Tokyo Idol Festival Part 9


Ahh, Super Girls. I’ve been aware of them right from the beginning. Super Girls is one of the groups of Avex’s Idol Street (which is where the Idol Street Sei from the first post are from). While Tokyo Girls’ Style, the group before Super Girls that year, have always had a more mature (but in a performed by young girls kind of way) feel that is somewhat inspired by previous group SweetS, Super Girls are pure idols aimed at hitting the AKB48 demographic. Literally, at their first press conference the one part that stands out is how they want to surpass AKB48.

Super Girls is an 11 member group (one member left in the past year) that has girls ranging from 14 (popular member Maeshima Ami) to 23 (leader Yasaka Saori), so they have a pretty wide age range. Calling them “idol-like” is probably the best way to put it, as they perform fairly energetic songs (for their singles, at least) that are catchy and pop-y, and don’t get too cutesy or too mature.

Super Girls conflicts me. On the one hand, being an avex group, they have a very polished image and all the girls are pretty solid performers as well as being appealing idols (Arai Reira and Kanou Kaede both stand out to me and I’m very fond of both of them). The PVs are all pretty good (though none are extraordinary) and their single songs are, like I mentioned, catchy. However, after watching some of Super Girls livestreamed, none of the album/b-side songs really stood out to me and I found myself kind of bored. Moreover, the way they started (essentially as a way for Avex to get into the AKB48 market) kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and I can’t stand their latest PV to Puri Puri Summer Kiss, which features blatant long shots of the girls’ butts. I don’t mind fanservice with older idols, but this was both featuring younger girls (like Ami) and was so obvious and blatant that it really bothered me.

Still, I like Super Girls. To an extent. They’re by no means my favorite idol group, but I find Max Otome Gokoro to be a really top notch summer song and all the girls ARE really good idols. If you’re an idol fan and you haven’t, you really owe it to yourself to at least try Super Girls. Like it or not, they’re a major power in the idol world right now.


This is a pretty recent group; while Passpo is the group based off of flight attendants, Station is a five member idol group from Akihabara that has the girls be based off train attendants. They have so far released three singles and one album, all of these in 2012, so it seems like while they’re new they’re trying to kickstart their career, and an audience as big as TIF will do well for them.

The interesting thing is the train theme; while Passpo has since shed a lot of the flight attendant theme in the process of becoming a bigger group (Next Flight was very flight attendant-based, but Natsuzora Hanabi is much less so), Station is at this point still very much keeping with their train attendant theme (their album’s title is even Densha (train) de Go! Go!); it will be interesting to see when/if they shed that. For example, their second single “Let’s go! Tetsudou Idol” has a PV set at some train museum, so at this point they’re connected to their theme.

While Passpo also distinguishes itself as a rock focused group, Station is more about the cute; their latest single is a ballad, but their second song, Let’s Go! Tetsudou Idol is a ridiculously adorable song. They feel much more idol-y.

I have to admit, when starting to research Station I expected to go “Train attendant group, what’s up with that?” and move on. However, all the girls are cute (and are decent singers and dancers) and  the songs aren’t bad at all. While the train attendant theme can sometimes be a bit much, I know I’ll try to follow Station a bit more in the future as I’ve really enjoyed them so far!


Unrelated to SHAKE (despite similar name and concept) SPLASH is another dance and vocal unit with a rock focus to their music and image. They’re a three member unit that has a mature image to them, as is evidenced by their pictures on their website featuring them wearing leather jackets and posing in front of a dark background (that I swear looks like they made it out of a trash bag).

Please note that SPLASH is pretty tough to find videos for; not only is the name a bit tricky to google search (as well as having all their singles have pretty generic titles), but there’s also another idol group named SPLASH out there. So if you decide you’ve taken a liking to SPLASH, they are not the idol group with colorful costumes and about 7-8 girls in the group.

One thing I have to commend SPLASH for is that they do seem to be keeping up with the dance and vocals, since they are a “dance and vocal” unit. Their vocals are pretty good and their dancing, while not super great, is at least trying to be better

Musically I can’t say I’m all that impressed, personally. The first song I listened to was “Crazy 4 You” which starts off sounding a lot like AKB48’s Mokugekisha and then moving into what sounded like a dance ripoff of the instrumental break in Momoiro Clover Z’s Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo. Their songs feel slightly generic, and don’t have that much life to them. “Are You READY?” also has the least energetic “Yeah!”s I’ve ever heard. I can’t say I’m much convinced by SPLASH, personally, but if you’ve exhausted the other rock  vocal & dance idol units out there, they could be something to look into.

Space Girls Planet

My immediate impression was that I really dig the name, but then I notice that Space Girls Planet is yet another “Dance and Vocal” three member idol unit, which is fast becoming the default group at TIF.

Space Girls Planet, while having a promising name, doesn’t have an astronaut gimmick or anything like that (though their first real song, Sayonara Planet, fits in with the theme nicely). They were formed in December 2010 and have released two singles in addition to some “demo” singles, as well as a DVD that has a solo song/PV by member Ito Yui (whose image color is blue).

While I was a bit tentative when I saw the image on their website, their lives seem like fun and I’ve started to like this group. The vocals are solid and pleasant to listen to, and while their dancing is quite frankly nothing special they all seem like they’re having fun on stage and are very fun to watch. While none of their other songs really grab me like Sayonara Planet does, they’re fun and ultimately very enjoyable.

3B Junior Team Blue and Team Red
OK, I’m consolidating into one thing because I can. 3B Junior is the section of Stardust Promotions that focuses on idols. They have Momoiro Clover Z and Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, in addition to smaller/lesser known groups like Minicheer Bears, Team Syachihiko, etc. 3B Junior Team Red and Blue are two teams of 8 girls that are in Stardust Promotions (a couple formerly from Minicheer Bears), that aren’t quite in a group like MomoClo or Ebichu but could be in a new group in the future.

Given the nature of 3B Junior Team Blue and Team Red, they don’t have singles out or anything like that. However, these are the girls that could potentially go into a new Stardust group, so they’re girls to follow!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 8

Timetable of the concert is up! Parts of it are up for changing, but at the end of these posts (whenever they come) I’ll put up my ideal timetable in addition to my overall group recommendations.


While I haven’t heard of this group before, they come from a very well known background! Their main producer is Onda Yoshihito, who is best known for being a member of the rock group JUDY AND MARY. He’s now a well known composer and producer, and so even though I haven’t heard of SHAKE they come from a very well known rock background, which is pretty unique for an indies level idol group.

According to their blurb on the TIF site, their goal is to be a dance group that performs high quality original songs as well as anime song covers and to be able to do strong dance performances. There are three members in the group, and they have a much more mature/cool image than a lot of the cuter groups, which fits since all the members are in their 20s and are thus on the older side (all of them are older than me, in fact!)

They’ve so far released four singles all titled “Shake vol. 1” with the numbers going up. Not the most creative name ever, but hey. They started releasing singles in 2009, and most recently released their first PV/live video collection DVD.

Looking at the promo vid released for their video collection, I’m a bit disappointed in their dance like the last group. While they’re certainly not bad dancers and perform better/tighter than a lot of idol groups, I feel like calling yourself a dance group implies that the dances are somehow considerably harder. However, their voices are all nice and the original songs are pretty high quality, which is really nice. The songs fit the more mature feel to the group and don’t sound particularly idolly, which could be a plus or negative depending on the person.

Still, while I do think they’re good and produce high quality stuff, I can’t help but feel like they could be a bit better, given who they come from. They’re definitely fine, and if you like more mature groups they might fit you better, but they aren’t necessarily what I’m looking for.

If you follow Tokyo Idol Festival like I do, you should know JK21 now; they’ve been performing at TIF since its first year, 2010. JK21 is a Kansai based local idol unit, with their name standing for Japan Kansai 21st Century. There are currently five members, which means that unfortunately they’ve lost two members since their latest single, Nanairo Real. They also have a subgroup/sister group “JK21 Pucchi Musume” as well as their own kenkyuusei, which is a bit surprising given the fact they’re still pretty small in popularity; Nanairo Real sold just under 3000 copies, which certainly isn’t bad but doesn’t quite warrant a kenkyuusei system in my opinion.

According to the blurb on the TIF site, their biggest claim to fame is doing a cheering song for the baseball team Hanshin Tigers (which, personal sidenote, is Ishikawa Rika’s favorite team who she’s a major fan of), Win! Win! Tigers, which is a pretty good deal for a group who was releasing on an indie label at the time. They’ve released six singles (that’s including their two indies singles) as well as two albums, which is a pretty good number of releases all things considered.

Back when the setlist for TIF 2012 first came out I was just about to write about JK21 before all the new additions were added and I was set back a little. However, when I realized it would be a while until I wrote about JK21 I felt a bit of relief, truth be told, because beyond the basics of what I explained already there’s not much extraordinary about them. There’s nothing wrong with the group at all, though, and their songs are pretty good, especially Koi no Kiseki and Nanairo Real.

Shizukaze & Kizuna
Shizukaze and Kizuna have been at TIF for three years as well, but actually started out as just Shizukaze so that might be how you’re more familiar with them, if you know them at all. Shizukaze was a unit made up of two girls, one named Shizuka and the other named Fuka (but she has the kanji for Kaze in her name) so their names were combined to be Shizukaze. They performed and released some stuff under Shizukaze for a while, but in 2010 combined with the idol unit KIZUNA (actually it’s “絆~Kizuna~” but 絆 is the kanji for Kizuna, so I’ll just use it once).

They are another self-proclaimed rock unit an it seems like they actually do that; while their latest single “Oo.Shizukaze ni Notte.oO” is pretty laid back and is typical idol, the C-Side on this release is called “Yellow Fuckin’ Idol?” (No, I’m not making that up), so Shizukaze & KIZUNA is definitely atypical. Their vocals aren’t really great, and they don’t sound like they were altered when making Shizukaze ni Notte, so their vocals have kind of an untouched sound which I have to say isn’t very pleasant when the vocalists aren’t doing so great. If you like good dancing, KIZUNA in particular is very strong at dancing and might be one of the better TIF units at doing that.

Still, despite their faults they seem to be strong performers (an article on Pure Idol Heart HERE details the strengths of a Shizukaze & Kizuna live), and if you want more of a rock sensibility (they clearly all sing live and they do focus on rock music) you might have an interest in Shizukaze & KIZUNA.

Jewel Kiss
While I personally don’t follow Jewel Kiss, I know from the forums at Hello!Online that they do have a small passionate fanbase. I’ve been vaguely aware of their existence for some time now, and I think part of that is because they’ve covered Hello!Project songs in the past. They’re yet another unit that has been at TIF for three years, so they are definitely established in the indie idol scene. They actually are based in Hokkaidou and have been doing the “each member has a set color” thing since 2008. There are currently seven members, after their eighth member left last year. Their age ranges from 11 years old to 16 years old, however they have a decidedly younger/cuter image, as most of the girls are around that 11-12 year old age range.

They’ve so far released three singles and one live DVD. Despite now having some more releases under their belt they are still a very small, indie group and are still performing at the indie focused Fantastic Stage at TIF this year, so it doesn’t seem like there’s been much growth, at least popularity wise. They do sing all of their stuff life (which is pretty admirable for some groups) and they’ve definitely improved vocally since I’ve last heard them! Their latest song, Renge ~Lovers Flower~ has a traditional sound to it, which might be a cool image for them to try out. Their singing and dancing has improved since I’ve last seen a Jewel Kiss video.

This is another group that’s a pretty standard cute group without any added gimmicks or things to set them apart. However, lately their singing and dancing is pretty solid (for idol standards) so if you want an indie cute girl group to support you might want to look into Jewel Kiss.

Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku 

Here’s a group that I’m a big fan of! Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku is another idol group from Stardust  Music Company, the company behind Momoiro Clover Z. Ebichu (as the fans call them) is known as the little sister group to MomoClo, and have appeared at MomoClo concerts before. However, despite being a little sister group, it’s been a big year for Ebichu! They’ve done a lot of solo works and just this year released their major debut single, ‘Kari Keiyaku no Cinderella’ in May. They’ve also released their first solo DVD, and their second single is “Go! Go! Here we Go! Rock Lee!,” the ending theme to the Naruto spinoff anime.

There are nine members in Ebichu, and since “Chuugaku” (middle school) is in their name they have a younger age range, going from 13 to 16. As expected by a Stardust group, they’ve always been a bit of an eccentric group. A good deal of their songs have been written by Hyadain (Maeyamada Kenichi) whose written a lot of Momoiro Clover’s more eccentric songs (Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo, Santa-san, Wani to Shampoo etc.), and the eccentricity is certainly there with Ebichu. Songs like ” Oh My Ghost? ~Watashi ga Akuryou ni Natte mo~” and “The Tissue ~Tomaranai Seishun” are some of Hyadain’s best, so if you know you like his stuff then you really should be paying attention to Ebichu.

Basically, while they’re definitely not Momoiro Clover Z part two (they are very much their own group) a lot of the things that make Momoiro Clover so much fun are present in Ebichu. The high energy is there, their dances have a lot of energy, the odd/eccentric songs are there, etc. If Momoiro Clover Z is a group you like and you don’t already follow Ebichu, then you really ought to. On the other hand, if you don’t like Momoiro Clover Z, then still give Ebichu a shot because a lot of the things on the surface are a bit different, so you might be able to like Ebichu.

私立恵比寿中学『仮契約のシンデレラ』Sub R/E/K by asahi2307

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 7

I’m trying to get caught up! To be honest I’m doubting I can have all these groups done by the time TIF does roll around; however, I’ll keep going and get them all done.


After debuting in 2009, Survive-Zero has the theme of being both cool and cute, as well as being a dance unit, focusing on dance above the music. There are four members, and recently they released their first album, Survive First From Zero. They actually come from the same agency, Finolia Factory, as the group choice? (my favorite idol group name) and the solo artist Rizumu.

While their songs that are online from their official YouTube sound good and have more of a rock tinge to their sound, I was a little disappointed by the pointed lack of dancing I saw in their videos. I know that they don’t necessarily want to move around much when they’re singing, but I expected more dancing from a “dance unit” and certainly more difficult dances than what I saw. That being said, their dancing is good and I like their singing; it just seems that describing them as a vocal and dance unit would be a bit more accurate.

They’ve released 13 singles in addition to this album, so they’re pretty active for an indie group! The couple of performances they’ve released online are very strong, so it seems like practice has paid off for them. They’re definitely a group you should check out if you like a rock sound to your idols; I have a feeling Passpo fans, for example, could find a lot to love in Survive-ZERO.

Sanspo Idol Reporter
Often shortened to SIR 2012, SIR is a group that was formed this year in February, auditioning for six girls. Sanspo is the nickname of the newspaper, Sankei Sports, and the twist about SIR 2012 is that they are supposed to be able to report on idols as well as be an idol group, so I think that part of their involvement at TIF won’t be just performing their recent debut single, but also reporting on the various idol groups performing at TIF.

In fact, while I’m not having much trouble finding very long videos of the girls in SIR 2012 talking, I’m having a bit of trouble finding stuff of them singing or performing. They have some sort of thing dealing with pachinko and amusement halls, and it looks like they have a show called “SIR 2012 Idol Reporter no Kiseki”

They might be interesting to follow if you really dislike idol music and just like it for cute girls. They are cute, and seem entertaining enough, reporting, but I just can’t find anything about their new single.

This is a tough group to search or, since they use the myu symbol in their name but sometimes spell their name as さんみゅー which is “sanmyu~”.Anyways, Sunmyu is the idol group from Sun Music (an agency) that is working primarily on Nico Nico Douga, AKA the Japanese YouTube. They post most of their things on their page HERE. They are a group of ten girls that their Nico page emphasizes are ‘real beginners’, meaning they haven’t been in a CD debut and they have to work their way up. This is emphasized by the fact that on their Nico site they have a lot of videos from various dance lessons and things, showing the process of the girls becoming idols.

“Beginner” idols is hardly a new concept; it used to be a strong rule that Morning Musume members had to be absolute beginners (I remember there was a minor controversy because Niigaki Risa appeared in a commercial before joining), and it’s a major focus of AKB48 (the fact that they’re unpolished and resemble an actual classroom of girls). However, Sunmyu seems to be taking this to a new level, so if that’s your favorite part of idols they might be a interesting group.


First of all, the G in G*Girls stands for Gravure. So straight away that fact that gravure is so important that it’s in their name should give some of you an idea if you’ll love or hate the group. It was formed in September of last year and it has seven members (at least in their TIF profile picture; there are nine girls on their official site profiles)! All the girls are over 18, so if underage gravure bugs you then G*Girls won’t hurt that. They all auditioned through the Miss FLASH 2011 gravure competition; four of the girls are the winners, five are runners-up. As such, all of the idols are gorgeous.

Even though gravure is the obvious focus of the group, their motto is that they’ll sing, dance and do gravure. They’ve released one single so far, Mahou wo Kakete Love Me Do, which is a pleasant if a bit forgettable cute pop track. It’s a bit interesting they chose to go for a cuter sound, since on their website they compare themselves to KPop acts KARA and SNSD, but it’s cute. The first half of the PV is a collection of the girls posing in skimpy outfits, much like a making of for a gravure shoot, and the second half is the lessons and preparations leading up to their first public appearance, which was actually at last year’s Tokyo Idol Festival.

Basically, this is the type of group that will appeal if what you’re looking for is fanservice and beautiful women doing gravure. Before reading this post you probably would know if this group is for you, and I won’t be able to convince you otherwise.


CQC’s’ name stands for for “Campus Queen Collection Stars,” which is fitting because they’re all around college age. They are a local unit from Fukuoka and mostly make media appearances around there. Their number count is a bit confusing; they had nine members and two just graduated this July, but in their latest single (in April 2012) there are ten members, so that’s a bit odd. Regardless, their profile on their site and their group picture say that there are seven members in CQC’s.

Not much is apparent about these girls and they seem to be, by all accounts, a fairly standard idol group. However, for their relative inexperience, their singles and PVs feel very polished, in a way local/indie idol groups rarely feel. While their first PV/song ‘Namida no Request’ isn’t necessarily bad, the group shines in Fuwafuwa Precious, their third and latest single. It’s an upbeat and outright catchy idol tune, that vaguely reminds me of some of the stuff for Tsunku’s TNX idol groups (which isn’t a bad thing at all; many of Tsunku’s best songs past the golden era of H!P were in TNX). The girls are all cute and energetic and none of them are phoning it in at all. The video is far better than a lot of indie/smaller acts, and is flat out made well. They all seem like they’re enjoying themselves a lot, which shows in the making of video for Fuwafuwa Precious.

Honestly, of all the groups I didn’t follow before working on this TIF post, CQC’s might be on the top of my list of “groups to look out for.” I’m very glad I discovered them!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 part 6

Even more groups keep on getting added! At this point TIF has over 100 groups going, and since there isn’t a time table up yet I imagine even more could be added.

Apple Tale

Another group that has been promoted by Tsunku’s Tsuntube; even though I don’t necessarily like how Tsunku’s been promoting/working with his original groups, he tends to pick some indie winners to feature on TsunTube. A self-proclaimed rock unit, Apple Tale is a six member idol group. They’ve so far released five singles, the most recent is By Chance Wonderful.

According to Japanese wikipedia they also come from a Japanese net channel, Kunoichi TV, that supports female idols.

At this point, Apple Tale’s tricky to google (both as Apple Tale and in katakana, アップルテール)and I can’t find any individual songs other than performances on Tsuntube; if anyone has any, let me know!

Still, they seem cute, and if rock music is your thing you should give them a shot.


This is a much more famous group! E-Girls is an idol collective under Avex Trax that contains all the members of Dream, FLOWER and Happiness (plus two other members), and as such has 21 members making it a larger group. All of the groups have a cooler, more KPop influenced image than the standard idol group, so they definitely break out of the mold of the typical TIF group. E-Girls aren’t a youth-focused cutesy group. They’re also related to the popular Avex group EXILE, with the name of the group standing for EXILE Girls Unit.

As evidenced by the start of the PV to their second and latest single, One Two Three, E-Girls’ focus is really on their dancing, and they have a strong, KPop-influenced style to their dance. Unless some group really impresses me, of all the units at TIF E-Girls might have the strongest dancing. Their vocals are strong as well, focusing on deeper, strong vocals. They feel very much like a strong KPop female idol group, having the same attention to vocals, dance and overall presenting a polished product.

Ultimately, though, while they do come off very well, they feel slightly out of place among the rest of the TIF groups, who focus on the Japanese idol ideal of being a bit rougher and being personality driven. However, if you like female KPop groups or wish that Japanese idol groups were a bit more polished when it comes to their dancing and singing, E-Girls is definitely a group to check out.

OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu!

With possibly the cutest name ever, OhaGirl comes from the popular children’s TV show Oha-Star. Some of you might know it because some celebrities made their start on Oha-Star, including one of my favorite idols of all time, Sasaki Ayaka of Momoiro Clover (this is where her catchphrase A~rin da yo comes from). Others might know that various Hello!Project members have appeared on OhaStar, including notably Kusumi Koharu, Ogawa Saki (part of OhaGirl Maple, who did the single featuring S/Mileage), and now Ikuta Erina.

OhaKids are the young kids that Ayaka came from. OhaGirl, on the other hand, are the older, middle-school age hosts that make up the idol groups like OhaGirl Maple and now OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu!. So the three girls in OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu! are from the OhaGirls from Oha-Star. Most of these units are temporary, but various people from OhaStar did become more famous, so these three girls may be more famous one day.

In August OhaGirl Chu! Chu! Chu! are making their single debut with “Motto Gyutto Heart,” and since they made their debut in April they’re one of the newest/freshest idol groups to be appearing at this year’s TIF. Their ages range between twelve and fourteen, so they’re also fairly young. If you like cute girls, this should be a good group to follow, though OhaGirl groups rarely last too long.They also seem to focus on ribbon twirling as their thing, which would definitely be fun to watch for. Their first song/PV focuses on the ribbon twirling a lot, and while it’s not a spectacular song it’s amazingly cute and definitely isn’t bad, especially for this brand new group!


This is a pretty unknown group of two girls, the DJ Kurika and the other girl, Maki. According to the TIF site, while they’ve done other things, this is a new DJ unit for them. Their Ameblo site lists their introduction as being written on July 2nd, so they’ve either been pretty lowkey until then (they have one video of themselves on YouTube from March) or they might be the newest unit on the TIF stage. They also have twitter accounts as well as a Nico Nico Douga account.

It looks like they’re doing some self-promotion, so they may be one of the few idol groups where the members are the main driving force behind the group, which in my opinion makes them pretty interesting. They seem to be mostly into anime songs, so if you’re interested in Anison they would probably be an interesting group.

Other than that there’s not much to go off of, but they aren’t the typical group at TIF, that’s for sure, because of their inception as a group. Even though they’re so new, I do really like the two girls and I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of them!

Sakuragi Seira

Seira (romanized on the TIF site as Seila, on her ameblo URL as Seira and on her site as Seilah) is a solo artist who seems to be more of a music artist than a standard female idol (since she plays the guitar as well as sings). She comes from Stardust Promotions, the agency behind Momoiro Clover Z, Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, Aso Natsuko and others, so she comes from a very good, professional agency. She’s 19 years old, and has been active since 2008. Interestingly enough, her last video on YouTube was from 2011, so she hasn’t been doing too much.

Seira isn’t too active in general; she’s released one PV (After School) and one single.(Parachute/Emergency Love). She has a very pleasant voice, though it seems to be slightly shaky during live performances. I don’t know if she writes her own songs at all, but they’re pretty nice (I really like “Yes or No”, or at least the short snippet on her YouTube), and she’s definitely unique in that she’s able to perform by herself both singing and playing guitar.

Even though she hasn’t done that much, I really hope that she can use TIF to kickstart her career, because while she’s not so much an idol and isn’t the most charismatic girl ever, I like her and her voice. She’s definitely someone to follow if you prefer music artists; with some training, practice and promotion, I could potentially see her becoming an artist similar to Yui.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 Part 5

Kikkawa You

As most idol fans are pretty aware of Hello!Project history, I’ll keep this section pretty brief and on point. Kikkawa Yuu got her start back during the 8th generation Morning Musume auditions where she got to the finals but (along with AKB48 member Sato Sumire) lost to Mitsui Aika. Yuu’s had a pretty sizable fanbase since then and became a Hello!Project Egg soon after, with a pretty strong singing voice. She became part of the three idol unit Milky Way along with Kusumi Koharu and Kitahara Sayaka, In early 2011 she made her debut with Kikkake wa YOU!, and now her activities are outside Hello!Project in UFA, though she still performs and promotes at H!P concerts.

She’s since released a DVD, three singles (fourth is coming out soon), a photobook and even a documentary on her road to debut, which isn’t bad for a former Egg! I have to admit that when she was an Egg I wasn’t as crazy about her as others were (my favorite egg is definitely Sekine Azusa), but I can certainly appreciate Kikka. She really is a talented singer and I’m very happy for her fans who have stuck around for years.

Kikka’s a very good performer and should be an excellent addition to TIF, especially since her last single had an unfortunate drop in sales (possibly due to fewer versions of the single? not quite sure, because I enjoy the single song), this could be good promotion for her. Lately the idol scene has been all about groups, so it’s good to see a solo artist out there.

While I’ve never been too big of a Kikka fan, honestly rewatching Kikkake wa You (her first single) and her latest single, Konna Watashi de Yokattara, I think she’s really grown since her early days as an egg and in Milky Way. Her voice is better, she’s more expressive in general, and is pretty compelling. I really think she needed that time in training to blossom, but blossom she has and I can’t wait to see how she does TIF.

(note: Universal Music Japan won’t let me embed her PVs, but finding them on YouTube isn’t super hard)

Caramel ☆ Ribbon

I’m not at all familiar with them, but someone I know is! Jim from I ♥ Miyoshi Ayaka’s Idol Musings is a fan of Caramel Ribbon and has shared some really excellent information with me!

Caramel Ribbon is a three member unit from a larger idol collective called Esse Academy. I have to admit I haven’t heard of Esse Academy, and honestly Caramel Ribbon is just about the most well known group among this, which isn’t saying all that much. The girls range in age from 13 to 14, so a younger group. They released one single, Niji Iro, back in 2010 but have recently recorded a new single, so perhaps that will get performed at TIF!

For being an indie group song, Niji Iro is pretty good; the girls have pleasant voices and it’s an overall pleasant song; the song itself feels slightly old fashioned, but not quite as retro as Vanilla Beans, for example. They also perform covers, such as the well known song Natsu Matsuri (made famous by girl band Whiteberry).

Here’s the thing about Caramel Ribbon. They don’t seem to have any major gimmicks, nor do they fit into some wacky niche. They’re three cute girls who are pretty good performers. However, if you’re into cuter groups with cute girls, I definitely recommend you give Caramel Ribbon a shot.

Caramel ☆ Ribbon (キャラメル☆リボン) – Niji Iro by Sakura-Gakuin-Fan 

Coro☆Coro with Fukasawa Saki

I swear, finding the kanji for this was the biggest pain. Anyways this is a three member “dance and vocal unit” (meaning they’re trying for better dance and singing as opposed to other gimmicks), featuring Saki and two other girls. So far they’ve released two singles, including “Super Birthday.”

At first I wondered if Fukasawa Saki was a big deal, like this was the idol project for a popular gravure idol (a la AeLL). However, whenever I search Saki’s name, all that comes up are links related to Coro*Coro, so if anyone knows why Saki is in the group name, please let me know! So far it looks like it’s because Saki is really the front girl of the group in their stuff.

So far Super Birthday is pretty standard idol stuff, as is their first single ‘again.’ However, a performance of a song called ‘destiny’ shows off the fact that there’s good dancing and singing. The PV preview of Super Birthday has made me pretty fond of one of the non-Saki members, Airi, who’s pretty cute. Their dance skills are good and their singing skills are definitely fine. However, there’s nothing that really makes this group stand out that much, and I feel like it would be kind of hard to be a fan of a girl that wasn’t Saki at this point.

Kotone Mai

Another soloist! Mai (her nickname’s Mainya) is 21 years old and has been active as an idol since 2009 and since then has released six singles. I’ve heard her name before, but for some reason I didn’t know who she was.

While looking up Mainya, I discovered something amazing: that Pony Canyon has English-language profiles! So finding out about her is pretty easy. Apparently she gained a lot of fans because she performed over 300 shows a year, which is really incredible! That kind of work ethic is really extraordinary, and I’m glad people have taken notice. She’s somewhat of an indie idol darling, and her singles sell well even though they’re indies and have limited numbers to sell. Also according to this profile Mainya has been called the next big idol to break, recently.

Watching her stuff, Mai’s voice is unfortunately not that pleasant to listen to. While vocal skills aren’t necessarily very important for idols, it makes me wonder how far she can really go as a solo artist. One of the reasons groups can go really far is because vocal skill matters a lot less when you have many singers; it’s a bit less forgivable with a soloist. Still, I really appreciate her obvious enthusiasm for being an idol, her energy and her work ethic, so I’m going to keep an eye on Mainya to see what she does next!

Circadian Rhythm 

Here’s a group I’ve covered before. Their name is certainly interesting (the English name for the sleep cycle). They are a two member “dance and vocal” unit that features nice mature vocals and members that seem to have older members and an overall more mature feel. They’ve released one single and last year they released their first album, featuring what seems to be their most pushed song from the album “Bloom ~Sakurairo no Kisetsu”. The PV for this looks pretty cheap, with the two girls singing and dancing over some pretty shoddy effects wearing short kimonos. However, despite the failings of the PV, this is quite a good song and the girls have really good voices for being at TIF.

The last thing on the Circadian Rhythm website is information about them performing at TIF 2011, so I don’t really know what, if anything, they’ve been up to since last year’s festival. However, if you like your idols on the more mature side as opposed to the standard cutesy group you usually get at TIF, you might want to look out for Circadian Rhythm.