As most idol fans are pretty aware of Hello!Project history, I’ll keep this section pretty brief and on point. Kikkawa Yuu got her start back during the 8th generation Morning Musume auditions where she got to the finals but (along with AKB48 member Sato Sumire) lost to Mitsui Aika. Yuu’s had a pretty sizable fanbase since then and became a Hello!Project Egg soon after, with a pretty strong singing voice. She became part of the three idol unit Milky Way along with Kusumi Koharu and Kitahara Sayaka, In early 2011 she made her debut with Kikkake wa YOU!, and now her activities are outside Hello!Project in UFA, though she still performs and promotes at H!P concerts.
She’s since released a DVD, three singles (fourth is coming out soon), a photobook and even a documentary on her road to debut, which isn’t bad for a former Egg! I have to admit that when she was an Egg I wasn’t as crazy about her as others were (my favorite egg is definitely Sekine Azusa), but I can certainly appreciate Kikka. She really is a talented singer and I’m very happy for her fans who have stuck around for years.
Kikka’s a very good performer and should be an excellent addition to TIF, especially since her last single had an unfortunate drop in sales (possibly due to fewer versions of the single? not quite sure, because I enjoy the single song), this could be good promotion for her. Lately the idol scene has been all about groups, so it’s good to see a solo artist out there.
While I’ve never been too big of a Kikka fan, honestly rewatching Kikkake wa You (her first single) and her latest single, Konna Watashi de Yokattara, I think she’s really grown since her early days as an egg and in Milky Way. Her voice is better, she’s more expressive in general, and is pretty compelling. I really think she needed that time in training to blossom, but blossom she has and I can’t wait to see how she does TIF.
(note: Universal Music Japan won’t let me embed her PVs, but finding them on YouTube isn’t super hard)
Caramel ☆ Ribbon
I’m not at all familiar with them, but someone I know is! Jim from I ♥ Miyoshi Ayaka’s Idol Musings is a fan of Caramel Ribbon and has shared some really excellent information with me!
Caramel Ribbon is a three member unit from a larger idol collective called Esse Academy. I have to admit I haven’t heard of Esse Academy, and honestly Caramel Ribbon is just about the most well known group among this, which isn’t saying all that much. The girls range in age from 13 to 14, so a younger group. They released one single, Niji Iro, back in 2010 but have recently recorded a new single, so perhaps that will get performed at TIF!
For being an indie group song, Niji Iro is pretty good; the girls have pleasant voices and it’s an overall pleasant song; the song itself feels slightly old fashioned, but not quite as retro as Vanilla Beans, for example. They also perform covers, such as the well known song Natsu Matsuri (made famous by girl band Whiteberry).
Here’s the thing about Caramel Ribbon. They don’t seem to have any major gimmicks, nor do they fit into some wacky niche. They’re three cute girls who are pretty good performers. However, if you’re into cuter groups with cute girls, I definitely recommend you give Caramel Ribbon a shot.
Coro☆Coro with Fukasawa Saki
I swear, finding the kanji for this was the biggest pain. Anyways this is a three member “dance and vocal unit” (meaning they’re trying for better dance and singing as opposed to other gimmicks), featuring Saki and two other girls. So far they’ve released two singles, including “Super Birthday.”
At first I wondered if Fukasawa Saki was a big deal, like this was the idol project for a popular gravure idol (a la AeLL). However, whenever I search Saki’s name, all that comes up are links related to Coro*Coro, so if anyone knows why Saki is in the group name, please let me know! So far it looks like it’s because Saki is really the front girl of the group in their stuff.
So far Super Birthday is pretty standard idol stuff, as is their first single ‘again.’ However, a performance of a song called ‘destiny’ shows off the fact that there’s good dancing and singing. The PV preview of Super Birthday has made me pretty fond of one of the non-Saki members, Airi, who’s pretty cute. Their dance skills are good and their singing skills are definitely fine. However, there’s nothing that really makes this group stand out that much, and I feel like it would be kind of hard to be a fan of a girl that wasn’t Saki at this point.
Another soloist! Mai (her nickname’s Mainya) is 21 years old and has been active as an idol since 2009 and since then has released six singles. I’ve heard her name before, but for some reason I didn’t know who she was.
While looking up Mainya, I discovered something amazing: that Pony Canyon has English-language profiles! So finding out about her is pretty easy. Apparently she gained a lot of fans because she performed over 300 shows a year, which is really incredible! That kind of work ethic is really extraordinary, and I’m glad people have taken notice. She’s somewhat of an indie idol darling, and her singles sell well even though they’re indies and have limited numbers to sell. Also according to this profile Mainya has been called the next big idol to break, recently.
Watching her stuff, Mai’s voice is unfortunately not that pleasant to listen to. While vocal skills aren’t necessarily very important for idols, it makes me wonder how far she can really go as a solo artist. One of the reasons groups can go really far is because vocal skill matters a lot less when you have many singers; it’s a bit less forgivable with a soloist. Still, I really appreciate her obvious enthusiasm for being an idol, her energy and her work ethic, so I’m going to keep an eye on Mainya to see what she does next!
Here’s a group I’ve covered before. Their name is certainly interesting (the English name for the sleep cycle). They are a two member “dance and vocal” unit that features nice mature vocals and members that seem to have older members and an overall more mature feel. They’ve released one single and last year they released their first album, featuring what seems to be their most pushed song from the album “Bloom ~Sakurairo no Kisetsu”. The PV for this looks pretty cheap, with the two girls singing and dancing over some pretty shoddy effects wearing short kimonos. However, despite the failings of the PV, this is quite a good song and the girls have really good voices for being at TIF.
The last thing on the Circadian Rhythm website is information about them performing at TIF 2011, so I don’t really know what, if anything, they’ve been up to since last year’s festival. However, if you like your idols on the more mature side as opposed to the standard cutesy group you usually get at TIF, you might want to look out for Circadian Rhythm.