Idol Matsuri Event Report

(Cross posted from Pure Idol Heart!)

From June 20th through June 22nd, I had the distinct pleasure of attending Idol Matsuri, which was geared at being the United States’ first idol convention. I was interested in the event when it was first announced quite some time ago, but when the guests were announced I knew I had to attend. Aither, the first group, wasn’t one that I was very familiar with, but I have been a fan of RYUTist since covering them for Tokyo Idol Festival so they were a group I was really excited to meet. I was really intrigued by the idea of going to see both of these acts, though, because usually only large groups get to go do a foreign live. Since I love indie idols, this was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t pass up.

First off, I spent the weekend hanging out with various idol fans, as well as other idol bloggers. I spent some good time with Steve from Selective Hearing as well as a large number of the bloggers from New School Kaidan, many of whom I had spoken to on twitter for a while. While I went to Idol Matsuri to meet with RYUTist, I was incredibly happy to meet other idol fans. I have honestly never really met any serious idol fans in person, so to be surrounded by other people who share my passion for idol music and culture for a weekend was incredibly fun. I’m so glad I met everyone there.

The convention itself was fairly small, which wasn’t unexpected. This convention is one in its first year, so I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect from this. However, the group of us who were there were a really fun, passionate bunch. So what we lacked for in members I believe we made up in spirit. That said, I know that the organizers want to host Idol Matsuri again, so I have to emphasize just how much I recommend it. It was a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience and I want more people to have as much fun as I did!

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There were several guests. Several Western idol acts came; Beri New Day, Ally & Sally, SHEawase and Beckii Cruel. I unfortunately missed Beckii and Beri’s concerts due to my flight schedule and I had to miss half of SHEawase’s set to get to a scheduled interview. However, these girls were really fun and added a lot to the experience. I interviewed Beckii (which will be hosted on Happy Disco soon!) and she was a real class act. I chose not to interview the other acts because I didn’t want to overexert myself (and, given how tired I am, this was a pretty wise choice!), but they were all fantastic to have around.

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As for the Japanese guests… Wow. I interviewed and went to the concert of Momoi Halko. I didn’t know much about her before the convention, but she put on a great show and I asked her several questions about her long-lived idol career and about her career as a producer for acts like Afilia Saga and Kotone Mai. She was a really interesting person, and a fun one to watch in concert. I took it easy for her concert (saving my strength for RYUTist!) but her fans were SO passionate and she put on a great show.

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Aither was a LOT of fun. I watched several of their videos in preparation for this event, but I had a great time with all of them. They were all really energetic, cute and bubbly. Since the convention was so small I actually ran into them in the hallway several times and they seemed to always be bubbly. During their concert there were some technical difficulties, and they took it all in stride. During an impromptu MC (due to these tech issues) they were really funny; Airi and Yuuka did a gag which was “Terminator & Titanic” which is basically exactly what it sounds like. They also all sang “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” from Frozen which was kind of neat, because Team Syachihoko recently did that same thing in a video. I also stood next to another Misaki fan, and she focused a lot in on us, which I didn’t mind one bit!

During their photo and handshake events I gravitated towards Misaki; I liked all the members going in, but Misaki was a LOT of fun. We got a chance to chat a bit about idols, and how she likes Morning Musume ’14; I mentioned that I liked Ishida Ayumi, whereas she likes Michishige Sayumi and Kudou Haruka. I also told her that I like Team Syachihoko, which made her go to MomoClo and sing a bit of Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo. Sakura seemed really shy, but was sweet. She said I was cute, to which I replied that she was really cute, too, which she got a bit embarrassed at. Yuuka was a very idol-like person, and I had fun with her. She had American-themed nail art, which I marveled at with her. Airi was very sweet, too; I can’t really remember what I spoke to her about, but she was quite nice.

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RYUTist was really great. One thing that a lot of fans noticed is that they aren’t really super idol-like, but in a good way. They felt really genuine, like they were showing how they really felt. I’m a fan of Tomochy, and so when I went to get my two-shot with all of them wearing my Tomochy towel her thanks felt very genuine. While it was hard knowing exactly what to say at the autograph and handshake sessions, they were super fun. I knew part of their concert introductions (“Konnichimuu” and “Haropyon”) and told them to Muutan and Tomochy respectively, which I think kind of surprised them a bit. I used basically all my Japanese knowledge talking to all of them, but I think I conveyed what I wanted to say. I told Wakkar that my favorite RYUTist song was “Arrivals and Departures” (which they performed first at the concert!) and she also seemed kind of surprised.

Their concert was frankly amazing. All the members are really skilled at both singing and dancing, and even though many of their songs aren’t really geared towards wotagei and fan calls, all the fans really enjoyed their concert. Their dancing was VERY sharp and precise, and their vocals were VERY strong for being done during that dancing. RYUTist is made of great performers, and that made their performance all the better. They performed a fantastic that contained some of my favorite songs; Arrivals and Departures, Beat Goes On, Colorful Milk, Natsu no Mahou/Fuyu no Mahou, Arashi wa Nichiyoubi and Raririreru. The concert was everything I hoped for and more. They actually put it up on Youtube really early, so you should watch it. It’s kind of embarrassing, but you’ll see me; I’m the girl wearing the pink towel and with the pink light stick up front. I also happened to run into them a whole lot.

Another fun thing was that around midday on Sunday, RYUTist filmed a video with a lot of the fans there. They recently did a cover of BiS’ song Nerve and filmed a dance video with us. I’m in that too. I’m not a very good dancer, but how could I pass up an opportunity to dance with idols? Again, that’ll be up on the RYUTist youtube soon.

For a first year event, Idol Matsuri went very well. I had a great time meeting idol groups (especially RYUTist) and I met a lot of great people! If there is another Idol Matsuri next year, I encourage everyone to go!

Idol Matsuri 2014 – Live Blog

Hello there,

As some of you may know, I’m attending Idol Matsuri this year! This is the first ever idol convention in the US, and I’m super excited to be a part of its first year! This is a new experiment where I’m going to try and update Happy Disco while I’m there, in addition to the posts I’ll inevitably do post-event. So, if you want to follow along as I go to the event, keep an eye out on this post! Idol Matsuri is going to be streaming several of the events, including the Aither events and my two panels. I’m running one on 3B Junior groups and one about Idol Blogging. Both of these will be streamed, AND I’m going to try and make this interactive! If you have anything to add or any questions either during the panel or before the panel, tweet me @writerserenyty. From there I’m going to be answering questions and taking comments, so you can participate even if you can’t attend the event!

THURSDAY JUNE 19 2014

11:06 AM – I’m waiting on getting a ride to the airport. I JUST got my King Blade in the mail for the Morning Musume concert in October, which means that I should probably have gotten a multi-color one to bring to Idol Matsuri. That’s how it goes, I guess. I’ve been listening to RYUTist’s Arrivals and Departures almost nonstop because of how excited I am!

2:30 PM – My flight got delayed. 🙁 At least I’m flying in today and not early tomorrow! I’m basically just sitting around listening to Team Syachihoko music because that’s my first instinct when I’m a little displeased with something.

8:30 PM – Here and in my room!

FRIDAY JUNE 20 2014

7:51 AM – I was up a lot later than I was planning, and got up earlier than I was planning, too. Ah well, it’s not a convention without some sleep deprivation! The first event starts at 10 AM, but I’m up so that I can try and get a VIP ticket to see Morning Musume at 9 AM. Fingers crossed! Today the biggest events are Q&A sessions with the Japanese guests and the Halko Momoi concert. There are just assorted things going on around it, as well, like the opening ceremony, some photo ops and such.

10:26 – the opening ceremonies happened, which was the first introduction of the guests. I was smiling like an idiot because I like RYUTist a lot and they seem really adorable in person! Next up is the Halko Momoi Q&A and then the RYUTist/Aither one. 🙂

1:30 PM – We just had the Q&A sessions for Halko Momoi, Aither and RYUTist! All of them seem really cute and fun, and we had a great time. I don’t know much of Halko Momoi’s stuff, truth be told, but she’s a veteran in the industry and her Q&A session was interesting. I’m kind of nervous for my interviews with these girls because I want to get some interesting questions! I went and bought some items from the tables, and both groups were hanging around. Everyone was all smiles and was very sweet. Alright, time to get these items signed!

2:05 – Just got a poster signed by RYUTist; all the signatures are super cute, and the members themselves are all ADORABLE in person. It’s hard to say much more, but they were all working hard signing everything. Next is Aither! I’m glad I bought goods when I did, because apparently they sold out of a lot of stuff. I managed to snag the very last photo set, which I’m getting signed. 🙂

9:47 PM- WOW I have had a long day. I went and got the items signed by Aither; I bought a photo set, so all the members signed their individual photos. The members were all super adorable, which was very fun. Soon after we took two shots! Since the event is on the beach we took them outside, which was very pleasant. I got a photo with Misaki, who proceeded to make a really cute pose with me. I’ll have to post a photo of the cheki later but WOW it is cute. Then it was Momoi Haruko’s concert! I’m not at all familiar with her music, to be honest, but I enjoyed it! Her fans are REALLY passionate, which was kind of cool, but almost a bit tough to get in on? I didn’t really participate in the intense fan stuff, as someone who doesn’t really know much about her solo music, but hung back and took photos. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s concerts! After this were the two shot photos with RYUTist! This time I got to take a photo with the whole group in front of the ocean, as well. At both photo events we took large group photos, which was really fun. I just finally got back from getting some dinner and now I’m working on interview questions to ask the members! My first one is tomorrow and I’m a little nervous!!

 

AKB48 2014 General Election: Thoughts + Analysis

Hey everyone! This morning I got up at the bright hour of 3 AM to watch the AKB48 senbatsu election live. Even as my AKB48 fandom has changed and shifted (I really haven’t been into AKB’s music much lately, for example) this is still a huge event that I love staying up for year after year.

If you haven’t seen the results yet, THIS is where I’m looking at, though most of my thoughts are coming from what I saw at the livestream.

Last Night’s Winners: HKT48

Now, this might be odd; Watanabe Mayu is the new AKB48 center, not Sashihara Rino. However, HKT48 did VERY well. On Fuji TV there was a running counter of how many members ranked from each group. Usually this number goes sequentially from when the group was formed; AKB, SKE, NMB and HKT. However, this year more HKT48 members ranked than NMB48. Girls like Murashige Anna ranked for the first time (a fact that thrilled everyone) and Miyawaki Sakura had a huge leap in rankings.

One thing I noticed, however, was that HKT had a really big sense of community. Murashige went straight to Sashihara after she ranked to celebrate. The girls seemed genuinely all thrilled whenever someone ranked. I think HKT48 has really proved themselves to be a great group, and they were really enjoyable to watch.

Last night’s Losers: NMB48 (and Watanabe Miyuki)

NMB48 didn’t do terribly, not at all. However, being outstripped by HKT48 has to be significant. Further, there were some drops. I was surprised to see Ogasawara Mayu ranked fairly low in the Up Coming Girls (the new added ranking) and I was very disappointed to see Watanabe Miyuki’s ranking drop out of senbatsu. Yamamoto Sayaka did well, but that’s the biggest gain that NMB had.

Winners: New(er) girls

The senbatsu lineup is usually girls that are well-known. However, FOUR new faces entered the senbatsu. The old guard has generally been graduating, but it’s interesting to see who’s entering senbatsu. It makes sense; new girls generally get a lot of press. But those climbing the ranks tend to be members who are newer.

Losers: Old(er) girls

A couple of us tweeting the senbatsu noticed some disappointment. Kuramochi Asuka, for one, mentioned in her speech that she kept dropping in categories. Kobayashi Kana didn’t rank. Nakagawa Haruka didn’t rank. Miyazaki Miho ranked again, but she was low in the Up Coming Girls (which was noted to be pretty funny, considering).

This makes sense; as management is promoting the newer, fresher girls, the girls that never got a big push (or got a small push) are falling. Still, it’s something I noticed.

Winner: Matsumura Kaori, Undergirls center?

Kaotan being popular isn’t that new. It’s just that I’m really looking forward to what a Kaotan center song will look like.

Winner: Nogizaka46 and Ikoma Rina

I thought that Ikoma would rank highly. I mean, she’s a popular Nogizaka46 member, once the center of the group, and Nogizaka fans would want to vote for her even if they weren’t particularly into Ikoma. However, ranking in the senbatsu is really significant, and does a lot to show Nogizaka46’s power in relation to AKB. Well done.

Winner: Kawaei Rina, Iriyama Anna (and all the members)

The live event started (notably) with Gamushara Ouendan cheering on the 48 members. It was a bit silly, and I know a lot of foreign fans (including myself) were wondering what was going on. However, this was for the girls. This is the first really major 48 event since the incident, and I imagine every single one of them is a little afraid.

However, the most memorable and emotional moment of the night was Kawaei Rina appearing on stage. She’s my favorite AKB member, so it was already going to be emotional. However, she outshone everything else. The fact that she had the courage to appear was remarkable. The hosts asked her if she was scared, a few times, and Ricchan just said “I’m not afraid at all, I’m fine.”

The incident was hard on AKB48, all 48 groups, and the fans. This is a sizable step that people are moving beyond it.

Winner: Watanabe Mayu

You know, because she actually won it. Seriously, it was an unsurprising turn of events, but not unwelcome. CG Revolution!

All in all, it was a really solid election; some surprises, a lot of really expected things, but overall an enjoyable year.