Announcement: Happy Disco is Now Becoming Hallyu Disco

Hey guys,

So I bet you’ve noticed that in the past few months I haven’t fulfilled my promise to post as much. While part of this has been about being a busy student, I haven’t been completely truthful with you guys. I’ve slowly been in a bit of an idol funk, and I’m losing all interest in female idols.

I’m in a bit of a dilemma; I don’t want to stop blogging, but Japanese idol groups don’t do it for me anymore. So I’ve come up with a solution that I hope all of you can support me with, and if you read my blog I really hope you keep reading it. Instead of covering things that happen in the Jpop idol world, I’m going to focus more on the KPop world. Specifically Super Junior, because they’re SERIOUSLY the best thing out there right now.

Honestly, if you don’t think that’s the greatest group you’ve ever seen, you’re a LIAR.

I also don’t like writing in depth and I’ll mostly be posting vids/photos of my faves. Because they’re so sexy. Especially Siwon, jesus christ what did I ever see in Rika.

So Happy Disco is now becoming Hallyu Disco, as soon as I fix the banner and stuff.

Happy Birthday Idolminded!

Today is the 1st birthday of the incredible Idolminded. Or, if you will, Idolminded’s Hajimete no Happy Birthday.

I’ve greatly enjoyed working on and with the lovely people at Idolminded. Thanks to the efforts of Ray, Thennary Nak and Chiima, the long-term contributors who have kept this going. Even before I joined the staff of Intl Wota I’ve enjoyed the Rec Reading posts, because they’re honestly a really helpful resource. Keeping up something daily like this is no small task, and it’s become a fantastic resource. Adding in fun things like the Haikucandy and daily idol thoughts, Idolminded has really become an excellent resource for idol bloggers and idol fans alike. This is something I’m really grateful and lucky to be a part of, because I’m so proud of the quality of Idolminded.

If you haven’t seen yet, Idolminded is doing hourly posts (as opposed to the standard daily posts) in honor of its first birthday, so check it out!

AKB48’s 5th Senbatsu Election

I’ve been in a bit of an 48 group rut lately. I love my favorite members still, and I still pay attention, but they’ve had trouble holding my interest. I think this is, in part, due to events out of their control.  I found So Long as a single to be lackluster, the announced SKE graduations of my three subsequent oshimen make me want to avoid SKE48 (Yagami Kumi, Ogiso Shiori, Hata Sawako), and while I find a lot of promise in HKT48, Suki Suki Skip didn’t grab me like Hatsukoi Butterfly. But also, AKB is at the point where they are in a bit of a cycle. Every year there’s a Sakura/Graduation single, the summer election single, the election results single, the ‘cool’ single and the Janken single. The three main events are the senbatsu election, the janken tournament and the Request Hour Setlist Best 100 concerts. The most recently added event, the janken tournament, has already been going on for three years. While girls have come and gone, the framework is largely the same. AKB needed something to shake things up.

And shake things up it did. There are now new rules for the senbatsu election; while the markers for senbatsu, undergirls, next girls and future girls remains the same as last year, there are new restrictions on membership. Now, to even be a candidate for the senbatsu, every girl has to apply. They have to be a current member of AKB48, SKE48, NMB48 or HKT48, they can be one of the foreign transfer members (Miyazawa Sae, Takajo Aki, Nakagawa Haruka, or Suzuki Mariya), or they can be an OG member who was in a group for over four years.

Obviously these are some big changes, and here are some thoughts I’m wondering about.

OG Members, Who Will Come Back?

Possibly the most exciting of the new rules is the one that former members of AKB48 (and related groups) who were in the groups for four years or more could come back and apply to be a candidate. Obviously, this four year limit really limits the number of girls who could come back (no 8th generation kenkyuusei, for example!), but it raises a few options.

First off, I think the least likely to come back is actually Maeda Atsuko (and Masuda Yuka); Acchan, at least from my perspective, left on her own accord and is trying to make her own way beyond AKB48. Her graduation, after reaching the long term Tokyo Dome goal, felt like a really fitting close, and it really did feel like she wanted to make way for the next generation of AKB members. Same with Masuda Yuka; while she was a big part of the 48 groups, even before her scandal it really felt like she was ready to move on into her own career (missing key AKB events to rehearse for her stage play), and I can’t see her coming back.

My personal hopes are for Ohori Megumi and Urano Kazumi specifically, but also any of the members who were transferred to SDN48 and graduated in the mass graduation. Meetan and CinDy are my particular favorites, they were in the 48 groups for a long time (CinDy was an original member!), and it would be really great to see an SDN48 member participate, even if they don’t necessarily make it very far at all. I’d like to see Hirajima Natsumi, as well, but I’m not sure how many girls who left due to scandal would decide to come back.

Who of the Current Members Will Apply?

This is very interesting to me; while in the past every member was an automatic candidate, this year the girls have to be proactive and opt into the senbatsu election. One question I’ve seen pop up is “who wouldn’t go into the election?” which is a tough question. Senbatsu results have long been a marker of a member’s popularity, and it’s hard to see any member decide to not go for it. I can possibly see some members not really bothering, if their likelihood of not getting in is slim (such as most of HKT48’s kenkyuusei), but there aren’t any risks in giving it a shot. So it’ll be interesting when the candidate list comes out, to see if any prominent members decide to step down for this single (though it feels unlikely).

What About the Kenkyuusei (and Miichan?)

One theory I saw on a comment on Tokyohive (and a good one) is that part of the reason for allowing former members with a long tenure in is to allow Miichan the opportunity to participate, and that this year it actually restricts against kenkyuusei from taking part. This is all a theory, but is based on some slightly ambiguous wording. The first rule is actually written so that it’s an “AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, HKT48 enrolled member.” Does this exclude Kenkyuusei, who are technically not full members of the 48 groups (Miichan, who was in AKB48 for longer than that four years, could thus join)? This is something that I hope will be clarified, because if so it would be an interesting move , focusing on the full members. Kenkyuusei rarely make it very far (notably last year, at the time kenkyuusei Muto Tomu was the center for the future girls unit), so it’s probably not going to matter. The only girl I could reasonably see affected by this would be HKT48 kenkyuusei Tashima Meru, who’s quickly become HKT48’s center and most likely continued ace of the group.

Foreign Members?

Back during the big team/group shuffle, I mentioned that the 48 groups seemed to be giving a bigger focus on the international groups, JKT48 and SNH48, by sending over four members. Which is true. However, allowing these four back in brings up the question: why aren’t foreign group members allowed in the election.

My first thought is practicality, because they’d have to come and promote the singles, but JKT48 has come to Japan before, and that same thing would have to happen if Miyazawa Sae, Takajo Aki, Suzuki Mariya or Nakagawa Haruka choose to apply.

So despite their emphasis on promoting JKT48 and SNH48, these groups feel like they’re secondary to the Japanese groups. I have no idea how well JKT48 and SNH48 have been doing, financially (I’m not as aware of the systems in place for gauging that as I am with Japan) but this move seems to imply that JKT48 and SNH48 are not quite equal with their Japanese groups, which makes me wonder if they’re not doing quite so well.

In any case, I think when the candidate list comes out it will be interesting to see what happens with this unique senbatsu election.

 

Why 12th Generation Morning Musume is a Great Idea

When it was announced that Morning Musume was adding a new generation, I saw a lot of bewilderment, and a lot of finger pointing, at one person in particular.

While Tsunku might not be the one to blame in this situation (most of the decisions are made by UFA higher ups), it still is a curious situation. The tenth generation really seemed to come quickly after the ninth generation, and the 11th generation soon after. So, why do they do it?

Announcements Feel Quicker Than the Real Deal

Maybe this is a bit obvious, but to state the obvious: auditions take time. Not necessarily for every idol group, but MM likes to have multiple stages of the audition process, publicize the last bit with the boot camp, and then pick girls. Even when that’s all said and done, there’s some time between when they’re picked and when they actually become active members of the group. So even though it feels like Oda Sakura JUST joined, she was accepted into Morning Musume about six months ago. It’ll take awhile for these new girls to join, Reina will be long gone, and it might work out nicely.

No More S/Mileage/Country Musume Situations

Not that I ever think this could happen to Morning Musume, but for me one of the weirdest times was right after Eri, JunJun and LinLin left the group, but right before 9th gen entered. Five members, the first time since the group formed. Morning Musume needs a steady stream of members, so that they can maintain having a steady group of people. The reason I think S/Mileage went for the multiple generation route was because Ogawa Saki was leaving (happened after the 2nd generation announcement, but management still could have, most likely knew) and they possibly already knew Maeda Yuuka was leaving. The group wasn’t stable, so to maintain this new group they wanted new members. They didn’t want another Country Musume situation on their hands, where after the first single Rinne just had to do some solo singles until they added Asami and then Ishikawa Rika for the Country Musume ni groups. Hello!Project’s going for longevity, so they want a good number of girls in Morning Musume at all time.

Really, the Group’s not THAT Full

Reina’s leaving. This is a fact. It’s also pretty safe to bet that in the next couple of years, Michishige Sayumi will also say goodbye to the group, mostly because she’s been with Morning Musume for so long, and the age gap is getting even bigger. So when Reina leaves, there will be 10 members, and when Sayumi leaves there will only be 9 members. For those who mostly got into Morning Musume in the Platinum era that was the norm, but having more than that is by no means unheard of, right around when 5th generation and 6th generation joined.

More members can also bring in more fans; one of the ingenious things about AKB48 is it’s sheer size, and the fact that the concept (a classroom) encourages various types of girls. With all the different members, it’s easy to find at the very least one girl you like, if not more. Even if there are front girls (which is the case for pretty much any idol group), Morning Musume putting in more girls means that there are more opportunities to get fans interested. I know that I was ready to stop paying attention, but then I became a fan of Ishida Ayumi.

Stagnate Morning Musume is One to be Avoided

This is possibly the most important thing to remember. Right now, Morning Musume are making an honestly fantastic comeback, and are at the best sales they’ve had in a while. They’re starting to get more and more recognition as being more than “that group that brought you Love Machine.” Of course, they’re not mainstream popular yet, nor are they anywhere close to being the top idol group in Japan, but it feels like they’re finally putting in a lot of effort as a group. Part of that includes a fresh line up. One of the things that Morning Musume is known for, other than Love Machine and Renai Revolution 21, is their line-up changing system. And for good reason! But in their heyday, almost every single was a change in line-up; before Koi no Dance Site Ishiguro left, before Happy Summer Wedding the fourth generation joined, before I Wish Ichii left, Renai Revolution stayed the same, and before The Peace Yuko left. It generates a lot of buzz and is honestly the thing that keeps the group going; the stagnate line-up of the Platinum era did no favors, and didn’t bring in many new fans. So adding new members, if it contributes to keeping these fresh line-ups and making the group interesting again, is fine by me.

First Impressions: Neo Stargate

Momoiro Clover Z and I have a long, interesting relationship. I’ve been a fan of the group since their major debut (Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo in 2010), and I’ve enjoyed seeing a group I liked rise to popularity. However, lately I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch in my MomoClo fandom; while their popularity flourishes, I’ve found myself dissatisfied in their music (see my post about how disappointed I was in Otome Sensou). However, Battle and Romance, Momoiro Clover Z’s first album, is quite possibly my all-time favorite idol album, up there with longer term favorites like Matsuura Aya’s T.W.O. So while I’ve had my issues in the past, I’m honestly really excited for Momoiro Clover Z’s 5th Dimension, because their albums are very good.

PV

Seeing a PV for this made me excited; if MomoClo is known for anything, it’s their interesting visual style, and PVs go along with that. This is, in my opinion, a definite step up for their PVs. The production values are really all-around strong, and you can tell that a lot went into the production of the PV. The set is excellent, and I really like the sterile, sci-fi feel. The other actors do a good job (afro scientist is up there as one of my favorite PV extras, along with “Socrates” in Twinklestars’ Dear Mr. Socrates) in portraying the story.

While the set is sometimes a bit bare (though it doesn’t look too bare; it’s just minimalistic, which is fine), the real interesting bit is the costume selection. The fact that a good deal of the PV takes place with MomoClo wearing masks that are downright scary looking is a very bold and interesting choice. I don’t know if they were inspired by anything in particular, but they seem to be horror inspired. None of the costumes are particularly idol-like, which says a lot about the direction MomoClo is going. While their last costumes have their member colors as small accents on their costume, the color palate of this PV is VERY bland and beige, which is unlike the Momoiro Clover of the past. It works here, but I really hope it doesn’t become a trend; one of my earliest/favorite memories of Momoiro Clover was when they performed on the 2010 Music Japan female idol special. Almost every other group was wearing some variation on white, but MomoClo were in their bright, rainbow Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo costumes.

Unfortunately, while I love the PV as a whole, it gets progressively less interesting and feels at points like more of a well-filmed dance shot. There’s a bit of intrigue at the end where they open the gate (ha!) and move into what looks like the very bare bridge of the starship. But then it just ends. There’s a good section where the girls are just dancing/moving around in their costumes, which works (the choreography for Neo Stargate, while not as interesting as some of their earlier works, is pretty good), but it just feels a bit disappointing. The start of this was SO strong and perfect, that to see the PV go downhill feels like a bit of a let down. Which really, feels like the trajectory of Momoiro Clover Z’s career for me. Because, let’s be honest, this is really good, and Momoiro Clover Z produces VERY high quality stuff; it’s just when they make mistakes, it feels a lot more disappointing.

So, in conclusion, while I like this PV, I think there is definitely room for growth and improvement.

Song

First off, am I the only Stargate fan in the JPop/idol fandom? If so, I kind of wonder how well known it is in Japan. The music at the beginning of the PV (which, at this point, I’m not really sure if it’s a part of the actual, album song?) is actually vaguely reminiscent of some of the music from Stargate. I kind of hoped Richard Dean Anderson would make a cameo or something (though my Stargate of choice was Stargate: Atlantis. Don’t judge me.)

Right away, I liked this song. It has a dark feeling, and reprises the use of choral vocals found in Mugen no Ai, which was a single I really loved. Its heavy drum beat was also really nice; this song already didn’t feel like any other idol group. It feels uniquely Momoiro Clover Z, which is very good. It also feels very fitting of an album opening, and I imagine will fit well as the first track of 5th Dimension.

Then there was the pseudo-dubstep influenced section. While I can tolerate dubstep influenced sound in many idol songs, and it certainly fits here, I was a bit stumped at first listen. It’s a curious addition, but Momoiro Clover has had stranger things mixed together before (i.e. Pinky Jones using both a sitar and bagpipes, or at least digital sounds that sound like a sitar and bagpipes). However, when the song moved even faster, that’s when I hit a bit of a hurdle.

The rest of the song is so unique and pushing the envelope, that the chorus hits really flat with me. It’s a strangely generic sound in the midst of such greatness, that it really feels out of place; the chorus sounds like a very typical idol song, in melody and arrangement, that only the quiet choral voices in the background are there to remind you what song this is.

It’s a bit like Otome Sensou to me, but I’m more positive towards Neo Stargate than I was towards Otome Sensou. There are a lot of great ideas in this song, and it has potential to be better than it is, but is weighed down by its length and everything it puts in. I really like the start (and all parts like it) and the section where they sing “Open the gate, open your soul.” They could have condensed the song to be shorter and made it ultimately a better song, but this song tries to do too much and be too much without excelling at it. I love a good generic idol song, but that’s not what this should be and not what it needs to be. MomoClo has had good songs that do a lot of different things (i.e. Mirai Bowl) but they feel in general like a cohesive song; this doesn’t, which is a bit disappointing.

Ultimately, while I do tentatively like this, there are definitely ways where both the song and PV could be improved. Battle and Romance was SUCH a fantastic, perfect album, that this makes me a little bit worried, but I’ll have to wait and hear the rest of the album to decide more.