Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 – Part 3

Hey guys! Sorry I’ve gotten off track with Happy Disco/TIF. In the next few weeks expect several more TIF posts as well as the interviews I haven’t yet posted!

iDOL Street sei (e-Street and w-street)

Sorry iDOL Street fans, I’m condensing these two into one group, just because it’s a lot simpler. Basically, the Street sei are the trainees, kind of like the 48G Kenkyuusei or the Hello!Project Kenshuusei. They are girls who aim to be either put in one of the other groups or to debut as a major group. There are groups of girls based in Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Osaka, and while they do activities as individual groups (i.e. Nagoya Chubu) they are ultimately trainees. It looks like they’re sending a special selection of girls from e-street (Sapporo and Tokyo) and w-street (Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka) so it’s hard to assess if you should pay attention. However, it’s safe to assume that the girls who are getting sent are girls that they are pushing, or intend to push. If you are a fan of the other iDOL street groups, Super Girls, Cheeky Parade and GEM, you probably should be following these girls!

AXELL

Like Fudanjuku? Well, have a little sister (little brother?) group called AXELL! This is a five member unit that also dresses as guys. As far as I can tell, AXELL is very very new; they don’t have a proper website yet, and their official blog has only been around since May. They don’t have any singles out yet, either, and the information about them is very sparse.

That said, while Fudanjuku doesn’t do too much for me, I know they’re a popular group. And really, if you dig stuff like Fudanjuku,, you really will probably enjoy AXELL. They’re clearly trying to go for a similar feel. And while there’s not much out there of them, it might be exciting to meet this group early on.

 ani☆yume project

Like anime voice actors? Want to support an idol group comprised of girls wanting to be voice actresses? Well, your specific tastes have been answered! Ani*Yume Project is a group with the goal of making these girls into star voice actresses. There are currently nineteen girls listed on the site.

One cool thing about this group is that, despite being pretty unknown, they still have a fair amount of content out there. On their website (aniyume.jp) you can see all the archives of their online show, Ani*Yume nano, which is updated every day on Nico Nico.

In addition, they have put out several singles, which all have samples on the site. Another cool thing about the group is that each of the members’ profiles have voice samples of their voice acting prowess, presumably for companies to scope them out. It’s pretty cool, and really shows that they are legitimately dedicated to getting these girls voice acting work. That said, there doesn’t seem to be much online about their music or performances. So that might detract you. Still, I think it’s cool they’re focusing on one aspect of these girls’ career, and I hope it works well for them!

amihime

Now this is something a bit unusual! amihime is a solo idol project for T-Palette records, and is trying to do a “2.5d” thing, blending vocaloid with a real idol. amihime is performed by LinQ member Himesaki Aimi, and this project was just kicked off a few months ago. The name amihime supposedly stands for “Android meets Idol, Idol meets evolution” with the “h” standing for “human.”

Since it’s so new it’s hard to see what form this project will take. One performance (which I will link) had Aimi perform and dance while the vocals were vocaloid. Still, it’s definitely an interesting project, and it will be interesting to see what Aimi and T-Palette end up doing with this!

Ayumikurikamaki

This is a group I’m pretty happy to see grow as much as they have! This group started as Kurikamaki, a DJ unit. The year before last they were still basically performing in homemade Youtube/NicoNico videos. Last year they were starting to put out singles. Now they’ve added a new member, Ayumi, and are performing at a variety of festivals including Rock in Japan Festival. Their third single, Jet Kuma Star, comes out this week! It’s a harder rock track with some heavily autotuned vocals and a catchy pop chorus.

Honestly, I’m not sure how much DJing Kurika really does; in all the performances I’ve seen she tends to get away from the DJ setup and perform with the rest of them. Still, it’s a pretty cool premise, and they have a really neat homemade feel that I like, since they basically started the group, and brought Ayumi in on it because she was a close friend. This is a group that I don’t know if I expected to get as far as they have, but I’m pretty happy. They have pretty fun rock-inspired songs, so if any of what I’ve said has interested you you should check them out!

Momoiro Clover Z : An Introduction

Like many foreign fans of Japanese media, I was thrilled to see the return of Sailor Moon in the form of Sailor Moon Crystal. Another thing that thrilled me was that Japanese idol group Momoiro Clover Z was performing the opening and ending themes. However, while I’m primarily an idol fan first and a Sailor Moon fan second, I understand many people may not know who MomoClo is. So here’s a brief introduction on who the group is.

What are idols? While the definition of idols can vary dramatically, the word is generally used to refer to female performers in their teens and early twenties, who perform pop music. There are many idols that don’t fall into this category at all, and there are many artists that fit that definition but aren’t considered idols.

It’s also a trend that’s swept Japan in recent years; there are hundreds of idol groups in Japan, and many chart toppers are idol groups like AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z.

Beginnings: Momoiro Clover Z started out as Momoiro Clover (commonly referred to as MomoClo).  They were formed as the idol group from Stardust Promotions, a talent agency. The group started out performing street performances in 2008, and had many members join and leave the group during that time.

They finalized a line-up and put out their first indie single in 2009, with members Takagi Reni, Momota Kanako, Sasaki Ayaka, Tamai Shiori and Hayami Akari (Ariyasu Momoka would join just after their first single). Their early singles had a traditional Japanese theme, and they wore modified yukata for their first two indies singles and their first major single. They branded themselves as “shuumatsu heroines (weekend heroines)” as they performed on weekends while they went to school during the week. They also called themselves “Idols you can meet right now,” as a way to compete with AKB48, who were known as “Idols you can meet” (since AKB48 were becoming popular at the time).

In 2010, Momoiro Clover made their major label debut with Universal Records, with Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo. This is noticeable for Sailor Moon fans, as it’s really the first single to start experimenting with their sentai image that they would adopt more later. With lyrics about them transforming and a music video where they beat up bad guys, their road to Sailor Moon is pretty clear.

After Ikuze! they moved to King Records, and put out two more singles.

Momoiro Clover Z
In early 2011, fans were disappointed to find out that Hayami Akari intended to leave the group, to pursue a career in acting. While members leaving groups is commonplace in the idol world, MomoClo decided to honor Akari by renaming the group, Momoiro Clover Z. They put out their first album, Battle and Romance, and two singles. One of these singles is Z Densetsu ~Owaranaki Kakumei~.

This single is the first real exploration of the sentai theme that they adopted with Momoiro Clover Z as a name.

Beating all of their goals

MomoClo has been immensely successful. They have performed at the largest venues in Japan; in fact, they performed at the National Olympic Stadium and became the first female idol act to do so.

Their biggest goal was to appear on Kouhaku Uta Gassen, which is a big end of the year broadcast that showcases the biggest names in music in Japan. They have performed on the program twice now.

Moving Forward

It’s hard to say where MomoClo can go from here; they have performed at the biggest arenas, have put out more singles and more albums, and are generally regarded as one of the top idol groups in Japan right now. That said, they have been active for several years now, and it looks like they are, at least for the forseeable future, here to stay.

Basic Info

There are five members in Momoiro Clover Z right now.

Momota Kanako – the current leader of. Her image color is red. One of the ways she gained notice early on was through her jump near the end of Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo.

Takagi Reni – the former leader of the group. She’s kind of an oddball, and in the past was a bit of a crybaby. She’s the oldest member in the group. Her image color is purple.

Sasaki Ayaka – The youngest of the group, she was a child performer before joining the group. Known as “MomoClo’s idol,” she’s generally the girliest, most idol-y member. Her image color is pink. Her nickname is “A~rin”

Ariyasu Momoka – Generally prides herself on her singing and dancing, Momoka is the shortest member as well. Her image color is green.

Tamai Shiori – Known as “MomoClo’s little sister.” They joke about how much she likes food. A lot. Her image color is yellow! Her nickname is “Shiorin.”

Basic terminology

Mononofu – A MomoClo fan.

Oshimen – the member you support (i.e “A~rin is my oshimen”). Can be shortened to oshi, and used in reference to oneself (i.e. “I’m A~rin oshi”).

wota – An idol fan; shortened version of “otaku” so it’s usually used for intense idol fans!

wotagei – movements/fan calls that people do. Usually the fan cheers are more important during a concert!

kwkm – MomoClo’s manager. They make jokes on his behalf.

Hyadain, Narasaki – two of MomoClo’s most well-known songwriters. They haven’t written as much for the group lately.

Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, Team Syachihoko, Takoyaki Rainbow – Momoiro Clover Z’s “little sister groups”.

Stardust Promotion – the agency MomoClo is under

3B Junior – the idol arm of Stardust that has both MomoClo and its sister groups.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to ask away! This is a very basic intro, but I hope it’s helpful to new MomoClo fans!

Idol Matsuri: Interview with Beckii Cruel

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One of the really fun experiences I had at Idol Matsuri was interviewing Beckii Cruel!

Beckii got her start posting dancing videos on Youtube to various anime and idol related songs. Her performance of Danjo, a song that had spread as a meme in Japan, is really what gained her a lot of attention in Japan.

After this Beckii performed in Japan several times, released a single with two other Western performers (as Beckii Cruel feat. Cruel Angels), and did a variety of activities in Japan. Today, she has left her label and decided to release more stuff on her own. She has released music in both English and Japanese, and has focused a lot of her attention on fashion/beauty blogging and managing her own career. I was lucky enough to sit down and have a conversation with Beckii about where she’s come from and where she’s going with her career.

Serenyty (S): You mentioned that this is your first time in America, so how have you been enjoying it so far?

Beckii (B): It’s been really exciting being here. I’ve been far from home before, but to the East, so coming to the West is a lot different. I mean, we’re both Western cultures, but you know it’s a different kind. At home I live on an island with 80,000 people, and coming here and seeing space in between everything is just a huge different scale, so it’s really exciting. It’s like being in TV.

S: For sure, I spent a semester abroad in the UK, never to the Isle of Man but mostly to London. I was actually there when you were at Hyper Japan..

B: Oh were you really?

S: But I didn’t get to see you, as I had plans for that Sunday, so I was like “aww, dang.” But I totally understand what you mean, because there was a difference in culture even if it’s both English-speaking [cultures]. So since this is Idol Matsuri, do you have any particular favorite idol songs or idol groups that you’ve been listening to lately?

B: For me, the way I enjoy idol music is through the dances, so when I’m in my casual “I want to listen to music” I tend to actually listen to a lot of different things. But I only listen to idol music when I’m learning a dance because I have that tight association where, if I listen to it, I have to be on the move.

S: Right, and you can’t be listening to it on the train.

B: No, it’s something where I definitely have to either know the dance or be learning the dance to listen to it.

S: Oh sure. Do you remember the first time your Youtube channel was kind of blowing up and what your first feelings were when that was starting to happen?

B: I had absolutely no idea because the video that went viral was Danjo, but that had been uploaded six months earlier, so I was like “this is strange” because I had the email notification for when people were subscribing and I was just watching it. I had like 200 subscribers before this happened so it was not like a huge amount of people and suddenly for it to grow by like 3000 people in one day, it was like “this is way bigger than anything that I have experienced in my life.” I had no idea where these people were coming from. Eventually someone informed me that my video had been uploaded to Nico Nico Douga, so then I was like “oh, ok, that makes sense.”

S: How did you manage to keep your cool with all of that press at such a young age, especially since it happened so fast?

B: It was a huge learning curve for me and I feel very proud of my younger self for managing to cope with it quite well. I’ve always been a grounded and realistic person so I made sure to never to get too carried away. I mean, the first time I went to Japan, even the day before I was telling my parents “I’m sure we’re not going, I’m sure something will fall through” even though we had the ticket confirmations and stuff. I was like “Something’s going to go wrong here, and I’m not going to get my hopes too high.”

S: Which is a good view to have of it.

B: It’s sensible.

S: You don’t want to necessarily have too high hopes and then have them dashed because then that would be tough. Do you have any favorite memories of being in Japan or your early concerts?

B: The first time that I went to Japan I had to go through London and I had never been to London before, so flying to London I was like “Oh my God, London.” Then I was only there for one day, and then it was “Oh my God we’re going to Japan, this is like a place of my dreams,” and it was amazing. And also I was informed that when I landed I would be performing in a concert, and I was like “OK, what dance am I doing?” Oh, this five minute dance which you have got to learn on the plane and then you will have to perform it when you land after being jet lagged after only knowing the dance for one day. So it was tough. But I managed to do it. I was just so proud of myself when I was on the stage and I could see anyone there. I was thinking, who gets to do this, this is insane, this is my life now, this is amazing.

S: That sounds really surreal!

B: It was, it was completely surreal.

S: My favorite trivia bit of your career is your English language textbooks. Did you have any input on those?

B: Well, the author, he’s quite a well-known author in Japan who does English language books, so these books were actually quite advanced in his course. So they’re not beginner books, which I would have thought makes more sense, so it would appeal to more of my fanbase. But now it would only appeal to the fanbase who had already been learning English for quite some time.

S: That’s interesting; I didn’t know what level they were for, I would have assumed they want to reach people who found about you and wanted to learn English because of that. That’s interesting.

B: Yeah, and I did have some input on all the scripts, they sent them to me to read over. They wanted me to put it into my own words, and how I would say it with my dialect. That was quite fun to do.

S: That’s good. I was wondering if it was that or if it was kind of “let’s put Beckii’s picture on the cover…”

B: I did have some input on it. I am still good friends with the author, as well, so it’s nice that we managed to keep in touch.

S: Recently, a lot of your focus has been in the UK. What would you say are the primary differences?

B: It’s a completely different ballgame. Right after in 2010 when I was kind of blowing up, in the UK I was working with a lot of trance producers, which was a mile away from what I was doing, but I was very honored that they would work with me, because there were some big names in there. They had worked with people like Kylie [Minogue] and things like that, so I was like “Ooh, I’ll listen to what you have to say, I will go along with that because this sounds great!” So that was my focus in 2010, but I didn’t really feel like it was completely me, so now I’m independent and happy doing what I’m doing.

I guess the fans are also a bit different, the one difference is that I can understand them all.

S: For sure, which makes it a little easier.

B: Yeah, they’re not too different, because they’re interested in Japanese culture, so they try to emulate that kind of Japanese spirit for supporting your idol. It’s nice to have that parallel.

S: Since you have a lot of creative control, with something like Future Fantasy did you have a lot of control over the music video, and stuff like that?

B: Yeah, we recorded it because this documentary crew came over and they wanted to follow me making a single, so I thought “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.” This is how most of my stuff happens, people approach me and I’m like “OK, sounds good, I’ll do it!” So they had arranged for me a writer and a producer but the producer fell through, so I arranged for a producer. Then I was unhappy with the mix, so then I had to arrange another producer. Before then it was all remote, in Japan and America, but we could actually go into the studio together. We rerecorded the entire track and rearranged it as well. It started off as a pretty bland, generic idol song, and then I think we created something really exciting. It was so nice to be in the studio and be present for that.

S: Which is what makes being in the UK a little bit nicer, so you can do that as opposed to flying back and forth and doing things remotely. You’ve focused a lot on fashion and beauty with your blogging, is that always something you’ve been interested in?

B: Yeah. In Japan, in the idol, entertainment and talent industry the talents get to experience a lot of different things, which I experience as well, such as modeling, fashion, music, dancing, singing, performing. All these different fields I was being exposed to, so it was really great to have that experience. Fashion was always something that really sang to me. Even earlier on, with my videos, I did have a little bit of interest in fashion then and I tried to express that. That’s always been something which I’ve really loved and enjoyed, so I think it’s a natural progression for me.

S: So that’s something you’d like to do more with your career in the future?

B: Yeah, definitely. I took a hiatus on my Youtube channel; the last time I put up a dancing video was about a year and a half ago now. I took a hiatus in that time because I just wasn’t comfortable with any of the dances that I was making anymore, I wasn’t feeling too self-confident in them. I was recording them and didn’t feel like I could upload them. I decided “OK, let’s go back to the start, what was I making Youtube videos for in the first place?” which was to make videos that make me happy. So that’s why my channel has changed so much now, because I’m doing the content for whatever it feels like, I record a video and make one. So for the past couple of months it’s all been about fashion and beauty.

S: Is there any beauty tip or trend you’ve been enjoying a lot lately?

B: I’m really big into some certain trends. I really love holographic designs and transparent mesh fabrics. I’ve been into them for the past couple of months, and I’ve got my eye on the horizon for what’s next, but I’m attracted to the shiny things.

S: Moving forward with your career is it difficult to reconcile your current beauty focus with your previous focus on your Japanese career? Do they work together, in a way?

B: They kind of work together. I mean, the way I can maintain both is doing these convention performances. This is how I express that side of my career and continue with it. Even if I’m not so present with that online, I’m present with it in the real world. So I guess they move together now.

S: Is there anything you want to let fans know about you? Something you don’t get asked about in questions?

B: Thank you so much for supporting me, everyone who’s been there for a week or for the whole seven years that I’ve been on Youtube so far, I hope they’ll continue on with me for the foreseeable future too.

S: Lastly, what are your plans for the future? Do you have anything you’d like to promote?

I also have a fashion brand called BCKY Couture . It’s a brand which is couture, which means I’m making garments to your measurements. I noticed that a lot of girls who watch my videos, the stores which tend to be advertised are Asian stores where they have one-size clothing. I can fit into that because I have the same kind of body type, but a lot of my supporters don’t really fit into that mold. But there’s really cute clothes, and that’s the only place you can get them for an affordable price. I wanted to bring that into my brand, making high street designs but to your measurements. It’s been going well so far and I really love it. I’ve been trying to bring an element of my Japanese fashion love into it, as well.

S: Alright, that sounds great, and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

B: Thank you very much!

S: Thank you!

Thank you so much for the fantastic interview, Beckii, and for coming to Idol Matsuri! You can find Beckii at the following locations!

http://beckii.co.uk/
https://www.youtube.com/user/xBextahx
https://twitter.com/beckiicruel
http://www.bcky.co/
https://www.facebook.com/OfficialBeckii
http://instagram.com/beckiicruel