Saturday, December 22, 2018

2018 Japanese Idol Year In Review

Everyone has an end of the year list, or a year in review, so I'm going to do one for This Is Your Wake Call!  As always, I have mixed feelings about what went on during the year as far as Japanese idol music is concerned.  There were several girls who graduated from some my favorite idol groups, such as amorecarina Osaka and Nagoya, Menkoi girls and Devil ANTHEM., among other groups I follow.  A few groups I really love even broke up.  But there was also a lot of great music released during 2018.  Some new groups that show promise debuted this year.  So here's what I thought of what the year 2018 brought Japanese idol fans.

My Favorite New Japanese Idol Groups

Bear in Mind
Omatsuri Shoujyo
Oh! My Kitty
Pumpkin Pookie

I still haven't seen a video for Pumpkin Pookie, which is a subunit of amoreacrina Osaka.  But since I absolutely love amorecarina Osaka, and Tanaka Ayaka - one of my favorite idols - is the leader of this group, I just know I'm going to love them when I do see a video! 

My Favorite New Idols

Kuroe Koharu - Harajuku DREAMMATE
Iimura Yuna - Harajuku DREAMMATE
Reika - W.
Manaka - Oh! My Kitty
Juna - Oh! My Kitty

Juna gets extra points for having the same birthday as me.  Ha ha!

Idol Groups That Broke Up In 2018

PARLISH broke up on March 18, 2018.
amorecarina Tokyo broke up on April 26, 2018.
SunRisa broke up on October 9, 2018 (although they last performed on September 7, 2018).
NA-NA broke up, for the second and final time, on November 25, 2018.

All four of these groups were personal favorites of mine.  SunRisa was my favorite idol group that was active in the past few years.  amorecarina Tokyo was the start of the amorecarina franchise, so I feel bad that the "parent" group disbanded.  These break ups were my least favorite part of 2018. 

My Favorite Idol Songs of 2018 

It's really hard to rank these songs since they are all favorites.  But I'll include a YouTube link for every song that I liked.  My only criteria is that I limited my choices to one song per group. 

"Mirai e no Shunkan" by Bear in Mind is probably the idol video that I played the most times in 2018.  This group is a spin-off group from amorecarina Osaka.  Yano Yuka graduated from amorecarina Osaka on March 25, 2018 but announced at her final performance that she and fellow members Kai Akari and Nagayoshi Yuna were going to debut as Bear in Mind on April 1.  Akari eventually graduated from both groups on August 11, 2018. 

I've already written about monogatari in my last blog article, so I don't know what else to say here.  "Re:born" is simply an incredible song that holds up to repeat listens. 

"First Step" by Harajuku DREAMMATE is a great debut song by an exciting new group.  These girls have been working as models and have known each other for around two years.  Their chemistry shows in their performances.  Here is the short version of "First Step".     

Have I mentioned yet how much I love amorecarina Osaka?  They released a single, which unfortunately is a venue-only release, titled "Kimi no Guzen"on June 17, 2018.  A short preview of the studio version is on YouTube, but you can also listen to the full version performed live in a fan video.  You can watch the full performance (highly recommended) or skip to 11:36 for the start of "Kimi no Guzen". 

When it comes to cute kids groups from Nagoya there are a few groups that spring to mind.  I loved all of RABBIT HUTCH's videos released in 2018 but I couldn't resist overplaying the catchy "RABBIT HUTCH Matsuri Waashoishoi".  This is definitely high on my list of 2018's best songs. 

A friend of mine tipped me off to the group Theme park Girl earlier this year.  The song that got my attention was "Girl's Skip", a jazz pop number.  Theme park Girl won this Year's Idol Matsuri Love Dance contest and will release their major debut from Warner Music Japan in 2019. 

A new group I discovered, mostly due to my particular interest in Osaka idols, was W.  Their official website has four songs that you can listen to for free!  My personal favorite is titled "Niji Iro Drops".  Here is the official live video for that song. 

Michinoku Sendai ORI☆HIMETAI did something this year I (or other fans) didn't think they'd do: a cover of John Lennon's classic "Imagine".  The lyrics were changed a bit so the girls could sing the song in Japanese, but the original message remains intact. 

Another new group I got interested in this year was Oh! My Kitty.  Yes, the name is a bit silly, but their singing is what really matters.  Here is a cover of Chuning Candy's "darling darling". 

MERUCHU are another ultra-cute Nagoya group that I want fans to know about.  Their lineup has changed frequently, which probably will confuse new fans.  This year's video / single (another venue-only release), "Hajimete no Katamoi", is something I love to play often.  Sadly, my favorite member, Kitade Cocoa, is graduating on December 23, 2018.   

Among the amorecarina Nagoya members I like that have graduated this year Kuraoka Mei was my favorite.  Ogiso Miku and Iizuka Yuni were the others.  Here is a live performance of a song that debuted on Mei's graduation, "Tenshi no Namida Furu hi ni".  By the way, you can spot who Mei is because she's wearing a purple and white dress that doesn't match the other girls' dresses! 

I caught up with Si☆Stella this year and quickly learned about the new members.  They have some new subunits including Si☆4, which features the older members.  Si☆4 released a digital single on November 15, 2018 titled "Futari☆Destiny".  It took a couple weeks to be available to customers outside Japan but you should be able to buy it from your favorite mp3 seller.  Here's a live performance of the song. 

CRUiSE! is a Fukuoka group that debuted in 2016 right after Hypericum broke up.  Several members from Hypericum were the initial lineup CRUiSE!  The group has had a couple new girls come and go, but the current six member lineup keeps active.  By the way, if you have never seen an idol group that includes butt-bumping as part of their dance routine, here is your chance to see it.  This is "Dotten Kaimei".     

If you miss some of the more electronic dance songs that Prizmmy☆ used to release, you might like this next song.  Devil ANTHEM. released what is described as a "hard EDM" song titled "Like a Tropical Night" and it's one of their better singles.  I hope you agree. 

The final cute kids group from Nagoya that you must know is none other than Twinkle.  This year they did some remakes of their older songs for studio music videos on YouTube.  My favorite is "Kodomoudo". 

Last but not least is the group Tokyo CuteCute with their video "SUGAR".  I have an interesting story.  I found out not long ago that if your Google and Twitter accounts are linked then whenever you like a YouTube video this is tweeted on your Twitter.  Well, I'm following some of the members of Tokyo CuteCute on Twitter and I recently liked this video.  Kasuga Kanako noticed this and liked my tweet!  Kanako and Akaogi Momoha are both former members of amorecarina Tokyo and they are why I took an interest in Tokyo CuteCute in the first place.  Unfortunately Momoha graduated from Tokyo CuteCute in November.   

Well, that's it!  Sixteen favorite songs from sixteen groups.  Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope you all had a great year and I'll see you in 2019!         

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Different Lives of monogatari

The first thing I want to do is clarify the title of this article.  I’m not going to discuss live performances by the Japanese idol group monogatari, but rather the different phases that the group has gone through over the course of five years.  That’s right, monogatari has existed in one form or another for five years as I type this.  Some of the information and photos I am going to use in this article have been deleted from the internet.  Thankfully I have saved it, and I will share all of what I have with you!

The group now known as monogatari actually began as a temporary unit named Norns in December 2013, formed by Millennium Promotion.  They are based in Harajuku at Millennium Dance Complex.  Although Millennium Dance Complex is at eight locations in the United States, there is only one in Japan.  Many girls auditioned and fans voted on their favorite members.  The name was changed to Millennium Girls and four members elected by the fans participated in the first single “Kiss My Girls”, the video of which debuted on YouTube on April 7, 2014.  The single was released on May 10, 2014.  

Five girls elected by fans participated in the second video, “Kyoshitsu Sabaibaru”, which debuted on YouTube on July 17, 2014.  (I feel I must give fair warning that this video contains more fan service than usual.)  By August there was a tour to vote on the next single’s members.  On September 17, 2014 there was a DVD and Blu-ray release of the PVs.  On December 27, 2014 Millennium Girls’ second single, “#Noisy Girl”, was released.  (I’m assuming “Kyoshitsu Sabaibaru” was the B-side of “Kiss My Girls”.)  This was the first single released outside of venues.  The DVD and Blu-ray for “#Noisy Girl” was not released until May 30, 2015 (but only at venues where they performed.) 

The amount of girls who were in Millennium Girls has changed over time, like you would expect from any idol group.  The problem is that I don’t have a complete list of all of them.  In mid-2014 I had typed a list of 38 girls, although the official website had the photos of two more whose names were not revealed.  Here is the list I typed. 

Utashiro Miku (歌代 ミク) - Born on January 12, 2002
Marumi Ruki (丸海留希) - Born on December 24, 2001 
Kayama Amu (香山あむ) - Born on January 30, 2001  
Aozora Asuka (青空 明日香) - Born on December 19, 2001
Yokota Miyuki (横田 美雪) - Born on March 19, 2001
Fukumoto Karen (福本 カレン) - Born on July 10, 2000
Nishime Sae (西銘 紗英) - Born on January 23, 2001
Saegusa Nana ( 三枝 菜々) - Born on April 11, 2000
Takeuchi Konatsu (竹内 己夏) - Born on August 13, 2001
Takenashi Ria (小鳥遊 りあ) - Born on January 12, 2000
Mizuse Airi (水瀬 あいり) - Born on March 17, 2002
Hiiragi Usa (柊 宇咲) - Born on April 27, 2003
Kodama Nonno (児玉 のんの) - Born on June 3, 2003
Tateishi Rira (立石 梨礼) - Born on May 27, 2003
Kurasawa Haruka (倉澤 遥) - Born on October 7, 2001
Mine Yuuki (三根 優希) - Born on January 23, 2001 
Sueki Momo (末木 もも) - Born on December 25, 2001
Sakaguchi Honami (坂口穂乃実) - Born on July 6, 2000 
Momose Serina (百瀬せりな) - Born on September 1, 1999
Osaki Rika
Katase Hinako (片瀬 ひなこ) - Born on May 1, 1998 
Hayama Hitomi (葉山 ひとみ) - Born on April 12, 1999
Fushima Riho (伏見 莉穂) - Born on November 28, 2000
Matsunaga Remi (松永 麗未) - Born on August 30, 1999
Mita Karin (三田 佳凛) - Born on October 10, 1999
Konohana Erika (此花 エリカ) - Born on July 5, 2000
Serikawa Risa (芹川 梨咲) - Born on January 2, 2002 
Muzutani Sachika (水谷 幸果) - Born on November 16, 1999
Uesugi Seri (上杉 世凛) - Born on May 14, 2003 
Itsugu Kanami (井次 かなみ) - Born on October 13, 2001
Shoyo Natsune
Mizuki Yuika (美月 唯花) - Born on April 10, 2001 
Midorikawa Miu (緑川 美海) - Born on November 2, 2000 
Yoshida Shikura (吉田 しくら) - Born on August 13, 2004
Shirakawa Saki (白川 咲希) - Born on March 28, 2000
Miura Nanaho (三浦 七帆) - Born on August 31, 1996
Otsuki Rena (大槻 レナ) - Born on July 23, 2001

Graduated Member:
Saeki Runa (佐伯るな) - Born on November 11, 1998

Runa is the main focus of the video “Kyoshitsu Sabaibaru”.  Miku, Ruki, Amu, Asuka, Miyuki and Karen are the singers on “#Noisy Girl”.  It should be noted that when Millennium Girls changed their name again, to Harajuku Monogatari, they reworked both “Kiss My Girls” and “#Noisy Girl” for their live performances.  Unfortunately (at least for a fan like me) the singers were not the exact same girls. 
I think one of the things that might confuse people about Millennium Girls is that there are two YouTube channels for this group.  The first was called soma I and the other Millennium Promotion Official Channel.  The soma I channel last uploaded a video on January 19, 2015.  The first video on MPOC was uploaded on August 19, 2015.  I’m not sure why there was a seven month span between uploads, or why a new channel was created.  Why not simply rename the channel?  By Fall 2015 the name of the group was changed to Harajuku Monogatari (although one YouTube video says “Harazyuku Monogatari” in English).
The selection of which girls appeared on stage and in the singles continued until the early part of 2016.  Eventually the group was reduced to 13 girls.  On July 20, 2016 three singles were released simultaneously, two singles by subunits and one by the full group; “WIN the STAR” by Harajuku Monogatari ~Pray uS~, “WE are ONE” by Harajuku Monogatari ~Cloth~ and “PARTY ANIMALS” by all the members.  One more single, “Shinpaku 1 Metre”, was released by the ~Pray uS~ subunit on December 14, 2016, followed by a nine track “mini album” on March 15, 2017 titled “Sanzen Sekai” from the full group. 

Unknown to many idol fans, in 2015 a documentary film was being made under the title Tokyo Idols.  It premiered in the U.S. at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2017 and in an edited for TV version in the U.K. as Tokyo Girls on June 27, 2017.  Among the idols featured in the film were Harajuku Monogatari.  One girl from each group profiled was chosen to be interviewed, and in Harajuku Monogatari’s case it was Kayama Amu.   Unfortunately, the director of the movie took every opportunity to embarrass the idols and the fans who were interviewed.  Amu caught this, and didn’t give the director the answers she was probably seeking. 

Harajuku Monogatari (May 5, 2017)

For a few months in 2017 the members of Harajuku Monogatari were wearing fake fur sleeves on their right arm in each girl’s member color.  Three singles were released that year.  2017 was also the first year in which the group was invited to Tokyo Idol Festival.  In December 2017 there was an announcement that Harajuku Monogatari was changing its’ name to monogatari (with a lower case m).  This meant that the group had used four names in as many years that they were active (at the time).  Harajuku Monogatari officially ended on December 31, 2017 and monogatari had begun on January 1, 2018.
The first single by monogatari, now with only eleven members, was “Re:born”, released on March 27, 2018.  A very energetic dance number, “Re:born” was exactly that, with an exciting music video.  While previous singles and videos were also exciting, this was possibly the group’s best single.  It took until August 8, 2018 for the next single to be released.  “Mou Ikkai Kimi ni Suki to Ienai” has driving rock music, and passionate vocals by leader Fukumoto Karen to go with it.  Overall, though, the music video is a bit bland.  (And I’d like to add, doesn’t have enough Aozora Asuka scenes to please this fan.) 

Believe it or not, I have wanted to write an article on this group, which I originally came to love as Millennium Girls, for over four years now.  I’m not sure what will be next with monogatari as they finish off their fifth year of being an idol group and head towards their sixth year.  All I know is I’m still in love with this group.  
Takeuchi Konatsu Twitter (graduated member) 
Yokota Miyuki Twitter (graduated Millennium Girls member) 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

NA-NA's Final Performance

On July 31, 2017 NA-NA surprised me and the idol fan community by announcing their return on Twitter, if only for two performances on August 27, 2017.  Well, as it turned out, NA-NA had so much fun that they decided to keep performing, at least for gigs for each member’s birthday.  They also performed on other occasions, although the performances were spaced apart by months due to the schedule each girl had.  Leader Hara Mizuki and member Kimura Karin had both graduated high school, but members Honda Touko and Taniguchi Sayane are both still students.  Furthermore, Touko was also the leader of another idol group, Colorful Scream. 

NA-NA announced on Twitter on August 11, 2018 that their final performance would be on November 25.  Touko announced on the Colorful Scream website on September 11, 2018 that she was graduating from the group on October 13.  (Colorful Scream member Sara was also graduating.)  That meant Touko had less idol-related obligations and could now focus on NA-NA (and school).  However, it also meant Colorful Scream would no longer have any of its original members.  NA-NA doesn’t seem to have any new videos on YouTube (that I’ve found) but today on Twitter I was surprised to see two clips of the song “Koi no Furezu” (“Phrase of Love”).  Furthermore it seems that Yoshinaka Aoi of Caramel  Ribbon has a new Twitter and she and Ueno Amane (also formerly of Caramel Ribbon, now in MahoAmaneRuna) both attended!  (I wonder if Caramel ☆ Ribbon leader Fukata Seina was busy?)  I just wanted to share some photos and the Twitter videos because this may be the last time we can all see NA-NA live.

Thank you for reading my blog and have a wonderful day!  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

SunRisa Disbands

In the past couple weeks I have been slowly realizing (thanks to the fact that I can't read Japanese) that one of my all-time favorite idol groups has now broken up.  Or "paused activities" as the translation I read put it.  SunRisa have stopped being active after a September 7, 2018 performance.  It was officially announced by Imamori Manaka on Twitter on October 9, 2018, by Kada Yume on Twitter the same day and on the SunRisa Twitter on October 11, 2018.  The SunRisa website and the second SunRisa YouTube channel have both been deleted.  Manaka is now modeling for a company named CONAMi.  Yume is also modeling as well as being a student.    

For those of you who need a refresher, I was the first to write about SunRisa in English on April 17, 2015.  The original group debuted on April 13, 2014 with five members: Kozai Sakura, Kumada Rena, Matsuo Fuka, Kawasaki Sakura and Shimada Mayuka.  Okamura Minami joined later in June 2014.  Imamori Manaka was originally a candidate (trainee), but joined as a full member on August 22, 2014.  (Many fans assume that Minami was an original member when she wasn't.)  By April 2015 everyone except Fuka, Mayuka, Manaka and Minami had graduated.  In early May Mayuka graduated, followed by Fuka's graduation two weeks later.  SunRisa, now a duo, re-recorded their first two singles, "OVER FLOW" and "Fashionable", making the very limited edition CDs with four members singing instant collector's items.  Of course, by October 2018 all of SunRisa's CD singles and mini-albums are presumably out-of-print.  Minami graduated on October 6, 2016 and later joined Hello! Project.  Kada Yume and another girl named Haruka joined SunRisa in February 2017 only to have Haruka leave by April.  Ever since April 2017 it's been Manaka and Yume, with this duo recording yet another version of "Fashionable" and releasing it on the same-titled mini-album on December 24, 2017.  Now it seems SunRisa have broken up after four-and-a-half years.

I've said a number of Japanese idol groups were my favorites throughout my time as a fan of this music.  Sakura Gakuin, Caramel☆Ribbon, NA-NA, Candy Kiss, PARLISH, amorecarina Osaka and SunRisa have all taken top spots as my favorite group.  My favorite idol has also changed over time, with Miyoshi Ayaka, Fukata Seina, Yamashita Honoka, Wada Yuka, Tsukamoto Ririka and, of course, Imamori Manaka all being personal favorites.  But when I say Manaka has the best voice in all Japanese pop music right now, you better believe I mean it!  If Manaka wants to take a break from performing as an idol, and wants to focus on modeling, that's fine.  But I seriously hope that someday Manaka will return to singing.  This girl has a beautiful voice!  Manaka's voice is one of the reasons why "OVER FLOW" was my favorite idol song of 2015; one of the reasons why "Z.E.N.R.Y.O.K.U. Zenkai ~Hisshi no Patchi~" was my second favorite idol song of 2016*; and one of the reasons why "GAO GAO" was my favorite idol song of 2017.  (*In 2016 I was most impressed with the song "Shooting star ☆" by amorecarina Osaka.) 

The original SunRisa YouTube channel, which thankfully hasn't been deleted yet, mostly has short clips of promos and dance covers, but there is also this wonderful video of Manaka singing a cappella.  

There are also several fan videos of SunRisa to watch, such as this favorite for "GAO GAO".  

I'm a big fan of Manaka's so maybe I'm getting upset over something that may not seem like a big deal to most people, even Japanese idol fans.  But really, I'm reacting like any real fan would react.  My favorite singer and yours may be different, but you'd probably say something similar if one of your favorite singers left the entertainment industry, or one of your favorite groups broke up.  Manaka to me is a real gem of a girl!  Talented, gorgeous and kind, she's what anyone would want in a girl.  I'll be awaiting your return, Manaka-chan!  

Sunday, October 28, 2018

An Idol Halloween

I'm back again with my first blog article in over a year!  This time I'm simply sharing some Japanese idol Halloween photos I found on Twitter and Facebook.  Enjoy!

Tomimoto Airu

Shimizu Rion of Culumi

Kitade Cocoa of MERUCHU

 Little Blossom

Happy Halloween everyone!  Thanks for visiting my blog!  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

More Good Idol Music - My 100th Article!

Yes, it's true.  This is my 100th blog article for "This Is Your Wake Up Call!", the blog that discusses Japanese idols that few, if any, other blogs will write about!

The first thing I want to do is update what I wrote about a couple days ago.  The Japanese news article I linked about Menkoi girls (I guess the second word is lower case) didn't specify which festival they were performing at.  I did a search and it seems it is the Aki Matsuri Japanese Festival.  Now I'm not 100% sure, though.  If it's a different festival I will give an update in a future article.

Also, when I did some research for my article about the group NA-NA reuniting, I didn't research enough.  It seems that since January 2017 Honda Touko of NA-NA has been singing in another idol group.  This group is Colorful Scream, and they have an official video for the song "Sing Bird".
Colorful Scream also have some live videos in which the live sound has been replaced with the studio recording of the song!  I don't know why they did that, though.  Touko's fans should give this one a listen as she seems to be the leader of the group!  That's great!

Another idol group that may have slipped by unnoticed is Dream Catcher.  Dream Catcher's website was created on March 31, 2017, and a radio show with the group debuted on April 24.  But Dream Catcher's live debut was on April 29, 2017.  There are five girls in the group and they sing some pretty cute songs.  My favorite is the first, "Yami Miyagi".  I hope you'll like them!  By the way, please don't get Dream Catcher the Japanese idol group confused with a Korean group that has the same name.  

PARLISH are back too, but with a new lineup.  For the August 3, 2017 performance two members, Deki Hikaru and Tanaka Amo, could not appear.  However, four new members made their debut! The names that I have are Karen, Nanami, Morigami Aiko and Yamamoto Rin.  Aiko was previously a dancer for SunRisa in 2014 and 2015.  I had no idea she had her eye on a PARLISH membership!  I have always liked Aiko so I approve of this!  Here is my favorite song from the group, "Jump". 

Finally I want to share a video for a cute group that's existed for a few years, Twinkle.  A couple years ago, at least, they were Twinkle Angel and there were more members of the group.  Now Twinkle are a trio of girls named Saki, Sakura and Misaki.  This is actually a song they did a video for two years ago, which was sort of a dance practice version.  I think the title is "Twinkle Jungle".  


I hope you all enjoyed these songs!  I do my best to discover some of the best new Japanese idol music and news for those who are looking for groups and music that might normally be overlooked. Thanks again for reading my blog!  All of my readers are terrific!  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Menkoi Girls Are Coming To America!

Menkoi Girls have announced an appearance in the United States in October 2017 in Henderson, Nevada at the Autumn Festival, near Las Vegas!  I discovered this information some time before the announcement last week, but forgot to write about it in my blog.  I was reminded last night while watching Menkoi Girls on SHOWROOM Live.  I said "Hello" to four of the members last night and caught their attention.  Yuki, the leader of Menkoi Girls, was nice enough to speak a little English to me and told me that they were in coming to America in October.  I really wish I was going, but I have constant pain now and standing and walking hurts too much.  But if you live near Henderson, Nevada or can travel to there in October you might wish to see them.  Tell them that read about it in my blog!  Check out the Menkoi Girls Twitter for updates.

Here is a recent video from the subunit MG-Pen Pen (actually Pen squared).  This is the first time that I've noticed that they didn't add special effects.