Saturday, November 29, 2014

St. Bonapro School Returns! - Sort Of

Faster than you can say "name change" the girls in St. Bonapro School have been reorganized as the group Si☆Stella.  The name Si☆Stella means "Sister Star", and there are four members: Sakurai Rico, Mafune Nono, Akai Sakura and Masuda Hina.  Rico and Nono were the heart and soul of St. Bonapro, so it's no surprise that they are a part of the new group.  Si☆Stella will make their live debut on December 21, 2014 and will perform twice, in a white version and a black version.  This means different costumes and different songs according to this tweet.  Speaking of Twitter, the old St. Bonapro School account is still being used as Si☆Stella's Twitter.  The name, url and banner are different, but you can still find old photos of St. Bonapro School if you still haven't looked at them.

Sakurai Rico, Leader - Born on May 3, 2002
Mafune Nono - Born on July 8, 2004
Akai Sakura - Born on November 20, 2004
Masuda Hina

Thanks to Anna for help with the info!  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Aither Disbands

After the controversial way Aither leader Konno Yuuka left in October it came as no surprise to me when I read the latest Aither blog article written by Misaki on November 27 that the group was breaking up.  Their final live performance will be on December 29, 2014.  This is very sad news for fans of the indie idol group who made Japanese pop history when they were the first idol group to have an overseas live (which I attended) in less than a year after their Japanese debut without the backing of a major label or anime tie-in.  When Yuuka left after claiming of being treated poorly by the management and not getting paid, many of Aither's fans stopped following the group.  My Japanese friend Chibineko Suwano, who was filming most of Aither's live performances and uploading them to YouTube, suddenly stopped this.  When Yuuka created her own personal Twitter account she gained over 1,000 followers in short time.  Meanwhile, very few fans seemed interested in filming Aither's live performances and sharing them on YouTube since the group had been reduced to a duo, with Tsujimura Airi handling most of the vocals while Misaki primarily danced.  Tellingly, there seem to be very few photos of Airi and Misaki together on Aither's blog or Twitter.  (The above photo was the most recent I could find, and I prefer photos without text or "touch-ups".)

Honestly, I am very sad about all of this.  I was the first to write about Aither in English last November and now I am reporting their disbanding one year later.  Aither could have been a great and successful idol group had all of the members been treated fairly and had the group stayed together.  Not many idol groups make Japanese pop history, even if it's in minor way, but Aither certainly did.  I really hope Yuuka, Airi and Misaki find much better management and form a new group.  All three girls are pretty special to me, and I thought it was really awesome meeting them at Idol Matsuri in June this year.  I wish them all the best because they really deserve it!                

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

12 Months Ago...

It was a year ago that I decided to start a new Japanese idol blog.  I have written a total of 59 articles in this blog so far, and there have been great and not-so-great moments spread throughout. I didn't want to title this article "The Year In Review" because I have some thoughts on Japanese idol music in the year 2014 that I will share with everyone next month.  Instead, I want to look back and reflect on what I have done in the past 12 months.  

My first article was titled "Idol Thoughts".  At the time I had no idea that there were other idol blogs that used the same title for their articles.  I wrote the first few articles in my "This Is Your Wake Up Call!" blog during the 14 month period when I did not have the internet, and therefore I could not know what had been written in fan blogs and what had not.  If you want me to be honest, I rarely pay attention to other idol fan blogs anyway.  Many of them are focused on popular mainstream idol groups with only a brief mention of smaller groups.

My second article was titled "Junior Idols".  I was told, incorrectly, by a Japanese idol fan that junior idols meant very young idol singers.  As it turned out, "junior idols" is the term for young gravure, or sexy / bikini, models.  I don't pay attention to this aspect of Japanese culture, although I will admit that I do know about it.  I am interested in traditional singers and models, not the more explicit forms of these types of entertainers.

"What Is Popularity?" was my next article, and originally it was a two part article.  I felt that it would be best to join them together at the time.  I regret this choice now.  I wish I had published it in two parts, or at least edited it a bit.

"Are You A Sakura Gakuin Fan?" was an article I wrote in response to the negativity unleashed by select fans of BABYMETAL, who showed no interest in their parent group, Sakura Gakuin.   BABYMETAL's popularity and their current status as a worldwide mainstream artist has certainly helped bring about a bigger awareness of Sakura Gakuin.  The downside to this is that there is still much focus on the three girls in BABYMETAL, Nakamoto Suzuka, Mizuno Yui and Kikuchi Moa, and very little focus on the other past and present members of Sakura Gakuin.  This is why I feel the need to show my support for the members who I think are special, including Miyoshi Ayaka, Sugimoto Mariri, Sato Hinata and Isono Rinon, despite what other fans may think.

"Why I Hate Tsunku" was the article that soon followed.  I voiced my complaints about the songwriter and producer of many Hello! Project songs based on what I could remember and with the sources of information at my disposal offline.  As it turned out, I made some errors in judgement about who made certain decisions for Hello! Project artists.  Someone informed me that people who work for Up Front Works are the decision makers and not Tsunku.  Still, I feel my complaints about the book he co-wrote are valid.  Perhaps if I had known more about Up Front I would have written a slightly different article, which I could have then titled "My Complaints About Tsunku And Up Front".

I've written profiles for some indie idol groups beginning with Aither last November.  Unfortunately it seems that any group I write about either breaks up or loses members.  Sometimes I feel that any group I choose to write about will be cursed simply because I am supporting them.  I do my best to have as much info about these groups as I can gather before publishing an article, but often I am missing pieces to the puzzle, so to speak.  I often wonder if there's any point in writing about these groups or if anyone besides me cares.

More recently I have written articles about the group Prism☆Box, informing my readers that their new single is titled "Glitter Way Down☆".  This was a bad translation on Google Translate's and my part.  Google actually said "Glitter Down Way☆" was the English translation, and I simply reversed the last two words.  The correct title is "Kiraki Runway☆", which I think translates as "Sparkling Runway☆" or perhaps "Glitter Runway☆".  Had I consulted with one of my bilingual friends first I could have saved myself some embarrassment.      

I haven't allowed comments on my current blog due to the history of my former blog, "I ♥ Miyoshi Ayaka's Idol Musings".  I wrote 138 articles in my former (now deleted) blog, and for the most part no one commented.  I recall only six occasions when people posted comments, and four times those comments were spam.  (One person gave me his name and email address, and asked me to email him.  I never did.)  Only two times did someone post a comment that related to the article I wrote.  The lesson I learned from this was most of the time people have absolutely nothing to say. When they do say something it rarely contributes to the conversation at hand.  Only on rare occasions does someone have something interesting to say that relates to the topic being discussed.  So, I've decided that for the first time in my current blog's history that I will allow comments.  I guess I'm ready for whatever my readers want to say to me.          

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seri Karen Makes Their Debut!

On February 16, 2014 Jewel Kiss members Kodama Serika and Ohashi Karen graduated from the group.  On October 5, 2014 they made their first live appearance as the duo Seri Karen.  Although both girls had their own Twitter accounts, the Seri Karen Info account was created on October 21 and their official blog was created on October 24.  While no single has been announced yet, they have manufactured t-shirts!  I am probably not the only fan who is pretty excited to see these girls sing again.  Here is a fan video titled "Sakura Thank You".

Kodama Serika (児玉迫香), born on June 26, 1996 
Ohashi Karen (大橋佳恋), born on April 17, 2000