Tokyo Idol Festival 2015 – Part 5

Trying to ignore how behind I am and push ahead… But seriously, if you’re going to TIF this weekend, HAVE A TON OF FUN. And know that I am intensely jealous!

Otome Brave

Otome Brave is a very new group, formed only in March 2013. Their theme is RPG; the goal is to “level up” the group, and they do this at concerts and events; they even call their live events “battles.”This is a very cute concept, and I do like when an idol group chooses to be a high concept group. A lot of idol groups similarly “level  up” but without the naming convention.

Unfortunately, if you think this sounds like a cool gimmick, it’s going to be hard to do more with it unless you’re going to TIF. They don’t have any singles out and not even an official Youtube; I’ve found three Youtube videos involving them. The little I’ve seen of them I do like; they have a lot of energy. However, it’s hard to know more about the group without having more to go off of.

Oyayubi Princess

Oyayubi Princess is a local idol unit from Ishikawa prefecture! Formed in 2012, they mostly perform in local areas, often at the “Hokuriku Idol Festival.” While they hadn’t put out much music before (an album and a single) they recently released their first major debut single, “Idol Heart.”

Despite their major debut the group still has a long way to go; listening to even their PV the vocals and dance are pretty rough, and the song isn’t very appealing. That’s not to say they can’t surpass this, but despite their major debut there’s not much that really draws me to this group. I wish them all the best, but there’s not much about them that stands out to me.

Orange Port

Based in Shizuoka, Orange Port is produced by music producer YANGARIMAN. Notably, for international fans, they have performed at France’s Japan Expo twice, so they have done their international concerts multiple times. They recently released their first full-length album, “Hello World,” which is a very appropriate title for the group.

According to their TIF profile they’re apparently considered to be very strong in performance, to which I’d say they’re pretty good, but not necessarily the top group in performing out there. Additionally, none of their music has really grabbed at me. Still, they do seem to be aimed at being a performance-focused group, and I can see them being very appealing to a lot of idol fans.

Onnajuku All Stars

Here are some familiar faces! This group was formed in 2014 for the internet show “Nukegake! Onna Juku” by the comedian group 2700 and features some former SDN48 members (including my favorite, Urano Kazumi) as well as a member from Afilia Saga and two from Akishibu Project, as well as other idols who have done work before. So these aren’t some fresh faces. They’re making their major debut on August 5th, just after TIF.

For being a group formed by comedians, they can be a pretty standard group. One of their songs off their single, “Rappā to ka ko shita 2-nenkan no hibi” is a pretty basic ballad. Waki wo Minaide is a pretty basic idol song. That’s not a bad thing, I’m just surprised, given that this was formed by comedians.

Still, it’s good to see these girls again, and I’m always happy to see a group with some older members, so I hope the best for these girls.

Camouflage

Camouflage is a Nagoya-based group that appears to be doing pretty well! In April they put out their first album, and they’ve held a successful live at Zepp Nagoya, which is a pretty decent sized venue. Considering they formed in 2012, they’ve done quite a bit – they’ve put out 7 singles, two DVDs and now this first album.

While they might not be wearing camouflage in all their PVs, they are a bit of a camouflage act in that they fit a lot of different styles. Their recent song “GAMSHALAGE” is a slightly strange, fast paced idol song, while they prove they can do things in a more subdued, classic style with their cover of Moritaka Chisato’s “Futari wa Koibito.” There’s definitely a lot of potential here; while I’m personally not drawn to much they’re doing, there’s a lot to interest potential fans of Camouflage.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2015 – Part 4

Anmiran

Anmiran is a special unit created for this year’s JAM Expo, and will only exist this summer! It’s comprised of a member from Tokyo Performance Doll (Kobayashi Anyu), a member from callme (Mimori), and a member from Cheeky Parade (Mizorogi Seran) to be a special short-lived unit. They will have an original song and are doing various activities throughout the summer.

While I’m not a particular follower of any of these groups (though I like some songs from Cheeky Parade and from Tokyo Performance Doll), I really like this idea. My favorite part about following the various idol festivals is seeing different groups work together, and these super group units are really exciting. So while this isn’t a group to follow if you want any sort of longevity, it’s a cool idea in general.

SKE48

I mean, at least SKE48 is going to be there on a different day from HKT48 so the entire festival won’t be overclogged with 48 fans.

If you don’t know SKE48, they are the AKB48 sister group from Nagoya. They’re very similar in style to HKT48, though in the past SKE48 was known as being a group of strong performers and dancers. I haven’t personally cared for a lot of their songs lately, but in the past they’ve had some fantastic songs like “1 2 3 4 Yoroshiku” and “Kataomoi Finally.” While SKE has never really been my group of choice, they’re still a fine group.

At this point, though, if you’re reading this you probably have an opinion one way or another about SKE48 so I don’t really need to explain more.

Osaka Lapilarz

Osaka Lapilarz is a five member unit as part of Avex’s iDOL Street label. They’re essentially a group of members still waiting to debut, and these are girls from the Kansai region (hence, Osaka). It’s hard to know much about these girls unless you’re a super iDOL Street fan; however, if you are a big fan of Avex’s idol groups, you might want to follow these members. When Avex decides to debut another group along the line of Super Girls, Cheeky Parade or GEM, they will likely look to the undebuted members of iDOL street. Aside from that, I’ve yet to find any performances from Osaka Lapilarz so finding more about them might be tricky.

Otome Shinto 

Otome Shinto is one of those groups I really WANT to get but just haven’t been able to get into. A six-member idol unit, Otome Shinto was formed in December 2012 as a four-member idol unit. After two of the girls graduated, they got four new members and became a new Otome Shinto. So far they’ve released six singles, their latest being “Kimi to Piikan Natsu Sengen” and one album. Their goal is to energize Japan, and also mention being positive.

While being positive is something I can absolutely get behind (this IS Happy Disco after all) the group just hasn’t grabbed me. I know a lot of idol fans are super into Otome Shinto, which I get, but nothing about them particularly stands out. They’re a very cute unit and the members all seem great, but the music mostly falls flat to me (though I do like their debut single a lot) and nothing about their performance really stands out to me.

That said, I do like the PV to their latest single; it was filmed in Australia and is super fun to watch. And there’s nothing wrong or bad about this group, but I just haven’t been able to get interested in them.

Otome no Junjou

Otome no Junjou is a four-member idol group from Kyushu. While I’ve never heard of them, one thing does stand out – they won last year’s U.M.U contest, a fairly well known and respected indie/local idol contest that looks to find the best of the best. So Otome no Junjou already has a lot going for it with this win.

Despite this win they don’t have a lot out yet; there’s no singles or PVs so far as I can see, and there’s not too much online. And, to be honest, there’s not much that’s very extraordinary about this group, either. However, from the video on the UMU award Youtube channel, what they do have is a VERY old-school feel – the look and the sound reminds me a lot of classic 70s-80s era idols. The song I’m going to link is very reminiscent of Matsuda Seiko’s Aoi Sangoshou, one of my favorite idol songs.

While a lot of idol groups have done a tribute to classic idols or even emulated some of their sound or look after classic idols, this performance in particular is very close to classic idols. So if that’s something you’re interested in, Otome no Junjou might be a group to follow.

Momoiro Clover Z – Fan Event + Concert Write Up

So, before this trip I wrote five posts about Momoiro Clover Z and their trajectory, how they kept growing and how my fandom wavered a bit.

Well, my Momoiro Clover Z fandom is back in full force now, maybe even stronger than ever. Even though Momoiro Clover Z’s sales aren’t even close to groups like AKB48, there’s the reason they’re considered the top group in Japan – their live events are considered to be top notch. They regularly sell out the largest venues in Japan with ease, and so, before going to their performance in conjunction with Anime Expo, I knew that I would be in for a treat. Still, I don’t think I knew just how great of an experience I would have.

Day 0 Fan Event
Momoiro Clover Z came to the US in conjunction with Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the US and one of the largest conventions period in the US. It’s so big of a convention that they even have a “Day 0” for the convention in addition to the four day weekend, and that’s for attendees to pick up their badges for the convention (in previous years attendees had to stand in line for hours to get their badge, but this year it went much faster). To just about everyone’s surprise, there was a fan event announced about two days prior to the convention for Day 0 (which is apparently not something that happens), with the idea that it would teach American fans the fan calls and cheers for the concert while watching a concert DVD. However, just a day before the event it was announced that MomoClo would actually be at the event, so I knew I had to be there.

After waiting a couple of hours in line (A bit unpleasant, since Anime Expo doesn’t really manage lines well), we went in and it was a fantastic event. While some of the concept of teaching fans fan calls and cheers was there, it really became more of a fan meet and greet type of event. MomoClo answered a lot of questions in a Q&A type format (with Sasaki Ayaka being the chattiest of the bunch), which was pretty entertaining. They then proceeded to show us clips from their Nissan Stadium live and have us go through it for the calls. I thought it was kind of funny, though, because they made sure we got the timing right for the jump in Wani to Shampoo and they didn’t perform that live, but they did perform songs that required more fan calls/cheers and dancing. I think ultimately the day 0 event ended up being less about teaching new fans and more of a fan event for existing fans. Which I don’t mind at all.

My super exciting moment came later, though. At one point they were teaching fans the call and response introductions each member does. Below is a very old video showing this (circa 2010) but you get the idea.

They had American fans come up (they specifically asked for non-Japanese fans to do this) and be quizzed on the intros. While I’m definitely not the type to jump up and do something, here I knew I had to. So when they got to my favorite member, Sasaki Ayaka (AKA A-rin) I shot up my hand. I was helped by a friend who was right in front who pointed directly at me, and by Takagi Reni who, after seeing my friend point at me, started to point at me as well (thanks Shioka and Reni, I appreciate it!) which meant A-rin ended up picking me to go up and do it. Which was insane and amazing.

(Photo courtesy of a really nice guy who I met at the con)

When I was up there she immediately gave me a big hug; getting a hug from one of my favorite idols has been a dream of mine for years, so this was insane. We then proceeded to do her introduction, which had been hyped as being the most difficult (I guess because you need to to know multiple Japanese words?). We did her intro together, she gave me high fives and told me she liked my headband (her 2012 birthday goods that a friend gave me, you know who you are and thank you SO much).

(These and a few other photos courtesy of TheNumber244 whose blog you really should be reading if you aren’t already).

The event continued and, when it ended, we were able to walk out ahead of the members and say thank you. It happened fast (there weren’t handshakes and they even had the people pushing you forward!) but it was still nice to say thank you to the girls. On the way to do that, however, I did see the manager known as kwkm who has become pretty legendary. I said hi and thank you to him by name, and I think he was kind of surprised.

After the event, I got asked to film an interview about my experience at the day 0 event and why I liked idols. Not sure when/if that will come up, but I basically rambled so I hope I don’t look too bad. HOWEVER, at the end of the interview they asked me to do a pose or a dance move or something from something MomoClo. I was trying to think of what I could do and suddenly A-rin showed up next to the camera guy and interviewer (I was focusing on my interview and did not see her come up). I knew what I had to do so I did her catchphrase “A-rin da yo.” She then proceeded to jump in front of me in front of the camera and do “A-rin da yo” 5000 times better than I ever could, and then she gave me more high fives and such before leaving.

Again, not sure if this is going to show up anywhere on video, but it might.

Concert

After a day full of waiting to pick up my ticket for the show and picking up merch, the concert finally came and it was honestly amazing. It’s easy to see why Momoiro Clover Z is the live event to see in Japan.

(note that the concert ended at Ikuze! and they didn’t perform Chai Maxx twice, haha).

While they performed mostly anime-related songs, as to be expected, there were still some surprises on the setlist. I wasn’t sure if they would do Nippon Egao Hyakkei, for example, and that was a real treat for me because it’s a particular favorite song of mine. Saraba was fantastic live, as was Mugen no Ai, as was Lost Child (I got serious chills during Lost Child). Really it was all fantastic live.

Chai Maxx was a major surprise for me, and a very welcome one. It’s an older song and one that doesn’t have an anime-tie-in, but it was one of the biggest highlights of the show for me because the crowd always dances along. Chai Maxx was possibly the second most exciting song of the night, and was a ton of fun.

The biggest highlight, though, was seeing Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo performed live. This was the song that got me into Momoiro Clover and really helped expand my horizons as an idol fan and blogger. It is also, in my opinion, the single best idol song of the current idol boom, so I was absolutely thrilled to see it. It is a song that has a LOT of audience participation that I was excited to be a part of. Not going to lie, halfway through the song I had to start crying because it was such a moving experience for me, to see this song performed live.

Ultimately though, Momoiro Clover Z is known as a group that excels at live performances for a reason. Even if this was a slightly watered down version of their concerts in Japan (a bit shorter, no major setpieces or staging) and even if there are still songs  I want to see performed live, it was probably the best idol concert I’ve seen yet.

As always, the few days I spent in Los Angeles were filled with meeting new people and seeing friends from previous live events. I’ve already gushed about this on Twitter, but a good part of the reason I keep flying out to idol events across the country from me is because there are so many good people in the idol fan community. Being able to spend several days hanging out with friends I’ve met online and at these events makes these trips worth it, in addition to the actual concerts and events. If you have the financial means to go to these events, I really urge you to make it happen.

As a fan, this has spurred me on to continue going to these events, continue being a MomoClo / Stardust fan, and hopefully be able to make a trip to Japan happen in the near future. So hopefully you’ll be reading about me making that trip soon!