People came from far and wide for a chance to walk the Great Hall where machines line the walls; altars of entertainment where the faithful come to worship. When a soul stands before these cabinets, dreams are fulfilled. Some titles present the chance of being a rock star, others provide the cure to dancing fever, but only one game offers the opportunity of ascension. Most of the convention attendees passed by the station of flashing lights and colorful antics, too frightened to even attempt a play. Only a few brave souls learned the joyful truth during their first encounter: the stage makes no prejudice; everyone gets a turn.
To those watching, the experienced players stand out immediately. Novices are marked by their spastic in-and-out gestures; a strange hokey-pokey sort of movement. Intermediate players perform with a sense of fluidity, their arms twine and bend like awkward snakes through the air. But even the initiated have only glimpsed the true potential of Para-Para. The throng of viewers grows weary of the mediocre performances, tired of uninspired dancers. When all seems lost, and the crowd is about disperse, she arrives.
Initially, the young lady seemed to be just another cosplayer watching from the sidelines. Many of those waiting to play had ignored her until now. After watching yet another average dancer step away from the machine, this girl with multicolored hair rises from her place in the masses. Her bag, heavy with toys and art from the convention is set before the machine; an offering for the J-Pop gods. An insulated peacoat is removed, revealing the elaborate costume underneath. Silver-infused violet fabric clings to her torso, a series of petticoats blossoms from her waist, and two striped legs in knee-high boots support the entire ensemble. The costumed player takes a deep breath, and raises her arms to the machine.
In spite of her limited knowledge of Japanese, the girl navigates the foreign menus with ease. The crowd is impressed; she knew it was worth importing the home version to learn the logistics. A selection is made, and the familiar cry of “THE STAGE IS READY FOR YOUR DANCE” resonates from the speakers. She takes out a pair of glow sticks from her pockets, and cracks each magic wand to illuminate her limbs. The music begins, and with it a flurry of arrows covers the screen.
Onlookers can barely keep up with the rapid pace of the flashing markers on-screen, but the girl seems to have no trouble. Her arms cascade one over the other, flowing through the sensors as the song plays. Not content to utilize only her upper torso, she steps in time with the beat, kicking her striped legs with each flourish of the music. Her voice matches the pitch of the singer coming from the speakers, and for a moment, the crowd forgets the machine entirely. The girl who took the stage is transformed into a diva, she has ascended and become an idol.
As the music ceases, the once-human girl spins to face her audience with a quick wink in her eye and a V-gesture on each hand. The crowd does not applaud, they simply stand in silent awe of the excited performer at the machine. A perfect score tallies on the screen behind her, but she need not view the results; the impressed gaze of the crowd is enough for the diva. The idol gathers her belongings and fades into the mass. She packs up her wig and dons her peacoat, still shaking from the adrenaline rush of greatness. With a deep breath, she becomes just another attendant at the convention. The various booths of the Dealers’ Room call to her, beckoning for just one more piece of art to be purchased.
The idol departs.