Raving Akihabara Style: What is anison?

On September 1, 2016

What is anison?

If you were organizing the perfect rave, what would you make sure you had in the bag before sending out the invites? A sound system with dread-inducing sub-woofers, obviously. Strobes, to make sure everyone’s nicely disoriented at key moments. A venue just big enough to get a decent audience in, yet cozy enough to stay friendly. But what about a shifty crowd of Akihabara-haunting, manga-obsessed otaku nerds?

Welcome to an anison event at Club Mogra in Akihabara.

What is anison?

Akiba sounds

Anison is a shortening of anime songs — the themes, anthems, scores and soundtracks from the dense tessellation of animated work that Japan has produced and become renowned for. The back catalogue to be drawn from this genre is immense, with decades worth of music from animated TV series and feature-length films to be plundered and reworked.

You’ll be listening to more than just anime music, though. At anison events such as the brilliant Xi-lium, the music is cooler and more multi-textural than would be possible from simply mixing anime soundtracks.

What you actually get is an overwhelming torrent of broken beats, futurebass, dubstep and hip hop, all spliced through and underpinned by the recycled, chopped up shards of anime music that have been adoringly rehabilitated by the DJs.

What is anison?

You can be nodding your head along to a Dre-esque ’90s kick-thud one second and before you know it, it’s glitched into a synth-driven surge of baroque BGM melodrama.

At all times, though, the swelling, skidding, shimmering soundtrack is locked into place by shuddering percussion, which jerks robotically from gangsta rap to drum & bass to bro-step.

When, at the climax of the event, the reverential crowd crack out the glow sticks and wave them at the stage, the atmosphere shifts into some kind of neon-lit, underground communion.

What is anison?

Where to go

Akihabara is the electro-spiritual home of all things otaku, and it’s here that you’ll find Club Mogra, the host of the world’s best anison events, along with several other interesting, genre-related parties which attract some of the same people. It’s not a huge club but has two floors. There’s a warmly lit lounge and bar area upstairs, with tables, chairs and people sitting around chatting or staring at laptops.

Go down to the basement and you’ve got the main party area — a good sized dance floor, a bar and a quality sound system. It has a basement party, sticky dancefloor kind of an atmosphere and it gets hot and intense as the night crashes on.

Check the club schedule and look for the Anison Matrix parties and the Xi-lium events.

These are supremely brilliant raves, totally unique and authentic, and you’re not going to get anything like them outside Japan.

Take a listen

Ujico, also known as Snail’s House, is a skilled, young artist from the suburbs of west Tokyo. He sometimes DJs at Mogra events but is better known for putting together his own expertly produced compositions. Listen to a piece of his work called “Koisuru Spacegirl.”

Minimal and techy, with a bleepy, 1990s, northern English sound is an artist called Buddhahouse, who adds a knowledgeably clued in respectability to the proceedings. It’s clear from his smart, atmospheric tunes that he knows the heritage of the genres being played with here.

Dropping us off on a different route entirely is DJ Shimamura. He drives the night in a brazenly J-pop splicing, Euro-trance sautéed and entirely Akiba appropriate direction — it’s kitsch and upfront.

And demonstrating how anison is growing a reputation beyond the frantic confines of Akihabara’s niche bustle, watch this set by renowned American producer and DJ Porter Robinson, who paid his respects on a visit from the States.


Writer, editor and photographer in Tokyo.

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