Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Highlights

Last week I finished my profile of every act performing at this year’s Tokyo Idol Festival. 111 acts in all. This might be daunting for a lot of people, so I decided to make a list of the groups that I personally found to be the most memorable. These are the groups that I personally am following more now that TIF is over. Note that not every quality group at TIF is on this list; this is just the groups that stood out to me. This is also focusing on the lesser known groups; I’m taking it as a given that you might know Up Up Girls, Idoling!!!, Sakura Gakuin, Super Girls, etc. These are groups/idols you may not know. But you should know them. If you like the groups I mention here, they all have longer profiles I did of them!

KAGAJO☆4S

OK, Momoiro Clover Z, Team Syachihoko and Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku. These are the big three groups of Stardust promotions, and they’re starting to promote Takoyaki Rainbow up there too. But honestly, I adore everything about KAGAJO☆4S. If Stardust groups aren’t your thing, I ask you give KAGAJO☆4S a shot. For one thing, all the members have very listenable vocals. This might be the best Stardust group in terms of overall vocals (even if some individual vocalists are better). Another thing is that they’re a bit more subdued and less strange. Another is that they play their own instruments live, sometimes. That’s right, a Stardust group that performs their own instruments. While all the early Stardust groups feel very similar, KAGAJO☆4S is unique and a different group entirely. KAGAJO☆4S might not be popular and they haven’t done that much, but I have very high hopes for this group.

HR

Seriously, what is up with Fukuoka and idol groups? Whenever I hear that an idol group hails from Fukuoka, I know they’re amazing. HR is no exception. Their music is all pretty good, but their energy in performance is really where they stand out. Kimi ni Spark is a fantastic song, and, performance wise, HR is up there with some major groups. If you like your groups energetic, definitely check out HR.

Oomori Seiko

Oomori Seiko isn’t an idol. Not really. She’s more of a singer-songwriter. But she’s very talented, loves idols (her covers of H!P songs are some of my favorite things ever) and definitely deserves recognition.

Kawasaki Junjou Komachi

This is another regional group. Probably the biggest trend of this year were groups representing their home prefecture or city. Kawasaki Junjou Komachi does it well, though. They have an almost early Momoiro Clover feel in their embrace of traditional Japanese-inspired costumes and songs, and they do a great job of it. Kawasaki Junjou Ondo is one of my favorite songs of the year for that reason; it combines traditional sounds with modern idol music to make a very catchy song. I hope that KJK can start expanding as a group, because they are one of the top unknown local idol groups.

Dancing Dolls

Dancing Dolls honestly blew me away. First off, the fact they formed themselves and took initiative to form a group says a lot to me. Next, their three first singles, all covers/remixes, are excellent takes on their original song. Finally, these girls are all very talented. There’s a very high level of both vocal and dancing talent here, all while the girls themselves seem personable, fun and energetic. I can see Dancing Dolls getting big; they certainly deserve it. This is one of the best groups I profiled this year.

Tochiotome25

Do you want hyper energy with some catchy songs? If so, Tochiotome25 might be your group. They’re a local group to Tochigi prefecture, and while they might not be as talented as some groups they certainly make up for it in enthusiasm and spirit. Add to this some truly catchy songs (Ichigo Hakase and Gyoza Party, notably) and you have a really fun group to keep an eye on. I know I certainly will stay a fan of these girls.

Vanilla Beans

While I love the style and concept behind Vanilla Beans, their music has never quite grabbed me. That said, I generally pay attention to them in case they suddenly impress me. And that they did with Please Me Darling. I don’t know if it’s enough to make me go back and re-evaluate their previous efforts, but Please Me Darling is Vanilla Beans at its very best. Suddenly their style and concept and music go together and form a unique and lovely group. I’m very impressed by this song and PV and hope that Vanilla Beans’ next stuff is just as fantastic.

bump.y

When I first heard about bump.y being a group of aspiring actresses, I wondered what they had to offer an idol group. Then I watched their stuff. They have good music, a diverse bunch of members and lots of charisma. While I’ve been listening to Gotta Getcha since I wrote my initial profile, they have a fairly diverse body of work and an interesting member base. While I’m interested to see them grow into young actresses, they are a great, high quality group that deserve your attention.

Babyraids

Babyraids was a group I’d heard hyped up a ton, and yet they were able to live up to the hype. Formed by an idoling!!! member, this group does fun, rock-inspired music without being a “scary” rock-inspired group like BiS or Alice Juban. They’re a nice change of pace if you want some different music with your idols, but they still resemble standard idol groups. They have a lot of energy and a whole lot of potential, and I strongly hope to see more of them soon.

Bellring Shoujo Heart

I still haven’t looked as much into Bellring Shoujo Heart as I should. But the one thing that really sets them apart is the music. Their music, which is 60s inspired, is unlike any other idol music I’ve heard. And I love it.

Rhymeberry

I love Rhymeberry. While Lyrical School also does good idol hip hop, Rhymeberry takes the cake for me. All their songs are just so fun, yet show off how proficient the girls are at rapping. Sekaichuu ni I Love You is one of the most interesting and unique songs I’ve heard recently, because it mixes 20s-30s era jazz/swing with hip hop and adds an idol flavor to that. Rhymeberry is one of the two groups that I have to buy every single release they put out, because everything is so good. They are a fantastic group that needs more support!

RYUTist

That website, man. Seriously, though, these girls seem really adorable and fun, they perform some good music (including interesting cover songs). Oh yeah, and best idol website ever.

LinQ

OK, TIF didn’t get me into LinQ, it was my friend who loves them. Still, LinQ is good. They have really high quality music (see: my review of their first album), lots of great members (watching live LinQ performances is a treat) and they’re just a whole lot of fun. A lot of fun backed up by fantastic music. This group is a really high-quality idol group, and one you should definitely be following.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts Part 21

This is the last profile TIFriday (at least until next year!). After this I’ll be doing a review post, sharing my favorite acts from TIF. After that… I’ll do something else! Leave a comment if you have an idea of what I should do on Fridays from now on.

Love La Doll

First up in a series of two VERY similar names is Love La Doll! They actually made their performance debut at the 2012 Tokyo Idol Festival, so the 2013 one was an anniversary of sorts. The group was a three member group, and since their debut they’ve put out three singles (the latest being Seishun GIRLZ Saizensen!!!) and one album. I say “Was,” because this past year, two of the members (Kana and Lee) decided to withdraw from the group. Love La Doll is still active, but Aya is the only member. She hasn’t put out anything since the announcement, so the future of Love La Doll is kind of uncertain.

Other than this, one of the most noted aspects of Love La Doll is that they are choreographed by Aikawa Kozue, one of the most famous net dancers/idols. So if you’re a Kozue fan, you might want to check out the choreography she did for this group!

The girls seem to be a bit older than the really young idols I’ve gotten used to seeing in TIF, but they have very cutesy costumes. Their music, while not terribly memorable, kind of straddles the line between cute and electronic club music. Of all the songs I listened to (their three singles) their first most recent is by far their best. That said, it’s really not memorable, and nothing I would really listen to again.

Really, this group is hard to focus on, knowing that it’s now a solo act and the future is kind of hanging in the balance. The girls are cute, but again two of them are gone. I would mostly recommend this to Kozue fans to check out.

Lovely Doll

Their name reads “Ai Otome Doll” but it’s actually pronounced Lovely Doll. Their motto is “your doll any time” which sounds a bit weird, but I get it, they have to get their name in there somewhere. They’re also sister group to Doll Elements, so I guess Doll is the theme of these idol groups.

Lovely Doll was formed in 2011 and has six members. One of the members, the former leader of the group, is named Aisawa Mayu, but was previously known as Katono Mizuho, one of the 7th generation Kenkyuusei of AKB48. Another member in the group, Sano Yuriko, was part of the famed 8th generation of AKB48 that all failed as Kenkyuusei. So if you liked either of those KKS in AKB but were sad when they left, you’re in luck!

Lovely Doll has done pretty well for themselves; they’ve done four major solo shows, released one album and three singles (with one coming out soon). They’ve also been featured on idol producer Tsunku’s program Tsuntube, so you might recognize them from that. Their most recent single, ‘Paradise in the Summer,’ debuted at #10 on the Oricon Weekly charts. So they are doing very well indeed.

That said, I don’t find this group to be all that compelling. Watching two of their PVs, I don’t really care for much of their music, and there’s nothing that really draws me in. However, this is a group you might not know about and they are getting better, so you might want to check them out if you are interested in following idol trends and things.

RYUTist

This is another group whose goal it is to promote an area! This time it’s Niigata! This is a four member idol unit that was formed in 2011, and they seek to be a group that promotes Niigata.

Honestly, and this might be sad, but one of my favorite things about them already is just how easy this group is to discover. Their website has a list of all the songs they perform (originals AND covers), when they started, and even a list of lyrics. Their Youtube presence is stunning, with some full length concerts on there. Following RYUTist, despite their indie status, is a fairly easy task.

One thing that’s also remarkable is just how many songs are listed on their site. RYUTist has put out seven singles (which is still a feat) and they already have 39 original songs listed on their site (They also have setlists from lives. Seriously, whoever runs this website needs a pat on the back because they’re amazing).

One thing I’ve noticed, poring through this information, is that they don’t really perform standard idol songs. Looking at their covers, there’s no AKB48 or Morning Musume in sight. They’re performing stuff like Judy & Mary and even a song by Bon Jovi. Without even listening to their original stuff, I know this is a pretty unique group. Listening to their original music, it’s not QUITE as unusual/rock-inspired like I thought it would be, but I’m really finding myself drawn to this group. The music is pretty good, and all the girls are solid performers, from what it seems.

I know I talked a lot about their website. This is a good group besides that. But seriously, if you want to follow an indie group but the prospect of living abroad is too daunting, RYUTist might be your answer.

Lyrical School

This group was formed in 2010 as Tengal6. They were formed as an idol unit for Tenga. As in the, uh, adult toy manufacturer. Since then, they’ve changed their name to Lyrical School, to remove that implication. Which is understandable. They released a fair amount as Tengal6, but since their transition to Lyrical School they’ve put out three singles and one album.

This, like Rhymeberry, is a hip hop idol unit. Lyrical School tends to sound a bit more like standard hip hop and, with older members, sounds a bit more mature. I have a hard time comparing it to regular hip hop, as someone who doesn’t follow hip hop much at all, but it at least sounds more standard than Rhymeberry.

Honestly, it’s hard not to compare them to Rhymeberry. I prefer Rhymeberry as a whole, because I think they’re a bit more interesting and do unexpected things, musically. However, this isn’t saying Lyrical School is worse; just different. They’re doing some really quality music and seem to be an interesting group. If you want more hip hop in your idol groups, definitely look out for Lyrical School.

LinQ

Oh hey, I already did part of my work for me! A few weeks ago, I reviewed LinQ’s album “Love in Qushu ~LinQ Daiichi Gakusho~” for my Review Monday segment. Spoiler: I really enjoyed the album and I want to become a bigger LinQ fan.

LinQ is a group from Fukuoka, with 31 members. And yes, they often all perform in singles. The group is split up into two halves; Lady (girls over 18) and Qty (girls under 18), who have their own songs as b-sides and things (Sakura Kajitsu and Sakura Monogatari was a double A-side featuring Qty and Lady, respectively). Amano Natsu, the leader of the group, is in both Lady and Qty (and just happens to be my favorite). This might be a bit overwhelming at first, and I can’t tell you that I know even half the members, but LinQ is one of those bigger groups.

I am honestly really positive about this group. Their album was very excellent, and the music alone makes me want to pay attention to the group. I’ve since seen a couple of live recordings, and I was really amazed at how strong each and every member was. Even the girls off to the side and the back didn’t seem like they were phoning it in, which is always good.

LinQ might not be THE biggest idol group out there (in terms of popularity), but they’re getting pretty big. They have a lot of really great members and excellent music. You should be paying attention to LinQ.

Links

Links is a five member unit formed in 2012. Known as the Interactive Girls Unit, they have since put out two singles and one mini album.

The interactivity comes into play because they were (at least for a while) pretty active on Ustream. I can’t find any links on their official blog/site or on their wikipedia page, so I’m not sure if this is true anymore. However, they are pretty active on twitter and on their blog. This isn’t necessarily the most interactive group ever, but this is about all I can find.

Since their official website is just their Ameba blog, they aren’t the biggest group out there. However, they are doing their first solo live, which means something. I also enjoy their most recent single, which is definitely not bad.

I covered Links last year, and I’m just kind of disappointed that they haven’t gotten more interactive. For being an “interactive girls unit” they seem pretty average. That said, they’re not a bad group by any means; just not very remarkable. The one thing that could have made them more interesting is this interactive aspect and, from what I can tell, they aren’t doing much of that.

Linda Sansei

This is a five member unit made up of girls who, even though they were raised in Gunma and live in Japan, are from Brazil. Their goal is to be at the forefront of the “B-Pop” genre, and become world-class idols.

So far they’ve put out two singles, and I have to say they do sound interesting. Both feature a distinct electronic sound, but they also sound really unique, perhaps trying to get that Brazilian flavor in there. It’s pretty effective, and I really like both singles. Aiken Anthony, their latest single, is very catchy.

If you want something different in your idol group, Linda Sansei is a pretty good place to start. Their music is unique, and it’s interesting to have an idol group that’s not just the typical Japanese members. They are definitely worth checking out.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 20

Melody Lien

This is a unit produced by KOUTAPAI, who has written/arranged stuff for Idoling!!! and SDN48. Notably he arranged Idoling’s Don’t Think! Feel!! and wrote SDN48’s Min Min Min. So if you like those songs (which I do) it’s safe to assume there’s going to be some solid music.

Melody Lien was formed in August 2011. Since then they’ve had a successful (over 300 in attendance) one man live. While there are six members on the TIF picture there are only five member profiles,
so there must have been a fairly recent graduation. The thing that amazes me is that, for a fairly unknown group, they’ve already put out seven singles, their latest being “Sensei ni Rei.” So if one thing that frustrates you about indie groups is a lack of music, that shouldn’t be a problem with Melody Lien! The only notable issue is that while they’ve put out seven singles, their last one was in February, so it seems that the group has slowed down a bit.

Another notable fact about the group is that they have a regular live every Friday at a maid cafe. It’s only 1000 yen, so it’s a very cheap event. Then, after that event, for 500 yen you can go to a “tea party” event where there are games with the members, they do solo karaoke, etc. It sounds like a really fun event, and one that would allow an idol fan to get close to their idol.

As expected, the music is pretty good. It’s hard to tell because YouTube isn’t updated that much. This is the biggest shame; the girls are energetic and cute, they have some good ideas and good backing, but it feels like the group has lost a bit of traction. Hopefully they can gain it back, and Melody Lien can come back strong.

Momochi Minami

I have decided that if I ever become an idol, that I will declare Momochi Minami as my ultimate rival.

Momochi Minami is an idol who always wears an anime face mask. Previously I declared that Momochi Minami hangs out in the Uncanny Valley, which I stand by. Momochi is often kind of creepy.

She is an Anison (anime song) DJ and also is a part of the Bakusute Sotokanda Icchoume group. She also does a lot of live events, but hasn’t put out any singles of her own. So she’s not necessarily a solo idol.

Honestly, I’m more fascinated by Momochi Minami than anything. I think it’s hard to specifically be her fan, especially if you can’t go to her events, but it’s easy to be fascinated by her.

Yumemiru Adolescence

Yumemiru Adolescence is a five member idol group of girls who were models for the magazine Pichi Lemon. Their dream is to grow from models to actresses, so this is their “adolescence.” They perform once a month using song, dance, and I think acting as well.

So far they’ve put out two singles and a mini album, Nakimushi Sniper. They’re putting out a new mini album in November, so they’re still a fairly active unit!

It’s kind of interesting that Yumemiru Adolescence’s goal is acting; I suppose that’s true of bump.y as well, but it’s still unusual. I also suppose it’s a good thing, because these girls’ vocals are pretty weak. If you need strong vocals, this group may not be for you.

That said, Yumemiru Adolescence is a pretty standard idol group. That’s not a bad thing, but there aren’t any big gimmicks other than the whole actress thing. The members are all very pretty, though, and have a lot of energy, so if you want to support a pretty new idol group who have that going for them, then Yumemiru Adolescence may be for you.

Rhymeberry

Rhymeberry is one of my top five current idol groups. They are consistently excellent and you should be following them.

Rhymeberry consists of three MCs (Miri, Hime and Yuka) and one DJ (Hikaru), and they do idol hip hop. I found out about them at last year’s TIF, and since then they have continually impressed me. They were originally part of Usa Usa Shoujo Club, but now they’re their own idol hip hop unit, and have really set themselves apart from their original group. Last year I compared them to Babymetal, and I stand by that. Both Babymetal and Rhymeberry are doing an unusual genre for idol music, were originally a subgroup, and now have surpassed the original group in popularity and renown.

Rhymeberry has put out three singles so far, their latest being SUPERMCZTOKYO. While I buy their singles and enjoy them, watching the live performances makes the difference with Rhymeberry. The members sound better live, and have a lot of great energy while rapping on stage. They have started putting out PVs, though, and both of those have been superb.

Their sound is also really interesting, too. I didn’t go into Rhymeberry as a rap fan, but they’ve made me appreciate it. Sekaichuu ni I Love You, for example, features 1920s era music as the back for their rapping. The girls are all talented and every song is great.

I honestly can’t recommend Rhymeberry enough. They are one of the most interesting and consistently good groups out there, and you need to follow them.

Lucky Color’s

This is being posted after some bad news for Lucky Color’s fans; Alisa, the lead singer, just withdrew from the group. So this is now just a unit with two members, Kanon and Miina.

This is a local vocal dance unit from Okinawa, formed in 2010. There really aren’t that many units from Okinawa, at least that I know, so it’s always good to see more of them. Their theme is, you guessed it, lucky colors; each member wears her own lucky color (Kanon’s is blue and Miina’s is yellow-green).

So far they’ve put out one single in 2010 and a mini-album last year. So they aren’t the most active group in terms of putting out singles. However, they do have a number of live performances on Youtube.

Lucky Color’s is a group that has lost a lot of members (there were two other members who left earlier) and are in kind of a weird place right now. They mostly have live performances on Youtube, which are mostly street lives and the like. However, the fact they’re from Okinawa is a pretty cool thing, and they seem to be a pretty solid group in terms of performance and singing. So I hope the best for the two remaining members!


 

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 19

Nearing the end! I’m going to schedule something else when I’m done with these posts to go on Fridays. Maybe List Fridays. Because the internet loves lists.

Bellring Shoujo Heart

Ahh, Bellring Shoujo Heart. This is one of those groups I’ve heard about for quite some time, a group I know some people love, and one that has come highly recommended, but that I’ve hesitated on because they seem a little bit scary. This is not your standard idol group. The group has 7 members, and was formed in April 2012. Recently they put out their first album, Bedhead, and they’ve put out several singles. They often have fake crow wings on their sleeves as decoration; this is an art group along with being an idol group. They remind me a lot of groups like BiS in their aesthetic; they’re one of the more out there idol groups. Even though their outfits are kind of strange, as well, the girls themselves seem considerably less scary and weird than the comparable BiS.

That said, their music feels a bit different from their aesthetic. Instead of being rock/metal artists you may think from the way the group looks, they instead go for a more retro, 60s aesthetic with kind of a circus sound in there. The closest Jpop equivalent I can think of is the song Dekiru Onna by Morning Musume, though that’s not even really that much like Bellring. Their music also reminds me of the western band The Like, whose second album is very 60s inspired. That said, there’s no idol music quite like Bellring, so if you dislike generic idol pop then Bellring is a great option.

The only thing that makes me a bit hesitant is that the girls’ vocals aren’t THAT strong. They aren’t bad, by any means, but this is the type of music I wish I could hear with some really strong vocals. That said, the majority of what I could find on YouTube were concert performances, so I might want to check out Bed Head to see if I can hear this in higher quality than some concerts. The girls, from what I can tell, seem sweet and nice, though, and I generally like them.

I’m honestly regretting waiting so long to check out Bellring Shoujo Heart. Because this music is great.

Houkago Princess

Go read Okay! Musume Time. If you want someone to really sell you on HouPri, Chiima is your person. That said, I’ll try to give my brief take on them.

Houkago Princess translates to “afterschool princess.” That is basically, in a nutshell, the group. They’re a school-themed group, with nine full members and some trainees. The group was formed in August 2011, and has since had quite a bit of lineup changes and some quiet points in their history. One notable point was that a relative of Michishige Sayumi of Morning Musume joined as a trainee, so that is most likely bringing some recognition to the group.

They’ve put out a few singles so far, mostly things that are only sold at live events, but it looks like their latest single, (a redone version of their older single, Juliet ~Kimi wo Suki na 100 no Riyuu) had a bigger release and managed to get to 17th on the Oricon weekly chart, which isn’t bad at all.

The thing about HouPri is that they are kind of a very typical unit. They use both the school motif and the dress up thing, so they can use both uniforms and fancier outfits. Their music isn’t revolutionary, either, and is pretty typical cute music. That said, I can really see this being an appealing unit if you really want a girly, cute, typically idol unit. So many units are trying to do different things with idol music, which is great for me, but if you don’t like that kind of movement then HouPri might be the group you need.

Manaminorisa

Manaminorisa is one of the most clever idol group names I’ve encountered. There are three girls in the group; Manami, Minori and Risa, whose names all connect to be Manaminorisa. (Though this does put pressure on Minori; she can’t leave because Manami and Risa can’t form a name together). These girls were formed in 2007 at the Hiroshima Actors’ School, which is where Perfume originated. The girls are a bit older, in their early 20s, which could be a draw. In 2011 they won the UMU Award, which is an award that looks at local idols. Not only did they win their local region, but they took home the grand prize, which is a big achievement.

The group has put out several singles, but recently made their major debut this summer, with their single Blister. While this may not sound super appealing, my friend pointed out it was probably in relation to the blisters they get while working towards their dream. Which sounds much more palatable. There really isn’t a gimmick or anything that unique to Manaminorisa; their music is slightly rock inspired pop (only slightly) and they still have pretty simple/plain PVs. However, the girls seem to be talented at singing and dancing, and there is a general level of polish to them as a group. I recommend listening/watching Polaris to hear some of their vocal strength. If you are annoyed by the whole idol ideal of unpolished performers, you should check out Manaminorisa. They seem like a group to keep an eye on, if only for their background at this point.

Maria

This is a very new group, formed in February 2013. They’re a rock unit that makes a big deal about wearing sunglasses and carrying school bags (at least their TIF description mentioned it). Their goal is to be the strongest idol unit in this idol era, and make a note that they have regular lessons and tests. So they’re aiming to be a top group in this idol boom. There are only five member profiles on the site, but more members than that in pictures, so I’m not quite sure on how big this group is. They are still accepting auditions, and the girls have to be 9-14 years old, so this is a pretty young unit.

Looking at their website, it’s pretty apparent that this group is just getting started and working things out. The “Discography” page is under construction, despite already having a PV out. Still, the fact they have a PV at all (even if it is just a filmed live show) says something. Their first self-titled song is pretty good; it’s pretty light rock that features a lot of other sounds, but it’s definitely solid. The vocals are still pretty rough, but the song itself is nice.

This is a really young group that is nowhere near polished. If you like the idea of following a group with younger members that are just starting out, and you think they’re cute, maybe give them a try.

Minitia Bears

Oh hey, a Stardust group! Minitia Bears is another group from Stardust Promotion, along with Momoiro Clover, Team Syachihoko, and Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku. Minitia Bears is a cheerleading themed unit that performs at Stardust lives and does stuff, but has really young girls in the group and hasn’t put out singles. Generally it’s not really as big a group as the other main Stardust ones.

Since Stardust is putting out Takoyaki Rainbow, I really doubt that Minitia Bears is going to be a permanent/big unit. However, if you want to see adorable kids being adorable, you could do much worse than Minitia Bears.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 18

Happy TIFriday! I’m working on this on vacation. So you’re welcome, however many people read this?

Fudanjuku

Fudanjuku is a pretty niche group. Not as a bad thing, but they’re basically a great group if you want your female idols to dress up like guys and perform like that. If that doesn’t interest you in the least, I doubt you’ll be a big Fudanjuku fan. If you love that idea, there’s a pretty good chance you may enjoy Fudanjuku.

Fudanjuku actually started as a regular idol unit, Nakano Fujoshi Sisters, back in 2006. Fudanjuku was created as the “male” counterpart to the feminine Nakano Fujoshi Sisters. However, since then they’ve really run with the Fudanjuku side, and Nakano Fujo Sisters (as it’s now called) has gone on hiatus. Still, this is a pretty prominent part of their history as a group.

Currently Fudanjuku has put out 11 singles and 3 albums, some of these as “collaborations” with Nakano Fujo Sisters. Currently the group has 8 members, all with image colors and male names. They generally do fine with sales (often reaching just under #10 on the oricon weekly charts) but they aren’t quite a super popular group. However, I’d say this stems from them being much more of a niche act. Very specific people might love Fudanjuku, but the very concept could turn people away.

That said, if this thought interests you you really ought to check them out. Personally, even though I find the concept intriguing, I have yet to become a big Fudanjuku fan. Maybe it’s because I tend to gravitate towards feminine idols, perhaps I just haven’t really gelled with the music, For whatever reason, they aren’t my thing. However, they have improved a ton in production values and presence since I first became aware of them in 2009, and if it sounds like they might be your thing you should definitely pay attention.

Blue Chee’s

A little history lesson for you guys; back in the late 90s Akimoto Yasushi decided to create an idol group after hitting success with Onyanko Club. This group was called Checkicco, and they did decently, but they were disbanded because their sales paled in comparison to Morning Musume. At this time, a band was formed with some of the members called Chee’s. It was more of a band than anything, with members playing instruments while singing. The band was disbanded. Blue Chee’s is the group, ten years later, formed by the original members. Even though they’re older and one is a mom, they have started to play as a band again. Their first reunion live was in December 2010, and since they’ve released a few singles and recently put out their first full-length album as Blue Chee’s.

They’ve since performed at TIF and at Naka Kon in Kansas. However, despite their history and despite performing internationally, there is really not that much about them on YouTube. There are a few filmed performances from Naka Kon and a song that was put on YouTube, ‘Ramen Tabetai na.” This is a shame, because I REALLY like Ramen Tabetai na and I’m very intrigued by the group. Something about women who are coming back 10 years after disbandment is really appealing and great.

So ultimately, it might be a bit hard to become a fan of Blue Chee’s right now. However, given their history, I have high hopes that Blue Chee’s will go somewhere and gain some success, which will inevitably make things easier for international fans. So while I can’t really say I’m a fan YET, I will say I’m intrigued and hope that Blue Chee’s continues on!

Fruity

If you like the fact that Juice=Juice chooses to have image fruits over image colors, Fruity has got you covered! They’re a ten member idol group that hails from Hokkaidou; I don’t see too many idol groups from Hokkaidou, so it’s nice to see them here. They were formed in 2011, and have been really active in their native Hokkaidou as well as putting out CD releases; they’ve put out 11 singles and two albums! So they’re a very active idol group.

There is another big interesting system with Fruity, and that’s the voting system. They have an election over the course of several months, where fans can vote for their favorite members though various things (being a member of the fan club, people who purchase CDs, people who buy goods, people who go to live events, etc.) and gain many votes. Then they rank the members through this. This seems a bit cruel to me, considering every single member gets ranked, which means that girls like poor Mizuki, who has been last place 5/8 times, know how unpopular they are.

Unfortunately, this is another group where finding information about them is a bit tricky. I can’t seem to find any PVs, and most of the videos seem to be fan cam recordings of events they did. So this seems like a type of group that would be amazing if you’re in Hokkaidou, but is a lot more difficult to watch from a distance.

They seem like a fine group, and one I would care about if I was in Sapporo. They are cute and have a good energy, and I like some of the songs I’ve heard. Unfortunately, following them from a distance is a lot of work.

predia

Predia the name refers to essentially “a rough, unpolished diamond” (hence pre meaning before and dia for diamond). After watching some Predia stuff, this feels like a fairly accurate name. Formed in 2010, this is an 11 member idol group that has a lot more of a sexy, adult vibe than most of the idol groups at TIF. So far they’ve put out five singles, an album and a mini-album, but watching a performance for their latest single, “Hey Now,” they still feel like they’re much less polished than, say, KPop groups that go for a similar image or even the Jpop groups that do this similar thing.

Watching PVs, they seem a lot more polished there, but that’s not really a big surprise. Still, for being an unpolished group, their PVs are pretty solid and they have some decent music, mostly focusing on electronic, dance-focused music (though they themselves aren’t dance focused). Their 4th single, Crazy Cat’s opening reminds me of Morning Musume’s song Wolf Boy, and in general they give off strong Girls Generation vibes.

That said, if you really like that more mature feel but you kind of wish you could view that group from the start, then predia might be a decent choice for you. They have a fairly decent presence on Youtube, including videos from the girls and PVs, so following them isn’t going to be too difficult. Personally, if I want a cool group, I tend to prefer more polished acts, at least more polished than this, but predia has some good music, decent PVs, and if you prefer a more mature image to your idols they certainly wouldn’t be the worst choice.

BabyRaids

This is another group with an interesting origin! Babyraids is a five member group that was formed in 2012 by Idoling!!! member Kikuchi Ami, who isn’t in the group but is kind of the producer/mentor of the group. The name of the group stems from the fact that they’re trying to “raid” the idol industry, since the idol industry is so competitive right now. They aim to perform at the Budokan within two years of their debut, which is a pretty big goal.

So far they’ve put out five singles, the latest being Konomi no Ue de wa December. They definitely have a rock influence to their music and to their appearance; these aren’t cutesy idols. However, they never seem to go as far as being like BiS or Alice Juban; they aren’t serious or scary. In this way, I think I could really enjoy Babyraids. I like rock music a lot, but I don’t particularly gel with the image of Alice Project groups or BiS. This feels like a nice middle-ground group for people who want their idols with a bit of a rock edge, but don’t want to go too far with that. Their music also sounds like real rock, not just pop with guitars. So if you enjoy rock music, you might like Babyraids.

While it’s the first single, I very much enjoy the self-titled single “Babyraids.” The girls are all energetic and seem to be enjoying themselves, and the song is catchy and fun. I think that Babyraids is going places; they’re already making a name for themselves as a group, and I’m very impressed by the quality level of this group. I’m convinced and I’m a fan now, and you guys should absolutely check them out.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 17

It’s Friday! You know what that means? TIFriday!

bump.y

This name makes me laugh so much. Formed in 2009, bump.y is a five girl unit focusing on both acting and singing; so they’re trying to be both actresses and idol singers. They’ve done so with a net drama also called bump.y, and, from a quick search online, it appears that all the members have been fairly active as actresses. So good job! Oricon wise, bump.y doesn’t sell all that well ( their highest weekly oricon position was 23), but if their goal is to be active singers AND actresses, it appears they’re on a good start. Their 7th single, Savage Heaven, came out this July.

Personally, I don’t follow many J-dramas or movies, so I’m just going to evaluate what I think of bump.y from what I know and the idol portion. However, I do think that promoting them in both spheres is a really smart idea, and I hope it works out for them well. Dramas and TV appearances are great promotions for a group, and having a good group could lead to more opportunities. So it’s a smart move.

When I first saw the PV to Savage Heaven, I thought this would be a completely cool group. Then I saw some of their other stuff and realized that this was just the case for this song. Honestly, I know this gets thrown around a lot, but they give me some KPop vibes, even in their stuff that could be cuter/more fun. This isn’t a bad thing, by any means, but this is what I first thought of. Initially I was lukewarm to Savage Heaven and their next latest single, Cosmos no Hitomi, but they’ve grown on me. I immediately enjoyed Gotta Getcha, and now I think I’m becoming a fan of this group.

If you follow dramas, I’d say you have to follow them right away. However, if you aren’t a big drama fan, like me, I’d suggest checking out Savage Heaven, Cosmo no Hitomi and Gotta Getcha. They’re three different songs, but it shows the range of bump.y. Even though it took me until Gotta Getcha to really get into Bump.y, I really have started to enjoy this group.

BiS

How do I even attempt to write something about BiS? I think they’re really a love it or hate it group. BiS stands for Brand New Idol Society, and currently has five members. Created by the leader of the group, Pour Lui, when she stopped her solo activities, they’re currently signed to Avex. And really, I’d consider them to be anti-idols. Not in a bad way mind you; from what I understand, most of the members love idol acts and respect them a lot. But I mean that in the sense of their profile picture, where they’re making faces. The first thing that grabbed people’s attention about BiS was their first PV, My IXXX, where they run around the woods seemingly naked.

This feels like a really good setup to BiS; not that they’re nude all the time, but that they do what other idols don’t. They have set themselves up as almost the opposite of the standard idol, the antithesis to the big, popular groups. They revel in strangeness, nude PVs, violence and rock music. Not just pop-rock that most rock idols are, heavier metal/rock. Perhaps the most telling thing is their latest album (and first one under Avex): Idol is Dead. They are taking the elements that are standard idol and turning them on their head. They don’t care if you’re uncomfortable.

Even though I wrote all that, I really have trouble following BiS. The music doesn’t appeal to me very much, and it feels less like an organized statement at points as a collection of weird/dark things. Their image doesn’t appeal to me all that much. When I told my friend I had no idea how to start talking about BiS, her one response was “scary.” And they are; there’s a reason they were the ones to kidnap Pinky in Dempagumi.inc’s W.W.D II PV. Honestly, I do think that taking a critical look at the idol industry is a good thing, and it’s interesting to do. For that, I think BiS is doing interesting things. However, their image and sound just doesn’t appeal to me very much. So while BiS may be a group I am interested in, it’s not a group I like as an idol group.

Really, the only thing I can do is say that you should try them out. I can’t say how many of you will actually like BiS, but it’s certainly an experience.

Be Flourish

Be Flourish is a very new group; they made their live debut in April and their single debut in May. Described as a “fresh dance vocal unit,” this three-member unit was formed with the goal to make Japan energetic. Which is I swear the goal for half of the groups at TIF. But I digress.

So far Be Flourish has only released one single, but their second one is coming out at the end of October. So if you’ve ever wanted to start following a new group at the start, it looks like this might be a group to follow. They don’t have many followers on twitter or Youtube views, so they’re really at the start of their career. That said, there isn’t that much of them out there, so that might be a concern.

The biggest thing that interests me is the live clip of Be Brave, the first track off their self-titled first single. They’re performing in front of a live band. I’m not sure if this will be a continuing thing, but it’s a nice touch that sets these girls apart.

I like them. It’s hard to know how successful or how far an idol group will go, but this seems like a nice group. They have nice vocals, and while their dance isn’t the greatest yet they definitely have room to grow. One of the songs off their first single is a cover of the song Pre-Parade which was the opening to the anime Toradora, which I really enjoy, and they do it well. I’m going to keep an eye on these girls.

PPP! PiXiON!

Another funny name! PPP! PiXiON was formed in December 2012 with six members. Their theme is that they’re like a theme park; the members are performers, the staff are the cast, the fans are guests and the lives are called attractions. They aim to get the excitement of a theme park in their live shows. This is not the easiest gimmick, but it’s definitely a cute one.

So far the group’s released two singles, the latest being Geki Splash. Really, listening to their songs, it’s not quite energetic enough to sound like a theme park. Nor is it the kind of music you’d hear walking around at Disney World. Instead, it’s mid tempo, not very memorable idol pop. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not really the best written idol music out there. Geki Splash, for example, has a lot of pauses and lulls in the music. The only song I’ve heard that really sounds like it should fit in with their theme is Hatsukoi Merry go Round, which is probably their best song.

It’s a new group, so it’s hard to be sure how good they are. And honestly, the theme and music aren’t very compelling so far. That said, the girls are cute, and pretty fun, so if that’s all you’re looking for you might want to watch PPP! PiXiON. I’m not writing them off yet, but they’ve got a ways to go.

Hime Carat

Part band, part idol group, Hime Carat kind of walks the line between both. Formed in 2012 as a band, they added a member and became somewhat an idol unit. So they perform without instruments a lot, but they also play the instruments? Not sure. They had five members but lost one to scandal. So far they’ve put out one single, already as a major debut, which is ‘51%platonic.” They’re putting out their second single in November.

Honestly, the fact they focus on being idols is kind of disappointing. IF they had been idolly in every way except still performing instruments, I would really like that. Instead, they dance and sing for a lot of their performances. That said, I like the idea of a part-idol part-band group; I just wish they focused more on the band side. Disappointing.

That said, 51%Platonic is a pretty good song, and these girls seem to be doing alright, with the major debut. While I am a bit disappointed, I’m interested in what the future holds for Hime Carat.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 16

Happy (slightly late) TIFriday!

Vanilla Beans

Pretty sure I said this last year, but Vanilla Beans is kind of the epitome of the act I feel I should be a fan of but I just don’t follow. They’re a two member idol unit that are self-described as a “next generation” idol unit; however, their style is stylized and retro-feeling. Formed in 2007, they’ve since released three albums, ten singles, plenty of download-exclusive songs, a mini album, a best of album, and even collaborated with Tokyo Girls’ Style. The first time I became aware of Vanilla Beans was watching Music Japan’s female idol special in 2010, and since they’ve kept up a pretty steady stream of stuff.

The best way I’d describe Vanilla Beans is as a niche idol unit. They aren’t necessarily the most popular idol unit, but I don’t think that’s what they’re going for. Instead, they have a unique style that I don’t think I’ve seen in other idol groups. I’d imagine if you’re a huge Vanilla Beans fan, you love Vanilla Beans and they fill something that no other idol group can really fill.

Personally, while I really like their visual style, I’ve yet to have one of their songs grab me. It’s the type of song where I recognize why others might enjoy it, but they’re not a group I feel very compelled to visit more than once a year for my TIF posts. Still, I feel like Vanilla Beans is a group you have to experience to decide on if you’re going to follow them or not. If I was to hazard a guess, I’d guess that the majority of you aren’t going to be diehard Vanilla Beans fans. However, one or two of you might find them very compelling.

Barbee

An act I’m not so familiar with! However, they did perform at last year’s TIF. From what I can see from the limited information about them, they’re a four member unit (though recent performances feature five members, so maybe they didn’t update their picture?) with an average age of 18 (so not a really young unit). The earliest I can see from them is 2012. They’ve so far been on a compilation album, an anime song album, and have released one single, Wonderland. So this is another group that might be a tough one to follow. I think they are from the same company as Usa Usa Shoujo Club or they have some relation, because Barbee shows up on the same channel as them a lot on YouTube. Or they just perform together a lot. I’m not entirely sure.

The point is, this is a really difficult act to find much on if you’re not in Japan and you’re not able to go to their live events. Your interaction is mainly going to be watching performances on YouTube. There’s nothing wrong with that; that’s how I follow rev.from DVL. However, this is the type of thing you’re going to have to live with, so you should probably be really into the group.

As for Barbee, I really like Wonderland and they seem like solid performers. There’s nothing with the group that immediately compels me to follow them, but I like them well enough.

palet

Remember last post in which I talked about Passpo? Guess who’s the little sister group?

Palet is a now-six member idol unit formed of girls who failed in the audition to join Passpo. The unit was formed in 2012 and originally had seven members, but one graduated this March. One of the things that I think is very interesting is that Palet is very album-based. They’ve put out two albums so far and have another one scheduled. This is all before their major debut single, which comes out in November. So even though each album only had seven songs, they have a decent amount of music for a group that hasn’t put out a single yet.

Another thing to note is that Palet, while a sister group to Passpo, is not a big rock-focused group. Instead, they really seem to be more of a standard idol group, with every member having an image color and all of them doing more pop-y songs. They also don’t have the airline gimmick going on. So if those are the reasons that you like Passpo, Palet might not be your cup of tea.

That said, they seem like a very solid group; the members are all cute and this seems like a good group to follow. If you are into this formula of a pretty standard idol group, you should definitely check them out. I don’t know if I’ll become a huge Palet fan, but I really like them so far.

Power Spot

Power Spot is another Spiral Music group, the company behind Negaigoto and Takokusekigun. It’s a six member unit with girls between 16 and 21 that has so far put out five singles, the latest being Sweet Darling. Their name references their goal, which is to give power to their fans. Pretty typical idol goal, but it’s cute nonetheless. While I wouldn’t classify them as a rock unit, they do have a bit of power to their songs, I’ve noticed, which has further justified their name. The group was formed in 2011 but put out their debut single in 2012.

Watching some of their PVs, they seem like a group that has a really nice energy. Nothing about them is really revolutionary or stands out, but the girls themselves really seem like they’re having fun. They’re a happy bunch, and their PVs are very pleasant. Not necessarily the most interesting, mind you, but they’re cute and fun. If you have room for another pretty standard idol group in your life, you could do much worse than Power Spot.

Band Ja Nai mon!

Band Ja Nai Mon! is an idol group that was formed in 2012. Initially it was two girls, Misako and Kacchan, whose thing was playing drums on stage. However, this year they added 3 girls to the group making it a three member group. So far they’ve put out two singles and one mini-album.

While having two girls play drums is kind of a gimmick, the thing that stands out is just how interesting their music is. They have a definite rock influence, but some of the music I’ve heard feels very indie/alternative. Some of it feels really idol-y, too. However, it’s generally unique music. These girls don’t just play the drums a little; the music feels influenced by this. Which is good.

I really like these girls. If music is something you care about with idols, you should check them out. Not saying you’ll like it, necessarily, but it’s just interesting music. The vocals aren’t the greatest ever, and not everything is perfect, but it’s just interesting. Which I find to be better than perfect, personally.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts Part 15

Happy TIFriday!

Negaigoto 

Negaigoto is a seven member idol unit formed in 2011 to specifically perform in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Since their name means ‘wish,’ their goal is to grant their fans’ wishes. Which is a pretty cute concept. Since their formation they’ve put out four singles (the latest being 12345678) and one album. In addition, if their website is any indication, they perform a lot, so they’re a very active group if you are in Japan looking for idol performances. They have a bit of rock influence in their music, though I’d strongly hesitate to call them rock idols. Yes Haruna rocks an undercut hairstyle, but this is very much rock-lite.

That said, they seem like a pretty typical idol group, all things considered. They stick to their image colors and sing generally happy idol songs but with an occasional rock edge. The one thing that makes them stand out to me is that they seem to be more live oriented idols. The girls aren’t immediately interesting in the PVs I’ve seen, but they really get a lot more interesting live. Perhaps that’s because they perform live so much, but if you like live idols you may want to give Negaigoto a shot. Otherwise, they’re a cute, if not very original idol group.

Negicco

Negicco’s one of the idol groups that has been around for quite some time (they were formed in 2003) but really got big during the idol boom. This is a three member idol unit from Niigata prefecture, originally formed to promote negi, green onions. However, in the past few years the group has grown in popularity and are now with T-Palatte Records. Their most recent single is Idol Bakari Kikanaide, but they’re putting out a new one, Tokimeki no Headliner, this November. As far as I know they haven’t generally sold that well, so they’re not quite a top group, but they’ve become a fairly well known group in the idol world.

One of the side effects of larger groups becoming a focus like AKB (and Morning Musume, too) is that it seems that more and more larger groups are becoming standard. Really, I’d say most groups have at least five members. So it’s almost a novelty that Negicco is a three-member group. At first, their music isn’t immediately catchy. I listened to a few of their songs, and there’s nothing that immediately made me love it or get it stuck in my head straight away. However, I really like their PVs, and Idol Bakari Kikanaide has grown on me a lot. A lot of the recent stuff I’ve seen has given me Vanilla Beans vibes, except being a tiny bit more fun.

So if you want something different, musically and visually with your idols, but don’t want to go so far as to leave the pop music genre, Negicco is a good option. While I didn’t initially find them all that appealing, they’re growing on me. Perhaps, like spring onions? (OK I had to throw that in there).

hy4_4yh

This is a group I’ve known of for some time, but for the life of me I can’t remember how to pronounce their name. It’s the least comprehensible idol name out there. Apparently it’s pronounced “hyper yoyo.” Yeah, still don’t get it. hy4_4yh is an alternative idol unit, and they claim to be the original one. Since hy4_4yh was formed in 2005, it is ahead of the Babymetal, BiS and Alice Juban groups in that regard. Their other goal is to spread “YAVAY” across the world, which apparently means Yabai (bad). The reaction to their name and Yavay is that I don’t personally get it, but whatever they say. I do like the idea of alternative idols, though, and the fact that they’re trying to make more interesting idol music is a very good thing, in my opinion. So even with their quirks as a group I’m still interested to see what this group is like. Their emphasis is on cool, rather than cute.

As a group they’ve put out five albums and sixteen singles, their latest being Hanabeat (Hanabiito, a pun on the word hanabi meaning fireworks). When I put up Hanabiito, I knew there were two options for how the song went; it could either be really tame and a disappointment to the legacy from their name and YAVAY, or it could be just completely bonkers. And it’s kind of both. The song is trying to be strange, but it’s not doing it as well as it could be. Maybe I’m spoiled, being a fan of Hyadain and groups like dempagumi.inc, but this feels like what someone does when they’re trying to be completely bonkers and not doing that well. Their single before it, Tikkee Daisakusen ~YAVAY~ is better, though.

Maybe Hanabiito is just a misstep, because the more I watch this last single the more I like it. However, despite this song, they just feel like they’re trying a bit too hard to be kooky without having a strong foundation in music and performance. I’m going to give them a chance, but I’m a bit wary.

Bakusute Sotokanda Icchome

In 2011, Hello!Project producer decided he wasn’t busy enough with H!P and TNX and decided to try and get into the AKB market, by opening up an idol training cafe with the guy behind Afilia Saga. It’s essentially a maid cafe, but the “audience is the producer” is the gimmick, with the fans actively supporting their favorites. Last year they formed the idol group from the cafe. So far they’ve done two indies singles and two major singles, with their third coming out this November. The group has a lot of members, but there’s a smaller group that is the main group for the singles. Personally, I prefer the indies to the major debut singles. “Produce” and “Yoropiku Pikuyoro” are a lot more memorable tha nwhat they’ve done for their major label stuff, and I hope they go back to the fun and the energy of their indies soon.

That said, while it’s easy to pick on this for being an AKB ripoff, I know that if I was in Japan I would be all over it. It’s a gimmick, sure, but a fun one; the mix of a maid cafe and an idol theater/group is very appealing, and the whole “you can be the producer” gimmick is one I know I’d get behind. This also promises pretty close access to your idols, which is another thing I think sounds like it could be fun. So really, being a fan of this group is just going to be not as good as if you were in Japan. However, if you’re a Tsunku fan or if you could get past this, you might want to check Bakusute out.

The one reason I continue to follow this group is AD Nagisa. AD Nagisa is one of the girls in the group, and she’s pretty instantly recognizable because she doesn’t look like a typical idol. She’s larger, she wears glasses, and doesn’t have the typical looks associated with idols. However, she got in the group because she loves idols a lot. I’m very interested in following girls who don’t fit the typical idol mold, so I’m excited to see more of her!

Passpo

If you follow idols beyond the 48 groups and Hello!Project, there’s a good chance you know about Passpo. Formed in 2009, Passpo is a nine member idol unit with an airline theme; they dress up like flight attendants. However, beyond this transportation gimmick, they also are rock idols, who perform rock inspired music. This isn’t just rock-lite inspired idol pop, either; there’s a genuine rock sensibility to the music, which is refreshing as an idol fan.

Ultimately, recommending Passpo is hard, because they’re so well known. I feel like if you’re a fan, you don’t have to be convinced, and if you don’t care about them you’ve still probably given them a chance. However, if you’ve ever been following idols but wished their music was less pop-y, then you really ought to be following Passpo. They’re a really high-quality group that should appeal to you, if you like the types of stuff they do.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 14

Happy TIFriday!

Naaboudoufu @ Nana

Oh hey, Chiima covered Nana! Everybody go read Chiima’s post. Nana might be familiar to some Hello!Project fans because she was the opening act at last summer’s Hello!Project concert. And no, she isn’t a Hello!Project idol. Nana was discovered because she posted dance covers on Nico Nico Douga. She’s a big Hello!Project fan, so that’s part of how she got discovered by H!P. Her first single, Kunekune Bravo was actually written by Tsunku, but she’s put out one more single, Magical Lip Kiss since then. One of the things she’s known for is being flexible.

I really love the idea of idols doing dance covers before they became idols. Mirin and Pinky of Dempagumi.inc were both net idols before becoming pro idols. There’s just something really appealing to me of idols who are fans of other idols, or like other idols. So right off the bat, I’m happy she’s doing well.

That said, she doesn’t have the best voice. Both singles are clearly autotuned and she’s still not sounding very good. Vocal skills aren’t all that important for idols, especially in groups. However, not sounding very good is a lot harder when you’re a solo act, and that’s what Nana is. I wish the PVs showed off a bit more of her dancing, since that was her original thing, or even some stretching to show off her flexibility. This would make her stand out a lot more.

Still, Nana’s cute and I’m happy for her; this must be a dream come true for an idol fan. I can’t say I’m won over, but she’s definitely interesting.

Nice Girl Trainee

Sometimes I sit and think “You know, I wonder what’s going on with the girls in Nice Girls Project? And then I think about the Nice Girl Trainees and get a little sad. Nice Girl Project is the TNX idol project created by Tsunku as an official rival to Hello!Project back when H!P was still the dominant idol collective (remember that time that is now long gone?). It contains The Possible… and not much else anymore, after Canary Club and Ogawa Mana left. Though The Possible have been making an incredibly unlikely comeback of sorts, I still feel for the trainees of the project that keep shuffling in and out. How much do they have to do, anyways? Is there any hope that anything will come of being a trainee in a close to inactive idol collective?

However, I’ve seen the trainees appear solo more and more, and they’ve started to do their own solo lives (at small venues of course). So I think they’re trying to do the whole small, indie idol thing. Still, these girls are officially trainees and haven’t made an official debut, yet, so it remains to be seen whether they’ll be an actual idol unit or just doing small performances until they fade into obscurity. So… yeah. None of the girls really pop out to me, personally, and I find it hard to start following them, given the circumstances. However, if you really love The Possible you might be interested in them.

9Nine

9Nine is one of those groups that should make you reconsider naming your idol group after the number of members. The group originally had nine members, but, after some graduations, auditions, and even more graduations, the current five member line-up has been pretty stable. 9Nine was formed in 2005, but has since become active in 2010. They’ve put out four albums, 14 singles, and a bunch of digital singles.

Unfortunately for us non-Japanese idol fans, following 9nine is a bit harder. Their PVs are region-locked, so you can’t watch them on the official Youtube and finding PVs elsewhere on the various video sites is near impossible. So this is a heads up, if you think you might like the group; being a fan is going to be more difficult than a lot of other groups. The reason I’m saying this is because, while 9nine seems like a cool group, it might be tougher for you to follow them.

That said, they seem like a really good group. They focus a lot on having a cooler image and being a dance/performance unit. They definitely give me Tokyo Girls’ Style vibes, except without quite the level of vocal talent. The members seem talented and I like the music I’ve heard so far, and I can see people really liking them. Personally, they don’t stand out enough to me that I would go through the effort of following them, but I would watch them perform if they showed up on a livestream of something.

Na-Na

Na-Na is a five member group from Esse Academy, home of Caramel Ribbon, making them the younger sister group to Caramel Ribbon. The members range from being in middle school to being in their last year of elementary school, so they’re pretty young. One of the members is named Yuzuki, so you know where my bias is. According to the group bio, they’re cute but have real talent.

The group seems to have one original song, Candy Machine ni Notte, though I don’t think this has been released on a single. The group is fairly hard to find info on (their official site is VERY sparse), but I think they were formed in 2011 and have been doing stuff with Caramel Ribbon since. The girls all seem cute and happy, and I’m inclined to like them despite the difficulty of being their fan. That said, finding any more is really tough. These girls definitely have potential, though, and if you’re a Caramel Ribbon fan you should definitely try to follow Na-Na as well.

7cm

This is a very new unit, formed in May of this year. However, you might know a lot of the members! That’s because this is a group of seven former SDN48 members, formed just over a year after SDN48 disbanded! SDN48 was the older, more mature unit of the 48 family before they were disbanded in March 2012, which was a sad moment for a lot of fans. So it’s really great to see that seven of them decided to form their own unit, which has been signed to Avex.

Unfortunately, not much has been put out, yet. They don’t have any singles or PVs and they don’t have too much on Youtube yet. However, since they’re an Avex group, with some former 48 members, I imagine that they’re going to have some ogod stuff coming out very soon. If you liked SDN48 or if you just like idol groups with older members and a more mature feel, it’s probably worth it to keep an eye on this group! I’m excited to see where they go from here!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 13

Happy TIFriday! Where I cover the acts of this year’s Tokyo Idol Festival!

Tokyo Cheer2 Party

Fun Happy Disco fact! This year I graduated from college. To graduate with honors I had to write a final thesis, and I ended up writing about idols because I was a film/media studies major and a Japanese minor. My thesis was about Japan’s national identities and how it’s reflected through Japan’s popular idol groups. As such, I focused mostly on the popular groups. However, I mentioned Tokyo Cheer2 Party.

The reason I did this was because, back in 2011, after the earthquake, Tokyo Cheer2 Party stood outside train stations, encouraging workers. While other idol groups gave back, Tokyo Cheer2 Party did all they could to give back as an indie idol group, which I think is pretty neat.

Tokyo Cheer2 Party was formed in 2010, starting with 10 members but now they have 17. They put out four indies singles (including one called Happy Happy, which I like to see at Happy Disco) and an album. This year they made their major debut with Gamushara Spirits, which is huge for a group, so congrats to Tokyo Cheer2 Party! The last time I really seriously looked into them was around 2011 (and doing brief research for my thesis), but it’s great to see a group work their way up. From looking at their site and the Japanese wiki it seems they do a lot of live events and things, so even though they haven’t been very visible to me they’ve certainly done a lot.

Personally, while I think they’re cute, energetic and fun, Gamushara Spirits isn’t my favorite. It’s kind of a typical idol song, but isn’t really energetic enough for this group, and it’s not quite catchy enough for what they’re going for. It shows off how fun the members are, and it’s not certainly a bad song by any means, but it’s just not quite something I’d listen to on a regular basis. However, I quite like Happy Happy; it has a funky beat, and still is very cute.

The group itself is really energetic and cute, and well-deserving of their major debut. Glad to see them doing so well!

Doll☆Elements

Another idol group that made their major debut this year! Doll Elements is a four member unit formed in 2011, and are a sister unit to Lovely Doll. They had 2 indies singles, have put out one major single (Kimi no Heart ni Tokihanatsu) and they’re set to release another single in October (Kimi no koto Amaritai!). Their theme word is “transformation” (“Henshin!”) and basically their goal is to transform into cute, popular idols. Seems like the goal of a lot of groups, but hey not every group is going to have a strange goal (a la Tsuribit).

In the Kimi no Heart ni Tokihanatsu PV, you see the girls dressed down and made up (I’m assuming that’s the transformation) and honestly, I like them better with their natural look. All of the girls are really pretty with more natural make-up on, and while I appreciate the sentiment of the group I really don’t think any major transformation is needed for these girls to be popular. And at first this song didn’t appeal to me, but it’s slowly grown on me where I really like the chorus a lot. The girls are all really cute and charismatic, and I feel drawn to them when they’re dancing.

I doubt this will be a huge life-changing group, but I definitely like all the members and Kimi no Heart ni Tokihanatsu is a pretty nice song. I’m excited to see where they go from here!

Tochiotome25

Tochiotome25 has a strange goal, or at least a strange way of phrasing it. Formed in 2010 as a group based in Tochigi Prefecture, their goal is to be a “glocal” group; basically, combining “global” and “local.” So their goal is to remember their roots as being a Tochigi idol group, but to take this on a global level.

So far Tochiotome has released three singles; Tochiotome25 no Theme, Ichigo Hakase and GYO-ZA Party. There are six official members and four trainees. I have to say, I really like them. While they’re not the best songs out there, their singles are pleasant to listen to and I really enjoy Ichigo Hakase in particular. I personally really like Yayoi, who is the high-energy member of the group. She’s fantastic, but the rest of the members are cute as well. One of the things I love about following small indie groups is that a lot of the girls are really happy just being idols, and I get that here.

I wrote a little bit about the whole local vs national idol thing on Pure Idol Heart HERE
. However, I think that Tochiotome’s goal is a really interesting one that’s corresponding to a national Japanese trend going on right now.

I really like this group. I know I like most of the acts at TIF (that’s because they’re all so good!!), but Tochiotome25’s members are all energetic and happy, the music is really nice, and I really enjoy their PVs. I really think this group has a lot of potential, so you should definitely check them out!

Dream5

Dream5 has one of the most interesting line-ups of the TIF acts. There are two main singers and three dancers, and one of these dancers, Akira, is male. Mixed-gender groups are fairly rare (the only group I can think of that could be considered an idol group with men and women is AAA), so it’s interesting to see one perform at TIF!

Dream5 was formed in 2009 on the TV program ‘Tensai terebikun MAX,” and prides themselves on being a dance and vocal unit that’s popular with younger children and families (I’m assuming this means as opposed to older wota). So far they’ve put out 11 singles (the most recent being “We are Dreamer”) and two mini-albums, so they’ve been a fairly active group. They put out their stuff under Avex trax, so that kind of shows you what they’re aiming for.

Admittedly, the one reason I haven’t really looked much into this group is the male member. I know there are four girls, but I have zero interest in male idol acts (I just don’t care about Johnny’s groups at all). While I’ve been curious as to how the group works, I just didn’t care to look into it.

And now I don’t really know how I feel. Watching the group I definitely like Akira; he seems energetic and happy, and is a good dancer, but not hearing him sing makes it feel almost gimmicky. If it was a group like AAA where there were both male and female voices and dancing, it would make a lot more sense to me, but here it just feels a bit weird. I do like the music, though, and there is a really great production value (as expected by an Avex group). I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever be a huge Dream5 fan like others, but I can definitely see why they’re such a popular and well-loved group.

Dorothy Little Happy

Morning Musume fans should be familiar with Dorothy Little Happy; this is the group that Ishida Ayumi was a back dancer for before she joined MM! Dorothy Little Happy has been an indie group for a while, and made their indies debut, Jump, in 2010. In 2011, they made their major debut with Avex Trax, which is a great move for them. They’re a local group in Sendai with five members. One of the most interesting choices the group made was doing a collab single with BiS; since Dorothy Little Happy is a very cute unit, this seemed like a very unusual collaboration. However, Dorothy Little Happy does have a bit of a rock sensibility to them, which makes the BiS collaboration make a little more sense.

Dorothy from their name comes from the Wizard of Oz, and while I don’t necessarily see the influence, it’s a fun fact about them.

Honestly, this is a group I’ve wanted to get into but just can’t. Their music is pretty good, they’re good dancers/performers, and they seem like a really interesting group, especially with things like their collaboration with BiS. Demo Sayonara is a really good song, by the way, and one you should check out. Perhaps it’s the Avex influence (for whatever reason Avex groups just don’t appeal to me), but I don’t follow Dorothy Little Happy all that much. However, that shouldn’t stop you, and I can definitely see why people might like DLH. So if you like dance/vocal units and dig Avex, check out Dorothy Little Happy.