Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 2

Usa Usa Shoujo Club

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

AeLL

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

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

Sakura Gakuin

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Possible

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

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

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

 

AKB48 2012 Senbatsu Election First Day Results + Commentary

As AKB48 fans know, the 2012 Senbatsu election is in full force! The first day results just came out, and while these aren’t the final results (things are going to shift big time, like they always do) it’s interesting to get an idea of what’s changed in AKB and what’s stayed the same.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1. This is only the first day, and a small percentage of the votes. Things will (hopefully) change.

2. Maeda Atsuko is not going to be in the election.

3. The election is set up differently; slots 1-16 are senbatsu, slots 17-32 are Undergirls, 33-48 are Next Girls and 49-64 are future girls. There also isn’t a distinction between media senbatsu (the most popular members) and regular senbatsu.

Here are the results (from Melos no Michi HERE). They will be compared with last year’s final results, found at Janakya Mottanai HERE¬†because there’ve been some interesting shifts.

1. [AKB / K] Oshima Yuko (15,093)  (+1)
2. [AKB / B] Kashiwagi Yuki (12,654) (+1)
3. [AKB / B] Watanabe Mayu (11,329) (+2)
4. [AKB / A] Sashihara Rino (9,337) (+5)
5. [AKB / A] Takahashi Minami (8,955) (+2)
6. [AKB / A] Shinoda Mariko (8,619) (-2)
7. [SKE / S] Matsui Rena (8,460) (+3)
8. [SKE / S] Matsui Jurina (7,795) (+6)
9. [AKB / K] Itano Tomomi (6,595) (-1)
10. [AKB / K] Miyazawa Sae (6,280) (+1)
11. [AKB / A] Kojima Haruna (5,334)  (-5)
12. [AKB / K] Yokoyama Yui (4,301) (+7)
13. [AKB / A] Takajo Aki (3,661) (-1)
14. [AKB / K] Umeda Ayaka (3,484) (+8)
15. [AKB / K] Minegishi Minami (3,396) (=)
16. [AKB / B] Kitahara Rie (3,302)  (-3)

17. [AKB / B] Kasai Tomomi (3,227) (-1)
18. [NMB / N] Yamamoto Sayaka (3,218) (+10)
19. [NMB / N] Watanabe Miyuki (2,976) (NEW)
20. [SKE / KII] Takayanagi Akane (2,471) (+3)
21. [AKB / B] Sato Amina (2,392) (-3)
22. [AKB / 4] Shimazaki Haruka (2,340) (NEW but ranked in 2010)
22. [SKE / KII] Furukawa Airi (2,340) (NEW)
24. [SKE / KII] Hata Sawako (2,312) (+9)
25. [AKB / B] Masuda Yuka (2,182) (-5)
26. [SKE / S] Suda Akari (2,149) (+10)
27. [SKE / KII] Mukaida Manatsu (1,948) (NEW)
28. [SKE / S] Oya Masana (1,919) (+2)
29. [SKE / KII] Ogiso Shiori (1,788) (NEW)
30. [AKB / KKS] Muto Tomu (1,757) (NEW)
31. [NMB / N] Ogasawara Mayu (1,746) (NEW)

32. [AKB / K] Akimoto Sayaka (1,743) (-15)
33. [SKE / S] Yagami Kumi (1,671) (NEW)
34. [AKB / A] Kuramochi Asuka (1,653) (-13)
35. [SKE / S] Kizaki Yuria (1,624) (NEW)
36. [AKB / A] Nakaya Sayaka (1,348) (NEW)
37. [SKE / KII] Yakata Miki (1,345) (NEW)
38. [AKB / A] Nakagawa Haruka (1,244) (-14)
39. [SKE / KKS] Matsumura Kaori (1,194) (NEW)
40. [AKB / A] Nakata Chisato (1,188) (NEW)
41. [AKB / K] Fujie Reina (1,166) (-1)
42. [NMB / N] Yamada Nana (1,136) (NEW)
43. [AKB / B] Kobayashi Kana (1,110) (NEW)
44. [SKE / E] Kimoto Kanon (1,039) (NEW)
45. [AKB / A] Iwasa Misaki (1,023) (NEW)
46. [SKE / S] Hiramatsu Kanako (998) (NEW)
47. [AKB / 4] Yamauchi Suzuran (988) (NEW)
48. [AKB / B] Ishida Haruka (985) (NEW)

49. [AKB / B] Miyazaki Miho (970) (-22)
50. [AKB / A] Oya Shizuka (964) (-21)
51. [AKB / A] Katayama Haruka (955) (NEW)
52. [AKB / A] Ota Aika (912) (-27)
53. [AKB / 4] Nagao Mariya (818) (NEW)
54. [NMB / N] Fukumoto Aina (816) (NEW)
55. [AKB / A] Maeda Ami (810) (-18)
56. [AKB / 4] Oba Mina (786) (-21)
57. [AKB / A] Matsubara Natsumi (750) (NEW)
57. [SKE / S] Kinoshita Yukiko (750) (NEW)
59. [AKB / 4] Ichikawa Miori (702) (-20)
60. [AKB / K] Nonaka Misato (701) (NEW)
61. [AKB / K] Kikuchi Ayaka (653) (NEW)
62. [HKT / KKS] Eto Sayaka (641) (NEW)
63. [SKE / S] Nakanishi Yuka (618) (NEW)
64. [AKB / K] Tanabe Miku (616) (NEW)

Biggest winners of the day:

Sashihara Rino: while Sasshi only gained five places, when it’s that high up into #4 that’s a HUGE rise, especially when that means she beat out former #3 Shinoda Mariko, Takahashi Minami, Kojima Haruna, and Itano Tomomi. This is perhaps due to the influence of having a pretty successful solo single, Sore demo Suki da yo (which could show how Mayu has ascended to #3) and the fact that Sasshi loves idols, too.

Matsui Jurina: Last year it was looking as if Matsui Rena was going to come out ahead as being by far the most popular girl in SKE48. While that might still be the case, these preliminary results are making it seem like Jurina is moving up there.

Yokoyama Yui: Yui is one of the girls that management has been pushing, but really has gained favor with the fans. When she was a kenkyuusei member she was super popular with fans and none of the pushing has felt really false. That and her involvement with the subgroup Not Yet, Yui is doing very well!

Umeda Ayaka: This girl has been jumping up the rankings since her first showing. Last year she was center of the Undergirls single Dakishimecha Ikenai, and now she’s in the more restrictive senbatsu! At this point she’s the second most popular member of the unit DiVA and it’s looking like she keeps gaining fans.

SKE48: Once you get past the main senbatsu, a great deal of the new or rising members are in SKE48. While SKE48 had been doing well around the time of last year’s election, the popularity of their various singles including Pareo wa Emerald and Kataomoi Finally seem to have made their mark. So many members of the three teams and kenkyuusei are new to the ranking. In my opinion this shows that while AKB’s the big group in Japan, it’s sister groups are still quite popular.

NMB48 (especially Watanabe Miyuki): five members ranked from NMB48, and while that’s nowhere near how many members ranked from SKE48, the jump Yamamoto Sayaka made from middle of the undergirls to 18 is a pretty big jump. Watanabe Miyuki is also the highest ranked member who’s new to the ranking at 19. Again, this shows that NMB48’s popularity is rising, and also that the scandal that Miyuki was a part in didn’t hurt her too much; she’s less than 300 votes behind Sayaka, which is pretty impressive. Miyuki’s one of my top five idols of all time, too, so I’m personally quite pleased. But I think it’s reasonable to expect that next year even more NMB48 members will be ranking.

Today’s losers:

Oota Aika, Miyazaki Miho, Oya Shizuka, Maeda Ami and Ichikawa Miori: These are six girls who ranked fairly well in last year’s election; they were all in Undergirls, granted, but all above rank #40. ¬†Now Myao’s at the top of these girls with rank #49, and Oota Aika had the biggest drop of the girls still ranking, sliding down 27 points. None of these girls have had any major backlash, at least none that I’m aware of, so it really seems like they are falling because the new members are pushing them out (on a personal note, Oota Aika’s my AKB48 oshimen, so I’m a bit saddened).

Komori Mika, Sato Sumire, Matsui Sakiko: these are three girls that ranked in the Undergirls last year and now are simply not on the list; this means they fell from being above rank #40 to now being below rank #64. Of note is the fact that all of these girls are in major AKB48 teams; Komorin and Suuchan in Team B and Sakippe in Team K.

So overall, this ranking shows the new popularity for SKE48 and NMB48 and their fans voting in the AKB48 election, which ends up shifting members from AKB48 teams down. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these girls are less popular than in previous years; it simply suggests that these new girls have a newfound popularity from last year.

Like I mentioned earlier, these are really just the first 10% of votes so things could shift around and some members could fall off the list. However, this is an interesting start, and I’ll be interested to see how it turns out in the end!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 1

Hey guys!

Sorry I haven’t been posting, but personal life took precedence for a while. But now I’m safe and sound back in the US. I know I’m going to miss Intl Wota like crazy (yes I haven’t been blogging for that long), but it’s excellent that the fun seems to be continuing over at Idolminded.

While I have a lot of thoughts about things like the Mitsui Aika graduation (that I will probably be posting shortly), one thing that didn’t escape my notice is that Tokyo Idol Festival just announced its preliminary 2012 lineup (if it’s anything like last year there will be some last minute additions). I have decided to make last year’s posts an annual thing and I’ll be posting about all the idol groups attending this year’s festival!

If I wrote about them at all last year I’ll be cross-referencing that so that we can know what’s been going on since last year and see what’s happened!

Full list of participants is here:¬†http://www.idolfes.com/2012/¬†First impression is that I hope MMJ gets added this year; they are my indie idol love (Kyao is amazing!) so even though they’re based in Hiroshima I’d really like seeing them.

Idoling!!!

First on the list and I’d argue this is the biggest group performing at TIF. Their latest single Mamore!!! sold¬†56232 copies in the first week, hitting #2 on the weekly Oricon charts, so they’re certainly not hurting for sales. The case could be made that Super Girls are a bigger act, though.

Like always, Idoling!!! was formed by Fuji TV and appears on their self-titled TV show. They have been around since 2006 which makes them one of the older idol groups, but I feel like they haven’t gotten a huge break; they always feel like they’re on the cusp of being a bigger group but haven’t quite gotten to that level, and they’ve felt that way for years, at least since I’ve become aware of them. That could be my own perception, though, after my favorite member (Yazawa Erika) graduated in December I haven’t been paying them much attention.

I honestly don’t know if TIF is going to do much to increase Idoling!!!’s popularity and recognizability (like some of the smaller groups that come), but they are definitely one of the leading acts of TIF 2012.

Idol College

Now this group has an interesting history! I didn’t cover them last year, but they’ve been around for a while. Idol College was originally B.L.T Idol College (aka the idol magazine that I’m sure most idol fans are at least somewhat aware of). They were formed in 2009 and had a few singles; however, on March 31, 2010 B.L.T. Idol College was disbanded and Idol College was born the next day with all new members. There are 7 full members and 4 what I think are akin to submembers; they’re still in the picture on the Idol College website, for example, but are listed differently on the wikipedia page.

Their stated theme on their website is that they’re bringing up the future generation of idols, so the name is kind of self-explanatory, that these girls are still learning to become idols.

Since their reformation they’ve released one album and were on a compilation album. From the schedule on their website it looks like they’re keeping pretty busy, so they’ll be interesting to see perform on the stage this year! Their PVs seem pretty basic, but they’re from their new album. However, their songs are pretty catchy! My personal favorite is Na.Ri.A.Ga.Ri. Often the original songs for indie idols can be not the best (considering they have a limited budget) but I’m enjoying what I hear of Idol College and wish them luck in the future!

Idol Street Sei

Idol Street Sei isn’t really a group but where Avex pulls members for its new idol groups. Street Sei is where Super Girls hails and the newly formed Cheeky Parade (however not Tokyo Girls Style). At Cheeky Parade’s announcement they also announced that there will be a new, 3rd generation of the Street Sei, so they might be performing at the festival.

I don’t have much else to say other than the fact that these girls have a high probability of being put into an avex group fairly soon, so if you’re the type that wants to support idols from the very beginning and you like Super Girls and Cheeky Parade then following one of the seven girls currently in the Street Sei might not be a bad idea!

Up Up Girls

Yes! A group I definitely enjoy! Technically the group is “Up Up Girls (temporary)” but I’ll just be referring to them as Up Up Girls. If you are a fan of Hello!Project you likely know of these girls because all seven of them are former Hello!Project Eggs. They were originally formed as UFZS and still use that name when they do KPop dance covers (they’ve performed various dances such as After School’s Bang at contest), but Up Up Girls is their regular idol group name.

They aren’t in Hello!Project anymore and instead are under Up Front; however, they perform fairly regularly (at least weekly, it seems) and they do mostly Hello!Project covers at their concerts. They’re also fairly active online, posting a lot of their stuff online. Only very recently they’ve started to release original singles and do non-cover songs. I have a personal interest in the group since I’ve been a fan of Sekine Azusa (orange member in the group) for a few years now and I’m very glad to see her shine in a group!

The group is full of great dancers and for the most part very good singing (I’m very biased towards Sekkii, but she’s a great singer!), so they’re definitely worthwhile to check out, especially if you like Hello!Project in some capacity.

Afilia Saga East

Another group I don’t have much experience with but that I know has their fair share of a fanbase! The big thing about the group is that all of them come from a line of maid cafes and they still work in the cafe, which would be pretty exciting if you happened to go to a cafe and meet one of your favorite members.

The cafe chain itself is set up kind of like a magic rpg/anime, where you gain certain points and levels for going to the different cafes and doing different things. There is a whole backstory that seems pretty complicated and this post on Pure Idol Heart explains things a lot more clearly than I could. Here

From what I’ve seen the group really does play up the “moe” aspect of being an idol and a maid cafe waitress. All the members have fantasy anime sounding names, such as Aria M Milvana and Rose Gardenfairy, and the music and costumes tend to be on the cutesy side. However, this is a big part of their charm and one reason that they have their fanbase. Shurastriker (who you might know from JPHiP) wrote on twitter the fact that the members interact directly with fans via twitter and blogs as being a reason for liking the group, as well as the fact that all the members have different characters but are all geeky.

The group also has a connection to Tsunku because he wrote one of the songs, Knee-High Egoist, which is not quite as moe as the other songs but a bit more sexy. The group seems to have a lot going for it, a clear theme that sets them apart from the rest and a fanbase of their own, and I can’t wait to see more about them in the future!


So far a really good group of five (even though I wouldn’t really count Street Sei as being a group). But if this is the level that Tokyo Idol Festival has this year it’s going to be a great time for anyone lucky enough to go!