One person so far has taken me up on my offer of suggesting a topic for Happy Disco after donating to Idol Matsuri’s Indiegogo campaign! (DONATE HERE). That person would be James of This is Your Wake Up Call! James’ biggest idol interest is in Indie idols, and asked me to talk about it. Once we talked briefly, we got on a subject I’ve considered talking about, and that’s the difficulty of being a foreign fan of indie idols.
I have been neglecting Pure Idol Heart unfairly lately, but I do contribute to that site, and often the owner of the site, Gaki, will suggest groups he likes (since he’s in Japan). However, it’s hard to look things up for most of these groups in English. James mentioned that he doesn’t speak Japanese, and my Japanese skills are rusty and spotty. I’m honestly terrible at remembering kanji. So there’s a clear language barrier in enjoying idol music, especially indie idols that might not have a huge English-language fanbase.
However, beyond that, there’s often not that much out there for indie groups. Back when I was covering RYUTist for my TIFriday posts (about Tokyo Idol Festival), I sung praises for the group’s website. While part of that was a bit hyperbolic and I really do like the group for other reasons, it is rare that an indie group would have just so much stuff online. There are a lot of idol groups out there that might only have an ameba blog as their website, if even, and very basic things in terms of youtube presence. I think a lot of this is due to many indie groups mainly existing as a live presence; they coast along on one or two releases and do the majority of their work in lives. This means that they aren’t always focused on keeping an up to date twitter, Facebook, website, youtube, etc. It makes sense, but it again makes things harder on foreign fans.
All these barriers make it really difficult to keep following smaller idol groups. Occasionally there are dedicated Japanese fans that make it easier; Aither has Chibineko Suwano who uploads a ton of videos and has been contributing in English to Idol Matsuri plans. MMJ (a Hiroshima-based group I like) has Kats/Grayengineer who has contributed to the Hello!Online thread about the group and generally writes in both English and Japanese about the group (mostly if you ask him, but he’s very nice!). But that’s the thing; to be a follower of an indie group where the management isn’t thinking too much towards international fans, you need someone to be the gatekeeper of information. And really, why should an indie group try and think of foreign fans, when they won’t be coming to live events and can’t purchase goods?
That said, being a fan of indie groups can be a lot of fun. I’ve written a few times on twitter to MMJ’s Kyao, and she responded to me. I’ve been able to get responses from the Rev.from DVL staff (though this was pre-Kannagate, so idk if they would now) and from a few idols. There’s just a lot more of that direct communication that isn’t allowed or possible with larger groups. In a way, even though accessing videos and information is harder for indie groups, they can be easier to reach, despite being foreign. And while this does require some Japanese skills, one of those barriers, watching indie groups grow can be really rewarding. As a Rev. from DVL fan, I was so ecstatic to see their PV for Love Arigatou, because it represents years of hard work. The growth of Rhymeberry from a smaller group to the group that did SUPERMCZTOKYO is also very rewarding. And I still can’t really believe that small upstart group Momoiro Clover is where the are right now.
Indie groups aren’t always easy, but the rewards of being a fan can be definitely worth it.
And, for a bit of fun, here are some of the indie/lesser known groups that I’ve been following lately!
This group really caught my eye at last year’s Tokyo Idol Festival, and they have really blown me away with this latest song (“Dokkaan! Ichigo Sakusen”). The girls all have ridiculous amounts of energy, and while their previous work has been cute and fun, Dokkaan! is taking things to a new level for them.
This song, “Funky OL ~Shigoto Shitaku nai yo~” (Funky OL ~I don’t want to work~) has kind of been my jam since I started working full time. While Rhymeberry is my hip hop group of choice, I kind of enjoy how fun and silly MIKA☆RIKA get in this song and PV.
Kawasaki Junjou Komachi
Aside from Kawasaki Junjou Ondo being pretty much a perfect song, I like this group’s commitment to wearing yukata and being generally traditionally Japan inspired. Created to support Kawasaki, this group has a lot of talent and I enjoy every song I’ve heard from them. In a weird way they remind me of early MomoClo, which means I definitely want to hear more from them!
This group has been getting some hype lately, but it’s pretty well deserved. Taken from idols who have been active idols in the past, GALETTe is basically an indie idol supergroup. ‘G’ is still my favorite single by them, but Jajauma to Yobanaide has gotten people talking because it added former HKT48 member Komori Yui to the mix. This is a group who is still very new, but has the opportunity to become big.
While Mizuno Yui has always been my Sakura Gakuin favorite, there is something special about Muto Ayami. She has a really strong idol presence that was pretty captivating in the Sakura Gakuin stuff she was in before she graduated (especially Twinklestars. Never forget Twinklestars.). So when it was announced that she was making her solo debut, I was all on board. She’s just started putting out music, but she’s really a soloist to look out for.
Sunmyu is a group I never thought would get as good as they are now. I mean, they were always a cute group, but it took them covering my favorite Japanese song ever “Natsu Matsuri” that got me excited. While they did a great job with a song like Natsu Matsuri, their regular focus is on mellow, pleasant songs and generally having the feel of being classic idols (though they don’t quite have the music of the greatest classic idols). I’m amazed at how far they’ve come, and I’m interested in more.
I’m super excited for Idol Matsuri, and all the guests who are coming. Aither is really cute, and I can’t wait to meet them. However, RYUTist is a group I was starting to grow to like before Idol Matsuri, and the prospect of meeting them has fanned the flame even more. They have a lot of fantastic music and are all solid performers. I’m planning on buying some goods to support the Idol Matsuri Indiegogo, but I’m waiting on buying an oshi towel until I can figure out who my favorite is, because I like them all.
This is just a small segment of the really strong indie idol scene going on right now. This is why I follow Tokyo Idol Festival so much every year; it’s a great resource to finding newer idol groups. While they may be harder to find, there’s a lot to like in the indie idol scene, and it’s a scene I know I need to keep digging more into.