A couple of things before I get started:
1. The TIF 2012 website just got updated! There’s a bit more information up, though not everything quite yet. However, it’s a lot more intuitive, with each act having a picture (or the promise of a picture), a short description and a link to their website.
2. Since some new acts were added recently I’m going to go in order of the TIF website, which means that a lot of the stuff I was planning on writing about will come later.
3. At the end of this series of posts, as an incentive for me to finish this year, I’m going to write a list of my recommended acts and go through the timetable, picking what I would go see.
This is one of the most visually striking idol groups I’ve seen come from TIF! Where all the other idol groups are cute girls posing in one way or another, Alice Juuban are all wearing hockey masks and holding chainsaws. Their logo even has this! Self proclaimed Heavy Metal idol unit, this is a 10 member group (as indicated by their name!) that has a relatively older age range with the oldest member at 25 years old! They are all signed with Alice Project and are in other idol groups (i.e. two of the Alice Juuban girls are in another group, Prism, and all of the girls in another Alice Juuban group, Pureful, are in Alice Juuban as well) so it’s kind of the Alice Project supergroup.
Apparently they incorporate things like headbanging and even stage diving into their repertoire, so that makes the group pretty interesting. I have to admit, it takes a lot of guts to get your idol group to dive into a crowd of wota, so that’s pretty interesting. However, while I’m really enjoying their image and how they’re being marketed, the one thing that stands out as not being consistent is the music. The two songs I’ve listened to on their website, Skeleton Sky and Makenaide, are good songs and have metal elements to them such as heavy guitar and strong drum beats, but inherently feel really more like idol songs. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that you have a group like Babymetal that really throws themselves into metal music, especially with their song Ii Ne.
Still, they have a really good image and I’m not saying their image is bad; in fact, if you prefer your idols with a bit of rock a la Passpo you might want to give Alice Juuban a look. However, in my opinion their music doesn’t quite live up to the hockey masks and chainsaws they pose with.
Since this is a group that needs very little introduction I’m going to be brief about that and instead focus on my thoughts about SKE48 participating with TIF. However, since not everyone is a fan of the 48 groups, I’ll give them some explanation.
SKE48 is the first ‘sister’ group to the massively popular AKB48. Formed in 2008, they have a pretty similar set up to AKB. They’re “local idols” who perform mostly at their theater in Nagoya at the Sunshine Sakae (SaKaE, SKE). They have their own singles aside from AKB48, though Matsui Jurina and Matsui Rena (SKE’s front girls, not related) participate in AKB singles and other members participate in various undergirls songs .
As for how SKE is different from AKB, they are definitely lesser known than AKB (though more well known than HKT48 or even NMB48). SKE48 has a reputation for having strong dancing and athletic members that make watching PVs really fun to watch, as the choreography is pretty top notch. At one point SKE had PVs featuring a lot of extras (300+ in 1 2 3 4 Yoroshiku and 1000+ in Banzai Venus, I believe) though that’s no longer the case. Still, SKE48 has very high quality PVs, as evidenced by the lovely Kataomoi Finally, and really high quality dance performance. I hesitate saying this, but while I love AKB48, I think overall the performances of SKE48 are stronger.
That being said, while I love SKE48 and think they’re a great group of girls, I don’t want them to participate at TIF. SKE48 is at this point arguably the second most popular idol act in Japan right now (second to AKB48) and they’ve become a very established act of their own, rather than just having popularity due to AKB48. A look at my most recent coverage of the AKB48 senbatsu election shows a lot of popularity for SKE48 members, so SKE’s sales aren’t based off of a loyalty towards AKB48.
The reason I cover Tokyo Idol Festival on my blog is because I really love how it showcases indie and otherwise lesser known idol groups. Some bigger name groups are there, yes (this year Idoling!!! and Super Girls look to be the biggest names), but they’re nowhere near as big as SKE48. My biggest concern is that passionate SKE fans will buy up tickets to TIF, leaving fans of the other groups difficulty in finding tickets, and then the audiences for other groups would be much more sparse. This could be totally unfounded and wrong, but I have to worry. Still, I hope this isn’t the case and that SKE fits in with the rest of TIF!
A group I covered last year and that I’m pretty familiar with! I admit I mainly know about them from their one original song/PV, Happy Happy Birthday, which is pretty outdated; it came out in January 2011. Since then members have left and others have joined. One of the things that made Oh Campee pretty noticeable is that one of their members was black, but she’s (sadly) left the group. My personal favorite member, a girl I just called “eyebrows” (she had really great eyebrows) left too, so I’m disappointed.
Right now they’re a 10 member idol group from Himawari Theatre Group formed in 2010. Their only song (as far as I know) is Happy Happy Birthday. They’re a pretty lesser known group; the only videos on YouTube, for example, are Happy Happy Birthday, a short few second clip and an excerpt of their performance at TIF 2011. That vid in particular is interesting, because they sound like they are singing live, which is pretty impressive, even though their song catalogue might not be so impressive. They’re cute, but have nothing that really makes them stand out as a group.
This is a Shibuya (in Tokyo) based three member idol group based off the Gal subculture. I’m not going to explain everything about gal/gyaru subculture right now, because it would ultimately take a while and it’s also not my area of expertise. However, basically it’s centered around fashion and is often characterized by dyed hair, makeup and sometimes tans. It’s its own separate subculture, so it makes sense that such a subculture would have its own idol group!
Gal Doll is a three member group with three girls: Juno (the one in yellow), Ryoka (pink) and Nanaho (Blue). The first thing that’s immediately noticeable is that their main website is a mobile site, which really would focus on a younger demographic. Finding information on singles they’ve released is proving slightly difficult with their mobile site and regular site (so if you have info about Gal Doll please share!!),but I found they did perform at the Shibuya event “Campus Summit” which is an event organized by student clubs. This event releases a CD every year, so at the very least Gal Doll is on that. They have one PV out to their song Loco*Girl ~Agepo yo Summer~ which is actually a pretty catchy dance track with a para para dance shot. The PV itself is low budget (featuring a lot of bikini fan service!) but definitely not the worst PV I’ve seen.
While the Gal image is not necessarily my favorite for an idol, the members all seem cute, energetic and fun, and if you like para para/eurobeat type music check them out. They’re releasing a DVD in July that has their first solo live events on it. While the only PV I’ve been able to see is Loco*Girl ~Agepo yo Summer~ I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of their stuff. All three girls seem to be into what they’re doing, having fun, and that makes them really fun to watch.
KNU originally was KNU23 (another group riding the AKB wave) but, much like one of my favorite idol groups MMJ, they removed the numbers and are just referred to as KNU now. Which makes looking them up online a bit trickier, but it shows they’re trying to brand themselves beyond being another AKB.
Interestingly enough I found this Kotaku article HERE that mentions KNU. Apparently those three letters stand for “kyonyuu” meaning large breasts (though I saw on another site that it stands for “Keep it Natural Under 23”, and according to the article all the girls in the group have a G cup size or higher in Japanese sizing (which is actually around two cup sizes smaller than the American size, so a D in Japan is closer to a B in the US, I believe). They have 12 members and have been around since 2010, and while they’ve only been around for a short while they already have 21 former members!! They only seem to have an Ameba site, even though last year they were able to release a single with three songs, I Show It, Pops and Koi no Joushiki. Something of note for Tsunku fans, they actually appeared on his show, Tsuntube. While I’m not a huge fan of Tsunku for various reasons, I do like how he’s been promoting lesser known idols.
They also appeared in a video for the show MelodiX, which is an introduction that features quite a bit of breast fanservice (the camera going across all the members who are squeezing their breasts together). Part of me felt really uncomfortable about this, but I also felt like in a way they weren’t hiding the fact that they were a fanservice unit, but in fact embracing it. Still, they are a fanservice unit that doesn’t carry the “star power” of Ebisu Muscats or the utter ridiculousness of Sexy All Sisters.
The performances I’ve seen seem pretty unpolished, but finding recent videos of them is pretty tough. Their songs are pretty standard but aren’t very catchy and aren’t very memorable.