If you attended Japan Expo: 1st Impact located at the Santa Clara Convention Center during the August 24-26 weekend, chances are you could hear their shouts before you saw them approaching. Or their giant orange flag waving in the distance caught your eye and you had to follow that flag to its source.
Either way, you eventually found yourself face to face with a group of men clad in black Gaku-ran (Japanese school uniforms for boys). And if you so happen to give them your name when they ask you for it, prepare to have it shouted loudly to everyone within earshot while these men dance and cheer you on just for encountering them.
Then as you part ways, you suddenly feel encouraged with lifted spirits thanks to this cheer squad's personalized cheerleading.
Modeled after traditional Japanese school cheer squads & cheerleading performances, Gamushara Oendan is the first cheer squad in Japan that isn't associated with any school and was one of the more unique guests to grace Japan Expo's first launch on American soil. They're not cutesy like J-Pop stars or visually shocking like J-Rock groups, but Gamushara Oendan sells CDs of their cheers and did live performances on stage during Japan Expo that felt like small concerts. They're not anime voice actors despite being very animated themselves. They were initially an odd guest to classify among the usual guests featured at an anime convention.
But it's their effort to connect with attendees that really wins people over. Attendees can feel the positive spirit and energy that Gamushara Oendan exudes as they shout, applaud, dance, and bang on various noisemakers for each personalized cheerleading routine that they perform. Their performances draw people in with their boisterous spirit and wild movements as they encourage everyone to join in and feel the positive mood. Through passionate speeches, Gamushara Oendan express how life is worth living as things will get better despite setbacks and personal doubt.
As attendees and staff members of anime conventions noticed how well Gamushara Oendan lifted people's spirits, some have wondered if they could be brought in for their anime conventions to entertain crowds during long lines or slow moments of the convention. Or at the very least, they've become inspired to organize their own cheer squad to raise spirits through cheerleading.
And this is part of Japan Expo's goal; to introduce elements of Japanese life and culture while enticing attendees to learn more. Whether they learn through research, picking up a new hobby, or through first-hand experience via a trip to Japan.
Could Japanese style cheerleading & cheer squads be a new anime convention trend? Time will tell.
After Japan Expo ended Sunday, Gamushara Oendan continued to wander the Convention Center while Expo staff began tearing down set pieces and cleaning up. Gamushara Oendan gave each staff member whom they encountered a hearty “Let's go! Let's go” cheer to thank them for their hard work that weekend. These men really do appreciate the hard work that Japan Expo does.