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...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent list, which reminds me that I need to do a final 2015 wrap up, too.
It's pretty safe to say that ANGERME ran away with Hello! Project last year. I worry about the state of the projects with both Riho and Zukki left/leaving.
Linda Sansei: I'm always hot and cold with them (mostly cold of late).
Callme: I love it. I need more.
Kikkawa You is just as you say. "Hana" and her latest album are solid as rock!
I've been listening quite a bit to the new BiSH album. I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the upgrade in vocals :))

Here's to a great 2016!