Of Tigers and Men

Of Tigers and Men

This is the story of two displaced migrant workers, who moved from place to place, and their adventures with a domesticated tiger.

Or so I wish. This post is actually an exploration on the modern day phenomenon known as iettaiga, and share some thoughts and insights regarding it.

Eye of the Tiger

Iettaiga, also written as イェッタイガー, yeah tiger, 家虎, 🏠🐯, and a variety of other forms, has become the hot new thing to do at Anisong-related concerts both inside of Japan and outside of Japan, so much that tigering is now an oft used verb to refer to this act.

"What is tigering?", you may ask. For the uninitiated, tigering is the act of shouting iettaiga (イェッタイガー) at the top of your voice during a momentary silence in a song, usually between the end of a verse/bridge and the start of a chorus. The most commonly cited example of this is during 夜明けBrand New Days (Yoake Brand New Days) by an idol group called BABY RAIDS JAPAN. Please feel free to sample it below.

What did you think of it? I'm told it's an acquired taste.

So now that everyone is on the same page, let's get to the meat of the issue.

Dance with the Tiger

The issue spreading around the English Anisongtwittersphere as of late has been centred around tigering and calls.

In Japan, it is quite common for the audience to participate in the performance of a song through a routine known as call and response, commonly shortened to calls. The audience is invited to participate by the performer(s) at certain points of the song by with a call, and the audience responds to them with a response (hence the name).

As time passed, more ways for the audience to participate began to emerge, including chanting hai to the rhythm of the song and even inserting certain shouts at specific points of a song. These have now become collectively referred to as calls. In the heat of the concert, people tend to join in the collective chanting, and it creates a sense of unity between the audience and the performer(s).

In Western concerts, the culture is different. There are call and response moments, but there is nothing as organised or as united as the calls exhibited at Japanese concerts. However, as more and more non-Japanese people get into Japanese media and culture, more are flying into Japan to experience their concerts firsthand. This is, of course, a great thing. I would encourage everyone to attend a concert of an artist they like. It's a great experience and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say it's what gets me through life.

A lot of people begin to learn calls at the concerts by mimicry. After all, learning by doing is one of the quickest ways we learn. However, a problem arises when they learn from the people at the concert.

Learning calls is definitely not a bad thing. If they participate in the calls, they will only find the concert more enjoyable. The bad part is when they learn calls but don't learn the context in which to use them. Even more so if these calls happen to be the so-called yakkai calls. If they then proceed to teach them to friends without the context (which happens a lot), it can bring a country to ruin (e.g. the Philippines).

Tiger in a Spotlight

Yakkai (厄介) is a Japanese word that roughly translates to troublesome. It has come to be used to refer to audience members who do things that other people consider a nuisance, such as shouting loudly during inappropriate times, or doing disruptive or annoying things like eating during a concert, throwing things at the performers, scattering cockroaches in the crowd, using penlights that are against regulations, and even hitting other people. Those examples I mentioned have all actually happened in the past by the way.

At Anisong concerts, especially those of THE [email protected] and Love Live!, it has also come to refer to unsavoury calls that go against the concept of unity and promote individualism, or ruin the atmosphere of the song.

This is where iettaiga comes in. As I mentioned earlier, calls create a sense of unity between the audience and the performer(s), so logically this should apply to the iettaiga call too, right? Since everyone can shout it in unity during the silence? Some people certainly think so.

A Tweet was previously quoted here, and has since been removed by request of the owner. The sentiment of the Tweet was that iettaiga was a way to unite the emotions of fans and performers.

In the modern day Anisong concert, perhaps it does create a sense of unity between some of the audience members, but it is actually a very divisive topic, even in Japan.

In order to really understand the way of the Tiger, we must first understand the origin of the Tiger.

Happy Birthday, Tiger

The origin of iettaiga is actually not very well documented, so let's start with something that shares an element: MIX.

MIX, I am sure many are aware of, is a chant that goes along the lines of

Tiger, Fire, Cyber, Fibre, Diver, Viber, Jaajaa

The first minute or so of this video demonstrates it in action.

It has become the standard fare at many idol concerts, especially of those of the so-called Japanese national idol group, AKB48, and is great for getting fans hyped up. It's popularity amongst idol fans has caused countless derivatives to spawn from it. Some of these are actually used at concerts, others are just for fun.

However, MIX actually originates from hard rock / rock concerts in Japan in the early 90s, and a man called Encho (園長) then singlehandedly spread it to the so-called "idol world" when he brought it to ZONE concerts and eventually AKB48 concerts. You can even hear their original MIX in action via a "sample" video that Encho himself uploaded on Niconico Douga in 2008.

Very different from the MIX we know in modern day concerts, if you ask me. It turns out, MIX was originally not only a way for the creators to get hyped up, but also a way for them to disrupt and leave an impact on the concert, as explained in a video by Encho himself in 2014. In other words, the exact definition of yakkai. Please do give the video a watch. It's subtitled in English so you should be able to understand it.

I hope you watched that video, because at the very end, he says something very revealing. That's right, iettaiga. Well, it was more yeah tiger, because that was the original form. You can see it written out in a tweet by Encho from December 2014, though you can see iettaiga also being used.

In the parent tweet, we actually have an idol named Hasegawa Risa (長谷川莉沙) reporting to Encho that iettaiga is gaining traction. While it's not concrete proof or anything, it does mean that there's a high chance of iettiga's being related to MIX. In fact, a number of sites actually do list yeah tiger as being a derivative of MIX. If that's true, then I think it's fair to say that the goal of the creators carries on in their own derivative call.

Taming the Tiger

Going back to the original topic, we should consider what constitutes a yakkai call. It's clear that MIX was originally considered as one, but it's also clear that MIX is a generally accepted and hugely popular call at idol concerts now, even some seiyuu concerts like those of the seiyuu-idol unit i☆Ris. But bring it into a concert that's more on the anime side of the spectrum, like Love Live! for example, and you're going to get a lot of angry people.

What does this mean? It means you need to know the right place and the right time to do something. This is what I meant earlier when I said context. The same way that doing calls to a slow and emotional song can ruin the atmosphere, loud and unsynchronised shouts of iettaiga can also ruin the collective atmosphere.

Most performers haven't explicitly said anything for or against it, perhaps in an effort to not anger anyone, but a number of performers have actually spoken out against iettaiga. Amongst the number is fripSide's sat, who told fans not to tiger in white forces during their concert in Sendai in December 2016, and Kurosaki Maon (黒崎真音) who tweeted that she feels rejected by fans when they do it, because it makes her feel as though the concert isn't fun for them unless they do that.

Notably, Sayuri (さユリ) actually banned all calls at her performances because shouting stands out over all other expressions of enjoyment, which in turn causes annoyances to other people. She wants us to enjoy her song, even the melody of the silence.

It is also not uncommon for TV airings and Blu-ray releases of concerts to artificially remove the iettaiga calls from songs either, so it's clearly not liked by some people.

Ultimately, iettaiga was, and still is, something that people shout to stand out more than other people. While I am not against tigering by any means, I do think you need to read the atmosphere. It's not always appropriate to unleash the inner tiger.