What is Anikura?
Anikura (アニクラ) is a portmanteau of the words anisong (アニソン) and club (クラブ) where anisong is itself a portmanteau of anime and song, referring to tracks used as openings, endings, and inserts to various anime series. Thus, anikura refers to the genre of anisong-centric DJ music events that take place at nightclubs, live music houses, and an array of pop-up rented venues such as gymnasiums, public parks, and rec-centers all across Japan. Anikura music is broader than just anisong, however, as it encompasses the entire Akiba-kei subculture of music, including video game and visual novel soundtracks; fan-created works such as Vocaloid, Touhou, and general Internet phenomena popularized on sites such as Nico Nico Douga; and a smattering of more mainstream tunes from J-Pop artists and idols. Simply put, anything that has even the slightest otaku slant is considered part of Akiba-kei.
Footage from Club MOGRA in Akihabara, Tokyo
Like most cultural phenomena in Japan, the culture around Anikura is highly ephemeral and constantly changing and evolving. DJs will primarily play the untouched, original version of the song, though remixes (particularly dance-themed remixes) are also common, depending on the style of specific DJ and event. DJs are traditionally accompanied by a video DJ (VDJ or VJ) whose job it is to play corresponding video clips displayed on a projector to match the current song: the most straightforward example is to play a clip of the associated anime opening and transition in sync with the DJ into the next opening. DJs typically play only the shortened version of the song, known to fans as the ‘TV size’ version, to maintain momentum throughout the event.
A prominent fixture in anikura crowds is the presence of fans who practice coordinated cheering and dancing known broadly as wotagei (ヲタ芸 ) and originates from the recognizably unique movements that define fans of idol culture. Anikura audiences tend to be practitioners of a variant of wotagei known as chikagei, which is much looser, freeform, and does not use glowsticks, making it more appropriate in a club environment.
The most common move seen at anikura events is called thunder snake: performed during the chorus of the majority of anime openings and insert songs. It can be seen in the first video below at the 30-second mark.
Only my Railgun by fripSide (A Certain Scientific Railgun)
Tottoko no Uta by Hamuchanzu (Hamtaro)
Rising Hope by LiSA (The Irregular at Magic High School)
For more information on anikura moves and chikagei, see our chikagei primer here:
History of Anikura
Anikura has its roots in Cosplay Dance or Cospa Dance, which dates back to the 1990s. Cosplay dance originated from doujinshi music release events where fans would gather at the conclusion of the sales to sing, dance, and cheer to their freshly purchased soundtracks. Before long, the meetups grew into full-blown cosplay dance parties in clubs and live houses. Cosplay dance comprised three main genres: anisong, eurobeat, and techno.
By the 2000s, cosplay dance parties had grown to the point where the biggest and most mainstream events became noticed and eventually officially sanctioned by corporations. Simultaneously, circa 2000, Para Para was becoming hugely popular in the dance club scene and unleashed a torrent of high-octane eurobeat, hypertechno, and EDM-style J-Pop remixes within the Akiba-kei scene.
Around 2008, anisong began to gain traction in the Para Para scene with a surge in dance routines to eurobeat remixes of popular anisong tracks, known as Ani Para.
From the early 2010s to the present, Para Para and Ani Para dwindled in popularity while Anikura emerged as a dominant trend in the Akiba-kei club scene. The key difference between preceding trends such as Para Para is that Anikura shifted the focus away from the choreography and dance moves of the audience and towards the handiwork of the DJ and VDJ on stage. The immense surge in popularity of idol culture starting in the early-to-mid 2000s also helped pave the way for the proliferation of wotagei culture, which, as noted in the previous section, is a key fixture of audience participation seen in almost all anikura events.
Club MOGRA in Akihabara is the most well known anikura venue to audiences outside of Japan as it has Twitch partnership to stream its club events. MOGRA hosts weekly Friday night (Japan time) anikura events as well as periodic weekend events such as Anisong Matrix (remix oriented), Anisong Index, and Xi-lium (bring your glowsticks).
An English anikura news website aimed at spreading anikura culture outside Japan.
An anikura event aggregator: very useful in planning Japan trips for figuring out when and where events are taking place during your stay. Events can be organized by geographical region:
関東 (Kanto: e.g. Tokyo and surrounding areas such as Yokohama)
関西 (Kansai: e.g. areas in Western Japan such as Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka)
中部/甲信越: (Chubu/Koushin’etsu: e.g. central Japan, Nagano, Shizuoka)
北海道/東北: (Hokkaido/Tohoku: e.g. areas north of Kanto)
Additionally, events may be displayed in calendar format, by selecting the イベントカレンダーtab.
Primary platform for users to RSVP for events, including anikura. Twipla is not solely dedicated to anikura, however, navigating to the search function and entering アニクラ will populate a list of anikura events manually. Not as clean or organized of a display as AniEvez, but will result in a much more comprehensive listing of events.