Review Monday: NMB48 “Kimi to deatte Boku ga Kawatta” & HKT48 “Wink wa Sankai”

Back to our regular schedule this week! There’s still one more end of 2013 list coming up (PVs) but that’s going to be in one of the next couple of List Fridays.

Today I’m going to review the last two 48 group tracks from AKB48’s Suzukake Nanchara single. Because I don’t want to leave that undone.

Kimi to Deatte Boku ga Kawatta – NMB48

Song: Something about this reminds me of an anime opening. I don’t know if it’s a specific opening or just a generic anime opening feel, but the melody plus the string-heavy arrangement gives me some serious anime opening/ending vibes. This isn’t a bad thing; I mean, that’s part of how I got interested in Japanese music, was through liking the opening/ending themes back when anime was still a thing I followed.

As such, the melody does feel like a mix of generic and unique; the song as written is something I know I’ve heard before, but not necessarily with a lot of idols, and at least not with a lot of idols recently. It’s not bad, but it’s not the most memorable thing ever. I enjoy it, though, and it makes me feel oddly nostalgic.

The arrangement fits well into this, with very strings-heavy instrumentation with some piano thrown in there. It’s very pleasant, and feels like it fits the song nicely, but it’s hard not to compare it to something like Bokura no Eureka, NMB’s other major string-heavy song of the year. Perhaps this is unfair; these are two entirely different songs. This is just where my mind went, though. The arrangement fits the song well, though.

All in all, this is a really pleasant song. It’s not quite as exciting as last year’s “Ha!” but it’s an easy to like song. 7/10

PV:

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A gag at the end; now that’s something that feels like NMB.

This PV is essentially NMB48’s travel brochure to go visit Osaka. Which I actually really like. The other 48 PVs have been fine so far, but don’t necessarily feel like they are inherently meant for their group. SKE is generally a cooler group with emphasis on dancing and choreography, and they got that, but it’s still not the same. NMB48 has always had a pretty solid focus on being an group from Osaka, and this feels like their love letter to the city.

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The conceit of the PV is that the group is on a school trip to Osaka and are visiting locations. It’s not really necessary; all the shots in Osaka should be enough. But it’s a nice touch to show why they’re running around Osaka.

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As usual the PV is shot very well, but pretty much all 48 PVs have a high production standard. I like these low angle shots throughout the PVs. It allows for some interesting looking shots that show off some of the Osaka scenery, but it also adds a fairly unique visual style to the PV.

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A lot of the PV is just walking around in Osaka, but it made me want to go visit the place, so I think they achieved what they were looking for.

kimitodeatte5The dance shot is absolutely lovely, filmed in the evening in front of Osaka Castle. I know that filming an outdoor shot at night is risky, but this absolutely paid off. This is one of the best looking dance shot locations I’ve seen.

This PV is a whole lot of fun, shows off Osaka, and looks lovely. I think it’s easily the best PV of this single so far, and a very nice PV overall. 8/10

Wink wa Sankai

Song:

It’s hard not to compare this to Hatsukoi Butterfly, HKT’s song from last year. After all, that was HKT48’s first original song, and really set the pace for HKT48. Wink wa Sankai is unfortunately not as memorable as Hatsukoi Butterfuly.

I do like the guitar-heavy arrangement and rock-focused song; Melon Juice was a fantastic single, and I’m glad that they’ve continued with this motif at least for a while. The biggest problem is with the melody and the song itself. It just isn’t very memorable or interesting. The chorus part of “Wink wa Sankai” is fairly easy to remember, but I can’t bring myself to keep the rest of the song’s melody in my head. It would be one thing if the song was in any way interesting, but it’s not.

That said, I do like the chorus a fair amount. I’m a sucker for the response “yeah yeah yeah yeah” parts. And really, this isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as I wish it was. I love some of the electric guitar solos in here and the chorus is good. It’s just, when it comes down to it, the song as a whole isn’t as interesting or good as it should be from these parts. Which is a shame, to be honest. Melon Juice is one of the best 48 single songs of the year (after Koisuru Fortune Cookie and Bokura no Eureka), so if there was a little more of that I think this would have been better.

There are some good parts, but, as a whole, Wink wa Sankai isn’t as good as it should have been. 6/10

PV:

Last year Hatsukoi Butterfly decided to surprise everyone and put kenkyuusei Tashima Meru up center. This year’s new center is Yabuki Nako.

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Nako, where have you been all my life. She is cute, charismatic, and I really enjoyed her as center. Meru’s fine, and I don’t dislike her, but Yabuki Nako has oodles of potential within HKT and I’m excited to see where she goes.

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The conceit of this PV is that HKT48 discovers that their winks can cause the boys (and Sasshi?) at school to fall over and/or have heart attacks. Well. That’s something.

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The comic book style graphics on the screen add a lot of character and personality to this PV; it’s kind of a necessary addition, mind you, otherwise the whole point of the PV would be kind of confusing, but it still looks nice and adds a lot of color.

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One thing I love is how far they take the silliness of this PV. The girls don’t just use it on boys they like; they use it in interesting ways and for their own personal gain. Sasshi becomes a wink sniper, hitting guys from a distance. They use it to win at table tennis and kendo. They aren’t being cutesy about it; they are using their cuteness as a straight up weapon.

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The dance shot is very Heavy Rotation-esque in how colorful it is. It’s not as fun as the rest of the PV, but that’s a tricky thing.

This PV is fun, has a lot of humor, and shows off its new center well. It has an interesting visual style on top of that. 9/10

Review Monday: NMB48 Team N – Koko ni datte Tenshi wa Iru

Ah, the 48 Stage system. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the 48 empire; the fact that this super popular group performs in a tiny theater. Yet (understandably, given the pace of the 48 Empire lately) the stages have been neglected. The last new stage was over two years ago, and the last new AKB stages were quite a while ago. So when it was announced that a large number of new stages were coming, I was VERY excited.

NMB48’s first original stage for Team N has been a long time coming. It’s been plagued with delays and so many start dates, that I was frankly skeptical that it would ever start. Yet, Team N’s first original stage, Koko ni datte Tenshi wa Iru has been released. So does it live up to the long history and hype?

1. Aoi Tsuki ga Miteru Kara


NMB48 131119 N3 M01 Aoi Tsuki ga Miteru Kara by Cubozoa48

Right away, the song is reminiscent of Dreamin’ Girls, the opener to Boku no Taiyou, the popular stage that was originally a Himawarigumi stage but got recently performed by Team 4 and now Team E. I mean, it’s mostly only reminiscent in that it’s acapella and pretty sounding acapella, but since both are stage openers it came to mind. It’s a good way to open a stage, though, because the vocals sound really nice.

The song then opens up into what only sounds like a victorious, upbeat song. Maybe it’s just me, but it does sound victorious, like “yes, we FINALLY got the original Team N stage out there!” Not sure how intentional this is, but it’s nice. The whole song is well done, and is like a good stage song. It’s not the most memorable song in the world, IMO, but I really enjoy it. It’s pretty, happy, and sounds like a fitting opening. The only thing is that it doesn’t feel like a specifically NMB48 song, but it’s hard to pin down what would be specifically NMB. I like it, though, in the way I love idol-y songs.

The lyrics feel a bit oddly positioned, being the first new stage song in a long time. “Darling darling wait a minute,” no I don’t want to wait a minute, I’m so excited for a brand new stage! “It’s the happiest in the world,” yes, I’m ecstatic to get a new 48 stage and the long awaited Team N stage. It’s probably just a coincidence, but it makes me wonder how much things changed during the course of making the Team N stage, and if this song was positioned at the front specifically because it fits so well.

I also really like these outfits. They’re cute dresses that remind me a bit of the uniforms from NMB Geinin. the only thing I don’t really like on them are the tiny aprons in front; I don’t think they look particularly good.

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Ultimately, this is a really great way to open a stage. The acapella sounds great, and the whole song is pretty and happy. Off to a good start! 8/10

2. Radio Name


NMB48 131119 N3 M02 Radio Name by Cubozoa48

This song is a mix of beach boys esque pop and ska and I love it. This is a really great, brass-heavy arrangement. I wish there were some more idol songs that sound like this, because I’d love more ska-inspired idol music!

This is unfortunately not QUITE as memorable as Aoi Tsuki ga Miteru Kara, but still very pleasant to listen to. The arrangement is by far the best part about the song, but the rest is fine, too. The lyrics (involving radio as a symbol for romance) remind me a little bit of Heavy Rotation, which makes me want to hear the two of these songs put together.

The one thing that kind of throws me off is that there are shouted parts, which are fine, but they seem to be mixed a bit too loudly in the audio mix of this stage. I wonder if this is something they’ll fix in later shows, because some of those loud “YEAH”s are a bit distracting.

But ultimately, while not quite as memorable, this is a fine song. 7/10

3. Koko ni Datte Tenshi wa Iru


NMB48 131119 N3 M03 Koko ni Datte Tenshi wa Iru by Cubozoa48

For being the title song, this is really not a memorable song, and by far not the song I’ll remember when thinking about this stage. I mean, I suppose there is precedence for this; no one thinks of Renai Kinshi Jourei, but they think of Heart Gata Virus. Theater no Megami is secondary to stuff like Team B Oshi, and Pajama Drive is secondary to stuff like Shonichi. However, you’d think that for your first Team N stage the song would be memorable. Not really.

Koko ni Datte Tenshi wa Iru isn’t a bad song, it’s just a tad on the generic side. The instrumentation reminds me a bit of one of my favorite AKB songs, Yobisute Fantasy, which is also an admittedly fairly idol-y song, but it’s a lot more catchy. Listening to Koko ni Datte isn’t bad, and I find myself enjoying it, but there’s nothing about it that makes me think I’ll ever seek out this song. The song is at that weird mid-tempo point where it’s not quite a ballad but not an upbeat song, and it just feels like it’s dragging even though the song’s only 3 minutes long.

The costumes are very cute, though. I like the fake wings on their back; they could have gone a really gaudy route, but chose to have cute costumes.

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I really want to say more, but this just feels bland and kind of boring. I have a feeling that NMB fans will want to vote for this at stuff like Request Hour because it’s the titular track on NMB’s first stage, but I really hope they don’t. There are plenty of better songs out there to vote for, and this is just forgettable. And this is coming from someone who loves generic idol pop. 5/10

4. Cattelya no Hana wo Miru Tabi ni Omoidasu


NMB48 131119 N3 M04 Cattleya no Hana wo Miru… by Cubozoa48

This is also a fairly generic idol song, but I like it a lot more than I like Koko ni Datte. I think it’s the little things that make it a step above.

First off, the piano at the beginning is just beautiful. I really wish the song had kept on with this instrumentation for the whole song, because I instantly loved this piano. The rest of the song sounds fine, but that piano had the most impact.

I also think the tempo’s a bit better; it is still a mid-tempo song, but it’s fast enough that it still drives the song forward instead of dragging. There are certain sections, particularly in the chorus, and particularly the back and forth bits, that really drive the whole song forward. They sound nice.

The vocals also sound sweet. This is a very sweet sounding song, which is something I like. It’s delicate and pretty. While this isn’t the image I’d necessarily give NMB48, I really enjoy this song’s presence in this stage. 7/10

5. Yume no Dead Body


NMB48 131119 N3 M05 Yume no dead body by Cubozoa48

OK, let’s get it out of the way, this is the one song title I was like “…well hang on just a sec” about. Definitely one of the odder stage song titles.

In this song Sayanee both plays electric guitar and sings live. Sayanee might not be one of my top 48 idols, and I generally don’t pay much attention to her, but I do have to admit that she’s a definite talent in the group. So I’m glad that they went with a song that fits her well.

This song does fit her well; it’s a cool song that feels like it would be comfortable in the ranks of Bird and Blue Rose as the cool, rock-inspired song of a 48 stage. In fact, since Sayanee has been in the units for Bird AND Blue Rose for the previous two Team N stages, I imagine that’s exactly what they were aiming for. And they totally succeeded.

Sayanee’s voice sounds wonderful with this song, and her guitar playing fits right in. The whole instrumental sounds really good, and the melody is quite catchy. I know I’ll find myself singing “Yume no Dead Bodyyyy” to myself in the days to come.

While I love my cutesy idol songs, there’s certainly a place for the cool, rock idol songs, and this fits right in with the best of them. This fits Sayanee PERFECTLY, and I’m glad they did a great job for NMB’s most popular member. 9/10

6. Nando mo Nerae!


NMB48 131119 N3 M06 Nando mo Nerae! (何度も狙え!) by Cubozoa48

In nearly every stage there’s one song that has the most members, and is generally regarded as the unit that everyone who doesn’t really fit into another unit gets thrown into. It would be easy to make this that song, and I first thought it would be a song like that. However, it’s saved by a performance that is one of the most fun things about this stage.

The song itself is goofy and silly sounding. It’s not fast, but it manages to have a fun, light-hearted feel despite being pretty mid-tempo. After Yume no Dead Body, this is a tone shift in a very major way.

However, the song really is secondary to the performance. The girls manage to instill this with so much personality and energy that I know I’ll want to watch more versions of this song. The girls themselves are what make this great.

This could easily be the least fun unit track of the stage. However, it’s transformed into something to watch. 7/10

7. ONEW no Uwabaki


NMB48 131119 N3 M07 ONEW no Uwabaki by Cubozoa48

I don’t care, Ichikawa Miori totally deserves this center unit. And she really fits this well.

I have a soft spot for the uber-adorable stage songs. I listen to stuff like Tenshi no Shippo and Tonari no Banana a LOT. And while I’m not sure ONEW no Uwabaki is quite on that level of a song for me, this song is certainly cute and enjoyable. The instrumental breaks in particular are adorable.

At first, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the shouts of “O N E W;” on their own they’re fine, but it feels like those don’t quite fit with the song in there. ONEW is a very cutesy, gentle song, and the shouts feel like they’d fit in better with a more energetic styled song. The shouts in the middle of the song feel like they fit better in there, at least.

This song wasn’t my favorite at first, I have to admit. However, after a few listens, it’s grown on me. It’s not the most immediately catchy song, but if you like cutesy songs (like I do) you should like a lot what you hear in ONEW no Uwabaki. 7/10

8. Kono Sekai ga Yuki no Naka ni Umoreru Mae ni


NMB48 131119 N3 M08 Kono Sekai ga Yuki no Naka… by Cubozoa48

Something about the instrumentation at the end makes this song feel like it belongs in the 80s/90s. Not like it’s a bad thing, but it sounds interesting.

This is another song that features live singing, and while there are some off notes for the most part it sounds really good. Kishino Rika’s voice, in particular, sounds excellent. It’s hard to fault some of the off pitch notes, though, because I imagine this will sound a lot better after a few more performances.

The whole thing sounds lovely, and mixing the really solid instrumentation with these nice, live vocals makes the whole song sound great. There’s some good harmonization in there, and it has a bit of an epic feel to it. Really, the pretty vocals are the best thing this song has going for it.

I doubt this is the song I’ll come back to time and again, but it’s really nice and well done. 8/10

9. Zipper


NMB48 131119 N3 M09 Zipper (ジッパー) by Cubozoa48

Fun fact, one of the biggest reasons I didn’t write this review until now is because I couldn’t stop listening to Zipper long enough to actually review the other songs. This is how much I love Zipper.

Full disclosure, I am a big Watanabe Miyuki fan, and this song really fully encapsulates her. For the most part it’s a very cute song that has a bit of a classic idol feel, but there’s a bit of coy sexiness that shows itself once in a while. This is pretty notable in how the instruments are used, particularly in the chorus; sometimes there are parts that sound lush and extravagant in comparison to the rest of the cute song. The whole thing is very catchy, as well, and I’ve found myself singing along to zipper quite a bit since it’s come out.

However, what everyone’s talking about is really the performance, which involves the three girls involved to strip off their outer dresses to some frilly shorts and a small top. The whole performance is very sexy in that kind of coy way, and I think this is done pretty well. It’s not so obviously sexually charged as SDN48’s stage could be at times, but I think it’s better, in a way. I really admire SDN48 for how willing they were to be sexy and out there, when this isn’t something idols are usually allowed to do. However, Zipper really toes that line between cute, typical idol and a sexy image in a way that is totally Milky.

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This is the type of song I can see people really hating, and I can understand why. Milky is one of those idols who can be pretty polarizing in her approach. However, since I love Milky, I love this. This song is catchy, fun and addicting, and is definitely one of my favorites of this stage. 10/10

10. Hajimete no Hoshi


NMB48 131119 N3 M10 Hajimete no Hoshi by Cubozoa48

This song does an interesting thing with its lineup; it returns back to the old Skirt, Hirari and Senaka Kara Dakishimete model of making another unit song for all the popular members. I know some people are a bit stumped, but I like smaller group songs and it’s nice to see the stars of Team N star together. Seven members is a nice size for a lineup, and all of these girls feel like they’re well suited to the song and standing up in that top 7 of Team N.

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I like this song. It sounds like a lot of other stage songs, but it has a good pace to it. The arrangement is quite good, too; the guitar in particular sounds quite nice. Vocally, Sayanee sounds REALLY great in here! This stage is really reminding me that I don’t pay enough attention to Sayanee as a singer, nor do I give her enough credit. Everyone sounds pretty good here, but Sayanee’s voice really stands out.

The lyrics are also quite nice, making this another song about working hard and aiming for dreams. This is the type of theme that, despite getting used in 48 song after 48 song, I haven’t managed to get tired of. The whole song feels like it fits these lyrics, too. It doesn’t have the power of Pioneer or emotion of Shonichi, but this is a worthy entry in the collection of ’48 songs about reaching for your dreams.’

The dancing also has a lot of energy to it; it feels like a forceful, strong dance, and all the members do well with it. I normally don’t review much choreography because I wouldn’t really know what to say, but this choreography is quite nice.

So while it’s not quite as much of a showstopper as Shonichi, it’s still a good song and a nice addition to this stage. 8/10

11. 100nen Saki Demo


NMB48 131119 N3 M11 100nen Saki Demo by Cubozoa48

Why hello there, electronic beat with a slightly disco feel. When I first started listening to this I knew that this was going to be something I will enjoy. And I do enjoy this. This is one of the closest songs in the stage to the current style that NMB has been doing in their singles, at least with Kamonegix.

This isn’t quite as disco-y as I wanted to be, but the cool, electronic feel feels more like NMB48 than a lot of the earlier songs. The change in key between the verses and chorus sounds a bit unusual, but I really like it; it’s a unique sound.

The song works well with the lyrics, which are basically about eternal, destined love. I hate using the term epic in my descriptions because the word is VERY overused, but it fits here. This is the story of an epic romance, and the song has that feel.

This is one of my favorite songs in the stage so far. Even though Hajimete no Hoshi seems to be trying for that showstopper type of song, 100nen Saki Demo is really appealing. 9/10

12. Ribbon Nante Niawanai


NMB48 131119 N3 M12 Ribbon Nante Niawanai by Cubozoa48

The first thing this title reminded me of was the Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 song “Bikini wa Niawanai,” and bits of the opening remind me of that song so I guess I’m not that far off? There’s a little bit of the Beach style pop that’s in Bikini wa Niawanai in here, though not to that degree.

That’s where the similarities end, though, because Ribbon Nante Niawanai is an upbeat classic idoly song. It feels like such a cutesy, classic idol song, much more cutesy and classic than NMB48 really has ever felt for me. Even though the song is about figuring out which style suits you, especially in that process of growing up, I don’t think this song suits NMB48 very much, even when they do their cuter songs.

The song itself is pretty fun and catchy, though, and is certainly not bad. The performance is cute, too, featuring pom poms. This just feels a bit too generic and like it doesn’t suit NMB48 much. I feel like that’s a solid criticism for a lot of the songs in this, really. Even though NMB48 often does cuter songs (Mattemashite Shingakki, Boku wa Mou Sukoshi Daitan Nara, Mousou Girlfriend, etc.) this just doesn’t feel like it suits NMB48. Which is a bit of a shame, given this is NMB’s first original stage.

I have a feeling this song will grow on me, and I wonder if subsequent performances and viewings will have me changing my tune a bit. I just can’t see this being one of NMB’s big representative songs, is all I’m saying. 6/10

13. Degas to Ballerina


NMB48 131119 N3 M13 Doga to Ballerina by Cubozoa48

Oh hey art reference I get! Degas was a very famous painter, who notably painted ballerinas. So that’s where Degas came from.

Normally slower songs bore me. It’s not necessarily the fact that they’re slow paced ballads, but I just don’t think a lot of them are done in a very interesting way. I really enjoy this song, though. Despite being slower it doesn’t drag and it has a nice pace. Arrangement wise, the organ and piano sounds are really lovely. Most of the vocals sound great, especially in the verses, but the pitch gets a little too high in the chorus for some, which makes the vocals sound like they’re straining a bit.

The performance is nice, as well, with a lot of ballet inspired moves. There’s even a bit of ballet dancing in there, though I think it looks a bit awkward in those shoes. Still, it is a nice touch.

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Aside from some strained vocals, this is a really pretty song. Perhaps because of those vocals, I tend to like the vocals a lot more. Still, for not being a ballad person, I really enjoy this. 8/10

14. Jounetsu Highway


NMB48 131119 N3 M14 Jonetsu Highway by Cubozoa48

Holy neon costumes batman! These certainly are interesting. The design isn’t bad, but the color choices made me pause for a bit.

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This is one of the most fun, happy songs of the stage. It’s full of energy and is a joy, especially after the slow (but pretty) Degas to Ballerina. The song is very much aiming to be a rock song, including shouts of “rock and roll!” and even “twist and shout!” in there. It works, though; this song got me in a good mood!

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things this isn’t THE most original sound ever, but it’s a breath of fresh air in this stage. I’ve enjoyed most of the stage so far, don’t get me wrong, but this is exactly the song that the stage needed at this time. It feels very well positioned, which is really nice.

This song is fun, peppy, and just what the stage needed at the time. 7/10

15. Sukoshi Nigai Jinsei Soudan


NMB48 131119 N3 M15 Sukoshi Nigai Jinsei Soudan by Cubozoa48

Since the title involves the words “slightly bitter” I was worried this song would get too angry or sad; however, this does a really good job of being both upbeat but emotional. It’s not the most emotional song out there, mind you, but it has a definite amount of feeling to it. I like how the first verse starts off sounding like a pretty typical ballad before exploding into electric guitar sound. Very cool.

I don’t know if I quite like this as much as I want to like it. It’s a fine song, I like the lyrics, and I like what it’s trying to do. It just doesn’t sound quite as interesting as it possibly SHOULD, given it’s placement as second song in the encore. Perhaps this is because this gives me expectations that are too high; the second song in the chorus is home to stuff like Pioneer and Team B Oshi.

This is a good song, though, and I especially like the moments when it treads the line between ballad and upbeat guitar-heavy song. These moments of transition are the most fun in the song. It’s a generally pleasant, easy to listen to song. 6/10.

16. Fumo no Tochi wo Mankai ni


NMB48 131119 N3 M16 Fumo no Tochi wo Mankai ni by Cubozoa48

While Hajimete no Hoshi was the “look at how hard we’ve worked” song, Fumo no Tochi wo Mankai ni is the “NMB48 song.” The lyrics literally go “NMB here we are.” This is a declaration. While I’d dispute some of the lyrics (seriously, WHO said ‘flowers can’t bloom here?’ I don’t think anyone said “you can’t have idols in Osaka).

Again, this really doesn’t give as much of a punch as it really should. For being supposed to be a strong declaration of “here we are” the only parts where they sound like they mean that are the “NMB here we are” sections and possibly the chorus. The verse really doesn’t have the impression of being NMB48 saying “here we are.” Using Pioneer as a template, this doesn’t quite declare NMB’s strengths as a group, nor does it quite deliver in the way it intends.

This isn’t a bad song, by any means, but it doesn’t live up to what it’s trying for. 6/10

17. NMB Medley


NMB48 131119 N3 M17 Medley (メドレー) by Cubozoa48

I’m not going to review this thoroughly, because none of these songs are new, but I generally enjoy all of them.

Highlights:
Aoi Tsuki ga Miteru Kara
Zipper
100nen Saki Demo

Overall: This is a solid stage that has some excellent moments. I don’t think it will end up being a particular favorite stage like B3 is to me, but it’s certainly not bad, and the good parts certainly justify the so-so parts.

My Top 15 Songs of 2013 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe 2013 is about halfway over! And so, it’s a good time to look back on the year in idol music, as well as pick some of my favorite songs of the year.

The idol boom has been going on since late 2009/early 2010, and I keep expecting idol groups to suddenly start disbanding or fade into obscurity. However, things are going better than ever, all things considered. AKB48 broke records and sold massive amounts with Sayonara Crawl, Momoiro Clover Z keeps climbing up, and even Hello!Project groups are doing very well. Indie groups are growing more popular, and gaining traction. Groups are becoming diverse, with alternative acts like BiS, Alice Project and Babymetal growing in popularity. Honestly, I can’t think of a better time to be an idol fan, based almost entirely on how many groups there are out there. There are a lot of groups I’m not even putting on this list but are really good groups.

And so, my top 15 songs of the first half of 2013. Note that this is just songs that have been on a release through the end of June; Koisuru Fortune Cookie’s going to end up pretty high on my full list of the year. Honorable mention goes to Oomori Seiko’s Mahou ga Tsukaenai; not quite sure I’d classify her as an idol, but I love this song to pieces.

15. Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya – Juice=Juice

Can I put a song on this list for one sentence? If so, that sentence is “just listen to that saxophone!” Because seriously, I love every second that a saxophone plays in this song.

In all honestly, I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel about Juice=Juice. I didn’t follow any of the Eggs/Kenshuusei that made the group, and I hadn’t seen the hype about Karin. I thought (and still do) the name was silly to a fault. The early pictures had all the girls in white and it looked kind of boring. And while I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever be a super fan of Juice=Juice, I am a huge fan of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya.

While I was just being silly with what I was saying about the saxophone, that’s actually pretty close. The sound’s so unique, and I can’t think of another idol song like it. Underneath, Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya isn’t that unique of a song. It reminds me strangely of Melon Kinenbi’s Amai Anata no Aji but sped up. The structure feels kind of similar, as does the tune (though I definitely don’t mind H!P bringing back Melon Kinenbi songs). I don’t think Juice=Juice is anything like Melon Kinenbi, mind you, but the overall song isn’t completely new. However, the entire thing put together with the saxophone arrangement, it feels fresh and interesting.

So yes this song is pretty much on my list because of the sax.

14. Kawasaki Junjou Ondo – Kawasaki Junjou Komachi

As I’ll be writing a bit more about later, I love songs where there’s a lot of genre fusion. While I like standard idol pop songs, there’s something really interesting about putting together genres like that.

Kawasaki Junjou Komachi is a group you probably haven’t heard of, unless you follow Tokyo Idol Festival and/or read my TIF posts religiously. But I found them from doing my TIF research posts, and was initially unimpressed by their concept of promoting Kawasaki, mostly because another group I wrote about had a very similar concept. However, Kawasaki Junjou Komachi really shines with their music and performances, the music being a really excellent fusion of traditional sounds with a modern pop sensibility, complete with a rap section. I don’t know Japanese instruments enough to tell, but it sounds like they’re using a lot of traditional instruments in there. In addition, it’s really catchy and fun to listen to and the vocals are really mature and lovely.

I think another reason I’m so impressed by Kawasaki Junjou Ondo is just how good it is for a local indie group. Lots of great music comes from indie idols, and I don’t want to put down indie idols. However, this is the type of song I would be very impressed if I heard it from a big, major label act. If KJK is able to continue this really great mix of traditional and pop and have this general level of quality, I predict they could grow and grow in popularity.

13. Brainstorming – Morning Musume

Late last year and early this year was when I first started to like Morning Musume again. I became a fan of Ishida Ayumi, I started liking (but not necessarily loving) the music, the other new members grew on me. I didn’t like the Help Me! PV, and the song was good, but I didn’t quite love it. However, because of Ayumi, I decided to listen to and watch Brainstorming as soon as I could. And I couldn’t get enough of it.

I think the biggest strength of Brainstorming is how fired up it works to get you. The instrumental works together with the vocals very well to make sure that there’s always something going on. Even in the slower solos (i.e. the solos Sakura does), there’s stuff going in the background. While Morning Musume has used dubstep influenced sound in Renai Hunter, and I really enjoy that song a lot, here the sound feels really integrated.

While I’m one of those people that misses old school Morning Musume a lot, really one of the strengths is in the arrangement. One of the biggest thing that makes me dislike a song is when the instrumental falls flat, and feels empty. Here, that’s not a problem, with so much going on in the back. However, nothing feels extraneous. There’s a lot going on throughout the song, but it feels warranted.

It’s also a great song for the group; it features a lot of the members doing shorter solos and mixed group bits. I don’t want to be one of those foreign fans who always complains about the line distribution, but varied groups like Morning Musume work at their best when everyone gets at least a little to do. Brainstorming really utilizes the members in a really great way.

Ultimately, this song is what brought me back and got me really excited about Morning Musume again. I actually preordered the single, because this is just that good.

12. Haste to Waste – BKA48

When I first heard there was going to be a unit of the members who scored low on the Mechaike special, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be something silly and not quite serious. And there are slightly silly parts. However, it’s a pretty standard mid-tempo song with a good deal of guitar and piano in there. A really good standard song, mind you.

Listening to the song and knowing the lyrics, though, it feels right that this is the BKA48 song; it’s silly, but it’s about being happy even if you aren’t necessarily smart. The thing that interests me is just how strangely epic the chorus feels. Perhaps it’s the lyrics mixed with the song, but it feels like it should be the theme song to the anime/drama about Kawaei Rina. Which I would definitely watch, by the way.

Honestly, this song isn’t necessarily the most interesting song on this list. But it’s solid, has a catchy melody, and I really love the lyrics. Especially the line that actually mentions Haste to Waste, taken word for word from the Mechaike special.

11.Sekaichuu ni I Love You – Rhymeberry

When most people got interested in the new Rhymeberry single, they really liked the song R.O.D.. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a great song. However, I was really taken by Sekaichuu ni I Love You, just because of how different it is. It’s 30s era swing/jazz (not sure if this is sampling or not) mixed with rap. I’ve never heard something like this before, and if you know of any other songs even remotely similar please tell me.

The instrumental is really entertaining; I love hearing all the instruments featured, especially the clarinet (which I play), but the piano is really what shines here. Miri, Hime, and Yuka all shine and they are really improving their skills. They really sell the song, too, putting a lot of energy into it, which is a marked improvement from their last single (where the live version is a lot better than what was recorded). There are also some fun lines in here; I appreciate the Han Solo reference, and I always giggle at “Dope the shit!”

I think I mostly like this because it’s such an experiment. It’s fresh, new, and something I personally have never heard before, which is really rare for music.

10. Walk my Way – Yokoyama Rurika


Yokoyama Rurika – Walk My Way by oshiruka

I think every time I talk about Idoling!!! I mention that I want to follow them more. Which still stands. I think they’re a really solid, interesting idol group with some great music, but I just don’t follow them. I heard about Yokoyama Rurika getting a solo single, but I didn’t need to read it. One thing changed my mind. Hyadain.

When I heard that this was a new Hyadain song and that it was good, I raced out to listen to it. And oh yes, it is good. The thing about this song is that it really works because of Rurika’s really strong vocals. From what I’ve heard Hyadain really wrote a song for her strong voice, and you can hear it. Hyadain, like always, writes a really strong melody, but here it fits Rurika perfectly, and her strong voice compliments the strong instrumental, or rather the instruments compliment her. This isn’t a very subtle song; this is something that’s meant to be belted out. That’s why Rurika’s voice fits it perfectly.

Steve from Selective Hearing wrote a very good analysis of Walk My Way here, and I suggest you all read it because I’m not going to write something this great about the song. One thing I can say is that, as a Hyadain fan, I love almost everything he does. His music really fits my tastes. However, since he writes almost exclusively for idol acts, I rarely get to hear music by him from an artist with a voice as strong as Rurika’s. So this song is really a treat for me, and I know it’s something I’ll listen to quite a bit.

9.Maji Kansha – Team Syachihoko

If you haven’t noticed, I really love Team Syachihoko. I wanted to put all four songs from their latest single on here, but I was able to narrow it down so that I’d have a more varied list (though another one of theirs is coming up).

One of the things I really like about Stardust groups is just how energetic their songs are, but that’s a bit of a curse as well; there aren’t many Stardust group songs I’ll break down crying while listening to, whereas I’ve cried at many AKB48 songs. And while I don’t think Syachi is going to move into serious ballads any time soon, I have to say I love their first song that seems a bit more serious, which is Maji Kansha.

I’m a sucker for strings and idol music; it’s actually something you could probably notice in this list. So when I first heard the swell of strings of Maji Kansha during a livestream of a Team Syachihoko event, I was hooked. The thing about Team Syachihoko is that if you’re looking for a polished performance with strong vocals, you’d best look elsewhere. However, the thing that I personally love about Syachihoko, that you can definitely hear in this song, is that they really work hard and push themselves. Their voices might not be strong enough to carry a song like this, but they give it their all.

It’s a really lovely song in general, and one I think could become a favorite to perform at Syachi concerts. It’s definitely the most normal Syachihoko song, but that, in itself, makes it the most usual. In a really good way.
8. Bokura no Eureka – NMB48

The easiest way to describe NMB’s summer singles is in comparison to other 48 groups. Whereas Nagiichi was much like songs like Ponytail to Shushu; happy and upbeat, Bokura no Eureka feels a lot more like Manatsu no Sounds Good. It’s a bit darker, more serious in tone, but still retaining a summer feel to it. Bokura no Eureka is a bit slower, very strings heavy (yes I do love that), and it just works.

NMB has had more mature sounding songs before (i.e. Virginity), but I didn’t really expect this song when I saw that it was an NMB48 summer song. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s so unexpected that makes me love it so much. It allows for something like their full PV, where the NMB girls are on a deserted island; even though it’s a summer song, and has fairly typical lyrics, it has a lot more emotion to it. It’s a bit darker, slower and more serious than I expected from this track, and I have to say I love it.

7.Megitsune – Babymetal

Babymetal keeps surprising me and taking themselves to new levels. Every time I hear a new Babymetal song it’s exciting, because I never know what it’s going to be like. Megitsune is a new direction for Babymetal, now incorporating traditional instruments and themes into their metal/idol pop hybrid. It completely works. It’s still one of the most ‘metal’ songs Babymetal has put out (though perhaps not as metal as Ijime Dame Zettai), utilizing Suzuka’s strong vocals and a lot of drums.

It’s kind of amazing, really, that all these elements work so well together. I’m constantly impressed by how innovative Babymetal’s music can be, in incorporating Suzuka’s voice, Yui and Moa’s shouting, the metal sound, while still being accessible to people who may not necessarily enjoy metal music. I know I never really listened to metal before Babymetal. And perhaps I wouldn’t be so fond of this if I was a metal afficionado. However, Babymetal does a really great job of creating accessible music for everyone that blurs the lines of genre in a really fantastic way.

6. Den Den Passion – Dempagumi.inc

2013 is shaping up to be the year of Dempa for me; I’ve known about them for a while, but I really got into them this year. Den Den Passion does one of the things I wish more idol groups did, and really plays off the fact that this is a group effort. Especially in the chorus, there’s a lot of vocal overlap, which fits really well. I really like what they did with the vocals in this single; the voices in the chorus often sound almost vocaloid-esque, or a high-pitched Perfume, but in a way that really fits Dempagumi.inc.

That’s the thing that I really love about this single. Everything about it fits dempa’s identity as a group, which, as a fan of the group, is something I love. The quick pace, the high pitched vocals, the focus on the group, the entire song feels very dempagumi. Even the rap section really fits the song (perhaps it’s the edited vocals in that section). Sometimes when writing reviews for this blog, as an exercise, I try to imagine another group tackling a song. This is a song that I can’t imagine anyone other than dempagumi doing.

It’s frenzied, energetic, and fun. While another song on this list convinced me to start following demmpagumi.inc (spoilers), Den Den Passion helped keep Dempagumi.inc as one of my favorite idol groups out there. It’s not one of their strangest offerings, but it’s a worthy addition to the dempagumi discography.

5. Te wo Tsunagou – Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku

Who else has spontaneously started crying during an idol song? Because uh, that’s the first thing I did when I listened to Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku’s latest, Te wo Tsunagou.

Ebichu is another one of the Stardust idol groups a long with MomoClo and Team Syachihoko. However, for whatever reason, Ebichu hasn’t quite clicked with me in the same way as these other two groups. However, I can’t deny how great their music can be (especially since they work closely with Hyadain a lot), and Te wo Tsunagou is just incredible. Instead of taking the usual energetic route that Stardust group often does, Ebichu does a really great job with a sweet, heartfelt song (though they have done some of this before, to be fair).

The song starts off on a great note with the strongest vocalist in the group, Kashiwagi Hinata, singing a capella. She sounds really lovely, and is a really great start to the rest of this song. This song has a really great pace, helped out by the strong percussion in the background, but ultimately it’s just how earnest this song feels, both with the song, the vocals and the lyrics, that makes me really love it.

This song isn’t quite as unique as the others on this list. It’s not even as unique as the other song on this single, Kindan no Karma, which is a much darker song. However, this song does pretty much everything right in being a really lovely, heartwarming song. As groups search for the next gimmick or style, this proves that what you need more than anything is a good melody, charismatic performers, and a strong arrangement.

4. Ijime Dame Zettai – Babymetal

I remember distinctly the first time I heard this song. This had been a very long awaited song for Babymetal fans, so I was very excited. I was doing a project for a class (auditioning people to be in a project I was managing), but I had to listen to this as soon as I saw the PV had been posted. It was completely worth the anticipation. I sat alone in the room I was holding auditions in, mouth open, completely in awe of what I was listening to.

I’d argue that Ijime Dame Zettai is the most metal of the Babymetal songs; you could potentially make a good case for the song Catch Me if You Can, but I’d argue the chorus gets too pop-y. IDZ, on the other hand, is pure metal, without the pop influence of other Babymetal songs, and it’s just good. One of the things that I love about IDZ are the slower sections; the piano-heavy section at the beginning, the slower section right at the beginning of the second verse, and the section before the big guitar solos. These do a really great job of pumping up the more intense sections, and making them exciting. All the guitar solos in this are incredible, as are the rest of the instruments; they do a really excellent job of pumping you up, and having a lot of energy.

Suzuka’s vocals, while they’ve since improved again for Megitsune, made a really big leap from Headbanger to Ijime Dame Zettai. She sounds amazing here, her strong voice really fitting the great instrumental. Yui and Moa take a bit of a backseat from their already limited roles, but their presence mainly serves to remind you that yes, this is actually Babymetal you’re listening to.

This isn’t metal-pop. I’d go so far as to say this is just metal, with pop performers. Suzuka sounds great, the instruments sound great, and everything about this track is phenomenal.
3. Shuto Iten Keikaku – Team Syachihoko

Figuring out which two Team Syachihoko songs made this list was a bit of a difficult decision, because the whole single is pretty amazing, but it came down to Maji Kansha and Shuto Iten Keikaku. Let’s just get it out of the way: I’m biased towards Team Syachihoko. They’ve quickly become my idol group of choice, and I can’t think of a song they’ve done that I haven’t liked. However, this is because they have really high quality music, and this has continued with their national major debut single.

This song was cowritten by Japanese hip hop artist SEAMO, and that’s pretty obvious. Even if there’s only one actual rap section (done wonderfully by Haruna), you can hear the hip hop influence throughout the whole song, which features a lot of spoken parts and a whole lot of attitude. According to wikipedia, one of SEAMO’s influences was MC Hammer, and I do get a bit of an 80s/90s hip hop vibe from this. This is honestly not a song I expected to hear from Team Syachihoko, but they really put a lot of effort into this song, with Chiyuri rolling her R’s and Nao putting in a lot of energy. All the girls really fit in this well.

The lyrics are one of the most fun parts of the song, featuring Syachi’s plea to make Nagoya the capitol of Japan. It’s a silly topic and the lyrics are silly, but Syachihoko actually sells it pretty well. There’s a pretty good translation on the PV on the official Syachihoko channel, so I recommend you check that out.

Otherwise, all the parts come together for a really fun and entertaining song.

2. W.W.D – Dempagumi.inc

W.W.D stands for “worldwide Dempagumi,” a very fitting title given Dempagumi.inc’s recent announcement of performing at Japan Expo USA this August.

W.W.D is weird. And this is coming from someone who loves weird music. Can you guess who wrote this song? If you guessed Hyadain, yep you’re right. However, while some people may criticize W.W.D for being kind of disjointed, in actuality it really fits the group. The song centers around the group of six girls, their individual stories and how they all came together to become one group. Therefore, the fact that the song has so many different styles in it actually makes a lot of sense, because it’s reinforcing this narrative found in the lyrics. I’m really glad they decided to work with Hyadain to write this deeply personal song for Dempagumi.inc; Hyadain is the master of writing very eccentric songs that somehow work, and W.W.D is one of those songs.

Because this song is based off the histories of the girls in dempagumi.inc, they perform it really well. The girls all have an interest in Akihabara culture, and as such really play up the shouted parts well. Groups in the past have called themselves ‘otaku groups,’ but you really believe it with dempagumi.inc. This song is so weird, but Dempagumi.inc manages to sell the slow/serious section as well as the energetic sections. They do well with a song that I imagine would be difficult for most idol singers to get.

If you don’t like your music weird, I doubt you’ll like W.W.D.. In fact, I have a feeling it’s the type of single that would be very polarizing. However, I really like Hyadain when he’s at his wackiest, which he is here. Combine that with the personal stories of dempagumi.inc, and you have a classic idol song on your hands.

1. Hai to Diamond – Momoiro Clover Z

If you read my review of Momoiro Clover Z’s album 5th Dimension, you’ll already know how much I love this song, so I’ll keep this brief. Hai to Diamond is incredible. It’s not necessarily the most idol-y song out there, but it’s a really beautiful song featuring orchestral instruments, many different sounds, and some really nice performances from Momoiro Clover. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, written very well and arranged even better. It’s gorgeous, epic, and has been an instant favorite ever since I heard it.

This is one of the most beautiful pop songs I’ve ever heard, and I know I’ll keep coming back to it again and again in the future.

AKB48 Senbatsu Election 2013 – Results + Analysis

The time has come again for a crazy senbatsu election. This time I spent the evening/morning hanging out on the Selective Hearing live skype viewing party. I had a lovely time doing that, so thank you to everyone who did that. So I watched, slept, and now when I woke up it’s time to blog. Still, overall, I had a lot of fun. One of the commenters in the chat (I forgot who, sorry!) said this (idols in genera) is a spectator sport and reality TV all in one. Which is quite accurate. This took place in Nissan Stadium, which is normally for athletics, and definitely had the feel of a big sporting event. Even though it started at 3:15 AM my time and got done at around 7 AM, it was a fairly intense experience, and one I’m glad I had. Even though indie groups have taken a lot of my interest recently, these big events will always be really fascinating.

For this post I’m using these results from Melos no Michi as reference, as well as cross checking that with last year’s results as seen here on Stage48. So here’s some of my thoughts on this election day.

Sashihara Rino takes #1

In the chat I was in, a bunch of people were joking “oh Sasshi #1,” liking the idea but doubting very much it would happen. Slowly, as Kashiwagi Yuki and Watanabe Mayu were named, we began to wonder if what started out as a longshot could happen, and we really all started pulling for Sasshi.

Sashihara Rino getting the first spot is really major for a couple of reasons. She’s the first girl to get #1 who’s not in AKB48, actually, and she’s also the first girl implicated in a pretty major scandal. Last year, her getting #4 was a bit of a surprise to me, but soon after she had her scandal and was moved to HKT48.

This whole election was really encouraging for fans of the sister groups of AKB48, but Sasshi taking #1 was really a big part of it. I also really hope that this will be one step closer to eliminating dating rules, or at least starting to get less strict on scandal punishments. Fans want Sasshi, and they have spoken.

At the end, when Sasshi was going around the stadium in a giant float, one of my fellow commentators mentioned that it really didn’t feel like a Sasshi type of thing. Which is fairly true. Sasshi isn’t really a typical idol to get #1 in something like this. When they were discussing what kind of single the next one would be, the word thrown around on stage was a “weird” single, which is something I can look forward to. Move over traditional idols, the weird but imperfect idols are here to stay, and I’m quite excited for it.

Shinoda Mariko announced her graduation

When Mariko announced she was graduating, I honestly thought it would be the biggest news of the evening (but Sasshi winning beats this). It’s honestly not something I expected, even though Mariko’s the oldest member at 27. Last year, during her election speech, she kept mentioning not losing to the younger members, and I really assumed that that meant that Mariko was here to stay. Even though she’s the oldest, she’s the one I least expected to graduate after Takahashi Minami, mostly because of this stubbornness. All good things must come to an end, though, and Mariko announced she’s ending things on a bang, looking to graduate at the Fukuoka Dome concert in July (since she’s from Fukuoka).

With all the members who left this year, and now Mariko leaving this year, the AKB48 senbatsu is looking very very different, and I imagine next year will be even more different.

SKE48 in Kami7, NMB48 in senbatsu

Like I said earlier, the sister groups really shined this year. It was noted in the chat that only 30 members out of the 64 were actually in AKB48; this year, the sister groups’ influences grew. Six girls from HKT48 ranked, even though they’ve only released one single, seven from NMB48 (eight, counting Ichikawa Miori), and seventeen from SKE48 (eighteen if you count Oba Mina). This is a massive showing for what’s the AKB48 election.

The biggest news, other than Sasshi, is that five girls that didn’t originate in AKB48, Suda Akari (who I had no idea would rank so high), Matsui Rena, Matsui Jurina, Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki ranked in senbatsu. In the previous years, it was only the two Matsui girls who ranked in senbatsu, but now they’re in the top 7 (known as kami7), a huge achievement.

Above all, the increased rankings of girls not in AKB48 shows that they’re not just the sister group to the popular AKB48, but that they’re really valuable groups in their own right, and have a good deal of their own popularity. Unfortunately, some of the girls who’ve always ranked highly, like Takahashi Minami, Itano Tomomi and Kojima Haruna, got pushed down a bit. But that shows that the sister groups are really able to go far.

Personally I’m really happy; I like NMB48 and HKT48 a lot in particular, and while I have three oshimen in the 48 groups I’ve more and more started to consider myself as Watanabe Miyuki oshi, and Oota Aika’s my other main oshimen. There’s a lot of really great stuff going on in the sister groups, and it’s great to see it getting recognition.

Miyazawa Sae focusing on SNH48

Earlier it was announced that some of the foreign exchange members were going to be AKB48 members as well. However, Sae decided to take that back, and focus full time on promoting SNH48.

I understand in theory why she’s doing it; she really wanted to make SNH a group in their own right, and I imagine she’s really frustrated because of all the roadbloacks that she’s faced in becoming a member of SNH48. However, it doesn’t change the fact that this might not be the best move. My friend Dani, in her first message to me about the election, immediately said that “Sae committed career suicide,” which is pretty apt.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to support these foreign groups. Nakagawa Haruka’s focusing completely on JKT48, and seems to be doing well there. However, the politics between Japan and China have been so tense that Sae has been barely able to do anything with SNH48 simply because getting a working visa has been tough. I don’t know if she’s still been able to get one, which means she won’t be able to do much of anything. I know that Sae and Mariya had to watch the first public appearance of SNH48 from the audience, because they couldn’t work.

I appreciate Sae’s convictions, but if you can’t get a work visa there’s only so much you can really do. I know it has to be REALLY frustrating, but this is something that Sae really can’t change and is out of her control.

I really hope things work out for her, but I’m pretty nervous as well.

Vote inflation

I keep thinking AKB48 is going to have some giant sales decline, but Sayonara Crawl keeps breaking records left and right (recently outselling Speed’s White Love). And it shows! This year three members got over 100,000 votes. Ichikawa Miori’s votes almost doubled from last year, and she only increased one place. The 16th ranked member in senbatsu, Suda Akari, received 43,252 votes. To put this in perspective, Maeda Atsuko received ~4500 votes when she won the election in 2009. AKB’s popularity has increased a LOT, but it really goes to show that we’re dealing with so many more votes. Even if a girl’s position goes down or stays the same, she could have still had a decent increase in the elections.

Just something to keep in mind; so many girls are getting way more votes than they did last year, regardless of their actual ranking.

Hirajima Natsumi Ranking

Nacchan didn’t rank highly, but I’m really happy she ranked at all. Since she’s a member who’s graduated, and left because of a scandal of all things, it’s really nice to see her fans gave her so much support. It will be really interesting to see how this works with her in the Future Girls. I know I’m not the only one who wants to bring Nacchan back!

My personal thoughts
My two oshimen are Watanabe Miyuki and Oota Aika. While I wanted Milky to beat Sayanee in the race for NMB48’s top member, I was really happy to see her ranking increase (and her votes more than doubled). The big disappointment of last year was seeing Oota Aika drop so low, and so I was really glad to see her jump up 9 places and get 10000 more votes than last year. I’m really proud of the both of them!

So overall, this was an exciting, surprising and really entertaining senbatsu election. All these lineups look pretty interesting, and I’m excited to see what happens next for the 48 groups.

AKB48’s 5th Senbatsu Election

I’ve been in a bit of an 48 group rut lately. I love my favorite members still, and I still pay attention, but they’ve had trouble holding my interest. I think this is, in part, due to events out of their control.  I found So Long as a single to be lackluster, the announced SKE graduations of my three subsequent oshimen make me want to avoid SKE48 (Yagami Kumi, Ogiso Shiori, Hata Sawako), and while I find a lot of promise in HKT48, Suki Suki Skip didn’t grab me like Hatsukoi Butterfly. But also, AKB is at the point where they are in a bit of a cycle. Every year there’s a Sakura/Graduation single, the summer election single, the election results single, the ‘cool’ single and the Janken single. The three main events are the senbatsu election, the janken tournament and the Request Hour Setlist Best 100 concerts. The most recently added event, the janken tournament, has already been going on for three years. While girls have come and gone, the framework is largely the same. AKB needed something to shake things up.

And shake things up it did. There are now new rules for the senbatsu election; while the markers for senbatsu, undergirls, next girls and future girls remains the same as last year, there are new restrictions on membership. Now, to even be a candidate for the senbatsu, every girl has to apply. They have to be a current member of AKB48, SKE48, NMB48 or HKT48, they can be one of the foreign transfer members (Miyazawa Sae, Takajo Aki, Nakagawa Haruka, or Suzuki Mariya), or they can be an OG member who was in a group for over four years.

Obviously these are some big changes, and here are some thoughts I’m wondering about.

OG Members, Who Will Come Back?

Possibly the most exciting of the new rules is the one that former members of AKB48 (and related groups) who were in the groups for four years or more could come back and apply to be a candidate. Obviously, this four year limit really limits the number of girls who could come back (no 8th generation kenkyuusei, for example!), but it raises a few options.

First off, I think the least likely to come back is actually Maeda Atsuko (and Masuda Yuka); Acchan, at least from my perspective, left on her own accord and is trying to make her own way beyond AKB48. Her graduation, after reaching the long term Tokyo Dome goal, felt like a really fitting close, and it really did feel like she wanted to make way for the next generation of AKB members. Same with Masuda Yuka; while she was a big part of the 48 groups, even before her scandal it really felt like she was ready to move on into her own career (missing key AKB events to rehearse for her stage play), and I can’t see her coming back.

My personal hopes are for Ohori Megumi and Urano Kazumi specifically, but also any of the members who were transferred to SDN48 and graduated in the mass graduation. Meetan and CinDy are my particular favorites, they were in the 48 groups for a long time (CinDy was an original member!), and it would be really great to see an SDN48 member participate, even if they don’t necessarily make it very far at all. I’d like to see Hirajima Natsumi, as well, but I’m not sure how many girls who left due to scandal would decide to come back.

Who of the Current Members Will Apply?

This is very interesting to me; while in the past every member was an automatic candidate, this year the girls have to be proactive and opt into the senbatsu election. One question I’ve seen pop up is “who wouldn’t go into the election?” which is a tough question. Senbatsu results have long been a marker of a member’s popularity, and it’s hard to see any member decide to not go for it. I can possibly see some members not really bothering, if their likelihood of not getting in is slim (such as most of HKT48’s kenkyuusei), but there aren’t any risks in giving it a shot. So it’ll be interesting when the candidate list comes out, to see if any prominent members decide to step down for this single (though it feels unlikely).

What About the Kenkyuusei (and Miichan?)

One theory I saw on a comment on Tokyohive (and a good one) is that part of the reason for allowing former members with a long tenure in is to allow Miichan the opportunity to participate, and that this year it actually restricts against kenkyuusei from taking part. This is all a theory, but is based on some slightly ambiguous wording. The first rule is actually written so that it’s an “AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, HKT48 enrolled member.” Does this exclude Kenkyuusei, who are technically not full members of the 48 groups (Miichan, who was in AKB48 for longer than that four years, could thus join)? This is something that I hope will be clarified, because if so it would be an interesting move , focusing on the full members. Kenkyuusei rarely make it very far (notably last year, at the time kenkyuusei Muto Tomu was the center for the future girls unit), so it’s probably not going to matter. The only girl I could reasonably see affected by this would be HKT48 kenkyuusei Tashima Meru, who’s quickly become HKT48’s center and most likely continued ace of the group.

Foreign Members?

Back during the big team/group shuffle, I mentioned that the 48 groups seemed to be giving a bigger focus on the international groups, JKT48 and SNH48, by sending over four members. Which is true. However, allowing these four back in brings up the question: why aren’t foreign group members allowed in the election.

My first thought is practicality, because they’d have to come and promote the singles, but JKT48 has come to Japan before, and that same thing would have to happen if Miyazawa Sae, Takajo Aki, Suzuki Mariya or Nakagawa Haruka choose to apply.

So despite their emphasis on promoting JKT48 and SNH48, these groups feel like they’re secondary to the Japanese groups. I have no idea how well JKT48 and SNH48 have been doing, financially (I’m not as aware of the systems in place for gauging that as I am with Japan) but this move seems to imply that JKT48 and SNH48 are not quite equal with their Japanese groups, which makes me wonder if they’re not doing quite so well.

In any case, I think when the candidate list comes out it will be interesting to see what happens with this unique senbatsu election.

 

Top Ten Idols – 2013

Well, whenever I go back and look at my top ten idols list, it always seems like things change a lot. I know things have since I started Happy Disco (my original list was all Hello!Project, wow). This list is always pretty difficult to make, because as an idol enthusiast I have a lot of favorites. Even if someone slipped down my list at all or is omitted, that only really means that I have another idol I like better, not that I like them less.

10. Tamura Meimi (S/Mileage)

S/Mileage’s second generation are four of my top five members in current Hello!Project. While I like Kanyon and Ayacho, if S/Mileage’s second generation formed an idol group on their own I think it would be one of my favorite idol groups ever. I think they all have a lot of strengths, are a lot of fun, and are super adorable. Picking one as my favorite is hard; however, it ends up as being Meimei. She’s just so energetic and excited, that Meimi was actually the one to open me up to Hello!Project after being a bit cynical regarding them for a while; Meimi felt and still feels fresh. I love her energy, her enthusiasm, and just how mischievous and fun she is. One of my favorite things was when she basically trolled everyone by setting up a blog entry sounding like she was graduating… only revealing she was graduating from using “-chan” to refer to her friends. Meimi not only loves her fans, she trolls them. She’s cute, energetic, fun to watch, and just a weirdo.

9. Ishida Ayumi – Morning Musume

For most of 2012 Meimei was my favorite in Hello!Project, so putting Ishida Ayumi over Meimi is a pretty big change. Ever since Morning Musume’s 10th generation has debuted, I’ve been fond of Ishida Ayumi, and she’s been my favorite Morning Musume member for a while. However, since I don’t really follow much of Morning Musume, it didn’t really click with Ayumi as a favorite member until recently, and even then it was a slow build. I first became really impressed with her when the dance shot to One Two Three came out, since Ayumi’s performing strength is in her dancing. Slowly I began to find out more about her personality, and found out that while she’s a sweet person she’s almost a closet wota/creeper  of her fellow members. In one blog post in particular she took pictures of all of her fellow 10th generation members sleeping and posted them on her blog, saying how cute they all are. She’s a hard worker, a strong performer, and has a really sweet personality. She’s making me follow Morning Musume, which is what qualifies her as one of my top idols. Honestly, if I followed Morning Musume more closely than some of the other groups, Ayumi could move up my list because I like her that much.

8. Watanabe Miyuki (NMB48/AKB48)

Putting Milky this low is ridiculous for me. Honestly, this is a tough spot. Once you get past the two Hello!Project girls (who I really love, but aren’t my favorites), my top 8 is really where I have strong feelings. My top 3 48 girls shift around places a lot, so one day Milky might be my #1 girl in AKB and one day she might be my #3, like today. Normally, within AKB48, I tend to go for the lesser popular girls (though the one girl who just barely missed this list is Kashiwagi Yuki, AKA #3 in AKB48), but I’ve been a Milky fan since the early days of NMB48. I can wax poetic about how perfect I find Milky (and have, on my tumblr HERE) but basically she’s a natural idol who loves idols. She has tons of charisma, has been able to endure a scandal and come out on top, and ultimately really loves what she does and being an idol. She’s also really funny and strange (I adore the whole “chapu chapu’ movement), and is a fan of Ishikawa Rika, which does help. She’s one idol who’s a natural, and it’s definitely appealing Plus her photobook, Mirugami, was my favorite of 2012 and possibly one of my favorites ever

7. Oota Aika (HKT48)

Lovetan is a very adaptable member, which is probably her biggest strength. She went from being one of the cute younger members of Team B to being one of the middle-range Team A girls (as well as center of the Undergirls for a while). She started off young and as one of the cuter members of AKB48, but she’s been able to adapt to more mature things as she’s gotten older (look how cool she looks in that outfit from Show Fight!). And finally, she’s moved to HKT48, where she’s now the most experienced member. The thing I’ve always liked about Lovetan is just how natural she is, and how honest she really seems. Perhaps that’s her “tsundere” personality, but she doesn’t shy away from showing her emotions or expressing them. She’s a real sweetheart who I always love watching. I was really disappointed to see her huge drop in the AKB48 election (though not in her; she’s been doing great), so I’m hoping that she can shine in HKT48 through the future. I honestly think this is a good move, and I can’t wait to hear more from Lovetan! Seeing her growth as an idol from Team B to today has been a privilege, and I’m proud to be a Lovetan fan.

6. Natori Wakana (AKB48) 

Wakanyan’s not an easy idol to have as my AKB48 oshimen. She only recently was promoted to Team B, and before that was a kenkyuusei that missed the whole Team 4 thing. Despite that, Wakanyan is really fantastic. I initially became a fan of hers because of her performance skills; she was Kashiwagi Yuki’s under and performed as Yukirin in kenkyuusei shows, which shows that AKB trusted her to do a lot. She was also the first person of her generation to perform the solo kenkyuusei song “Romance Kakurenbo,” and has proven herself both an excellent singer and an excellent performer. However, aside from this I just love her personality. She’s worked so hard since her debut as a kenkyuusei, and on the 11th generation special of Ariyoshi AKB Kyowakoku she won my heart by being brave enough to not only pick up one snake (in a test where they had to put snakes back in their containers, to “test bravery) that bit her, but going back again. She also seems to have a good personality whenever I see LODs or look at G+.

5. Mizuno Yui (BABYMETAL/Sakura Gakuin)

Look at that face and tell me she isn’t the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. In all seriousness, I love watching Yui’s enthusiasm when performing and in PVs, both in standard idol group Sakura Gakuin and heavy metal unit Babymetal. While I adore every member of Babymetal and I enjoy both Suzuka and Moa a lot as idols, something about Yui sticks out to me. Probably how happy she looks singing metal music. If anyone can have a huge grin on her face while performing metal, it’s Yui. But she has a level of happiness and enthusiasm that I just love in an idol, and has the cutest smile ever.

4. Aso Natsuko (soloist)

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you missed it, yes that is me and Nacchan at the Hyper Japan event this February in London. 🙂 (read my post about that HERE) Putting Nacchan this low really sucks, and I think is a real testament to how strongly I feel about other idols. However, seeing Aso Natsuko live was amazing; she has such crazy charisma and energy. It was an incredible experience I hope to experience again. She’s a real sweetheart and a great performer, and an all-around great idol. It takes a lot of charisma to be a successful solo artist, and Nacchan definitely qualifies.

3. Sasaki Ayaka (Momoiro Clover Z)

A~rin is in the “natural idol” category. Seriously, if there are any girls who are born idols, A~rin is one of them. Every time I see her performing, I can tell that she’s obviously loving what she does and that she’s having a great time with what she’s doing. I personally also love her performance; while she may not have the best voice or dancing, what she is good at hamming it up during her solos and giving a good performance. I also have a strong affection for cute idols and idols that have an “idol-like” personality (and she is referred to as MomoClo’s idol in her introduction). While all the MomoClo members are good in their own way and I’m fond of all of them (especially Reni, who’s really weird), I’d argue that A~rin’s the most fun and playful member. Not to say that she doesn’t take her job seriously, but she has just a fun personality that shines, on and off stage.

2. Ishikawa Rika (ex-Morning Musume/v-u-den)


She’s topped every single list I’ve ever had until now. This might be a surprise to you if you know me, and it surprised me when I realized it. However, I think this is mostly a result of not being very active any more (I’d tentatively still call Rika my all-time favorite, as this list is primarily current). Simply put, Rika is one of the most driven idols ever, a hard worker, a role model for younger members, and is one of the strongest performers (not vocally, but on pure strength of dance/performance skills). Rika, is in my opinion, the gold standard for idols everywhere; there’s a reason that two of the top idols in the 48 empire, Watanabe Miyuki and Kashiwagi Yuki are huge Rika fans. She has a great personality, great performances, and I’m proud to be a Rika fan, which has not wavered at all since I became a Rika fan. That being said, when deciding this I couldn’t ignore the sheer power of my #1…

1. Ooguro Yuzuki (Team Syachihoko)

Yuzuki is the first idol to surpass Rika since Rika became my favorite near the end of 2008/beginning of 2009. Which, as a big idol fan, says a good deal. I initially pegged Yuzuki as being my least favorite of Team Syachihoko, because she didn’t initially stand out to me in my initial viewing of The Stardust Bowling’s PV. However, despite this, when I first watched a live performance, I saw how strong Yuzuki really is. The thing about Yuzuki is that, even though she’s probably in the middle of the group in terms of skill, you can tell she’s clearly giving a huge effort every time she performs. She has a ton of enthusiasm, and every performance you can see how hard she works and how much she enjoys herself. She is a sweetheart, clearly loves being in Team Syachihoko, and is the most fun idol to watch right now.

Honorable mentions: Kashiwagi Yuki (AKB48), Iwasa Misaki (AKB48), Matsui Sakiko (AKB48), Miyawaki Sakura (HKT48), Yajima Maimi (C-ute), S/Mileage’s 2nd generation, all the other members of Team Syachihoko and Momoiro Clover Z, Kyao (MMJ),

Scandals. Hoo boy.

First off, thank you so much to anyone who wished me well. I really do appreciate well wishes for this time.

Secondly, when I was thinking of what to do after my last post, I was thinking I’d do something happier. The thought was to finally finish my epic PV post or review the new Morning Musume PVs (which I will do, because I have a lot to say). I wanted to do something that would be a bit happier than my other post.

Then scandals happened.

In case you haven’t heard, there has been a recent wave of scandals hitting AKB48 and its associated groups. Some girls in AKB got suspended (or rather, say they suspended themselves, but really, let’s not believe that PR BS), but they weren’t girls I knew that well. Oba Mina’s scandal was pretty interesting, given the accusations of Enjo Kousai. I mean, that was the least proven of all her scandal things, from what I can tell, but if you didn’t think of Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru you are not an AKB48 wota.

Acchan and Takamina are judging you pretty hard right now, Minarun.

I thought the whole affair was a bit funny and brushed it off, though I did feel bad for other girls that were dragged into it, especially if any dating happened before they joined AKB48. Regardless of how you feel about dating rules/restrictions, it is part of what it takes to be an idol and breaking those rules is breaking contract.

When the first NMB48 scandals hit, I felt a bit odd. I mean, I didn’t follow Matsuda Shiori that much, but I really liked Yoshida Akari, so their suspension was a bit rough. I saw what they allegedly did (saying that because nothing is confirmed) and while I felt that what they did was a bad judgment call, it wasn’t the end of the world. It was really dumb, but since no photos or anything appeared I didn’t think it was necessarily too awful.

All in all, through these scandals I maintained a calm about them, and wasn’t do disturbed by them. I hadn’t been too upset by scandals in the past, why be upset now?

Then that all changed when Kondo Rina and Watanabe Miyuki were cut from NMB48’s second single. And I was furious. I wondered why for only a brief moment, but realized that this is the first time that any idols I’m particularly close to have dealt with a scandal like this.

If you’ve seen my latest top 10 idol list, you know that I adore Watanabe Miyuki. She’s everything I want from a front girl and more and I’m a huge fan of hers. What you didn’t see was the fact that Kondo Rina is actually my second favorite NMB48 girl, with her adorable smile and her non-reactions on NMB’s show Naniwa Nadeshiko.

I’ve heard of scandals in the past, and I’ve seen them. I’m amused, but it goes without saying that when they affect you, they really do sting.

I haven’t seen this so much with this scandal, but one thing that I’ve always thought about when it comes to idol scandals is the concept of supporting them. Would I keep supporting an idol after a big scandal if I liked them? If I had been a big Kago Ai fan and then realized that she was dating older men and smoking underage, would I still be her fan?

It’s an interesting question, one that I think that ultimately people have to decide for themselves. Idol fans who have idols in the midst of scandals really just have to decide if what the idol did was wrong and if that is a reason to stop following an idol or to support them less. Dealing with idol scandals is kind of a personal thing, and while it might sound sappy it’s what fans need to do. The decisions might be easy, might be hard, but they must be made.

While the general perception of wota is that they are enraged whenever an idol does anything bad and decides to stop following her, I think that in reality most wota are more moderate. I think that there’s a really large population of fans that WANT to support their idols more than anything. Take the Fujimoto Miki wota; after her scandal where she was undoubtedly dating her (now) husband, what did they do? They didn’t bash Miki, they bashed the tabloids, because they wanted Miki to be left alone.

Ultimately, I don’t think that wota are necessarily put off by scandals like dating. Some might, but it’s definitely not most. Some may like idols JUST for the idea of them being surrogate girlfriends, but I think that when you get to be into one idol, you ultimately like them so much that you just want them to be happy. I know this opinion is slightly controversial, especially since idols are seen by many to JUST be surrogate girlfriends, but I think that with genuine affection comes genuine well-wishes for a girl.

So my choice was pretty clear, to keep supporting Watanabe Miyuki (and Kondo Rina) throughout the future. I’m bummed that Milky got cut from the next NMB48 single, yes. I do think this will be a speedbump in her career and she has to be careful to bring herself from it. But when I saw her blog entry about this, I wrote a comment of support, and now there are over 3000 comments on her blog, with pretty much everything I saw being positive towards Milky. So I’m going to remain hopeful, and keep on cheering on my favorite NMB48 idol!