Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Links To Shamrock

I'm going to do something a bit different this time by writing two short profiles, for the idol groups Links and Shamrock.  And yes, there is a link connecting them.

Links is a five member idol group from Fit One, which formed in March 2012.  They have performed at several idol events including TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL 2012 and 2013, and will be at this year's TIF as well.  Links have released three singles so far and contributed a song to a game soundtrack.  I don't have a lot of information on them, so I'll let their music do the talking.  Here's a song named "Homenobi ☆ Ja Panda".

Saito Mitsue - Born on November 3, 1993, Blood Type O
Ootomo Haru - Born on January 6, 1995, Blood Type B
Ayakawa Hinano - Born on June 20, 1995, Blood Type O
Yanaka Yuisa - Born on January 4, 1998, Blood Type AB
Sato Arisa - Born on August 8, 1998, Blood Type A


"Shinkai Syndrome" (February 27, 2013)
"Homenobi ☆ Ja Panda" / "Amai Mint" (August 27, 2013)
"Ikaneba no Musume ~Love Soldiers~" (February 18, 2014)

Various Artists Compilation Album:
"Short Peace Tsukigime Ranko no Ichiban Nagai Hi" (March 26, 2014; Track 1, "Denshou Love Letter" + DVD with "Galactic☆ GAL-ACT" Links Version music video)  

Official Website
Official Blog
Fit One Profile
Official Twitter
Official YouTube

Yuisa and Arisa are also members of Shamrock, a group that also includes Konno Yuuka of Aither.  Shamrock debuted on April 26, 2014 during an Aither concert.  Shamrock will be contributing songs to an upcoming movie.  No details on the movie have been released yet.  There isn't an official Shamrock photo, but I found this on Twitter.

The Shamrock live video won't embed, so click here.

I really like the songs from both of these groups, so I hope they will find a lot of fans!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pink And Proud Of It!

Pink Babies are somewhat new to the Japanese idol scene, but their music is decidedly not so new.  That is because Pink Babies, created by Pan Pacific Project, are a group which exclusively sings covers of Pink Lady songs.  Pink Lady was a pop duo in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I first became aware of Pink Babies back in December 2013 when I was doing some research for the group Prizmmy☆.  Pink Babies were performing at a kids dance event along with Prizmmy☆ and some other singers and dancers that I was unfamiliar with.  There was a dance rehearsal video of the group on YouTube that I only watched once before it became private.  Unfortunately I didn't think of downloading this before it became inaccessible.  I've been following them on Twitter (and they've been following me) for a few months now.  I suppose after they uploaded their first videos made available for the public that didn't go private right away, a short introduction to the group and the song "UFO", I should have written an article about them.  Maybe I'm a bit behind, but better late than never.

Pink Babies' latest video, "Wanted (Shimei Tehai)", is being released as a single on iTunes and I think there is also a CD.  (It's not listed on CD Japan or YesAsia yet, unless I'm missing something.)  It's a pretty interesting video with some sci-fi and horror elements which show the girls dancing in a haunted house and displaying mental powers!  Prior to this video being uploaded to YouTube, a short and humorous video of some of the members of Pink Babies using telekinetic abilities to move objects, bend spoons and read cards was uploaded.  Clips from this video are also on Twitter.  Any group that has a sense of humor while also taking their jobs as idols seriously has my respect, and I really respect Pink Babies.  These girls are very good singers and dancers and their videos are fun to watch.  I'm hoping that bigger and better things are coming this way for Pink Babies!

Kuriyama Rina - Born on September 24, 1996, Blood Type AB
Saganuma Mayu - Born on December 15, 1996, Blood Type O
Yoshida Aina - Born on March 17, 1997, Blood Type A  
Furukawa Yukari - Born on May 10, 1997, Blood Type O
Maskai Kotona - Born on September 26, 1998, Blood Type A
Arakawa Saho - Born on October 8, 1998, Blood Type O
Sato Kotono - Born on November 30, 1999, Blood Type ?
Asada Mayu - Born on February 20, 2000, Blood Type AB
Sakurai Yui - Born on February 21, 2000, Blood Type B
Yabuta Nanaho - Born on July 11, 2000, Blood Type B
Suzuki Chinatsu - Born on August 16, 2000, Blood Type O
Suzuki Sara - Born on December 20, 2000, Blood Type ?
Omori Rio - Born on December 22, 2001, Blood Type: AB
Shiseki Rio - Born on January 27, 2002, Blood Type B

Official Website
Official Blog
Official Twitter
Official YouTube

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Onigokko's New Members!

A photo of the new lineup of Onigokko was posted yesterday on Twitter.  Top row, from left to right, are new members Kozakura Ichigo, Mikuru and Nozomi.  Bottom row, left to right, are the first generation members Tsukishima Ai, Kisaki Ayuki and Kisaki Sakura.  I was hoping by now Onigokko's official website would confirm this, but so far it hasn't.  I don't have any information on Mikuru and Nozomi yet, but Ichigo has her own blog.  I'm looking forward to seeing a video of the new lineup perform live!      

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Prizmmy☆ Are Jumpin' And Dancin'

Prizmmy☆ are releasing a new single, the first with new member Hina.  The news was announced on the Prizmmy☆ website.  The name of the song is "Jumpin'! Dancin'!" and it's the end theme to the anime PURIPARA.  The B-Side is titled "Wanda!!!!"  (At least, I think that's the title.)   Prizmmy☆'s new album "Music Goes On" went on sale on June 25, and it also includes songs by Prism☆Box and Prism☆Mates.  Hina, by the way, is in all three groups.  She is still the leader of Prism☆Mates as well as being a member of Prizmmy☆ and  Prism☆Box.  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Caramel ☆ Ribbon's New Single!

ESSE Academy's Caramel ☆ Ribbon, my favorite indie idol group, are releasing their fifth single "First Secret" on July 29, 2014!  This news was reported on Twitter and the Caramel ☆ Ribbon blog.  It's been over nine months since their last single and their first one with T-Palette Records, "Start Ribbon".  I've been a fan of Caramel ☆ Ribbon since late November 2011 and am proud of the fact that I was the first to write about them in English.  Caramel ☆ Ribbon have a fun, retro-pop sound that makes their music distinctive in a industry filled with routine dance pop idol groups.  Their two singles from 2013, including "Yakusoku no Basho", were among the best sounding idol singles of that year.  I'm counting on another excellent release from these girls!        

Friday, July 4, 2014

Idol Matsuri & Me, The Final Chapter

Sunday morning I ate and then went down to the convention to talk to people, popping in on the Western guests autograph session.  I wanted autographs and photos with all of them, but as I was running short on money I had to pass on a photo with Ally Sally and Beckii Cruel, since they were charging too much money.  I was able to spare a dollar for a SHEawase photo, which Melissa and Tara were nice enough to sign.  They then posed with me while someone took our photo.

Beri! New Day posed with me too, and reminded me of their concert at 1:30 p.m.  I wanted to see this since they are very nice girls.  For those unfamiliar with this group, they are a Seattle-based J-Pop cover group consisting of three girls, Jenn, Danielle and Sophia.  It was Beri! New Day that helped translate for me when Aither arrived on Thursday night.  Before the concert began they needed to do a sound check, and their concert got a late start, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Beckii Cruel was scheduled to perform next, and I wanted to see this too, but I had a panel scheduled for 3:15 p.m.  I had brought along a USB flash drive with videos and documents that I needed for my panel and I just needed to know how to play the videos with the laptop and projector set up.  Unfortunately there was only one working projector and Beckii was using it for her concert. Bethany Walker was running all over the place to do multiple things including getting a mouse for the laptop and a cable needed for the projector.  Beckii’s concert ended while I was still in the room where my panel was to be held waiting for the projector.  Eventually the projector was brought in, hooked up and set up so I could access everything on my flash drive.

Bethany tried to corral people and get them to come in to see my panel, which I called “Young Idol Singers” (also the name of a Facebook page I created).  People came and went but I think 20 or so people were there at various points during the next hour, including Melissa and Tara of SHEawase, Ally and Sally and Beri! New Day.  I did an intro explaining that I think there are many talented kids who sing and dance in the Japanese idol industry and their songs are fun and energetic.  The first question was, “What is the youngest idol singer?”  Ally and Sally spoke up mentioning that they shook the hands of a seven-year-old idol in Japan and that some were young as five!  I mentioned that Onigo Musume a.k.a. Onigokko were promoted as the youngest idol group when they formed in 2012, saying that the three oldest members have now graduated and that the girls auditioning for Onigokko’s new members are as young as seven.  This lead me to select “Running Fighter” by Onigokko as the first video I shared.  What surprised me was that after showing the video the audience clapped!   In fact, they clapped after every video I shared with them.  For the most part I let the audience select which videos they wanted to see, and gave updates on the group and the members.  I asked if anyone wanted to see a soloist, and some of the people said “yes”, so I selected a 2012 fan video of my second favorite idol, Nakano Yuuka.  Sophia of Beri! New Day was particularly impressed!  I showed videos for groups and soloists such as KAGAJO☆4S, NA-NA, Prism☆Box, SpringBell feat. MIKA, Cookin’ Idol I! My! Mine!, Shugo Chara Egg! and Sakura Gakuin, all with applause from the audience.  Doing this panel was a lot of fun for me since I enjoy talking about the idols I love and support.  Unfortunately I ran out of time, since the projector was required for the closing ceremonies.  Given the opportunity to something like this again, I would in a second!

The one thing I forgot to do that Bethany said I should do was show my OPV for the canceled OPV Contest during my panel.  I had entered a video that I worked hard on titled “Sakura Gakuin’s Amazing Feats”, which showed clips of Sakura Gakuin members doing some sort of trick. Unfortunately I was the only one who entered the contest so the contest got the ax before the program booklet was even printed.  Actually, this wasn’t the only canceled contest as there was supposed to be a Cosplay Contest as well.  Again, there was only one entry in the Cosplay Contest, so this got the ax too.  Bethany then suggested that I show the OPV to everyone at the closing ceremonies.  Nathan Walker, Bethany’s husband, said the DJ who owned the projector had to leave right after the closing ceremonies, and they were getting a late start as it was.

The closing ceremonies consisted of giving away the badges signed by the artists to lucky people who bought a raffle ticket.  I didn’t buy a ticket so I didn’t win anything.  I regret this since I really would have liked to have won a badge from any of the Aither members, especially Konno Yuuka. The new mascot for next year’s Idol Matsuri was also selected.  This ended the first Idol Matsuri.

I reserved a bus ride from the hotel back to the airport for 5:20 a.m. Monday, and to my surprise RYUTist and their staff went on the same bus!  They sat in the back, and I would have loved to chat with them (through their translator), but they all seemed so tired so I didn’t say anything.  Of course this didn’t stop the bus driver from asking questions, all of which I answered.  I told the bus driver “ohayo” is “good morning” in Japanese.  He then said I could be the translator.  I had to inform him that I only knew about five words in Japanese!  He asked more questions which I thought the translator for RYUTist should answer, but she was half asleep.  I told him about the convention, who RYUTist were and how to pronounce their name.  He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment, RYUTist!  You can sing anytime.”  The girls cheered when they heard their name called, but didn’t sing.  After the long bus ride we got off at the airport.  I told RYUTist that I enjoyed their concert, but I’m not sure they understood me.  I saw them go one way to get their tickets and I went in the opposite direction.  I walked for a bit, then looked back.  I just needed one more glimpse.    

Idol Matsuri was the first convention of its kind in the United States, and a lot of fun for me personally.  As the “pilot convention” (Bethany’s words), it wasn’t 100% perfect.  Besides a mix up with documents by the hotel staff, there were other problems.  One of the projectors didn’t have sound, and another overheated.  Because of this, some of the video programming had to be canceled or shown at a different time than originally scheduled.   Events had to be relocated to another room and / or start at a later time.  Worst of all, Bethany overworked herself and went three days without sleep.  Of course, you can’t have something like Idol Matsuri without negative comments from people who obviously don’t have a clue as to how much hard work it took to make this convention happen.  I applaud Bethany and Nathan both for working their hardest to make everyone, including the idols and Western guests, as happy as possible.  They deserve nothing but praise for their efforts and everyone’s full support!  Although I am reluctant to try flying again, I might just put up with it next year to be a part of Idol Matsuri 2015.              

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Idol Matsuri & Me, Part 3

I didn’t eat much on Friday and I couldn’t sleep, so I woke up early on Saturday and got dressed.  I decided to go to the grocery and see if there was anything I could bring back to microwave so I could have a few meals.  It was a bit after 7 a.m. when I left my room and walked down the hall.  I thought no one would be in the hallway this early, but I was wrong.  Standing together and chatting softly at the end of the hall near the elevator was RYUTist!  I didn’t understand why they would be up this early or in the hallway of my floor (I was on the second floor and they were supposed to be staying on the third), but I walked by them and smiled and waved.  They smiled and waved back.  I waited for the elevator to come to the second floor, looked back to see them still chatting and then got into the elevator.

After eating I asked about setting up a table.  I had brought some idol and anime merchandise I wanted to sell or trade, but I didn’t have much.  I got permission to use an empty table and set my items on it with a sign saying what each item was and “make me an offer”.  Honestly, I just wanted to get rid of a few things.  I wasn’t in the mood to sit still, so I had some artist friends look after my things.  The handshake events for both Aither and RYUTist were going to happen at 11:30 a.m. and I couldn’t miss that.  I was walking in the hallway where the convention rooms were at and saw a line.  Melissa Shows of SHEawase told me that the Western guests Q & A was about to start.   Unfortunately it was happening roughly at the same time as the handshake event so I apologized to Melissa when I said I couldn’t attend.  She told me it was okay since she understood my priorities.

I had never been to a handshake event for an idol group before so I didn’t know what to expect.   RYUTist went first and I quickly found out what this was all about.  I got in line and came to Ikarashi Muu a.k.a. MuTang first.  She grabbed my hand with both of hers and didn’t let go for, I don’t know, 30 seconds maybe.  At least it felt like half a minute.  She kept saying “Thank you” over and over and all I could think of was to say “You’re welcome.”  And so it went with all four members of RYUTist.  I did manage to say things like “You’re very pretty” and “I like your singing”, which was translated by someone standing nearby.  When I came to Nonoko she said “Shy” in English.  I told her I was a shy person too.  Someone was filming the handshakes and I’m in the first 12 seconds of this short video.

Having been through the first handshake event I knew what to expect when it was Aither’s turn.   This time I had more to say to the girls since I was already a huge fan.  I kept saying to all four members that they were good singers and I loved their music.  It was nice to have them hold my hand for so long since all four of the Aither girls are very pretty to me and I don’t get to hold hands with a pretty girl that often.  When I came to Misaki I said to her that I was really looking forward to tonight’s concert.  She said something to me which the translator told me was, “I’m looking forward to giving the concert too.”  Silly me, I wanted to tell Misaki that I think she’s an excellent dancer, but I forgot.  I hope she knows how much I like her and her dancing.
I was getting hungry so I went to my room to eat.  I came back down to the convention to watch Ally Sally perform.  I was standing watching them for almost a half hour when suddenly I got tired.   I needed to sit down and I needed quiet so I left the concert.  I walked down the hall and sat in a chair for while just taking a breather.  Eventually I started to feel better and returned to room where the concert was, although Ally Sally were just finishing up.  I stayed to watch my friends from Facebook, Melissa and Tara, better known as SHEawase, perform.  I sat down instead of standing since I didn’t think standing for an hour would be a good idea.  I really enjoyed SHEawase’s concert, especially their original songs.

From time to time I would check my table of goods to see if anything had been sold, and I actually sold an anime DVD for $5.  I made a deal with my artist friend to give her a Mano Erina CD that she wanted if she would buy a SHEawase CD for me.  She agreed and bought their new single and we traded.  I bought the first SHEawase CD so I could have both to take home.  Just before the big back-to-back concerts that were going on that evening starting at 5 p.m., I decided to pick up my goods not sold and take them to my room.

RYUTist were the first to perform, and they sang a good collection of songs that I wasn’t familiar with.  The two songs I knew by the group were performed last.  I noticed that while the audience clapped and cheered it wasn’t until almost a half hour into their set that RYUTist got the fans pumped up with an energetic rock song.  After this song it was back to their normal music.  A couple times leader Sato Nonoko used a booklet with some English written in it to talk to the audience, and once the translator came on stage to translate what the girls said about the U.S.   My biggest complaint about RYUTist’s performance, though, was their dancing was stiff and robotic.  Rarely did I see the girls loosen up and act spontaneous.  It was if everything they said and did was programmed into their bodies.  I’m guessing hardcore fans didn’t care or maybe think I’m being harsh, but this was one idol group that seemed to be literally going through the motions. However, judge for yourself.  

Aither came on soon afterwards and boy did they get the crowd pumped up fast!  Aither’s performances always feature the girls dancing their hardest to make sure the audience is entertained, and you can see it in the sweat on their faces!  I mentioned during the handshake that “Summer Paradise” was my favorite Aither song and it was the second song they performed, to my pleasure.  The biggest problem with their live set was microphone trouble and, half way through, sound system problems.  The girls kept their spirits up and switched microphones from time to time giving the good mike to whoever needed to sing a verse.  During a short break to fix the sound issues hecklers in the audience were laughing and yelling out inappropriate remarks.  This annoyed me more than the sound issues.  Aither entertained the audience with a quick skit inspired by the movies THE TERMINATOR and TITANIC.  When Aither resumed singing and the sound problems finally ironed themselves out, their performance was amazing!  It was pretty clear to me that Aither was the main attraction at Idol Matsuri!  The audience yelled for an encore, which we got.  Then we surprised Aither’s boss, who goes by the name Boss, with the “Happy Birthday” song and a cake was brought on stage.  It was announced that Aither’s one year anniversary as a group was also around the same date.  As Steve Summers pointed out in Selective Hearing, this may have been the quickest debut to overseas appearance in Japanese idol music history!  When they were about to leave the stage I started yelling “Aither!  Aither!” over and over, which the audience soon joined in chanting.  I was not going to let the group leave the stage without them knowing somehow that I loved them and supported them, as I’m sure many of the people who were there do too.  (The video below is Chibineko's edit.  He removed some of the chanting of "Encore!" and a Tamaki Nami cover song.)  

After Aither’s concert they announced that they would be leaving early in the morning (3 a.m. from what I heard).  I immediately went over to Chibineko and told him, “Thank you very much for everything!”  He smiled and mumbled something to me, but it was clear that he was upset by the mike and sound system problems.  Aither had their cameraman set up for cheki photos and allowed any fans who hadn’t use their photo / cheki tickets to use them now.  A table was also set up to sell merchandise.  I stayed to watch others get photos, however I was running short on money and decided not to get another cheki.  I regret this decision now as I had more than enough money for the trip home.  During this photo session and throughout the weekend the members of Aither would sometimes wave at me.  I can’t remember who waved at me the most, but maybe it was Yuuka or Airi.  I always smiled (and probably blushed too) whenever they waved as I can’t resist a cute girl who shows an interest in me.  I am so happy that I got to see one of my favorite groups live.  For me it was much better to have seen Aither live with sound issues involved than to have never seen them live at all.    

While this would have made a great end to the day, it was not to be.  Allyson a.k.a. Serenyty had two back-to-back panels that evening, and I had promised her that I would help with both.  The first was “3B Junior”, followed by “Idol Blogging”.  Actually these panels were more loose and informal than I expected.  Only a few people showed up for the panels, which were more like a group of friends sitting around chatting about idols.  I chimed in and helped Allyson with info on Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku and Minichia Bears.  (These two groups and KAGAJO☆4S are my 3B Junior specialties.)  The “Idol Blogging” panel was a discussion on the blogs that Allyson and Steve write for as well as my own blog.  (Most of the others there didn’t have a blog.)  Steve asked me what the theme of my blog was and I told him that I’m trying to “wake up” people to the fact that there are a lot of interesting idol groups outside the mainstream that are just as awesome (or perhaps even more so) than those mainstream groups.  Many Japanese idol fans blog about the most popular idol groups only, and there are several blogs all about these groups that basically say the same things day after day.  I have opinions and interests that few others share, which makes my blog unique among idol blogs.  Much like the idol groups that I am supporting, I like to do things differently.

This was the last thing that I needed to do, so I was ready to hit the sheets soon after.  Sunday would be another interesting day for me as that was when my panel was scheduled!

To be continued….                                                          

Megumi And Sakura Leave Aither

While I was putting the finishing touches to my article "Idol Matsuri & Me, Part 3" I received some sad news about the very group that I traveled to Washington to see.  According to this post in Aither's blog both Megumi and Sakura are leaving Aither to focus on school.  I think the article says Megumi will perform for the final time today, July 2, and Sakura will perform for the final time on July 5.  This is very disappointing, especially since Yuuka has stated in recent interviews that she felt the five member version of Aither was the group's "final lineup".  Megumi is a very good singer and I warmed up to Sakura a lot more after seeing her in person.  I'm unsure whether Aither will continue as a trio like they were when the group first formed, or if they will add two new members again to become Aither-Five.  I was hoping member changes would not happen to Aither since this happened to Yuuka's and Airi's previous group, Party Rockets.  (Airi never performed or recorded with Party Rockets, although she was in two publicity photos before leaving due to illness.)

Whether as a trio or as a five member group, I still believe in Aither!  They are one of the best indie idol groups in Japan and have many unique qualities that keeps them head and shoulders above the crowd!