Tag Archives: Houkago Princess

“Hi, my name is Herman Kobabowitz… and I’m a Doll☆Elements addict.”

15 Oct

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 11.10.49 AMI have no idea why, how, or why, but Doll☆Elements have become my favorite group.
[That’s great, but who the f-junk is Herman Kobabowitz?] Oh, he’s just someone I met at last week’s Doll☆Elements Addicts Anonymous meeting.
[Isn’t it supposed to be anonymous?]
Yeah, it is. We’re just really stupid. 

Incoherent Doll☆Elements Story
*brews a pot of chamomile tea* It all started last week when I was watching the Tokyo Idol Festival special that featured GEM. For some reason, instead of watching and re-watching GEM’s performance, I found myself watching and rewatching Doll☆Elements (who happened to be included in the same broadcast). I’ve known of them for a while, but only by name–technically I saw them at TIF 2012, but to say that I “saw” them is a total exaggeration. PASSPO and predia had just finished their night performance at Sky Stage and I was planning on getting out of there asap in order to bypass the queue that was guaranteed to form at the elevator. However, since I was in the front row (a fact I have to mention because evidently being in the front row for predia makes me a total pervert *sigh*), I couldn’t escape the stage area before someone affiliated with Doll☆Elements (maybe their manager?) handed me a flyer and frantically asked anyone who would listen to stick around for their performance. Back in 2012, they were still relatively new and I felt bad because all the PASSPO/predia fans were leaving. So I reluctantly went back to the stage. I had no intention of staying too long though–I’m nice, but I’m not that nice. So I watched them for a minute and then I very secretly moved further and further away from the stage until the next thing I knew I had gone down the lift and was at a completely different stage. [Wow, a whole minute] I also still have the flyer. [Well, that’s predictable considering you never buy goods, so stuff like concert streamers, promotional flyers, ticket stubs, and anything else that is handed out for free which most normal people either decline or promptly throw away become your souvenirs.] Please don’t tell my readers that the free stuff that everyone else throws away are my treasures!! [Umm, I didn’t use the word treasure.]
photo (18)Anyway, *sips chamomile tea* for this year’s TIF I saw Doll☆Elements at Hot Stage and Smile Garden. I was pretty close to the stage for both performances (you can see me in the broadcast at both stages. But don’t look too closely because evidently being close to the stage makes me a total pervert! *sigh*). I thought they were good, but they didn’t leave a lasting impression. It wasn’t until the TIF footage that everything suddenly clicked and ever since I’ve been scouring the internet for new Doll☆Elements treasures. Unfortunately, they only have a few concert clips online, so I’ve been continually watching them on an endless loop. Which reminds me *checks watch* we should probably start watching them again, I’m experiencing withdrawals. [Sorry, but I don’t have time for that. I have like ten kids!] Ten kids? I thought you were just one of my sassy split personalities. [Hey, what I do with my free time is my business!]

Unfortunately, they really don’t have a lot of videos online, probably because they haven’t done that many one-mans (only six in their two year existence), and the few concerts they have done haven’t been released on dvd. Their official youtube channel has clips of most of their recent concerts though. The following video doesn’t include their best songs (imo), but the video quality is better than the others. The third song 空の向こうへ (Sora no Mukou he) is amazing though and even a blind brain surgeon would think the choreography is cute. I would literally kill to see it performed live. Oh, yeah you’re right. I would figuratively… and literally kill to see it performed live.

The key to becoming a hardcore fan of a group is finding a favorite member. Without an oshimen (or oshiGEM), I think it’s difficult to become more than just a casual fan of a group. The Doll☆Elements lineup is amazing and I dare anyone to get to know the group and not become obsessed with at least one of the members. Personally I like all six of them. More accurately though,  I like all the members equally, just some more equally than others.

Super-long kaawwaaiiiiiiiiiii

Super-long kaawwaaiiiiiiiiiii

Form left to right: Natsumi Gonda, Rika Tonosaki, Haruka Koizumi, Runa Kojima, and Yukino Komori. (If you compare this current photo with the flyer from 2012, you’ll notice there’s been two lineup changes. In the flyer, the girls 3rd and 4th from the left graduated and were replaced by Haruka and Yukino).

If the world was going to end tomorrow and you had to choose an oshimen today:
Natsumi (Gonchan) – the leader and anime/otaku type. She also has perfect legs, I mean, if you’re into that. Which I am, because evidently I’m a total pervert.
Rika (Rikapyon) – the sophisticated member who does gravure.
Haruka (Izumi) – the super hot former member of YGA who is now the super hot current member of Doll☆Elements. She’s also the center.
Runa (Runapon) – the super-genki, super-long kawaaiiiii, adorably-funny miracle member.
Yukino (Yukinon) – the youngest and most-genki, who is also considered the “funny” member.
Screenshot 2014-10-15 15.41.08
If they are awesome and perfect why are they so unpopular? (edit: I didn’t intend this “reason” to be controversial, so I rewrote it a little. But the idea is the same.)
Despite having an almost perfect lineup and great music (they recently released their first album which came in two versions, each with completely different tracks), Doll☆Elements literally has zero overseas fanbase (which is strange considering even fringe underground idol groups typically have a few fans). I think it’s mainly because they are the younger sister group of Lovely★Doll, who I consider to be mediocre. If fans aren’t interested in the flagship, then they probably aren’t going to be motivated to get to know the sister groups. I think this is a pretty common phenomena with agencies who manage multiple groups. Any feelings you have for a group like AKB48, SUPER☆GiRLS, or PASSPO, will either positively or negatively influence your perception of their sister groups. I think their affiliation with Lovely★Doll has unfortunately limited Doll☆Elements potential fanbase.

If only they could be sister groups with SUPER☆GiRLS and GEM!

Idol News Update #1
After a 20 year hiatus Misa is back!
The last time we heard from Misa she had just been rejected by PASSPO and was spending her summer at her grandma’s strawberry farm to recover. But that was two years ago, which is an eternity in idol years. On 8.31 Misa updated her blog and she announced she joined a new indie group called Stereo Tokyo. Reading some of her tweets they seem to have some sort of relationship with the group Yumemiru Adolescence. They haven’t released anything, but in simultaneously sad and hilarious news, one of the members graduated after just one week.

Idol News Update #2
After a 7 million year hiatus Nene is back!
Nene Sakuragi rejoined Houkago Princess on 9.17. She left the group earlier this year to focus on school, but she didn’t technically graduate, allowing for a potential return. This is relevant because she’s hot and probably the second most popular member. <Is hotness and popularity the only thing you care about? You disgust me!> No, an idol’s political ideology is also important!

img20140925houpri3Nene is in the middle row on the far right (above) and fifth from the left (below). Interestingly they let her participate in the promotional material for their latest single despite her not appearing in the video or performing at their 3rd anniversary concert last month. Looking at the above photo, the group would be a lot stronger as six members and dropping the trainees. But Houkago Princess has had more member turnover than any group I have ever followed (not counting AKB).
houprilineup

Street-sei Update
Sutorigu 3’s opening ceremony was on 10.11, so now I have an excuse for updating my Street-sei ranking.

haachin

1

2

2

ruka

3

4

4

5

5

6

6

7

7

Predictions
Team champion Nagoya (runner up Sendai)
MVP Ruka
Concerts are streamed on showroom (or you can do what I do and subscribe to https://www.youtube.com/user/kchipmunk and https://www.youtube.com/user/nagelibre12 since these channels record the shows)

Fans can vote at the following website: https://map.pigoo.jp/  (please vote for Hazuiki)

Unfortunately, Sutorigu 3 is pretty much pointless since any potential iDOL Street group that will emerge from this Street-sei class is doomed. 

But even though the 4th group is doomed, everyone knows I’m still a huge Doll☆Elements fan.

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TIF Day 2: Mini-cap™(mini-recap)

25 Aug

tif2013asX6This was how Day 1 of TIF ended:

IMG_1460

I don’t think that is an idol.

Fortunately there is this thing called Day 2.

iDOL Street Report
I got to Odaiba late on Day 1 so I woke up at 6AM for Day 2 intending to arrive by 8:30. Somehow I still didn’t arrive until 9:30AM. I have a bad habit of spending an hour attempting to make my hair perfect.

My first stop was Azure Stage for GEM, HR, and ALLOVER, so I had to get back in the line from hell. If I was a superhero the elevator line would be my arch-enemy. Just like the day before, there was already a queue (~100 people who were cool and probably arrived at 8:30). I immediately noticed a lot of fans in line displaying their GEM goods. Strangely though, they weren’t letting people go up to the roof. GEM was scheduled to perform at 10:15 and by 9:45 the line still hadn’t moved. It was really weird considering how long the process takes. Finally at 9:50 they started the elevators *vroom vroom kerplunk*. I felt bad for the stragglers, because at this point the queue was pretty massive and it would have been difficult for them to get up to the roof in time to see GEM (assuming they were in line to see GEM).

When I saw GEM on Day 1 the experience was a total blur. The Azure Stage experience was infinitely better – the weather was cooler and more importantly I was much closer to my oshiGEM™, who actually acknowledged my existence (I was in the 4th row, stage right which is where Sara lines up during member intros) (I hope I don’t sound like a stalker). The roof stage is also just way nicer than Smile Garden, which is the most ghetto of all TIF stages (no offense Smile Garden.) (Smile Garden: I’m just trying to bring da smilez yo *cries*).  The members of GEM had been blogging about how excited they were for finally having their own merchandise, so it was cool that a lot of fans were displaying their goods. This may sound very lame, but GEM is such an innocent group that I totally believe them when they say it makes them happy to see fans wearing their shirts and displaying their towels and uchiwas. When Chanman (“Chanban” <- inside joke for cool people) asked if anyone bought their goods, the fans who did waved their towels and uchiwas. I waved my Sara uchiwa and she smiled. I felt like a peasant and she was the queen of Japan. Not much else to write about their performance, this is a mini-cap after all. You can check out their sky stage footage on YouTube.

(Just a short note on HR and ALLOVER. I’ve been following HR casually for a while on YouTube. Their TIF performance was pretty average though. Had I not already been a casual fan, it would have been completely forgettable. I’m not a fan of ALLOVER, but I am a fan of two members of the group: Anna and Yuna (they’re sisters in real life and members of ANNA☆S). Only watched them perform one song though because I was following my strategy of heading down the elevator during a performance in order to bypass the line that forms when waiting for a group to finish. I really like Anna and she is one of my favorite idols (top 30 at least). I think she saw me slowly making my way to the exit though. Or maybe I was just imagining her looking straight at me and being disappointed.)

Saw GEM again later in the day at Hot Stage. I was determined to get front row, but when I arrived the outlook didn’t look so hot (no pun intended). I happened to stand next to two other hardcore GEM fans (both had GEM shirts and towels) who were thinking the same exact thing as me: the moment Sakura Gakuin finished their set make a move to the front. The front area of Hot Stage is so congested you have to be ready to make a move the first chance you get. Of course this doesn’t mean pushing anyone, it just means waiting for a path to open and then immediately taking it and then just ride the wave of people moving to the front.

One way to tell if fans will vacate the front area is to check for hardcore fans of that group. During the  Vanilla Beans performance it was obvious 90% of the fans in the front were there waiting for SUPER☆GiRLS, so they wouldn’t be going anywhere once Vanilla Beans finished. During Sakura Gakuin’s performance I could tell there were a lot of their fans in the front because they had their pink flags.

Once Sakura Gakuin finished I was able to make it to 2nd row center. It was amusing watching some fans continue to fight and actually negotiate for position. I noticed this year fans were a lot more aggressive… and stupid. It’s refreshing knowing Japanese people are just as stupid as Americans. Americans get a bad rap, but stupidity is a world-wide thing. I also think some fandoms are on the tipping point into insanity.

The Hot Stage performance was great, but again not much to write about. They performed the same songs they always do. I haven’t watched any of the Day 2 footage of TIF, but I am pretty sure GEM’s Hot Stage performance wasn’t aired. There’s some footage on this weeks episode of GEM Nao though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2emu4He_3HU
164252The final iDOL Street performance was the one I was looking forward to the most: all five Street-sei teams at Azure Stage. This stage is magical at night.

Last year Street-sei wasn’t on my radar at all. Most of the members were new, and although the street-sei system was expanded into five regional groups, I figured they were just the equivalent of AKB research students. I did catch w-Street Osaka, but that was only because they happened to be scheduled before BiS. And regretfully I wasn’t really paying attention. Although I was at the stage I was mainly passing time taking crappy photos of them.  And then for some reason a reporter and photographer interviewed me during their performance, which distracted me even more. Considering my three favorite GEM members, Sara, Ranachin, and Jurin were all performing (also a Natchi fan of course), it was a pretty big fail on my part to not see them when they were just starting out.

I’ve since realized the street-sei is nothing like AKB kenkyuusei. After SUPER☆GiRLS, GEM, predia, and Houkago Princess, they were my highest priority “must-see-at-all-costs” group.

After predia’s Azure Stage performance was rained out on Day 1, I knew there was a chance the same thing could happen to Street-sei’s night performance on Day 2. In fact according to the weather forecast it was more likely to rain than not. Although I didn’t want to repeat the experience from Day 1, I didn’t really have a choice. If there was even just a 10% chance to see Street-sei I had to take it.

Fortunately on Day 2 there wasn’t a queue when I went up to the roof. In reviewing the schedule I’m pretty sure the reason for the massive line the day before was because Idoling was performing. Wherever Idoling goes a horde of Idoling fans follow. Even though getting up to the roof was quick, one of the elevators was closed (there are two of them) so there was a huge line on the roof attempting to get down. Sucked for them. The lack of stairs to the roof is completely irresponsible (total fire/earthquake hazard). Anyway once I got to the Azure Stage the group hy4_4yh was performing.

And it started raining.

On the inside I was totally freaking out, but on the outside I looked totally cool. Once hy4_4yh finished whatever it is they do (no offense), TIF staff began covering up the speakers with plastic and frantically drying the stage. It kind of seemed like they were determined to keep the stage open (for once TIF staff were actually doing something productive. Honesty I’ve never seen a lazier group of morons than the TIF workforce). Street-sei was the final performer at Azure Stage so at this point everyone on the roof was an iDOL Street fan. I thought it was pretty cool because there was a mix of iDOL Street, SUPER☆GiRLS, Cheeky Parade, and GEM fans all there supporting Street-sei. Fortunately a miracle occurred and the rain stopped when the Shanadoo song “Carry On” began, which marks the beginning of a Street-sei performance.IMG_6770I should mention that each Street-sei group still did their original MCs and hadn’t updated their team names yet (i.e. Nagoya wasn’t “Nagoya Chubu”). The groups did perform their new songs though. Each group performed two songs: 1) either an iDOL street song or a team-specific song (in the case of Osaka and Nagoya) and 2) their new song. Runa and Ayaka are pretty cute in person, but I was more focused on Yukipa. I’m still not really sure how viable she is in an official group, but she deserves a chance.

IMG_6938Last year I thought w-Street Osaka was easily the strongest street-sei group, but since they lost four members to GEM, I don’t think that is the case anymore. They’re still a great group, just not the dominate force they used to be. I’ve been pretty harsh on Haachin in the past (predicting she wouldn’t make it into GEM), but I’m actually a fan of hers and when GEM was first revealed she was my 3rd favorite member. As GEM continued to progress though I no longer felt her “my pace” style fit the cool, high-energy image they were attempting. During the Azure Stage performance she seemed more “awake” than normal, which just proves that when she isn’t in “sleepy-mode” she can be a legit idol. I also have a soft spot for Yui because she is the only remaining 3rd gen member and she is just a sweet person. It must be hard for her, but hopefully she sticks with the group. Kyoko is my favorite of the new members, for superficial cuteness reasons. Seira and Mizuki have potential to move up my personal, completely unimportant ranking though.

IMG_72581I don’t really know anything about the Fukuoka team. It’s a completely new team since the original members have either changed teams, joined GEM, or graduated *sigh*. I like their new song though. Riko got the most attention from the fans, I guess she is the most popular at the moment.

IMG_7307The real reason I absolutely had to see Street-sei was e-Street Sapporo. The new members are great, but my fandom for Saku is at that annoying fanboy level. She used to be completely overshadowed by Yuuki and Nagi, although even when they were around every now and then she showed glimpses of “miracle member” level super-cuteness. Now that YuNagi is gone, fans are beginning to notice the real star of Sapporo. She got the loudest reception of any street-sei member… and for some reason she pointed at me three times during KiraKira Holiday (during the chorus members point at fans). The first time I figured she’s just randomly pointing. Maybe it helped that I had my glowstick set to light blue. The second time she pointed at me… it no longer seemed random. I was in the 4th row so it’s not something you can be mistaken about when you’re being singled out.  I’m a pretty shy person so I rarely maintain eye-contact with idols, unless its Reira or Sara. So I never have these weird moments. Previously the only time an idol went out of her way to single me out was when I saw Afilia Saga last year and Meiry continually waved at me (and she didn’t stop until I finally waved back). The third time Saku pointed at me she was on the other side of the stage. I literally and figuratively melted at this point. And this is why I have leveled up from Saku fanboy to insane Saku fanboy level 2.

IMG_7418The new and improved Tokyo team “headlined.” I figured they would go last, but I was hoping they would go first because I had already decided to leave early in order to make it down the elevator (there were still several performances I wanted to see even though TIF was wrapping up). I had to see Naapon, Rihona, and Narumi though, so I gave myself permission to watch their first song (they covered “Miracle ga Tomannai.”) Then I slowly moved further from the stage (I didn’t want to make it obvious I was bailing, it would be rude to them and didn’t want other fans to start thinking about doing the same thing). Once I was out of sight, I skedaddled to Doll Factory to watch 7cm and Kaiketsu Tropical Maru.

[photos from http://nikkan-spa.jp/483064]

predia
ptif13a
My second favorite jewel-themed idol group and the only group that’s ever survived my 2-year rule (<- reference to my tendency of losing interest in a group after two years). Because rain cancelled predia’s Azure Stage performance, I was only able to see predia one time at TIF. Once GEM’s Hot Stage performance ended I booked it to Enjoy Stadium. When I arrived the venue was closed so I joined a queue that literally only had two other people in it. For some reason the guys in line wanted me to go in front of them, I have no idea why. I forgot how long I waited in that line but based on the timetable it must have been 30 minutes. Totally worth it to see predia from the first row.

Scheduled before predia was an idol duo called kurikamaki. I don’t know anything about them but they wore bear-themed outfits, they were kind of cute, and their music was decent.

When predia came on stage they were wearing their Hey Now!! outfits. Super cute and a big improvement over most of their previous outfits.
ptif13cThey opened with Hey Now!! Fortunately I watched the Idol Yokochou Matsuri stream a few weeks before when Mai did a hilarious job at explaining the audience participation. She asked the fans to practice the Hey Now chorus, but just randomly yelled out “HEY!! Hey!”. It’s not complicated, basically just say “hey,” “now,” “love,” and “hey now.” The easier these things are the stupider you look if you don’t know what you’re doing. This song is so much funner than Crazy Cat.
ptif13gAfter a short MC they sang Crazy Cat, Diamond High Heals/Hey Boy Mix, and Restart Game.
ptif13eI wish they could have performed for another hour, it was ridiculously fun. Absolutely my favorite TIF performance this year. It really sucks that they didn’t get to perform on the main stage and for the second year in a row weren’t featured on any of the TIF television footage. Stuff like that just makes me want to support them more.

[photos from predia member blogs]

Houkago Princess
Although I’ve been a fan since their debut in 2011 I’ve never been able to attend a Houkago Princess concert since they operated outside the idol scene, and only did shows at their “White Base” theater (which resembled an evil scientist’s basement more than a glamorous idol stage). They changed their approach recently and begin doing events with other indie idol groups, which may have been influential in being invited to TIF.

Since day one my favorite member has been Sakino Chiba, who I think is the best dressed idol ever. She also has the best hair. Every time I visited her blog I wanted to go clothes shopping afterword.
13-4-28 S12-6-8 S13-2-22 S13-5-25 S13-5-15 S13-4-19 S13-5-1 S13-4-11 SOf course something tragic had to happen because for some reason God loves interfering with my TIF dreams.

One morning while checking her blog on my phone the nightmare scenario all fans fear the most occurred. I noticed her most recent blog entry had a lot more comments than usual and even more prophetic, included zero photos. From experience this could mean only one thing: it was a serious post, aka not related to fashion, her hair, or a recent shopping spree. Last year she had graduated only to change her mind a few days later, and I immediately knew it was another graduation announcement. Almost one month after Houkago Princess was added to the TIF lineup she announced her graduation. Even more painful, her last concert would be on July 21, seven days before TIF. My fandom was stronger than a single member, so I still definitely wanted to see them, but the timing was hilarious.

Fast forward to TIF, even without Saki, Houkago Princess was amazing. After predia @ Enjoy Stadium, GEM @ Hot Stage, and Street-sei @ Azure Stage, Houkago Princess’s performance was my favorite. Like a lot of indie groups they’ve developed their own unique, unidentifiable style which is simultaneously super cute and high energy. Considering it was so fun, I can’t even imagine how it would have been if my favorite member was still in the group. Hopefully when I go back to Japan in spring 2014 I’ll have a chance to see them again, however unlikely that may be. And maybe by then Saki will have changed her mind again and rejoined the group.

Is it okay to talk about Secret Court now?
Secret Court at TIF 2012:

IMG_0627Secret Court at TIF 2013:
IMG_1474

Tokyo Idol Festival actually only exists so a certain member of Fudanjuku can act like the biggest dork in the universe
Momotaro missed TIF 2012 (with the exception of the encore jamboree), so she had an excuse to act insane during the encore. But this year I realized that the entire festival actually only exists so she can act like the biggest dork ever. Everything before the Encore Jamboree is just a time-filler for the main event of Momotaro jumping around the stage like a deranged lunatic.
mb2mb3mb4mb1Momotaro’s dorkiness was also contagious and spread to Ryoma
tifj1
Day Two
GEM
HR
ALLOVER (1 song)
Especia (1 song)
Caramel Ribbon
Up Up Girls
Negaigoto
Tsuribit
Spangirl
PPP! Pixion
Houkago Princess
Links
SIR
palet
Cheeky Parade
Dream 5 (1 song)
Sakura Gakuin
GEM
Barbee (1 song)
kurikamaki
predia
hy4_4yh (1 song)
Idol Street (all 5 street-sei groups)
7cm
Kaiketsu Tropical Maru
Mai Kotone
Dorothy Little Happy
Encore Jamboree

I can watch this performance until the end of time


I wish all their music was like LIFE SIZE (unfortunately the higher res version of this video got removed)

Tokyo Idol Festival 2014
GEM, predia, Street-sei, and Houkago princess made Day 2 the best single day experience from either TIF 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately Day 1 was a bust due to the weather, long lines, and overcrowded venues.The novelty of TIF faded a lot since last year. I was on an idol high for months after TIF 2013, but this year I was over it the moment it ended. The more idol concerts I’ve gone to the more desensitized I’ve gotten. This happens with all hobbies though. Hopefully Tokyo Idol Festival will continue next year (and until the idol thing implodes), but at the moment I doubt I will go back next year. Watching the FujiTV footage makes it look a lot funner than it was. I’m starting to think fans aren’t missing out on that much by just watching the broadcast. 

A year is a long time though, and maybe by then GEM will have conquered the world. And maybe predia can finally get on the main stage.