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Japan Summer Trip 2017 Recap: Harajuku Monogatari, Silent Siren, TPD, and TIF.

12 Aug

Summer Trip: July 24-August 8

My final trip to Japan. The trilogy is now complete.

[Um, you went 12 times.]

Okay. The four trilogies are now complete.



Since I’m 99% certain this was the final time I will go to Japan, I sat in the first row of the plane and bought some toys for the flight.

And I was reminded why I don’t drink Bloody Marys. They’re disgusting!

Schedule

July 24  Arrived at Haneda, took a shinkansen to Shizuoka
July 25 Silent Siren 5th Anniversary Tour @Sound Shower Ark (Shizuoka)
July 26 Silent Siren 5th Anniversary Tour @Sound Shower Ark (Shizuoka)
July 27 Akishibu Project (Yuna, Natsumi, Saori graduation) @Akasaka BLITZ
July 28  Women-only onsen
July 29 Harajuku Monogatari, Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen, Tenkou Shoujo, palet, Maplez, Woltanative, 26-ji no Masquerade Idol Koushien @Akasaka BLITZ
July 30 GEM, SUPER GiRLS, RuriRori, La Pom Pon @OTODAMA SEA STUDIO (Miura)
July 31 Harajuku Monogatari, drop, Cheeky Parade, Maneki Kecak, READY TO KISS, Task have Fun Konya wa Anata no SUPER LIVE @TSUTAYA O-EAST
August 1  Women-only onsen
August 2 Tokyo Performance Doll release event @LaLaport TOYOSU
August 3 Tokyo Performance Doll one man @Shinjuku BLAZE
August 4 Tokyo Idol Festival Day 1 
August 5 Tokyo Idol Festival Day 2 
August 6 Tokyo Idol Festival Day 3 
August 7 GEM teiki koen (Tokyo)
August 8  wild animal only onsen

Arriving in Tokyo
Typically when I arrive in Japan, I take a train to my hotel and fall into a coma (L.A. to Tokyo is a 12 hour flight). It’s especially tiring after you binge-watch four movies in a row. I watch the Japanese movies on the in-flight catalog, and there is almost always one that I end up loving. During my winter trip I watched a movie with Rina Takeda called “Kagurame,” (she’s awesome; check out “Wakakozake” if you can). The movie I loved though was Flying Colors (aka “Biri Gal”). I watched it going to Japan and on the return flight and bought it when I got back home.

During this trip, I watched “Kimi to 100-kaime no koi” with Erina Mano and Miwa, “HaruChika” with Kanna Hashimoto and a guy from Sexy Zone, and an American movie called “Before I Fall.” The fourth movie was “Let’s Go Jets” (aka “Cheer Dance”). I loved this movie. It’s kind of like Cheerfu11y, only way better. Definitely buying when it becomes available.

I wasn’t able to fall into a coma this time, because upon arriving, I had to take a shinkansen to Shizuoka in order to see Silent Siren the following day.

Silent Siren
@Sound Shower Ark
July 25 and 26

This will be brief because there isn’t a lot to write about. They didn’t perform any of my favorite songs at either concert and as they always do, they had a long “punishment game” corner. But it’s Silent Siren, so I can’t complain. And I’ll see them in December when they play in Los Angeles. Very likely from the front row. Also the weather upon arriving was great. With the exception of the final two days of the trip, the weather was almost perfect the entire time.
So, instead I’m going to explain what happened in the above photo.

After buying tour goods (more like greats), I went across the street to the shopping mall to look for souvenirs (my parents have been to Shizuoka before and wanted me to get them something). When there was ten minutes to go until the venue opened, I began walking back. In the photo, you can see the Silent Siren fans in the background. At this point I noticed an old lady walking her dog. Correction, I noticed a crazy old lady walking her crazy dog right into a row of bicycles. She then continued on her way like nothing happened.

I hope I never get old. Or crazy.

Tour goods

Akishibu Project
@Akasaka BLITZ
July 27

In the morning I took a shinkansen back to Tokyo for Akishibu Project’s concert, which would be Yuna, Natsumi, and Saori’s last with the group. Yuna and Natsumi are my favorites so this effectively ended my fandom.

The stage had three giant banners for the graduating members. After a few songs they did a MC and explained the rest of the setlist would be non-stop. Of course, not a single song they would perform was a favorite of mine :P Which was a recurring theme throughout my trip. I guess I have weird taste (or bad luck), because when it comes to the groups I follow, the songs I like are rarely part of the normal rotation. Overall, the concert was kind of “blah”–the crowd was tame, the graduation part was sloppy, and there were no announcements at the end which could give fans optimism that the group has a future. (A few days later they did debut new songs, a pv, and outfit though).

Idol Koushien
@Akasaka BLITZ
July 29
My original plan was Roppongi Idol Festival for Tokyo Performance Doll and SUPER GiRLS. I hesitated buying a ticket because I’d seen the broadcasts of this event before (it’s an annual thing) and I knew it was an outdoor stage that was also kind of janky. An Idol Koushien was also scheduled for the same day, with the typical Idol Koushien lineup, so not exciting. As the weeks passed, the lineup updated, and eventually there were seven groups I legitimately wanted to see: Harajuku Monogatari, Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen, Tenkou Shoujo, palet, Maplez, Woltanative, and 26-ji no Masquerade. At the time I was still on a TPD high, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to see a lot of the groups I just listed at TIF due to timetable conflicts, so it was either Idol Koushien or never. I’m thankful logic won out over my infatuation with TPD, because this is the event that introduced me to Harajuku Monogatari hotness.

Mini-reviews
Typical for Idol Koushien, the event was from 10:00 to 20:30 and you could come and go. I saw a lot of groups, but I’ll just focus on the seven I came to see.

Harajuku Monogatari (aka Monoga) was scheduled for 13:20 and Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen was the last act, so I was going to be there a while. I arrived ten minutes before their set, but I was able to get a great spot in the middle column at the barrier. When they came on I noticed they weren’t wearing their sleeve things, which was kind of their visual trademark for a while. They performed nonstop without MCs, with members continually swapping in and out based on the song. This is how they always perform, and I think it’s cool, even though my favorite member rotates out for a lot of songs (the rotations are based on their “teams,” a system they no longer use). I immediately liked their choreography, music, and several of the members, but it wasn’t until the following days when I starting researching the group and watching and re-watching the few videos they had on youtube that they really began sinking into my subconsciousness. 

In my opinion Harajuku Monogatari is the most exciting group to emerge since PASSPO back in 2010. The unexpected thing about Monoga is there is no other group like them, which is strange because on the surface they don’t seem particularly unique. When you see them perform though, their dance moves, lineup, outfits, and overall sassiness make them unlike any other group. To me, they are as unique as Migma Shelter, just in the opposite direction. They weren’t always unique though, when the group was formed last year, they were a typical indie kiddy group. Their “3rd chapter” overhaul at the beginning of the year completely changed their image. If I return to Japan during winter break, it will be because of this group.

Tenkou Shoujo performed next, and they also recently overhauled their image for the better. I didn’t like them as much as I thought I would though. The lineup is just a little off. [It’s the chibi member right? Just say so.] Can’t, chibi member might be reading this. And I’m afraid of chibi member.

Maplez came on two sets later. This was the first time seeing their new linuep, which completely changed earlier in the year when the original members were shuffled into spinoff groups (one of which is Woltanative). Vocally, the new lineup is pretty weak and I feel they are a huge step back. The music is still great, although it doesn’t seem like they are producing new music anymore. Their setlists always seem the same. Two groups later, Woltanative took the stage… with only three members. I was shocked. This group debuted just a few months ago and they already lost two members. That literally killed my interest, since one of the members was my favorite and the most visually striking of the group.

26-ji no Masquerade eventually performed and I think they are currently riding a wave of popularity from their new single. Having seen several of their live streams, I assumed I would be more into them, but I actually thought they were really generic. I didn’t dislike them, they are just kind of “blah.”

Palet came on after a few more groups and allowed photos during one song. I wouldn’t normally join in, but I do think Rito is one of the best looking members of any group ever. I basically like palet for three reasons: (1) Rito, (2) Haruka, and (3) Rito.

Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen were scheduled last and I was surprised how many people were still at the stage area. For the only time that day, I got front row. I’d actually seen YKG years before, but I wasn’t really watching them back then. Like you can see something, but not really see it if you aren’t paying attention. This can apply to a lot of things in life. Anyway, even though they’ve been around for years (and I’d seen their music videos here and there), I didn’t really notice this group until two months ago when I watched the Idol Yokocho streams and realized their music and choreography is really good, and their center, Yui Moriwaki, literally never stops smiling. [And you fell in love. How predictable.] No, I did not fall in love. I fell in like. [I’m impressed then. It’s about time you didn’t fall in love based solely on looks.] Well, then I saw her in person and fell in love.

GEM, SUPER GiRLS, RuriRori, and La Pom Pon
@OTODAMA SEA STUDIO
July 30
The next day I went to Miura beach, which was an hour by train from Tokyo, in order to see GEM and SUPER GiRLS. I’d been to OTODAMA SEA STUDIO two years ago for a Silent Siren concert, and I assumed the venue would be at the same location this year. But when I got to the final station, I immediately knew I was in a different city. My brain temporarily short-circuited and I was like, “Umm, where the f-junk am I?” At first, I thought I was at the wrong station, but I began to slowly process that they just moved the location this year. It’s entirely possible that they move the venue to a different beach every year–since this is a long-running summer event, and I wouldn’t know since I’ve only been to two of them. Without knowing where I was, I left the station and walked toward the beach–once I figured out which direction that was :P It was a five-minute walk, and once I got to the beach, it was easy to find the venue.
I was surprised that there was hardly anyone at the concert. There was a night show also with a slightly different lineup, but I doubt the situation was much different. The stage is in a covered hall, directly on the beach, so you are standing on the sand. The girl band RuriRori opened. They’ve been around for a while and are the group with their name stylized as  凸凹凸凹. I’ve seen them before and they’re cute, especially the lead singer, who performed wearing a bikini and super short-shorts. Their style is very Silent Siren-like, except they don’t seem to have a huge catalog of music. 

The group definitely hasn’t leveled up since I saw them last. The first chord the lead singer played on her guitar resulted in one of the strings snapping. It was simultaneously hilarious, cute, and patheti-sad. Later on during a towel-waving song, she threw her towel in the air and it got stuck on a hook above the stage. I was dying. They’re really cute though and an average girl band is much more appealing than an average idol group.

After the group cleared their equipment from the stage, GEM performed. They didn’t do their SE, they just came out wearing GEM shirts and short shorts and hyped the crowd. It kind of felt awkward because the venue was only a third full. This isn’t going to be that informative because I forgot most of the songs they performed and pretty much all details–outside of the short shorts. They definitely performed their two new songs, which I really, really, really don’t like. Particularly the b-side. That song is all over the place. Chaotic choreography and nonsensical musical arrangement. Not to sound elitist, but the quality of the song is way beneath them.

La Pom Pon performed next, and I actually liked their set better than GEMs. Their new single is a cover of Mai Kuraki’s “Feel Fine” (they are from the same agency). I was a huge fan of Mai K and I thought their cover was cute. I used to like LPP’s leader Yukino, but I now like Rima (light blue). [Let me guess, she is super-long kawaaiiiii.] She is absolutely super-long kawaaiiiii!

SUPER GiRLS concluded the show. I don’t know the names of their songs anymore, but a lot of fans were jumping around, including myself. Since we were on the sand, I didn’t realize that sand was getting kicked everywhere until I noticed people brushing it off. I felt bad and proceeded to jump more responsibly.

After the concert I had to rush back to the station because Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen had an release event in a few hours in Ikebukuro for their new album. 

Konya wa Anata no SUPER LIVE (“Tonight is your Super Live”)
@TSUTAYA O-EAST
July 31

There were a lot of groups scheduled and my interests were Harajuku Monogatari, drop, Maneki Kecak, Task have Fun, READY TO KISS, Cheeky Parade, and 2o Love to Sweet Bullet.

Mini recap
I reserved my ticket through Ready to Kiss‘s Tiget page, but I chose drop upon entering (still not sure the actual purpose, but it’s  protocol to choose the primary group you are pushing). I arrived ten minutes before Task have Fun took the stage and I saw Fuka watching from backstage. [Did you fall in love with her?] Yes, of course. Did you even have to ask?

This would be the only time I saw them this trip because I wasn’t able to see them at TIF. I should clarify that I like them, but just casually, so I watched from the upper step in the back of the venue because it offers a good view of the stage. They performed the three songs they always perform. And it was nice. [How descriptive.]

Fast forward to Harajuku Monogatari, I immediately awoke from my slumber and charged to the front of the stage, but only got to the second row of the middle column. They performed three songs (maybe four) and I wanted more. [How many more did you want?] I don’t know, 10. No, 20. I mean a million.

Fast forward again to Maneki Kecak. Forgot where I was, probably on the right column to avoid the pit area. I think this was the first time I saw them as just four members. Forgot when yellow member graduated. [Wow, your memory is great.] Something I wanted to definitively resolve this trip was whether I like them or drop more. After watching them perform at this event and at TIF, I can say I like drop a lot more. Drop’s music is much funner in my opinion and Maneki Kecak has too many ballady songs. Lineup wise, I think both are great, and it just comes down to preference. Chiai is one of the few truly elite idols and I rank her second only after Kome of SUPER GiRLS. Reona is also awesome. I just like Misa from drop the most from the groups. Speaking of Chiai, my first reaction when I saw her on stage was that she looked alarmingly skinny. Anyway, they performed the song “Splash.” This song haunts me. Why does this song exist and why do I keep seeing them perform it?

Cheeky Parade followed and… they are a shell of their former selves. I felt bad watching them and I don’t see how they can survive, with or without Marin and Mariya (whose returns I  never believed were going to happen anyway).

2o Love to Sweet Bullet performed next. This was the first time I’ve seen them and… they were kinda “blah.” And I need to stop using that word to describe groups.

Drop was the second to last group to perform. The thing about these types of concerts is you have to endure a lot in order to get to what you like. Even when the lineup is 50% to your liking, there is still a lot of dead time. Since it was getting late, they just performed three songs, but they were all high energy. Everyone was just jumping around and having a good time.

Unfortunately someone died.

But overall, it was great.

And no one actually died.

READY TO KISS ended the show, and I was kind of burned out by this point. I’m still a huge fan of the group’s center Sakino. I’ve been a fan of hers since she debuted in Houkago Princess, which was like seven years ago.

With this show over, all that remained on my schedule was TPD and TIF.

[And Goo Choki Paa. Don’t you dare forget them!]

To be continued

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Japan Summer Trip Intro: Harajuku Monogatari, Silent Siren, TPD, and TIF.

10 Aug

Summer Trip: July 24-August 8

I’m going to temporarily fast forward to the end of my vacation because something unexpected happened. *cue spooky banjo solo*

I spent my last day in Japan at a police station. No I did not kill anyone! I was there because I had to file a police report. Japan is a very safe country, but unfortunately I was the victim of theft.

Harajuku Monogatari stole my heart.

*dramatic pause*

[Did they also steal your brain?]

Harajuku Monogatari (abbreviated as Monoga) is an S-gen™ (sassy generation) pop-group whose members were all scouted in Harajuku. They are talented, super sassy, and their average age is 15.9. (I didn’t do the math, I just happened to watch a video from last year that mentioned their average age was 14.9, and since it’s now a year later, I added a 1). For the record, I think it’s amusing that stuff like “average age” and “three sizes” are considered acceptable and appropriate ways to describe a group in Japan. [Yeah, totally weird … So what are their three sizes?] I don’t know. The video didn’t mention that. Probably because their average age at the time was 14.9. [Oh right.]

As I explained, they are very, very sassy. I traveled to the furthest edges of the inter-verse and this is the least sassy photo of them I could find:

[Whoa! Can you give a warning the next time you post a sassy photo like that?!]

I did give a warning.

[That photo is very, very, very sassy. You only mentioned sassy twice.]

Sorry. Warning: The above photo that you have already looked at is very, very, very sassy.

[It’s too late. They already stole my heart.]

And that is just their front-girl team! Things are about to get a LOT more sassy. Eight times more sassy to be precise. Below is the complete thirteen member lineup. Obligatory sassy warning: this may be TSFW (too sassy for work).
I’m starting my recap with Harajuku Monogatari because they are dare I say, magical, legendary-wait for it-dary, and a once-in-a-thousand years idol group.

[I thought TPD was your new favorite group? What happened?]

What happened?! Goo-choki-paa happened!! That’s what happened!

 To be continued.