Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 – Part 4

I have long neglected Happy Disco and now TIF is over. I’m still going to finish these before the year is up!

AliceinAlice

AliceinAlice is an idol group formed from the theater company “Alice in Project.” Please note that this is not from Alice Project, and are completely unaffiliated with that. However, since AliceinProject is a theater company, this group promises to have really interesting, theatrical live performances. However, what little I’ve seen of this isn’t really true. The two PVs I’ve seen are trying to be interesting, but aren’t really competently made. Even when they’re competent they’re not particularly good.

Perhaps this is being too harsh. By idol group standards, they actually seem to be doing some interesting things. The short PV preview to Cold Bullet is pretty intense. However, I’m just not feeling them, especially when I feel like they should be able to do much more.


Ange☆Reve

Everyone remember Lovely Doll and Doll Elements? Well this is the newest group in what has become the Arc Jewel idol collective of sorts. Ange*Reve is a five member unit that is brand new. They made their debut in April of 2014, and as such have only been around for a few months so far. They just released their first single, “Yuukan na Koi no Serenade” this August.

This group, which means “Angel*Dream” in French, and are, as expected by that kind of name, going for a cute image. Their debut PV confirms that, focusing on cute imagery and overexposed light.

Even though this group is nothing new, I’m finding myself liking them. Yuukan na Koi no Serenade is a really solid idol song, and these girls are remarkably assured performers for being so new. Their dancing and singing is all passable and all the girls seem really cute. This group is so far nothing revolutionary but a fresh group doing a tried and true thing.

That said, it’s hard to know the future of groups like this, so I’m interested to see where Ange*Reve goes from here!

Weather Girls

Still waiting on that cover of It’s Raining Men, girls!!

Weather Girls is a group of seven girls from Taiwan. They originated as a group that mainly focused on weather forecasting in Taiwan. However, in 2012, they made their debut as an idol group in Japan. Since then they’ve had activities in both Japan and Taiwan, though they focus much more on their idol career in Japan, it seems.

The thing that I find kind of interesting is that they’ve still continued their career as weather forecasters, though I have to admit I don’t know the extent. In 2013 they went through the courses and examinations to become licensed weather forecasters in Japan. All the members have a designated day of the week and an element of the week (though really this is just a type of weather), as well as the standard image color.

While this group’s Oricon numbers aren’t great, they’ve certainly been making a name for themselves. They tend to go for a sexier, more cool approach than many Japanese groups, so if that’s what you’re after you might want to check out Weather Girls. Ultimately, they haven’t really caught my interest. When I want to go for this type of thing, I feel like there are just as good, if not better options with KPop groups or E-Girls. Still, I know a lot of people like them, so you might want to give them a shot!


usa☆usa Girls Club

Ahh, Usa Usa Girls Club. I know every time I write about them I make this comparison, but they are seriously like Sakura Gakuin. They are another group that has the girls graduate when they reach high school. Perhaps more than that, though, they have produced two signifcant idol groups as their subgroups: Rhymeberry (one of my favorite idol acts) and Death Rabbits.

Unfortunately, while Sakura Gakuin boasts some very fine performers and performances, Usa Usa Shoujo Club has never really done it for me. The girls seem fine, but neither the songs nor the performances stand out. Their debuted subgroups are their biggest claim to fame.

That’s not to say they’re bad performers. They just don’t do a lot to stand out. They don’t release much in the way of singles, and tend to be much more live performance focused, which is tough for us foreign fans.

At the end of the day they are a pretty standard group with young members that have produced some very interesting subgroups. And that’s about it.

Ultra Girl

Ultra Girl is a five member unit from Spiral Music; if you’ve followed TIF before then you should know them as the label behind the idol group Power Spot. Ultra Girl has released four singles, the latest being “888 (as in “pachi pachi pachi”) and their fifth single is coming out in September. They’ve been around since 2012, so at this point the five members do have some solid experience, if you prefer to avoid the groups that have just formed.

This group does have a solid social media presence; all the girls themselves have twitter accounts and blogs. This is almost a given for larger groups, but Ultra Girl seems like a decently connected group for being so small.

Beyond that, though, there’s not too much noteworthy. 888 is a cute song, but not all that memorable, and the performances are solid but not great. I don’t know much more of what to say about them, to be honest, other than that they seem cute and I hope for the best for them!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 – Part 3

Hey guys! Sorry I’ve gotten off track with Happy Disco/TIF. In the next few weeks expect several more TIF posts as well as the interviews I haven’t yet posted!

iDOL Street sei (e-Street and w-street)

Sorry iDOL Street fans, I’m condensing these two into one group, just because it’s a lot simpler. Basically, the Street sei are the trainees, kind of like the 48G Kenkyuusei or the Hello!Project Kenshuusei. They are girls who aim to be either put in one of the other groups or to debut as a major group. There are groups of girls based in Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Osaka, and while they do activities as individual groups (i.e. Nagoya Chubu) they are ultimately trainees. It looks like they’re sending a special selection of girls from e-street (Sapporo and Tokyo) and w-street (Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka) so it’s hard to assess if you should pay attention. However, it’s safe to assume that the girls who are getting sent are girls that they are pushing, or intend to push. If you are a fan of the other iDOL street groups, Super Girls, Cheeky Parade and GEM, you probably should be following these girls!

AXELL

Like Fudanjuku? Well, have a little sister (little brother?) group called AXELL! This is a five member unit that also dresses as guys. As far as I can tell, AXELL is very very new; they don’t have a proper website yet, and their official blog has only been around since May. They don’t have any singles out yet, either, and the information about them is very sparse.

That said, while Fudanjuku doesn’t do too much for me, I know they’re a popular group. And really, if you dig stuff like Fudanjuku,, you really will probably enjoy AXELL. They’re clearly trying to go for a similar feel. And while there’s not much out there of them, it might be exciting to meet this group early on.

 ani☆yume project

Like anime voice actors? Want to support an idol group comprised of girls wanting to be voice actresses? Well, your specific tastes have been answered! Ani*Yume Project is a group with the goal of making these girls into star voice actresses. There are currently nineteen girls listed on the site.

One cool thing about this group is that, despite being pretty unknown, they still have a fair amount of content out there. On their website (aniyume.jp) you can see all the archives of their online show, Ani*Yume nano, which is updated every day on Nico Nico.

In addition, they have put out several singles, which all have samples on the site. Another cool thing about the group is that each of the members’ profiles have voice samples of their voice acting prowess, presumably for companies to scope them out. It’s pretty cool, and really shows that they are legitimately dedicated to getting these girls voice acting work. That said, there doesn’t seem to be much online about their music or performances. So that might detract you. Still, I think it’s cool they’re focusing on one aspect of these girls’ career, and I hope it works well for them!

amihime

Now this is something a bit unusual! amihime is a solo idol project for T-Palette records, and is trying to do a “2.5d” thing, blending vocaloid with a real idol. amihime is performed by LinQ member Himesaki Aimi, and this project was just kicked off a few months ago. The name amihime supposedly stands for “Android meets Idol, Idol meets evolution” with the “h” standing for “human.”

Since it’s so new it’s hard to see what form this project will take. One performance (which I will link) had Aimi perform and dance while the vocals were vocaloid. Still, it’s definitely an interesting project, and it will be interesting to see what Aimi and T-Palette end up doing with this!

Ayumikurikamaki

This is a group I’m pretty happy to see grow as much as they have! This group started as Kurikamaki, a DJ unit. The year before last they were still basically performing in homemade Youtube/NicoNico videos. Last year they were starting to put out singles. Now they’ve added a new member, Ayumi, and are performing at a variety of festivals including Rock in Japan Festival. Their third single, Jet Kuma Star, comes out this week! It’s a harder rock track with some heavily autotuned vocals and a catchy pop chorus.

Honestly, I’m not sure how much DJing Kurika really does; in all the performances I’ve seen she tends to get away from the DJ setup and perform with the rest of them. Still, it’s a pretty cool premise, and they have a really neat homemade feel that I like, since they basically started the group, and brought Ayumi in on it because she was a close friend. This is a group that I don’t know if I expected to get as far as they have, but I’m pretty happy. They have pretty fun rock-inspired songs, so if any of what I’ve said has interested you you should check them out!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 – Part 2

i☆Ris

The fact that there is an “Iris” and an “i☆Ris” is a little confusing. At least the groups seem pretty different. Iris is a six member idol group formed by Avex in 2012, going for the whole “everyone in different image colors” thing, possibly to go after the Momoiro Clover market. They’ve so far put out four singles and one mini-album, with their next single, Itazura Taiyou, coming out in June. The group is based on Anime songs (Anison), so a lot of their songs have been used as anime endings and their mini album was a cover of some anime songs.

Generally, I’m not much of an Avex fan. I appreciate what Avex does; generally all the stuff that comes out of Avex has a really high production valueIs what I thought until I saw their videos and, more importantly, listened to their music. Wow. i☆Ris honestly has blown me away, musically. Musically, everything I’ve heard reminds me a bit of Queen; that kind of dramatic, orchestral music. There could also be some influence from ELO (my favorite classic rock group, mind you). The vocals are also incredibly strong, as well; all the members sound GREAT in recordings, making the songs even better.

 i☆Ris is why I do my TIF recaps. This is a group I’ve heard of for a while but I haven’t actually had a chance to listen to, and now I think I’ve become a fan. There are a lot of groups at TIF to uncover, but it’s worth it to find the great groups you’ve never even thought of before. If you haven’t, please go check  i☆Ris out. Their music is completely worth it and the members all seem great.

Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School 

Oh hey, another six member group with assigned colors? This is going to be a trend, huh? Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School was formed in 2012 by the MovingFactory label. Commonly known as Mecha High, the group has since released four singles, and are doing fairly well for themselves. Recently they hit #1 on the Oricon daily charts, #1 on the Oricon Indies Weekly chart, and hit #7 on the Oricon Weekly chart. Which is honestly pretty good for an indie idol group without an affiliation to a larger idol collective, so good job Mecha High!

Their goal is high quality music and performance, and from that to get a major debut and to perform at the Budokan. Do they succeed in that? Well, not quite. The girls seem pleasant enough and nothing is bad about their music, but it’s not quite high quality. It sounds like standard idol fare. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s standard for a reason. But Mecha High doesn’t quite do enough to differentiate themselves, especially since they want their music and performance to shine.

They aren’t bad, and are pretty worth checking out. However, they don’t quite live up to their goals just yet. They’ve seen a fair amount of growth in the year and a half since their formation, however, so it’ll be interesting to see where Mecha High go from here!

Akishibu Project

Here’s a pretty new group! The biggest area of interest is that it was actually formed by former BiS member Rinahamu. Their goal is to bridge the gap between Akihabara idols and Shibuya idols, thus being both for wota/idol fans as well as being fashionable. Which is actually a fairly solid idea.

They were formed in 2013 (after announcing the group in 2012) and they’re still fairly new to the game. No releases yet, and so indie that I’m even unsure of how many members are in the group! (Wikipedia says 9, their website says 12). However, if you’re a fan of either Rinahamu from BiS or you’d like your idols a bit more fashion-focused, this might be a group to follow.

That said, the only video that the group has uploaded that has any kind of performance is a dance lesson video. Otherwise, while the group has performed, there isn’t much in the way of video, which makes it harder for foreign fans. That said, if the concept or the leadership of the group intrigue you, this might be something to look into.

Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari)

Now here’s a group you may be more familiar with. Up Up Girls are a group of idols that are former Hello!Project Eggs who graduated Hello!Project. They are all also part of a KPop cover group, UFZS, though Up Up Girls have since carved out their own niche and become much more prominent than UFZS. The group is a part of Up-Front Promotion, but not Hello!Project.

This group is prolific. They put out so much stuff that I can honestly hardly keep track, and they perform on a very regular basis. This is a group that, if you follow them, you will have a lot of music to enjoy. They put out 8 singles in their first year. 8. They have released 2 albums and 17 singles since 2012 and they have another single planned.

Up Up Girls is one of those groups that I want to follow more but for some reason don’t. The girls perform well and there are several good songs; Samurai Girls and Up Up Typhoon were two of my favorite songs of last year. Yet nothing has really compelled me to follow them more, even though I’m also a fan of Sekine Azusa’s (she was my favorite H!P Egg). They seem more geared towards live performances than anything; not all their singles have PVs (though that’s changed a bit since they joined T-Palette Records), and for a long time they didn’t seem like they were going to put out a PV. Still, they are a type of group I think should have a good fanbase, because they are a solid group.

So if you want a group with solid performances, solid music but a lot of music, Up Up Girls is a good choice for you.

Afilia Saga

Here is another well known group! Actually, I’m excited to revisit Afilia Saga, as I’m going to be meeting Momoi Halko, one of the people who formed the group, at Idol Matsuri soon.

Formerly Afilia Saga East, this is a group formed from the Afilia Saga maid cafe chain. The maid cafes are based off of a magical, fantasy world, and as such all the members of the group have stage names to reflect that (i.e. Louise Sforzur). Since 2009, the maid cafe brought together maids to become an idol group. They’ve continued steadily releasing things, with two albums and eleven singles.

I like what this group is doing; they’re trying to have a different concept and be a fresh take on the idol genre. I like that this type of group exists. However, I just can’t get into Afilia Saga, for some reason. The music has never quite hit home for me, and I’m not really into the concept.

Afilia Saga is a love it or hate it group; they’re aiming to be different, but that can’t appeal to everyone. Fans who love the group love them, and I like them but never really follow them. They’re a group you have to check out for yourself to see how you feel.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 – Part 1

TIF has officially updated its website, which means it’s time for me to start my profiles of all the acts! As of May 24, 2014 there are 93 acts listed. Also, all the group names are listed in romaji in addition to just the kanji. This is incredibly useful (since last year there were a few super indie groups that I was having trouble converting to romaji) so thank you, TIF. There is also an English-language page that seems to have been translated well into English! So if you’re in Japan or thinking about going to TIF, this is even easier for us foreigners. Thank you, TIF!!

Idoling!!!

 

Honestly, what more can I say about Idoling!!! that hasn’t already been said. Idoling!!! is one of those mainstay acts at TIF; I can’t imagine them not being there. Idoling!!! was formed in 2006 by Fuji TV as a group that would primarily grow through their Fuji TV show, also called Idoling!!!. If you’re an AKB48 fan, you know them for the AKBIdoling collaboration single, Chu Shiyouze! Currently, the group has 24 members over the course of several generations. Since last year, the group has released two new singles as well as an album, Gold Experience, which I liked quite a bit. They are putting out a new single, Kyupi, at the end of this month.

As I mentioned, Idoling!!! is a mainstay of TIF. They’ve been going to Tokyo Idol Festival every year since its start in 2010, and do interesting units and collaborations during the festival. Last year, Idoling!!! introduced its newest generation at the festival. Even if they’re not a favorite group of yours, they are certainly a group to watch if you have an interest in TIF. Some of the most interesting things that go on at TIF include Idoling!!!.

Personally, I think there’s a lot to like about Idoling!!!, but I don’t follow them quite as much as I should. Gold Experience is a very solid record with a lot of good tracks. My favorite songs tend to be from a few years back; by far my favorite Idoling!!! single is ‘Me ni wa Aoba, Yama Hototogisu, Hatsukoi.’ However, they’re a really good group doing quality music and quality variety content. A lot of their Idoling!!! episodes are up on YouTube, if that interests you. So even if Idoling!!! isn’t your favorite group, you should definitely keep an eye out on them.

Idoling!!! NEO

As I mentioned, Idoling introduced its newest generation at TIF. That is what is known as the NEO generation. Idoling!!! took these five girls plus two of the relatively newer Idoling!!! members (from the fourth generation) and made a new unit, Idoling!!! NEO, to directly compete with the original Idoling!!! (while these members are still in Idoling!!! proper, mind you). So far, they’ve put out two singles.

I’ve really liked what I’ve heard from Idoling!!! Neo; both ‘mero mero’ and ‘Sakura Horizon’ have been really solid idol releases. All the members seem great, too. Idoling!!! NEO is a very expected addition to the TIF lineup, but not an unwelcome one. I’m interested to see how they fit into TIF, especially since Idoling!!! is such an active group. I expect they’ll have their own live events, but will they do the collaborations with other groups?

Idol College

Idol College has one of the more colorful and interesting idol backgounds that I can think of. Basically, the group started out as B.L.T. Idol College (based off the magazine, not the sandwich… a joke I made last year) in 2009. They released several singles and were pretty active until March 31, 2010 when they disbanded… only to regroup a day later as Idol College, with totally different members.

Since last year, Idol College has put out one album, their first on a major label, called “Idol College no Tsutaetai Koto.” When they first started going to TIF years back they were still an indies group, so it’s exciting to see the group grow. That said, they haven’t put out anything this year yet. A lot of groups tend to release albums and singles around the time of TIF (it’s probably a great way to promote their stuff) so I bet they’ll do something like that around then.

The group’s theme is “growth” which is honestly the most generic idol theme you could possibly get. There’s nothing really revolutionary about Idol College, but they’ve had some good songs (their cover of Na.Ri.A.Ga.Ri is particularly good) and they are a pretty fun group to watch live. Since they keep growing, they’re a group to look out for. While they haven’t grown as much as I thought they would since last year, they have still come a long way.

Idol Renaissance

This is a new group! This group was formed at the beginning of this year, so they have only been around for a few months. The group has seven members, all in their mid teens. While this is a fairly new idol group, it is from the Sony Music Artists label as their first idol group, so that indicates a level of  professionalism right off the bat.

That said, the fact they are so new makes things difficult. Sony has put up a lot of videos profiling the girls, but there are so far no performance videos (as far as I can tell) and none of these are available outside of Japan for viewing.. Which makes things more difficult.

If you want to follow an idol group from the ground floor, especially one for a large label, then you may find something to like with this group. However, at this point it’s difficult to find much of anything about them.

Iris

Remember Techpri? Well, they were an idol group that was formed in 2009 and had four members. Last year, one of the members left and Techpri disbanded at last year’s Tokyo Idol Festival. Right after, they reformed the group as Iris, the new unit for the three members that are left. It’s kind of a nice gesture, for the member who left.

It’s hard to know how the group is going to differ, if at all, from who they were as Techpri. As that group they performed a lot of techno pop songs, and I compared their sound to Perfume. Which isn’t a bad comparison, really. If the group sticks with this, I might have to pay more attention to Iris.

From what I’ve seen of them so far, based off the video I’m linking below, it sounds like they’re doing a disco/electronic sound. Which I am very pleased with. If the group continues like this song I will definitely have to follow them more. Ever since they became a three piece unit they feel even more like an indie Perfume. Which isn’t a terrible thing. If any of what I’ve said appeals to you, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 – Intro

Alright you guys! Tokyo Idol Festival 2014!

Seriously, it feels like I JUST ended my TIF posts from last year, and now the first announcements of Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 have been made! At least they haven’t announced that many idol acts yet….

tir2014

Oh.

So, I’ll probably start my TIF profile posts in the next few weeks. But, here are a few of my basic thoughts/predictions about this year.

There will probably be somewhere around 111 acts. The past two years there have been exactly 111 acts each. I can’t see TIF choosing to have significantly fewer than that; that would show that they’re not as strong of a festival. I also can’t see them having many more than that 111 number, because they have the logistics down for these events. They’re still having it in Odaiba, presumably at all the same venues/areas (Zepp Tokyo etc.) so I can’t really see them choosing to expand much more beyond what they’ve done in the past.

X21? What’s that about? X21 is one of the first acts named, as well as one of the nine acts to be featured in a photo. However, that’s along with very established acts like Sakura Gakuin and Fudanjuku. Acts that seem more established, like Kikkawa You and Weather Girls didn’t get that picture. I might be overthinking things, but I’m just a little confused.

Will there be a 48/46 act there? I’m not sure. I seriously doubt that AKB would go to TIF. SKE48 was there in 2012 and HKT48 was there last year. Both were announced pretty late, so I doubt we’ll know about the 48s soon. However, since only sister groups have gone, I’m assuming that the aim of a TIF appearance is to promote the smaller groups. HKT48 has since released two singles (though they performed Melon Juice at TIF) and has a bit more experience under their belt, so there isn’t really a 48 group (or 46!) that would fit this profile. My wild, out there theory that will probably be wrong? They send AKB48 Team 8. But that’s just my guess.

Most of the acts seem like the normal ones at TIF Idoling, Up Up Girls, LinQ, Passpo, Dorothy Little Happy, these groups are almost all TIF veterans. It’s a little comforting to see, really. But it doesn’t look like TIF is losing its old guard of performers.

I’m weirdly happy to see that Sexy All Sisters are still showing up. I don’t get why this group still kicking makes me happy, but it does.

A quick question: Do you guys want to see anything different with my TIF profiles/coverage this year? Is there something you wish I’d mention or cover? Please let me know so I can make this a useful series for you guys.