Tokyo Idol Festival Part 4

Even more idols were added! Right now the current count on the TIF page is, get this, 82 separate groups/acts! There is a lot of stuff to cover, so I’m going to try my best to get these posts out as much as possible, which means that I’m putting some content I’ve been working on for Happy Disco on the backburner to try and focus on TIF.

Up’s Infinity

The thing about Up’s Infinity is that they’re not just an idol unit, but a rock band as well; perhaps closer to something like SCANDAL than like idol units? According to their TIF blurb they come from a TV show “Bandoru” (clearly a portmanteau of band and aidoru), and their TV show looks to be a mix of variety and documenting their journey of becoming a band even though they don’t have much experience in the music industry.

The latest four episodes are up HERE if you’re interested. Finding other videos is honestly tough, as searching Up’s Infinity gets very few results and Bandoru (in Japanese) is tough as well, so if you  know anything about them please leave a comment! Quite frankly, hearing some stuff from their digests on YouTube, I can’t say I’m TOO impressed, but maybe that’s part of the idolness of their group, the fact that they’re so new.

Still, if you prefer live instruments and bands to your standard idols, Up’s Infinity might be something you might be interested in, since they’re not the typical idol group.

Ayaman Japan

This is another non-traditional group but for different reasons! This actually started as an entertainment group and to this day there are 100 members of that group, that entertain at parties only if you know one of the members and that don’t get paid. However, back in 2010 three members started to make media appearances and they’ve started to release music. Three singles have been released so far, and the one that’s made the biggest splash was their first single, Poi Poi Poi Popoi Poi Popii.

Ayaman is almost the antithesis to the traditional idol group, with Poi Poi littered with sexually suggestive lyrics and scenes in the PV (featuring chanting S-E-X, featuring their breasts and humping statues). For all that idols are supposed to be pure and virginal, Ayaman Japan is almost the opposite, and I’d imagine if you were tired of the traditional idol image that Ayaman Japan might be a reprieve from that. According to this interesting article on Kotaku, “If AKB48 are idols you can meet,” leader Ayaman recently said on variety show Shabekuri 007, “we’re idols you can…” That last bit was bleeped out on television.”

If you’re looking for good idol music and singing, Ayaman Japan is not your best bet. However, I’m betting that their performance on the TIF stage is going to be one of the most interesting and unusual ones, and definitely something to check out.

Izukoneko

This is another one of those idols that is super hard to find information about, unfortunately. The only site that I could find is her Ameblo, without a major official site (as far as I can find) and without a Japanese wikipedia page. So if any of you guys are majorly into Izukoneko, please give me more information!

Izukoneko is a 17 year old soloist who it appears has done at least one anime songs. She made her debut in October. She’s done at least two singles; Rainy Irony is pretty pleasant to listen to (even though I half expected her to bring out Alanis Morissette in there).

At first I wasn’t super impressed by her presence in the Rainy Irony PV, but seeing a clip of her live (on her youtube izukoneko) she seems like one of those idols that excels live. I’d recommend giving Rainy Irony a try because it’s not really a typical idol sound (despite the ‘nyan nyan nyan’s in there, fitting her name).

OS*U

Standing for Osu Super Idol Unit, this group was formed near the end of 2010 and just performed their first solo show for 500 people and will be performing at Zepp Nagoya, so it looks like they’re gaining a bit of popularity, at least for being indie idols. They are local idols from the Aichi prefecture (which is also where SKE48 hails from) with fifteen members. Even though they’re relatively new they’ve released five indies level singles, so it looks like they’re a pretty active group. They also have two subgroups, Pop Star and Smile Star, that allows them to promote more.

Osu is a shopping area, but it can be said to be the Akihabara of Nagoya; it is a shopping district that has a good deal of electronics shopping,and the OS*U site proclaims it to be a land of idol, anime, maid and otaku culture. So if this is the case, it makes sense that at least one idol group would be formed there. After all, AKB48 is so big after being formed in Akihabara.

From what I’ve seen of their videos, they seem pretty unpolished and unafraid of fanservice (as shown in their Surfing Striker PV), and the sound of the Surfing Striker song doesn’t have the greatest audio mixing in the world (the girls’ voices are pretty quiet at parts). However, they seem cute, enthusiastic and like they’re having fun, which can really go a long way in the idol world.

So far not much stands out in the way of songs, concepts and themes, but they’re definitely not bad and are worth checking out.

Ogawa Mana

Here’s an idol you ought to know, if (like me) you enjoy the more obscure side of Tsunku’s idol pop. Back when I wrote my section on The Possible I gave a brief introduction to TNX, Tsunku’s label, and Nice Girl Project, the idol project on TNX. While The Possible was the most popular among TNX, another idol group, Canary Club, was fairly active for a while . Canary Club seems to have lost quite a few of its members (only four or five, looks like) and their last release was all the way back in 2010 (Daisukki, selling just shy of 2250), but back in the day Tsunku seemed to be attempting to make a star out of the front girl of Canary Club, Ogawa Mana.

Ogawa Mana has released only one single (Suppin Rock) and one album (1 Teenage Blues) but she really has done a lot more as a solo artist. Probably her most notable thing was being the voice actress for anime, Gokujou!! Mecha Mote Iinchou as main character Kitagami Mimi. This lead to a number of singles released under MM Gakuen Gasshoubu (the first two) and Kitagami Mimi with MM Gakuen Gasshoubu. The single probably most known to H!P fans is the last, Oshare My Dream, as that’s the single that had the Sugaya Risako solo, Elegant Girl. The songs for Ogawa Mana’s releases are written by Tsunku and are often pretty good, compared to his current H!P stuff, so she’s definitely worth checking out.

Another notable release was as a promotion for the brand COCOLULU, so she was the main singer for the unit COCO CREW.

I had honestly thought that with her switch back to Spacecraft as opposed to TNX/NGP that the idol world had heard the last from Ogawa Mana, but this appearance at TIF might say otherwise! She’s a cute girl with a pretty solid voice and a great presence, so it will definitely be interesting to see where her career goes from here! I definitely recommend checking out some of Canary Club’s stuff (I personally prefer Sweet & Toughness and Hitomi ga Kirakirara) and her anime songs (I love Mecha Mote I Love You).


^Canary Club, Ogawa Mana’s up in front in yellow

Okite Porsche

At first when I looked Okite Porsche up I was very very confused. He’s not an idol act but a man, according to wikipedia vocalist to new wave band Roman Porsche, and a guy who’s done work in movies and anime, as well. However, after a bit of investigation, he’s behind retro group Vanilla Beans and also has some connection to indies era Perfume, as well as being a fan of Berryz Koubou, apparently.

I still don’t quite know why he’s listed as a participant in TIF, but perhaps he’ll be performing a role as DJ (something he has experience in) or even doing MCs.

Osaka Show Gangs

This is another group that has been around for a long time, but that has run under the radar! They’ve been around since 2006 and have remained pretty active since (having released a number of singles and a couple of albums). They currently have 10 members and, as their name implies, hail from Osaka. While I haven’t heard of them and finding much on them is a bit tricky, they seem pretty busy, at least according to their website. In fact, the more I find about them the more relevant they seem (since they’re appeared in indie events with groups I have heard of, BiS and Idol College. They also often wear modified yukata, as they have a theme of being like an energetic young woman at a festival. They label themselves as a dance and vocal unit, which is a label that tends to be used if they’re going for strong vocals and dance, and they deserve it. While the dance seems to be pretty decent, there are some really great vocalists among their rank, especially in their latest single, Poji Joshi Sengen, which is a REALLY good song. This actually may be one of my favorite songs of the new groups I’ve found. They have other good stuff (Osaka Wasshoi is very nice), but this song is great. The PV is much less so, but is pretty ambitious for such an indie group. Other than that, finding more is kind of hard, but they’re all energetic and with such good music they’re definitely a group to keep an eye out for.

Kaiketsu! Tropical Maru

Yet another group I didn’t know! Just a quick google search in English reveals that they’ve hit #4 on the indie charts once, but since #1 was AKBN0 I don’t know if that says that much. Called Kaitoro, they were formed in 2011 and are from the same company as AeLL, who is also coming to TIF (and I covered previously). They currently have 8 members who all have a specific “tropical fruit” and color with them (though, since one of them is strawberry, tropical is kind of used loosely here). They are also related to Tsunku in that it seems he had a hand in naming the group (and/or promoting them via Tsuntube). Their first live was only last November, and they have released two singles this year, Tropical Kiss and Here We Go!?. So they’re one of the relative newbies at TIF. So far, watching a couple of live videos on YouTube on their official channel, they appear to be pretty professional performers but the songs really don’t do much for me. Perhaps it’s since they came from the same company as AeLL, whose songs really didn’t do much for me? I do think the concept of having an image fruit is pretty cute, though, and the performances seem to be pretty strong for their relative inexperience. Still, while I’m not super impressed by their music yet, there’s really not that much from them yet, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do in a setting like TIF.

Disappointment: Gathering my thoughts on Otome Sensou

If you’ve followed my blog even slightly you’ll know that Momoiro Clover has been my favorite idol group for some time now. I discovered them just as they were making their major debut and have been following them since. I’ve loved every single thing they’ve done since their release.

However, I am not crazy about Otome Sensou, their newest single song, and that’s kind of disappointing for me.

I just have to say that I don’t hate it. The song itself isn’t bad, though I don’t think it was written particularly well. There are elements of greatness, to be sure, but it’s not a very well written and arranged song in my opinion. The 7 minute song is too drawn out, has an empty arrangement in parts (the beginning of the first verse comes to mind, when it’s just fake-y sounding electronic piano and drums), and is kind of all over the parts. The build up of the song at the end is nice, but ultimately it leads back to the chorus which feels incredibly anti-climatic. You may disagree on how you think it was written; I know multiple people who would argue that it’s an incredibly well-written song and an excellent piece of music aside from it being idol music. However, there’s one problem that both I and other MomoClo fans have with it:

It doesn’t feel like Momoiro Clover Z.

MomoClo has changed over the years, from being an indie street idol group to being a group that had traditionally inspired idol costumes to being major debut Momoiro Clover to being Momoiro Clover Z. They always try new things, but they always feel like MomoClo. This doesn’t have the same energy that MomoClo is.

Others have mentioned that it’s experimental and good on MomoClo for trying it, which I agree. However, it’s probably not the best song for the A-Side, and while I appreciate people experimenting with groups this isn’t successful for me. I’m just really disappointed in how I feel about this single and what they tried to do with Otome Sensou, especially since I think the PV is one of their strongest yet.

So I’m pretty conflicted. On the one hand, I appreciate risk taking, but I think this song isn’t doing it very well. All in all, I’m disappointed, and sad to feel that way.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 3

A couple of things before I get started:

1. The TIF 2012 website just got updated! There’s a bit more information up, though not everything quite yet. However, it’s a lot more intuitive, with each act having a picture (or the promise of a picture), a short description and a link to their website.

2. Since some new acts were added recently I’m going to go in order of the TIF website, which means that a lot of the stuff I was planning on writing about will come later.

3. At the end of this series of posts, as an incentive for me to finish this year, I’m going to write a list of my recommended acts and go through the timetable, picking what I would go see.

Alice Juuban 

This is one of the most visually striking idol groups I’ve seen come from TIF! Where all the other idol groups are cute girls posing in one way or another, Alice Juuban are all wearing hockey masks and holding chainsaws. Their logo even has this! Self proclaimed Heavy Metal idol unit, this is a 10 member group (as indicated by their name!) that has a relatively older age range with the oldest member at 25 years old! They are all signed with Alice Project and are in other idol groups (i.e. two of the Alice Juuban girls are in another group, Prism, and all of the girls in another Alice Juuban group, Pureful, are in Alice Juuban as well) so it’s kind of the Alice Project supergroup.

Apparently they incorporate things like headbanging and even stage diving into their repertoire, so that makes the group pretty interesting. I have to admit, it takes a lot of guts to get your idol group to dive into a crowd of wota, so that’s pretty interesting. However, while I’m really enjoying their image and how they’re being marketed, the one thing that stands out as not being consistent is the music. The two songs I’ve listened to on their website, Skeleton Sky and Makenaide, are good songs and have metal elements to them such as heavy guitar and strong drum beats, but inherently feel really more like idol songs. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that you have a group like Babymetal that really throws themselves into metal music, especially with their song Ii Ne.

Still, they have a really good image and I’m not saying their image is bad; in fact, if you prefer your idols with a bit of rock a la Passpo you might want to give Alice Juuban a look. However, in my opinion their music doesn’t quite live up to the hockey masks and chainsaws they pose with.

SKE48

Since this is a group that needs very little introduction I’m going to be brief about that and instead focus on my thoughts about SKE48 participating with TIF. However, since not everyone is a fan of the 48 groups, I’ll give them some explanation.

SKE48 is the first ‘sister’ group to the massively popular AKB48. Formed in 2008, they have a pretty similar set up to AKB. They’re “local idols” who perform mostly at their theater in Nagoya at the Sunshine Sakae (SaKaE, SKE). They have their own singles aside from AKB48, though Matsui Jurina and Matsui Rena (SKE’s front girls, not related) participate in AKB singles and other members participate in various undergirls songs .

As for how SKE is different from AKB, they are definitely lesser known than AKB (though more well known than HKT48 or even NMB48). SKE48 has a reputation for having strong dancing and athletic members that make watching PVs really fun to watch, as the choreography is pretty top notch. At one point SKE had PVs featuring a lot of extras (300+ in 1 2 3 4 Yoroshiku and 1000+ in Banzai Venus, I believe) though that’s no longer the case. Still, SKE48 has very high quality PVs, as evidenced by the lovely Kataomoi Finally, and really  high quality dance performance. I hesitate saying this, but while I love AKB48, I think overall the performances of SKE48 are stronger.

That being said, while I love SKE48 and think they’re a great group of girls, I don’t want them to participate at TIF. SKE48 is at this point arguably the second most popular idol act in Japan right now (second to AKB48) and they’ve become a very established act of their own, rather than just having popularity due to AKB48. A look at my most recent coverage of the AKB48 senbatsu election shows a lot of popularity for SKE48 members, so SKE’s sales aren’t based off of a loyalty towards AKB48.

The reason I cover Tokyo Idol Festival on my blog is because I really love how it showcases indie and otherwise lesser known idol groups. Some bigger name groups are there, yes (this year Idoling!!! and Super Girls look to be the biggest names), but they’re nowhere near as big as SKE48. My biggest concern is that passionate SKE fans will buy up tickets to TIF, leaving fans of the other groups difficulty in finding tickets, and then the audiences for other groups would be much more sparse. This could be totally unfounded and wrong, but I have to worry. Still, I hope this isn’t the case and that SKE fits in with the rest of TIF!

Oh Campee

A group I covered last year and that I’m pretty familiar with! I admit I mainly know about them from their one original song/PV, Happy Happy Birthday, which is pretty outdated; it came out in January 2011. Since then members have left and others have joined. One of the things that made Oh Campee pretty noticeable is that one of their members was black, but she’s (sadly) left the group. My personal favorite member, a girl I just called “eyebrows” (she had really great eyebrows) left too, so I’m disappointed.

Right now they’re a 10 member idol group from Himawari Theatre Group formed in 2010. Their only song (as far as I know) is Happy Happy Birthday. They’re a pretty lesser known group; the only videos on YouTube, for example, are Happy Happy Birthday, a short few second clip and an excerpt of their performance at TIF 2011. That vid in particular is interesting, because they sound like they are singing live, which is pretty impressive, even though their song catalogue might not be so impressive. They’re cute, but have nothing that really makes them stand out as a group.

Gal Doll

This is a Shibuya (in Tokyo) based three member idol group based off the Gal subculture. I’m not going to explain everything about gal/gyaru subculture right now, because it would ultimately take a while and it’s also not my area of expertise. However, basically it’s centered around fashion and is often characterized by dyed hair, makeup and sometimes tans. It’s its own separate subculture, so it makes sense that such a subculture would have its own idol group!

Gal Doll is a three member group with three girls: Juno (the one in yellow), Ryoka (pink) and Nanaho (Blue). The first thing that’s immediately noticeable is that their main website is a mobile site, which really would focus on a younger demographic. Finding information on singles they’ve released is proving slightly difficult with their mobile site and regular site (so if you have info about Gal Doll please share!!),but I found they did perform at the Shibuya event “Campus Summit” which is an event organized by student clubs. This event releases a CD every year, so at the very least Gal Doll is on that. They have one PV out to their song Loco*Girl ~Agepo yo Summer~ which is actually a pretty catchy dance track with a para para dance shot. The PV itself is low budget (featuring a lot of bikini fan service!) but definitely not the worst PV I’ve seen.

While the Gal image is not necessarily my favorite for an idol, the members all seem cute, energetic and fun, and if you like para para/eurobeat type music check them out. They’re releasing a DVD in July that has their first solo live events on it. While the only PV I’ve been able to see is Loco*Girl ~Agepo yo Summer~ I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of their stuff. All three girls seem to be into what they’re doing, having fun, and that makes them really fun to watch.

KNU

KNU originally was KNU23 (another group riding the AKB wave) but, much like one of my favorite idol groups MMJ, they removed the numbers and are just referred to as KNU now. Which makes looking them up online  a bit trickier, but it shows they’re trying to brand themselves beyond being another AKB.

Interestingly enough I found this Kotaku article HERE that mentions KNU. Apparently those three letters stand for “kyonyuu” meaning large breasts (though I saw on another site that it stands for “Keep it Natural Under 23”, and according to the article all the girls in the group have a G cup size or higher in Japanese sizing (which is actually around two cup sizes smaller than the American size, so a D in Japan is closer to a B in the US, I believe). They have 12 members and have been around since 2010, and while they’ve only been around for a short while they already have 21 former members!! They only seem to have an Ameba site, even though last year they were able to release a single with three songs, I Show It, Pops and Koi no Joushiki. Something of note for Tsunku fans, they actually appeared on his show, Tsuntube. While I’m not a huge fan of Tsunku for various reasons, I do like how he’s been promoting lesser known idols.

They also appeared in a video for the show MelodiX, which is an introduction that features quite a bit of breast fanservice (the camera going across all the members who are squeezing their breasts together). Part of me felt really uncomfortable about this, but I also felt like in a way they weren’t hiding the fact that they were a fanservice unit, but in fact embracing it. Still, they are a fanservice unit that doesn’t carry the “star power” of Ebisu Muscats or the utter ridiculousness of Sexy All Sisters.

The performances I’ve seen seem pretty unpolished, but finding recent videos of them is pretty tough. Their songs are pretty standard but aren’t very catchy and aren’t very memorable.


AKB48 Senbatsu Election Commentary

So while I posted the actual numerical results for the AKB48 Senbatsu Election first day count, I know I’m absolutely late to that party right now as every blog seems to have a list up. I was thinking of posting something earlier, bu I stayed up until 7:30 AM watching the livestream and I needed to get a little sleep before I go to work today. So instead I’m going to give my thoughts on some of the notable things that happened this year.

Biggest winner of the night goes to SKE48?

If anything is going to convince me that SKE48 needs to not be in the Senbatsu election it’s this year’s results. A friend of mine suggested that SKE, NMB and HKT have their own separate one, and this year I tend to agree. While in the past SKE48 has mainly shown up with Matsui Jurina and Matsui Rena, this year SKE48 had a lot of members in the three groups (Undergirls, Next Girls and Future Girls). The biggest section of girls in SKE48 were in the Undergirls, which had an incredible 8 members among the sixteen girls in that ranking section. Watching this part live was actually incredible, as twitter erupted with people talking about SKE48. It was almost humorous how often the announcers were calling SKE.

Further, with so many girls ending up dropping rank, especially many Future Girls and Next Girls who were once Undergirls, this year has definitely seen the rise of SKE48, for better or worse. A good part of me wonders if this is organic (that is, more and more fans are getting an interest in SKE48) or if this is management pushing. I mean, SKE48 got to perform two songs at the election, Aishiteraburu and Banzai Venus (the first only senbatsu and the second all SKE48 members) whereas NMB48 and HKT48 only got one song, even though by this point NMB48 has had four singles and is certainly an established group within the 48 groups.

In any case, while I am conflicted about SKE48’s placements in the group, it’s a really great thing for their fans to see so many girls up there!

Oota Aika’s meteoric drop

OK, while this might not be major news for everyone, but Oota Aika is one of my all time favorite idols and is my AKB48 oshimen, so I’m going to talk about this. Basically, Aika has the biggest drop in this election, from 25 to 52. This is pretty major, especially considering the first election when she actually was able to get into the bottom of the senbatsu. She also lost over 3000 votes, so I’m wondering what happened.

Anyways, not gonna lie, over here tears were shed for Lovetan. She also had one of the most notable speeches (at the time it had the most +1s of any of the future girls speeches by far), and I can only hope that she’ll improve her rank next year because she’s really a sweet girl that deserves a higher rank.

Rise of NMB48… sort of?

While there were only five members of NMB48 that ranked and all of them were in Team N (thus, no Team M ace Jo Eriko), I think this is only the beginning for NMB48. While Yamada Nana, Fukumoto Aina and Ogasawara Mayu didn’t rank very highly, the relative high rank of Yamamoto Sayaka and my oshimen Watanabe Miyuki (I really can’t choose between her and Lovetan) really cements them for me as being the Jurina and Rena of NMB, that is the members that are essentially the aces of NMB and members that will most likely appear in AKB singles to come.

Sashihara Rino’s rise

This year saw a pretty big change, which was Sashihara Rino rising from #9 all the way up to #4. Member rankings change every year, but having a member climb that much when they’re already that high in the rankings really says a lot about Sasshi. Perhaps it was the boost from Sore Demo Suki Da yo (her solo single), or the fact that wota of other groups might be fond of Sasshi being a wota as well. She’s been getting a pretty solid push and it seems to be working. It will be interesting to see if Sasshi gets more screentime in PVs in the future than she has in the past, now that she’s firmly one of the top members.

Jurina and Rena’s switch

This was probably the biggest surprise for me of the evening. While Matsui Jurina and Matsui Rena have always both been popular members of SKE48, for the past two years Rena has gotten more and more popularity than Jurina, who was the original ace of SKE48. However, Jurina managed to take back her position as SKE48’s number one member after having quite a year so far of illness and joining AKB’s Team K. While I really like Rena, Jurina has always been the SKE48 ace to me, so it really feels to me like Jurina’s taking back her rightful place. Rena’s a great member, but Jurina is the ace of Team S.

Mayu and Yuki’s switch

This was the other major switch in rankings of the evening and in a way it’s very similar to Jurina and Rena’s situation. Mayu was the original ace of Team B and was the original member who got a push on that team. However, last year Kashiwagi Yuki gained a lot of popularity and was able to take the #3 spot in the elections. This year I was honestly not expecting to go back to Mayu, but perhaps hings like her solo single (Synchro Tokimeki) helped her reach the top. I like both members a lot, and Yukirin really seemed to be proud of Mayu, so it didn’t feel like there were any hard feelings.

Vote losses?

This year was kind of an interesting year, compared to the votes gained last year. For example, I was fairly confident that Oshima Yuko would take #1 again this year. Her popularity is really strong, and the fact that she won the election by over 36000 votes shows that her popularity isn’t going away this year. However, while she did gain over 100,000 votes this year, a major feat, she actually lost around 14,000 votes from last year, which is really odd. Mayuyu gained quite a few votes, but Yukirin actually lost about 3000. Since AKB48 certainly isn’t doing worse than last year (with Manatsu no Sounds Good’s amazing sales) it feels like there’s a change happening, and perhaps more and more people are discovering other members, changing oshimen from the top members, or just voting for different girls. With Mayu’s rise in votes and Yuko’s drop in votes, if things remain the same it might be a tough race for #1 member.

Of course, a lot of members gained votes or remained mostly the same. But these drops up in the top members as well as the drops with other members who ranked lower (Oota Aika lost 3000, Takajo Aki lost just under 8000, etc) are really interesting, and I think show just how interesting next year’s election really will be.