The Idols Possibly Known As LADYBABY

August 21, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome back to Magic Metal Meteora!

M3MagMetal

“A celebration of J-idols on the rock,” this series is meant to highlight the alternative idol scene, a particular kind of idol that has struck a chord in a lot of people.

Given the impact BABYMETAL (especially them) and BiS had, it was inevitable that there’d be those inspired by them. (In a case with a certain group, one can argue that they’re a copycat that initially had a gimmick, a “johnny-come-lately on an overdone genre.”) This week will be dedicated to a group formed in the aftermath of the rise of this scene.

Even if it’s a “copycat” group, there’s a certain… sincerity to the group. While it took years for me to actually check out the group’s music, LADYBABY was always a group I had immense interest in (thanks to Kame and his consistent coverage of them!). Maybe it’s the unique of their initial concept (which freaked out many Westerners… yet I wasn’t that flipped out about it. Maybe it’s because I’m used to crossdressers, wrestlers, and overall quirkiness. I am a Hello! Project fan after all) or what have you….

Regardless (especially after the numerous lineup changes that have both warmed and cooled people to the group), LADYBABY is certainly one group on my watch list and I’ve been waiting to talk about them for months.
First, some basic history:

LADYBABY was formed in 2015 as a PR unit for costume and party goods company Clearstone, sporting an equally memorable original lineup: LADYBEARD (an Australian-born crossdressing pro-wrestler who’s made his mark in Hong Kong and was trying (and succeeding) to do so in Japan), Kaneko Rie (not that one, though it would’ve been awesome to see a former H!P Kenshuusei join an idol group as unique as this one; this one is a Miss iD2015 Grand Prix winner), and Kuromiya Rei (a Miss iD2015 winner who also has a sweet gig as part of the band BRATS).

The MV for their first release, Nippon Manju, became a viral sensation that garnered discussion, admiration, and unavoidable criticism for anything from the group’s name to the concept of a crossdressing man dancing with two teenage girls. (I mean, I get it. It can be an acquired taste.) Two singles followed (which came after a long year of touring for the fledgling group) before the inevitable lineup change occurred.

On July 31, 2016, LADYBEARD left LADYBABY. A day later, the group’s major debut was announced, along with a name change to “The Idol Formerly Known As LADYBABY.” This lineup would release three major singles before Kuromiya Rei would depart from the group in November 2017, leaving Kaneko Rie (not that one) as its sole remaining OG member. (All of these “eras” also have a particular album attached to them.)

The group has recently not only reverted to their old name, but even recruited some new members! This lineup even released a single of their own (which we’ll get to).

In any case, let’s dig into some LADYBABY and explore this.

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Brand-new idols Are WACK

August 20, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome back to Magic Metal Meteora.

M3MagMetal

“A celebration of J-idols on the rock,” this series is meant to highlight the alternative idol scene, a particular kind of idol that has struck a chord in a lot of people.

The scene is considered to have two major progenitors, one of which will be spotlighted in the first two installments here: the always-subversive Brand-new Idol Society or BiS.

If BABYMETAL was the Beatles of alt idols, then BiS would probably be the Rolling Stones (or the Sex Pistols, given their antics).

Like BABYMETAL, BiS has ties to an idol collective (or at least played a role in the creation of one). In this instance, it is the somewhat(?!) infamous WACK (which is apparently an acronym for Watanabe Artistic Creative Kabushiki gaisha, an apt description as it is just as much a company involved in the production and management of WACK talent as it is the “collective” itself… one that really likes to take pot shots at itself, as one… interestingly named shuffle group displays).

In any case, one group that is undeniably at the center of the swirling toilet bowl is BiS and so…

Formed in 2010 by soloist Pour Lui, the group consisted of her (the only member to be in both incarnations of BiS), Yokoyama Rina (of later Akishibu Project and BPM15Q/CY8ER fame, the latter under Ichigo Rinahamu), Nakayama Yukiko (who would leave after the release of their third single primal.), and Hirano Nozomi.

Over the course of the group’s existence, they became known (some would even say infamous) for the rather… unorthodox ways they’d present themselves. One really well-known instance of this was the MV for My Ixxx, which had the members parade around a forest apparently in the nude. (Unsurprisingly, the MV for (and its somewhat tamer successor) is age-restricted on YouTube, but if you are able to view it, you can find it on their channel.)

This rock-and-roll rebelliousness and unorthodox approach to idoldom that garnered their fame would also be the thing leading to their downfall, what with members leaving and the original incarnation disbanding in 2014. There’s a long and complicated history surrounding this group (groups even), which is one reason this post got delayed. (The other was the amount of stress I was under while making it. Aside from wanting to somewhat stay on schedule for something, one reason I tackled the Berryz post (which was meant to be posted after this) was to help normalize myself.) Said history will be touched upon in the post itself.

If WACK is considered the alternative idol equivalent of Hello! Project (or 48G), then BiS (both incarnations and arguably their “successors” BiSH) would be their Morning Musume/AKB48 (especially in light of their recent Senbatsu-like splitting into BiS1st and BiS2nd earlier this year).

As such, let’s dig into BiS and BiSH and see how wacky things can get… or try to since I had to delay and almost chop this post apart so I can get it out.

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We Can’t Live Without You (But We Must)

August 16, 2018

In the beginning, there was darkness. Chaos swirled as graduations and fresh-faced adolescent idols ran amok. Then, little seeds were planted and after a few years, they began to form fruit.

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary… that tagline will be over with soon), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history. This week, we’re traveling to 2004 as we take a look at Berryz Koubou’s Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai. That’s right, we’re going back to the beginning.

Once upon a time in 2002, an idol collective held auditions for junior members to join their ranks. After making many cameos and special appearances, 8 special children were chosen to be part of a new group in early 2004. That group was Berryz Koubou and thus, the dawn of a new age had truly begun…

The single is so significant that it is the first song featured in the Chuu!Sugoi!Idol tribute video. Then again, that probably has more to do with the fact that it is their debut single rather than anything else. At the same time, in this business, even if it’s a limited edition group, it would not be a bad idea to have their debut song be good.

As an aside, since we’re talking Berryz, might as well (again) bring up how this single fared in the Berryz Memorial Survey!

  • The single was voted 2nd Best Single overall. As mentioned last week, Otakebi Boy WAO! / Tomodachi wa Tomodachi Nanda! took the gold.
  • Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai was voted voted 5th best A-side of the 8nin Era, surpassed by Nanchuu Koi wo Yatteruu YOU KNOW?, Koi no Jubaku, Piriri to Yukou!, and (to what may be no one’s surprise at all) Special Genera~tion.
    • Its B-side, BERRY FIELDS (which I had preferred over the A-side when it came out) was voted Best B-side for this period.

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In any case, let’s dig into Berryz Koubou #1 and see how it all began.

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War Cry of Friendship WAO!

August 9, 2018

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Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary… that tagline will be over with soon), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history. This week, we’re traveling to 2010 as we take a look at Berryz Koubou’s Otakebi Boy WAO! / Tomodachi wa Tomodachi Nanda!

At this point, we’re knee-deep in what I’d call the Inazuma Era, where the Berryz would do double-headed tie-ins to a soccer anime called Inazuma Eleven.

How many Berryz songs can you recognize in these medleys?

As an aside, since we’re talking Berryz, might as well bring up how this single fared in the Berryz Memorial Survey!

OtakebiTomodachiPromo

In any case, let’s dig into Berryz Koubou #22 and see if the WAR CRY OF FRIENDSHIP will reach us.

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BABYMETAL Resistance

August 6, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome to the first installment of Magic Metal Meteora.

M3MagMetal

“A celebration of J-idols on the rock,” this series is meant to highlight the alternative idol scene, a particular kind of idol that has struck a chord in a lot of people.

The scene is considered to have two major progenitors, one of which will be spotlighted in the first two installments here: the Sakura Gakuin “Heavy Music Club” (or “Heavy Metal Club,” depending on who you talk to) turned J-pop phenomenon BABYMETAL. (I almost don’t want to refer to them as a “group” but as a “band” because as much as they are “idols,” they have transcended their idol roots and then some at this point.)

I mean, one of my fellow artists managed to see one of their concerts and vlogged about it!

Anyway, the group was formed in 2010 (debuting in 2011) with Karen Girls-turned-Sakura Gakuin OG Nakamoto Suzuka (aka SU-METAL) as lead singer and transfer students Mizuno Yui (aka YUIMETAL) and Kikuchi Moa (aka MOAMETAL) on backup. (Officially, SU-METAL is on “vocals and dance” while YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL are on “screams and dance.”) As previously mentioned, given the school motif in Sakura Gakuin, BABYMETAL functioned as a “school club.

One other aspect of Sakura Gakuin was that once members reach high school, they “graduate” from the group/academy. This stipulation was no different for BABYMETAL once it came time for Nakamoto to do so in 2013. However, unlike many “clubs” before it, BABYMETAL continued to exist as a group in its own right, operating outside the Sakura Gakuin umbrella from that point onward. (While they had long spread their wings at this point, it was full-fledged thing when Mizuno and Kikuchi would graduate from Sakura Gakuin in 2015.)

This era would mark the point in which the BABYMETAL hype would build even more momentum, resulting in numerous overseas appearances and world tours.

As such, let’s dig into some BABYMETAL and take a small look at this chocolate phenomenon! Huh… due to the (past) nature of the group, I suppose this technically may make it M3’s first coverage of Sakura Gakuin (if only by proxy).

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Tomboyish Ponies in Paradise

August 2, 2018

607px-V-u-denJajaUmaLimited

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary… that tagline will be over with soon), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history.

This is a regular review, representing 2007 (aka the gateway year for what may be a good majority of my readers) and an unintended follow-up to the surprise off-season review in June. Why? Because we’re talking about v-u-den and the single that preceded the beautiful Nanni mo Iwazu ni I LOVE YOU, the infamous Jaja Uma Paradise.

(I am so sorry to any members of the 2007 Club… which technically includes M3 as that’s also when I started Morning Meteora on Vox….)

Why is it infamous? Well, when it came out, it caused a stir in the (non-Japanese) blogosphere for its unabashed sexiness. This was during the era where Hello! Project was experimenting with sexiness, from inserting “sexy” into various songs to putting the idols’ sexuality front and center (Goto Maki’s later H!P work may come to mind for some).

Now, what made it different from the suggestive sexuality of the Early Days (because we know a good chunk of that stuff was Radar-worthy) and… well, what we have now is… well… I wish I could say. 2007 was a time when the Hallyu Wave, which a dominant force in Japan, wasn’t nearly the juggernaut it is today. What definitely was a juggernaut at the time was 48G with the 48s nabbing just about the attention of most of Japan (including the talent pool of females — and even some H!P rejects (and an ex-H!Per!) and ex-H!P fans). It is this sort of climate that gave birth to a rather infamous trait in hardcore Hello! Project fans regarding the “competition.”

Anyway, while these moves ruffled feathers (among the overseas fandom) at the time, looking at it now… it’s not that extreme. It’s still oozing with sensuality and the awkwardness it brings (our heads explode and bodies ache with the more controversial elements of idol culture), is… it really that salacious?

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Well, let’s dig into v-u-den #(9) and see if these beloved broncos are worth the numerous bucks given, everypony!

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A Wordless “I LOVE YOU”: A Sandwiched Farewell to V-U-Den

June 29, 2018

V-u-denNannimoIwazuRegular

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary… that tagline will be over with soon), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history.

This particular review is a re-review of something I did back on the old Vox blog: Biyuuden v-u-den’s Nanni mo Iwazu ni I LOVE YOU, their final single.

V-u-denNannimoIwazuLimited

It’s… significant for a lot of reasons, many of them personal. You see… I would not be kidding if I said v-u-den (ex-Morning Musume member Ishikawa Rika, H!P audition winner Miyoshi Erika, and 1st Gen Egg (and the first one to ever debut) Okada Yui) is heavily tied to my teen years. The group was formed a month before I started high school and disbanded the week I graduated (or close to it). In fact, the original post was published on that very date (in the US, because I didn’t exactly have a good idea about time zones then and I don’t think Vox even allowed posts to be scheduled then). If I remember how long it’s been since v-u-den was a thing, it forces me to remember how long it’s been since I was in high school.

I remember making that note while commenting on MTSayuRin’s blog and she replied that they probably reminded me of school days. As much as I didn’t want to believe her… she was right. (No wonder she’s Mrs. Morningtime. On that note, belated CONGRATULATIONS on your wedding!)

v-u-den’s existence, by a strange coincidence, was so tied to my high school years, that I can’t think of one without the other. (Great, now I’m reminded of how preparations for the Class of ’08 reunion are under way….)

…Such a feeling is something I have to put up with as I tackle the task of re-reviewing v-u-den’s swan song as part of celebrations of M3’s anniversary. (Indeed, I got so caught up in things that I forgot I started the blog early in my last year, which was one major factor as to why posts became wonky towards the spring/summer.)

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Enough talk. You know the drill.

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Extra Strong Kisses of Hardcore Love

June 14, 2018

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Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration, I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history.

As announced via a video announcement on Tumblr and Facebook (which was also seen in 20-second Stories snippets on Instagram and Facebook the day before), I decided to make reviews of the two Q2 ties and postponed the planned Ping Pong Pinpoint digest for a later date (probably one of the July slots).

This week, we’ll be tackling Buono!‘s Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!, which was tied with Morning Musume‘s Resonant Blue for the Q2 Anniversary Review Vote Win:

  1. Morning Musume – Resonant Blue (2 – 50%)
  2. Buono! – Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! (2 – 50%)
  3. C-ute – Namida no Iro (0 – 0%)
  4. Fujimoto Miki – Okitegami (0 – 0%)
  5. Matsuura Aya – Kizuna (0 – 0%)
  6. High-King – C/C (Cinderella/Complex) (0 – 0%)
  7. SHIPS – TOKYO FRIEND☆SHIPS (0 – 0%)
  8. Mano Erina – Manopiano (0 – 0%)

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In the midst of Morning Musume’s angst period, a new wave was sweeping over H!P: the rise of the Hello! Project Kids. One example of this is the formation of Buono!, formed with a Cutie (future soloist sensation Suzuki Airi) and two Berryz (future PINK CRES. fronter Natsuyaki Miyabi and future Country Girls Playing Manager-turned-kindergarten teacher Tsugunaga Momoko). As those who know… well, know, this was when Hello! Project was in the midst of doing anime tie-ins (which is why Koharu was so prominently featured in MM as her Kirarin Revolution activities gave her immense exposure). At this point, we were knee-deep in the other big anime tie-in of H!P’s late 2000s: Shugo Chara.

Some of you may remember about three months ago when I covered the second ending theme, Ren’ai♥Rider. (You should know because you guys voted for it!) This time, we’ll be taking a step forward into history and dig into Buono! #3.

💋💋💋

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They’re Blue, Ba Da Dee Ba Da Di

June 7, 2018

ResonantBluePromo

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration, I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history. This one technically is also one of five meant to make up for the six weeks I went without a proper post in the first quarter, due to being busy with the Production Red Diary (among other factors).

As announced via a video announcement on Tumblr and Facebook (which was also seen in 20-second Stories snippets on Instagram and Facebook the day before), I decided to make reviews of the two Q2 ties and postponed the planned Ping Pong Pinpoint digest for a later date (probably one of the July slots).

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This week, we’ll be tackling Morning Musume‘s Resonant Blue. As this is in the late 2000s, we’re in the midst of the “Emo Musume” period where Momusu sang about practically nothing but “I’M SO LONELYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY”! and “Everyone has ANGST!” (Given what this blog was originally about, it took everything in my power not to make a “Crawling” joke, something I took great delight in as I loathed that song with every fiber of my existence. Besides, I have something better in mind come the summer….)

…Anyway, Morning Musume’s output was marked by a more “mature” note with more introspective (and at times, angry) lyrics. One can trace one aspect of this to the success of singles like Kanashimi Twilight (which “had angrier lyrics than Shabondama”) and Onna ni Sachi Are (which was infamous for its line distribution, which can be attributed to the sudden departure of Fujimoto Miki a little more than a month before the single’s release). This was also a time when the 48s were really gaining steam and a lot of the idol names we know were just bubbling. (Momoiro Clover was formed a year after this single was released, eventually gaining and losing a member before turning into Z Fighters we know them as today… until Ariyasu Momoka left earlier this year.)

Point is Hello! Project was in a state of… abyss. Sales were rock bottom or close to it (as you can see from this spreadsheet used to seed the M3 Momusu Grand Prix) and public recognition was at a similar level. This also marked the duration of Morning Musume’s most stable lineup, which would be broken in 2009 with the graduation of the eternally controversial Kusumi Koharu.

If all of this sounds familiar (and given the end results of two unrelated polls, it should to a good chunk of you), then you may know that all of this is the textbook definition of what became known as the Platinum Era. Twas a time when Morning Musume were building up their skillset to compete with the juggernaut of the 48s (which has quite the pedigree), along with other idols and cultural factors. (Kpop and the overall Hallyu Wave were also making waves around this point. I can’t believe I forgot.)

This was also a time marked by Hello! Project’s overall efforts to expand into Asian markets, as shown by the addition of Chinese members Junjun and Linlin to Morning Musume, the formation of Taiwanese groups Ice Creamusume and Da Xiao Jie, and the sole H!P Korea member in the form of its sole Kenshuusei member. (As we are all painfully aware of, H!P’s competitors learned from their mistakes and missteps.)

Now that we’ve talked a bit of history, let’s dig into the third single of this brave new frontier and one of the winning singles of the Q2 Anniversary Review Vote, Morning Musume #36: Resonant Blue. Da ba dee da ba di.

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Cabbage Patch FEELS

May 31, 2018

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Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration, I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history. This one technically is also one of five meant to make up for the six weeks I went without a proper post in the first quarter, due to being busy with the Production Red Diary (among other factors).

In this post, we will take a look at the representative for 2013: Peaberry’s Cabbage Hakusho ~Haru Hen~.

Like with Seishun no Serenade, I technically gave this a mini-review on a previous post (namely Frou-Frou Sato, which talked about the Satoyama-Satoumi Movement).

Before we do anything, we must give time to the “original” version of this piece:

Starting with a classically-minded music box and a shot out our Peaberries standing on a country field, we go into the woodsy wonderland as the song officially begins. May I just go out on the whim at how the main hook of the song hits me? The voices of the th Gen Ace and the leader of S/mileage blend amazingly well (to the surprise of haters of one and/or both girls). The mellowness of the song is an odd, but refreshing surprise. After all, it’s an introspective, pensive piece:

When you sow seeds and pour in your love
They‘ll take in the rain
And if you love them again, they’ll definitely bear fruit
You have to be grateful for every life
Now, let’s wash our hands and eat dinner

Source: Project Hello
On another note, can someone tell me what piece the song is referencing?

And now for the bit about the song we’re actually talking about:

We’ve come now to the major debut of Peaberry. Instead of a music box, we begin with a piano.
Instead of two girls on a road, we see flowers and a satoyama home.

The music is far more subdued during the verses, giving more emphasis on the vocals (which has more harmonization in certain parts).

We also see the oft-mentioned grandmother (played here by Hosokawa Kayoko¹), who sings a verse of her own.

The song is essentially the “theme song” of the SATOYAMA SATOUMI Movement, performed during every major event’s opening ceremony until the Spring 2017 event. As you might’ve guessed, after Sayashi Riho left the Morning Nest and took a break from showbiz in 2015, Tsubaki Factory took up the mantle for the song, resulting in this:

(If you want to know my thoughts on the Camellia version (which isn’t that different from the Peaberry one), check out the post Reporting on Having Camellia Blooms to Yourself.)

The grandmother is played by Hosokawa Kayoko, wife of former prime minister Hosokawa Morihiro and the chairwoman of a non-profit organization the Movement often collaborated with.

With that in mind… let’s dig into Cabbage Hakusho ~Haru Hen~.

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