Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 6

Caramel ☆ Ribbon

No, not the Starbucks Frappuccino. This is a three member idol group apparently decided by the president of Tower Records to be one of the idol groups to make it big this year. They are a part of the “Esse Academy,” but are the most popular group to hail from it. They’re based in Osaka, as well. The girls (Amane, Aoi and Seina) are 14-15 years old. Since last year’s Tokyo Idol Festival, they’ve put out one new single, ‘Yakusoku no Basho,’ so the group currently has three singles. They recently signed to T-Palatte records, so while they have been a pretty small group, they might start doing things like PVs and the like soon.

The thing about Caramel Ribbon is that there really are no gimmicks about the group; they’re three cute girls who perform pretty well. So if you want something different or exciting, you might not get it from Caramel Ribbon. If you want a solid indie group to support, well there are definitely worse groups to give your support.

Personally, while I definitely see why some people are very much into them, they don’t really grab me. They almost feel like relics of an older era of idols; there’s nothing bad about the group at all, but not much that’s really noteworthy. From what I’ve seen they’ve definitely improved since last year, and their vocals are definitely solid. The music just hasn’t grabbed me, and the group itself is slightly generic.

That said, while I personally don’t have an interest, I don’t think they’re a bad group at all. So I’d suggest checking them out to see if they interest you at all.

GAL♡DOLL

Out of all the idol groups I covered last year, one of the songs that really stuck with me was Gal Doll’s “Loco Girl ~ Agepoyo Summer~.” It’s a really catchy/fun song that I actually listen to a fair amount.

GAL DOLL is a unit from the Gal culture. Gal (or Gyaru) fashion is a style that features bleached/dyed hair, lots of makeup, and so on. The history of gyaru culture as a movement is pretty interesting, and while I’m not going to go into all of it here, I encourage you to check it out.

GAL DOLL is thus a gal-inspired unit that is located in Shibuya, one of the fashion centers of Japan. Last year they had three members, but it looks like one of them (Ryoka) left, so there’s only Juno and Nanaho. They were formed by the popular magazine ‘egg’, and are based as a Shibuya girls unit, promoting Shibuya fashion. They’ve performed at the Campus Summit event in the past, an event organized by student clubs surrounding gyaru culture. So Gal Doll really seems to be aiming to be a fashion-centric unit, combining the world of gyaru fashion and idol music. Not a bad idea, especially since gal idols are kind of rare.

Much like last year, it’s hard to find out everything about them.Their website’s a bit tricky. However, it’s good to see them moving forward and releasing new stuff; Juno and Nanoha have released another single/song, “We Can’t Stop It.” It’s not quite as fun as Loco Girl, as it’s more of a slower tempo song. The reason I listen to Loco Girl so much is because it’s a fun, upbeat Eurobeat/Para para song. It’s a bit disappointing to see this change, but it’s certainly different. A lot of what was fun about Gal Doll just isn’t there in We Can’t Stop It, which is a shame.

Still, I’d check both of these out especially if you’re interested in the Japanese fashion world at all.

Kurikamaki

How far Kurikamaki has come in the past year! When I profiled them last year, they were a pretty late entry, and had only just put up their intro post on their ameblo. Now they have a full website and seem to be gaining more and more recognition. Everything, from their profile picture to their site, is a lot more professional, so they’ve definitely worked hard to improve. I’m kind of proud of them!

Kurikamaki is a two girl unit formed of Kurika and Maki (hence the names). They’re pretty self-formed, mostly because Kurika already DJed before the unit. Their thing is that they are a singing, dancing DJ unit. They formed in January of 2012, but as of last TIF they hadn’t done all that much, at least things that I could find online. However, this past January (2013) they put out their first original song, Analog ma Girl.

The fun thing about a DJ centric unit is that you get to hear a lot of songs you already like. Here’s a brief example of the two of them doing a show with songs that I’m sure are familiar to a lot of you:

I really like these girls. Because they’re a very self-started group, both girls seem very much into it, and are a lot of fun to watch grow. Both girls are fairly active on twitter, so that’s a really good way of following them.

I’m just pretty fond of these girls. Their concept makes them really unique, and they do well with it with their energy and fun. It’s been great watching them get some notice, and I hope they continue to do well!

KNU

I remember KNU all too well. For some reason, I tend to remember the pretty exaggerated fanservice groups. Not sure what this says about me and the groups.

KNU = Kyonyuu = huge breasts. So the name right off the bat tells you that this group is about breasts. They were originally KNU23, but dropped the 23 to try and drop the association of being an AKB knockoff group. Mentioned in THIS Kotaku article, all the girls have a DDD or higher bra size on the Japanese bra sizing (though that doesn’t say all THAT much about the actual size of the breasts, but bra sizing is another topic for another time).

This group has also grown considerably since last year. I mentioned that they had put out a couple of releases and didn’t have a proper website; they’ve been cranking out singles lately, recently putting out their 6th and 7th singles. They’ve put out a mini album, and have 5 live DVDs. They’re doing their second solo concert soon. I don’t know how well this group sells, but they’ve been doing a lot of stuff lately which indicates they have a fanbase. They also have these shirts that I will put a picture of without comment (though I do want to see a wota in one).

Honestly, I have a hard time finding much to like about KNU. Quoting my post from last year “they are a fanservice unit that doesn’t carry the “star power” of Ebisu Muscats or the utter ridiculousness of Sexy All Sisters.” I have a tolerance level for fanservice; I honestly don’t mind gravure work, for the most part, and I’m able to enjoy watching performances of the ridiculous fanservice groups like Sexy All Sisters. But KNU doesn’t have the fun level of those groups, but is SO focused on breasts, completely objectifying the women involved. The covers of their singles are just shots of breasts. Their T-Shirts are breasts. Their logo’s breasts. Essentially, the only reason these girls were picked is because they have large breasts. I have a high level of tolerance for fanservice, but this just goes too far in my opinion.

The only way I can recommend this group is if you want so-so idol performances done by women with large breasts.

Goto Mariko

This is another act I don’t know I would classify so much as an idol. Goto Mariko, an Osaka-born singer, joined the rock group Midori as vocalist and guitarist. The group broke up in 2010, and she has since started as a solo act. Last July she put out her first solo album, 299792458. She’s also starting to act.

Since the first track on her album is appropriately titled “Hardcore Life” and the t-shirts on her website have “HARDCORE” on them, I’m assuming she’s not going for the cutesy idol act. Like I said before, she’s not really what I’d consider an idol, and checking her website shows that this is really the only idol show she’s doing. However, if you like J-Rock as well as idols, you may want to follow her.

The one song I’ve heard so far, M@HφU☆少女 is less hardcore than I may have expected and it’s very much pop-rock as opposed to hard rock. It’s definitely not a bad song, and I quite like the instrumentation. I don’t know if it’s something I’d listen to all the time, but it’s not bad at all. Her voice is very high-pitched and cute; at points, strangely, it reminds me a teeny bit of Hirano Aya.

If you want a rock-musician to follow, you could do worse. Personally I prefer Oomori Seiko (who I covered last time), and I’d recommend Seiko over Mariko. However, if you can follow two, you should definitely check out Goto Mariko.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts Part 5

More acts were added, which puts TIF 2013 at 99 groups. With just under two months left, I’m imagining they’ll add more acts. Last year the final count was a whopping 111 groups, and I bet TIF wants to beat that this year. Currently there are some groups I’m surprised that I don’t see listed, and I bet they’ll be able to pull it off.

E-Street Sapporo, E-Street Tokyo, W-Street Osaka, W-Street Nagoya, W-Street Fukuoka

Sorry if anyone’s a big fan of the iDOL Street Sei, but I’m covering all of them in one group. Basically, Avex’s big idol label is iDOL Street. It features Super Girls, Cheeky Parade, GEM, and the iDOL Street Sei, which is comprised of these five groups, named after (surprise surprise) the five cities they’re based in, Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka. These are basically the iDOL street trainees; they basically aim to debut. They’ve released one indies single in 2011 (Zettai Love Magic and Kirakira Holiday) but they haven’t done much in that since. However, from what I’m aware they do perform.

I think following these girls would be akin to following Hello!Project Eggs/Kenshuusei or AKB48 kenkyuusei; they haven’t officially debuted yet, but you’re looking at the next group of idols. Groups have debuted on this label, so it’s reasonable to assume they’ll form another one. Members from Street sei are in GEM and Cheeky Parade, so if you like the Avex idol groups it would make sense to keep an eye on these girls. Since they’re locally based and essentially trainees, it’s a bit harder for us international fans to follow them, but if you’re very invested in iDOL Street groups it’s probably worth it to try.

EDIT: I was informed by a reader on Facebook that last year w-Street Osaka, w-Street Nagoya and the second gen of iDOL Street Sei released singles. It might be a bit harder to find (since I didn’t even see them on the Avex site when I was looking at it!) but they’ve been a bit more active than I thought! Thank you, Vincent!

HR

My first guess was that this was the ‘Human Resources’ idol unit and that they hired other idols and held the auditions. Don’t think I’m right about that one, but I’ve seen a lot of idol gimmicks.

This is an idol group from Fukuoka (which has a lot of really excellent local groups right now), and they have their own dedicated theater there. They were formed in 2010, and their goal is to be a hybrid between net idols and live idols, which is a good thing for those of us that can’t see indie idols live! They currently have 9 full members and six trainees (according to their member list on their site); however their TIF profile picture features 11 girls, most likely due to a recent graduation. From their Wikipedia page it looks like they’ve had a lot of membership changes, which can be a bit confusing for indie groups. They perform weekly at said dedicated theater, and seem to have a setlist of songs that they perform.

Their main goal is producing local idols in Fukuoka. The group was formed in 2010, and has since released two singles: “Kimi ni Spark” and “Barikata.” Barikata came out this past January, so it shows they’re still actively releasing material.

While I can’t say they’re my favorite group from Fukuoka (that would be rev.from DVL), I’m finding myself charmed by HR. Kimi ni Spark is pretty good, and they tend to be energetic performers. I especially find myself drawn to the center, who I think is Kobayashi Mayu. Since I really like Fukuoka groups I think I’ll follow them. They don’t really have gimmicks except for being a good idol group. If you like more local groups, check them out!

EDIT: I was informed by Shura Striker that HR stands for Hakata Reboot. Thank you!

Omori Seiko

A soloist! To be honest, Seiko seems less like an idol than a straight up singer. She started performing live in 2011, but in 2012 things started ramping up until she released her first single, PINK. This year she released her first full album “Mahou ga Tsukaenai nara Shinitai’. So Seiko is just starting her career as a singer, even though she seems to be older, being 25. Though that’s less of a barrier if you’re a singer-songwriter.

Probably the biggest reason she sought out TIF and became a TIF act is because she’s notably an idol fan. According to wikipedia she likes Morning Musume’s Michishige Sayumi, and she’s collaborated with indie idol unit BiS. So despite not quite fitting into the idol mold, she’s interested in idol culture.

Even though I’m mostly an idol fan with JPop… I really like her, and I can see myself following Seiko. The one song I’ve heard so far, “Mahou ga Tsukaenai Nara” reminds a me a little one of my favorite English-language singer-songwriters, Regina Spektor. If any of you reading this like that kind of style, I’d suggest you check out what I link here. The way she uses her voice is a bit unusual, but she has a really nice, distinctive style.

Ultimately, yeah she’s not quite an idol, but she’s definitely a really good artist and one you should check out, if you’re interested in some different music.

Also here’s a bonus video of Seiko covering some Hello!Project songs.

Otome Corporation

This is a local three member unit from Nagano Prefecture, which promotes tourism in Nagano Prefecture and Ina City (within Nagano). While I haven’t heard much of local groups from Nagano in particular, this seems to be pretty legit, linking to official prefecture/city websites. So while a lot of local idol groups often claim to be representing their home prefecture/city, it seems that Otome Corporation is the real deal. The girls themselves are on the older side, the members between 22 and 23. So if you’re a bit sick of the really young girls that tend to be in TIF, this may be an act for you! Their gimmick is that they’re OL working at the “Otome Corporation” and fans are “shareholders.” It’s cute, and I like that they’re kind of older. I can’t think of any other groups that have OL as their theme (let me know if you can think of others!) so I like this.

They were formed in 2009, and have since released a whopping 10 singles, which is pretty amazing for a small indie group (though if they’re supported by their local government, that makes a bit more sense). They also seem to have had their own show uploaded here (though it hasn’t been updated in years now).

Nothing about them musically grabs me right away, but I’m somewhat inclined to follow them out of principle! I like their gimmick, and all the girls seem fun. Their music is slightly rock inspired pop; nothing revolutionary, but it doesn’t sound bad. There’s just no song that’s quite as catchy as some of the other artists I’ve covered, and nothing really stands out that much about them, other than their gimmick. If what I described makes you intrigued I’d check them out, otherwise, if you like your cutesy idols and value songs/performances, you might want to look elsewhere.

Kawasaki Junjou Komachi

Holy kanji Batman! That’s a very difficult name. But it’s Kawasaki Junjou Komachi, or K.J.K for short. Almost self-explanatory, this is another local idol group, this time hailing from the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture. This is a five member idol unit formed in 2011 and, like Otome Corporation, is an official group to promote their area and be the official Kawasaki idol group.

Like Otome Corporation, a lot of their identity stems from their local idol-ness; they do most of their activities for local television and to promote the revitalization of the Kawasaki area. However, as opposed to the OL theme, they wear modified kimono, and seem to be going for a traditional look. This actually reminds me of Momoiro Clover’s earliest look, back during their first indies single, Momoiro Punch. This is reflected in their PVs and live performances so far, and I like it; it’s a look I actually miss from Momoiro Clover, and I hope that Kawasaki Junjou Komachi chooses to keep it!

This modified traditional style is reflected in their music as well, and this is probably the most interesting part about K.J.K. Their music is a really interesting hybrid of traditional and pop, much like early MomoClo stuff was. In fact, they really remind me of early Momoiro Clover in this way; pre-Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo MomoClo. It’s actually a really perfect mix; the music sounds new and fresh, but still has very noticeable traditional roots. It’s actually really catchy, and I’m really enjoying what I hear from this group so far. While their live performances still seem unpolished, their vocals are VERY strong and sound really gorgeous.

So far they’ve released two singles and are on one idol compilation, and I have to say I’m VERY intrigued by this group. Just learning about them I wasn’t that interested, especially after covering another official idol group, but their music really stands out as being interesting and good. I’d say to keep an eye on this group; I have no idea how far they’ll be able to go as an official Kawasaki idol group, but I really like them so far!

AKB48 Senbatsu Election 2013 – Results + Analysis

The time has come again for a crazy senbatsu election. This time I spent the evening/morning hanging out on the Selective Hearing live skype viewing party. I had a lovely time doing that, so thank you to everyone who did that. So I watched, slept, and now when I woke up it’s time to blog. Still, overall, I had a lot of fun. One of the commenters in the chat (I forgot who, sorry!) said this (idols in genera) is a spectator sport and reality TV all in one. Which is quite accurate. This took place in Nissan Stadium, which is normally for athletics, and definitely had the feel of a big sporting event. Even though it started at 3:15 AM my time and got done at around 7 AM, it was a fairly intense experience, and one I’m glad I had. Even though indie groups have taken a lot of my interest recently, these big events will always be really fascinating.

For this post I’m using these results from Melos no Michi as reference, as well as cross checking that with last year’s results as seen here on Stage48. So here’s some of my thoughts on this election day.

Sashihara Rino takes #1

In the chat I was in, a bunch of people were joking “oh Sasshi #1,” liking the idea but doubting very much it would happen. Slowly, as Kashiwagi Yuki and Watanabe Mayu were named, we began to wonder if what started out as a longshot could happen, and we really all started pulling for Sasshi.

Sashihara Rino getting the first spot is really major for a couple of reasons. She’s the first girl to get #1 who’s not in AKB48, actually, and she’s also the first girl implicated in a pretty major scandal. Last year, her getting #4 was a bit of a surprise to me, but soon after she had her scandal and was moved to HKT48.

This whole election was really encouraging for fans of the sister groups of AKB48, but Sasshi taking #1 was really a big part of it. I also really hope that this will be one step closer to eliminating dating rules, or at least starting to get less strict on scandal punishments. Fans want Sasshi, and they have spoken.

At the end, when Sasshi was going around the stadium in a giant float, one of my fellow commentators mentioned that it really didn’t feel like a Sasshi type of thing. Which is fairly true. Sasshi isn’t really a typical idol to get #1 in something like this. When they were discussing what kind of single the next one would be, the word thrown around on stage was a “weird” single, which is something I can look forward to. Move over traditional idols, the weird but imperfect idols are here to stay, and I’m quite excited for it.

Shinoda Mariko announced her graduation

When Mariko announced she was graduating, I honestly thought it would be the biggest news of the evening (but Sasshi winning beats this). It’s honestly not something I expected, even though Mariko’s the oldest member at 27. Last year, during her election speech, she kept mentioning not losing to the younger members, and I really assumed that that meant that Mariko was here to stay. Even though she’s the oldest, she’s the one I least expected to graduate after Takahashi Minami, mostly because of this stubbornness. All good things must come to an end, though, and Mariko announced she’s ending things on a bang, looking to graduate at the Fukuoka Dome concert in July (since she’s from Fukuoka).

With all the members who left this year, and now Mariko leaving this year, the AKB48 senbatsu is looking very very different, and I imagine next year will be even more different.

SKE48 in Kami7, NMB48 in senbatsu

Like I said earlier, the sister groups really shined this year. It was noted in the chat that only 30 members out of the 64 were actually in AKB48; this year, the sister groups’ influences grew. Six girls from HKT48 ranked, even though they’ve only released one single, seven from NMB48 (eight, counting Ichikawa Miori), and seventeen from SKE48 (eighteen if you count Oba Mina). This is a massive showing for what’s the AKB48 election.

The biggest news, other than Sasshi, is that five girls that didn’t originate in AKB48, Suda Akari (who I had no idea would rank so high), Matsui Rena, Matsui Jurina, Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki ranked in senbatsu. In the previous years, it was only the two Matsui girls who ranked in senbatsu, but now they’re in the top 7 (known as kami7), a huge achievement.

Above all, the increased rankings of girls not in AKB48 shows that they’re not just the sister group to the popular AKB48, but that they’re really valuable groups in their own right, and have a good deal of their own popularity. Unfortunately, some of the girls who’ve always ranked highly, like Takahashi Minami, Itano Tomomi and Kojima Haruna, got pushed down a bit. But that shows that the sister groups are really able to go far.

Personally I’m really happy; I like NMB48 and HKT48 a lot in particular, and while I have three oshimen in the 48 groups I’ve more and more started to consider myself as Watanabe Miyuki oshi, and Oota Aika’s my other main oshimen. There’s a lot of really great stuff going on in the sister groups, and it’s great to see it getting recognition.

Miyazawa Sae focusing on SNH48

Earlier it was announced that some of the foreign exchange members were going to be AKB48 members as well. However, Sae decided to take that back, and focus full time on promoting SNH48.

I understand in theory why she’s doing it; she really wanted to make SNH a group in their own right, and I imagine she’s really frustrated because of all the roadbloacks that she’s faced in becoming a member of SNH48. However, it doesn’t change the fact that this might not be the best move. My friend Dani, in her first message to me about the election, immediately said that “Sae committed career suicide,” which is pretty apt.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to support these foreign groups. Nakagawa Haruka’s focusing completely on JKT48, and seems to be doing well there. However, the politics between Japan and China have been so tense that Sae has been barely able to do anything with SNH48 simply because getting a working visa has been tough. I don’t know if she’s still been able to get one, which means she won’t be able to do much of anything. I know that Sae and Mariya had to watch the first public appearance of SNH48 from the audience, because they couldn’t work.

I appreciate Sae’s convictions, but if you can’t get a work visa there’s only so much you can really do. I know it has to be REALLY frustrating, but this is something that Sae really can’t change and is out of her control.

I really hope things work out for her, but I’m pretty nervous as well.

Vote inflation

I keep thinking AKB48 is going to have some giant sales decline, but Sayonara Crawl keeps breaking records left and right (recently outselling Speed’s White Love). And it shows! This year three members got over 100,000 votes. Ichikawa Miori’s votes almost doubled from last year, and she only increased one place. The 16th ranked member in senbatsu, Suda Akari, received 43,252 votes. To put this in perspective, Maeda Atsuko received ~4500 votes when she won the election in 2009. AKB’s popularity has increased a LOT, but it really goes to show that we’re dealing with so many more votes. Even if a girl’s position goes down or stays the same, she could have still had a decent increase in the elections.

Just something to keep in mind; so many girls are getting way more votes than they did last year, regardless of their actual ranking.

Hirajima Natsumi Ranking

Nacchan didn’t rank highly, but I’m really happy she ranked at all. Since she’s a member who’s graduated, and left because of a scandal of all things, it’s really nice to see her fans gave her so much support. It will be really interesting to see how this works with her in the Future Girls. I know I’m not the only one who wants to bring Nacchan back!

My personal thoughts
My two oshimen are Watanabe Miyuki and Oota Aika. While I wanted Milky to beat Sayanee in the race for NMB48’s top member, I was really happy to see her ranking increase (and her votes more than doubled). The big disappointment of last year was seeing Oota Aika drop so low, and so I was really glad to see her jump up 9 places and get 10000 more votes than last year. I’m really proud of the both of them!

So overall, this was an exciting, surprising and really entertaining senbatsu election. All these lineups look pretty interesting, and I’m excited to see what happens next for the 48 groups.

PSA: Please Take Domestic Violence Seriously

This is a little bit of a serious thing for Happy Disco, but it needs to be said.

Recently, ex-Morning Musume member Yaguchi Mari has filed for divorce from her husband. The clear reasons are infidelity, because she cheated on her husband. However, she’s stated that one of the reasons is that her husband was violent towards her.

I don’t want to apologize for people who cheat. It’s not a good thing to be doing. However, I’ve been really disappointed by how people have been treating Mari’s allegations of domestic violence. So I wanted to make this post to say that.

“But Yaguchi mentioned this after she got caught cheating!” So what? So that means that we can immediately dismiss allegations of violence? We don’t know everything that happened, but domestic violence is one thing that should be taken seriously.

“If she had been treated violently, wouldn’t she have said something before?” Not every victim feels like they are able to stand up and say something. In the US “On average, only 70% of nonfatal partner violence is reported to law enforcement. Of those not reporting, 41% of male and 27% of female victims (34% average) stated victimization being a private/personal matter as reason for not reporting, 15% of women feared reprisal, 12% of all victims wished to protect the offender, and 6% of all victims believed police would do nothing.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)”

Further, those are US statistics; talking about domestic violence is possibly more taboo in Japan than in the US. “In a society as gossip-phobic as Japan’s, the shame associated with domestic troubles was monumental. All measures were taken — by family members, victims and victimizers alike — to prevent discord from becoming public” It may have been hard for Mari, a public figure, to come out and say that her husband was violent to her before now.

Like I said earlier, we don’t know the whole story and probably never will. However, I’ve been extremely saddened by the comments of people completely dismissing her comments. Domestic Violence is a serious problem and we should take it seriously.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts Part 4

Otome Shinto

With a lot of the groups I haven’t heard of, I have to do a bit of digging to get any information. However, with a search I found that Chiima of Okay! Musume Time did a pretty extensive survey of the group already, especially taking a look at the profile of each girl. So if this group interests you at all, you should look here for more about them HERE.

Basically, they’re a group of four middle school students with junior high being a big part of their identity. Since, in an intro video, Yurika (the girl in pink) says she’s in her third year of junior high, I wonder if this is going to be middle school themed in the same vein as Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku (the girls are said to be eternal middle school students) or if it’s going to be more like Sakura Gakuin and Usa Usa Shoujo Club (forced graduations).

Regardless, their main concept is that they’re “positive second-string middle school students” (bad translation) basically saying they’re second-tier idols. From what I gather, what they aim is to be more average girls. Which is the goal of many idol groups, but admitting that they’re kind of a lower tier takes some guts.

They were formed last December, so they’re very new; they’ve only released one single so far, “Mousou Koukan Nikki,” though they’re releasing another in early August (conveniently soon after TIF, I might add). “Mousou Koukan Nikki” has lyrics written by the one and only Maeyamada Kenichi (Hyadain), though not the song. itself. Which kind of shows. While I like the verse of the song, the chorus sounds muddled. The melody isn’t memorable at all, and the instrumental is too busy sounding.

That said, the girls themselves are cute (Aoi Wakana, the girl in blue, especially) and I could see this group getting some notice (especially since Mousou Koukan Nikki is a theme song for the anime GJ-bu). Their first PV’s well made, too. They also have one live bit up, and I like that song (Tokimeki Paradox) better. So there’s definitely potential here, but personally I’m going to wait and see.


Ono Erena

Ono Erena was one of the second generation of AKB48 (the original Team K) and was a long time fixture of the senbatsu lineups. One of the orignal younger/cute girls of the group,  she appeared as a front girl quite a bit, was in the short-lived Honegumi subgroup, as well as had her own solo song, First Love.

In fall 2010, right in the middle of AKB48’s peak, she graduated from the group, presumably to study abroad. However, last year she made her solo debut with the song “Erepyon” (Erena’s nickname), and has since put out five singles and is putting out her first solo album this month. She’s gotten more of a cool/rock image in these singles, and I think they definitely suit Erepyon. She also has a really nice voice that, if you’re really into idol vocals, you may like.

Personally, Erepyon was never my oshimen in AKB48. I was pretty indifferent, and Team K has always been the AKB team I pay the least attention to. However, her current solo releases really suit her well, and I definitely see why she’s popular.

Personally I’m a bit mixed on her music (I don’t think it’s bad, but it never really grabs me as anything to talk about), but if you want an idol soloist with a bit more of a rock edge, I’d definitely check Erena out. She really shines as a soloist, moreso (in my opinion) than as an AKB48 member, so it’s definitely interesting to see someone so successful after graduation.

Oha-Girl Chu! Chu! Chu!

First off, if you haven’t listened to Koisho, go listen. I can wait. I’ll link it at the end of this post. It’s one of my favorite idol songs and it’s one of the cutest things ever.

Oha-Girl Chu! Chu! Chu! is the latest group to come from Oha Suta, a long-running children’s program on Japanese TV. Hello!Project members such as Ogawa Saki and Ikuta Erina have appeared on the show (and in the Oha-Girl group Oha-Girl Maple),and Momoiro Clover Z member Sasaki Ayaka got her start on the show, which is where she got her catchphrase “A~rin da yo~”

For years, Oha-Suta has had multiple idol groups, all with the name Oha-Girl in front of it, with Oha-Girl Maple being the last. However, Oha-Girl Chu Chu Chu seems to be gaining momentum as a group. Oha-Girl Maple only released one single, My School March. Oha-Girl Chu Chu Chu, on the other hand, has released three singles since their debut last year, and it looks like they’re going to release another.

As much as I like Koisho, I’ve been a bit wary of following this group too much. I like Yuuna (the girl in pink), but what if this group disbands quickly like the others?

Personally, I’m feeling a bit better about that. Four singles is a lot for an Oha-Suta group, and they seem to be gaining a decent amount of recognition and popularity.

Ultimately, I really like them and have started to follow them a bit more. They’re cute, have a lot of charisma, and Koisho is still a great song that you should listen to right now.

Kaiketsu Tropical Maru

Another group I covered last year. Kaiketsu Tropical Maru is a unit created to support the water industry, as well as other natural industries. Last year when I covered them they had 8 members, but now they have grown to get 16 members (after adding some in April), and are starting to do activities as two separate teams. They also all have an image fruit, or at least they did (I feel like thinking up 16 separate fruits might get interesting after a while).

Formed in 2011 under the same agency as AeLL (so perhaps continuing that ecology work), Kaiketsu Tropical Maru has only released three singles so far, their latest being “Jump! to the Sky” which they put out last December. As of last year they had reached #5 on the indies charts, but that doesn’t mean that much, unfortunately. They have an official youtube channel, but it’s last activity was five months ago, so they’re also not very active in that way, as well.

While last year I wasn’t very impressed by their music, I actually like “Jump! to the Sky.” It’s not really anything new, but it’s guitar heavy, has a good instrumental, and a nice melody. I don’t see any live performances of the song up, just a radio rip, but if they performed it well I could see liking the group. Seeing a recent live performance, they’re definitely cute and they aren’t bad at all. Nothing immediately excites me about them, but I definitely feel like the group’s improved since I’ve last checked in on them, so it’ll be interesting to see if this continues.


KAGAJO☆4S

When I first heard this group’s name, I thought it sounded familiar but I wasn’t that familiar with the group. Now I know why; it’s another Stardust group!

KAGAJO*4S is a four member group of girls aged 13-14. While I don’t know the exact time they were formed, the group’s youtube was created in April and they did their first live appearance then. Since, they’ve performed the opening at a Team Syachihoko concert, and have some live events coming up.

While there’s not too much about them out yet, I have to say that following them is a pretty safe bet. If you are interested in Stardust groups (like I am), and want to follow one from the beginning, this is definitely one to check out (that and Takoyaki Rainbow). KAGAOJO4S’s only live vid put up is a bit rough and the girls are clearly kind of nervous. However, knowing the overall quality of Stardust groups, I’d imagine they’ll improve quickly and end up being a lot of fun.

So while there’s not too much about this group out YET, I’d keep an eye out on this group.