I may have discovered something that no one was ever supposed to find out about.

18 Jul

tif 2014 banner 2The Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 timetable was revealed today *thunderous applesauce.* The first thing I did was make sure GEM was performing at least ten times. The second thing I did was double check that Mano Erina was coming out of retirement for one final performance – while wearing a bikini. After verifying that neither of those things are happening, I noticed something extremely strange, mystifying, perplexing, and strange. There is an empty time-slot from 12:35-13:10 at the main stage. Could there be one final super top-secret group?! Perhaps an idol group… of girls… who are super?
tif14x
My Tentative TIF Schedule
I created my own schedule because the one at the website is a steaming pile of poo (radioactive zombie poo to be precise). I can’t believe they uploaded a time-table that isn’t synchronized, rendering it completely unusable.

GEM and PASSPO are only performing on Sunday so I’m planning my schedule around day 2. For groups that are attending both days that I can’t watch on Day 2, I can prioritize for day 1. If that didn’t make sense, just nod and pretend it did.
Day 2

tif2014 d2 final 7xDay 1
tif2014 d1 x11
TIF strategy
Planning the perfect TIF schedule is veeerrrrry tricky. You can’t just randomly point at the schedule and circle shit with a crayon. First of all you have to consider the venue (is it outdoors or indoors?), because if it’s outdoors between 12PM-3PM, you have to ask yourself whether you’re fine sacrificing irreversible sun damage for idols who may or may not even like you. I plan on looking 30 when I’m 100, so I’d like to avoid as many outdoor stages as possible. Unfortunately, the geniuses at the TIF Institute of IDOLology thought it would be cool to add more outdoor stages and schedule all the popular groups at peak sun damage hours (technically the main stage is covered, but only if you are in the hanger part. I have a feeling the venue will be too small and there will be a lot of people standing in the sun – assuming they allow that option). The entire world is disintegrating because of global warming and zombie dinosaurs eating all the rainforests, so the TIF bureaucrats should have known that they needed less outdoor stages, not more. Or at least more indoor stages. Like a top-secret “Secret Court II” in the food court at DiverCity. That stage would not only be cool (because it’s indoors), but it would be also be hot (because of all the cooking). That was my dream at least.

The second thing you have to consider when planning your “perfect” schedule are the hundreds of other “miscellaneous” groups you’ve never heard of who will likely appear either before or after your favorite groups. Cherry picking just your favorites doesn’t work because there will be times when your preferred groups are performing at the same time at different stages. These moments are unavoidable, but one thing that annoys me is when groups from the same agency are pitted against each other, like Platinum (PASSPO/predia/palet) or iDOL Street (SUPER GiRLS/Cheeky Parade/GEM/Street-sei) performing simultaneously at competing stages. This has happened in the past, and it’s happening again this year (GEM’s main stage performance is at the same times as Street-sei’s stage). Last year GEM’s handshake event took place during a SUPER GiRLS performance, which prevented me from sharing my GEM jokes with Rana and asking Yuki to spell “SUPER GiRLS.” Even notoriously fragmented fandoms like Platinum and i-Street still have a lot of cross-over fans and unless the organizers are complete morons they should be aware of that and not schedule these groups at the same time.

When I return from Europe I will be more sophisticated, cultured, enlightened, and most importantly, much poorer

10 Jul

Unfortunately, I just returned poorer.

And fatter (Italy’s fault).

After I detox from the excessive food, I’ll finalize my Tokyo trip which will be from July 30 – August 11. When I was in London, GEM and READY TO KISS were added to the TIF lineup, so TIF has been officially redeemed.

Predia also uploaded the video for “Kowareta Ai no Hate ni,” which is their major label debut. Please give it a like and buy ten copies when it’s released.

Ireland: June 23 – June 29

IMG_1973IMG_20012014-06-29 12.25.58(^ The above photos are the region of Ireland my great, great grandparents lived before immigrating to America.)
IMG_1938IMG_1937Trinity College in DublinIMG_1963IMG_1970Peace Bridge in Derry. It was legend-wait for it-derry.IMG_1956

London: June 29 - July 3
Windsor Castle

IMG_2303IMG_2313IMG_2308IMG_2335IMG_2337IMG_2338A canon strategically positioned…

IMG_2366to attack trees.
IMG_2367IMG_23792014-07-01 20.14.002014-07-01 20.53.28The National Gallery
2014-07-02 16.12.012014-07-02 17.56.472014-07-02 17.37.16DFcrqi4ZCC3i610CVdKUMUQcPGnlipKUzevrJz0iA34Globe Theater
a6C5RSzlzA4KFsu18-5euGlTpiwr6GA-d2j5mF6WQDc

uVFOeLHOWJ82SlgcO34rFaurNxio_rk6UUlzRx5UblE2014-07-01 15.43.12Tate Modern Gallery
IesUFNIx1Sins3OHNHCsJNgjV8Z-ZMu3l5xgsTA2ak4cPeoae858Wk-unwC_hj4cI-zwhJi33MqEXTI9JjgzOsLondon Eye
2014-06-30 22.48.05Piccadilly Circus
2014-06-30 21.50.372014-07-02 18.37.57
Paris (July 3 – July 5)
2014-07-03 17.03.11
First glimpse of the Eiffel Something Something
2014-07-03 17.06.022014-07-03 17.10.402014-07-03 17.26.17View from the first floor
IMG_2484IMG_2481
View from the second floor
IMG_2503IMG_2499
View from the top floor

Actually I… umm… didn’t go all the way up, so instead here’s a photo of scary-looking hot dogs in a jar!! Bon appetit.
2014-07-04 17.21.56-1I watched France lose to Germany at this bar
IMG_2534Walking to the Louvre
IMG_25472014-07-04 19.37.06IMG_25652014-07-04 20.17.25IMG_2589IMG_2591Cool looking building at the metro station
2014-07-03 14.47.25Arc de Something Something was a 3 minute walk from my apartment (you can just barely see it at the end of this street).
2014-07-03 21.41.05I used airbnb for all my lodging (except when in Ireland where I stayed at a distant aunt’s B&B) and it’s great for staying in furnished apartments in the heart of the city. I highly recommend it (although there are still some advantages to staying in a hotel). If you are interested in trying airbnb, you can get a $25 credit which you can use on your first booking by signing up through my referral link (Disclosure: I would get $25 as well).

2014-07-03 22.19.382014-07-03 22.35.402014-07-03 22.36.502014-07-04 22.39.22Rome (July 5 – July 9)
Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II
IMG_2672Pantheon during the day
2014-07-05 18.06.13
Pantheon at 2AM
2014-07-07 00.59.02-2
Vatican City
IMG_2911IMG_2912IMG_2913 Visitors aren’t allowed to take photos of the Sistine Chapel, but there was a lot of impressive ceiling art leading up to to the cathedral. When we finally arrived a staff member yelled “Silencio! No photos! Quiet!!” every few seconds. The room was completely quiet… with the exception of the guy yelling “Silencio!”
2014-07-07 14.55.292014-07-07 15.33.052014-07-07 15.00.18Trevi Fountain


was drained, walled-off, and under renovation. Let us never mention this again! Trevi Fountain? More like Travesty Fountain!
Spanish Steps was under repair as well.
2014-07-05 18.57.01Mouth of Truth (yes I am a huge Roman Holiday fan)
IMG_2771The Colloseum
IMG_2784IMG_2797IMG_3088IMG_3098IMG_3106IMG_3118Trastevere Piazza
IMG_2733Navona Square
IMG_2685The Baths of Diocletian
IMG_3085IMG_3025Weird looking trees
IMG_2680Forum ruins
IMG_2836IMG_28292014-07-06 21.39.51IMG_2834A typical day in Rome
2014-07-05 17.52.16The end

In Japan corn dogs are called “American Dogs”

21 Jun

Today was SUPER☆GiRLS 4th Anniversary iDOL Street Carnival Something Something and to make the experience more interactive they had two cameras backstage streaming footage on ustream, and semi-broadcasted the concert on niconico.
nn1nn2The concert looked incredibly fun. The format was very similar to the S☆G 2nd Anniversary concert from 2012, when they mixed individual group performances with shuffle units.

The concert ended with SUPER☆GiRLS debuting their new single and coupling song.
nn3I really hope they do this same type of broadcast for their Christmas concert.

Although not as cool as the niconico footage, the ustream video of the backstage “feeding area” was pretty interesting. Particularly when Reira went through the lunch line and started pouring ketchup and mustard on her food. It seemed a little weird, but Reira is very sophisticated and is totally into western culture, so I figured she knew what she was doing. She is very sophisticated afterall. It turns out she is even more sophisticated than I first thought!
R1 R2R3Or not… OMG (Oh my GEM) please tell me that thing in the corner is not a corn dog! My image of Reira has been destroyed forever. C1Rika got one also. Evidently these “things” were popular with the girls. And they called them “American Dogs!”
C4Corn dogs are both disgusting and hilarious. Which is why only little kids eat them. Kids like disgusting and hilarious food. I bet there is a trash can in Japan right now filled with corn dogs with only one bite taken out of them. 
C5Mirei didn’t even bother getting a plate of food, she just grabbed a c-dog (please don’t call it a “c-dog”). Eating a c-dog before a two-hour concert is so NOT GEM™

T1In the background Rihona is holding up a drawing of i-Street’s producer. I wonder if it’s because of antics like this that she didn’t make it into GEM and is tragically wasting away in Street-sei. Joking aside, she would be perfect for GEM, it’s so unfair.

Saori sighting
Sx1
I was actually wondering if she would attend. The paper she is holding is a flyer for a musical she is doing. 

GEMerations photo of the week
gemer1
They were actually both reading the social stream. I should have logged in so I could write GEMbatte. Or if I was really daring, GEMbatte GEMerations.

Super long kaawaaaaiiiii photo of the week
S1
(How is that the super-long kawaaaaiiiii photo of the week?)

Because Sara is in it. No more questions!

SUPER GiRLS Chouzetsu Kakumei (Saori’s Graduation concert)
IMG_1896IMG_1909The first press included the standard blu-ray paper sleeve and photo. Maybe I just misread the description, but the booklet was just a typical insert. It was 22 pages, so I guess it was a little longer. Just mentioning this in case anyone was wondering about the booklet that came with the first press. 

I’ve only watched half of the concert so far, but Saori’s “special solo version” of Hatsukoi Graffiti was amazing. Two years ago she won a Maidoru fan vote included with the single “1,000,000 Smile” determining which member would get to record a solo version of a song. I voted for Reira obviously, but it was cool that Saori won. Her solo version of Hatsukoi Graffiti was particularly interesting because she also had a saxophone solo. The live version she performed at the concert included her sax solo and it was one of the cutest things ever.
05Eri graduated before I had become a fan of the group and KP’s dismissal is something I totally ignored at the time because it was so over-the-top. Saori’s graduation was the first that had an impact on me. It’s very sad that the SUPER GiRLS golden age is over. It’s hard to notice when a group is at their peak, but it’s easy to tell when the moment has passed. Each individual graduation hurt the group, but I think now their is a cumulative effect also, which has combined with at least some fan rejection of the new members. Saori can’t be replaced and I have a feeling that SUPER GiRLS “chapter two” will confirm the cliche that sequels are never as good as the original.

The next TIF update should be on Friday the 13th *cue horror music* If it doesn’t deliver I’m retiring from the internet. For real this time!

7 Jun

And by “deliver” I mean all i-Street groups.
(Even Hanarichu?)
Especially Hanarichu!

And Fairies!

Or I am retiring from the internet!!

6.13 Update Technically I should be retiring from the internet right about now since the TIF update prophesied by that one guy never materialized. Was it too much to ask for SUPER GiRLS, GEM, Fairies, 9nine, and GEM? So I started packing all my belongings, but then my editor/grandpa was like, “Billy, put down your Reira body pillows! You may not have to retire after all!!”

inn xA-nation begins on 8.14, which typically isn’t relevant to my interests. But IDOL NATION is a lock for iDOL Street. It’s not ideal, but I can’t go half-way around the world without getting my SUPER GiRLS and GEM fix. That would be so lame I’d have to retire from the internet. Again. And for real this time.

I should rewind a little… initially my plan was a quick trip to Japan in order to attend TIF. Five or six days. I didn’t want to commit to an end date though, so I booked a one-way flight. I’m going to Europe from 6.23 – 7.9, so I don’t have the time or money to plan another lengthy vacation. But TIF hasn’t really cooperated with my plans (although for the record I still think it will be very fun). Then Fairies announced their first tour. So I extended my trip through 8.9 and booked a room at a second hotel more centrally located. I still wanted to hold out for SG and GEM though. Then a-nation was announced and IDOL NATION was scheduled for day one. So I booked a room at a third hotel through 8.15. But now I’m staying two weeks, which was a total deviation from my original plan. Extending a vacation also has this weird effect of putting you closer to other concerts which at first seemed out of reach. I’ve wanted to see Kana Nishino for a while now (I wasn’t able to go to her spring tour because of school… and being lazy) and I’ve tried to see Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas for three years. Kana will be at a-nation on 8.18 and Fear, and Loathing will perform at a J-rock festival on 8.16. On one hand that is just an additional four days, but more accurately, it’s twelve more days than my initial keikaku (plan). And the idea of Fear, and Loathing sharing a stage with Baby Metal is bizarre. Off-topic, but enough with idol groups encroaching on rock festivals just so they can gain some “street cred.” It makes the real rock groups attending look like sellouts. Anyway, I kind of have the feeling if I extend my trip a third time, I’ll have to stay until 8.21 to see 9nine at Budokan, and the next thing I know I’ll be living in Japan in an abandoned building or one of those caves in Tokyo filled with hobos in order to attend GEM’s first solo concert in September. On 9.13 I’d emerge half-starving and blinded by the light, and I would look more animal than human.

So for once in my life I’m going to make a “normal-person” decision and just stay until 8.15.

Probably.

If TIF 2012 and TIF 2013 got married and had a kid named TIF 2014

3 May

Am I concerned that there hasn’t been a Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 update since the initial reveal three weeks ago? No. Did I just lie? Maybe. Am I worried that iDOL Street won’t participate this year? My personal motto is “Never worry about anything.” But yes I am worried. Very worried. Am I going to rename TIF 2014 “Tokyo Reira Festival” or “Tokyo Sara Festival”? Neither, that would be stupid. I’m naming it Tokyo ReiSaRa Festival. Am I going to keep asking rhetorical questions? No. Are there already annoying things about TIF 2014? Yes. But I’ll keep them to myself… for now. (edit: the TIF website just updated yesterday. That’s so GEM!)

Thinking back, I’m not sure whether TIF 2012 or 2013 was better organized. TIF 2012 was definitely much better overall, but organization-wise, 2012 and 2013 each had their own strengths and weaknesses. TIF 2012 had more stages, but the timetable totally fell apart. TIF 2013 added one cool stage, but removed three. The timetable was much more accurate, but the stages were a lot more congested. Ideally, the producers will look at what worked and what didn’t the past two years. If you take all the positives from 2012 and 2013, mix them in a giant bowl, and then bake to a golden brown, you would create the best TIF cookies ever! I mean TIF experience.

1. Planning for bad weather
Last year it started raining at about 7:30 PM, which closed Sky Stage and Smile Garden. This cancelled the night performances of predia, Mai Kotone, Shizukaze & Kizuna, and Dorothy Little Happy. While the organizers can’t control the weather (scientists are still 2-3 years away from that kind of technology), rain was in the forecast a week beforehand and back-up plans could have been devised. There are two indoor stages conveniently located right next to each called Doll Factory and Enjoy Stadium, which could have been used as alternates for the outdoor stages. Particularly since both stages closed early and had gaps in the timetable which could have accommodated the groups performing at the two outdoor stages. (If that didn’t make sense just nod and pretend it did. The following visual will clearly explain everything.)
ihavetoomuchfreetimeLast year predia tweeted being on stand-by for an hour, while they waited for the rain to let up. Unfortunately it never did, and they all fell asleep. Based on the above timetable, the performances from Sky Stage and Smile Garden could have been transferred to Doll Factory and Enjoy Stadium. There were 10-15 minute gaps at Doll Factory and Enjoy Stadium, which could have been minimized to fit in one extra group, and a half hour could have been added to each stage to cover the others. Just follow the arrows and note the black squares. It should all make perfect sense now.

TIF “Hot Tip” #1: I would advise checking the weather forecast throughout the day. I checked the weather in the morning, but I never checked it again. The weather was perfect in the morning, so I figured it would be perfect the whole day. That’s how weather is supposed to work. Had I checked the weather throughout the day, I would have realized that there was a very high chance for rain in the evening. And for some  reason I didn’t notice the ominous looking clouds appearing. In my defense I’m an idiot. Had I known that the weather was changing for the worse, I may not have not gone back up to the roof to see predia. Honestly, I would have gone anyway. But I probably would have gone up at a later time.

2. There should be a million stages. Or at least eight.
TIF 2012 had eight stages on Day 1 and nine on Day 2. TIF 2013 had six stages, one of which was completely useless (no offense Venus Church). Attendance at TIF 2013 was several thousand higher than 2012, so basically there were thousands more people, packed into less stages, resulting in longer queues and an overall worse experience. Last year they changed the location of the main stage (Hot Stage) from Zepp DiverCity to Zepp Tokyo. You can walk from one to the other in less than ten minutes. Considering the fortune of having two venues that close together, they should open up both and have competing main stages. That would almost single-handedly fix all of the issues. If they really want to make the fan experience better they would also bring back the outdoor stage near the entrance of Zepp DiverCity and the second rooftop stage called Secret Court.

But we’re not supposed to talk about Secret Court.
tif2014mapThe ultimate stage setup aka “If TIF 2012 and TIF 2013 got married and had a kid named TIF 2014″

  • Two Main stages: Zepp DiverCity and Zepp Tokyo
  • Two outdoor stages: Smile Garden and Green Oasis
  • Two rooftop stages: Sky Stage and Secret Court
  • Two mid-size indoor stages: Doll Factory and Enjoy Stadium

If TIF 2014 followed the above map, this would (1) resolve the overcrowding at the main stage, (2) improve the rooftop area (going up and down for one stage is a little weird), and (3) reduce or eliminate all of the queuing. Also note the removal of Venus Church. (No offense Venus Church!)

3. Open the Marketplace before TIF begins
TIF begins at 10AM, but there are already hundreds of people waiting around as early as 8. They should open the marketplace at that time to allow these more hardcore fans the ability to purchase goods (more like greats) in order to avoid having to shop during the actual performances later in the day. Nobody wants to waste time in the marketplace once TIF actually begins. I’m sure they would get more sales if they open the marketplace earlier, since there isn’t anything else to do to pass the time – except maybe wait at the lobby entrance for groups to arrive.

4. TIF stop being lazy!
If you are familiar with TIF’s scheduling you may have noticed the frequent time-slots filled by multiple groups. Sometimes the arrangement makes sense, like a block of groups from a certain region (e.g. groups from Osaka or Sapporo) or from the same label (all of the Street-sei teams sharing a stage). More often though the blocks are completely random and just TIF being lazy, since scheduling several groups in one time-slot is much easier to organize than creating individual time-slots for every single group. The following image shows how easy it would be to break up these random blocks into individual performances.

lazytifv3(1) The schedule on the left is from TIF 2012 and clearly lists the performance times for individual groups. (2) The block in the middle is from TIF 2013 and features a random mix of groups with no relation except they evidently like to “smash” and “play.” (3) TIF organizers could easily split this block into five 15 minute segments, allowing fans to better plan their day. (That’s great but why did you write GEM so large?)

Am I being too critical? Check out this stage from TIF 2012:

lazytif2What an abomination! Three words: SUPER LAZY. The stage on the left (Sky Stage) featured a massive 3-hour block of groups that would make it practically impossible for fans to know when their group would perform. Imagine if you just wanted to watch w-Street Osaka. Although the groups are listed in order of appearance, that only provides a vague estimate on when to arrive at the stage. Compare that with the stage on the right (Secret Court) which clearly listed the specific times for the groups performing. TIF organizers think they are being clever by setting up huge blocks of performers. They’re actually just being lazy.

But everyone knows I’m still a TIF fan.

5. TIF and overseas fans
The TIF website updated a day ago with a section specifically for overseas fans (well, specifically English-speaking overseas fans… because they are the coolest) <- Totally kidding! (I’m not kidding). The initial TIF reveal mentioned they were going to try to increase foreign fan attendance this year. Providing updates in English is a great start — but TIF organizers, let us not forget our friends in Iceland. On behalf of the fans there, please provide updates in Icelandic as well. The recent update mentioned it will be possible for fans from anywhere in the world to purchase tickets in late May. (Even in Zimbabwe?) Especially in Zimbabwe!

Obviously that is great news, but I’ve been thinking about the bigger implications of their push for foreign fans. The first two lineup updates have been underwhelming, mainly appealing to the fandoms of those specific groups. If they truly want to entice overseas fans to attend, then I’m hoping this means they have a very impressive lineup planned. Without groups that have broad appeal, TIF will be a very hard sell. Since I’m an eternal optimist, aka an idiot, I’m going to assume there will be a fantastic lineup with a few surprises.

Two words: Mano Erina coming out of retirement for one last show! With special guest Atsuko Maeda!

My TIF Wishlist
1. SUPER☆GiRLS

2. GEM
3. predia
4. PASSPO
5. READY TO KISS
6. 9nine
7. Fairies

8. Dorothy Little Happy
9. Houkago Princess
10. IDOL Street Street-sei
11. Himekyun Fruit Can
12. Cheeky Parade
13. Tokyo Girls Style
14. E-Girls
15. AeLL.

Unfortunately Himekyun already scheduled a concert elsewhere and won’t be attending - they are dead to me!

Sara “pic of the week” ™
14-4-2 S
Sara: Oh no, I’m trapped in a box!

Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 is cool I guess, but what about Tokyo Reira Festival??

7 Apr

logo_TIF2014_500pxTokyo Idol Festival 2014 was announced today. I knew there was a reason to wake up this morning. TIF 2014 will take place August 2-3. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that’s when the cherry blossoms bloom.

Although I predicted the TIF 2014 reveal could happen this week, I’m still surprised the announcement came so soon. Most of my predictions have been disastrous – the whole world is still waiting for the 4th iDOL Street group. But then again predia recently announced their major label debut, so maybe my predictions are actually shockingly accurate and awesome. Anyway, since I’m an iDOL Street addict my plan was to wait for confirmations from SUPER☆GiRLS, GEM, Cheeky Parade, and Street-sei, but I just happened to find a perfect place in Odaiba which was way too convenient to pass up. The hotel is just a few minutes walk from Zepp Tokyo, which should be really ideal considering last year it took 45 minutes for me to get into Odaiba from central Tokyo. Now I can casually skedaddle to and from TIF all day without wasting valuable Reira and Sara stalking opportunities… assuming SUPER☆GiRLS and GEM will attend. They will attend right??

I’m actually pretty confident they will – GEM and Street-sei should be locks, and SUPER☆GiRLS and Cheeky Parade currently have July and August open. They’re both doing extensive touring this year but *hypothetically* and *theoretically* and *something something-cally* they should be able to fit TIF into their schedules. I’m a huge believer in karma so I’m going to have to be on my best behavior until the next TIF update.

I’ll update more in a bit with my predictions for groups, my new and updated TIF strategies, and the improvements I hope they implement (three words: more stages… and it would be nice if the organizers could try to reverse global warming – I prefer cool temperatures).  One interesting piece of news came out of the TIF website, evidently they’re going to attempt to get more overseas fans to attend. From TIF 2012 and TIF 2013 I noticed maybe 10 foreign fans total. The fact that they even mentioned this is really interesting. I’m not sure what effect this will have on the lineup if any, but if they can make tickets easier for overseas fans to purchase, that would be awesome. Otherwise I’ll just have to resort to my standard methods for getting tickets – begging someone in Japan to buy them for me. 

TIF strategy officially starts… Now!