Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 11

TIF happened! I’m jealous of anyone who gets to go! There was livestreaming over Nico Nico Douga, but I’m still Since I still have a ton more groups to profile I’ll carry on.

INK 1 2 3 Girls

When I first searched for this group I was a bit confused; all the information was related to TIF and there was not much about the girls themselves. Then, reading the TIF description a bit more closely, I realized that they made their first appearance at TIF!! They’re three girls chosen/promoted by the extremely famous ex-wrestler Antonio Inoki, so they come from kind of an interesting background. Since they debuted at TIF I don’t have a lot to say, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with them!

Cheeky Parade

This is the other group to hail from Avex’s idol label, Idol Street, and as such is kind of a little sister group to Super Girls. Cheeky Parade is a nine member idol unit that has ages that range from 12 to 17, so they’re a younger group than Super Girls. They were formed this year as the second group from Idol Street.

Probably the biggest thing that happened this year was that Cheeky Parade had a sales goal, much like Morning Musume’s famous “sell 50,000 copies of Ai no Tane” goal; only Cheeky Parade’s didn’t have a time limit, and it was only to sell 5000 copies of their first single, Cheeky Dreamer; when they hit that limit they could then hit their major debut. Admittedly this was a bit less exciting than MM’s goal, but it definitely got people passionate about getting Cheeky Parade to that goal.

Cheeky Parade is really strong at dancing in particular; the choreography is pretty unique, but they’re all good at it. They also have a unique style in their costumes and performance; kind of a mixture of cute and almost rock style. Even though I initially had misgivings about their name (since cheeky has implications of being disrespectful and somewhat rude), they really are a high quality group. It’ll be really interesting to see where their career goes, because right now they’re feeling really strong. I especially like the youngest member, Mariya (who has the lightest hair), but they all seem like strong idols!

Team Syachihoko

This is another Stardust 3B Junior group (MomoClo, Ebichu, etc) but one I’m less familiar with! I’ve seen some people point to Team Syachihoko as being the next group that Stadust pushes, so if you like MomoClo and Ebichu they are already a group to follow! Team Syachihoko is made up of six middle school girls from Nagoya. So far they’ve released one single.

But like I said, this is really possibly the next big Stardust group. They haven’t really done much outside of Nagoya, from what I can tell, and I can’t find any PVs for their first single, Koibito wa Sniper. But they’re really cute and Stardust does tend to go for quality, so I know I’ll try to follow them. The thing I noticed watching a video that seems to be from TIF (confirmation? Not sure which stage this is!) is that they’re really going for a younger MomoClo feel. Whereas Ebichu has been both the younger sister group of MomoClo and their own group, this feels a lot more like Momoiro Clover. One of the girls even does an intro that’s a lot like Tamai Shiori’s “Shiori no shi…” introduction, and another does a Momoka-like intro.

Still, even though they do seem to be aiming for Momoiro Clover level, they are really cute and energetic, which is something that always draws me to an idol group. I really hope they find an image of their own or something of their own because they are really strong performers as well. If Stardust does well (which I hope they do!) Team Syachihoko should really come into their own as an idol group soon!

choice?
This is my favorite idol group name at TIF. I’m serious; ever since I saw choice? as an idol group performing at TIF the name really struck a funny bone. According to the blurb, it’s referring to the fact that they’ll have to make a choice of what to do in the future and how uncertain it is. So does choice? get the award for most philosophical idol group name? Possibly.

The group was formed in 2009 to be a fresh (read: no experience) girl group, currently with five members. They are a product of Finolia Factory, who also produce the unit Survive-Zero I’ve also profiled, and the solo artist Rizumu. choice? doesn’t have their own site, but the TIF blurb noted that they released their first album “First Step Choice” last year, so that seems to mean they’re fairly active. Actually, according to Wikipedia, they’ve released fifteen singles, which is a lot more than most artists in their situation, so they’re pretty busy! There are also solo/unit releases/songs, so if you want an indie idol group but you don’t want just one or two original song, this group is definitely for you.

I’ve listened to a couple of their songs so far and while I definitely appreciate how active they are, the songs themselves aren’t the greatest. Mostly I’d say they’re harmless; not terrible, but not particularly catchy or interesting. The girls are cute and fun, but the group is sadly kind of forgettable except for their fun name. The girls themselves are cute idols, so give them a shot (my favorite is the member in blue, Watanabe Kurumi).

Chocole
This is a group I wasn’t familiar with, but they’re Idoling!!! related! Chocole is a three member group under Avex formed in 2011. Member Hashimoto Kaede was already a member of Idoling!!! when she joined Chocole, but then the other two members of Chocole, Takahashi Kurumi and Tamagawa Ramu became members of Idoling!!! as well, so it’s a side project for these three members. Their aim is to deliver energy with a smile, like chocolate.

They’ve so far released two singles, and have a cuter image. Their production values are good (as expected by being an Avex project) and while I’m sure Idoling!!! fans are well aware of Chocole, if the large numbers of Idoling intimidates you for whatever reason maybe Chocole could be for you. The vocals are pretty good, for idol standards, and would be a good group to follow if you like cuter stuff but want the three members.

Tokyo Idol Festival Part 10

TIF is THIS WEEKEND! Excuse me while I cry and wish desperately about wanting to be in Tokyo. Also more acts were added. So now the list is 111 idol-related acts at TIF. Wow.

Saotome Yuka

While idol soloists certainly had their time of popularity (Matsuda Seiko STILL releases stuff even though IMO she peaked with Akai Sweet Pea and Natsu no Tobira), they are possibly the rarest act at TIF. While there’s cute girl groups, three member dance and vocal groups, and possibly anything you can think of, indie idol soloists are a bit rare.

Saotome Yuka is a soloist, indies and things seem to be going pretty good for her. She has a pretty popular Nico channel and a good amount of followers on Twitter. She’s an MC on a Nico show, is a regular on some internet radio shows, and is a regular net idol. However, her biggest break is doing the ending theme to the new anime ‘+tic Elder Sister” (that is, Plastic Elder Sister) “Watashi to Watashi ga Shitai Koto” which is her major debut (on Lantis). Getting a major debut is pretty huge, so that definitely puts her ahead of a lot of TIF acts in terms of career popularity.

Her voice is pretty typical in that it’s very high pitched and anime sounding. However, judging mostly by the PV, Yuka is VERY charismatic, energetic and has a real presence on camera. I honestly think that because of her skill in appearing on camera, her presence and her existing fanbase Yuka could become known, in the Anison world at least. Just from this short PV I really like her a lot, and I hope her career flourishes!

SCOOP!?
Idol group names are great. My personal favorite one is choice? (with that question mark, it’s like the group name is trying to be a philosophical question). However, SCOOP!? is certainly up there as a group name I love.

So remember Sanspo Idol Reporter being about, well, reporting on idols? SCOOP!? comes from 6 sports newspapers to further the interests of sports… through idols. SCOOP!? is a pretty new 6 member unit that has had its CD debut recently with “Kono Hi no Tame Ni,” which is a theme song for the London Olympics going on right now. So while I’m personally not a sports fan, this might be of interest to some of you who are following the Olympics more closely.

Interestingly enough the members of this group all seem to be older; the youngest was born in July of 1990, making her 22. However this makes a bit more sense as the PV for Kono Hi no Tame Ni is one of the stranger idol videos I’ve seen.
The song is really nice and a couple of the girls have really beautiful voices. The PV seems to start out fairly normally, as the setting is a press conference. It’s a pretty cute gimmick and allows for a cheap PV that fits the theme somewhat well.

However, during the bridge of the song, the manager (? someone running the conference) gets a dog to rip the front off from the table, revealing all their legs, which is a bit revealing since they are all wearing short skirts. The manager then convinces them all to spread their legs wide, giving the press an eyeful. I honestly have no idea if this is supposed to be humorous (a ‘yeah we get it’ from the tabloids themselves) or if it’s supposed to be controversial, but it’s a surprise to have this fanservice be a focus so late in the PV. It’s kind of strange, so I’d recommend you watch the PV, though perhaps maybe not the group.

Sexy All Sisters

This is basically #1 most memorable group I learned from TIF last year. So. Do you like fanservice? If you answered ‘yes’ to that question (no shame in that!) do you like over the top fanservice being the theme of your idol group, regardless of the quality of the group in any other areas?

If you answered yes to that as well, Sexy All Sisters might be perfect for you. In a weird way. Sexy All Sisters is a fanservice idol collective focusing on fanservice and just that. All the groups have some sort of gimmick and seem to be fairly disconnected from the rest of the group.

Bikyaku Sentai Slender: Bikyaku Sentai Slender is the group for girls who are, as assumed, slender and have beautiful legs (the name literally means “Beautiful Legs Squadron Slender”). Originally a 5 member unit (who released one single, Panty Stocking) they added four girls to be Bikyaku Sentai Slender DX, and released a DVD under this name. They wear cheerleading uniforms.

Bakunyuu Sangokushi/Bakunyuu Yankee: Apparently while these are separate groups on the Sexy All Sisters site, the members are all the same. It’s three members who all have large chests (which, since both of their group names are “big chest _____” that makes sense. The first group is kind of a sengoku-era “this would be racist if it was done by another country” group, and Bakunyuu Yankee is yankee themed. Japanese wiki claims that Mao (the member in blue) is a new half (trans* mtf) or a newhalf graduate, but I have no idea if that’s true. Anyone with better Japanese knowledge than me?

Anyways, Bra wo Sagashite is probably one of my favorite completely insane PVs.

D-Rive : Car themed fanservice with two members. Um, don’t know what else to say. They also have released one single.

Mune no Tanima ni Umore Tai X Sexy All Sisters have complicated group names, but this one refers to a tie in the valley of breasts. So yep, another chest themed group, this one is featuring waitresses! Like the others they’ve released one fanservice single (all these songs, btw, are written by a guy named “Stinky’O”. Classiest stuff).

Bakunyuu Koushien This is a group for members with big breasts (again, containing members of the other ‘bakunyuu’ groups) and their gimmick is baseball themed.

Pai Ranger Basically a sentai group. And there are boobs. Notable because their songs aren’t written by Stinky’O.

Shiri Girls: Shiri, more commonly used as “oshiri”, means “butt” so that’s what they’re obviously focusing on. Their profile pictures indicate they’re kind of a Girls Generation type group with a bit of a KPop image.

Only two girls are on the TIF page, and they seem to be from Shiri Girls, so who knows how many Sexy All Sisters girls will show up to TIF; also of note is that they’re really only performing with the late night groups that also features Ayaman Japan, KNU and so on. So basically, if any of these gimmicks appeal to you in some fashion and you really just want to look at big breasts, I guess you could find something you like with Sexy All Sisters. But if you care about anything else at all, you’d probably best find it elsewhere.

Takokusekigun

After the weirdness of Sexy All Sisters, Takokusekigun is pretty normal. It’s currently a three member group (it seems to have started with five members and whittled down to three) and the concept is they want to give the people of the world love with song. They’re also a group of half-Japanese, half-another nationality, which does make them stand out, at least physically, from other idol groups at TIF. It’s also worth noting that Takokusekigun literally means “Allied Forces” so that reinforces the international concept of the group.

So far they’ve released three singles, all with the word “Love” in the title. While their first single seems cuter (both songs, Love World and Love & Pop), their more recent things seem like they’re going for a more mature/cooler image than in the past. They’re OK at performing live, but nothing really extraordinary; their voices are good but not necessarily great. I like their second single, LoveSpirit, best, but none of their songs are IMO anything to write home about. I personally can’t really connect to this group (despite their pretty good concept) but if you like half-Japanese idols then this group might fit your interests!

W∞Anna

Is it just me, or are two member idol groups kind of rare? You have H!P’s GAM (and now Peaberry), you have YuiKaori, Circadian Rhythm and now W∞Anna. Even the blurb for the group on the TIF site says that the fact that there are two of them is unique!

The group is two girls named Anna (hence W Anna) and so far they’ve only released two singles (though they were recently included on an idol compilation album). They’ve actually been active as gravure idols, working together since 2008, but 2011 is when they debuted their first single. So they have experience working in magazines and TV but are new as singer idols.

Their first single, Joy to Ride, is incredibly autotuned which is a bit offputting. Since they’re also primarily a gravure unit it’s a bit hard to find something to hear if their singing is better. However, they seem really cute and fun in videos that aren’t PVs, and both Annas have a lot of personality and charm. So if you don’t care about music so much and you just want cute girls who have a lot of personality and also pose for gravure, you might like W-Anna

Tokyo Idol Festival Part 9

SUPER☆GiRLS

Ahh, Super Girls. I’ve been aware of them right from the beginning. Super Girls is one of the groups of Avex’s Idol Street (which is where the Idol Street Sei from the first post are from). While Tokyo Girls’ Style, the group before Super Girls that year, have always had a more mature (but in a performed by young girls kind of way) feel that is somewhat inspired by previous group SweetS, Super Girls are pure idols aimed at hitting the AKB48 demographic. Literally, at their first press conference the one part that stands out is how they want to surpass AKB48.

Super Girls is an 11 member group (one member left in the past year) that has girls ranging from 14 (popular member Maeshima Ami) to 23 (leader Yasaka Saori), so they have a pretty wide age range. Calling them “idol-like” is probably the best way to put it, as they perform fairly energetic songs (for their singles, at least) that are catchy and pop-y, and don’t get too cutesy or too mature.

Super Girls conflicts me. On the one hand, being an avex group, they have a very polished image and all the girls are pretty solid performers as well as being appealing idols (Arai Reira and Kanou Kaede both stand out to me and I’m very fond of both of them). The PVs are all pretty good (though none are extraordinary) and their single songs are, like I mentioned, catchy. However, after watching some of Super Girls livestreamed, none of the album/b-side songs really stood out to me and I found myself kind of bored. Moreover, the way they started (essentially as a way for Avex to get into the AKB48 market) kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and I can’t stand their latest PV to Puri Puri Summer Kiss, which features blatant long shots of the girls’ butts. I don’t mind fanservice with older idols, but this was both featuring younger girls (like Ami) and was so obvious and blatant that it really bothered me.

Still, I like Super Girls. To an extent. They’re by no means my favorite idol group, but I find Max Otome Gokoro to be a really top notch summer song and all the girls ARE really good idols. If you’re an idol fan and you haven’t, you really owe it to yourself to at least try Super Girls. Like it or not, they’re a major power in the idol world right now.

Station♪

This is a pretty recent group; while Passpo is the group based off of flight attendants, Station is a five member idol group from Akihabara that has the girls be based off train attendants. They have so far released three singles and one album, all of these in 2012, so it seems like while they’re new they’re trying to kickstart their career, and an audience as big as TIF will do well for them.

The interesting thing is the train theme; while Passpo has since shed a lot of the flight attendant theme in the process of becoming a bigger group (Next Flight was very flight attendant-based, but Natsuzora Hanabi is much less so), Station is at this point still very much keeping with their train attendant theme (their album’s title is even Densha (train) de Go! Go!); it will be interesting to see when/if they shed that. For example, their second single “Let’s go! Tetsudou Idol” has a PV set at some train museum, so at this point they’re connected to their theme.

While Passpo also distinguishes itself as a rock focused group, Station is more about the cute; their latest single is a ballad, but their second song, Let’s Go! Tetsudou Idol is a ridiculously adorable song. They feel much more idol-y.

I have to admit, when starting to research Station I expected to go “Train attendant group, what’s up with that?” and move on. However, all the girls are cute (and are decent singers and dancers) and  the songs aren’t bad at all. While the train attendant theme can sometimes be a bit much, I know I’ll try to follow Station a bit more in the future as I’ve really enjoyed them so far!

SPLASH

Unrelated to SHAKE (despite similar name and concept) SPLASH is another dance and vocal unit with a rock focus to their music and image. They’re a three member unit that has a mature image to them, as is evidenced by their pictures on their website featuring them wearing leather jackets and posing in front of a dark background (that I swear looks like they made it out of a trash bag).

Please note that SPLASH is pretty tough to find videos for; not only is the name a bit tricky to google search (as well as having all their singles have pretty generic titles), but there’s also another idol group named SPLASH out there. So if you decide you’ve taken a liking to SPLASH, they are not the idol group with colorful costumes and about 7-8 girls in the group.

One thing I have to commend SPLASH for is that they do seem to be keeping up with the dance and vocals, since they are a “dance and vocal” unit. Their vocals are pretty good and their dancing, while not super great, is at least trying to be better

Musically I can’t say I’m all that impressed, personally. The first song I listened to was “Crazy 4 You” which starts off sounding a lot like AKB48’s Mokugekisha and then moving into what sounded like a dance ripoff of the instrumental break in Momoiro Clover Z’s Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo. Their songs feel slightly generic, and don’t have that much life to them. “Are You READY?” also has the least energetic “Yeah!”s I’ve ever heard. I can’t say I’m much convinced by SPLASH, personally, but if you’ve exhausted the other rock  vocal & dance idol units out there, they could be something to look into.

Space Girls Planet

My immediate impression was that I really dig the name, but then I notice that Space Girls Planet is yet another “Dance and Vocal” three member idol unit, which is fast becoming the default group at TIF.

Space Girls Planet, while having a promising name, doesn’t have an astronaut gimmick or anything like that (though their first real song, Sayonara Planet, fits in with the theme nicely). They were formed in December 2010 and have released two singles in addition to some “demo” singles, as well as a DVD that has a solo song/PV by member Ito Yui (whose image color is blue).

While I was a bit tentative when I saw the image on their website, their lives seem like fun and I’ve started to like this group. The vocals are solid and pleasant to listen to, and while their dancing is quite frankly nothing special they all seem like they’re having fun on stage and are very fun to watch. While none of their other songs really grab me like Sayonara Planet does, they’re fun and ultimately very enjoyable.

3B Junior Team Blue and Team Red
OK, I’m consolidating into one thing because I can. 3B Junior is the section of Stardust Promotions that focuses on idols. They have Momoiro Clover Z and Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, in addition to smaller/lesser known groups like Minicheer Bears, Team Syachihiko, etc. 3B Junior Team Red and Blue are two teams of 8 girls that are in Stardust Promotions (a couple formerly from Minicheer Bears), that aren’t quite in a group like MomoClo or Ebichu but could be in a new group in the future.

Given the nature of 3B Junior Team Blue and Team Red, they don’t have singles out or anything like that. However, these are the girls that could potentially go into a new Stardust group, so they’re girls to follow!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 8

Timetable of the concert is up! Parts of it are up for changing, but at the end of these posts (whenever they come) I’ll put up my ideal timetable in addition to my overall group recommendations.

SHAKE

While I haven’t heard of this group before, they come from a very well known background! Their main producer is Onda Yoshihito, who is best known for being a member of the rock group JUDY AND MARY. He’s now a well known composer and producer, and so even though I haven’t heard of SHAKE they come from a very well known rock background, which is pretty unique for an indies level idol group.

According to their blurb on the TIF site, their goal is to be a dance group that performs high quality original songs as well as anime song covers and to be able to do strong dance performances. There are three members in the group, and they have a much more mature/cool image than a lot of the cuter groups, which fits since all the members are in their 20s and are thus on the older side (all of them are older than me, in fact!)

They’ve so far released four singles all titled “Shake vol. 1” with the numbers going up. Not the most creative name ever, but hey. They started releasing singles in 2009, and most recently released their first PV/live video collection DVD.

Looking at the promo vid released for their video collection, I’m a bit disappointed in their dance like the last group. While they’re certainly not bad dancers and perform better/tighter than a lot of idol groups, I feel like calling yourself a dance group implies that the dances are somehow considerably harder. However, their voices are all nice and the original songs are pretty high quality, which is really nice. The songs fit the more mature feel to the group and don’t sound particularly idolly, which could be a plus or negative depending on the person.

Still, while I do think they’re good and produce high quality stuff, I can’t help but feel like they could be a bit better, given who they come from. They’re definitely fine, and if you like more mature groups they might fit you better, but they aren’t necessarily what I’m looking for.

JK21
If you follow Tokyo Idol Festival like I do, you should know JK21 now; they’ve been performing at TIF since its first year, 2010. JK21 is a Kansai based local idol unit, with their name standing for Japan Kansai 21st Century. There are currently five members, which means that unfortunately they’ve lost two members since their latest single, Nanairo Real. They also have a subgroup/sister group “JK21 Pucchi Musume” as well as their own kenkyuusei, which is a bit surprising given the fact they’re still pretty small in popularity; Nanairo Real sold just under 3000 copies, which certainly isn’t bad but doesn’t quite warrant a kenkyuusei system in my opinion.

According to the blurb on the TIF site, their biggest claim to fame is doing a cheering song for the baseball team Hanshin Tigers (which, personal sidenote, is Ishikawa Rika’s favorite team who she’s a major fan of), Win! Win! Tigers, which is a pretty good deal for a group who was releasing on an indie label at the time. They’ve released six singles (that’s including their two indies singles) as well as two albums, which is a pretty good number of releases all things considered.

Back when the setlist for TIF 2012 first came out I was just about to write about JK21 before all the new additions were added and I was set back a little. However, when I realized it would be a while until I wrote about JK21 I felt a bit of relief, truth be told, because beyond the basics of what I explained already there’s not much extraordinary about them. There’s nothing wrong with the group at all, though, and their songs are pretty good, especially Koi no Kiseki and Nanairo Real.

Shizukaze & Kizuna
Shizukaze and Kizuna have been at TIF for three years as well, but actually started out as just Shizukaze so that might be how you’re more familiar with them, if you know them at all. Shizukaze was a unit made up of two girls, one named Shizuka and the other named Fuka (but she has the kanji for Kaze in her name) so their names were combined to be Shizukaze. They performed and released some stuff under Shizukaze for a while, but in 2010 combined with the idol unit KIZUNA (actually it’s “絆~Kizuna~” but 絆 is the kanji for Kizuna, so I’ll just use it once).

They are another self-proclaimed rock unit an it seems like they actually do that; while their latest single “Oo.Shizukaze ni Notte.oO” is pretty laid back and is typical idol, the C-Side on this release is called “Yellow Fuckin’ Idol?” (No, I’m not making that up), so Shizukaze & KIZUNA is definitely atypical. Their vocals aren’t really great, and they don’t sound like they were altered when making Shizukaze ni Notte, so their vocals have kind of an untouched sound which I have to say isn’t very pleasant when the vocalists aren’t doing so great. If you like good dancing, KIZUNA in particular is very strong at dancing and might be one of the better TIF units at doing that.

Still, despite their faults they seem to be strong performers (an article on Pure Idol Heart HERE details the strengths of a Shizukaze & Kizuna live), and if you want more of a rock sensibility (they clearly all sing live and they do focus on rock music) you might have an interest in Shizukaze & KIZUNA.

Jewel Kiss
While I personally don’t follow Jewel Kiss, I know from the forums at Hello!Online that they do have a small passionate fanbase. I’ve been vaguely aware of their existence for some time now, and I think part of that is because they’ve covered Hello!Project songs in the past. They’re yet another unit that has been at TIF for three years, so they are definitely established in the indie idol scene. They actually are based in Hokkaidou and have been doing the “each member has a set color” thing since 2008. There are currently seven members, after their eighth member left last year. Their age ranges from 11 years old to 16 years old, however they have a decidedly younger/cuter image, as most of the girls are around that 11-12 year old age range.

They’ve so far released three singles and one live DVD. Despite now having some more releases under their belt they are still a very small, indie group and are still performing at the indie focused Fantastic Stage at TIF this year, so it doesn’t seem like there’s been much growth, at least popularity wise. They do sing all of their stuff life (which is pretty admirable for some groups) and they’ve definitely improved vocally since I’ve last heard them! Their latest song, Renge ~Lovers Flower~ has a traditional sound to it, which might be a cool image for them to try out. Their singing and dancing has improved since I’ve last seen a Jewel Kiss video.

This is another group that’s a pretty standard cute group without any added gimmicks or things to set them apart. However, lately their singing and dancing is pretty solid (for idol standards) so if you want an indie cute girl group to support you might want to look into Jewel Kiss.

Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku 

Here’s a group that I’m a big fan of! Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku is another idol group from Stardust  Music Company, the company behind Momoiro Clover Z. Ebichu (as the fans call them) is known as the little sister group to MomoClo, and have appeared at MomoClo concerts before. However, despite being a little sister group, it’s been a big year for Ebichu! They’ve done a lot of solo works and just this year released their major debut single, ‘Kari Keiyaku no Cinderella’ in May. They’ve also released their first solo DVD, and their second single is “Go! Go! Here we Go! Rock Lee!,” the ending theme to the Naruto spinoff anime.

There are nine members in Ebichu, and since “Chuugaku” (middle school) is in their name they have a younger age range, going from 13 to 16. As expected by a Stardust group, they’ve always been a bit of an eccentric group. A good deal of their songs have been written by Hyadain (Maeyamada Kenichi) whose written a lot of Momoiro Clover’s more eccentric songs (Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo, Santa-san, Wani to Shampoo etc.), and the eccentricity is certainly there with Ebichu. Songs like ” Oh My Ghost? ~Watashi ga Akuryou ni Natte mo~” and “The Tissue ~Tomaranai Seishun” are some of Hyadain’s best, so if you know you like his stuff then you really should be paying attention to Ebichu.

Basically, while they’re definitely not Momoiro Clover Z part two (they are very much their own group) a lot of the things that make Momoiro Clover so much fun are present in Ebichu. The high energy is there, their dances have a lot of energy, the odd/eccentric songs are there, etc. If Momoiro Clover Z is a group you like and you don’t already follow Ebichu, then you really ought to. On the other hand, if you don’t like Momoiro Clover Z, then still give Ebichu a shot because a lot of the things on the surface are a bit different, so you might be able to like Ebichu.


私立恵比寿中学『仮契約のシンデレラ』Sub R/E/K by asahi2307

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 7

I’m trying to get caught up! To be honest I’m doubting I can have all these groups done by the time TIF does roll around; however, I’ll keep going and get them all done.

Survive-ZERO    

After debuting in 2009, Survive-Zero has the theme of being both cool and cute, as well as being a dance unit, focusing on dance above the music. There are four members, and recently they released their first album, Survive First From Zero. They actually come from the same agency, Finolia Factory, as the group choice? (my favorite idol group name) and the solo artist Rizumu.

While their songs that are online from their official YouTube sound good and have more of a rock tinge to their sound, I was a little disappointed by the pointed lack of dancing I saw in their videos. I know that they don’t necessarily want to move around much when they’re singing, but I expected more dancing from a “dance unit” and certainly more difficult dances than what I saw. That being said, their dancing is good and I like their singing; it just seems that describing them as a vocal and dance unit would be a bit more accurate.

They’ve released 13 singles in addition to this album, so they’re pretty active for an indie group! The couple of performances they’ve released online are very strong, so it seems like practice has paid off for them. They’re definitely a group you should check out if you like a rock sound to your idols; I have a feeling Passpo fans, for example, could find a lot to love in Survive-ZERO.

Sanspo Idol Reporter
Often shortened to SIR 2012, SIR is a group that was formed this year in February, auditioning for six girls. Sanspo is the nickname of the newspaper, Sankei Sports, and the twist about SIR 2012 is that they are supposed to be able to report on idols as well as be an idol group, so I think that part of their involvement at TIF won’t be just performing their recent debut single, but also reporting on the various idol groups performing at TIF.

In fact, while I’m not having much trouble finding very long videos of the girls in SIR 2012 talking, I’m having a bit of trouble finding stuff of them singing or performing. They have some sort of thing dealing with pachinko and amusement halls, and it looks like they have a show called “SIR 2012 Idol Reporter no Kiseki”

They might be interesting to follow if you really dislike idol music and just like it for cute girls. They are cute, and seem entertaining enough, reporting, but I just can’t find anything about their new single.

Sun-μ
This is a tough group to search or, since they use the myu symbol in their name but sometimes spell their name as さんみゅー which is “sanmyu~”.Anyways, Sunmyu is the idol group from Sun Music (an agency) that is working primarily on Nico Nico Douga, AKA the Japanese YouTube. They post most of their things on their page HERE. They are a group of ten girls that their Nico page emphasizes are ‘real beginners’, meaning they haven’t been in a CD debut and they have to work their way up. This is emphasized by the fact that on their Nico site they have a lot of videos from various dance lessons and things, showing the process of the girls becoming idols.

“Beginner” idols is hardly a new concept; it used to be a strong rule that Morning Musume members had to be absolute beginners (I remember there was a minor controversy because Niigaki Risa appeared in a commercial before joining), and it’s a major focus of AKB48 (the fact that they’re unpolished and resemble an actual classroom of girls). However, Sunmyu seems to be taking this to a new level, so if that’s your favorite part of idols they might be a interesting group.

G☆Girls

First of all, the G in G*Girls stands for Gravure. So straight away that fact that gravure is so important that it’s in their name should give some of you an idea if you’ll love or hate the group. It was formed in September of last year and it has seven members (at least in their TIF profile picture; there are nine girls on their official site profiles)! All the girls are over 18, so if underage gravure bugs you then G*Girls won’t hurt that. They all auditioned through the Miss FLASH 2011 gravure competition; four of the girls are the winners, five are runners-up. As such, all of the idols are gorgeous.

Even though gravure is the obvious focus of the group, their motto is that they’ll sing, dance and do gravure. They’ve released one single so far, Mahou wo Kakete Love Me Do, which is a pleasant if a bit forgettable cute pop track. It’s a bit interesting they chose to go for a cuter sound, since on their website they compare themselves to KPop acts KARA and SNSD, but it’s cute. The first half of the PV is a collection of the girls posing in skimpy outfits, much like a making of for a gravure shoot, and the second half is the lessons and preparations leading up to their first public appearance, which was actually at last year’s Tokyo Idol Festival.

Basically, this is the type of group that will appeal if what you’re looking for is fanservice and beautiful women doing gravure. Before reading this post you probably would know if this group is for you, and I won’t be able to convince you otherwise.

CQC’s

CQC’s’ name stands for for “Campus Queen Collection Stars,” which is fitting because they’re all around college age. They are a local unit from Fukuoka and mostly make media appearances around there. Their number count is a bit confusing; they had nine members and two just graduated this July, but in their latest single (in April 2012) there are ten members, so that’s a bit odd. Regardless, their profile on their site and their group picture say that there are seven members in CQC’s.

Not much is apparent about these girls and they seem to be, by all accounts, a fairly standard idol group. However, for their relative inexperience, their singles and PVs feel very polished, in a way local/indie idol groups rarely feel. While their first PV/song ‘Namida no Request’ isn’t necessarily bad, the group shines in Fuwafuwa Precious, their third and latest single. It’s an upbeat and outright catchy idol tune, that vaguely reminds me of some of the stuff for Tsunku’s TNX idol groups (which isn’t a bad thing at all; many of Tsunku’s best songs past the golden era of H!P were in TNX). The girls are all cute and energetic and none of them are phoning it in at all. The video is far better than a lot of indie/smaller acts, and is flat out made well. They all seem like they’re enjoying themselves a lot, which shows in the making of video for Fuwafuwa Precious.

Honestly, of all the groups I didn’t follow before working on this TIF post, CQC’s might be on the top of my list of “groups to look out for.” I’m very glad I discovered them!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 part 6

Even more groups keep on getting added! At this point TIF has over 100 groups going, and since there isn’t a time table up yet I imagine even more could be added.

Apple Tale

Another group that has been promoted by Tsunku’s Tsuntube; even though I don’t necessarily like how Tsunku’s been promoting/working with his original groups, he tends to pick some indie winners to feature on TsunTube. A self-proclaimed rock unit, Apple Tale is a six member idol group. They’ve so far released five singles, the most recent is By Chance Wonderful.

According to Japanese wikipedia they also come from a Japanese net channel, Kunoichi TV, that supports female idols.

At this point, Apple Tale’s tricky to google (both as Apple Tale and in katakana, アップルテール)and I can’t find any individual songs other than performances on Tsuntube; if anyone has any, let me know!

Still, they seem cute, and if rock music is your thing you should give them a shot.

E-Girls

This is a much more famous group! E-Girls is an idol collective under Avex Trax that contains all the members of Dream, FLOWER and Happiness (plus two other members), and as such has 21 members making it a larger group. All of the groups have a cooler, more KPop influenced image than the standard idol group, so they definitely break out of the mold of the typical TIF group. E-Girls aren’t a youth-focused cutesy group. They’re also related to the popular Avex group EXILE, with the name of the group standing for EXILE Girls Unit.

As evidenced by the start of the PV to their second and latest single, One Two Three, E-Girls’ focus is really on their dancing, and they have a strong, KPop-influenced style to their dance. Unless some group really impresses me, of all the units at TIF E-Girls might have the strongest dancing. Their vocals are strong as well, focusing on deeper, strong vocals. They feel very much like a strong KPop female idol group, having the same attention to vocals, dance and overall presenting a polished product.

Ultimately, though, while they do come off very well, they feel slightly out of place among the rest of the TIF groups, who focus on the Japanese idol ideal of being a bit rougher and being personality driven. However, if you like female KPop groups or wish that Japanese idol groups were a bit more polished when it comes to their dancing and singing, E-Girls is definitely a group to check out.

OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu!

With possibly the cutest name ever, OhaGirl comes from the popular children’s TV show Oha-Star. Some of you might know it because some celebrities made their start on Oha-Star, including one of my favorite idols of all time, Sasaki Ayaka of Momoiro Clover (this is where her catchphrase A~rin da yo comes from). Others might know that various Hello!Project members have appeared on OhaStar, including notably Kusumi Koharu, Ogawa Saki (part of OhaGirl Maple, who did the single featuring S/Mileage), and now Ikuta Erina.

OhaKids are the young kids that Ayaka came from. OhaGirl, on the other hand, are the older, middle-school age hosts that make up the idol groups like OhaGirl Maple and now OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu!. So the three girls in OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu! are from the OhaGirls from Oha-Star. Most of these units are temporary, but various people from OhaStar did become more famous, so these three girls may be more famous one day.

In August OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu! are making their single debut with “Motto Gyutto Heart,” and since they made their debut in April they’re one of the newest/freshest idol groups to be appearing at this year’s TIF. Their ages range between twelve and fourteen, so they’re also fairly young. If you like cute girls, this should be a good group to follow, though OhaGirl groups rarely last too long.They also seem to focus on ribbon twirling as their thing, which would definitely be fun to watch for. Their first song/PV focuses on the ribbon twirling a lot, and while it’s not a spectacular song it’s amazingly cute and definitely isn’t bad, especially for this brand new group!

Kurikamaki

This is a pretty unknown group of two girls, the DJ Kurika and the other girl, Maki. According to the TIF site, while they’ve done other things, this is a new DJ unit for them. Their Ameblo site lists their introduction as being written on July 2nd, so they’ve either been pretty lowkey until then (they have one video of themselves on YouTube from March) or they might be the newest unit on the TIF stage. They also have twitter accounts as well as a Nico Nico Douga account.

It looks like they’re doing some self-promotion, so they may be one of the few idol groups where the members are the main driving force behind the group, which in my opinion makes them pretty interesting. They seem to be mostly into anime songs, so if you’re interested in Anison they would probably be an interesting group.

Other than that there’s not much to go off of, but they aren’t the typical group at TIF, that’s for sure, because of their inception as a group. Even though they’re so new, I do really like the two girls and I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of them!

Sakuragi Seira

Seira (romanized on the TIF site as Seila, on her ameblo URL as Seira and on her site as Seilah) is a solo artist who seems to be more of a music artist than a standard female idol (since she plays the guitar as well as sings). She comes from Stardust Promotions, the agency behind Momoiro Clover Z, Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, Aso Natsuko and others, so she comes from a very good, professional agency. She’s 19 years old, and has been active since 2008. Interestingly enough, her last video on YouTube was from 2011, so she hasn’t been doing too much.

Seira isn’t too active in general; she’s released one PV (After School) and one single.(Parachute/Emergency Love). She has a very pleasant voice, though it seems to be slightly shaky during live performances. I don’t know if she writes her own songs at all, but they’re pretty nice (I really like “Yes or No”, or at least the short snippet on her YouTube), and she’s definitely unique in that she’s able to perform by herself both singing and playing guitar.

Even though she hasn’t done that much, I really hope that she can use TIF to kickstart her career, because while she’s not so much an idol and isn’t the most charismatic girl ever, I like her and her voice. She’s definitely someone to follow if you prefer music artists; with some training, practice and promotion, I could potentially see her becoming an artist similar to Yui.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 5

Kikkawa You

As most idol fans are pretty aware of Hello!Project history, I’ll keep this section pretty brief and on point. Kikkawa Yuu got her start back during the 8th generation Morning Musume auditions where she got to the finals but (along with AKB48 member Sato Sumire) lost to Mitsui Aika. Yuu’s had a pretty sizable fanbase since then and became a Hello!Project Egg soon after, with a pretty strong singing voice. She became part of the three idol unit Milky Way along with Kusumi Koharu and Kitahara Sayaka, In early 2011 she made her debut with Kikkake wa YOU!, and now her activities are outside Hello!Project in UFA, though she still performs and promotes at H!P concerts.

She’s since released a DVD, three singles (fourth is coming out soon), a photobook and even a documentary on her road to debut, which isn’t bad for a former Egg! I have to admit that when she was an Egg I wasn’t as crazy about her as others were (my favorite egg is definitely Sekine Azusa), but I can certainly appreciate Kikka. She really is a talented singer and I’m very happy for her fans who have stuck around for years.

Kikka’s a very good performer and should be an excellent addition to TIF, especially since her last single had an unfortunate drop in sales (possibly due to fewer versions of the single? not quite sure, because I enjoy the single song), this could be good promotion for her. Lately the idol scene has been all about groups, so it’s good to see a solo artist out there.

While I’ve never been too big of a Kikka fan, honestly rewatching Kikkake wa You (her first single) and her latest single, Konna Watashi de Yokattara, I think she’s really grown since her early days as an egg and in Milky Way. Her voice is better, she’s more expressive in general, and is pretty compelling. I really think she needed that time in training to blossom, but blossom she has and I can’t wait to see how she does TIF.

(note: Universal Music Japan won’t let me embed her PVs, but finding them on YouTube isn’t super hard)

Caramel ☆ Ribbon

I’m not at all familiar with them, but someone I know is! Jim from I ♥ Miyoshi Ayaka’s Idol Musings is a fan of Caramel Ribbon and has shared some really excellent information with me!

Caramel Ribbon is a three member unit from a larger idol collective called Esse Academy. I have to admit I haven’t heard of Esse Academy, and honestly Caramel Ribbon is just about the most well known group among this, which isn’t saying all that much. The girls range in age from 13 to 14, so a younger group. They released one single, Niji Iro, back in 2010 but have recently recorded a new single, so perhaps that will get performed at TIF!

For being an indie group song, Niji Iro is pretty good; the girls have pleasant voices and it’s an overall pleasant song; the song itself feels slightly old fashioned, but not quite as retro as Vanilla Beans, for example. They also perform covers, such as the well known song Natsu Matsuri (made famous by girl band Whiteberry).

Here’s the thing about Caramel Ribbon. They don’t seem to have any major gimmicks, nor do they fit into some wacky niche. They’re three cute girls who are pretty good performers. However, if you’re into cuter groups with cute girls, I definitely recommend you give Caramel Ribbon a shot.


Caramel ☆ Ribbon (キャラメル☆リボン) – Niji Iro by Sakura-Gakuin-Fan 

Coro☆Coro with Fukasawa Saki

I swear, finding the kanji for this was the biggest pain. Anyways this is a three member “dance and vocal unit” (meaning they’re trying for better dance and singing as opposed to other gimmicks), featuring Saki and two other girls. So far they’ve released two singles, including “Super Birthday.”

At first I wondered if Fukasawa Saki was a big deal, like this was the idol project for a popular gravure idol (a la AeLL). However, whenever I search Saki’s name, all that comes up are links related to Coro*Coro, so if anyone knows why Saki is in the group name, please let me know! So far it looks like it’s because Saki is really the front girl of the group in their stuff.

So far Super Birthday is pretty standard idol stuff, as is their first single ‘again.’ However, a performance of a song called ‘destiny’ shows off the fact that there’s good dancing and singing. The PV preview of Super Birthday has made me pretty fond of one of the non-Saki members, Airi, who’s pretty cute. Their dance skills are good and their singing skills are definitely fine. However, there’s nothing that really makes this group stand out that much, and I feel like it would be kind of hard to be a fan of a girl that wasn’t Saki at this point.

Kotone Mai

Another soloist! Mai (her nickname’s Mainya) is 21 years old and has been active as an idol since 2009 and since then has released six singles. I’ve heard her name before, but for some reason I didn’t know who she was.

While looking up Mainya, I discovered something amazing: that Pony Canyon has English-language profiles! So finding out about her is pretty easy. Apparently she gained a lot of fans because she performed over 300 shows a year, which is really incredible! That kind of work ethic is really extraordinary, and I’m glad people have taken notice. She’s somewhat of an indie idol darling, and her singles sell well even though they’re indies and have limited numbers to sell. Also according to this profile Mainya has been called the next big idol to break, recently.

Watching her stuff, Mai’s voice is unfortunately not that pleasant to listen to. While vocal skills aren’t necessarily very important for idols, it makes me wonder how far she can really go as a solo artist. One of the reasons groups can go really far is because vocal skill matters a lot less when you have many singers; it’s a bit less forgivable with a soloist. Still, I really appreciate her obvious enthusiasm for being an idol, her energy and her work ethic, so I’m going to keep an eye on Mainya to see what she does next!

Circadian Rhythm 

Here’s a group I’ve covered before. Their name is certainly interesting (the English name for the sleep cycle). They are a two member “dance and vocal” unit that features nice mature vocals and members that seem to have older members and an overall more mature feel. They’ve released one single and last year they released their first album, featuring what seems to be their most pushed song from the album “Bloom ~Sakurairo no Kisetsu”. The PV for this looks pretty cheap, with the two girls singing and dancing over some pretty shoddy effects wearing short kimonos. However, despite the failings of the PV, this is quite a good song and the girls have really good voices for being at TIF.

The last thing on the Circadian Rhythm website is information about them performing at TIF 2011, so I don’t really know what, if anything, they’ve been up to since last year’s festival. However, if you like your idols on the more mature side as opposed to the standard cutesy group you usually get at TIF, you might want to look out for Circadian Rhythm.

Tokyo Idol Festival Part 4

Even more idols were added! Right now the current count on the TIF page is, get this, 82 separate groups/acts! There is a lot of stuff to cover, so I’m going to try my best to get these posts out as much as possible, which means that I’m putting some content I’ve been working on for Happy Disco on the backburner to try and focus on TIF.

Up’s Infinity

The thing about Up’s Infinity is that they’re not just an idol unit, but a rock band as well; perhaps closer to something like SCANDAL than like idol units? According to their TIF blurb they come from a TV show “Bandoru” (clearly a portmanteau of band and aidoru), and their TV show looks to be a mix of variety and documenting their journey of becoming a band even though they don’t have much experience in the music industry.

The latest four episodes are up HERE if you’re interested. Finding other videos is honestly tough, as searching Up’s Infinity gets very few results and Bandoru (in Japanese) is tough as well, so if you  know anything about them please leave a comment! Quite frankly, hearing some stuff from their digests on YouTube, I can’t say I’m TOO impressed, but maybe that’s part of the idolness of their group, the fact that they’re so new.

Still, if you prefer live instruments and bands to your standard idols, Up’s Infinity might be something you might be interested in, since they’re not the typical idol group.

Ayaman Japan

This is another non-traditional group but for different reasons! This actually started as an entertainment group and to this day there are 100 members of that group, that entertain at parties only if you know one of the members and that don’t get paid. However, back in 2010 three members started to make media appearances and they’ve started to release music. Three singles have been released so far, and the one that’s made the biggest splash was their first single, Poi Poi Poi Popoi Poi Popii.

Ayaman is almost the antithesis to the traditional idol group, with Poi Poi littered with sexually suggestive lyrics and scenes in the PV (featuring chanting S-E-X, featuring their breasts and humping statues). For all that idols are supposed to be pure and virginal, Ayaman Japan is almost the opposite, and I’d imagine if you were tired of the traditional idol image that Ayaman Japan might be a reprieve from that. According to this interesting article on Kotaku, “If AKB48 are idols you can meet,” leader Ayaman recently said on variety show Shabekuri 007, “we’re idols you can…” That last bit was bleeped out on television.”

If you’re looking for good idol music and singing, Ayaman Japan is not your best bet. However, I’m betting that their performance on the TIF stage is going to be one of the most interesting and unusual ones, and definitely something to check out.

Izukoneko

This is another one of those idols that is super hard to find information about, unfortunately. The only site that I could find is her Ameblo, without a major official site (as far as I can find) and without a Japanese wikipedia page. So if any of you guys are majorly into Izukoneko, please give me more information!

Izukoneko is a 17 year old soloist who it appears has done at least one anime songs. She made her debut in October. She’s done at least two singles; Rainy Irony is pretty pleasant to listen to (even though I half expected her to bring out Alanis Morissette in there).

At first I wasn’t super impressed by her presence in the Rainy Irony PV, but seeing a clip of her live (on her youtube izukoneko) she seems like one of those idols that excels live. I’d recommend giving Rainy Irony a try because it’s not really a typical idol sound (despite the ‘nyan nyan nyan’s in there, fitting her name).

OS*U

Standing for Osu Super Idol Unit, this group was formed near the end of 2010 and just performed their first solo show for 500 people and will be performing at Zepp Nagoya, so it looks like they’re gaining a bit of popularity, at least for being indie idols. They are local idols from the Aichi prefecture (which is also where SKE48 hails from) with fifteen members. Even though they’re relatively new they’ve released five indies level singles, so it looks like they’re a pretty active group. They also have two subgroups, Pop Star and Smile Star, that allows them to promote more.

Osu is a shopping area, but it can be said to be the Akihabara of Nagoya; it is a shopping district that has a good deal of electronics shopping,and the OS*U site proclaims it to be a land of idol, anime, maid and otaku culture. So if this is the case, it makes sense that at least one idol group would be formed there. After all, AKB48 is so big after being formed in Akihabara.

From what I’ve seen of their videos, they seem pretty unpolished and unafraid of fanservice (as shown in their Surfing Striker PV), and the sound of the Surfing Striker song doesn’t have the greatest audio mixing in the world (the girls’ voices are pretty quiet at parts). However, they seem cute, enthusiastic and like they’re having fun, which can really go a long way in the idol world.

So far not much stands out in the way of songs, concepts and themes, but they’re definitely not bad and are worth checking out.

Ogawa Mana

Here’s an idol you ought to know, if (like me) you enjoy the more obscure side of Tsunku’s idol pop. Back when I wrote my section on The Possible I gave a brief introduction to TNX, Tsunku’s label, and Nice Girl Project, the idol project on TNX. While The Possible was the most popular among TNX, another idol group, Canary Club, was fairly active for a while . Canary Club seems to have lost quite a few of its members (only four or five, looks like) and their last release was all the way back in 2010 (Daisukki, selling just shy of 2250), but back in the day Tsunku seemed to be attempting to make a star out of the front girl of Canary Club, Ogawa Mana.

Ogawa Mana has released only one single (Suppin Rock) and one album (1 Teenage Blues) but she really has done a lot more as a solo artist. Probably her most notable thing was being the voice actress for anime, Gokujou!! Mecha Mote Iinchou as main character Kitagami Mimi. This lead to a number of singles released under MM Gakuen Gasshoubu (the first two) and Kitagami Mimi with MM Gakuen Gasshoubu. The single probably most known to H!P fans is the last, Oshare My Dream, as that’s the single that had the Sugaya Risako solo, Elegant Girl. The songs for Ogawa Mana’s releases are written by Tsunku and are often pretty good, compared to his current H!P stuff, so she’s definitely worth checking out.

Another notable release was as a promotion for the brand COCOLULU, so she was the main singer for the unit COCO CREW.

I had honestly thought that with her switch back to Spacecraft as opposed to TNX/NGP that the idol world had heard the last from Ogawa Mana, but this appearance at TIF might say otherwise! She’s a cute girl with a pretty solid voice and a great presence, so it will definitely be interesting to see where her career goes from here! I definitely recommend checking out some of Canary Club’s stuff (I personally prefer Sweet & Toughness and Hitomi ga Kirakirara) and her anime songs (I love Mecha Mote I Love You).


^Canary Club, Ogawa Mana’s up in front in yellow

Okite Porsche

At first when I looked Okite Porsche up I was very very confused. He’s not an idol act but a man, according to wikipedia vocalist to new wave band Roman Porsche, and a guy who’s done work in movies and anime, as well. However, after a bit of investigation, he’s behind retro group Vanilla Beans and also has some connection to indies era Perfume, as well as being a fan of Berryz Koubou, apparently.

I still don’t quite know why he’s listed as a participant in TIF, but perhaps he’ll be performing a role as DJ (something he has experience in) or even doing MCs.

Osaka Show Gangs

This is another group that has been around for a long time, but that has run under the radar! They’ve been around since 2006 and have remained pretty active since (having released a number of singles and a couple of albums). They currently have 10 members and, as their name implies, hail from Osaka. While I haven’t heard of them and finding much on them is a bit tricky, they seem pretty busy, at least according to their website. In fact, the more I find about them the more relevant they seem (since they’re appeared in indie events with groups I have heard of, BiS and Idol College. They also often wear modified yukata, as they have a theme of being like an energetic young woman at a festival. They label themselves as a dance and vocal unit, which is a label that tends to be used if they’re going for strong vocals and dance, and they deserve it. While the dance seems to be pretty decent, there are some really great vocalists among their rank, especially in their latest single, Poji Joshi Sengen, which is a REALLY good song. This actually may be one of my favorite songs of the new groups I’ve found. They have other good stuff (Osaka Wasshoi is very nice), but this song is great. The PV is much less so, but is pretty ambitious for such an indie group. Other than that, finding more is kind of hard, but they’re all energetic and with such good music they’re definitely a group to keep an eye out for.

Kaiketsu! Tropical Maru

Yet another group I didn’t know! Just a quick google search in English reveals that they’ve hit #4 on the indie charts once, but since #1 was AKBN0 I don’t know if that says that much. Called Kaitoro, they were formed in 2011 and are from the same company as AeLL, who is also coming to TIF (and I covered previously). They currently have 8 members who all have a specific “tropical fruit” and color with them (though, since one of them is strawberry, tropical is kind of used loosely here). They are also related to Tsunku in that it seems he had a hand in naming the group (and/or promoting them via Tsuntube). Their first live was only last November, and they have released two singles this year, Tropical Kiss and Here We Go!?. So they’re one of the relative newbies at TIF. So far, watching a couple of live videos on YouTube on their official channel, they appear to be pretty professional performers but the songs really don’t do much for me. Perhaps it’s since they came from the same company as AeLL, whose songs really didn’t do much for me? I do think the concept of having an image fruit is pretty cute, though, and the performances seem to be pretty strong for their relative inexperience. Still, while I’m not super impressed by their music yet, there’s really not that much from them yet, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do in a setting like TIF.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 3

A couple of things before I get started:

1. The TIF 2012 website just got updated! There’s a bit more information up, though not everything quite yet. However, it’s a lot more intuitive, with each act having a picture (or the promise of a picture), a short description and a link to their website.

2. Since some new acts were added recently I’m going to go in order of the TIF website, which means that a lot of the stuff I was planning on writing about will come later.

3. At the end of this series of posts, as an incentive for me to finish this year, I’m going to write a list of my recommended acts and go through the timetable, picking what I would go see.

Alice Juuban 

This is one of the most visually striking idol groups I’ve seen come from TIF! Where all the other idol groups are cute girls posing in one way or another, Alice Juuban are all wearing hockey masks and holding chainsaws. Their logo even has this! Self proclaimed Heavy Metal idol unit, this is a 10 member group (as indicated by their name!) that has a relatively older age range with the oldest member at 25 years old! They are all signed with Alice Project and are in other idol groups (i.e. two of the Alice Juuban girls are in another group, Prism, and all of the girls in another Alice Juuban group, Pureful, are in Alice Juuban as well) so it’s kind of the Alice Project supergroup.

Apparently they incorporate things like headbanging and even stage diving into their repertoire, so that makes the group pretty interesting. I have to admit, it takes a lot of guts to get your idol group to dive into a crowd of wota, so that’s pretty interesting. However, while I’m really enjoying their image and how they’re being marketed, the one thing that stands out as not being consistent is the music. The two songs I’ve listened to on their website, Skeleton Sky and Makenaide, are good songs and have metal elements to them such as heavy guitar and strong drum beats, but inherently feel really more like idol songs. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that you have a group like Babymetal that really throws themselves into metal music, especially with their song Ii Ne.

Still, they have a really good image and I’m not saying their image is bad; in fact, if you prefer your idols with a bit of rock a la Passpo you might want to give Alice Juuban a look. However, in my opinion their music doesn’t quite live up to the hockey masks and chainsaws they pose with.

SKE48

Since this is a group that needs very little introduction I’m going to be brief about that and instead focus on my thoughts about SKE48 participating with TIF. However, since not everyone is a fan of the 48 groups, I’ll give them some explanation.

SKE48 is the first ‘sister’ group to the massively popular AKB48. Formed in 2008, they have a pretty similar set up to AKB. They’re “local idols” who perform mostly at their theater in Nagoya at the Sunshine Sakae (SaKaE, SKE). They have their own singles aside from AKB48, though Matsui Jurina and Matsui Rena (SKE’s front girls, not related) participate in AKB singles and other members participate in various undergirls songs .

As for how SKE is different from AKB, they are definitely lesser known than AKB (though more well known than HKT48 or even NMB48). SKE48 has a reputation for having strong dancing and athletic members that make watching PVs really fun to watch, as the choreography is pretty top notch. At one point SKE had PVs featuring a lot of extras (300+ in 1 2 3 4 Yoroshiku and 1000+ in Banzai Venus, I believe) though that’s no longer the case. Still, SKE48 has very high quality PVs, as evidenced by the lovely Kataomoi Finally, and really  high quality dance performance. I hesitate saying this, but while I love AKB48, I think overall the performances of SKE48 are stronger.

That being said, while I love SKE48 and think they’re a great group of girls, I don’t want them to participate at TIF. SKE48 is at this point arguably the second most popular idol act in Japan right now (second to AKB48) and they’ve become a very established act of their own, rather than just having popularity due to AKB48. A look at my most recent coverage of the AKB48 senbatsu election shows a lot of popularity for SKE48 members, so SKE’s sales aren’t based off of a loyalty towards AKB48.

The reason I cover Tokyo Idol Festival on my blog is because I really love how it showcases indie and otherwise lesser known idol groups. Some bigger name groups are there, yes (this year Idoling!!! and Super Girls look to be the biggest names), but they’re nowhere near as big as SKE48. My biggest concern is that passionate SKE fans will buy up tickets to TIF, leaving fans of the other groups difficulty in finding tickets, and then the audiences for other groups would be much more sparse. This could be totally unfounded and wrong, but I have to worry. Still, I hope this isn’t the case and that SKE fits in with the rest of TIF!

Oh Campee

A group I covered last year and that I’m pretty familiar with! I admit I mainly know about them from their one original song/PV, Happy Happy Birthday, which is pretty outdated; it came out in January 2011. Since then members have left and others have joined. One of the things that made Oh Campee pretty noticeable is that one of their members was black, but she’s (sadly) left the group. My personal favorite member, a girl I just called “eyebrows” (she had really great eyebrows) left too, so I’m disappointed.

Right now they’re a 10 member idol group from Himawari Theatre Group formed in 2010. Their only song (as far as I know) is Happy Happy Birthday. They’re a pretty lesser known group; the only videos on YouTube, for example, are Happy Happy Birthday, a short few second clip and an excerpt of their performance at TIF 2011. That vid in particular is interesting, because they sound like they are singing live, which is pretty impressive, even though their song catalogue might not be so impressive. They’re cute, but have nothing that really makes them stand out as a group.

Gal Doll

This is a Shibuya (in Tokyo) based three member idol group based off the Gal subculture. I’m not going to explain everything about gal/gyaru subculture right now, because it would ultimately take a while and it’s also not my area of expertise. However, basically it’s centered around fashion and is often characterized by dyed hair, makeup and sometimes tans. It’s its own separate subculture, so it makes sense that such a subculture would have its own idol group!

Gal Doll is a three member group with three girls: Juno (the one in yellow), Ryoka (pink) and Nanaho (Blue). The first thing that’s immediately noticeable is that their main website is a mobile site, which really would focus on a younger demographic. Finding information on singles they’ve released is proving slightly difficult with their mobile site and regular site (so if you have info about Gal Doll please share!!),but I found they did perform at the Shibuya event “Campus Summit” which is an event organized by student clubs. This event releases a CD every year, so at the very least Gal Doll is on that. They have one PV out to their song Loco*Girl ~Agepo yo Summer~ which is actually a pretty catchy dance track with a para para dance shot. The PV itself is low budget (featuring a lot of bikini fan service!) but definitely not the worst PV I’ve seen.

While the Gal image is not necessarily my favorite for an idol, the members all seem cute, energetic and fun, and if you like para para/eurobeat type music check them out. They’re releasing a DVD in July that has their first solo live events on it. While the only PV I’ve been able to see is Loco*Girl ~Agepo yo Summer~ I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of their stuff. All three girls seem to be into what they’re doing, having fun, and that makes them really fun to watch.

KNU

KNU originally was KNU23 (another group riding the AKB wave) but, much like one of my favorite idol groups MMJ, they removed the numbers and are just referred to as KNU now. Which makes looking them up online  a bit trickier, but it shows they’re trying to brand themselves beyond being another AKB.

Interestingly enough I found this Kotaku article HERE that mentions KNU. Apparently those three letters stand for “kyonyuu” meaning large breasts (though I saw on another site that it stands for “Keep it Natural Under 23”, and according to the article all the girls in the group have a G cup size or higher in Japanese sizing (which is actually around two cup sizes smaller than the American size, so a D in Japan is closer to a B in the US, I believe). They have 12 members and have been around since 2010, and while they’ve only been around for a short while they already have 21 former members!! They only seem to have an Ameba site, even though last year they were able to release a single with three songs, I Show It, Pops and Koi no Joushiki. Something of note for Tsunku fans, they actually appeared on his show, Tsuntube. While I’m not a huge fan of Tsunku for various reasons, I do like how he’s been promoting lesser known idols.

They also appeared in a video for the show MelodiX, which is an introduction that features quite a bit of breast fanservice (the camera going across all the members who are squeezing their breasts together). Part of me felt really uncomfortable about this, but I also felt like in a way they weren’t hiding the fact that they were a fanservice unit, but in fact embracing it. Still, they are a fanservice unit that doesn’t carry the “star power” of Ebisu Muscats or the utter ridiculousness of Sexy All Sisters.

The performances I’ve seen seem pretty unpolished, but finding recent videos of them is pretty tough. Their songs are pretty standard but aren’t very catchy and aren’t very memorable.


Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 2

Usa Usa Shoujo Club

For this segment I received the help from the amazing Mage, who is known on various boards and things as Em-El. He wrote a lot of information for me, so I’m extremely grateful for his assistance!

Currently, the group is a 12 member group; unfortunately, by the time TIF 2012 happens the most popular member, Rikako, will have graduated. This is because the group has a middle school concept, and rather than let the concept slide since Rikako’s enterring high school, she has to graduate. She won the fan vote for most popular member and is thus numbered 1 in the group and is the group’s leader, so it’s a shame she won’t be able to participate in TIF this year.

A lot has happened with the group since last year; they released a single (featuring two of their original songs, including their signature song Number One), and three of their subunits became bigger. There’s Zipcode (which features Rikako), Chu Ni (which was formed to do the theme song for a fairly unknown anime, Varieteens) and Rhymeberry, which has its own separate billing at TIF. They also have four elementary school girls known as NEXT, presumably to join the group when members leave or to become new members eventually.

They have over 100 videos on their YouTube channel (UsaUsaHeaven) that are well worth checking out. They are still quite indie and performing at small venues, but the videos I’ve checked out show a fairly solid performance standard. They seem to not have that much popularity, but the fact they released a single and keep pushing the indie groups forward suggests that Usa Usa is looking to move forward as an idol group, which is definitely a good thing.


^A digest of one of their performances including part of possibly the most adorable performance of AKB48’s Heavy Rotation I’ve ever seen.

Rhymeberry is one of the subgroups of Usa Usa Shoujo Club, and they look to be doing fairly well on their own. They’ve recently begun doing solo live events, and judging by the twitter followers they might be on the way to becoming more well known than the original group (Usa Usa Shoujo Club has 531 followers and Rhymeberry has 1356). The thing that sets Rhymeberry apart is that they are a hip hop unit, featuring three MCs and one DJ.

Now I’m not an expert on hip hop, so I can’t tell you how this compares to that genre as a whole. But some idol songs have rapping in them and this rap really blows that out of the water. These girls have gotten good at what they do and are IMO the most interesting part of Usa Usa Shoujo Club by far. They have energetic stage presence an are really fun for me to watch, even though I don’t listen to much hip hop on my own. This kind of reminds me of Babymetal, the subgroup of Sakura Gakuin. I like Sakura Gakuin on its own, but Babymetal really has a unique character that sets them apart as a group. Rhymeberry is the Babymetal to Usa Usa Shoujo Club; the original group is fine, but Rhymeberry really shines.

^my favorite song of theirs, Hey Brother, which I’m pretending is an Arrested Development reference.

AeLL

Another group I haven’t covered! They are actually a relatively new group, just formed in 2011. The group contains four members, including gravure idol Shinozaki Ai. Pronounced “yell,” they are an environmentally themed idol group, with the letters in the group name standing for “Activity Eco Life with Love,” making them like a permanent Ecomoni (the Morning Musume subgroup that was environment themed). I think these types of groups are kind of interesting because of how much energy goes into idol performances, but everything helps, I suppose! It actually seems like AeLL goes out with people and cleans up outside, so it’s good they’re encouraging others to help cleaning up outdoors.

They’ve released four singles since formation (including the first one, titled Ecology Monkeys). Vocally they’re pleasant to listen to, and the songs all seem to be mid-tempo fairly plain idol songs. None of the things I’ve listened to really stand out as being excellent, but none of them are really bad, either. They performed at last year’s TIF (appropriate to the theme of Eco & Smile) They’re pretty decent live for idols. Chu Chu Hareru Yeah is probably my favorite song, but I don’t really find most of their music interesting, to me.

Sakura Gakuin

This is a group that I really enjoy, and they’ve done quite a lot since their appearance at last year’s Tokyo Idol Festival!

Sakura Gakuin is at its heart a school themed group that has a good deal of subgroups (that are various school “clubs”). Since last year’s TIF they have switched labels to Universal Music Japan, which is a pretty good step. They’ve released two singles, Verishuvi and Tabidachi no Hi ni, as well as the album “Sakura Gakuin 2011 Nendo ~FRIENDS~” There have also been some recent line-up changes; in March the three eldest members, Muto Ayami (who was one of the more prominent front girls in Sakura Gakuin and in Twinklestars), Miyoshi Ayaka and Matsui Airi graduated, and they added three more girls to keep up the 12 member count.

One of the most interesting things about Sakura Gakuin is all the subgroups. Actually, most of the two albums (Message and Friends) are songs from the subunits. There’s Scoopers, which is might be over because Miyoshi Ayaka was one of the two members, but it was the “newspaper club.” There’s the Cooking Club “Mini Patissier” and the “Go home  club” Sleepiece (that performs in pajamas). However, the two most notable subgroups have actually debuted and have released singles.

Twinklestars is the Baton twirling club and the first one to release a single (though Dear Mr. Socrates, their first, was only at events and on the official website). They also have another single, Please! Please! Please!. The songs all have a pretty distinctive style and are all quite excellent. Last year I posted Dear Mr. Socrates’ pretty interesting PV on here, and while Please Please Please is a little bit less interesting because there’s no old man staring at them through a telescope. However, this group is energetic and very fun, and Please Please Please has lots of cute jumping around. Muto Ayami was in this, however I really hope they perform at TIF because their baton twirling and dancing is great. 🙂

The other notable subgroup is Babymetal. Actually, I think Babymetal might be at the place where they’re more famous than Sakura Gakuin is, because they have a very interesting premise of mixing idol music and metal music to create something completely new. While I enjoy all of Sakura Gakuin’s music and I’m quite fond of Twinklestars, in my opinion Babymetal really shines. All three members commit to the premise, despite being quite young (Moa and Yui are only 12!) and their live performances are very energetic. They’ve released one single so far, Babymetal x Kiba of Akiba (a collab single with a metal band, featuring songs Ii ne an Kimi to Anime ga Mitai ~answer for animation with you~), as well as a DVD for their most famous song, Doki Doki Morning which was released as a digital single. They’re releasing a new single in July, Headbanger, so that should be pretty exciting and hopefully something performed at TIF.

All in all, while I think that Sakura Gakuin is a great group and more people should pay attention to them, that the real winners are Twinklestars and Babymetal, and I have a feeling that Babymetal is going to get a lot more attention in the future as more people discover the unique sound. Even still, while Sakura Gakuin isn’t super popular right now, I think they’re on their way to gaining fans and they are the type of group to look out for.

The Possible

Oh The Possible, you’re still around? For people who aren’t up on Hello!Project history, back when Hello!Project still was the biggest force in the idol world, Tsunku decided that Morning Musume/Hello!Project needed rivals, and that he also wanted to have groups with more control (since he just produces Hello!Project, and UFA manages). So under his own company TNX he created Nice Girl Project. The Possible started as being in Hello!Project, as all of the then six members came from H!P Eggs. They moved to TNX with the promise of Nice Girl Project being rivals with Hello! Project and even some things that didn’t happen, such as yearly Hello!Project Nice Girl Project collab concerts.

Well, we know who won in that rivalry; even though Morning Musume is at a fraction of its once popularity, Nice Girl Project never really took off. The Possible had some singles, Canary Club (a larger group with younger members) did OK before moving away from TNX, their own eggs/kenshuusei and some other minor things. Still, The Possible is probably the biggest success of Nice Girl Project.

While The Possible hasn’t released any singles since 2010, I was surprised to find out that they released a mini album in August of last year commemorating their six years as a group and that they released an album in March of this year. While neither sold very well, I didn’t know they had started releasing things again. I don’t know if they’re going to pick up activity back to their original level; I lost interest in the group after my favorite member, Ohse Kaede left. However, The Possible is an interesting group of idol history and it will be interesting to see how they do at Tokyo Idol Festival 2012!! I particularly recommend some of their older things like Ijiwaru Crazy Love and Love Message; they’re some really great songs, if you like Tsunku at his best.