Recaps: Doll ☆Elements

1 Sep
Prologue

People of Osaka: Please save me one coin locker. That is all I ask. The large size of course. And near the station entrance. That is all I ask.

Oh yeah, also Runapon’s home address. And hypnosis lessons. That is all I ask.

People of Nagoya: Please tell the people of Osaka to save me one coin locker. And the chicken wings were fantastic. Please share the recipe with my personal chef kthxbye.

People of Tokyo: Please turn off the sun! I don’t look good when I’m sweaty.

I began planning my summer trip after Doll☆Elements announced at their spring tour finale on April 18 that they would have a summer tour in early August. The announcement was surprising, considering prior to this year, Doll☆Elements had never toured and was one of those idol groups that does a lot of mini-lives, but very few real concerts. Several weeks prior, on March 24, Tokyo Idol Festival 2015 had been announced for August 1 and 2, so it seemed like the perfect time to visit.

Going to Japan in the summer is of course not the perfect time to visit. Some idol fans are just a little insane.

Doll☆Elements One-Man Live 2015 Summer “Doll Party”
@ Nagoya JAMMIN’
August 8, 2015

This trip would be my first time using shinkansen (bullet trains). I purchased a Japan Rail Pass, which allows unlimited use, with the restriction that you can’t ride the fastest category of shinkansen, which stop at the fewest stations. Although I was aware of this limitation, I still ran into complications. The concert was scheduled for 16:30, but the venue–a tiny club called JAMMIN’, would open at 16:00. My plan was to arrive at 13:00 and I had booked a hotel directly across the street from the venue to simplify things. Since I would only be staying one night, I never memorized the name of the hotel though. This would come into play later. Anyway, I ended up reserving the wrong shinkansen, and got on the slowest class. Instead of taking less than two hours, it took three and a half, and I arrived in Nagoya at 15:40, just 20 minutes before the club would open.

I still needed to find the hotel and even though I had the directions on my phone, it’s difficult navigating a city for the first time. While walking to the hotel I realized I took a wrong turn because according to my map I should have arrived already. It was almost 16:00 and extremely hot, so I decided to ask for directions since I was in the general vicinity. I was about to ask a construction worker, when I realized I didn’t know the name of the hotel. I would have to open my luggage to find the reservation. In my haste I couldn’t find it, so I figured I would just show the map on my phone and assume he would recognize the area. The guy was nice, but completely clueless, so he called his colleagues over. The hotel’s name turned out to be “Mont Blanc” and they all took turns slowly saying “Mont-o Blanc” and chuckling because the name was funny to them. They had no idea where the hotel was. If I wasn’t in a hurry this would have been hilarious. At this point, I just wanted my phone back because they were actually slowing me down. Fortunately, a younger guy came over, glanced at my phone and immediately pointed to a side-street across the bridge. I took off and arrived at the hotel at exactly 16:00, completely sweaty. I couldn’t go to the concert like that, so I quickly showered and ended up at the club five minutes before they called my ticket number.

Leading up to the concert, I had visualized the venue would be practically empty, but by the time my ticket was called, it was already packed. I had a lottery ticket, but the club was so small and strangely designed, that I didn’t even know what row I was in. Was I still even in Nagoya? At TIF and IDOL NATION I had seen them from the 2nd and 3rd rows, and now I was at their one-man but I was closer to the back than I was to the front. Somehow this was Yukino’s fault.

JAMMIN’ is a small, hole in the wall club that was designed in such a way that a significant part of the floor area is obstructed by a wall. Not many fans stood in that area, so other parts of the floor were overly crowded. The girl area was also disproportionate to the attendance. If there were 300 fans, maybe there were 20 girls, however the girl area occupied about 20% of the floor. Space reserved for girls may be practical for some idol groups, but it’s unnecessary for Doll☆Elements, because fan behavior is so tame. The vibe in the girl area seemed really nice though. There was something about these fans that I found appealing and I wanted to join them in their special space. I wasn’t allowed to enter though, even when I pretended not to understand. They were kind of rude about it too. Reminded me of the time I accidentally walked into a women’s only train and then accidentally lost my balance and accidentally fell into the chest region of every single passenger. And the time I accidentally walked into the women’s shower at my gym during the busiest time of the day. And the time I accidentally walked into the changing room at Victoria’s Secret and then accidentally did that again and again. Well, I’m sorry for making so many mistakes! I’m not perfect.

Anyway, despite the venue being too small, at their previous concert in Nagoya in April, they booked an even smaller club. So, this janky venue was actually a huge improvement. Good job Runapon!

The concert had a lot of new material: 4 new songs, 2 new outfits, and 1 new music video. Outfits are a particularly important component of Doll☆Elements. For example, they were the only group at TIF and IDOL NATION that had costume changes within their sets. The new outfits were a little underwhelming though and were basically off-the-rack clothing. If you read idol blogs, you’re probably familiar with the word “shifuku,” meaning “plain clothes,” which is how the group described the new outfits. The outfits were also worn in the music video for “MAKE UP,” which they debuted at the concert. The music video was very basic, but considering it was their second video for the single, it was an unexpected bonus. The song is great, although very short, and hopefully enters their normal rotation.

They also performed their two new unit songs, “Arerere? Koko wa doko?” (Runapon, Izumin, and Yukino) and Deep (Gonchan and Rikapyon). The fourth new song, called “Hikari,” was written by Gonchan, who previously wrote the lyrics to “Fake” and “Take Away.” The song is designated as a penlight song, which means fans are allowed/supposed to use their penlights when the group performs this song. Strangely, penlights are restricted during Doll☆Elements concerts, with the exceptions of the song “with you,” and now “Hikari.” The song was my favorite of their new material, but since it’s not on their new single, it may be a while until fans can hear it. During the song, Yukino stood on the raised platform on the stage, yelled out commands, and demonstrated the penlight choreography, which was a somewhat complicated series of fast and slow movements. It matched the song very well though, so after the first chorus it had become intuitive. Most of the fans had the new style Doll☆Elements penlights, but a few stragglers including myself, still had their original penlight. The new penlights are a huge improvement though because they are brighter and larger, and afterwards, Runapon made fun of the fans who still had the old style.

After the concert the group had a free high-touch for their fan club (which they recently launched). During this time I purchased the Doll☆NEO dvd single and received a ticket for the group handshake. And… that’s all that needs to be explained about that! Below is a photo of Runapon during the akushukai, so *hypothetically* if someone was too star-struck to say anything to her, it would have been completely understandable!

That night I had dinner at a restaurant called Yamachan, which was across the street from JAMMIN’ and next door to my hotel. From watching random Japanese television shows, I had learned that Nagoya is famous for their chicken wings (tebasaki), so I thought I was special for stumbling upon this restaurant, considering I had actually heard of it before visiting. It turns out this is a huge chain in Nagoya–so I wasn’t special. Afterward, I walked around the area for an hour, which was pretty much the extent of my Nagoya sight-seeing, since the following morning I would be taking a train to Osaka.


Doll☆Elements One-Man Live 2015 Summer “Doll Party”
@ Osaka Shangri-La
August 9, 2015

I arrived in Osaka at 14:00 and decided to locate the concert venue first, and then return to the train station and find a coin locker for my luggage. I had been in the area a few years prior for a SUPER☆GiRLS concert and quickly found the live-house Shangri-La. When I arrived there were only a few Doll☆Elements fans in the lobby and the street was practically deserted. My plan was to return to Osaka Station, which was about 1 km away, stow my luggage, and then return in order to purchase Doll Elements goods (more like greats). Runapon was kidding when she had made fun of the fans with the old penlight, but I’m very impressionable and I didn’t want my #1 oshipon thinking I’m a loser. If it was Yukino who had made the comment, I wouldn’t have cared at all. If anything, I would have tried to purchase even more old penlights!

I also forgot to mention that it was really hot.

So I returned to the station to find a locker. Months before the trip, I had actually thought of this exact moment and how precariously my plan resided on finding a locker. It was imperative because I had decided not to book a hotel in Osaka and instead after the concert I would take the last shinkansen back to Tokyo. Even though I know coin lockers can be scarce at times, I’ve never had a problem finding one at Shibuya or Shinjuku, and had previously easily found a locker at this very station for the SUPER☆GiRLS concert. When I arrived, I found hundreds, possibly thousands of lockers… 

and every single one was occupied! 

I was shocked. And I just thought of Yukino. Somehow this was her fault!

I spent the next 90 minutes attempting to find a locker. And in so doing I ventured further and further into the station. I was getting lost and realized it may be difficult backtracking to the entrance, but I couldn’t leave without finding a locker. I had that crazy look in my eyes. Like a deranged animal looking for food. And at every new locker area I was running into the same people I had seen at the previous lockers, who were also trying to stow their luggage. At this point my only hope was to find the “New World” of lockers–a remote and uncharted land full of lockers. And beautiful half-naked women.

As time passed, the realization that I could miss the concert because of a coin locker began to creep into my consciousness. Taking my luggage into the concert venue wasn’t a possibility, even as a last resort. I was running out of time though, and had already missed the cutoff to purchase concert goods, which was important because I wasn’t just buying stuff for myself. In addition to searching the station, I was also checking areas outside, because lockers are often located near entrances and exits. There were plenty of lockers in these areas, but they were all taken. The only solution I could think of was to find a nearby hotel and inquire if I could check my bag for a few hours. While I was considering this possibility I completely randomly stumbled across a bag-check service that was located outside a department store. This was the New World of lockers I was looking for! I had to punch a complete stranger in the face to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Unfortunately, there was a complication; the bag check closed at 19:00. I literally had to sit down and calculate whether this was going to work. The concert began at 16:30, and assuming it followed the same schedule as the show in Nagoya, it would end around 18:45. This meant I couldn’t do the after-show event, but should be able to attend the entire concert. Ultimately this was my only option, considering the concert venue would be opening soon and even if it went long, I could leave before the encore. I paid the 700Y service fee and soon realized I had no idea where I was. I had gone through the entire station and had ventured outside multiple times, while continually doubling back to see if lockers in the previous areas had become available, so my bearings were all effed up. And it wasn’t just a matter of finding the correct exit, I also had to memorize where the bag check was, because when I returned in a few hours, it would be very near the closing time.

By the time I arrived back at the concert venue at 16:00, a long queue had formed. Since Shangri-La was on the side of the street in the sun, some fans, including myself, waited across the street in the shade cast by the buildings. Like clockwork the staff called everyone to join the queue in the sun. The street was deserted and they hadn’t even begun calling ticket numbers. Eff that, I was staying in the shade until they opened the venue. Even then, I only joined the queue because I couldn’t hear the numbers from across the street.

Since I wrote a wall of text about coin lockers, I’ll just quickly explain that the Osaka concert was very similar to the one in Nagoya. They continued the “doll party” theme, reused the animated sequences which segued between the “beach party,” “home party,” and “summer party” blocks of songs, wore the same outfits and in the same order, and sang most of the same songs (although there were several additions and subtractions). And for the second day in a row despite the segments being named “beach” and “summer” party, there was not a single idol wearing a bikini on stage! Trust me I looked and I even turned my hands into binoculars to double-check. [At least they weren’t wearing t-shirts and track pants.] The setlist included Scream and Shout though, which was missing from the Nagoya concert and is my second favorite Doll☆Elements song. Unfortunately, I’ve still never seen them perform my favorite song, Sora no Mukou he (which is technically a cover).

The MC segments were also cuter at the Osaka concert. Rikapyon ends her intro with “GambaRikapyon,” because she likes adding her name to the end of words. So during Gonchan’s MC, which follows Rika, she ad-libbed “Gambari-Gonchan.” It was super-long kawaiiii, but Runapon replied, “Gross” and Izumin said, “Never do that again.” There is also this thing that often happens at Doll☆Elements concerts when the members finish a block of songs and scamper to the back of the stage for a quick water break, at which point a solitary fan yells “Does the water taste good??” and one or two of the members reply that it tastes great. Well, this time, while the members took their water break, Gonchan remained in the front and yelled out, “Does the water taste good??” It was hilariously weird.

Despite the similar formats, the Osaka concert was much funner since I was more familiar with the new songs and I had a great view of the stage, which was mainly a result of the venue being nicer. At the tour finale in Tokyo they announced a winter tour (their third tour this year), but unfortunately they re-booked many of the small clubs they’ve used previously, including the uber janky JAMMIN’ and the even more janky Kitty Hall in Ehime. It’s unfortunate that Doll☆Elements management continues to book these small livehouses. They clearly aren’t familiar with Scrooge McDuck’s advice to “Work smarter, not harder.” Booking small clubs automatically puts a low cap on attendance and gives the impression that the producers lack confidence in the group. These small and unappealing venues also undermine the cute “doll” theme they are trying to create. I hope their agency continues to maintain the quality of the group’s material, but they need to start taking risks. But everyone knows I’m still a Doll☆Elements fan.

The concert concluded at 18:50 because they talked endlessly about their upcoming schedule. The moment they left the stage, I pushed people aside as I made my way to the exit and then sprinted to the bag-check. I’m an extremely fast runner, but it’s not like I enjoy running in hot and humid weather. The bag-check was closed when I arrived, but there were still a lot of bags that hadn’t been picked up yet, so fortunately I hadn’t kept them waiting.

That night there were further complications, the most important of which was missing the last train back to Tokyo! And then being forced to wait four hours to take an overnight bus instead.

Keeping things in perspective, I was able to attend a concert of my favorite idol group. And I also got to eat takoyaki for the first time!

I thought it was gross though!

The End


Instead of recapping what happened after the concert, here’s a hot photo of Runapon. And you’re welcome.

“Bbbb-but I’m a Gambari-Gonchan fanboy!”
Okay, here you go. And you’re welcome.

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4 Responses to “Recaps: Doll ☆Elements”

  1. wattstax17 2015/09/04 at 9:49 am #

    Well Shaun, the experiences you described with Doll Elements reminded me a lot of the tribulation, Caio is known for. :P But I assume it was intentional, so that you could amuse us with your story. Good job indeed! And seriously, great recap!
    Really, forgetting the hotel name and not even have it on your phone, the odyssee for a coin locker despite the heat, even missing out on the event. And when you had the chance to impress Runapon, you fail terribly. I am not sure I will be able to do my TIF report now, as you will probably cry in the corner when I tell you about my handshake with them.

    All that tells me that my safety approach for lives is much better than yours. I rather be at the venue hours earlier and kill time in the neighbourhood, than rushing to it. With all this stress I wouldn’t be certain if I could enjoy the live. Especially during such a heat. So next time be clever and ask me about your scheduling beforehand or when you go to Osaka. I have been to this city quite often already. The labyrinth you have walked through was Whitey’s, am I right? Leaving the venue in time to get my luggage – unthinkable! Weren’t you able to look for coin lockers at a different station? Why was there such demand anyway? And you didn’t emphasise the terrible heat enough!!

    Their new “uniform” really looks unimpressive. I would have expected otherwise from a group, whose members indicate themselves as DOLLS. It seems, you are very unlucky. Missing Palet bikini show, instead seeing Super Girls in casual wear,…

    I can’t overlook the continious Yukino bashing. I thought better of you! So I guess you deserved all the troubles :P

    • Shaun 2015/09/08 at 12:24 am #

      I still get embarrassed about the handshake, it will haunt me forever. I’m looking forward to your recap now, hopefully at least one of us impressed them. Missing their akushukai at TIF was a huge regret, even more so after you mentioned you were there.

      The Osaka live was stressful because as the concert went longer and longer, it became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to leave early. Imagine the one gaijin in attendance causing a disturbance trying to leave the tightly packed venue while the group was on stage talking about their future plans. They totally would have seen me. It was also annoying not being able to purchase goods and I couldn’t redeem my drink ticket either. And I really needed a drink because did I mention it was hot?

      I could have looked for a locker at Umeda station which is the adjoining station, or Shin-Osaka which is where the shinkansen departs, but there were so many lockers at Osaka Station that I stubbornly refused to accept that there wasn’t one single locker available. And I have no idea why that station is so busy, I can only think Osaka is a popular destination in the summer.

      And I’m going to become a huge Yukino fan now. I bet that would make Runapon jealous.

  2. Infzer0 2015/09/10 at 10:56 pm #

    haha wow your day in osaka seems like so damn complicated. That reminds me when im in fukuoka last year for the passpo flight, im also just like you that time (didnt want to book a hotel) and went there just for the concert and have to go back to tokyo after the concert – luckily i never bring any luggage though. Reached fukuoka that time less than 1 hour before the concert timing and im so stupid that i didnt memorize the venue location. And to add , that time my phone GPS suddenly got error so i can’t depend on it anymore. Got Lost in fukuoka for around 30 minutes, as i never been there before. I asked people nearby and they either didnt know the venue, or showed me the wrong direction lol

    In the end i had to take a cab to reach the venue (luckily the venue is quite close by taxi, and the metre fares didnt move an inch lol) and when i entered the venue it’s already the passpo overture. close call. but after that i figure out i should go much earlier for a concert, especially if the venue is in the areas that we’re not really familiar of haha.

    Anyyways, despite all your trouble though — you managed to see Doll elements one man live concert, and that’s awesome lol.

    • Shaun 2015/09/13 at 6:59 pm #

      I can relate to your Fukuoka trip. Once you get out of Tokyo everything is a lot more complicated. The weird thing is sometimes you get to a concert really early and are completely bored for two hours waiting for it to start. But then there are other times when the concert is starting in 20 minutes yet you still haven’t even found the venue. Fortunately, I think all of our trips have worked out for the most part.

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