Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Big ol' best of compendium of 2011!

The idol world was insane this year.  Tons of debuts, graduations, weird-ass PVs...it's a wonder we keep up with it all. I was going to make a bunch of separate lists of best-worst, but I think we can safely say that would take forever, especially throwing K-pop into the mix.  I'm going to give H!P a few of their own categories since they're still my main bias, but there is so much else to pay attention to that I can't in good conscience leave the rest out :P 


BEST DEBUT: PASSPO☆



This should come as no surprise to anyone.  PASSPO☆ accomplished what no other idol group as of yet has managed to do: debut at #1 on the Oricon charts.  Beyond that, their unique travel theme and fantastic sound set them apart from all the other new groups out there.  All the members are incredibly likeable--I just wish I had made an effort see more of their TV appearances this year.  Rest assured, this egregious oversight shall not be repeated in 2012!

RUNNER-UP: FAIRIES

FASTEST GROWTH SPURT: TOKYO GIRLS' STYLE


Judging by TGS' first three singles, one never would have seen the direction this group would take.  When "Kodou no Himitsu" came out, it was clear that the group had turned a complete 180 from the cute, innocent material they debuted with.  But the surprise wasn't the material itself, but the speed at which the group progressed into it.  One minute, they're waving around pompoms in cute little uniforms, the the next they're wiggling their bums into form-fitting sheaths.  As much as I love TGS and the direction they've taken musically, I'm not sure it's entirely appropriate for a 13-year-old to be sporting full eyeliner and black lipstick.


BEST COMEBACK: MORNING MUSUME


After the lackluster, unoriginal, graduation-tastic circus that was 2010, Morning Musume came back kicking ass in 2011 with three (and a half?) great singles, four and then eight new members, a new leader, and the cracked-out PV to end all cracked-out PVs (sorry, mophead beaver god, you're the purple salvia to Kare to Issho's LSD). On top of that, Aika got her first PB, Riho got a very age-appropriate PB debut, most of the 9th-gen members got great promotion, and 10th gen hit the ground running when they got thrown headfirst into "Busu ni Narenai Tetsugaku" promotion.  I can only hope that next year will be as great, and that somehow these horrid canary costumes will be justified with a stellar (by H!P standards) PV.

RUNNER-UP: BROWN-EYED GIRLS



BIGGEST FLOP: BERIKYUU



Ugh.  I love my former H!P Kids as much as the next person, but "Amazuppai Haru ni Sakura Saku" was ten shades of suck.  The PV was OK, and most of the girls got a chance to shine (for better or for worse) but the song was absolutely terrible.  This is the worst piece of crap H!P has put out in a very long time.  No, not every release needs to be some novel, exciting number, but this is as generic and boring as it gets.  This release was a huge disservice to the girls.  


BEST SOLO DEBUT: KIKKAWA YUU


This former H!P Egg and 8th-generation Momosu runner-up was stuck in the Eggs for almost five years, her awesomeness relegated to being stuck behind Koharu's squawking in Milky Way.  But this year was her year.  She broke out of the Eggs and out of Hello! Project this year to make her major debut under Universal Music Japan, and despite the tsunami setting her debut back a month and a half, she broke into the top 10 on Oricon with "Kikkake wa YOU!"  Kikka's not getting into Momosu and being placed in the Eggs was the best thing that ever happened to her.  She is a fantastic soloist, and I'm sure the rest of H!P would kill for the promotion she is getting.  I want to see her on Music Station at least twice next year, dammit!

RUNNER-UP: ITANO TOMOMI




BEST KOREAN DEBUT IN JAPAN: AFTER SCHOOL



I became a big (like, really big) fan of After School only this year, so I didn't expect to be blown away by yet another Korean idol group's debut in the Japanese market.  These girls have some serious talent, even if they are, for all intents and purposes, puppets of a truly nightmare-inducing industry.  "Bang!" was a really strong debut, "DIVA" was idoliscious, and the "Rambling Girls" PV looks and sounds great so far.  I'm happy that After School was so well received, and they seem to fit into the market well, strangely enough. Their first Japanese album is set to drop on March 7th.  I hope I can pick it up :D

RUNNER-UP: SECRET



WORST KOREAN DEBUT IN JAPAN: 2NE1


2NE1 has had a great year this year, to be fair.  All of their Korean releases were great and stylish as usual, but when they cookie-cuttered them into the Japanese market, it turned into a royal mess.  "I AM THE BEST" was not only a really horrible choice for a Japanese debut, conceptually speaking, but the sound that happens when you mix an untranslatable rap hook, random English and lazy Japanese translation is just, well...


RUNNERS-UP: 2PM, T-ARA


TOP 3 MOST WTF IDOL SHENANIGANS OF 2011

NMB48 "SCANDALS" AND FAN VOTING


So, three girls in NMB48 were suspended, most of them voluntarily for weird/stupid reasons, and Shimada Rena and Matsuda Shiori's suspensions were ended by fans' approval.  They got to freaking vote on whether or not the girls got to come back.  Just to be clear, they did jack squat that isn't normal for young women their age.  No drugs, no boozing (like Oba Mina confessed to), nothing like that.  So the agency left their fate largely up to middle aged men.  Wow, what a great way to empower girls.  Fucking really?

EGUCHI AIMI


Quite possibly the weirdest advertising ploy ever conceived.  A fake girl who happens to be perfect in every way, Glico, senbatsu single....good lord I am still baffled as to how this came about.  Even more baffled at the fact that people believed she was real.

AKBABY


Come on, I don't need to explain this one :P


RUNNERS-UP: UFZS/UP-UP GIRLS, TSUNTUBE TROLLS, THE GREAT HAIRCUT THREAT OF 2011, DREAM MORNING MUSUME


SADDEST GRADUATIONS:

HAYAMI AKARI


Incredible actress and singer, quirky eyebrows, basically the best thing to happen to Momoiro Clover.  But the girl couldn't deal with the fakeness of the idol world, particularly the theatrical girliness of Momoclo.  I lost most of my interest in Momoclo after Akari left.  Now I'm stuck staring at Reni's emaciated, willpowerless face.

OGAWA SAKI AND MAEDA YUUKA


The most popular member of S/mileage graduates in 3 days, and the best singer made like a tree in August, giving her very loyal fans only 4 days' notice of her departure.  As much as I'm sad and mad and trying to suppress all my nasty thoughts of "ragequit" in my head, I do miss them very much, especially Saki, who was my favorite member.  S/mileage definitely won't be the same without Yuuka.  For many fans, she was the foundation of S/mileage in the beginning because everyone recognized the adorable Egg from High-King with the unique voice and the endearing moles.  And now she's going.  It just sucks that two girls in the beginning of their promising idol careers peaced out so quickly.  I worry about S/mileage's fate now.

SAKUMA KAHO


I don't know much about PASSPO☆'s individual members, sadly, but the group's resident white-ish girl always stood out.  She was different, she was a great singer.  It will be strange not to see her in group photos anymore, but I wish her the best on her recovery and in her future.

TOP 3 SUB UNITS TO WATCH:

NOT YET


Some of the most entertaining and gorgeous girls in AKB were originally thrown together to promote a drama--but we had to know that they'd stick around, right?  I think the only thing that could make this unit more awesome would be naked jello wrestling

BABYMETAL


I'm a metalhead, I'm not going to lie.  But the best thing about this unit is not necessarily the metal theme--I think it's hilarious to see a bunch of genki girls grinning stupidly and bouncing around to some epic riffs.

MOBEKIMASU


So if you want to get really technical, this is less a sub-unit than a huge recombinant macromachine, but dammit, I think it counts!  The creation of this unit saw a lot of members get way more camera time than they usually get I loved Mobekimasu's release, though I do wish it had more members singing their own lines (and less Risako).  I hope they do something similar next year.

RUNNER-UP: WATARIROUKA HASHRITAI 7


MOST UNDERUSED GROUP MEMBER: FUKUMURA MIZUKI


Mizuki, the mama bird of the Kyuukies, isn't my favorite Momosu.  I'm not a huge fan of hers, but Tsunku, if you were looking for a strong singer, here's your girl.  As much as I adore Riho, and as much as she has improved since the auditions, I do not support her being the only pushed member of 9th generation.  Mizuki has always been the best singer of the bunch, even if she doesn't have a particularly distinctive voice.  I'm totally good with Erina and Kanon being chorus girls, because they shine in their own way.  Mizuki does not, but she deserves to.  Put this girl on main vocals, stat!


BIGGEST BADASS/BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD AWARD: AKIMOTO SAYAKA


My goddess is truly a goddess, and no one can convince me otherwise.  Not only does she have the chutzpah to lay the smackdown on wayward fans and not apologize for it, but she is to run the Tokyo Marathon once again to help the people of her mother's native Philippines--and get this--she decided to do it BEFORE the floods hit.  Not many celebrities can say they actually care about causes before huge disasters strike (Haiti telethon, anyone?).  Sayaka is such an amazing person, and even though she is an idol, she doesn't let the expectations of idol behavior affect who she really is.

TOP 3 SOLO PHOTOBOOKS:

MICHISHIGE SAYUMI: SAYUMINGLANDOLL


Don't let the font disaster on the cover fool you; Sayumi's 8th PB is quite possibly the best solo PB released by any H!P member ever.  And we have to give most of the credit to Sayumi herself for this.  She had a huge amount of creative control over this release, and it paid off.  This PB was HER magnum opus, not UFA's.

WATANABE MAYU: MAYUYU


Mayu is quite possibly the only AKB member who could pull this cover off.  She's strangely perfect, yet there's a little devil in her eyes that silences any critics.  The PB is awesome, and it deserved to sell as well as it did.

TAKAHASHI AI: AI AI AI


Ai-chan always releases great PBs, but this is by far her best.  She shot this entire PB in southern California, and the scenery there brings out as adventurous side of her that we may never have seen otherwise.  The entire PB is gorgeous, particularly the sunrise desert shots.  This is a must-have, regardless of whether you're an Ai fan or not.

RUNNERS-UP: ISHIKAWA RIKA "LUCKY," KANNA "ANO TOKI," NAKAJIMA SAKI "W SAKI"


TOP 3 IDOL ALBUMS:

MORNING MUSUME: 12, SMART


Morning Musume's latest effort blows their last two albums out of the water (not that it was hard...).  Tsunku took some time on this one, and gave all the members great songs to suit their voices while weaving in lots of great little tributes to Takahashi Ai.  This album was great fun to listen to, and is their best release since Platinum 9 Disc.

IDOLING!!!: SISTERS


Idoling!!! consistently puts out great albums.  I have never been disappointed with any of their releases, and this was no exception.  Their music has always been more nuanced and complex than many more idol groups I've listened to.  SISTERS was my absolute favorite idol album this year, and I hope this group can keep going strong after Fonchi and Erika graduate.  I will definitely make more of an effort to follow them this coming year.

SAKURA GAKUIN: MESSAGE


Sakura Gakuin is such an awesome group.  They only released one single this year, which was awesome, but their major debut, "message," introduced idol lovers everywhere not only to the awesomeness of Sakura Gakuin as a whole, but to their fun and unique sub-units.  Even though this group is new, they already understand the idea of keeping things fresh.

RUNNERS-UP: PASSPO, "CHECK-IN"; AFTER SCHOOL, "VIRGIN"


WORST IDOL ALBUM: AKB48 KOKO NI ITA KOTO


I was so excited for this release.  Before its June release, I had finished watching the stages and getting more familiar with all the members, and I felt like I saw how awesome AKB really could be.  And then this album, with it's gorgeous photobook and shiny box hit shelves.  And it was a piece of shit.  This album only exists because AKB is a cash cow, and everyone knows it.  The album is horribly arranged, and some of the non-single songs have already appeared somewhere else.  The new album tracks are crap...this whole thing is crap, and I'm really questioning my reasons for keeping it.


TOP 3 H!P PVs

S/MILEAGE: PLEASE MINISKIRT POST WOMAN



S/mileage finishes off their tough and busy second year with a stellar PV, and a stellar single to boot.  This is a great send-off for Yuuka, and I love that she gets the last line in the song

S/MILEAGE: KOI NI BOOING BOO!



Not my favorite release this year, for sure.  But the PV is crazy fun, and shows what you can really do on a budget without a bunch of cheap and crazy computer effects.

MORNING MUSUME: KARE TO ISSHO NI OMISE GA SHITAI



Crazy Kanon angels?  Aika lines?  Sayu leads?  Floating heads?  Sign me up, bitches!


TOP 3 ---48 PVs:

NOT YET: PERA PERA PERAO


Not Yet's PVs since Shuumatsu Not Yet have been the best of the subunits by far.  The cafe/comic concept for this was creative and cute, and I always love it when they involve outside people.

SKE48: BANZAI VENUS


The fact that people are so enthusiastic to be in SKE48's PVs is a really great sign for them.  The crazy crowds make it that much more fun, and makes a really genki song that much more believeable.  You know what I think?  I think SKE48 will dethrone AKB eventually.  And I'm totally rooting for them.

AKB48 UNDERGIRLS: VAMOS


Vamos wasn't a great song, but the PV was fantastic.  I can't help but love PVs with a great story and a lot going on, and this one fits that bill.


TOP 5 IDOL PVS:

MOMOIRO CLOVER: MIRAI BOWL



How could this not be on the list?  This song and PV are freaking genius, theartrical fun...just perfect!  This was Akari's last PV, and she went out in style playing the part of Danny.  However, Momoka also shone as a street urchin (I think she was quite possibly born to do that :P), and oh my god, Reni does make a good bad guy.

SEA☆A : DELI DELI DELICIOUS



I love this group so much.  They are so damn much fun, and they're from Indonesia! (Yeah, there's some super deep obsevations for ya...)  Their debut PV was good, but Deli Deli Delicious topped it.  This PV is adorable without being overly crazy

TOKYO GIRL'S STYLE: KODOU NO HIMITSU



The concept for this PV is so interesting and gorgeous.  TGS made a statement with this PV, which they have not done before or since, and it works so well.

HAPPINESS: WISH



Now THIS is how to do a dance PV!

KYARY PAMYU PAMYU: PON PON PON!



Weirdness and eyeballs and eyelashes, oh my.

RUNNERS-UP: BUMP.Y, "KISS!"; MOMOIRO CLOVER, "D' NO JUNJOU," IDOLING!!!, "YARAKAI HEART."

TOP 6 K-POP SINGLES:

KARA: STEP



After tons of cutesy Japanese releases, KARA returns to Korea and puts out this stellar, colorful, danceable single and rocks the house.  I would love to see a Japanese version, even though I'm nervous.

IU: YOU AND I



I haven't paid too much attention to IU since "Marshmallow," but this song grabbed me by the curlies and threw me on the IU bandwagon.  Those legs, man.  Those legs.

AFTER SCHOOL: SHAMPOO



BROWN EYED GIRLS: SIXTH SENSE



Sing it, ladies!

RANIA: DR. FEEL GOOD



Sexy and catchy.

2NE1: UGLY



Yep, they went there.  Don't stop doing what you're doing, girlies.  Stay brave and stay awesome.

RUNNERS-UP: MISS A, "GOODBYE BABY"; F(X), "HOT SUMMER"; KAN MI YOUN, "PAPARAZZI"; SUPER JUNIOR, "A-CHA"; HYUNA, "BUBBLE POP."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ok, Buono is bueno again.

The PV for Deep Mind, Buono!'s second a-side (or first?  Ah, whatevs...) was released today.  It has almost completely redeemed the mediocre Hatsukoi Cider mess for me.

I'm so glad they went with the darker image colors for this PV.  It suits the girls and the song very well.  I will admit, though, I've always preferred Buono!'s less upbeat songs because it shows a very mature side of them.  And, Miyabi's haircut, you guys.  Srsly.  Anyone else think she looks sexy as hell?

Anyway, watch, drool, love.  And go watch Gommenasai even though it's probably going to be really bad :P




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Kago Ai's pregnancy and gender studies: No, feminism isn't dead, actually.

Feminist rant time?  Oh yes please!  Don't agree?  Too bad, you're here. so deal with it.  Oh, and there's totally sex here.

Yesterday, Kago Ai shocked fucking EVERYONE when she announced that not only was she married, but she is pregnant as well.  This announcement comes three short months after her suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization, her former boyfriend's incarceration, in the middle of her ongoing legal struggles with her former agency, and god only knows what else.

As a member of Morning Musume, Kago was hugely popular.  And even with her fall from grace in 2006, she still has many supportive fans, even though the "innocent girl they fell in love with" is no more.  But for the horde of critical, moralistic jackasses out there, the loss of that innocence is STILL an issue.  This bullshit has caused people who once supported her as an idol to turn a complete 180 and say some of the most horrible things I've ever seen on the internet.  Boy oh boy is that saying something.

This is not going to be about whether I personally support Kago's pregnancy or marriage.  This is about supporting her as a woman, and as a person who is still working to change her life, no matter if we think it works or not.  And, since we all know how much I love ripping comments apart, that's exactly what I'm going to do. These comments are not critical of not just Kago's decisions, but also the decisions of women in general.  There are many ways to be critical of situations like this, and far too many of them do far more harm than good.  I have found that most, if not all negatively critical comments/commenters fall into four archetypal categories which say a lot about how not just Aibon, but how all women are still viewed.

1) The "Biologist"

The "biologist" must be kept in quotes because it is a sad, sad joke.  Those who fit the "biologist" archetype focus on two, and only two, things, both of which are equally short-sighted: 1) anatomical and hormonal differences between men and women (real or perceived), and 2) the reproductive capabilities of men and women (ya know, penises and vaginas and all that jazz).

In the hormones corner, we have:

"having children when you're severely depressed isn't a way to find happiness." (sic)

This is a very tragically common statement in any discussion of differences between men and women: "women are more emotional than men, therefore women are less capable of doing x or making decision x."  First of all, let's clear something up here: that "more emotional" thing is complete and utter bullshit.  For a really horrible and stereotypical example: after a breakup, a woman may make the emotional decision to eat ice cream and watch a crappy movie, while a man may go out to a bar, get trashed, get into a bar fight and spend a night in the hospital.  (Trust me, that crap happens all the time down here)  These scenarios are incredibly Hollywood-style stereotypes, but be that as it may,  tell me which response is more emotional.

If you answered with the woman's response, you really need to re-examine your thinking, because the correct answer was none of the above.  Neither person spent any time thinking rationally about how they were to cope with this life change.  One gains 5 pounds, one ends up in the hospital.  Lose-lose situation all around here.

The statement above, when broken down, actually says that if a woman is unhappy and seeking happiness, then they should not have a child because that will actually make them be miserable, and because they are miserable (read: having an emotion), they will be an unfit parent.

Happiness is not guaranteed in having a child, but it is also not impossible to achieve.  But this is where the "depressed" part of the comment comes in.  I give the commenter props for using the word correctly because Kago really does exhibit many key signs of dysthymia.  Dysthymia is an imbalance I know all too well.  I was diagnosed at 17, though I have most likely lived with it since I was about 8 years old.  Dysthymia is not major depression, which often has highs and lows--rather, it is constant, low-grade depression.  We don't hear about it much because it isn't an "exciting" condition.  It's just annoying.  But unlike most major depression, dysthymia does not need medication.  It is easily treated with diet, exercise, and good old friends and family.  Depression, thanks to medicine and common sense, does not in any way preclude most people from being good parents.

All of society has taught us for the past two-three hundred years (since marriage stopped being mostly for political gain) that children bring joy.  Period.  We are constantly bombarded with that message here in the States, and Japan's low birthrate has made this message much more prominent in the media over there.  So, despite the reality that having children means that one or two people must constantly put a helpless being's life before their own to the point of exhaustion, people have children anyway because we are taught that it brings happiness.  If that is what people are taught to want, they will seek it out. Women are not controlled by some emotional/hormonal puppetmaster which forces us to have children.  The desire to have or not to have children is completely social.

In the reproductive corner, we have this gem:

Contrary to what they may have told you in Women's Studies*, 23 is a perfectly good and normal age to have a child.
*We'll discuss this later.

At 23, Kago is a fully grown woman, and fully physically capable of having a child.  Women's skeletons are most ready to bear children around age 20, which is when the pelvis has expanded fully.  Children born to women under the age of 24 also have the lowest chance of being born with birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities, which makes Kago's age a very advantageous factor for her future little one.

However, the biological facts are not the point of waiting to have children, and have absolutely no place in this argument unless the young woman having the child is obscenely rich and has a supportive family.  Children born to young parents have a much higher chance of living in poverty, of not graduating from high school, and living in poverty as adults.  Young women are often also not financially stable, nor do they have stable partners to support their children.  At 23, most people have not found a decent-paying job (especially now), and have not finished their education. Kago is faced with another challenge beyond these, though: she is high-profile. All societies seem to have developed a bloodlust for high-profile people.  We love to tear them down, criticize them, praise them, whatever, without actually knowing the human being.  Kago is just a normal person like the rest of us, but the media couldn't care less.  They are after money, and nothing more. And why do they do this?

Because we allow them to do it, and we encourage them to do it for our entertainment.  It's our fault.

To end on a positive note, there is nothing that says being a young family is an absolute guarantee for failure.  I married my partner 5 and a half years ago when I was 19.  And last time I checked, we are still kicking ass.  We are still child-free, but we won't be forever.  (And dude, check out how well Tsuji Nozomi is doing!!)

2) The Essentialist

The essentialist is a lot like the "biologist," but far less logical, and generally far less educated in their argument.  Essentialism, in gender studies (or any social science) refers to the idea that there is an underlying, inborn and immutable "essence" in people that helps define not only individuals, but communities--communities being defined as any observable group of people, e.g. ethnic, gender, religious, weight, height, age, occupation, etc..  In other words, "women do x because they are women."

Essentialists are burdened with two huge problems: stereotyping and circular logic.  And we all know how the intertubes love circular logic.

"Of course it's the woman's responsibility, unless birth control didn't work (unlikely but possible). Who else could be responsible? God?
...The woman makes the final decision and has the final responsibility. So it's now misogynist to assert that women are responsible for themselves?"

Basically, what's going on here is that the essentialist is placing all of the "blame" of Kago's pregnancy on Kago.  The reason this falls into the essentialist archetype rather than the biologist is because this comment exhibits one major thing our societies have taught about women from time immemorial: "Women are the keepers of the home and the carriers of children, and this is to be their primary role."

No matter how progressive we are when it comes to ideas about gender, we cannot escape this statement.  Go into the toy aisles at Walmart and check out what we still believe to be "girl" and "boy" toys.  Girls get play kitchen stuff, baby dolls (complete with fake shit that don't stink!!), and little wedding dress costumes.  If boys play with that stuff, they get called fags and pussies because taking that role is seen as being somehow BELOW them.  Why?  Well, because girls are girls and boys are boys!  Like, duh!

Girls get bombarded with the narrow choices of wife/mother or caretaker from the second they are born.  Sure, if they expand their horizons and play with trucks and shit, it's "cute."  After all, it's just a dream that they will be anything more.  This is the idea we have been taught, and this needs to change.

It takes two to tango, it takes two to have a child, it takes two OR MORE to raise a family, it takes two to assume "final" responsibilities, it takes a whole world to teach.  Women are not the final decision makers when it comes to having a child and starting a family just because they are women.  Dear baby jeebus, it doesn't make a lick of fucking sense to think so.

Oh, actually, there is a word for what happens when only one person in a partnership decides to make a child:

rape.

3) The Misogynist

Pretty obvious: this is a person who just doesn't like women.  Maybe they have mommy issues.  Maybe they just had one too many shitty girlfriends.  Maybe they've been raised around too many essentialist/"biologist" men.  Or maybe they're just unfixable, borderline abusive fuckwads.  And yes, women can be misogynists too.  Hell, we're raised to be!

"Haha, what's with these celebrities that suddenly declare that they're getting married because they spread their legs at the wrong time?"

"23 year old mom? wow, what a bitch :/"

"I am shocked too, people like her shouldn't be allowed to have children"

"omg. that poor baby, to have such a talentless mother."

"Attention whooooore. -.-;;"

When young men become fathers, they're suddenly viewed as more responsible and dutiful.  But when young women become mothers, they just spread their legs too wide.

When stupid, spoiled people like Khloe Kardashian or Jamie Lynn Spears had children, everyone ooh'd and aah'd.  Yet when someone who is educated, well-spoken, intelligent, driven and talented, but has had a few well-known problems (like Kago), we call her a bitch and an idiot.

When stupid 12 year olds get on the internet and use their newly learned bad word, and we let them get away with is, they'll keep on keepin' on.

This is what she gets to put up with for sharing a huge piece of news in her life?  No woman deserves this unless she's Octomom or Kate Gosselin.

4) That person who thinks they know what "women's studies" and "feminism" are.


"Feminism is on its way out; it can only function in a wealthy and stable society, but since it decreases the wealth and stability of any society it infects, it inevitably destroys itself."
Look up maternal mortality, domestic violence, female infanticide, female foeticide, Saudi Arabia, infant mortality, and the constitutions we helped write for Germany and Japan and how they are more egalitarian than ours.  Then try looking me in the eye and with a straight face tell me that life is flourishing in places where women and girls are not equals.  And I'll tell you to go eat razor wire, pass it out the other end and floss yourself to death.

I love picking fights with these morons (oh god, oh god what have I done?!).  No, they almost never wise up, but it's still fun.  Thankfully, this archetype is the one which won't be around much longer because the rest of us keep proving them wrong.  Speaking of proving them wrong: as someone who happens to hold a B.A. (which will be a Ph.D in the future) in gender and women's studies, I would like to give out a few choice morsels for thought:

Gender: The socially constructed entities which guide people of certain sexes toward specific matrices of behavior.
Sex:   a) What's in your pants/behind your nipples
          b) Fun
          c) Rockin'
          d) Dirrrrty
          e) Fabooshka
Slut: A sexually adventurous, secure and awesomely fabulous lady. You, yes you, should try one today!
Slut-shaming: Making derisive comments toward, or harboring negative ideas about, women who happen to have sex because it's fun and PEOPLE HAVE SEX.
Social justice: the creation and existence of laws and social rules or ideas which uphold equality, opportunity and dignity for ALL PEOPLE (see? It's not just women...)
Glass ceiling: the sexist attitude many women run into at the workplace, which affects wages, promotion/mobility, creative control, and privileged, unmarked men's sense of superiority.
Unmarked group: A social group which, because of forces rooted in essentialist ideas, racism, sexism, ageism, and historical presence, carries no label. (e.g. your white, middle-aged male boss who wears bad ties and argyle sweaters is not "the white guy at work," he is just "the guy who wears bad ties and argyle sweaters;" whereas your boss who is of Arabic descent who wears bad ties and argyle sweaters is "that one Muslim guy who wears bad ties and argyle sweaters.")
Patriarchy: lit.: "the rule of fathers." Refers to the primarily male construction of all social entities and institutions, and the disadvantages that presents for any person who is not a male of the dominant culture. (Read: the subaltern persons CAN BE MALE).
Madonna/whore dichotomy: The idea that all women are either yet both evil and pure, and are useful only as wives or sex objects.
Family planning: The process by which partners discuss and decide when and by what means they will create a household and raise children.
Natural family planning: A form of birth non-control.  Much like pulling out, it doesn't work.
Feminism: a) An activist philosophy which teaches how to think about equality and how to demonstrate, lobby and work for social change.  Feminism seeks to exact social change and work for equality of all people, regardless of ethnicity, sex, gender, creed, occupation, marital status, disability...I could go on.
                   b) Not evil.
                   c) Not women-exclusive
                   d) Not bra-burning baby killers.
Feminists:  a) Anyone, anytime, anywhere.
                   b) Fabulous
Misogynists: Gauche.


No matter what decisions Aibon (or ANY woman) has made in the past, they have nothing to do with her family news, and nothing to do with the kind of person she truly is.  I'm sick to death of people passing down huge, sweeping judgments on women for their family choices, whether they're Michelle Duggar, Angelina Jolie or Jillian Michaels.  It doesn't matter, it has nothing to do with you.  It's HER choice, often with the help of a partner.

No one is perfect, not even your favorite idols.  So why the hell do we expect them to be?  This is a moment in my idol fandom when I have to sit back for a minute and question my entire reasoning for being an idol fan.  Not because of the fans, but because of how the idol industry itself reinforces the idea of women as second-class citizens and objects of lust and beauty over and over again from a young age.  Female idols are prohibited from love, sex and any other impropriety so they can be parked on their doll stands and put on display for men to fantasize about.

Let's see, will she be your wife?...


...your housekeeper?...


...your cute fantasy?...


...your sexy fantasy?...


...or, oh I don't know...YOUR FUCKING BABY MAMA?!?!




Any way you work it, most idols are on display to be these things and nothing more.  Yet I myself love watching them and feed money into an industry in which young women are constantly watched and molded into whatever most men want.  They aren't even free when they graduate, as Aibon quickly found out.

In this beautifully imperfect world, every person should have chances to thrive and flourish, to make mistakes and fix mistakes, to love, be loved, fall out of love whether they're male or female, young or old, pregnant or not.  And very few of us, Aibon included, would have these chances if it weren't for feminism and gender studies.  Aibon is barely hanging on as it is, and we need to support her instead of making derpy comments and passing huge judgments.  I shudder to think how people treat those in their own lives if they are saying such cruel, misogynistic things about a young woman in Japan whom they don't even know.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Buono! not quite so bueno...


...but not as malo as it could have been, I guess.  (EAT MAH SPANGLISH!)

I'm always pretty stoked for Buono! releases.  They've been some of the best stuff to come out of H!P since the group's inception.  It seems, though, that since they left Pony Canyon, stuff is going downhill.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't think they've put out a truly bad release since their comeback, but nothing has been really stellar, either.

Hatsukoi Cider is no exception, sadly, though I do believe it is their best a-side release under the zetima label.

THE MUSIC:

(Sure she looks great, but...)

The opening is really promising--I'm a sucker for deceptively slow openings before the epic rocking out begins.  However, Airi's voice completely ruined it for me.  I'm normally a big fan of her voice, but she completely Risako'd this one.  Where she could have sounded powerful and gorgeous, she sounds shouty and loud.  There is a fine line between those two, and she kind of blew it this time.

I thought she would improve as the song went on, but all of her solo lines seem to have the same Blast-O-Matic 2000 quality to them.

Momoko sounds pretty solid throughout, but I do think the bridge-ish part (2:45) should have been given to Miyabi.  This song just seems like it was written for Miyabi's voice.  Momo and too many high notes don't mix well.  Though I still think she did it better than Airi would have.

It's not all negative from my seat, though!  There was one aspect of the music that blew me away, and that was the harmony.  The girls always do exceptionally well with this, but I just loved it this time.  Airi honestly sounded better doing harmony than her solo parts, so maybe that's what sold me in the end, but still, it's damn good.

The song itself does sound pretty good.  It's got that Buono! vibe that we all miss.  But as far as how rockin' it is, there's a little too much folksy-ness in the instrumental.  Not quite Jimmy Buffett level, but there's just enough there to make me wonder how many margaritas the band had before recording.

THE PV:


While the PV reeks of that low-budget laziness UFA is famous for, it's done well.  The camera work, the pink outfits and fun effects saved it.  Although I do have to question the wisdom of putting Miyabi in highwaters...

(However, I can totally and completely support the gauged-lobe looking earrings.)

It was nice to see what looks like the original band back in action (you know, instead of a bunch of white guys pretending to play instruments).  I always enjoy seeing them because they are half of what is so great about Buono! to begin with.  No one else in H!P gets a freaking band, much less real instrumentals (OHEMGEE).

Overall, though I was less than impressed with this release, I can't say I hate it.  It was considerably better than Juicy He@rt.  But I'm still waiting for another Renai Rider or Rottara Rottara to happen.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mobekimasu sorting!

I've never played a ranker before, so I decided to try it! I was surprised by some results, but not as much by others.

1. Michishige Sayumi
2. Kumai Yurina
3. Nakajima Saki
4. Sudo Maasa
5. Okai Chisato
6. Suzuki Kanon
7. Tanaka Reina
8. Fukuda Kanon
9. Tokunaga Chinami
10. Yajima Maimi
11. Hagiwara Mai
12. Suzuki Airi
13. Mitsui Aika
14. Tamura Meimi
15. Ishida Ayumi
16. Ikuta Erina
17. Nakanishi Kana
18. Wada Ayaka
19. Sayashi Riho
20. Shimizu Saki
21. Tsugunaga Momoko
22. Satou Masaki
23. Maeda Yuuka
24. Takeuchi Akari
25. Mano Erina
26. Sugaya Risako
27. Katsuta Rina
28. Natsuyaki Miyabi
29. Niigaki Risa
30. Iikubo Haruna
31. Fukumura Mizuki
32. Kudo Haruka



My top three is a no-brainer at this point.  Those three have been very consistent this year.  I am amazed, though, at how high Reina has gotten in my ranks.  I'm not surprised, though--I've really come to like her this year.  Like, a lot.  She's going from being one of my least to one of my most, as has Maimai.

Manoeri, while never being one of my favorites, has moved up quite a bit this year--more, I think, than the ranker shows.  I'm far more interested in her than I ever have been, and I hope this interest continues.  I really want a new soloist in H!P to come in and keep her on her toes, though.

I feel like Kana should be higher, and I'm glad Aika stayed as high as she did this year.  2011 has not been her year, but I hope next year can be better for her.  Miya is at the bottom for me this year.  I like her enough, but she's not really piqued my interest this year, like Niigaki (my former perpetual least favorite Momusu) has.  I'd bump Gaki a bit higher, above Rina and Akari (sorry girls), actually.

Go here to play!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top ---48 family songs and units of 2011!

This is my first year of being an honest-to-god 48-family fan.  I loved River back when it came out, I became an SKE fan after "Aozora Kataomoi" and I sort of paid attention to AKB48 up until Beginner came out, when I started making a real attempt to learn about them.  I don't have enough time to watch all of the material the 48s are in, or enough energy to yell at the H!P haters among 48 fans, so I've paid less attention to things like b-sides than I'd like.  But I love watching the sub units and soloists (yes, even Acchan).  It makes being a 48 fan much more manageable.

Even though I don't have anything really profound to say about most of these songs, these are my tips of the hat and wags of the finger to the 48 family for 2011.  Noob style!  (Also known as the don't be a hater, OH PREEZE! style <3 )

TOP ---48 SONGS OF 2011


#10: Kaze wa Fuiteiru: AKB48

This song is really nice to listen to, the PV is messed up beyond all reason (in a totally awesome way), the message is great, the dance is intense, the cause the profits went to is great...it's just great.
#9: Candle no Shin: Kashiwagi Yuki and Kuramochi Asuka

I really enjoyed this entire single--so much so that I bought 2 copies!!  The release of Saisho no Mail single-handedly (hehehe...I'm so clever) made French Kiss my favorite sub unit (sorry, Not Yet, I still love you!).  But Candle no Shin was my favorite track by far.  It really showcased Asuka's vocal abilities, which catapulted her into my top 10 list.  The instrumental is really well-rounded as well.










#8: Sakura ki ni Narou: AKB48

This sakura ballad was just gorgeous, and the PV was incredible.  This was the first (and to date, um, only--I'm poor, dammit!) AKB48 single I've bought brand new, and I guess that's partly what gives it a special place in mah hearts.

#7: Shuumatsu Not yet: Not yet

My favorite Not Yet release by far.  The PV wasn't great, but I love the song to this day.  It showcases the fact that AKB48 knows how to mix it up, and mix it up well.

Oh, and Kitarie's lusciousness.











#6: Sakkaku: no3b

This entire single was also fantastic.  But Sakkaku is just the best.  Say what you will about the autotune effects.  I personally couldn't give two shits and a fuck if I tried.












#5: Hetappi Wink: Watarirouka Hashritai 7

I wish I could have bought every single edition of this single.  I really do.  I enjoyed most of its b-sides, the PV was brilliant, and the outfits are to die for.  I never thought I would love love love such a cutesy song, or Mayuyu, but it all won me over from the second I heard it.

Still cracks me up that they did a song for Shin-chan.  Good god, that show made ME blush.








#4: Zetsumetsu Kurokami Shoujo: NMB48

This has to be on the list.  It's a catchy song, and the girls blew away the charts with it.  I didn't want to get into NMB, but damn it all.  The choreography is the best part of the song, in my opinion.  It's very ethnic and very much a showstopper.












#3: Kore Kara Wonderland: AKB48

Oh the disconess.  I hated this song at first, but it grew on me like mold in a dorm sink.  I'll bet it's the rainbows...







#2: Rinjin wa Kizutsukanai: Team A AKB48

Once again, Team A got the brilliant B-side for the janken song.  I still think Kurumi to Dialogue was better, but this comes damn close.  This song was everything fans hoped Kaze wa Fuiteiru would be.











#1: Okie Dokie: SKE48

Absolutely the best 48 family release this year.  SKE48s genki songs and penchant for including fans and lots of other members in their PVs was what really made me love them in the first place.  The choreography is so energetic, and the song isn't as predictable as their previous release (more on that later).  I just love it.  I do wish they would have more than 3 senbatsu members, though.










5 WORST ---48 SONGS:


#5: Valentine Kiss: Watarirouka Hashritai 7

This song is just plain annoying.  The original was better.  Nothing remarkable.















#4: Ue Kara Mariko: AKB48

Le snoozefest.  I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything spectacular--the last janken single wasn't that great either, but I had hoped.  It sounds like any other generic AKB b-side I've ever skipped over.  On the plus side, the lyrics are pretty funny.










#3: Oh My God!: NMB48

I don't even remember this song. That's how bad it was.  That and the soap-opera film speed used in the PV was annoying.  I'm kind of bummed that a group that got off to such a stellar start had such a lackluster second release.












#2: Flying Get: AKB48

I could go off on this piece of crap all day.  I really could.  Such a self-indulgent, arrogant, lazy, capitalist (oopsy, did I say that out loud?), entitled piece of shit this was.  The only reason I own a copy is because I really like "Ice no Kuchizuke."  And the song itself isn't all that bad, I guess.  It is fun to listen to.  Which is why it was not my #1.











#1: Pareo wa Emerald: SKE48

This single was such a disappoinment.  It was shaping up to be a fun summer song, but then we learned it tried to be Ponytail to Shushu and failed miserably.  Seriously, the chord progression and melody is waaaaaaay too similar.  And that bugs the crap out of me.  The covers were great, the song was utter crap.  I am really bummed out by this release.










Top sub-unit: Not Yet



Not Yet is the greatest thing to happen to the idol world since Passpo.  They are so much fun to watch in their making of videos, particularly their most recent one where Sasshi was all surprised that the little white kid spoke fluent Japanese.  The girls all have great chemistry, and their sales are fantastic for a new sub-unit.  Out of all the sub-units, they seem to be the most "out-and-doing-it" bunch.