Idol Thoughts: Evolving Groups

Recently, reviewing Momoiro Clover Z’s GOUNN has made me nostalgic. So I’ve watched some of the older Momoiro Clover PVs, thinking about how much the group has changed.

The group is nearly unrecognizable. And I apologize in my reviews of MomoClo if I sound at all bitter, but it’s hard sometimes to reconcile the current group with the past group.

A group’s evolution is something every idol fan has to go through, really, unless the group is very shortlived. This hit close to home with how much Momoiro Clover has changed, but, for example, look at how vastly Morning Musume has changed over the years since the group has formed. The group that put out Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke bears no resemblance to the group that put out Ai no Tane. I don’t feel comfortable saying “I’m a Morning Musume fan;” instead it would be a lot more accurate to say “I’m a 1997-2005 and a 2012 – current Morning Musume fan.”

This has happened with other groups as well; I know people who have gotten tired of AKB because favorite members have left, or because they aren’t doing anything as risky as Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou or Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru anymore.

This is a tough thing to think about, I think partially because you become so invested in idol groups. Idol groups are centered around the concept of support, that you should support the groups you love, but what if a group becomes something you don’t want to support?

This isn’t just an idol thing. For a while I was a very big Doctor Who fan. I love the seasons with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. Then Steven Moffat took control of the show and it was just disappointing. Here was a show I adored, but was going in directions I just didn’t like. I haven’t watched the show since about the middle of the 6th series, and it still bums me out. I also really liked Glee for a while, but then its quality got so bad that it was not the show I got into.

It’s kind of hard not to sound bitter, and like I’m not someone who’s ranting completely. I even like a lot of the things that current MomoClo has done. If the current MomoClo was a completely different group from the MomoClo I became a fan of, then I would probably welcome this group with open arms. But that’s not the case.

I’m sorry to sound unhappy on a blog called Happy Disco. I’m honestly really happy with the idol industry right now, and there are tons of groups that I think are doing great things. But it’s just hard as a fan to go through some of these changes.

Your Thoughts: Do Idols Need Talent?

This week I got a lovely comment from one of my favorite idol bloggers and a friend of mine, Chiima of Okay! Musume Time!

Much like you, I feel that Sasshi is right in one way, but wrong in another. Idols don’t necessarily need that talent, but they need a likeability factor about them, and for some, their likeability factor is their skills in dancing, singing, or how they portray themselves. Nakanishi Kana, for example, has the skill of being able to speak. She speaks very well (which surprised me, because I always took her as the goofy girl I loved and cherished) and, whilst it doesn’t seem like a talent, has become one of her strong points, as Yattaruchan has shown (and Hello! Pro Station when she MC’ed). But some girls do need their talent to get them by, like Maeda Atsuko. I find Acchan so boring and bland, and she is forgettable with her looks, but her voice is so pretty to listen to.

For me though, I like Idols for various reasons, whether it is their talent (Ayumi as a dancer), their looks (Iikubo Haruna) or just because I absolutely adore them for their lack of talent and other driving factors about them which make them shine in my eyes (Eripon and her awkward beauty, her love for Gaki etc, and Niigaki Risa for her acting skills).

But like you say in your post, it is how the Idol is marketed, and when marketed well, they can truly shine as Idols and prove their worth in different areas that do not focus on singing or dancing.

By the way, very well written, and a joy to read. I love you~

This is pretty much what I think. Standing out is pretty much the biggest thing an idol needs to do. At this point, there are hundreds and hundreds of idols in Japan. The 48 groups alone have hundreds of members, and there are even more groups out there. If you’re going to be an idol, it’s important, if you want fans, to have something that they can latch onto. The reason I became a fan of Team Syachihoko’s Ooguro Yuzuki, for example, is her obvious enthusiasm while performing. Other idols have similar qualities, but just the level of her excitement is really special.

Chiima brings up an interesting point with Maeda Atsuko, though. I’d consider her to be one of the most important, popular idols of all time. Yet, there’s nothing about her that really stands out. She does have a pretty voice, but there are stronger vocalists out there. She’s pretty, but not particularly gorgeous. She doesn’t have a big personality, or something that really stands out. Yet she was very popular. A good part of this is the push, since she was pushed as AKB’s center since pretty much the beginning .Really, the thing about her that stands out is that she’s kind of the archetypal girl next door. She’s pretty, but seemingly attainable.

Basically I agree with Chiima; idols are capitalizing on what the individual girls have to offer, and marketing them.

Review Monday: Momoiro Clover Z – GOUNN

I was wondering what to do with the Review Monday segment this week, when I saw the PV release for Momoiro Clover Z’s single “GOUNN.” Since this is actually the first single from MomoClo this year, it’s a very highly anticipated single and music video that’s been hyped up for quite some time.

The Song: I’ve made it no secret that Momoiro Clover’s music has had its ups and downs for me. While a lot of their older music is some of my favorite idol music, their current music has been a mixed bag for me. However, this is the strongest MomoClo has been musically in a while, aside from some of the better tracks on 5th Dimension.

The song itself is quite good, and memorable. The song was written by Shihori, a Japanese singer songwriter who I do not believe has written for any idol acts. I have to believe that, after GOUNN, idol acts are going to be knocking on her door, because this is wonderful. I don’t know if I fully appreciated the song during my first listen, but it is an earworm after a good few listens. The girls in Momoiro Clover Z sound great, too, and while a large part of that is undoubtedly due to practice and good vocal direction, the song fits their vocals well. Kanako in particular sounds really nice, especially for being a fairly weak singer. For this single, MomoClo were going for a “Buddhism” theme (something I’ll delve into a bit later), and while it would be easy to go full stereotype, Shihori gets a bit of that kind of flavor into the song without making it sound like it’s from a bad stereotype of Indian people.

Probably my biggest rant about Momoiro Clover Z was my reaction to Otome Sensou. It was the first MomoClo single I genuinely did not like, and while parts of that song have since grown on me, I still have a lot of complaints. One of these complaints is that the arrangement was weak. This song completely avoids that. The instrumentation is lush and full, fitting the song, but never really feeling busy. The slow moments, featuring piano, are lovely, and I love pretty much all the bass lines thrown in there. There’s a bit that sounds like an electric sitar, but don’t hold me to that. But it sounds really nice, and fits with the song without making it sound stereotype-y.

Most importantly, the song just works. There are wonderful individual elements, but they all work nicely together. Otome Sensou is a song where I can see how I would want to change the song. While there are other songs I like better this year, this is the best GOUNN that they could possibly make. So I’m very happy for MomoClo. 8/10.

PV: OK, I’m going to get this out of the way, since I’ve been working on putting this in words for a while, and doing some research. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this PV, cultural sensitivity wise. First off, I’m going to have a disclaimer: I am not an expert in Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, or any religion that isn’t Judeo-Christian or Greek/Roman mythology. So I’m not making any conclusions about this PV. If anyone is particularly versed in Buddhism (particularly Mahayana, which is what is mostly practiced in Japan), Hinduism or Shinto, please feel free to comment.

That said, I did have initial misgivings, especially due to the costumes. Even if everything is completely accurate or is as close to accurate as possible, it is still taking aesthetics from popular belief systems that people do think should be handled with weight. The idea that this kind of aesthetic, taken from these religions/belief systems, is somehow used as MomoClo’s new PV aeshetic bothered me. I don’t practice these religions, and I know that Japan isn’t a very religious nation itself, but it’s an issue of respect. This is also added to the unfortunate fact that MomoClo doesn’t have the best track record for cultural sensitivity in their music videos.

That said, I am a bit confused with the religion portrayed in the PV. MomoClo has called it “Buddhism-themed,” which would make sense. Buddhism spread to Japan, and is one of the more significant religions in Japanese history. However, certain things made me suspect that this wasn’t as accurate to Buddhism as it could be.

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This depicts a turtle on top of a serpent, with elephants on top of it. This is a big part of Hindu mythology, in which the Earth is balanced on top of elephants balanced on a turtle balanced on a serpent. This is a fairly well-known aspect of that religion. However, I was unable to find any references of this myth in relation to Buddhism.

Buddhism is a system of beliefs that is sometimes debated on whether or not it’s a religion, primarily because worship of deities isn’t a major part of said religion. Enlightenment is the primary goal of Buddhism, not closeness to a god or gods. That said, worship of deities does occur in Mahayana Buddhism, which is what spread to Japan. I’ve been trying to look up who each member was supposed to be. I believe Kanako is approximating the Medicine Buddha, but I’m not sure.

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The costumes are the last thing that make me wait and consider. They look to be more approximations of Shinto goddesses rather than anything else. Which adds to the whole giant mixed  up PV this is.

Like I said earlier, I don’t want to make any conclusions. I don’t think MomoClo are trying to do something bad, and I’m not even sure if I think this is all that bad. BUT It does make me sit up and wonder. If you or someone you know is an expert in this field, I’d like to hear from you.

All of that aside, I really like this PV a lot.

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THIS is how you do a highly visual effects driven PV. None of the effects look cheap or goofy at all; instead, they work to create a very visually pleasing PV that looks incredible. MomoClo has all been lit well and shot well, so the effects work well to create a visually stunning PV. This is possibly the best looking PV that I’ve ever seen done primarily using visual effects.

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The sections where it’s just MomoClo in these circles, adding to visual patterns. It looks great, and is a bit of a gutsy move, just based on being able to show very small pictures of the girls to go along with the visuals.

gounn5Some people may be taken aback by how unusual this PV is, which is a big part of why I want to figure out more of the religious backing to the PV. For example, Ayaka here is sitting on a tongue, surrounded by teeth, holding a toothbrush. Kanako is holding a syringe and surrounded by blood. Reni is sitting on and surrounded by hair. The PV is so beautiful, though, that it’s hard to catch until someone goes “oh my god that’s teeth in the background” (which is admittedly what happened to me, when someone pointed that in a Facebook group I frequent).

The editing, while good, isn’t perfect. There are points where it feels too fast and frantic; more than once it edits exactly on the sung syllables (when Ayaka sings “ka-ru-ma,” there’s an edit on each one of those syllables). However, this is a small complaint. I do wish that the girls were doing a bit more. They take part in the dance shot, they appear in the visuals I showed above, but for the most part they’re just sitting in their location. This is fine, and I’d imagine things were limited by the visual effects. However, that is a bit of a disappointment.

Ultimately, though, this is a visually stunning PV, and while I was taken aback by some of the PV’s content, that doesn’t change that this a well put together PV. 8/10.

 

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 19

Nearing the end! I’m going to schedule something else when I’m done with these posts to go on Fridays. Maybe List Fridays. Because the internet loves lists.

Bellring Shoujo Heart

Ahh, Bellring Shoujo Heart. This is one of those groups I’ve heard about for quite some time, a group I know some people love, and one that has come highly recommended, but that I’ve hesitated on because they seem a little bit scary. This is not your standard idol group. The group has 7 members, and was formed in April 2012. Recently they put out their first album, Bedhead, and they’ve put out several singles. They often have fake crow wings on their sleeves as decoration; this is an art group along with being an idol group. They remind me a lot of groups like BiS in their aesthetic; they’re one of the more out there idol groups. Even though their outfits are kind of strange, as well, the girls themselves seem considerably less scary and weird than the comparable BiS.

That said, their music feels a bit different from their aesthetic. Instead of being rock/metal artists you may think from the way the group looks, they instead go for a more retro, 60s aesthetic with kind of a circus sound in there. The closest Jpop equivalent I can think of is the song Dekiru Onna by Morning Musume, though that’s not even really that much like Bellring. Their music also reminds me of the western band The Like, whose second album is very 60s inspired. That said, there’s no idol music quite like Bellring, so if you dislike generic idol pop then Bellring is a great option.

The only thing that makes me a bit hesitant is that the girls’ vocals aren’t THAT strong. They aren’t bad, by any means, but this is the type of music I wish I could hear with some really strong vocals. That said, the majority of what I could find on YouTube were concert performances, so I might want to check out Bed Head to see if I can hear this in higher quality than some concerts. The girls, from what I can tell, seem sweet and nice, though, and I generally like them.

I’m honestly regretting waiting so long to check out Bellring Shoujo Heart. Because this music is great.

Houkago Princess

Go read Okay! Musume Time. If you want someone to really sell you on HouPri, Chiima is your person. That said, I’ll try to give my brief take on them.

Houkago Princess translates to “afterschool princess.” That is basically, in a nutshell, the group. They’re a school-themed group, with nine full members and some trainees. The group was formed in August 2011, and has since had quite a bit of lineup changes and some quiet points in their history. One notable point was that a relative of Michishige Sayumi of Morning Musume joined as a trainee, so that is most likely bringing some recognition to the group.

They’ve put out a few singles so far, mostly things that are only sold at live events, but it looks like their latest single, (a redone version of their older single, Juliet ~Kimi wo Suki na 100 no Riyuu) had a bigger release and managed to get to 17th on the Oricon weekly chart, which isn’t bad at all.

The thing about HouPri is that they are kind of a very typical unit. They use both the school motif and the dress up thing, so they can use both uniforms and fancier outfits. Their music isn’t revolutionary, either, and is pretty typical cute music. That said, I can really see this being an appealing unit if you really want a girly, cute, typically idol unit. So many units are trying to do different things with idol music, which is great for me, but if you don’t like that kind of movement then HouPri might be the group you need.

Manaminorisa

Manaminorisa is one of the most clever idol group names I’ve encountered. There are three girls in the group; Manami, Minori and Risa, whose names all connect to be Manaminorisa. (Though this does put pressure on Minori; she can’t leave because Manami and Risa can’t form a name together). These girls were formed in 2007 at the Hiroshima Actors’ School, which is where Perfume originated. The girls are a bit older, in their early 20s, which could be a draw. In 2011 they won the UMU Award, which is an award that looks at local idols. Not only did they win their local region, but they took home the grand prize, which is a big achievement.

The group has put out several singles, but recently made their major debut this summer, with their single Blister. While this may not sound super appealing, my friend pointed out it was probably in relation to the blisters they get while working towards their dream. Which sounds much more palatable. There really isn’t a gimmick or anything that unique to Manaminorisa; their music is slightly rock inspired pop (only slightly) and they still have pretty simple/plain PVs. However, the girls seem to be talented at singing and dancing, and there is a general level of polish to them as a group. I recommend listening/watching Polaris to hear some of their vocal strength. If you are annoyed by the whole idol ideal of unpolished performers, you should check out Manaminorisa. They seem like a group to keep an eye on, if only for their background at this point.

Maria

This is a very new group, formed in February 2013. They’re a rock unit that makes a big deal about wearing sunglasses and carrying school bags (at least their TIF description mentioned it). Their goal is to be the strongest idol unit in this idol era, and make a note that they have regular lessons and tests. So they’re aiming to be a top group in this idol boom. There are only five member profiles on the site, but more members than that in pictures, so I’m not quite sure on how big this group is. They are still accepting auditions, and the girls have to be 9-14 years old, so this is a pretty young unit.

Looking at their website, it’s pretty apparent that this group is just getting started and working things out. The “Discography” page is under construction, despite already having a PV out. Still, the fact they have a PV at all (even if it is just a filmed live show) says something. Their first self-titled song is pretty good; it’s pretty light rock that features a lot of other sounds, but it’s definitely solid. The vocals are still pretty rough, but the song itself is nice.

This is a really young group that is nowhere near polished. If you like the idea of following a group with younger members that are just starting out, and you think they’re cute, maybe give them a try.

Minitia Bears

Oh hey, a Stardust group! Minitia Bears is another group from Stardust Promotion, along with Momoiro Clover, Team Syachihoko, and Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku. Minitia Bears is a cheerleading themed unit that performs at Stardust lives and does stuff, but has really young girls in the group and hasn’t put out singles. Generally it’s not really as big a group as the other main Stardust ones.

Since Stardust is putting out Takoyaki Rainbow, I really doubt that Minitia Bears is going to be a permanent/big unit. However, if you want to see adorable kids being adorable, you could do much worse than Minitia Bears.

Idol Thoughts: Do Idols Need Talent?

Recently I was browsing Maji De 2ch, a blog that posts translations of 2ch threads (2ch is basically an anonymous board that was the inspiration for 4chan. You can talk about anything but there is often discussion on idols). I like browsing the various sites that do 2ch translations, just because it’s often very interesting to hear about things that Japanese fans talk about.

The post that caught my attention was this one. Essentially, it’s reactions to a talk that Sashihara Rino did, where she said that, if you aim to be an idol, you don’t have to learn how to sing or dance.

(Translation from  the Maji de 2ch Page)

“Girls who can’t dance are cuter. They make you want to root for them”.
“Most idol fans these days are old men, right? These old men actually find the girls who can’t do anything cuter, and they’re happier when they tell a girl that ‘You’re totally no good!’. I think people are more attracted to idols who are giving it their all despite being really bad at it”.
This, understandably, is a fairly controversial statement about the nature of idols. So, what do I think?
…Sasshi’s partly right. BUT this is oversimplifying things.
Sasshi’s statement basically says that idols that can’t sing and dance are cuter, but they should be giving it their all. Which is a fairly key concept that I think would be easy to miss.
One of the defining features of the idol industry, in my opinion, is that it’s based on watching idols grow. The vast vast majority of girls who become idols have never done much of anything in the entertainment business before. Some may have modeled, or did commercials, but the point of the idol industry, especially the female idol industry, is that it’s a temporary stepping stone to another career. Therefore, it’s not necessarily a good thing for an idol to be polished from the getgo, because that’s not the point  of idols.
However, there  are some other things that I think need to be taken into consideration.
1. A fan might be drawn to an idol’s performing talent. 
People become a fan of an idol for a variety of reasons. Some like the cute girls, some like personality, some like this kind of “can’t do anything” type. However, some people like the talented girls.
For example, I don’t follow foreign fans of Hello!Project as much, but Tamura Meimi of S/Mileage has been getting buzz lately because of her vocal talent.

Meimi’s been a good vocalist for some time, but given some time to improve and given songs that show of her vocal skills, she’s been getting buzz, at least from Hello!Project fans.

I’d say this is similar with girls like Ishida Ayumi, as well. I became a fan of hers both because of her dance skills and because of her drive to become a good dancer.

This isn’t exclusively Hello!Project. AKB48 has had various singing contests and things, which allows girls like Iwasa Misaki and Takeuchi Miyu to shine. Natori Wakana is also a strong singer who gets notice for her voice. Would Iwasa Misaki have been able to rank at #33 last year (just out of the Undergirls) if she didn’t have her vocal skills and her brand new enka career? There’s no way to know for sure, but vocal skills can definitely help girls.

However, as a counterpoint, I don’t think JUST singing and dancing are the only things that can make a girl stand out. They’re the most popular talents to have, for sure, since being an idol means a lot of singing and dancing. However, AKB’s Matsui Sakiko is a very skilled pianist, which has allowed her a great deal of press.

2. Girls have to actually try and practice once they get in.

Being initially unpolished is fairly acceptable among idol fans. No one is going to expect a new trainee to AKB to be the best singer and dancer the group has seen. However, very few girls can make it if they don’t try, or don’t seem like they’re trying. Girls like Shimazaki Haruka are few and far between, and that type of push is a big gamble. One of the most popular things to show of idols is videos of them practicing, working hard. That’s the key here; practice and hard work are fairly essential, once you’re an idol. So while I’d say you don’t have to be inherently talented to get in, you have to at least try.

3. It’s all how a girl is marketed.

This is the big one. Inherently untalented idols can be popular IF they are marketed well. I mean, look at Sasshi herself. She’s not exceptionally talented, but plays this up, and plays up that she likes idols.

An idol who isn’t the most popular in her group but who does this exceptionally well is S/Mileage’s Nakanishi Kana. Kana, when she joined especially, isn’t particularly good at singing or dancing, and is kind of clumsy. However, it seems like she tries really hard and always looks happy about the whole thing. Recently, in S/Mileage’s latest single ‘Yattaruchan,’ Kana got a prominent role by having a spoken part that became the most notable thing about the song.

However, one of the most memorable instances was in the dance to Choto Mate Kudasai. In this, Kana purposely messes up, and jumps the wrong way. It’s a little thing, but it puts her front and center. It says that she and management are aware she isn’t the most talented, but they want to show her off anyway. This is important.

Ultimately, while I think that being talented can be an advantage, that ultimately it is mostly how a particular idol is marketed.

What do you think? Do you like talented idols or idols who aren’t very good at singing or dancing? Do you agree with Sasshi? Comment below and I’ll write a Your Thoughts post next week!

Review Monday: C-ute’s Tokai no Hitorigurashi + Ai tte Motto Zanshin

C-ute is a group I’ve followed occasionally, and I’ve even bought some Maimi goods, but I don’t know if I would consider myself a big fan of theirs. Nothing wrong with C-ute, mind you, but I really don’t pay attention to them as much as other groups. However, their career has had a really interesting trajectory. Starting off as the ‘leftover group’ from the H!P Kids, C-ute has grown to surpass the original H!P Kids group Berryz Koubou, and has lately gotten even more recognition. They’ve gone from a group that did Ooki na Ai de Motenashite to a group that does more adult things like Crazy Kanzen na Otona. So how does their new single hold up?

Tokai no Hitorigurashi

Song: This song had to grow on me. I definitely liked it at first, but it’s not immediately catchy. The best word I can use to describe this song is pleasant. There isn’t anything immediately interesting about the song or anything mind-blowing about it, but I do like the song. The chorus is a lot more interesting than the verses (especially the repeated “Why Not” sections), but the verses grew on me too.

My biggest complaint is the arrangement. It’s a nice sounding instrumental track, but the electronic backing doesn’t fit as well. If they had used real instruments (I’m thinking this would be brass heavy, but would have some piano and strings in there), the song would sound a lot nicer. This isn’t an electronic song like some of Morning Musume’s latest fare; those songs make sense to have mostly electronic stuff going on. This is not the same type of song, and the instrumental is just disappointing. I like the melody and song enough that that would make this transcend from being just good to really great.

The lyrics are nice; Tsunku isn’t a master lyricist or anything but they aren’t bad. The only thing that made me pause was the line about being chubby. Um, no one in C-ute is even remotely chubby.

Nice and pleasant are the ultimate words I will use in reference to this song. I like it a lot better than some of the recent stuff C-ute has done, but it’s not going to be on my top song list of the year or anything.

PV: PVs are not H!P’s forte. It’s gotten to the point where, if H!P has a PV that’s even remotely good or interesting, I’ll be excited and happy for them. I have to think this is where this PV stands. If you are comparing it to all idol groups, it’s not the most interesting of PVs. However, compared to H!P, this is wonderful.

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The biggest thing I admire about this PV is its unified aesthetic choice. It’s doing this style which feels unique and fresh, but also appealing. This goes a long way for turning a PV from boring and average to being interesting.

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The best part are the member introductions at the beginning. They’re designed well, all the girls look nice, and it has a really dynamic feel to it. I think a good part of that is because the girls move into the still shots of them, instead of just featuring the still shots. There’s a lot of motion in this PV, which I always like.

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One of the things that’s hard to show in the screencaps is that there is a fairly long, single take shot on what looks to be a handheld camera (or at least not a steadycam shot). It’s very fluid, moving between the girls in a way that I don’t always see from H!P PVs. It adds a lot to the PV and is something I appreciate.

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Another thing I like is the set. I’m not sure where it is or if H!P built it, but the white serves a nice contrast to the girls, and all the stairs, mirrors and windows make for a much more interesting set than we’re used to.

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The effects add a nice burst of color to the plain white surroundings, and make it look interesting. Yet the effects never look tacky or just plain awful. They add a lot to making the PV look great.

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The dance shot is the worst part of the PV, by far. While C-ute does well with dancing, like always, I just don’t get some of the choices made. Could they have chosen a more boring place for their dance shot? Even if they rented this place out, surely they could have picked a better pace than a boring white wall. It just doesn’t fit with the reset of the great set.

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Compare this Airi…

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To this Airi. Notice anything? The answer is the lighting changed! Most of the PV has nice lighting. H!P PVs often have iffy lighting at best, so I was really excited to see how good the lighting looked until I saw the dance shot. Everything looks so drab, dark and flat in the dance shot that not even the visual effects can brighten it up. I would have probably not cared that much with this lighting had the rest of the PV not been lit well. Worse than being bad, it’s inconsistent.

Overall, Tokai no Hitorigurashi is a solid song/PV from C-ute. It has its share of issues, but is more than passable and even steps things up from an average Hello!Project release.

Ai tte Motto Zanshin

Song: This has the opposite issue to me than Tokai no Hitorigurashi; the chorus here isn’t what works. Up until the chorus I really enjoy this song a lot. It’s a cool song with a bit of a darker tone and utilizes some deeper vocals than I’m used to with C-ute. The instrumental sounds fitting and I don’t wish for a different arrangement like I do with Tokai no Hitorigurashi. However, everything I like about the song disappears with the chorus. It’s not a bad chorus, per say, but it has a very different feeling. The verses have a lot of oomph to them, for lack of a better term. The chorus sounds a lot happier and lighter, which feels wrong with the rest of the song.

The arrangement also falls flat in the chorus in that it feels empty. There’s a lot going on in the rest of the song, but it feels like most of that drops out for the substandard chorus.

I really like the heavy, dark feel of the song, and if the chorus could harness more of that I would be totally on board. However, the chorus alone keeps me from really feeling like this is an outstanding song. Which is a shame.

PV: Speaking of lighting…

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I love it. Seriously, H!P, keep this lighting designer please. This isn’t inconsistent, but just good. It plays a lot with light and shadow, all the while making sure that all the girls look good.

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Occasionally the girls are slightly overlit (one of my H!P PV pet peeves) BUT this is almost always a temporary thing and done for effect. But seriously, H!P, this is how you light a PV. This PV always looks gorgeous and visually interesting, even though it’s mostly just close-ups and dance shots. Despite the simplicity, the basic elements are done well, which means that I’ll want to watch this over most H!P PVs.

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Location wise… Dirty, falling apart warehouse? It’s not my first choice for a great PV location, but it this type of situation facilitated the lighting then I’m all for it. Plus it really goes well with the feel of most of the song.

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This PV also has a really nice sense of movement to it. The camera is rarely stationary, moving well with the C-ute members and aiding in the transitions. This makes for another fluid PV that doesn’t feel choppy. The best part is again at the beginning and whenever the girls do solo dances. The camera work and the editing work well together.

aitte5

 

The worst part of the PV are the cheap filters that are put on things. It doesn’t happen often enough that it feels like a proper part to the PV, like the effects in Tokai no Hitorigurashi. It just looks cheap and unnecessary.

The other negative is that it is a fairly simple PV. It’s comprised of the group dance shots, solo dance shots, solo closeups and some brief group closeups. I know that I said it’s done well enough that it makes it better, which is true. I love the lighting in this enough to make this one of my favorite C-ute PVs. However, just a bit more would make this PV really special.

Overall: Much like Tokai no Hitorigurashi, a few shortcomings make Ai tte Motto Zanshin fall a bit short of its potential. A lot of good things are there in the song and PV, but the issues keep it from being as good it can be.

This is a solid C-ute single and a solid H!P single. There are a lot of things I like, but enough frustrating things that make me wish that it had been done just a bit better.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 18

Happy TIFriday! I’m working on this on vacation. So you’re welcome, however many people read this?

Fudanjuku

Fudanjuku is a pretty niche group. Not as a bad thing, but they’re basically a great group if you want your female idols to dress up like guys and perform like that. If that doesn’t interest you in the least, I doubt you’ll be a big Fudanjuku fan. If you love that idea, there’s a pretty good chance you may enjoy Fudanjuku.

Fudanjuku actually started as a regular idol unit, Nakano Fujoshi Sisters, back in 2006. Fudanjuku was created as the “male” counterpart to the feminine Nakano Fujoshi Sisters. However, since then they’ve really run with the Fudanjuku side, and Nakano Fujo Sisters (as it’s now called) has gone on hiatus. Still, this is a pretty prominent part of their history as a group.

Currently Fudanjuku has put out 11 singles and 3 albums, some of these as “collaborations” with Nakano Fujo Sisters. Currently the group has 8 members, all with image colors and male names. They generally do fine with sales (often reaching just under #10 on the oricon weekly charts) but they aren’t quite a super popular group. However, I’d say this stems from them being much more of a niche act. Very specific people might love Fudanjuku, but the very concept could turn people away.

That said, if this thought interests you you really ought to check them out. Personally, even though I find the concept intriguing, I have yet to become a big Fudanjuku fan. Maybe it’s because I tend to gravitate towards feminine idols, perhaps I just haven’t really gelled with the music, For whatever reason, they aren’t my thing. However, they have improved a ton in production values and presence since I first became aware of them in 2009, and if it sounds like they might be your thing you should definitely pay attention.

Blue Chee’s

A little history lesson for you guys; back in the late 90s Akimoto Yasushi decided to create an idol group after hitting success with Onyanko Club. This group was called Checkicco, and they did decently, but they were disbanded because their sales paled in comparison to Morning Musume. At this time, a band was formed with some of the members called Chee’s. It was more of a band than anything, with members playing instruments while singing. The band was disbanded. Blue Chee’s is the group, ten years later, formed by the original members. Even though they’re older and one is a mom, they have started to play as a band again. Their first reunion live was in December 2010, and since they’ve released a few singles and recently put out their first full-length album as Blue Chee’s.

They’ve since performed at TIF and at Naka Kon in Kansas. However, despite their history and despite performing internationally, there is really not that much about them on YouTube. There are a few filmed performances from Naka Kon and a song that was put on YouTube, ‘Ramen Tabetai na.” This is a shame, because I REALLY like Ramen Tabetai na and I’m very intrigued by the group. Something about women who are coming back 10 years after disbandment is really appealing and great.

So ultimately, it might be a bit hard to become a fan of Blue Chee’s right now. However, given their history, I have high hopes that Blue Chee’s will go somewhere and gain some success, which will inevitably make things easier for international fans. So while I can’t really say I’m a fan YET, I will say I’m intrigued and hope that Blue Chee’s continues on!

Fruity

If you like the fact that Juice=Juice chooses to have image fruits over image colors, Fruity has got you covered! They’re a ten member idol group that hails from Hokkaidou; I don’t see too many idol groups from Hokkaidou, so it’s nice to see them here. They were formed in 2011, and have been really active in their native Hokkaidou as well as putting out CD releases; they’ve put out 11 singles and two albums! So they’re a very active idol group.

There is another big interesting system with Fruity, and that’s the voting system. They have an election over the course of several months, where fans can vote for their favorite members though various things (being a member of the fan club, people who purchase CDs, people who buy goods, people who go to live events, etc.) and gain many votes. Then they rank the members through this. This seems a bit cruel to me, considering every single member gets ranked, which means that girls like poor Mizuki, who has been last place 5/8 times, know how unpopular they are.

Unfortunately, this is another group where finding information about them is a bit tricky. I can’t seem to find any PVs, and most of the videos seem to be fan cam recordings of events they did. So this seems like a type of group that would be amazing if you’re in Hokkaidou, but is a lot more difficult to watch from a distance.

They seem like a fine group, and one I would care about if I was in Sapporo. They are cute and have a good energy, and I like some of the songs I’ve heard. Unfortunately, following them from a distance is a lot of work.

predia

Predia the name refers to essentially “a rough, unpolished diamond” (hence pre meaning before and dia for diamond). After watching some Predia stuff, this feels like a fairly accurate name. Formed in 2010, this is an 11 member idol group that has a lot more of a sexy, adult vibe than most of the idol groups at TIF. So far they’ve put out five singles, an album and a mini-album, but watching a performance for their latest single, “Hey Now,” they still feel like they’re much less polished than, say, KPop groups that go for a similar image or even the Jpop groups that do this similar thing.

Watching PVs, they seem a lot more polished there, but that’s not really a big surprise. Still, for being an unpolished group, their PVs are pretty solid and they have some decent music, mostly focusing on electronic, dance-focused music (though they themselves aren’t dance focused). Their 4th single, Crazy Cat’s opening reminds me of Morning Musume’s song Wolf Boy, and in general they give off strong Girls Generation vibes.

That said, if you really like that more mature feel but you kind of wish you could view that group from the start, then predia might be a decent choice for you. They have a fairly decent presence on Youtube, including videos from the girls and PVs, so following them isn’t going to be too difficult. Personally, if I want a cool group, I tend to prefer more polished acts, at least more polished than this, but predia has some good music, decent PVs, and if you prefer a more mature image to your idols they certainly wouldn’t be the worst choice.

BabyRaids

This is another group with an interesting origin! Babyraids is a five member group that was formed in 2012 by Idoling!!! member Kikuchi Ami, who isn’t in the group but is kind of the producer/mentor of the group. The name of the group stems from the fact that they’re trying to “raid” the idol industry, since the idol industry is so competitive right now. They aim to perform at the Budokan within two years of their debut, which is a pretty big goal.

So far they’ve put out five singles, the latest being Konomi no Ue de wa December. They definitely have a rock influence to their music and to their appearance; these aren’t cutesy idols. However, they never seem to go as far as being like BiS or Alice Juban; they aren’t serious or scary. In this way, I think I could really enjoy Babyraids. I like rock music a lot, but I don’t particularly gel with the image of Alice Project groups or BiS. This feels like a nice middle-ground group for people who want their idols with a bit of a rock edge, but don’t want to go too far with that. Their music also sounds like real rock, not just pop with guitars. So if you enjoy rock music, you might like Babyraids.

While it’s the first single, I very much enjoy the self-titled single “Babyraids.” The girls are all energetic and seem to be enjoying themselves, and the song is catchy and fun. I think that Babyraids is going places; they’re already making a name for themselves as a group, and I’m very impressed by the quality level of this group. I’m convinced and I’m a fan now, and you guys should absolutely check them out.

Idol Thoughts: Trainee Systems

I’m not making a Your Thoughts post this week because I didn’t get comments. 🙂 Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long to get to an Idol Thoughts without comments, so thank you to everyone who’s participated so far.

One thing I noticed while doing my TIF blog posts is that there are a lot of trainee systems out there. Even some smaller indie groups have trainees, even though they’re just performing at small, local venues. This, and recently becoming a fan of some Hello!Project trainees, has made me consider the whole system and its pros and cons.

The biggest pro to the industry is that it’s a barrier of entry to the main groups. It gives girls who win auditions a lot of training, a chance to build up a small fanbase of her own, and she gets to grow as an idol before she even makes her proper debut in the group. If girls aren’t up to the challenge of being idols, it gives them a chance to opt out, as well. This also allows for groups with lots of members like AKB to not have issues with their member counts; when one girl graduates, another fills the spot.

Really, the biggest problem on this from an industry standpoint is when there are too many good trainee candidates. The formation of the original Team 4 and the current Team 4 can be traced to the fact that there are just too many solid AKB kenkyuusei who work hard and want to be in the group. The trainee system doesn’t really work when trainees languish, waiting for debut, and not enough girls were leaving to justify the numbers of kenkyuusei. Yet you don’t want to stop having auditions to admit more girls in.

This also leads me to think about trainee groups like the Nice Girl Project trainees. Nice Girl Project is pretty much over. The Possible is making a comeback, true, but as a project there aren’t really any other acts. So what must it be like, to be a Nice Girl Trainee, knowing you probably won’t ever debut? Is being a trainee idol enough for some of these girls? It’s an interesting thought.

This makes things a bit harder on fans, too. I know I’m personally hesitant to follow any trainee, just because it’s harder to know if she’s going to go anywhere. Really, the first two trainees I’ve followed were Sekine Azusa (now of Up Up Girls) and Natori Wakana (now a full AKB member), but there was a lot of waiting and uncertainty with being a fan of them. Of course, idols can graduate whenever they want to, but being a trainee only adds to that.

Recently, I’ve become a fan of Sasaki Rikako and Funaki Musubu, both Hello!Project Kenshuusei (I still call them Eggs in my head). Rikako I have a bit more hope for, since she was the only member in her generation and is generally thought of as being a big possibility for being a future star, but there are a lot of H!P kenshuusei that never debut and just perform at concerts. Is it worth it to be a fan of girls this early? If you gamble right, it may pay off in small ways. I have photos of both Sekkii and Wakanyan from their early days, and I’m happy to be a long time fan of these girls. But for every trainee that debuts, there’s even more that have gone nowhere.

Also, I wonder how good of a system it all is. Yes, it provides some training. However, are the members that better prepared? And so many idol groups focus on the idea of “fresh” idols, that don’t have entertainment experience. This takes away that idea. Is it much different to provide girls with some fairly intensive training right before debut than to be training them occasionally over the course of some years?

What do you think about trainee systems? Do you like or dislike them? Comment and you too can be a part of Happy Disco with my “Your Thoughts” post that will be up next week!

Review Monday: LinQ – Love in Qushu ~LinQ Daiichi Gakushou~

When asking for Review Monday requests, one of my friends suggested her favorite idol group’s first album, which is LinQ’s Love in Qushu ~ LinQ Daiichi Gakushou~. LinQ is one of the many groups I really feel like I should be a bigger fan of. They are from Fukuoka, which is home to many groups I enjoy, including my second favorite idol group Rev.from DVL. So I’m excited to do this review of a group that I, to be honest, don’t know as much about as I should.

1. LinQ Theme – I’m a sucker for a good instrumental theme at the start of an album, so this is a pretty good start. It’s a nice guitar-heavy opening with some spoken announcements, like an overture. Is it an overture? I could honestly imagine this played at the beginning of a concert. This isn’t necessarily something that pumps you up quite as much as, say, the AKB48 overture or the Momoiro Clover Z overture, but I could imagine with some wota chants that this could be a really great overture for LinQ. Except this is something I’d be more inclined to listen to on its own, as opposed to the AKB48 overture. Again, not sure of how often this is used, but I enjoy this so far!

2. Hajimemashite – The theme leads right into this, which is something I enjoy a lot in an album. One of the things that I feel that idol albums do wrong on a fairly regular basis is not thinking about their albums. Rather, they don’t place importance in where songs go on the album, but it’s just a collection of singles and new songs. Having one thing lead into another goes a long way into making the album feel cohesive. That, and this first full song (and their first single) is called “hajimemashite” which is something you say to someone when you first meet them. So this goes a long way to making this a good album, as opposed to a good collection of songs, to me.

That said, this isn’t the only thing I enjoy about this song. This whole song is fantastic. It’s funky and fun. The funky instrumentation (especially the keyboard and electric guitar parts!) are excellent; the arrangement is all-around well done. For being a first indie single, the production values are very high. The vocals aren’t necessarily the most remarkable, but they’re better than a lot of idol voices.

I find it hard to find a word that fits this better than “funky.” This is a well-produced, well-written song with a lot of funk and fun. I really love this. 9/10

3. for you – from the title I expected a slow ballad. Nope, it’s a high energy song with a lot of guitar. Of course. Not that I mind.

This is immediately a lot less memorable than Hajimemashite. Which isn’t a terrible thing; Hajimemashite was so good that a little step down is expected. The melody does a couple of things that I personally wouldn’t choose, and the instrumentation isn’t quite as good as Hajimemashite’s was (though the high points is when there’s some guitar).

The one thing that really holds this song back, though, is the production and sound mixing. There’s a strange amount of reverb used in this song, especially on the vocals in the chorus. A little reverb isn’t a bad thing, but this makes the entire song sound busy (with so much stuff lasting so long) and makes the vocals sound strange. I looked this song up on Youtube earlier and the short version I found had much less reverb. So is this a remix/rearrangement for the album?

At its core, this isn’t a bad song. If I listen to the version on Youtube without the reverb and strange production, I enjoy it (though definitely less than Hajimemashite). However, this arrangement/production doesn’t do the song justice. Which is a shame, because it could be great. 6/10

4. Let’s Feel Together – Another funky song! At first this song’s intro reminded me of Team Syachihoko’s Mochotto Hashire, but further in it gives me more Tokyo Girls Style or Perfume vibes. This song is immediately fun and feels a lot like Hajimemashite, which is obviously a good thing on this album. There’s some reverb thrown in here, but not as bad as ‘for you,’ which is good

While I’m usually a sucker for strings, the instrumentation again shines when it focuses on the electric guitar. If it brought in more guitar and more strings I would be a happy camper. My big complaint for this song is the length. It clocks in at a fairly long 5:30, which I’m not immediately opposed to. However, some of the verses drag a bit. If they had just cut thirty seconds and trimmed up the early verses (because everything after 3 minutes is good and the chorus is all great) this would be a much improved song.

That said, I really enjoy the choruses and I think this will be a song I’ll end up listening to a lot. Despite my small pacing concerns, this song is quite enjoyable to listen to and you know I love some good funky music. The song has grown on me a lot, and I have a feeling this will end up being a favorite of mine. 8/10.

5. Natsu Magic – Another funky sounding song! LinQ, are you trying to kill me in a good way? This is a lot more laid back than the past few songs, with a much slower instrumentation. In general it sounds a lot cuter, as well, though that mostly comes from the arrangement.

At first, I was going to complain about Natsu Magic dragging, but after a few listens I no longer think that’s the case. It’s slow, sure, but it’s more of a mellow, slow jam that you listen to while doing other things.

Personally, I tend to favor faster paced songs. I like a good ballad now and then, but I find myself to be more forgiving of fast, hyper songs. I rarely listen to slower songs, and even rarer are these types of slow jams. However, I find myself liking this song more and more by every listen.

This isn’t going to be something I listen to as much as, say, Hajimemashite and Let’s Feel Together. However it’s certainly good, and it’s something new that I’m enjoying. 7/10

6. Fighting Girl – Oh hey rock-inspired song! Good to hear you! I really enjoy this song; it’s got some excellent vocals, and is an upbeat, fun rock song. The vocals and melody remind me a bit of Roam by the B-52s, in a good way. Too often when idol music brings in rock it’s to be heavy or serious; this shows the potential of that instrumentation and attitude to be upbeat and happy. This is the type of music I wish idol music would use.

This song also doesn’t drag at all, which is nice to hear. This is a compact, quick 3 minutes, and it uses every second to good use. It has good music, and while I doubt it’ll be as memorable as the other songs I’ve mentioned so far, it’s certainly one I’ll most likely want to listen to again. 8/10

7. Pretty Woman – No, not the Julia Roberts movie. Although, I’m sorry, this is the type of song title where I will never be able to separate it from the preconceived connotations in my head. I have no idea how well known Pretty Woman, the movie, is in Japan, but it’s well known to me, so. The synth sound at the beginning of this song sounds pretty 90s. In fact, this song sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place in the late 80s/early 90s.

This is a pretty solid synth-tastic mid-tempo song. It’s laid-back despite all the synth that gets in there. Some of the instrumentation is a bit too precious for the song, with what sounds like light chimes. It isn’t a very varied song; what you hear in the first five seconds is pretty much what you get.

That said, it’s nice. It’s not a bad song, but it’s not the most interesting song. It’s nice to listen to, and it definitely grows on you. 7/10.

8. Kimochi – Autotune! LinQ’s going for some Perfume in here. This song is slow and a slow jam in a way I might not like it. But something about this song is very compelling. Maybe it’s the rapping, maybe it’s the autotune, maybe it’s the saxophone solo. Just something about this, combining some Perfume with early Morning Musume, makes me love this.

The entire instrumentation is fantastic; this is very heavy on piano and percussion, but that saxophone solo surprised and interested me. I also really like how this instrumentation goes with the autotuned vocals; it’s something you might not think would go that well together, but it sounds really great.

I’m not sure why this song stands out to me so much, but I love it and I have to bet I’ll keep listening to it more and more. It’s not the typical song I’d love, but goodness this song is great. 8/10

9. Sakura Kajitsu – This is the only song I knew previously to reviewing this album. And what a song it is. It’s a big contrast to Kimochi; whereas Kimochi was using the autotuned vocals in a slower song, this is autotuned vocals over a largely electronic instrumental. And it’s done very well. While the noticeably absent Calorie Nante is LinQ’s big single, this is a single that swayed me to paying a bit more attention to LinQ and want to review an album.

Just everything about this song is done well. The vocals sound quite nice and they use the effects for some beautiful harmonies that make the vocals almost instrumental. The song doesn’t drag at all, and sounds like a well constructed and paced song. There are no production issues at all, and it in fact sounds beautiful. While this may not convince the most anti-vocal effects/autotune groups, this sounds quite frankly beautiful.

I love this song. It does what it tries to do very well, and I love what it’s aiming for. I can not hear anything I would personally change in the song. 10/10

10. Nau – Anything after Sakura Kajitsu is going to be a bit of a letdown. But what a fun letdown Nau is! It also prominently features autotuned vocals, but is now an upbeat, cutesy, almost hyperactive song. While, in my opinion, this doesn’t use those vocal effects quite as well as the previous two songs, it still works here.

While this isn’t going to be as memorable as Sakura Kajitsu, by any means, this is just a fast and fun song. If there weren’t such fast parts I imagine this would be a very fun song to sing along to or sing at karaoke. There is no real depth in the instrumentation or production; this is just pure fun. Which is great sometimes. And it’s great here. 8/10.

11. Shining Star – The last song on the album (unless you listen to the version with a bonus track which I don’t have). And what a way to end. While the past few songs have been heavily autotuned and fell on the side of being cutesy, this is feels like a happy medium between the cute and mature parts of this album. There are certainly cute parts of this song, but it’s also guitar heavy and features some mature vocals.

This feels like a really great end to a great album. It starts off slower and moves into a driven, guitar-heavy  song that feels like an epic end to a great album. Shining Star could have perhaps been more epic or felt a bit more like a grand ending, but this isn’t a bad ending at all. It’s a very great one. So even though this song isn’t my favorite on the album, and I can think of ways that I’d improve it, I still ultimately like it and I’m glad it’s here. 8/10

Overall: As someone who didn’t follow much of LinQ at all before this, I’m surprised at just how much I ended up loving this album. Often funky, often very well produced, this is a very solid first effort that uses a lot of elements that I’m a sucker for. I think I have to be a LinQ fan now.

 

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 17

It’s Friday! You know what that means? TIFriday!

bump.y

This name makes me laugh so much. Formed in 2009, bump.y is a five girl unit focusing on both acting and singing; so they’re trying to be both actresses and idol singers. They’ve done so with a net drama also called bump.y, and, from a quick search online, it appears that all the members have been fairly active as actresses. So good job! Oricon wise, bump.y doesn’t sell all that well ( their highest weekly oricon position was 23), but if their goal is to be active singers AND actresses, it appears they’re on a good start. Their 7th single, Savage Heaven, came out this July.

Personally, I don’t follow many J-dramas or movies, so I’m just going to evaluate what I think of bump.y from what I know and the idol portion. However, I do think that promoting them in both spheres is a really smart idea, and I hope it works out for them well. Dramas and TV appearances are great promotions for a group, and having a good group could lead to more opportunities. So it’s a smart move.

When I first saw the PV to Savage Heaven, I thought this would be a completely cool group. Then I saw some of their other stuff and realized that this was just the case for this song. Honestly, I know this gets thrown around a lot, but they give me some KPop vibes, even in their stuff that could be cuter/more fun. This isn’t a bad thing, by any means, but this is what I first thought of. Initially I was lukewarm to Savage Heaven and their next latest single, Cosmos no Hitomi, but they’ve grown on me. I immediately enjoyed Gotta Getcha, and now I think I’m becoming a fan of this group.

If you follow dramas, I’d say you have to follow them right away. However, if you aren’t a big drama fan, like me, I’d suggest checking out Savage Heaven, Cosmo no Hitomi and Gotta Getcha. They’re three different songs, but it shows the range of bump.y. Even though it took me until Gotta Getcha to really get into Bump.y, I really have started to enjoy this group.

BiS

How do I even attempt to write something about BiS? I think they’re really a love it or hate it group. BiS stands for Brand New Idol Society, and currently has five members. Created by the leader of the group, Pour Lui, when she stopped her solo activities, they’re currently signed to Avex. And really, I’d consider them to be anti-idols. Not in a bad way mind you; from what I understand, most of the members love idol acts and respect them a lot. But I mean that in the sense of their profile picture, where they’re making faces. The first thing that grabbed people’s attention about BiS was their first PV, My IXXX, where they run around the woods seemingly naked.

This feels like a really good setup to BiS; not that they’re nude all the time, but that they do what other idols don’t. They have set themselves up as almost the opposite of the standard idol, the antithesis to the big, popular groups. They revel in strangeness, nude PVs, violence and rock music. Not just pop-rock that most rock idols are, heavier metal/rock. Perhaps the most telling thing is their latest album (and first one under Avex): Idol is Dead. They are taking the elements that are standard idol and turning them on their head. They don’t care if you’re uncomfortable.

Even though I wrote all that, I really have trouble following BiS. The music doesn’t appeal to me very much, and it feels less like an organized statement at points as a collection of weird/dark things. Their image doesn’t appeal to me all that much. When I told my friend I had no idea how to start talking about BiS, her one response was “scary.” And they are; there’s a reason they were the ones to kidnap Pinky in Dempagumi.inc’s W.W.D II PV. Honestly, I do think that taking a critical look at the idol industry is a good thing, and it’s interesting to do. For that, I think BiS is doing interesting things. However, their image and sound just doesn’t appeal to me very much. So while BiS may be a group I am interested in, it’s not a group I like as an idol group.

Really, the only thing I can do is say that you should try them out. I can’t say how many of you will actually like BiS, but it’s certainly an experience.

Be Flourish

Be Flourish is a very new group; they made their live debut in April and their single debut in May. Described as a “fresh dance vocal unit,” this three-member unit was formed with the goal to make Japan energetic. Which is I swear the goal for half of the groups at TIF. But I digress.

So far Be Flourish has only released one single, but their second one is coming out at the end of October. So if you’ve ever wanted to start following a new group at the start, it looks like this might be a group to follow. They don’t have many followers on twitter or Youtube views, so they’re really at the start of their career. That said, there isn’t that much of them out there, so that might be a concern.

The biggest thing that interests me is the live clip of Be Brave, the first track off their self-titled first single. They’re performing in front of a live band. I’m not sure if this will be a continuing thing, but it’s a nice touch that sets these girls apart.

I like them. It’s hard to know how successful or how far an idol group will go, but this seems like a nice group. They have nice vocals, and while their dance isn’t the greatest yet they definitely have room to grow. One of the songs off their first single is a cover of the song Pre-Parade which was the opening to the anime Toradora, which I really enjoy, and they do it well. I’m going to keep an eye on these girls.

PPP! PiXiON!

Another funny name! PPP! PiXiON was formed in December 2012 with six members. Their theme is that they’re like a theme park; the members are performers, the staff are the cast, the fans are guests and the lives are called attractions. They aim to get the excitement of a theme park in their live shows. This is not the easiest gimmick, but it’s definitely a cute one.

So far the group’s released two singles, the latest being Geki Splash. Really, listening to their songs, it’s not quite energetic enough to sound like a theme park. Nor is it the kind of music you’d hear walking around at Disney World. Instead, it’s mid tempo, not very memorable idol pop. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not really the best written idol music out there. Geki Splash, for example, has a lot of pauses and lulls in the music. The only song I’ve heard that really sounds like it should fit in with their theme is Hatsukoi Merry go Round, which is probably their best song.

It’s a new group, so it’s hard to be sure how good they are. And honestly, the theme and music aren’t very compelling so far. That said, the girls are cute, and pretty fun, so if that’s all you’re looking for you might want to watch PPP! PiXiON. I’m not writing them off yet, but they’ve got a ways to go.

Hime Carat

Part band, part idol group, Hime Carat kind of walks the line between both. Formed in 2012 as a band, they added a member and became somewhat an idol unit. So they perform without instruments a lot, but they also play the instruments? Not sure. They had five members but lost one to scandal. So far they’ve put out one single, already as a major debut, which is ‘51%platonic.” They’re putting out their second single in November.

Honestly, the fact they focus on being idols is kind of disappointing. IF they had been idolly in every way except still performing instruments, I would really like that. Instead, they dance and sing for a lot of their performances. That said, I like the idea of a part-idol part-band group; I just wish they focused more on the band side. Disappointing.

That said, 51%Platonic is a pretty good song, and these girls seem to be doing alright, with the major debut. While I am a bit disappointed, I’m interested in what the future holds for Hime Carat.