Thursday, December 31, 2015

Awards and commemorations compendium of 2015

It's been TWO DAMN YEARS since I did one of these things. But I'm so excited to have the time and space to write again, and to know so many more amazing people in the idol fan community that I couldn't keep the awesome to mahself no mo'.

2015 has been another amazing year to be an idol fan, but it hasn't been...without....its...

So, without further ado, here we go!

Painful Losses:

Sakurai Takamasa 

On December 4th, we lost a giant, a pioneer, a champion. It is hard to imagine a greater figure in the world of Japanese cultural exchange than Sakurai Takamasa. Sakurai helped international fans understand anime and the genre of anime music (anison). His columns beautifully blended a modern interpretation of pop culture with Japanese history. His work is one of the reasons anime is no longer such a niche market. RIP, Sakurai-san.


The brains behind perhaps the most famous Megurine Luka song to ever happen (Eurobeat-flavored "Luka Luka Night Fever"), passed away on September 24th. Not much is known about what happened, but I was very sad to hear the news. This song was my gateway to the world of Vocaloid and Nico Nico dancers like Aikawa Kozue. Other notable samfree releases include "Lily Lily★Burning Night" and "Euthanasia" (Hatsune Miku). samfree's last release was the incredible "Mind Voice," featuring IA.

Tragic Déjà vu award: 

Of course, I decided I had to include this TWO DAYS before Ayano left. Two. Days.

I confess: this is more of a joke than anything else, as it doesn't seem like their "color of tears" will be ~on the way~ anytime too soon (BAHAHAHAAAAAaaaaaaa *sniffle*). I just could not help but see a parallel--though in reality, I think TGS has at least a couple years left in them. Their break from the idol identity is the best thing to happen to them in a while, and Mei and Miyu are proving themselves to be quite the budding lyricists.

...On that note, would an Aya + Ayano duo not be something amazing?

Best H!P single : ANGERME ("Desugita Kui wa Utarenai / Dondengaeshi / Watashi")

While 2015 was a pretty boss year for single releases (save C-ute's last one...), ANGERME's offerings were consistently incredible. Maybe this is the new members + name-colored glasses talking, but eh. "Dondengaeshi" was awesomely complex and perfectly mixed, and Fukuda Kanon's curtain call "Watashi" was a whole new innovation for H!P: a song written by an active idol. It wasn't my favorite thing ever, but she did a great job on everything. She's going to have a lot of success in the future, and her contribution to this release proved just that.

Out of these A-sides, "Desugita" was definitely the weakest, though it was still a great song. If they attempt to break into the metal side of things again though, I'ma need me a sugared-up and throat-screaming Rikako jumping around on set. Just sayin'.

Runner-up: C-ute "The Middle Management ~Josei Chuukan Kanrishoku~ / Gamusha LIFE / Tsugi no Kado wo Magare"

Best little group single (TIE): Chubbiness "Motto, HOT ga motto!" / Linda Sansei "Ruby Monogatari"

FOREVER CRYING about the fact that Chubbiness has not had a physical release yet. These girls are so talented, and Kotomi is one of the most charismatic and funny idols out there. This single was silly fun despite the "I want to eat all of the things" motif that Avex seems to love so much for them. Their acting is also top-notch, and they never ran out of energy. Not once.

My forever non-H!P bias girls only had one MV release this year, but it is a good one. And not in the charmingly bad way their first couple of singles were. Their dancing still needs work, but their vocals are improving a lot (especially Mutsumi), and they seem more at home in front of a camera. The PV is stupid adorable, and it looks like it costed more than 5 bucks. I hope they release more soon. They've been a very entertaining underdog project to watch.

Honorable mention: Sunmyu "Toge Toge"

Most mind-blowing collaboration award: Momoiro Clover Z + KISS "Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemita" 


Honorable mention: Sak Noel+FEMM + FAKY "No Boyfriend", proving that FEMM's kayfabe game is stronger than yours.

Most impactful graduation of 2015: Berryz Koubou

Unpopular opinion time: I was not sad when BK graduated. Nostalgic and proud, yes. Sad? NOOOOOOOPE. It's not that I was bored with them, per se, but it just seemed like the right time. But now that they have graduated, the BK girls are actively and VISIBLY helping reshape H!P for a new generation. I can't help but wonder if that was Tsunku's plan for H!P Kids the whole time, really. They fit in their new roles perfectly, and I love imagining a H!P-Kids (and girls!)-led idol project. Mad props to them for being awesome, and to Tsunku for leaving them such a legacy.

Honorable mention: Fukuda Kanon

Most FUCKING TRAGIC Departure of 2015 (TIE): Ruuna, Koumi, Mimori (Dorothy Little Happy) / Shimamura Uta (Country Girls)

I loved Dorothy Little Happy as a unit, so I was shocked when 3/5 of the group made like trees this summer. It is strange only seeing Mari and Kana as a duo, but on the plus side, the departed trio's new unit, callme, is pretty swell. They have a Perfume meets One Door Cinema Club meets Studio Ghibli sound to them. Check 'em out!

Uta-chan leaving Country Girls was devastating. She was not a great vocalist, but her presence just screamed "perfect idol." She was something truly special. Thankfully, Momo didn't let the group fall apart after Uta left, but the fandom is still wondering what could have been months later.

Honorable mention: Yurika Akiyama (Ciao Bella Cinquetti) AFTER 9 YEARS, SERIOUSLY ALSO WAY TO RUIN THE NUMBER NAME THING LOL?!?!!!

Best Berryz Factory cover: "Rock EROTIC:" Kobushi/Tsubaki Factory

I HAAAAAAAAAATED "Rock Erotic" as a song until the Factories did it. While it's a super-performable piece of musical theater and beautifully choreographed, I just did not like it. The sound was very generic H!P in a bad way. (Also I really think Momoko should have worn a suit instead of Chii :D )  The girls do a great job with the song on stage, and Reirei is absolutely enchanting.

Best international outreach (TIE): Morning Musume '15 / Linda Sansei

As the musical ambassadors of J-MELO, MM '15 has made waves post-Sayu. I'd bet a lot of money that Mikipants has a lot to do with it. And I really don't care. This is great exposure for the group, and a chance to show that they can hold their own without an uber-veteran like Sayumi at the helm. Miki has also done a couple of interviews with the J-Melo staff, and her confidence still blows me away. 12ki was a good decision. Anyway...

Meanwhile, Linda Sansei has been really active with their Portuguese-speaking fanbase over the last couple of years. The twins, Mutsumi, and Sakura + Yukaren have their own YouTube channels just for talking to fans and doing silly stuff like opening Christmas gifts on camera. They are also quite active on Facebook, making regular updates in Portuguese and Japanese, with the occasional English thing thrown in there.

Also, they are improving their performance skills every day, and Yukaren is a stellar new member. Literally not sad about Naomi's graduation at all.

Best artist-cum-idol crossover: Kikkawa Yuu "Hana" 

HOLY WHAT ON EARTH. Okay: no one could ever argue that Kikka does not have more talent in her pinkie than the whole of most idol groups as far as musicality goes. (I mean, you could still try and argue if you want, but...Knight Flight.)

I dismissed "Hana" at first because it just reeked of gimmick. Like...something that was only put out there to set/break some kind of record.... 

(...and we ALL know how well THAT goes...)
In reality, "Hana" is kind of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" of idol songs, long, complex, a little ridiculous, and not without its fair share of memorable sound bites. The PV itself showcases Kikka's acting ability well, but really it ends up being more like an image DVD. And I have to admit, that's kind of clever. I thought it was a little silly of her YouTube channel to later break the song up into its constituent movements, because that's not the point.

While I do think Kikka has put out better songs, "Hana" is impressive, and goes a long way toward showing how amazing Kikka is as a solo idol.

Legacy award: BiSH

While it sucked when BiS retired nearly two years ago, their successors have wasted no time restarting the crazy train. Their material is slightly tamer and less experimental than BiS, but "Brand-new idol SHiT" is an ALL CAPS SOLID album. BiSH are also stronger vocalists by a fair margin. I do hope these girls go a little more off the beaten path in the future (maybe more great stuff like "Karada Ideology"), but they're making BiS' departure a little easier to cope with.

Favorite album track: "Hug Me"

Tiny group who needs to blow the eff up in 2016: 3min

I adore this group. Hina has one of the most radiant smiles on all of the planets everywhere, and the addition of Kita Yoko this summer  made the group complete for me. I see great things ahead for this group because they are so solid in their performances and diverse in their personalities.

However, I admit that I'm disappointed at their departure from their original "happy EDM" sound ala Genki Rockets; that's what drew me to them in the first place. Their most recent couple of singles have been pretty standard EDM-ish fare. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I really liked "Panorama World," and I would love to see more stuff like that from them. In the meantime, though, I'll nurse my hopes and dreams and enjoy what they have put out so far.

Top 5 newer H!P idols from whom I expect great things in 2016:

5. Kishimoto Yumeno

Tsubaki, the less polished Factory by a long shot, has not had a lot of publicity yet. They are doing their time in the indies phase of their debut because they need it. But if you watch GREEN ROOM religiously, you will notice that they are more heavily featured than most of the other groups. And to me the standout member so far (even though I'm smitten with Kiki), is Kishimonster. She SLAYED the rap in "Kedakaku Sakihokore" to a degree I didn't think possible from a H!P idol. Not only that, but she's probably their best vocalist and has a fantastically hyper personality. YumeYES, amirite?

4. Kamikokuryo Moe

With Kamiko-chan's addition, it feels as though ANGERME has lost a bit of the cliquishness it had this year. Don't get me wrong: 2015 was beyond a great year for my FAAAAVE group, but nothing I watched of theirs that didn't show stark lines between 1st, second and third generations. The first generation has always had an annoying air of superiority about them, and that didn't really change when Ayaka dragged 3rd gen in...and 3rd gen blew everyone out of the water. But I love seeing Moe getting cuddly with everyone already, even though because of her lack of performance experience, she has an imperial assload of work ahead of her.

3. Aikawa Maho

With Rikako and Murotan, it was painfully obvious why they were picked for ANGERME. With Maho, however, it hasn't been quite as obvious save for one thing: the girl works HARD. I've never seen a performance wherein Maho isn't giving her all. That and her live delivery of her line in "Nana Korobi Yaoki" was incredibly good. Not in a "next Aichan-level vocalist" way, but in a way that shows she knows how to use what she's got. I don't think she's ever going to be a frontgirl, but she's already HUGELY one-upped Rina as a supporting member. Dawa does know how to pick 'em.

2. Hirose Ayaka

Ayapan has, in less than a year, proven that she has the potential to be as competent and formidable a leader as Ayaka the First. (Also that Nice GIRL Project is still relevant-ish--who knew?!!) Her ability to keep her group focused during camera segments is one of the things that impresses me most about her. I'll admit to being bummed when my oshi Rio (yes, I'm using that word again DEAL :P ) wasn't picked as leader but let's face it: Rio is a total spaz. Ayaka belongs where she is. She is one of the best Kobushi vocalists to boot. All-around badass.

1. Yanagawa Nanami

Shimamura-Whota? This articulate and talented little beauty was a perfect addition to Country Girls. I honestly thought Musubu would ace all over the place, but then Nanami came along. She's already an impressive MC, among other things. She's going to help end the Eternal Uta Funeral, and that could not come sooner kthxbai.

Veteran H!P-er who isn't Maachan or C-ute set to impress in 2016: Literally all of Juice=Juice

Juice=Juice's lone non-album single release was godawful, which bummed me out. They've all but fallen off my radar recently, but the one thing that prevented me completely forgetting about them was their stellar first album. Then, with the announcement of their new drama, Aarii borrowing the center position and she promises to give it back no really, and Yuka being the most mesmerizing MC on Hello! Station ever, I still have hope for them. I'm really looking forward to their next release.

...even though it sounds exactly like a C-ute song.

Desperation award: Akimoto Yasushi

Part of the 43rd single senbatsu submitted without further comment...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rihoriho's graduation

If this adorable perv couldn't get me out of a pot-graduation blogging funk, I don't know what could.
...Okay Aika could :)

I lied this morning on Facebook when I saw the announcement. I said that I couldn't believe Riho was graduating.

And that's...not even remotely true. Although her announcement was sudden and certainly unexpected, I absolutely do believe it. I won't, however, say that "she looked like she was losing her fire for all these months before all y'all knew nyeh nyeh." Nah. She wasn't. She absolutely wasn't. She may have had a bit more fuel for her lonely character lately what with suddenly being not only the ace, but one of the most senpai of senpais. That seemed to stress her out a bit, but she wasn't out for the count yet.

Until this summer.

When she took time off for mental health around the time Oh My Wish!/Imasugu/Sukatto came out, right after it was obvious that she'd gained a bit of weight (no judgment, girly: it happens to all of us and it's completely okay!), I think that's when I started counting. Having dealt with a lot of my own mental and emotional health issues in the past two years, I can now recognize burnout from a mile away. Something (or some series of things) finally told her she had to be done for a while.


I'm really broken up about this. Over the past two, nearly two and a half years (about the time when I was last regularly blogging), H!P has helped keep me going through a separation from my former partner, my master's degree, and the biggest move of my entire life. And for some reason, although Iikubo Haruna has yet to be dethroned as my #1 Morning Musume girl, it wasn't her I'd been watching most of that time.

The girls I've watched most the past couple years are Masaki and Riho.

During the past two years, my life has been completely turned upside down.When the PV for Wagamama Jokuuuuuuu/Ai no Gundan was released back in 2013, I was one week (out of what would end up being five) into being homeless and jobless, before my former partner and I found an apartment in South Seattle and I started work on my master's. That was, by far, the hardest month of my short 28 years on this planet. To keep my mind off the stress, one thing I did was watch H!P PVs and DVD mags and everything else over and over again. And something about Riho's lonely, yet random, wabi-sabi character caught my eye because I related to it on a kinda weird cosmic level.

And it made me happy.

I could go on and on and write another blog memoir but screw that. Long story short, I'm going to miss the crap out of her, but I'm glad she knows when to call it. I'd rather see her happy and doing what she wants than not taking care of herself. I wish she'd get a better graduation shindig, but honestly, that doesn't seem to be what she needs right now.

*le sigh*

Monday, February 16, 2015

AKB48's new single has same name as favorite brewery, piques interest.

You're welcome for the free advertising, guys.

No, seriously.

That is literally the only reason I listened to the preview. Because I love Hop Head Red and want to have its wonderful, hoppy, caramelly babies.



Zoidberg damn it all.


I actually liked it.

There's cute idoly rap. There's great (no, really. Guhdam.) acting. There's Ikoma Rina. There's me wondering when Yukirin will graduate already. There's more Ikoma Rina.

It remains to be seen whether this will be the first thing in almost 2.5 years that will actually make me consistently care about something in the 48s again (besides NGZ and Yamamoto Sayaka's eternal loveliness), but I really like how this is sounding. For the 48s, this is probably the most innovative A-side I've ever heard from them.

I lost interest in the 48s because of all the crazy politics and tragic incidents and boring-ass music. Being even a casual fan just got too emotionally taxing for my delicate self. Anyway, who knows. Maybe I'll watch them again.

Probably mostly HKT, though. Can't get enough of dat Meru...and dat Haruppi.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Please excuse mah dust!

Yeah, so I deleted a really old Google account I used to use on this thing...not thinking about the fact that a fair amount of photos were hosted on it.

So I'm in the process of fixing this thing hurr.

I am college.

Be back online soon!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy New Year, happy exposition, and random idol hair question of the day!

If this bunch doesn't make you super happy and hopeful for the future of H!P post-Sayu, THEN I DUNNO GUYS.
Hi everyone!

The new year is getting off to an amazing start in the idol world, and even though I'm busy as heck, I once again have the emotional energy to focus on all these new groups coming out and get informed again. I probably don't even need to explain much about how the last year and a half has been intensely challenging for me as an idol blogger and as a person: I'm sure my absence has spoken volumes to that. But reading everyone else's posts (including at least one fresh and awesome new blogger from the Facebook H!P community!!!) and seeing how excited you guys all are about it has helped me find my footing all over again :)  I'm not one of those people who is very vocal in online forums that aren't almost COMPLETELY controlled by yours truly anymore, but since this place is, I can wax personal all I want and not start getting chest pains. :D

So, in my last "flamethrower" (as Ray of Idolminded SO TOTALLY ACCURATELY :D put it :P ) post, I was both heckadoodle godbloody annoyed by the scarier aspects of the oshi culture and coming off the vicarious high of the NYC Musume performance. After I put this post out, I began noticing interesting talk in the blogosphere about the place idols have in people's lives. I also had a couple of great responses to what I wrote which helped me think even more critically about it, and my perspective expanded a bit (and arguably became a bit more merciful :P ).

I'm going to bounce off that theme as we enter a new year of idoly goodness and revisit that discussion. You guys made some great points, and even though I still hold to some of the things I put out there before, I would like to revisit this discussion. I see blogging about these ideas as a medium for growth and seeing how I as an idol fan and a writer have evolved. Honestly, I think this is part of the beauty of the digital age we live in now, but that's a WHOLE NOTHER can of worms :D

So thank you guys both for seeing my point and for disagreeing with me...and also for being great at having a good discussion about it. Y'all rock my world :P (And yes, I have since given into temptation and played the new H!P ranker...though I did have a million ties. SOTHAR)

Anyway, back to THE THING... 


SO: I was watching the footage of The Artist Formerly Known As S/mileage (old joke is old) do their MV-making thing the other day. Then, disaster struck:

For about fifteen seconds, I could swear to jeebus that Rikako had gotten a half-shave. And I was all like DUDE.

But no, it was just how her hair sits. All was well! I was relieved!

But...then I thought "actually she might be able to pull that off." This turned into "naw Rikako would...actually look pretty awesome with a half-shave."

And that became "GO SHAVE HALF YOUR HEAD RIGHT NOW, GOLL." So here's my question for you:

what kind of funky, off-the-wall, or "alternative" hairstyles do you think the girls could pull off? (I'm mostly thinking of H!P here, but feel free to think outside that box)

Personally, I still stand by the Rikako + half-shave = sweet combination hypothesis, but also: Risako looked amazeballs with crazy hair colors, Eripon would look sweet with a medium-length pixie and some blue highlights, I'd love to see Honey get a platinum blonde blunt bob, Meimi could do LITERALLY WHATEVER and I wouldn't say boo, and, come on, I can't be the only one who thinks Airi would look incredible with cornrows.

AAAAAAND REMEMBER: just because a look isn't what your culture considers "normal," "acceptable," "pretty" (blech) or "feminine" doesn't mean it's not awesome. So keep an open and civil mind--the possibilities are endless! Happy styling!