volunteered on closing duty the last few times, the other three played rock paper scissors to decide who should do it this time. Maika lost and resigned herself to it. (Tsuru said they actually played it on the spot—instead of the result being fixed—and Nene lost both sessions, even though she's usually good at it...)
Haruna thanked them, saying "I was just thinking that even when I'm feeling anxious, being with you all makes me smile right away." Turns out the other three felt the same way, though Maika was a little embarrassed to talk about it.
Song #7: Field of Flowers
This song's lyrics are touching—it's about blooming like a beautiful flower with enough time and work, even if you keep finding fault with yourself or your goal seems impossibly far. It's very fitting for a story about the journey of rookie seiyuu, both the characters and their real-life counterparts. The music and choreography complete the package by being upbeat but gentle, like sunshine and flowers.
Of course, the seiyuu executed it really well. I loved their expressions, especially the soft smiles, and it felt like they were encouraging both each other and the audience. The visuals of colorful flowers on the screens behind them were a nice touch too.
Here, they're still in their casualwear, and it works really well with the song because of that balance between cuteness and elegance I mentioned before. The outfits really do feel flowery, in a low-key way.
Skit: Scene. -2- (Wind)
Outfits: NAZO-NAZE Jumping!
The background visual for this one was a street corner in the city next to a food stand and a few shops. You could see the sun setting, so maybe it was around the same time as Flower's skit.
Wind just finished a live stream, their first job together in a while. Aya felt like it was nerve-wracking, but she managed to talk a lot—she guessed it was because she felt at ease with the four of them. Miharu asked Riko if she enjoyed it, and while she did, it was still difficult. Mahoro gets it and says:
Mahoro: Right, we can't just say whatever. You have to think about what atmosphere they want to feel, how to bring out your own personality, and your expressions and gestures. All while you're talking.
Aya talked about how she wasn't sure how to "be herself", and Miharu reassured her that whether they're nervous or having fun, that's still a fine way to "be yourself".
Riko reflected on when she used to think that going on one of her favorite radio shows would satisfy her—it turned out that her list of goals just kept getting longer instead. Aya got a bit inspired by this and resolved to try her best too.
Finally, at Miharu's suggestion, they decided to all go drinking (with orange juice for Aya).
Song #8: Goodbye Objection (ぐっばいおぶじぇくしょん)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live.)
This song's lyrics mirror the growth you can see in the skit, with the singer feeling a bit lost in a world that won't wait for them, and eventually changing their perspective so that they're in control and making their own path forward.
The music has kind of a retro feel, matching the NAZO-NAZE Jumping! outfits, and is pretty groovy. Combined with the choreography, the seiyuu's performance sold this song's idea of them finding confidence in their own image. (I especially liked the chorus choreography and their ending poses.)
Skit: Scene. -3- (Bird)
The background for this one: the entrance to a shopping street with a definitely-not-McDonald's. Like the last one, this was at sunset.
Bird had just finished a recording session. While Yuzuha had fun, Yuuki was rather displeased with her last ad-lib, even though it was at the director's direction. Yuzuha tried to reassure her that they can just train so she'll be better next time, but Airi pointed out this was the last episode...
Chisa told Yuuki they can try again to do better at the next job, and while Yuuki sullenly agreed, she wished she'd gotten one of the lead roles. Yuzuha, always a positive one, still enjoyed playing the background villagers, though, and Chisa pointed out that they didn't pass the auditions anyway, so maybe they should just be happy to have gotten work. Airi agreed and was thankful that they got to do a variety of jobs.
In the end, Yuuki decided it wasn't like her to mope around about the little things, and Yuzuha and Chisa joined in her renewed enthusiasm. Airi finished up:
Airi: I'm happy to see you all smiling! ...Huh? Are those birds up in the sky?
Song #9: Humming Bird (ハミングバード)
This started with twittering bird sounds, making for a nice lead-in from the skit.
The song is already super cute—it's about a small hummingbird's melody ringing through the vast skies (the bird being, well, Bird)—and the choreography makes it even better, with everyone hopping around and flapping their hands like wings.
One part that stood out to me was the choreo in the bridge where Chisa/Sappi moves her finger back and forth and the others move along with it, as if she were conducting for the other three in a little orchestra. It matches the music focusing on the orchestral instruments and reflects Chisa's big sister-like role within the team. (Despite her more mature vibe, she gets to be super cute in this song!)
Skit: Scene. -4- (Moon)
Outfits: Reach For The World! (first reveal)
Background: a recording studio. I like how Rie started this one by humming, following up on "Humming Bird". Mei asked how her throat was doing, and while Rie says (in an elaborate way) that she's feeling great, Mei pointed out her drink was almost empty. Having anticipated this, Satori and Rinne walked in with drinks, including one of Rie's favorites.
This recording session is for a song with all four of them, and while Satori was a bit nervous, Rinne and Rie were more excited. Or at least, Rie said she was—after Mei said the recording was going to start soon, Rie sounded more nervous. Rinne responded that she loves Rie's (and the other two's) singing and Satori expresses her confidence in the team too. They reflect on how each of them has changed after all the time and experience together, and in the end, Rie leads them forward:
Rie: So let us infuse our souls into this song, and let the curtain rise as we march forth on this road to our dreams.
Song #10: Determination -Koe no Kakehashi- (Determination -声の架け橋-)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live.)
The lyrics actually start with the "road to our dreams" (夢の道) from Rie's last line of the skit—nice transition!—and the curtain rising (幕開け) shows up in the second chorus.
The song is generally about, well, determination. I'll avoid thinking too hard about the lyrics because they put the "声の架け橋" from the title into English, the result of which (ironically) doesn't make sense to me.
My favorite things about watching any Moon performance are SatoMai's singing and Hinachi's expressions (she has some killer winks), and both of them were stellar here as always. (The other two were great too.) SatoMai's "un gai souten" before the second chorus hit the spot.
The visuals on the screen behind them were kinda epic (or extra, depending on your point of view), alternating between rain/thunder, some nebulous space-y things, and a background that looks like they're in an RPG boss battle in a firey dungeon.
Also, we finally saw the Reach For The World! outfits for the first time—they weren't a perfect reproduction (the hats shrunk...), but they matched the spirit of the 2D versions and fit the seiyuu nicely.
Song #11: Knocking on My Dream!!
Outfits: Knocking on My Dream!!
They started the song with a little musical flourish (that you might hear in the Magic Works in-game anime) that isn't in the CD version, just a couple seconds after the "Determination" music ended. This gave the Flower seiyuu a bit of time to walk on from stage right, while Moon left through the door in the middle of the stage. But Nene missed half of her opening line, probably because it wasn't quite enough time for them to get in position... (Love her all the same.)
This is one of those songs that I enjoy a lot more when watching it being performed—the outfits and the choreography (especially the batons) really make the song for me.
One change I noticed from the 1st Anniversary Party performance was that at 1st, they dimmed the stage lights during the baton twirling part of the bridge (to focus attention on the little lights on the batons), but here they kept the stage lights on.
Song #12: Nikoniko Wakuwaku Saikouchou! (にこにこワクワク 最高潮!)
Outfits: Nikoniko Wakuwaku Saikouchou!
When "Knocking on My Dream!!" ended, Flower was on the bottom half of the stage, and the stage lights dimmed on them. Then the bottom half's lights went out and the top half's lights went on simultaneously, illuminating the Bird seiyuu up there. The transition was so short that it made my brain go "when did they get there?" (Clearly, they walked on at the end of the last song, though it wasn't on camera so I can't be sure.)
They're singing in character (Yuuki, Chisa, Airi, Yuzuha), yes, but they in turn are singing as their characters from the in-game anime (Fairin Fairin) that this song is for. The additional layer adds to the fun when they really inject those personalities into their delivery, especially in the second verse section.
Song #13: MiRAGE! MiRAGE!!
Outfits: MiRAGE! MiRAGE!!
A 25-second instrumental played after "NikoWaku" that's very... Moon-like. It made me feel like a mystery in a JRPG just got resolved.
"MiraMira" is probably my favorite Moon song, and its live performance makes an already great song even better. Yes, they stood in place—they used stand mics—but they made up for it with some fun hand and arm movements, as well as leaning the stand mics over in the chorus.
In terms of singing, SatoMai's "itsudatte yobikateta" at the beginning of the second verse was just wonderful. I also really liked ChanRio's singing in her lines in the climax.
Song #14: Kiseki na Summer! (キセキなSummer!)
Outfits: Summer outfits (first reveal)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live, and also the first time it was revealed in full.)
After "MiraMira", the stage lights went out, and a short clip from this song's in-game anime Ashibashi! played before the seiyuu walked on to perform. (The PV of it is linked about, but doesn't have the dialogue in the clip here.)
It was a pleasant surprise if you hadn't heard anything about the day session, because the song hadn't been released in full, much less on CD. (In the day session, Bird performed "Land"e"scape", another unreleased song from the game, with similarly summery new outfits.)
Speaking of outfits, these were nice and summery, mostly blue and white except for Mamechan/Mahoro's pink belt. Kiichan/Aya's was a bit daring for an AiRBLUE outfit, with her stomach exposed.
The song itself is a bop, and it's another one where the characters themselves sing in their anime's characters, so we get to see the seiyuu deliver lines they wouldn't as their normal characters. (Aya yelling "Second set! Let's goooo!" after the first chorus is great.) And Tsuru's short line ("omoidasu") in the climax is nice and refreshing.
A new song means new choreography, and the dance is one of Wind's more active ones. In particular, the choreo that starts the bridge is fun to watch, and their poses in the first parts of the verse sections are cute too.
The song ended with Tsuru/Riko talking while the other three did some stretches (this is a volleyball anime, after all):
Setsuha (CV. Riko): With the four of us, we can go anywhere! Or at least, that's the feeling I get.
Then they struck poses matching the anime in the background and the stage lights dimmed to make way for a video.
Songs 15-22: Seasons come, seasons go... but Forever Friends (Outfits: Talk about everything)
This is where they debuted their Talk about everything outfits in front of an audience. The two-color (gray and white) scheme of the dress gives it an understated elegance. Instead of each member's image color being prominent like in the Forever Friends outfits, only the ribbons on this outfit are colored. (Meanwhile, the beautiful tomorrow outfits take a step further and don't incorporate their image colors at all, though they have their own charm to them.)
Video: Recording session
Unusually, this was a real-life video, and it featured the Squad #3 seiyuu. The audio was a voiceover with some strings-heavy background music. (I use the character names because they were very much in the characters' voices.)
Shiho: You hesitate to even breathe too loudly. The silence is tense. They're about to start recording.
Airi: But somehow, you feel like it'll be fine because everyone's there with you. No, you're sure it'll be fine.
Mahoro: Voice acting isn't something you do alone. Your heart connects to those of your companions, and you create a story.
Rinne: You put everything—even your weaknesses—into your acting, and convey your voice, your dreams to everyone.
The video itself showed Kyon walking into the recording studio, then greeting the other three, who were sitting down. They all had scripts with the CUE! logo on the front. (The actual text in the scripts: a Japanese translation of Hamlet.) Then they got up and went over to the mics, talking a bit.
A red light went on–the cue that the recording session was about to start.
The screens in front of them showed "CUE!" in the top right corner, "#01" in the top left, and "AiRBLUE" with some waveforms in the bottom left. In the middle: a countdown from 10. After it hit 1, the next video played.
Rinne: All right, here I go!
Video: CUE! Anime PV
This was first shown at the day session and then uploaded on YouTube around the same time. For those of us who weren't at the day session, it was a (pleasant) surprise, but it must have been really emotional to see for the first time at the venue, especially after that recording session video—the countdown was a really nice transition.
The PV was the first time we saw footage from the anime, as well as the first time we learned it'd start airing in January 2022.
Song 15: Shizuku no Kesshou (雫の結晶)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live.)
This is Squad #3's center song from Talk about everything: a gentle ballad where the singer accepts your weaknesses and imperfections as a part of you (like Rinne mentions in the intermission video) and hopes you'll always be walking alongside them. It's the kind of healing song that makes you (or me, at least) want to tear up.
Starting with Mamechan (whose line starts the song), the seiyuu gradually walked onto the stage as their lines came up. Most of the time, they stayed still or walked slowly, but one cool detail of the (minimal) choreography is that when they rotated, they walked clockwise around the stage—the same direction as the "clock hands" (時計の針) in the second verse section.
Song 16: Kaleidoscope (カレイドスコープ)
This is another gentle song—though it picks up the pace in comparison to "Shizuku no Kesshou"—about precious shared memories forming a kaleidoscope of stars in the sky. "What will you be seeing in 10 years? I'm sure that beneath these skies you'll remember." (10年後の君は今何を見てるの/この空の下で きっと思い出して)
"Kaleidoscope" is centered on the summer group, and their lines in the bridge are just wonderfully cathartic. At 1st Anniversary Party, Tsuru was particularly emotional so she sounded like she was tearing up when she sang her lines, but here, she smiled a lot more—now that they'd done the song justice at 1st, this time they could focus on enjoying it. Both of these were great to see in their own way.
More things to love about this performance: the pair-by-pair lines in the verse sections made for some wholesome interactions between each pair, and the starry skies (plus dots of lights on the stage) in the background visuals fit the song nicely.
Song 17: Shiroi Ensen (白い沿線)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live with all 16 members.)
For being about winter, the lyrics sure are warm, depicting a train journey towards the singer's dreams and a beloved one. This served as a sort of preface to the seasonal songs, set near the end of winter—the lyrics talk about advancing to a new season (新しい季節へ向かうんだ) and taking the last white (from the cold) breath of the season (この季節最後の白い息吐いたら進もう).
The vocals are really pretty, especially when they're layered, and the choreography incorporates the train theme—the title is "White Railway" (white from the snow)—with various formations having the seiyuu line up in parallel like parts of a railroad.
My favorite choreo is in the middle of the second verse section: "Feeling lost within the ticket gates/A drop of anxiety blended with excitement for a few moments" (そして改札の中とまどい/少しだけ不安と楽しみ入り混じって数秒). They're divided into their teams here and within each team,
- two members form a ticket gate,
- the singing member walks through, and
- the last member waves goodbye.
The latter two look back at each other, but out of sync so that their eyes don't meet, showing that feeling of being lost with a bit of anxiety. It's a cool way to bring the lyrics to life, and the seiyuu acted the parts well. (Bird was the team pictured on camera here, and Yakan energetically waving goodbye was cute.)
In the end, the sounds of a train leaving a station played as the seiyuu got in position for the next song.
Song 18: Saikou no Mahou (最高の魔法)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live with all 16 members.)
This is a pretty straightforward song about the singer wanting to convey their love with their strongest voice (the "best magic" of the title), set in the midst of winter. I was really looking forward to seeing it with all 16 for the first time, and they delivered. In particular, the winter group's lines in the bridge warmed me right up... Mayuyun was really cute as Airi here.
Then there were the white strips of paper they used as "snow" once the climax hit. The sheer volume of it was impressive to watch, but also made me wonder how hard it is for them to see when it's "snowing". You can see a few of them stick to the seiyuu's heads on the close-up shots (Mayuyun and Kyon...)—another cute touch, whether intended or not.
This gave a proper start to the seasonal songs, and once winter ended, it was time for spring.
Song 19: beautiful tomorrow
I always love watching this song, especially since it's one of my top AiRBLUE songs and spring is my favorite season. As the title suggests, it's all about following your dreams and forging your future, a perfect fit for the season of beginnings.
- In the verses right before the choruses, Squad #4 (first time)/#3 (second time) wave their arms to "direct" the movement of everyone else. Very fun to watch (and also gives me ManaT closeups).
- The choreo in the chorus isn't too complicated, yet visually striking and memorable. There are a couple shots where you can see a lot of the audience copying the arm movements. (My people.)
- ChanRio and Sappi's measured delivery of their lines at the climax felt really nice.
Akin to the white "snow" from "Saikou no Mahou", they showered the seiyuu with pink rectangles of paper representing cherry blossoms, starting in the bridge. (They'd done something similar in 1st Anniversary Party, but using much finer petal-shaped paper and starting in the first chorus.)
While at 1st Anniversary Party, this song started out the setlist by representing the theme of beginnings, in this context—between "Saikou no Mahou" and "Colorful"—it represented the spring season.
Song 20: Colorful
This finished off the set of seasonal songs by bringing us into summer, the present season (at the time), and it continued the theme of working towards the future.
The lyrics are reassuring even in the face of struggle—one of my favorite parts: "surely even the tears we shed are shining, and will sink into the pavement—eventually a rainbow will fill the sky" (きっと流れ落ちた 涙は輝いて/アスファルトに染み込んで やがて空に虹をかける).
- The choreography with skirts in this song—during the instrumental breaks and before the choruses—is great, emphasizing how nicely they flow.
- Like "beautiful tomorrow", the dancing in the choruses is iconic and the arm movements are fun to copy.
- At the beginning of the bridge, Squad #4 stands in the middle and sings while the other members circle around them, fluttering their arms. It makes for a cool visual effect.
- I really liked Nene and ManaT's delivery of their starting lines in the last chorus—"ashita ga yondeiru bokura o matteiru".
Bringing in the title, the AiRBLUE members are the "colorful" ones here: "each and every one is different—our colorful selves" (一人一人違う colorful な僕ら). They're also the "rainbow" from the line I mentioned earlier.
The stage effects matched the title well: the stage lights were rainbow-colored, and in the last chorus, instead of snow or cherry blossoms, the strips of paper were each colored with the members' image colors.
This assortment of colored paper set the stage for "Mirai Canvas", where everyone's colors are important to the song, and for which the music video features colored paper too.
Skit: AiRBLUE and Haruna's letter
This began with slow music box-style background music. The leaders got their lines here, completing the rotation of the new songs from the album.
Rie: Training alongside these magnificent comrades of mine, there was not a moment to spare for boredom. So that I can answer with a smile to those that gave me the strength to believe in myself...
Miharu: Even if you're worried or lost, let's meet again tomorrow and talk about the future. I'm sure that all these songs and words will teach us precious things.
Yuuki: This scene in front of us is so colorful! I bet it's because our managers were with us. Thanks for always being by our side!
Haruna: This letter got quite long. But that just goes to show how much everyone has been putting into every day. Ah, the other day, we all made paper airplanes. If I fold this letter into a paper airplane too, I wonder if it'll reach you... maybe not.
On the top screen, a paper airplane flew across the key visual. The stage lights illuminated the seiyuu.
Haruna: Finally, each of us in AiRBLUE will sign off.
Each seiyuu read their character's name and walked into position.
Haruna: Thanks for reading all the way. Let's keep in touch.
Thus ended Haruna's letter—the letter's message wasn't just what she said, but also the songs and stories within the event, showing everyone's lives at the moment.
This dialogue felt like a slow burn for our hearts before the inevitable "Mirai Canvas" and the weight each seiyuu put into saying their characters' names added to it.
Song 21: Mirai Canvas (ミライキャンパス)
(2nd Party was the first time this song was performed live with all 16 members.)
This is the feature track on Talk about everything and my favorite song in the CUE! discography so far. As its title "Future Canvas" hints at, it's about them dyeing the blank canvas we call the future with a vivid picture, each person contributing their own color.
Some of the lyrics I especially like:
- "Fail as much as you need to/Because each time the new colors you gain/Become a source of strength" (何度でも間違えたっていい/その度に重ねた 新しい色が/ほら強さくれるから)
- "No color, not a single one, has been useless" (いらない色なんて/今までそう一つもなかったね)
In fact, one of Tsuru's tweets mentions the second one, saying that she feels like it's an answer to the "it's fine to become any color" (何色でもなればいい) lyric in "Ready-made"—both lines are Yakan solos!—making the setlist "perfect". (Her word, not mine, but I can't help but agree. That connection is just amazing.)
The full choreography is readily available in the dance practice video, though they don't have hand mics in this video, so the hand/arm movements are different from the live performance.
Highlights from the dance:
- In the first verse section, they do this choreo where two members form a "mirror" by creating a diamond with their arms, and the other two look at each other through it. (The formation here is four groups of four, each doing this.) It mirrors the lyrics where the singer looks at their reflection in the window—"someone that looks just like me is smiling" (私に似た誰かが笑っていて).
- If you view the Talk about everything dress from the left (very gray), it looks very different than if you look at it from the right (very white). That made for a really cool visual effect in the chorus when half of the members are facing the opposite direction from the other half.
- I love how they incorporate their characters' quirks when they pose for the "kimi to"/"zutto" in the chorus.
- When they hold their hands up with the palm facing inward at the end of the chorus for "on this canvas" (キャンバスに), it's very similar to the choreo in "Watashitachi wa Mada Sono Haru o Shiranai" during the chorus's "what color will [each of us] be" (どんな色が 見えるのだろう). (Or I could be overthinking the similarity.)
- The choreo in the team-by-team section of the bridge resembles each team's namesake and reminds us that together they represent the beauties of nature (花鳥風月).
I didn't actually have much to say about this specific performance, because the components are already so good, but I did particularly enjoy Yurinya and Hinachi's delivery of their lines and their expressions in the climax.
Yurinya asked the audience how they were enjoying the event, then moved on to announcements.
- CUE! and DIALOGUE+ Exhibition ~A dressing~: an exhibition of live event outfits, cast voiceovers, and video footage. This might include audition footage... which makes me very jealous of those who can go. (2021-11-18 to 2021-11-21 in Entas, an event space in Akihabara)
- CUE! Reading Live vol. 5 ~Wind & Moon~: an event with script reading and live music. (2021-11-21 in New Pier Hall)
- The CUE! TV anime will air starting January 2022.
Each of the seiyuu signed off by introducing themselves as the seiyuu—for example, "Uchiyama Yurina, the voice of Mutsuishi Haruna". This was in contrast to the roll call before "Mirai Canvas", where they were in character.
Hinachi paused especially long before she spoke, sounding like she was about to cry.
They closed with the classic line: "Please keep following CUE! and AiRBLUE!"
Song 22: Forever Friends
The title sums up the lyrics. It's hard for me to imagine a full-fledged AiRBLUE concert without this song, because of its importance to the group and franchise.
- The Talk about everything dress's gray-white division made a nice effect in the chorus here too, when they do high-fives in pairs. Everyone turns 180 degrees to alternate who they high-five with, which made the colors alternate too.
- Yurinya and Yakan poking each other's cheeks at the beginning of the second verse section. They do it every time they perform this, but it's also really cute every time.
- The leaders' lines in the climax are my favorite ones to listen to in the song, and they do a stellar job of portraying their characters' personalities.
- The gray-white division in the dress also looked great in the final pose where they all turn towards the middle, creating another half-and-half formation. (In fact, this is the exact opposite of the final pose in "Mirai Canvas", where they all face outwards from the middle!)
- The lower screens behind them showed colored squares floating into the air. Per this tweet from the CUE! staff account, you can see this as the fragments that were dyed each person's color in "Mirai Canvas" taking off. It reminded the tweet's author of the first time they discussed "10 years from now", hearkening back to the lyrics in "Kaleidoscope". Though the specific interpretation isn't mentioned, I think of each member ascending to new heights as we look into the future.
A nice touch: this concert started and ended with the same songs as the Talk about everything album—"Sayonara Ready-made" and "Forever Friends".
"Forever Friends" ended with applause, the seiyuu gripped each others' hands, and they all thanked everyone without their mics.
You could see Hinachi and Tsuru get especially emotional here, and who could blame them? AiRBLUE's journey has had its twists and turns. The joy of seeing everyone, performing as and alongside a character that means a lot to you, and knowing the anime is coming soon—it must have been overwhelming.
Not to mention: Tsuru was not only critical to the event, being in charge of the script, but she had strained her back the day before the concert. She wrote about it on her blog after the event, recalling that her goal was just to get through the concert and that she worried a lot about whether she'd be able to pull it off and convey her feelings to the audience. Yet she did a stellar job despite the pain.
Anyway, they ended by walking off stage while waving to the audience, with smiles across the board. Seeing everyone with their smiling faces is always a great way to end a concert, and I'm looking forward to seeing their smiles again—one day, in person.
A deluge of videos and photos from the event awaited us on Twitter afterward.
Apart from the usual posts from seiyuu and staff, a couple new things happened this time compared to 1st Anniversary Party:
- The CUE_staffrio account tweeted backstage photos and videos after the event. Most of them were from the day session, which wasn't streamed, so this was especially great.
- As mentioned above, there was a staff retrospective stream announced on 2021-08-18, which took place on 2021-08-20. This was pretty rare for a CUE! event, but there were similar panels for many DIALOGUE+ events, where both Nojima and Mi-sen are also essential staff. I love that they carried over this idea to CUE!, since you get a lot of insight into the event from these discussions. A few of the seiyuu even watched along with us. (Mayuyun tweeted a lot...)
Hopefully, they continue doing these for future CUE! events. The Wind & Moon reading live is the only future performance announced right now, but I'm guessing there'll be a Flower & Bird reading live to follow up on that, and there'll probably be a 3rd Party after the anime airs. Given how well done this event was, I'm certainly excited to see them once the time comes!
(All of these are in Japanese. They have nice pictures, too!)
- A collection of tweets from official accounts about the event, starting from the day of the event onward. (Warning: Twitter doesn't tell me how many tweets there are, but it's quite a few...)
- Matsuda Saki's blog post
- Tsuruno Arisa's blog post (she also has a set of links to her other CUE!-related blog posts)
- Tachibana Hina's Instagram posts on the event as a whole and the other Moon members; outfits, makeup, and the dances
- Komine Ami's blog post