A Week With Momoiro Clover Z – Day 5 – Kohaku Uta Gassen

2012 is a very interesting year for my relationship to Momoiro Clover Z. While their popularity continued to increase, my fan fervor waned. I really loved their first single of the year, “Moretsu Uchuu Kōkyōkyoku. Dai Nana Gakushō “Mugen no Ai” a lot (all three songs on that single are top notch), Otome Sensou, their follow-up single, was the first MomoClo single to really disappoint me. In hindsight I don’t mind it very much and I think there’s a lot of good ideas in the song. However, it is a very flawed song as well, and didn’t quite live up to the concept that had been teased.

2012 was also the year that I became a Team Syachihoko fan, and so in general a lot of my attention moved to them. So if these next few posts are a bit overly simplistic I apologize – After 2012, Momoiro Clover Z  was no longer my favorite idol group.

Still, while at the end of 2012 I was just discovering Team Syachihoko, I did pay attention to one Momoiro Clover thing, and that was their first performance on Kohaku Uta Gassen.

Like many Japanese music fans, I follow who’s listed for this annual event pretty often. And Momoiro Clover, like many idol groups, set Kohaku Uta Gassen as their ultimate goal. So seeing them on the list of groups announced, while not entirely surprising at this point, was still really amazing.

I feel like this Kohaku was a turning point for MomoClo – while they were already achieving a lot of fame before that point, their invitation to Kohaku Uta Gassen 2012 cemented Momoiro Clover Z’s place in Japanese pop culture. At this point they weren’t just famous for being idols, they were nationally famous. While there are always disputes and questions about why some artists get invited versus others, If you get to Kohaku it’s pretty clear that you have achieved a certain level of fame.

What really got me as a fan, though, was during the performance of Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo, the members included Akari in the chant of their names. It still gets me to tear up, honestly. It’s pretty special and lovely that a group remembered and mentioned a member who had graduated over a year and a half prior. It says a lot about how important Akari was, and it also says a lot about Stardust Promotions. While Stardust hasn’t always been perfect, it’s moments like these that make me proud to be a Stardust fan.

While Kohaku isn’t the be all end all of idol popularity and preesence, it does say a lot that Momoiro Clover Z has performed at it for three years in a row. It also set Momoiro Clover Z on the hunt for a new goal (which I will talk about next time!).

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 4 – Becoming Momoiro Clover Z

2011 was another big year; they released four fantastic singles (though Z Densetsu Owarinaki Kakumei and D’ no Junjou were pretty basic as far as singles go) and they put out their first album, the stellar Battle and Romance. While I’ve reviewed Battle and Romance before so I won’t do that again (it’s a phenomenal album, though), the biggest things that happened this year were the graduation of Hayami Akari and the rebranding of Momoiro Clover to Momoiro Clover Z.

As a fairly early fan of MomoClo, the video where Akari talks about her plans for graduation honestly breaks my heart a little bit. While I’ve been a fan of Sasaki Ayaka from the start, I like all the members of Momoiro Clover a lot, so hearing Akari say that she doesn’t feel suited to be an idol hurts. She’s been relatively active post-MomoClo and has had a reasonably successful career, so I’ve been glad to see her doing well. Still, I just hope she’s been happy.

The main thing that I think is interesting, though, is the rebranding from Momoiro Clover to Momoiro Clover Z. While Momoiro Clover gained traction as a group, Momoiro Clover Z is where they skyrocketed. So my question is – without this rebranding, would Momoiro Clover still be where it is today? It’s a really tough question. I want to say yes, but at the same time becoming Momoiro Clover Z is when they started to get more and more experimental and more out there with their music and presentation.

I think it shows a great deal about how much Stardust focuses on the members, though; rather than continuing on without Akari, Momoiro Clover chose to change to Momoiro Clover Z, almost because there isn’t a Momoiro Clover without Hayami Akari. And while Battle and Romance features Z versions of all the songs (so you don’t get the Akari versions of Ikuze, Pinky Johns and Mirai Bowl) I think it’s a lovely way to show how the group valued Akari. Momoiro Clover Z doesn’t shy away from remembering Akari (their first Kouhaku Uta Gassen performance included Akari in the chant for Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo).

The rebranding did, however, allow them to adopt a more super sentai image (rather than the lingering traditional Japan image) which I think suits their current music and style. Even when their current music doesn’t focus on sentai heroics, it still fits MomoClo Z as a group.

Even though I was unsure of the rebranding at the time, and kind of went back and forth as to whether I even liked “Momoiro Clover Z” as a name, I think it’s served them really well and was ultimately a good call on management’s part.

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 3 – Major Debut

2010 was a big year with a lot going on for MomoClo. Well, to be honest, the same could be said for almost every MomoClo year, but 2010 was the year that put them on the idol map, I’d say. The biggest thing was that this was the year that MomoClo went major, with the release of Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo.

Honestly, my praise of Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo knows no bounds. As an idol song, it’s just about perfect, to the point that I would possibly name it the best idol song of the current era of idols. It’s energetic, paced perfectly and has just enough interesting sections. It’s incredibly fun to watch performed live (it’s the song I’m REALLY hoping for the AX performance). Maeyamada Kenichi is the master of creating catchy, memorable idol songs, and Ikuze is one of his best songs. Additionally, the PV is pretty fantastic too; it’s another instance of using what limited resources they have to create something special, using spotlights and a few extra costumes to make something memorable. (That said, the choreographed fight scene is always delightful). Everything in Ikuze is perfect, and it’s no wonder that it’s become Momoiro Clover Z’s most memorable song, despite having more ambitious pieces later on.

However, while the release of Ikuze is personally what caught my interest, what solidified MomoClo as my favorite idol group at the time and what I think lead them to make such a splash in the idol scene was MomoClo’s live performances. While Momoiro Clover’s sales are marginal compared to those of, say, AKB48, they have always excelled in live performances. The six of them have always managed to fill a stage and put on an exhilarating performance, which is part of why I immediately knew that I would have to go see them when they came to LA.

The big performance that I think garnered some serious buzz for MomoClo was from the 2010 Music Japan female idol special.

This show featured some of the biggest names in the idol world – AKB48, Morning Musume, Idoling. Momoiro Clover was grouped off with Tokyo Girls Style and S/Mileage as newer acts. While both of those acts did just fine, Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo was a powerhouse performance, with tons of energy, real dance skill, acrobatics and the television debut of Kanako’s Ebi Jump. While MomoClo always performs well, this performance of Ikuze has stood out for me over the years as being a major stand out performance. While I have no real proof of this, I really do think that this TV performance was part of the start of MomoClo’s rise to fame.

The group did have a couple of hiccups this year; they dealt with controversy with the infamous weigh-in event, where all the members had to be under a certain weight… and Reni didn’t make it. MomoClo ended up switching labels to King Records, and took quite a bit of time to get to their next single, Pinky Johns (yes, it’s not Jones. I’m still shocked it’s Johns and not Jones). However, Pinky Johns ended up being an excellent song with an even better B-Side (Coco*Natsu) and ended up keeping up MomoClo’s momentum nicely. However, Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo remains MomoClo’s biggest success of 2010, and I think that without a song like that they might have never achieved the amount of fame they have gotten now.

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 2 – Indies

2009 was the year that both of Momoiro Clover’s indie singles, Momoiro Punch and Mirai e Susume came out, and I really think that they are the best example of how far Momoiro Clover has come. However, it’s not the singles themselves that show it (though they do show their age), but the videos that came from Momoiro Clover events around the time of the single releases, where management tells Momoiro Clover the oricon rankings for these singles. If you like Momoiro Clover and you haven’t seen these videos, you owe yourself to watch them.

Now, these videos mean a lot to me – they were two of the first videos I watched when I became a MomoClo fan a year later in 2010 (they also were really the first ways I learned more about the personalities of MomoClo). But I think they show just how far MomoClo has come – starting from tiny street lives and freaking out at peaking at #11 on the Oricon daily chart, to performing in the largest stadiums and arenas in Japan. These girls have come a long way, and it’s incredibly exciting to see them thrive.

As for these songs and PVs, I think they do an excellent job of setting up MomoClo as a group. While Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo grabbed my attention in 2010, Momoiro Punch and Mirai e Susume solidified for me what a special group Momoiro Clover really was (and still is).

For Momoiro Punch, the song is pretty perfect for an intro song for an idol group, and does a lot to introduce Momoiro Clover specifically. It’s just about a perfect mix of idol pop with some traditional sounding instrumentation. In a way, it’s a great thesis statement for what MomoClo was at the time – idol pop meets traditional Japan, but in a totally accessible way. The song is perfectly paced, as well; it rarely drags (apart from the overly long intro section) and it moves along nicely. It’s a really great intro son gin that regard; it’s catchy, fun, and says what MomoClo intended to do (idol meets traditional).

As great as the song is, the PV is an incredible introduction to the group. While the intro of the song might be long-winded to listen to, it allows for the PV to take a nice amount of time introducing each member without breaking up the song to do so. It also takes time to show some behind the scenes shots, showing the members working together, practicing, and spending time together (something pretty much all idol fans enjoy seeing). The rest of the PV is very simple, but it uses what it has in a way that not all simple PVs do. There is always something visually interesting going on – different shots, new (simple) visual effects, etc. While I think most of this PV is very well done, what I think is really brilliant is the use of the different takes with peaches and bananas replacing microphones. They start this late in the PV, when you might be relaxing into the rhythm of PV. Then, all of a sudden, you see they’re holding peaches, but it only lasts for a shot or two before going away. These shots are never dwelled on, but pop up infrequently. Additionally, the editing is so good that the shots match up very well, to the point where you might not realize that it’s a different take. This makes a bit of a visual illusion, like peaches and bananas are appearing and disappearing. This makes you want to pause and look again or, ideally, rewatch the PV. That’s the genius of it, really – Momoiro Punch’s PV is almost entirely engineered to make you pay attention all the way through and perhaps watch more of it more closely. All this for a fairly basic PV.


Mirai e Susume’s song is a bit less immediately intriguing than Momoiro Punch’s, but it’s still a very solid idol song. It’s transitioning a bit more to the idol image than Momoiro Punch, but still retains a bit of traditional sound in the instrumentation. It’s hard to really say much other than it’s just a fun, high-energy idol song. The verses allow for more variety in small-groups as well as allowing for four members to get a solo line. It’s hard to give Mirai e Susume a lot of credit, given that it’s sandwiched between Momoiro Punch and Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo, but it’s all the same a solid idol song.

PV wise, Mirai e Susume is what I like to call “Personality: the PV,” in that it really lets MomoClo’s personality speak for itself. While you might wonder if this is an excuse for a super low-budget PV, I think it speaks to how much energy and personality MomoClo has. This PV is carried on the strength of the members of the group; if MomoClo was any less compelling, this would fall flat. That could be said about a lot of idol PVs, but man I have watched this PV a LOT because the members of MomoClo are just so much fun to watch here; seriously, what is Reni even doing? There isn’t a lot visually beyond that, but I do like the contrast between costumes and scenes. Half of the PV is on a white background with bright, colored costumes, and the other is with plain school uniforms on bright colored backgrounds. It adds a nice visual contrast.

Also, while Momoiro Clover can’t claim to have come up with the concept of member/image colors (I know Morning Musume has been doing that for a while), they certainly drive it home. A lot of Stardust PVs and costumes rely heavily on the color-coding in a way that has become pretty common-place in recent years. And for good reason – it’s a very easy way to follow members. It’s super easy to go “I like the pink member of the group” after watching a PV and go look her up by the color later. It’s an easy way to follow a specific member when you start following a group. Again, while MomoClo didn’t invent image colors, they certainly have utilized them well.

MomoClo’s early singles, while unpolished and simple, are honestly really great, and I personally think it’s super easy to see why they’ve had so much success. Both PVs and songs ooze with personality, and are ultimately a ton of fun.

A Week with Momoiro Clover Z – Day 1 – Origins

In just about a week I will have the pleasure of seeing Momoiro Clover Z live at the Microsoft (previously Nokia) Theater in Los Angeles. I will be flying out for all of Anime Expo (Wednesday through Sunday) so if you happen to be going as well, please say hi! While waiting for the concert I’ll be wearing a pink A~rin Robo shirt as well as an A~rin creampuff headband, as well as a purple Team Syachihoko muffler towel.

Since it’s a week before I see Momoiro Clover for the first time, I thought it would be fun to do a week of posts about Momoiro Clover Z. After mentioning this on twitter, I was reminded by fellow-blogger Garry (who, among other things, writes the stellar This Week in Music on New School Kaidan) that Momoiro Clover Z has been around in one form or another for about seven years. So I’m going to try and roughly base these seven posts around the seven years of Momoiro Clover Z. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll make of this week of posts, but it will be a nice way to focus some of my thoughts as I think of a week from now.

I think the origin of a lot of idol groups is interesting, but Momoiro Clover had a pretty interesting start. Formed in 2008, I’m not sure that anyone involved knew how big they were going to be. They performed in Yoyogi Park and other VERY small street lives; MomoClo moved up int he world from being a very tiny indie act.

Watching early, 2008 era MomoClo videos is kind of interesting, because they are so not the Momoiro Clover Z we know today. Before settling on a fairly stable lineup of girls in 2009 (with only one addition, Momoka, and one graduation, Akari), Momoiro Clover had different members moving in and out of the group. Another thing that’s completely different was the image and theme of the group – Momoiro Clover Z originally performed in outfits inspired by traditional Japanese yukata and kimono, and they have that influence in the group’s sound, as well. Even up through Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo the group wore modified yukata for many performances. Honestly, while I think the group has thrived after abandoning that, I do think it’s a shame that they no longer have that kind of an image because I personally really liked it.

The other thing that has changed is their interaction with fans. Early Momoiro Clover used the slogan “idols you can meet right now,” a take on AKB48’s “Idols you can meet.” However, they’ve pretty much stopped any and all fan meet events and have for some time, and AKB48 has become much easier to meet. It makes sense; Momoiro Clover Z is so immensely popular that even coming close to meeting all their fans would take up way too much time and effort. But it does show how much things have changed for the group.

Thinking about my origins with Momoiro Clover, it did not start in 2008 (a year where I had no idea they existed and instead focused much more on Hello!Project); it started in 2010 with the release of Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo. It was a song and PV I found exhilarating, and it’s still a song I hold up as being one of the best idol songs of the current idol boom.

While I had liked idols for some time at that point, I credit Momoiro Clover with being the group to help me break out of my Hello!Project shell. While I was a pretty casual 48 group fan at the time (AKB48’s River came out and blew me away in fall 2009), Momoiro Clover hit me in a big way. It lead me to explore lesser known idols and indie groups in a way I hadn’t before they showed up. They were my favorite idol group from 2010 – 2012 (when a certain sister group of MomoClo caught my attention), and for that I will always carry a lot of affection for Momoiro Clover.

Momoiro Clover was also the origin of Stardust Promotions as a major idol group power, which lead to the formation of 3B Junior groups like Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, Team Syachihoko (my favorite idol group), Takoyaki Rainbow and others that are just starting to debut. All of these groups have a lot of great music and great creativity which has influenced the idol industry in really positive ways.

Momoiro Clover has done a whole lot in the seven years it’s been around, and has had a huge influence on the idol industry in Japan. Further, the group has had a tremendous impact on me as an idol fan and enthusiast, in the roughly seven-eight years I’ve been an idol fan.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2015 – Part 3

Eien Shoujo

Eien Shoujo is pretty much a solo act that has background dancers so it’s kind of a group. It’s one girl, Kaorori, and her background dancers – on the official Eien Shoujo Ameblo they have four girls listed. She’s performed with more dancers, though.

Eien Shoujo made her debut at last year’s Tokyo Idol Festival, so it’s been not quite a year since. In that year she hasn’t done too much, at least not too much that I can see. She does some lives here and there, but not much that makes its way for the internet to see. She does have original songs, but nothing really new since her debut.

Still, I think if she keeps at it she does have potential. I do like her songs (Eien Shoujo Philosophy is pretty good) and the limited performance I’ve seen of her I do like; she has some good energy. I think it’s hard to follow her as a foreign fan, just because there isn’t much online, but if you’re actually going to TIF then you might want to check Eien Shoujo out.

HKT48

OK, I’m no going to introduce much of HKT48, because I’m sure most of you who are reading this are aware of their existence – they are the sister group to AKB48 from Fukuoka.

Personally, I used to be a much bigger 48 fan than I am now. I still pay vague attention to the groups – I like being a well-rounded idol fan/blogger, and I still like a few of the members in the groups. However, what felt exciting to me in 2010 and 2011 feels almost dated in 2015; it feels like the 48 groups are often just going through the motions with very little innovation. It also doesn’t help that I haven’t enjoyed much of the 48 groups’ music for the past couple of years.

Honestly, I don’t think HKT48 is a great fit for TIF. The reason I write about TIF every year is because how it showcases indie and upcoming groups, and HKT is neither of those things. There are a few bigger groups at TIF, but HKT feels almost too big, especially since they’re guaranteed to draw a crowd.

HKT48 and the other 48 groups haven’t done much for me lately, which is kind of a shame. I don’t think this is a great fit for TIF, but if you do like HKT48 this could be an opportunity to see them in an interesting setting.

Especia

 While I’m in general a pretty music-centric idol fan (I can’t follow an idol group unless I enjoy the music), Especia is one of the few groups where I feel content JUST following the music, because it’s so interesting. Especia has a really great 80s/early 90s pop sound to them, reclaiming what is now kitschy and uncool in hindsight… and making it cool. I’ve seen it connected to the vaporwave movement, especially with their visual aesthetic in PVs for songs like Kuru ka na and No1 Sweeper, two songs from last year I particularly love. The group even describes their sound on the TIF site as being “80’s POP/AOR/BOOGIE DISCO/FUNK/WEST SIDE MELLOW HIP HOP/JAZZY R&B” which actually works. The point is, Especia is one of the most musically and aesthetically interesting groups out there right now.

The group was formed in 2012 and features five members (all, while a bit older for idol standards, much too young to remember the era they’re evoking). The group was formed by Tsubasa Records, and I think is pretty extraordinary, given their unusual sound. Also, despite being a smaller group, they do perform with live instruments which is pretty great.

While they aren’t super easy to follow on, say, Youtube (it’s been a year since their last PV..) they are more album focused, and luckily part of their new album, Primera, is on American iTunes, so you should definitely check them out. Even if you aren’t super into this music, I’d say you should check Especia out just by virtue of the fact that they are a completely unique and interesting group.

X21

If looks are a major factor of you liking an idol group, X21 might be the group for you. Formed in 2012 from finalists of a nationwide beauty contest (the leader of the group was one of the winners); while the group started with 20 members, I believe they moved to just 12 for their CD debut in 2014.

In the past I wondered about the musical potential of this group, considering that they are so based upon looks. However, they have made their musical debut at Avex, so that gives them a certain level of polish, whether you care for the music or not. They have so far put out four singles (the latest being X Gift) and one album (Shoujo X).

I have to admit, all the members are really gorgeous; looks aren’t the biggest draw for me with idols, but all these members are really pretty. And, while I assume they are working with solid vocal producing talent over at Avex, the members sound great for being chosen for their looks. Musically most of their stuff is pretty uninspiring; not bad but not particularly intriguing. X Gift is a very cute Christmas-themed song, though, and I actually like Shoujo X, a song clearly inspired by the classic Nakamori Akina song.

Ultimately if you want looks from your idol group, X21 might be your best bet. Otherwise, they do have a lot of polish which comes from being an Avex group, so that might be another reason to give them a shot. Personally they don’t do too much for me, but my opinion has so drastically improved that I might have to keep more of an eye on X21 in the future.

Osaka Shunkashuto

Well, I don’t have to guess where this group comes from! Hailing from Osaka, in their TIF profile they claim that “once you see them you’ll never forget, and you’ll want to see them again.” Well, we’ll see about that!

Doing a quick google search of this group, I found two interesting articles about Osaka Shunka Shuto at Pure Idol Heart and at New School Kaidan. The group started out as a dance group that did performances and were discovered and subsequently produced by a videographer and filmmaker, Soezima Shingo. The group got its start through crowdfunding, and, remarkably (as of April 2014) the group has a staff of one – Soezima himself. When he needs help he calls on his friends (who happen to be professionals) but he’s the only permanent staff member for this group. So far they have released a mini album and two singles.

Watching the music video for C’mon, their latest single, I have to say I’m impressed by the group. The lead singer has a great voice, all the members are very skilled at dance, and the song is really catchy. The PV is pretty simple, all things considered, but it still has a lot of visually interesting moments and is clearly well made. Going and watching another video for Chameleon Shoujo (off their mini album), these things all seem to be true here.

However, one of the more exciting things for us foreign idol fans is that Osaka Shunkashuto is VERY good to foreign fans. Their music is all on American iTunes, they did English versions of some of their songs, and their documentary videos (on Soezima’s youtube channel) have English-language captions. This group is incredibly accessible for non-Japanese speakers and fans outside of Japan.

All of these things add up to making Osaka Shunkashuto a very unique group. I really like both C’Mon and Chameleon Shoujo, and I know I’m going to go watch more videos from this group when I have the chance. If you like unique or interesting groups, Osaka Shunkashuto is well worth your time.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2015 – Part 2

Glad to see a good response for my first post of this series! With 100 confirmed groups I have a long way to go.

Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari)


I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with UUG, given their Hello!Project ties. Up Up Girls was formed in 2011 with seven former Hello!Project Egg (trainee) members. While they aren’t part of Hello!Project, they are a part of the Up Front agency which also contains Hello!Project. The group also performs KPop dance covers and has gone to competitions as UFZS.

One of the things I’ve always considered a hallmark of Up Up Girls is just how much they do. While their release output has slowed some, in both 2012 and 2013 they put out eight singles per year. Which is kind of insane, considering most groups tend to put out maybe 3 singles a year. In addition, they used to perform weekly at a theater in Akihabara (though they still do perform regularly), they do a lot of livestreaming online. So they are a very active group to follow. I generally think of them as a group that performs more live than anything else BUT they are accessible for international fans. For a while they didn’t make any PVs, but lately they’ve improved on that.

Honestly, while I like the members (Sekine Azusa was my favorite H!P Egg while she was in that program) IMO their biggest issue is inconsistence. I love several of their songs (Samurai Girls, Up Up Typhoon and their recent Bijo no Yajuu) but a lot of their music doesn’t have that same impact. They certainly have a lot of songs, which makes finding something you’ll enjoy easier, but most of their music is kind of forgettable.

That said, if you want to follow a very active idol group Up Up Girls might be for you. They have great members and are certainly a fine group, but I think it depends on what you’re looking for.

Afilia Saga

Formerly known as Afilia Saga East, Afilia Saga was formed in 2008. All the members work at the Afilia Group cafes and restaurants, and use a similar gimmick – the restaurants are set in the Afilia Kingdom, which is a “magical kingdom” and the members of Afilia Saga are “Magic Students.” The group currently has 11 members and recently released their latest single, “Never Say Never.” All the members have unusual sounding stage names, too, like Louise Sforzur and Yukafin Doll.

I think because of this gimmick I kind of want more from Afilia Saga than I’ll ever get. Never Say Never is a fine song, and actually might be my favorite Afilia Saga song yet. But their music doesn’t ever really utilize the whole “magic user” concept to what I feel is its full potential, which is a shame. Their music is fine (I find most of it uninspiring to be honest) but their videos and music are kind of generic idol-y rather than having that kind of a magical feel to it. It feels like Afilia Saga is wasting its potential there.

Even still, Afilia Saga is a fine idol group erring on the side of cutesy/moe. I really like their latest two singles “Never Say Never’ and “Japonesque x Romanesque.” They’re really fun songs, and I might look into this group more. But if you see their gimmick and go in hoping to see that, you might be disappointed. Instead, if you go into Afilia Saga without any of those expectations you might like them.

Ayumikurikamaki

These girls I’m seriously proud of every time I cover them. They started out as Kurikamaki, a DJ unit. Those members, Kurika and Maki started out doing videos in one of  their bedrooms. They added another member, Ayumi, and have stayed stable as a group since then – all three girls were friends before forming the group, so that certainly helps. Now they’re doing lots of different live shows and have really gone places as a group, performing at live events like Summer Sonic and Rock in Japan Festival.

They aren’t terribly active in releasing new music – they put out one music video, Jet Kuma Star last year. While they are saying their upcoming single is their “second single” it looks like they put out one in March of this year. However, their new single “Honey Honey Honey” is coming out on June 24th. Jet Kuma Star is very catchy and addicting, and Honey Honey Honey sounds great too.

If you want a unit to follow with a DJ (looking at you, DJ Hikaru fans!) or if you want to see a group that has brought themselves up from zero to a very successful career, Ayumikurikamaki is a great place to look. I’m very fond of them, and wish them even more success!

AliceinAlice

From what is known as “Alice in Project” (No relation to the other Alice Project), AliceinAlice aims to be a theater idol unit. Alice in Project is a theater company, and this is the idol group that aims to add acting to singing and dancing, as well as featuring unique staging because of this. Another interesting tidbit is that the members are generally older – the youngest was born in 1997 and the oldest was born in 1987, which is a bit unusual. They recently put out their third single, Busho Korin Over Again, which they note as being just under eight minutes long (at least, the PV is).

When I first profiled them I wasn’t really impressed, but it looks like they’ve upped their game with Busho Korin Over Again – their PV has a really unique look to it, and I like what they’re trying to achieve here. It’s hard to hear the song behind the PV, but it sounds pretty good. These girls’ acting skills do leave something to be desired, but it seems like their production value has gone up a lot.

Alice in Alice doesn’t really grab me, but I am glad that they are trying to do something interesting with being a group focused on storytelling and being a theater group. They have improved vastly since I’ve last checked in on them, which I appreciate, so while I’m not entirely convinced they are worth checking out.

Ange☆Reve

 These girls are great! Ange Reve is one of the groups I’m currently very into, so you know I can give you my recommendation about them.

Ange Reve is a five-member unit under ArcJewel, a company that also features Lovely Doll and Doll Elements. The group is still relatively new, but I think has a lot of potential. In April they did their first solo live, and in February they put out their second single, Kiss Me Happy.

This group really impresses me; despite being so new, all the members are very self-assured performers, and their live performances are remarkably good for such a new group. I really enjoy both Yuukan na Koi no Serenade and Kiss Me Happy, and so their music has really grabbed me.

Ange Reve has really impressed me so far, and I encourage you to check them out. I have very high hopes for these five in the future.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2015 – Part 1

I was thinking of skipping TIF this year, but I just can’t. Part of it is that doing these TIF digests, where I look at all the groups Tokyo Idol Festival has to offer, is almost entirely for my own benefit. TIF is a really fantastic overview of the up and coming idol groups out there, and I’ve discovered some of my favorite groups through my coverage – off the top of my head I became a fan of Rhymeberry and RYUTist because of TIF posting (TIF was also the first time I wrote about Team Syachihoko!) It’s also an interesting exercise for the groups I don’t follow on a regular basis, almost like a check-in, to see what they’ve been up to.

That said, I only have two months to do this, and I’m a busy person outside Happy Disco, so I’m probably going to try to keep these short and sweet.

Idoling!!!

Idoling!!! has always been a major staple of Tokyo Idol Festival since the very first TIF, so this year is kind of bittersweet. It was announced in February that Idoling!!! will be disbanding in October, so this is the last TIF appearance they’ll make.

Formed in 2006, Idoling!!! was formed for Fuji TV, where they have had the same TV show (with the same name as the group) since 2006. Since then, they have had more than 1000 episodes of their show, they have done many collaborations (including one with AKB48) and they have had subgroups and more. At this point I can’t list all the things that Idoling!!! has done, so I urge you to go check out their website or wikipedia page if you’re interested. The point is, Idoling!!! is a major group with a lot of history, and it’s sad to see them go.

They haven’t put out a single in 2015 yet, but they’re releasing their new single, “Cheering You” in July. Their most recent single was “Yuki Usagi” which came out in December of 2014.

Idoling!!! has always been one of those groups I’ve been aware of but hasn’t caught my interest. I love some of their music, but I’ve never loved enough songs or any of their other output to pay more attention. Still, they are a major idol group, so if you don’t know Idoling!!! you ought to look into them.

Idol College

Idol College has had a long history, but I think they’re hopefully hitting a stride! Originally formed as B.L.T Idol College in 2009 (for the idol magazine), the group was reformed as Idol College in 2010. They made their major debut on the Dreamusic label, but moved to Stand Up! Records last year, and have since released a couple of singles. The group currently has fifteen members, all split into Team I and Team C.

While I still have this image of them doing cutesy stuff because of my past TIF posting, they’ve actually moved into EDM inspired music with their most recent singles, including their upcoming single “#Tokonatsu Joshi Kibou.” While that sound is really oversaturated, I actually really enjoy #Tokunatsu Joshi Kibou a lot. It’s a pretty catchy dance tune, and the PV incorporates some impressive dancing during an extended dance break.

While I’ve had a hard time getting into Idol College in the past, mostly due to a lack of significant output and not being the most consistent group with releases, I’m interested to see where they go from here. While dance music is kind of overdone for idol groups, it seems like Idol College has hit something good here. I hope they’ll do well with it!

Idol Renaissance

Idol Renaissance is a fairly new group but man I feel like they’ve already made a big impression. Formed only in 2014, Idol Renaissance is a seven member idol group that recently released their third single but first on the T-Palette label, “YOU.” Their aim is to be a “Classic (as in a classic song) renaissance” and they do really have a great classic idol feel, performing all in white and performing multiple covers.

Despite being a newer group, Idol Renaissance has a pretty high production value – their PV for “Hatsukoi,” for example, was done in just one take and was really well executed. The reason I would like to follow them more is because everything about “YOU” is utterly charming. The melody and harmonies work really well together, and the PV, where the members read surprise letters from their moms, is really sweet. I love this song and PV, and I want to see where these girls go from here.

If you want to follow a pretty new group or if you want to follow a group that has a really classic feel, Idol Renaissance might be for you. I know I want to see where they go.

i☆Ris

Another group I really ought to follow more! Formed in 2012, anime music is the name of the game for I*Ris – all the members have a role in the anime Pripara, and they’ve done some anime themes. This group is under Avex, and they’re especially notable to me because of just how high the production level is for this group – all the members have solid vocals and their music quality is very high. So if you want a high quality idol group that still manages to be a ton of fun, I*Ris might be up there for you.

Honestly, my biggest issue against them is that the two singles I covered for last year’s TIF, Gensoukyoku Wonderland and Itazura Taiyou, were both WAY up my alley, and the singles they have released after that haven’t quite been my thing. However, they are still a really great group, so don’t let my hang ups stop you! Besides, while Make It and Miracle Paradise didn’t grab me, their latest single “Realize” is quite good.

Last year, I asked around “Why isn’t everyone talking about I*Ris?” and the question still stands. This is a great group that you should definitely check out if you haven’t yet.

Akishibu Project

 Akishibu Project is an 8-member unit formed in 2012. Their name comes from their goal, which is to form a group that bridges the gap between Akihabara culture (male-centered nerd culture) and Shibuya culture (female-centric fashion culture). While the group has been actively performing for a while (they did a one-man live show earlier this year!) they just released their first physical CD, a mini-album.

Maybe I’m missing something, but watching what they have on YouTube, I feel like they really fall closer to Akihabara than Shibuya; their songs and performances seem pretty idol-y. Still, it is kind of appealing that a group would try to do this.

Akishibu Project is kind of a hard group to follow internationally – the fact it took years of performing for them to release anything basically shows that. However, if you want a group that’s more fashion-centric and they appeal to you, you should check them out!

Review: Team Syachihoko – Tensai Bakabon

As always, even though my life has been busy, I need to review Team Syachihoko’s latest effort, this time with their anime movie tie-in single, Tensai Bakabon.

Tensai Bakabon

Song:  Honestly, this happens to be my least favorite Team Syachihoko single song to date. Now, before you wonder if I’m jumping ship from my favorite group, I’m not. I actually think this song is pretty enjoyable, especially if you don’t compare it to other Syachi singles, and all the other single songs are so good that this isn’t a bad thing necessarily. This is just a lot weaker than the other single songs. The other thing to keep in mind, that I’m giving Syachi a lot of leeway for, is that this is a cover of a classic anime song that isn’t a very compelling song to begin with. They’re doing this as the theme song for the new Tensai Bakabon movie, so they’re making do with that song.

That being said, I think that the original song isn’t necessarily bad, just uninspiring. I’ve gotten multiple sections of this song stuck in my head (most notably the “bon bon bakabon bakabon bon”) and the melody is fine. The song is pretty repetitive though (each member has a short verse and in between all the verses is the same chorus), which makes the song feel like it should be over a lot sooner than it is.

I also think that the arrangement manages to fit both Syachi and the original song. I like how it starts off fairly normal sounding, but then quickly escalates in weirdness, speed and energy. This song is very Syachi-fied in that sense – any fans worried that Syachi lost weirdness with Shampoo Hat are going to see that with Tensai Bakabon their fears were unfounded.

Ultimately this is fine; Syachihoko did a fine job with what they had to work with. Due to what they had to work with this is the weakest Syachihoko single song of them all, but I’m not worried that this will be a trend, given the strength of Team Syachihoko’s music.

PV:

Well, bonkers Syachi is back.

I’m kind of conflicted about this PV, truth be told. I think a lot of the elements are there but that it could have done better.

The most notable aspect about this PV is the 5000 repeated Syachi members. While I in theory like the scenes featuring all of them, which oddly enough remind me about of the game Katamari Damacy (a Katamari Damacy featuring Syachi would be incredible), I think these scenes are overused. The first couple of uses feel innovative and interesting, but by the end these are the least interesting of the scenes.

Tensai Bakabon 1

This effect is really utilized better in the close up shots each member has, which are a lot of fun. I like the framing of the Syachi members running on the bottom with one Syachi member on top. They also bring in another member on the screen. This is really aesthetically pleasing framing, and is the best shot.

Tensai Bakabon 2

 

Really, the best aspect of this PV is the members themselves. They all completely give it their all and do a lot to ham it up, which is a ton of fun to watch. Even though this is kind of a so-so PV, Syachi fans should enjoy watching it for member antics.

While the effect of the 5000 members is technically pretty decent (I like the cartoonish look to it) occasionally the green screen looks a little bit off, which is surprising and disappointing given the rest of the PV. There’s occasionally an outline around the members that makes the production look cheaper. It’s kind of nitpicky, but is pretty disappointing.

Tensai Bakabon 3

 

The other notable aspect of this PV is that part of it was filmed in Harajuku outside. I actually really like these few short sections and I’d like more like this.

Tensai Bakabon 4

Ultimately though, while there are some elements I enjoy about this PV, I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Ike Ike Hollywood

Lately Team Syachihoko has been all about America and Hollywood, which makes me, as an American fan who adores Team Syachihoko, wonder a bit about them going to America. Which, you know, would make me ecstatic.

This song is also pretty fantastic, as a film fan, because of the occasional references in there. Yuzuki saying “I’ll be back” gives me the giggles every time I hear this song.

If Tensai Bakabon was a bit disappointing, Ike Ike Hollywood makes up for it in a big way by being endlessly entertaining and fun. At its core is a catchy melody and a really fun song.

The arrangement is fantastic, starting out with what sounds like a film reel. The instrumentation includes a lot of strings, but there’s also a lot of great guitar, brass and pizzicato piano. It all comes together to create a piece that works together but is often all-over the place.

This song is a lot of fun, and what I’ve come to expect from Syachi’s music.

Twilight

This is, in my opinion, the standout track of the album. From the dreamy vocals of Team Syachihoko to the electronic background vocals, every part of this song is a delight. The vocals are a main feature of this song, as there are vocals incorporated in almost every part of this song, as the main melody and as a part of the instrumentation. It’s incorporating a bit of what they learned about vocal-centric tracks through Akamiso Blood.

The back and forth of this song is fantastic,as is the fast pace. This song has a ton of energy, which is always fun to listen to. The way the vocals work together to give it all that energy works very well, as well. While being high energy, it also has an almost laidback, mellow feel to it – it’s really hard to explain but it totally works.

There aren’t many songs out there like Twilight, and it has quickly become a favorite song of mine for that.