boats beating upstream.

It may be silly to consider anison its own genre, and yet genre is itself an arbitrary expression of dominance over the natural order, a set of bins in which we place essentially undifferentiated things. By that measure, it's entirely reasonable to consider Back-On an anison band in the anison style.

There's a lot to be said for the crowd at a PMX concert: enthusiastic, knowledgeable, well-supplied with glow sticks. It's a Friday night show with a decent audience. Classic PMX. I've been waiting in the hotel bar, also a PMX tradition, and I'm in just the right mood for a concert. Anticipation.

The opener's Lolita Dark, very nicely introduced. It's our policy not to expend too much review on opening acts, but I'd watch them again. A little Pierrot, a little Shiina Ringo. Besides, they played Ouran Host Club for a backing video. How can I resist?

I do have a bit of helpful advice, though: please don't turn up the house lights. It just distracts the audience, and immersion is all-important.

Above: Back-On, Backing on.

Then the headliner begins. Back-On, at first glance, seems like a pretty standard four-piece Japanese rock band, plus a rapper. (I'm kidding -- actually he was totally integral to every song, and did a great job working the crowd.)

They had a certain logic to it, flowing from stanza to stanza with musical bridges. The guitars and vocalist tied the melodic interludes together nicely, and they had a good scream going.

I was skeptical to begin with, but by the second song I was completely on board with their approach, even though I don't think Japanese rappers are going to school Detroit. It also helps when the audience knows every song. I can't help but be carried away by their enthusiasm.

And as they played more tracks, I realized that they also had a pretty good range. "We Fly to the Sky" isn't going to change the world, but it's impeccably performed bouncy pop. "1/2", from Gundam Build Fighters, is a little wistful, more of an ending than an opening. That's a genre too.

And then they go into "Blaze Line" from Eyeshield 21, and that feels to me like proper metal. That guitar. The vocals are a little more visual kei, but the sheer weight of the instrumentation is just fantastic. And when they reach the chorus it breaks out nicely. Structure.

It makes me think I haven't watched enough basic Shonen Bildungsroman. Maybe I'm missing out on some pure essence of anime, something clean and exuberant from when the medium was young.

I should point once more that a big part of why I enjoyed the concert so much -- and I certainly did -- was the crowd. Singing na na na na na in unison is one of the basic rock concert guilty pleasures. So's jumping up and down. It sounds silly, but it's an integral part of the experience.

Finally they played their encore, including a piece from Air Gear that I think everyone had been waiting for, and the show was over. It was actually one of the best shows I've ever seen at a con, and, from what I heard at the con, a lot of people agreed with me. Congrats, PMX. Keep it up.

—chris