Momoiro Clover Z – Fan Event + Concert Write Up

So, before this trip I wrote five posts about Momoiro Clover Z and their trajectory, how they kept growing and how my fandom wavered a bit.

Well, my Momoiro Clover Z fandom is back in full force now, maybe even stronger than ever. Even though Momoiro Clover Z’s sales aren’t even close to groups like AKB48, there’s the reason they’re considered the top group in Japan – their live events are considered to be top notch. They regularly sell out the largest venues in Japan with ease, and so, before going to their performance in conjunction with Anime Expo, I knew that I would be in for a treat. Still, I don’t think I knew just how great of an experience I would have.

Day 0 Fan Event
Momoiro Clover Z came to the US in conjunction with Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the US and one of the largest conventions period in the US. It’s so big of a convention that they even have a “Day 0” for the convention in addition to the four day weekend, and that’s for attendees to pick up their badges for the convention (in previous years attendees had to stand in line for hours to get their badge, but this year it went much faster). To just about everyone’s surprise, there was a fan event announced about two days prior to the convention for Day 0 (which is apparently not something that happens), with the idea that it would teach American fans the fan calls and cheers for the concert while watching a concert DVD. However, just a day before the event it was announced that MomoClo would actually be at the event, so I knew I had to be there.

After waiting a couple of hours in line (A bit unpleasant, since Anime Expo doesn’t really manage lines well), we went in and it was a fantastic event. While some of the concept of teaching fans fan calls and cheers was there, it really became more of a fan meet and greet type of event. MomoClo answered a lot of questions in a Q&A type format (with Sasaki Ayaka being the chattiest of the bunch), which was pretty entertaining. They then proceeded to show us clips from their Nissan Stadium live and have us go through it for the calls. I thought it was kind of funny, though, because they made sure we got the timing right for the jump in Wani to Shampoo and they didn’t perform that live, but they did perform songs that required more fan calls/cheers and dancing. I think ultimately the day 0 event ended up being less about teaching new fans and more of a fan event for existing fans. Which I don’t mind at all.

My super exciting moment came later, though. At one point they were teaching fans the call and response introductions each member does. Below is a very old video showing this (circa 2010) but you get the idea.

They had American fans come up (they specifically asked for non-Japanese fans to do this) and be quizzed on the intros. While I’m definitely not the type to jump up and do something, here I knew I had to. So when they got to my favorite member, Sasaki Ayaka (AKA A-rin) I shot up my hand. I was helped by a friend who was right in front who pointed directly at me, and by Takagi Reni who, after seeing my friend point at me, started to point at me as well (thanks Shioka and Reni, I appreciate it!) which meant A-rin ended up picking me to go up and do it. Which was insane and amazing.

(Photo courtesy of a really nice guy who I met at the con)

When I was up there she immediately gave me a big hug; getting a hug from one of my favorite idols has been a dream of mine for years, so this was insane. We then proceeded to do her introduction, which had been hyped as being the most difficult (I guess because you need to to know multiple Japanese words?). We did her intro together, she gave me high fives and told me she liked my headband (her 2012 birthday goods that a friend gave me, you know who you are and thank you SO much).

(These and a few other photos courtesy of TheNumber244 whose blog you really should be reading if you aren’t already).

The event continued and, when it ended, we were able to walk out ahead of the members and say thank you. It happened fast (there weren’t handshakes and they even had the people pushing you forward!) but it was still nice to say thank you to the girls. On the way to do that, however, I did see the manager known as kwkm who has become pretty legendary. I said hi and thank you to him by name, and I think he was kind of surprised.

After the event, I got asked to film an interview about my experience at the day 0 event and why I liked idols. Not sure when/if that will come up, but I basically rambled so I hope I don’t look too bad. HOWEVER, at the end of the interview they asked me to do a pose or a dance move or something from something MomoClo. I was trying to think of what I could do and suddenly A-rin showed up next to the camera guy and interviewer (I was focusing on my interview and did not see her come up). I knew what I had to do so I did her catchphrase “A-rin da yo.” She then proceeded to jump in front of me in front of the camera and do “A-rin da yo” 5000 times better than I ever could, and then she gave me more high fives and such before leaving.

Again, not sure if this is going to show up anywhere on video, but it might.

Concert

After a day full of waiting to pick up my ticket for the show and picking up merch, the concert finally came and it was honestly amazing. It’s easy to see why Momoiro Clover Z is the live event to see in Japan.

(note that the concert ended at Ikuze! and they didn’t perform Chai Maxx twice, haha).

While they performed mostly anime-related songs, as to be expected, there were still some surprises on the setlist. I wasn’t sure if they would do Nippon Egao Hyakkei, for example, and that was a real treat for me because it’s a particular favorite song of mine. Saraba was fantastic live, as was Mugen no Ai, as was Lost Child (I got serious chills during Lost Child). Really it was all fantastic live.

Chai Maxx was a major surprise for me, and a very welcome one. It’s an older song and one that doesn’t have an anime-tie-in, but it was one of the biggest highlights of the show for me because the crowd always dances along. Chai Maxx was possibly the second most exciting song of the night, and was a ton of fun.

The biggest highlight, though, was seeing Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo performed live. This was the song that got me into Momoiro Clover and really helped expand my horizons as an idol fan and blogger. It is also, in my opinion, the single best idol song of the current idol boom, so I was absolutely thrilled to see it. It is a song that has a LOT of audience participation that I was excited to be a part of. Not going to lie, halfway through the song I had to start crying because it was such a moving experience for me, to see this song performed live.

Ultimately though, Momoiro Clover Z is known as a group that excels at live performances for a reason. Even if this was a slightly watered down version of their concerts in Japan (a bit shorter, no major setpieces or staging) and even if there are still songs  I want to see performed live, it was probably the best idol concert I’ve seen yet.

As always, the few days I spent in Los Angeles were filled with meeting new people and seeing friends from previous live events. I’ve already gushed about this on Twitter, but a good part of the reason I keep flying out to idol events across the country from me is because there are so many good people in the idol fan community. Being able to spend several days hanging out with friends I’ve met online and at these events makes these trips worth it, in addition to the actual concerts and events. If you have the financial means to go to these events, I really urge you to make it happen.

As a fan, this has spurred me on to continue going to these events, continue being a MomoClo / Stardust fan, and hopefully be able to make a trip to Japan happen in the near future. So hopefully you’ll be reading about me making that trip soon!

A Week With Momoiro Clover Z – Day 5 – Kohaku Uta Gassen

2012 is a very interesting year for my relationship to Momoiro Clover Z. While their popularity continued to increase, my fan fervor waned. I really loved their first single of the year, “Moretsu Uchuu Kōkyōkyoku. Dai Nana Gakushō “Mugen no Ai” a lot (all three songs on that single are top notch), Otome Sensou, their follow-up single, was the first MomoClo single to really disappoint me. In hindsight I don’t mind it very much and I think there’s a lot of good ideas in the song. However, it is a very flawed song as well, and didn’t quite live up to the concept that had been teased.

2012 was also the year that I became a Team Syachihoko fan, and so in general a lot of my attention moved to them. So if these next few posts are a bit overly simplistic I apologize – After 2012, Momoiro Clover Z  was no longer my favorite idol group.

Still, while at the end of 2012 I was just discovering Team Syachihoko, I did pay attention to one Momoiro Clover thing, and that was their first performance on Kohaku Uta Gassen.

Like many Japanese music fans, I follow who’s listed for this annual event pretty often. And Momoiro Clover, like many idol groups, set Kohaku Uta Gassen as their ultimate goal. So seeing them on the list of groups announced, while not entirely surprising at this point, was still really amazing.

I feel like this Kohaku was a turning point for MomoClo – while they were already achieving a lot of fame before that point, their invitation to Kohaku Uta Gassen 2012 cemented Momoiro Clover Z’s place in Japanese pop culture. At this point they weren’t just famous for being idols, they were nationally famous. While there are always disputes and questions about why some artists get invited versus others, If you get to Kohaku it’s pretty clear that you have achieved a certain level of fame.

What really got me as a fan, though, was during the performance of Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo, the members included Akari in the chant of their names. It still gets me to tear up, honestly. It’s pretty special and lovely that a group remembered and mentioned a member who had graduated over a year and a half prior. It says a lot about how important Akari was, and it also says a lot about Stardust Promotions. While Stardust hasn’t always been perfect, it’s moments like these that make me proud to be a Stardust fan.

While Kohaku isn’t the be all end all of idol popularity and preesence, it does say a lot that Momoiro Clover Z has performed at it for three years in a row. It also set Momoiro Clover Z on the hunt for a new goal (which I will talk about next time!).

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 4 – Becoming Momoiro Clover Z

2011 was another big year; they released four fantastic singles (though Z Densetsu Owarinaki Kakumei and D’ no Junjou were pretty basic as far as singles go) and they put out their first album, the stellar Battle and Romance. While I’ve reviewed Battle and Romance before so I won’t do that again (it’s a phenomenal album, though), the biggest things that happened this year were the graduation of Hayami Akari and the rebranding of Momoiro Clover to Momoiro Clover Z.

As a fairly early fan of MomoClo, the video where Akari talks about her plans for graduation honestly breaks my heart a little bit. While I’ve been a fan of Sasaki Ayaka from the start, I like all the members of Momoiro Clover a lot, so hearing Akari say that she doesn’t feel suited to be an idol hurts. She’s been relatively active post-MomoClo and has had a reasonably successful career, so I’ve been glad to see her doing well. Still, I just hope she’s been happy.

The main thing that I think is interesting, though, is the rebranding from Momoiro Clover to Momoiro Clover Z. While Momoiro Clover gained traction as a group, Momoiro Clover Z is where they skyrocketed. So my question is – without this rebranding, would Momoiro Clover still be where it is today? It’s a really tough question. I want to say yes, but at the same time becoming Momoiro Clover Z is when they started to get more and more experimental and more out there with their music and presentation.

I think it shows a great deal about how much Stardust focuses on the members, though; rather than continuing on without Akari, Momoiro Clover chose to change to Momoiro Clover Z, almost because there isn’t a Momoiro Clover without Hayami Akari. And while Battle and Romance features Z versions of all the songs (so you don’t get the Akari versions of Ikuze, Pinky Johns and Mirai Bowl) I think it’s a lovely way to show how the group valued Akari. Momoiro Clover Z doesn’t shy away from remembering Akari (their first Kouhaku Uta Gassen performance included Akari in the chant for Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo).

The rebranding did, however, allow them to adopt a more super sentai image (rather than the lingering traditional Japan image) which I think suits their current music and style. Even when their current music doesn’t focus on sentai heroics, it still fits MomoClo Z as a group.

Even though I was unsure of the rebranding at the time, and kind of went back and forth as to whether I even liked “Momoiro Clover Z” as a name, I think it’s served them really well and was ultimately a good call on management’s part.

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 3 – Major Debut

2010 was a big year with a lot going on for MomoClo. Well, to be honest, the same could be said for almost every MomoClo year, but 2010 was the year that put them on the idol map, I’d say. The biggest thing was that this was the year that MomoClo went major, with the release of Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo.

Honestly, my praise of Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo knows no bounds. As an idol song, it’s just about perfect, to the point that I would possibly name it the best idol song of the current era of idols. It’s energetic, paced perfectly and has just enough interesting sections. It’s incredibly fun to watch performed live (it’s the song I’m REALLY hoping for the AX performance). Maeyamada Kenichi is the master of creating catchy, memorable idol songs, and Ikuze is one of his best songs. Additionally, the PV is pretty fantastic too; it’s another instance of using what limited resources they have to create something special, using spotlights and a few extra costumes to make something memorable. (That said, the choreographed fight scene is always delightful). Everything in Ikuze is perfect, and it’s no wonder that it’s become Momoiro Clover Z’s most memorable song, despite having more ambitious pieces later on.

However, while the release of Ikuze is personally what caught my interest, what solidified MomoClo as my favorite idol group at the time and what I think lead them to make such a splash in the idol scene was MomoClo’s live performances. While Momoiro Clover’s sales are marginal compared to those of, say, AKB48, they have always excelled in live performances. The six of them have always managed to fill a stage and put on an exhilarating performance, which is part of why I immediately knew that I would have to go see them when they came to LA.

The big performance that I think garnered some serious buzz for MomoClo was from the 2010 Music Japan female idol special.

This show featured some of the biggest names in the idol world – AKB48, Morning Musume, Idoling. Momoiro Clover was grouped off with Tokyo Girls Style and S/Mileage as newer acts. While both of those acts did just fine, Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo was a powerhouse performance, with tons of energy, real dance skill, acrobatics and the television debut of Kanako’s Ebi Jump. While MomoClo always performs well, this performance of Ikuze has stood out for me over the years as being a major stand out performance. While I have no real proof of this, I really do think that this TV performance was part of the start of MomoClo’s rise to fame.

The group did have a couple of hiccups this year; they dealt with controversy with the infamous weigh-in event, where all the members had to be under a certain weight… and Reni didn’t make it. MomoClo ended up switching labels to King Records, and took quite a bit of time to get to their next single, Pinky Johns (yes, it’s not Jones. I’m still shocked it’s Johns and not Jones). However, Pinky Johns ended up being an excellent song with an even better B-Side (Coco*Natsu) and ended up keeping up MomoClo’s momentum nicely. However, Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo remains MomoClo’s biggest success of 2010, and I think that without a song like that they might have never achieved the amount of fame they have gotten now.

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 2 – Indies

2009 was the year that both of Momoiro Clover’s indie singles, Momoiro Punch and Mirai e Susume came out, and I really think that they are the best example of how far Momoiro Clover has come. However, it’s not the singles themselves that show it (though they do show their age), but the videos that came from Momoiro Clover events around the time of the single releases, where management tells Momoiro Clover the oricon rankings for these singles. If you like Momoiro Clover and you haven’t seen these videos, you owe yourself to watch them.

Now, these videos mean a lot to me – they were two of the first videos I watched when I became a MomoClo fan a year later in 2010 (they also were really the first ways I learned more about the personalities of MomoClo). But I think they show just how far MomoClo has come – starting from tiny street lives and freaking out at peaking at #11 on the Oricon daily chart, to performing in the largest stadiums and arenas in Japan. These girls have come a long way, and it’s incredibly exciting to see them thrive.

As for these songs and PVs, I think they do an excellent job of setting up MomoClo as a group. While Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo grabbed my attention in 2010, Momoiro Punch and Mirai e Susume solidified for me what a special group Momoiro Clover really was (and still is).

For Momoiro Punch, the song is pretty perfect for an intro song for an idol group, and does a lot to introduce Momoiro Clover specifically. It’s just about a perfect mix of idol pop with some traditional sounding instrumentation. In a way, it’s a great thesis statement for what MomoClo was at the time – idol pop meets traditional Japan, but in a totally accessible way. The song is perfectly paced, as well; it rarely drags (apart from the overly long intro section) and it moves along nicely. It’s a really great intro son gin that regard; it’s catchy, fun, and says what MomoClo intended to do (idol meets traditional).

As great as the song is, the PV is an incredible introduction to the group. While the intro of the song might be long-winded to listen to, it allows for the PV to take a nice amount of time introducing each member without breaking up the song to do so. It also takes time to show some behind the scenes shots, showing the members working together, practicing, and spending time together (something pretty much all idol fans enjoy seeing). The rest of the PV is very simple, but it uses what it has in a way that not all simple PVs do. There is always something visually interesting going on – different shots, new (simple) visual effects, etc. While I think most of this PV is very well done, what I think is really brilliant is the use of the different takes with peaches and bananas replacing microphones. They start this late in the PV, when you might be relaxing into the rhythm of PV. Then, all of a sudden, you see they’re holding peaches, but it only lasts for a shot or two before going away. These shots are never dwelled on, but pop up infrequently. Additionally, the editing is so good that the shots match up very well, to the point where you might not realize that it’s a different take. This makes a bit of a visual illusion, like peaches and bananas are appearing and disappearing. This makes you want to pause and look again or, ideally, rewatch the PV. That’s the genius of it, really – Momoiro Punch’s PV is almost entirely engineered to make you pay attention all the way through and perhaps watch more of it more closely. All this for a fairly basic PV.


Mirai e Susume’s song is a bit less immediately intriguing than Momoiro Punch’s, but it’s still a very solid idol song. It’s transitioning a bit more to the idol image than Momoiro Punch, but still retains a bit of traditional sound in the instrumentation. It’s hard to really say much other than it’s just a fun, high-energy idol song. The verses allow for more variety in small-groups as well as allowing for four members to get a solo line. It’s hard to give Mirai e Susume a lot of credit, given that it’s sandwiched between Momoiro Punch and Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo, but it’s all the same a solid idol song.

PV wise, Mirai e Susume is what I like to call “Personality: the PV,” in that it really lets MomoClo’s personality speak for itself. While you might wonder if this is an excuse for a super low-budget PV, I think it speaks to how much energy and personality MomoClo has. This PV is carried on the strength of the members of the group; if MomoClo was any less compelling, this would fall flat. That could be said about a lot of idol PVs, but man I have watched this PV a LOT because the members of MomoClo are just so much fun to watch here; seriously, what is Reni even doing? There isn’t a lot visually beyond that, but I do like the contrast between costumes and scenes. Half of the PV is on a white background with bright, colored costumes, and the other is with plain school uniforms on bright colored backgrounds. It adds a nice visual contrast.

Also, while Momoiro Clover can’t claim to have come up with the concept of member/image colors (I know Morning Musume has been doing that for a while), they certainly drive it home. A lot of Stardust PVs and costumes rely heavily on the color-coding in a way that has become pretty common-place in recent years. And for good reason – it’s a very easy way to follow members. It’s super easy to go “I like the pink member of the group” after watching a PV and go look her up by the color later. It’s an easy way to follow a specific member when you start following a group. Again, while MomoClo didn’t invent image colors, they certainly have utilized them well.

MomoClo’s early singles, while unpolished and simple, are honestly really great, and I personally think it’s super easy to see why they’ve had so much success. Both PVs and songs ooze with personality, and are ultimately a ton of fun.

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 1 – Origins

In just about a week I will have the pleasure of seeing Momoiro Clover Z live at the Microsoft (previously Nokia) Theater in Los Angeles. I will be flying out for all of Anime Expo (Wednesday through Sunday) so if you happen to be going as well, please say hi! While waiting for the concert I’ll be wearing a pink A~rin Robo shirt as well as an A~rin creampuff headband, as well as a purple Team Syachihoko muffler towel.

Since it’s a week before I see Momoiro Clover for the first time, I thought it would be fun to do a week of posts about Momoiro Clover Z. After mentioning this on twitter, I was reminded by fellow-blogger Garry (who, among other things, writes the stellar This Week in Music on New School Kaidan) that Momoiro Clover Z has been around in one form or another for about seven years. So I’m going to try and roughly base these seven posts around the seven years of Momoiro Clover Z. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll make of this week of posts, but it will be a nice way to focus some of my thoughts as I think of a week from now.

I think the origin of a lot of idol groups is interesting, but Momoiro Clover had a pretty interesting start. Formed in 2008, I’m not sure that anyone involved knew how big they were going to be. They performed in Yoyogi Park and other VERY small street lives; MomoClo moved up int he world from being a very tiny indie act.

Watching early, 2008 era MomoClo videos is kind of interesting, because they are so not the Momoiro Clover Z we know today. Before settling on a fairly stable lineup of girls in 2009 (with only one addition, Momoka, and one graduation, Akari), Momoiro Clover had different members moving in and out of the group. Another thing that’s completely different was the image and theme of the group – Momoiro Clover Z originally performed in outfits inspired by traditional Japanese yukata and kimono, and they have that influence in the group’s sound, as well. Even up through Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo the group wore modified yukata for many performances. Honestly, while I think the group has thrived after abandoning that, I do think it’s a shame that they no longer have that kind of an image because I personally really liked it.

The other thing that has changed is their interaction with fans. Early Momoiro Clover used the slogan “idols you can meet right now,” a take on AKB48’s “Idols you can meet.” However, they’ve pretty much stopped any and all fan meet events and have for some time, and AKB48 has become much easier to meet. It makes sense; Momoiro Clover Z is so immensely popular that even coming close to meeting all their fans would take up way too much time and effort. But it does show how much things have changed for the group.

Thinking about my origins with Momoiro Clover, it did not start in 2008 (a year where I had no idea they existed and instead focused much more on Hello!Project); it started in 2010 with the release of Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo. It was a song and PV I found exhilarating, and it’s still a song I hold up as being one of the best idol songs of the current idol boom.

While I had liked idols for some time at that point, I credit Momoiro Clover with being the group to help me break out of my Hello!Project shell. While I was a pretty casual 48 group fan at the time (AKB48’s River came out and blew me away in fall 2009), Momoiro Clover hit me in a big way. It lead me to explore lesser known idols and indie groups in a way I hadn’t before they showed up. They were my favorite idol group from 2010 – 2012 (when a certain sister group of MomoClo caught my attention), and for that I will always carry a lot of affection for Momoiro Clover.

Momoiro Clover was also the origin of Stardust Promotions as a major idol group power, which lead to the formation of 3B Junior groups like Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, Team Syachihoko (my favorite idol group), Takoyaki Rainbow and others that are just starting to debut. All of these groups have a lot of great music and great creativity which has influenced the idol industry in really positive ways.

Momoiro Clover has done a whole lot in the seven years it’s been around, and has had a huge influence on the idol industry in Japan. Further, the group has had a tremendous impact on me as an idol fan and enthusiast, in the roughly seven-eight years I’ve been an idol fan.