<![CDATA[A-to-J Connections - Idol]]>Thu, 18 Jan 2018 23:59:38 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[AKB48 Rumored to Limit Gravure-type Outfits for Underage Members]]>Fri, 19 Jan 2018 02:50:09 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/akb48-rumored-to-limit-gravure-type-outfits-for-underage-members
Source: AKB48 - Pontail to Shushu MV
For some, it’s hard to think of AKB48 without thinking of their iconic music video for “Heavy Rotation”, which at the time of this writing has 140 million views on YouTube alone. The video shows the members of the time wearing lingerie in a slumber party setting. There’s also the yearly music videos taken on beaches with the members in bikinis such as “Everyday Kachuusha” and “Ponytail to Shushu”. But now the rumor is that AKB48 will be limiting these types of outfits for their younger members, at least as far as gravure goes. 
According to the Nikkan Cyzo web magazine, an anonymous source in the publishing industry has claimed that AKB48 will stop bikini gravure photos for all members 18 and under. Younger members will be wearing swimsuits with “low skin exposure” if the picture is of all the members in swimwear.
It is also rumored that increasing foreign recognition is a factor in this decision, as there is a worry that foreign media will label the gravure as “child pornography”. The possibility of AKB48 being involved in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo would bring them even more into the international public eye.
This change seems to only be affecting AKB48, as many other prominent idol management groups in Japan still have bikini gravure of members under the age of 18 in publication, including AVEX and Hello!Project.

Source: http://www.cyzo.com/2017/12/post_146322_entry.html

<![CDATA[Say Hello To The World's First Cryptocurrency-themed Idol Group, Kaso Tsuka Shojo]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/say-hello-to-the-worlds-first-cryptocurrency-themed-idol-group-kaso-tsuka-shojo
Themed idol groups are nothing new, as a matter of fact they make up much of the idol scene as we know it today. Let us not forget that arguably the biggest idol group right now, BABYMETAL, is the product of a theme on paper put into real life. With this in mind we now have "Kaso Tsuka Shojo" or "Virtual Currency Girls", a cryptocurrency-themed idol group.
Yup you read that right, you can rest assured that you now live in a world where the burgeoning cryptocurrency scene and idol fandom are finally brought together. This new eight-member group has yet to participate in any real activities (like officially release their music or perform live) but thanks to their gimmick they are making news the world over. Chosen from an already existing group within the Cinderella Academy agency, the members all represent a different cryptocurrency popular in Japan. The group's look is unique as well. While they are all clad in maid outfits, their most striking features is definitely the luchador-style masks the girls wear that sport the respective logo for the cryptocurrency they represent. Let's take a look at the members themselves a bit...

Naruse Rara (Leader, 18) is Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Hinano Shirahama (16) represents Bitcoin (BTC)
Ami Amo (??) represents Ethereum (ETH)
Suzuka Minami (22) represents NEO (NEO)
Momo Aisu (??) represents MonaCoin (MONA)
Kanako Matsuzawa (17) represents Cardano (ADA)
Koharu Kamikawa (17) represents NEM (XEM)
Hinata Kozuki (15) represents Ripple (XRP)
The timing of this group's arrival aligns perfectly with the Bitcoin-craze the world is currently in. Leader Rara Naruse claims the group's goal is to inform and educate the general public on the use and benefits of cryptocurrencies and to show them that cryptocurrency is more than just a tool for speculation. They will support this notion further by promising that all future Kaso Tsuka Shojo activities and merchandise will be purchasable using the cryptocurrencies they rep. With the wild fluctuations within the cryptocurrency market one has to wonder whether this is the best route for them, but we'll know soon as they plan to start activities soon with the start of the new year. Get those Bitcoins ready everyone!

For More On Kaso Tsuka Shojo:
<![CDATA[Travel, Travel, Travel: An Interview with KOTO and Sasaki Kissa (Recoride)]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 10:52:24 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/travel-travel-travel-an-interview-with-koto-and-sasaki-kissa-recoride
A-to-J Connections has several artists/groups that we like to interview every chance we get and one of our favorites among those is KOTO! KOTO is an idol who we've covered several times before. To save ourselves some time with a recap we'll direct you to our earlier work with her! We first officially caught up with KOTO early in 2016 with an interview and a live report that can be found HERE and HERE respectively. Just a few short weeks later we were lucky enough to catch up with her in Taiwan where she held her first overseas live! That interview was split into two parts and can be found HERE and HERE. A few months after that we arranged another interview that followed the release of her single "Butoh Yugi" which can be found HERE. You can learn all about KOTO in all those articles!

Now, a little over a year since our last meeting, we arranged another interview with KOTO that took place prior to her special oneman Halloween live and shortly after the release of her single "Kotoraberingu" (Kotraveling), which was released in seven different versions each representing a region in Japan. Besides this release, KOTO was very busy in the year since we last met up with her. Weeks after our last interview with her she formed XIAOCHAIPON with Hirano Yuri, successfully crowd-funded a fashion line titled "vanilla bunnies", took part in the "Aidoru Matsuri" contest, had several music releases, and more! We discussed all this and more in the following interview and you can rest assured that we at A-to-J Connections will be bringing you more content on KOTO in the future! Also, be sure to check out the full video of the interview following the translated text!
A-to-J: 本日はインタビューありがとうございます。自己紹介をお願いします。
A-to-J: Thank you for the interview! Can you please introduce yourself?
KOTO: ソロアイドルとして活動中のKOTOです。よろしくお願いします。
KOTO: I’m KOTO and I work as a solo idol. It’s nice to meet you!
佐々木喫茶: 僕も言います?プロデューサの佐々木喫茶です。よろしくお願いします。
Sasaki Kissa: Should I introduce myself too? I’m her producer, Sasaki Kissa. Nice to meet you.

A-to-J: よろしくお願いします。まず最初に、シングルの「ことらべりんぐ」が最近リリースされましたが、シングルについて教えてください。
A-to-J: Nice to meet you too! First off, you recently released your single “Kotoraberingu (Kotraveling)”. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
KOTO: 「ことらべりんぐ」…
KOTO: “Kotoraberingu (Kotraveling)”
佐々木喫茶: どうぞ。
Sasaki Kissa: Go on.
KOTO: 「ことらべりんぐ」は日本を旅する「トラベル」がテーマになっていて、曲も衣装も…衣装は駅長さんのイメージで作ってもらっていて、日本全国旅するっていうのがテーマで。それもCDを出した後に全国ツアーも決まっていて、実際に旅する感覚で、はい。旅ですよね?
KOTO: “Kotoraberingu (Kotraveling)” is themed around “traveling” through Japan. Both the song and the outfit… The outfit is modeled after a train station attendant, and the theme is traveling through Japan. And then after releasing the CD it was decided I would go on a national tour, so it’s like I’m actually going on a trip. It’s a trip, right?
佐々木喫茶: 旅ですね。KOTOちゃんのデビュー曲が「ことりっぷ」という「トリップ」…「KOTO」+「トリップ」だったんですけど、今回は「トラベル」と「KOTO」で「ことらべりんぐ」といった感じです。
Sasaki Kissa: It is. KOTO’s debut single was called “Kotorippu (Kotrip)” which is “KOTO” and “Trip” put together, but this time it’s “KOTO” and “Travel” to become “Kotoraberingu (Kotraveling)”.

A-to-J: 最初のシングルと比べて成長したところも見れるのかな?
A-to-J: So can we see your growth in this compared to the first single?
KOTO: 歌い方も最初に比べたら多分かなり変わったと思うのと、声とかも多少は多分デビューシングルは中学生とかだったので、もうちょっと声が幼い感じだったので、今とちょっと喫茶さんの曲いっぱい歌わせて頂く様になって、歌い方とかもちょっと変わったのかなと思うんですけど…
KOTO: The way I sing has probably changed compared to then. My voice is probably also a little different from my debut, since I was a middle schooler back then and my voice probably sounded more childlike. Now I’ve sung a lot of Kissa’s songs and my singling style has changed a bit.
佐々木喫茶: そうですね。
Sasaki Kissa: That’s true.

A-to-J: 地域に分けてリリースされましたが、理由を教えてください。
A-to-J: The single was broken up and released by region, could you tell us the reason for this?
KOTO: タイプが、ということですよね。理由?
KOTO: You’re talking about the different types, right? The reason?
佐々木喫茶: まあ要するに、全国まわるという事で日本全部なんですけど、北海道バージョン、東北バーション、関東バージョンとかがあって。
Sasaki Kissa: Well, to sum it up, since we would be going all around the country there’s one for all of Japan, a Hokkaido version, a Touhoku version, a Kantou version, and so on.
KOTO: 今回はリリースしてから1週間のリリース期間だけがすべてじゃなくって、それが終わった後も、ツアーとして「ことらべりんぐ」もって全国回って行くつもりなので…長い期間の「ことらべりんぐ」という1つのプロジェクトとして全国各地回ることも初めてなんですけど、今回は本当にトラベルするということで、初の7タイプに分かれています。
KOTO: For this release we weren’t just putting our all into the first release week, even after that was over we planned to continue bringing “Kotoraberingu” across the country and… We made “Kotoraberingu” into one long term project and began going to all the different regions of Japan, so since we were really traveling, we split it into seven different types.

KOTO - Kotoraberingu (Kotraveling) Dance Movie

A-to-J: どのバージョンが一番おススメですか?
A-to-J: Which version would you recommend the most?
KOTO: うーん…難しい!難しいですね。
KOTO: Hm… That’s difficult! That’s a really hard question, isn’t it?
佐々木喫茶: 難しいね。
Sasaki Kissa: Yeah, it’s really difficult.
KOTO: 難しい…全部良いですよね。写真が盛れてるのは九州!
KOTO: This is so hard… All of them are really good. But I look the best in the picture for Kyuushuu’s!
佐々木喫茶: みんなそう言ってますね。一番かわいく撮れてるジャケットが九州バージョンだって。
Sasaki Kissa: Everyone’s been saying that. That the jacket for the Kyuushuu version is the cutest.
KOTO: 曲はもう全部良いので、見た目だけだったら九州…おススメです(笑)
KOTO: All the songs on all types are good, but if you’re going from looks alone I’d recommend Kyuushuu. (Laughs)

A-to-J: 「ことらべりんぐ」のポイントになる振り付けを見せてくれますか?
A-to-J: Could you show us the key choreography for “Kotoraberingu”?
KOTO: おっ!どこだろう…サビの部分で電車に乗っているイメージの所があって、曲は「トラベル、トラベル、トラベル、トラベル、トラベル...」ってずっとトラベルって言ってるんですけど、その時に電車に乗る振りがあって。めっちゃ早いんですけど、「トラベル、トラベル、トラベル♪」なのでめっちゃ早いんですけど、良かったら真似して頂きたい所です!
KOTO: Oh! Hm, what it is… In the chorus there’s a bit that’s imaged after riding in a train. The lyrics say “Travel, travel, travel, travel, travel…” and just keep saying travel over and over again, but during that time I’m doing the train dance. “Travel, travel, travel ♪” It’s really fast, but please try copying it if you’d like!
A-to-J: 楽しそうですね!
A-to-J: That sounds fun!
KOTO: はい!
KOTO: Yeah!

A-to-J: 「ことらべりんぐ」シングルリリースに続いて「ことらべりんぐツアー」も決まってますが、それについて教えてください。
A-to-J: After the release of “Kotoraberingu” the “Kotoraberingu Tour” was also decided. Could you please tell us a bit about that?
KOTO: ツアーは全国ツアーは初めてなんですけど、その7区域の中から1箇所ずつ回っていくんですけど、対バンだったりワンマンだったり…ただ最後の関東は渋谷GLADさんでのワンマンになるので、最後締めとして成功させたいなというのもありますし、今回初めて行く地域もたくさんあるので、初めて見て頂ける方にライブを見て頂けたらな、って思います。後、おいしい物も食べれたらな、って思います(笑)
KOTO: It’s my first national tour, and I’m going to go to different live houses in each of the different regions. Some of them are shows with lots of groups, some are just by myself… But the last stop in the Kantou region will be a oneman show at Shibuya GLAD, so I really want to make that one a success. There’s also a lot of regions I’ll be going to for the first time, so I’d like those who will be getting the chance to see me for the first time to come see me live. I also want to eat lots of yummy food! (Laughs)
A-to-J: シングルリリース以外に「Vanilla Bunnies」クラウドファンディングの成功おめでとうございます。クラウドファンディングとブランドについて教えてください。
A-to-J: Aside from your new single, congratulations on the successful crowd funding of your brand “Vanilla Bunnies”! Can you tell us a bit about crowd funding and the brand?
KOTO: えっと、今回クラウドファンディングで資金集めというか、させて頂いて、できたバンドが「Vanilla Bunnies」なんですけど、KOTOがデザインさせていただいてるブランドで、第一弾として女の子用の厚底シューズをデザインしたんですけど、イメージキャラクターがいて、それがあの、羽の生えたウサギなんですけど。ウサギってほんとは羽無いと思うんですけど、羽が生えてて鳥みたいに飛べたらっていう意味で、英語とかも入れてもらいつつ「Vanilla Bunnies」っていうブランドのイメージ曲を喫茶さんに作ってもらって、それはクラウドファンディングにご支援して頂いた方限定の曲になっていて、ライブでは聴けるんですけどCDとしてはそのご支援して下さった方だけの曲なので。すごいいい曲ですよね、すごく人気ありそう。
KOTO: Um, this time I gathered donations via crowd funding to launch “Vanilla Bunnies”. This is a brand that I’ll design, and for the first round of it I designed girl’s platform shoes and the image character was a bunny with wings. I don’t think bunnies don’t actually have wings, but they’re there with the meaning of “if I had wings I could fly like a bird”, and we put that on them in English. Kissa also wrote me a song based on the brand’s image and it’s only available to those that donated. You can also hear it at my lives, but the CD is only available to those who donated. It’s a really good song, and it seems to be really popular.
佐々木喫茶: うん、で英語の歌詞が一部あるんですけど、そこはKOTOちゃんが作ったんで。言ってみたらどうですか?そこは。
Sasaki Kissa: Yeah, one line in the lyrics is in English, and KOTO wrote that part. Why don’t you try saying it for them?
KOTO: え、英語はだめなんですけど、どうしたらいいですか?歌で?
KOTO: Uh, I’m not very good with English. What should I do? Do I sing it?
佐々木喫茶: いやいや、別に普通にしゃべって、通じるかどうか。
Sasaki Kissa: Nah, just say it normally. I want to see if it will get across or not.
KOTO: え………?
KOTO: Huh…?
佐々木喫茶: ………え?(笑)
Sasaki Kissa: ...What? (Laughs)
KOTO: ……(笑)どうやって言ったらいいかわかんないですね。
KOTO: …(Laughs) I don’t know how to say it correctly.
佐々木喫茶: うん(笑) あれ…あれは、靴は無いの?書いてあるよね靴に。
Sasaki Kissa: I see. (Laughs) What about the shoes. It’s written on there, isn’t it?
KOTO: うん。If I…でもカタコトになっちゃう。
KOTO: Um… “If I…” It’s going to become broken English.
佐々木喫茶: それは翻訳サイトとかで見たの?ネットの?
Sasaki Kissa: Did you see the line on a translation site? On the net?
KOTO: なんか、日本語を先に作って、なんかいろいろ調べてつなぎ合わせて、みたいな。
KOTO: So I like wrote it first in English, and then looked up a bunch of stuff and strung it together.
佐々木喫茶: なんか、確認してもらったの?この英文は。
Sasaki Kissa: Did you have someone check the English?
KOTO: いや、してないです(笑)
KOTO: No, I didn’t (Laughs)
佐々木喫茶: あ、してない(笑)? ちょっとあの、これ通じますか?
Sasaki Kissa: Oh, you didn’t? (Laughs) So, uh, does the meaning get across?
A-to-J: あ、通じます。
A-to-J: Ah, yes it does!
佐々木喫茶: 言ってみて下さい、日本語で。
Sasaki Kissa: Please try saying it in Japanese.
A-to-J: “If I were a bird, I would like to fly to you.” で、日本語で、「鳥でしたらあなたのところまで飛んでいきたい。」っていう意味ですね。
A-to-J: “If I were a bird, I would like to fly to you.” And in Japanese it means “If I were a bird, I would like to fly to you.” [but said in very directly translated Japanese]
KOTO: あーよかった、通じた通じた(笑)!そう、鳥のように羽が生えてたら、あなたのところに飛んでいきたいっていうウサギをテーマにしていて、第一弾がこの女の子用の厚底靴なんですけど、支援して下さった方で男性の方も多いので、次デザイン出来たら、男性の方も女性の方も履けるような靴をデザインできたらなと思っていて。だから難しかったですね靴って。
KOTO: Ah~! I’m glad you understood it! (Laughs) Yeah, the “them” is the bunny who, if they could sprout wings like a bird, would like to fly to where you are. The first round of items was girl’s platform shoes, but there were a lot of guys who donated to me, so for my next design I’d like it to be something both men and women could wear. That’s why shoes are so hard…
A-to-J: すごくかわいい仕上がりになっていると思います。
A-to-J: I think they turned out very cute!
KOTO: ありがとうございます(笑) 
KOTO: Thank you! (Laughs)
A-to-J: 最初の企画として靴をデザインされましたが、他にデザインしてみたいものはありますか?
A-to-J: For your first project you designed shoes, but is there anything else you would like to try designing?
KOTO: えっと、けっこう今まで自分のTシャツはデザインさせてもらうことが多かったんですけど、靴は初めてだったんですけど、そうですね、服もやってみたいし。あとはもうちょい小物とかのグッズも作ってみたいなとは思ってるんですけど。まあでもライブで使えるのが一番なのかなーと思って、今ちょっと気になってるのは、ちょっと変わった形のサイリュームとか。そう、なんか韓国とかだと当たり前らしいんですけど。
KOTO: Um, up until now I’ve designed many of my t-shirts, and this time I tired doing shoes for the first time, but I think I’d like to take a shot a clothing. I also would like to try making accessories or goods a little more. But it’d be nice to have something that could be used at my lives, so what I’ve been interested in lately is differently shaped penlights. They seem to be a normal thing in Korea.
佐々木喫茶: ああ、その、それぞれの?
Sasaki Kissa: Ah, like how everyone has their own?
KOTO: そう、なんかグループ三人によって、全然形が違うサイリューム。日本だとけっこう普通に全員同じ形のが多いので、そういう変わったやつとかもあったら面白いかなと思ってるんですけど。
KOTO: Yeah, every group has a penlight that’s completely their own. With Japan, it’s normal that everyone’s is the same shape, but I think it’d be interesting if there were more around that were different.

A-to-J: デザイナーとしての目標は何でしょうか?
A-to-J: What’s your goal as a designer?
KOTO: えっと、今までライブでKOTOのことを知らない人も、デザインしたものからKOTOのことを知ってもらえたら、すごく嬉しいです。あの、「Vanilla Bunnies」はシンデレラサイズのシューズがあるっていうのがコンセプトで、足が小さいサイズの人って、靴を探すのがほんとに大変で、なかなかかわいい靴がなかったりするんですけど。自分がそうなので、そういう同じ悩みの人にもかわいい靴を履いてもらえたらなっていうのがあるので、そういう人たちにもKOTOのこと知ってもらえたら嬉しいです。
KOTO: Um, if people that didn’t know KOTO through lives until now could get to know me through my designs I’d be really happy. “Vanilla Bunnies” concept is “Cinderella size” shoes. For people whose feet are really small, it’s very difficult to find shoes, and often times you can’t find ones that are cute. It’s the same for me, so I wanted to make cute shoes people that with the same problem could wear. I also want those people to get to know KOTO.

A-to-J: クラウドファンディングの成果について曲の「Vanilla Bunnies」を披露されましたが、その曲について何か他に教えていただけることはありますか?
A-to-J: You released the song “Vanilla Bunnies” because of the success of the crow funding. Is there anything more you can tell us about this song?
KOTO: そうですね、「Vanilla Bunnies」はラップ調ですか?ラップ曲ってお客さんに言われてるので。
KOTO: Oh yeah. “Vanilla Bunnies” has sort of a rap feel to it? The audience often calls it rap.
佐々木喫茶: そうですね…なんかかわいい曲ですね。
Sasaki Kissa: Yeah, that’s true… It’s a pretty cute song though.
KOTO: うん、なんかかわいいんですけど、その中にも今までにない感じのラップっぽい部分があったりとか。あと、英語の歌詞もあんまり無い?
KOTO: Yeah, it’s really cute, but at the same time it has this sort of rap like part in it that hasn’t been in anything up until now. Also, there hasn’t been much English in the lyrics until now, right?
佐々木喫茶: うん、無い。
Sasaki Kissa: Yeah, no.
KOTO: 無かったので、英語を言ってたりとかちょっと今までと違うテイストになってるのかなっていう感じがあって。配信とかができないのがもったいないくらいいい曲だって言ってもらってるので、なんか聴いてもらえるようにしたらなって。ライブでは聴けるんですけど。
KOTO: There hasn’t been, but this time I try saying things in English and it has a different taste from my other songs. I’ve been told it’s such a good song that it’s a waste it’s not available for download, so I hope to make it available for everyone to hear. You can hear it at lives, but…
佐々木喫茶: もう聞くあれは無いんですか?例えば、第二弾作った時に、また、みたいなことは。
Sasaki Kissa: Is there no longer going to be a way for people to get the song? Like when you do a second round of the crowd funding or something?
KOTO: あー、KOTO的には映像化できたらなと思ってるんですけどね、YouTube とかにあげれたら。販売ができないじゃないですか、だからみんなに見れる形で残せたらなって思うんですけど。
KOTO: Ah, personally I’d like to make a video for it and put it on YouTube. We can’t sell it again, but if we could leave it in a way that everyone could see it, it would be nice.

KOTO - vanilla bunnies

A-to-J: KOTOさんのハロウィンワンマンが近づいてますが、そのワンマンに向けて何か面白いことをプランニングしていますか?今年の仮装についてちょっと教えて下さい。
A-to-J: KOTO’s one man Halloween live is coming up. Do you have anything interesting in the works this? Please tell us a bit about your costume for this year.
KOTO: 毎年コスプレをしてハロウィンをしているんですけど、もういろんなコスプレをし過ぎてネタが無くなってきちゃって。なのですごい悩んだんですけど、今年はちょっと強さを出していこうかな思って(笑)一人でできるぞっていう。なんかいつもワンマンライブは喫茶さんのバックDJをしてもらってるんですけど、今回喫茶さんもライブがあって、後ろでやってもらえないので、完全一人のワンマンになるので、かなり久しぶりだし一人でステージやらなきゃいけないので、ちょっと見た目から強そうにしようかなって思って。で、今年のハロウィンはスーパーマンの女の子版?スーパーガールみたいなのをやります、マントで(胸に)S(笑)。
KOTO: Every year I cosplay for Halloween, but by now I’ve done so many cosplays that I’ve run out of ideas. I thought on it for a long time, but this year I want to try showing off some strength. (Laughs) Like saying, “I can do this on my own!” Usually at my one man shows Kissa comes to back me up as a DJ, but this year he has his own show and isn’t available to DJ for me so I’m going to be completely on my own. Since it’s been a while since I’ve stood on stage alone I wanted to try looking a little stronger than normal. So for this Halloween I’m going to be female Super Man? I’ll be something like Super Girl with a cape and an S on my chest.
A-to-J: 強そう、Kとかにしても。
A-to-J: That sounds very strong! You could make it into a K?
KOTO: ねー、したいんですけど、買ったやつがもうSで(笑)
KOTO: Right! I want to, but the one I bought came with an S on it so (Laughs)

A-to-J: 楽しみにしてます。今年もTIFに参加されましたが、今年は去年に比べて違いは感じましたか?
A-to-J: We’re looking forward to it. You participated in Tokyo Idol Festival again this year. Was there anything different from last year this time around?
KOTO: そうですね、去年は金曜日に行ってたんですけど、今年は土曜日だったので、お客さんもすごい多かったし、去年と同じステージにも立ったのでガンダム前のステージとか。なんか去年より自分を出し切れた気がしたので、一年通して成長できたのかなっていうのが思えた、で、去年は緊張でいっぱいだったんですけど今年の方が楽しめたかなっていうイベントでしたね。
KOTO: Yes, last year I performed on a Friday, but this year was on a Saturday so the audience was much bigger, even though I was on the same stage as last year, in front of the Gundam. I think I was able to put myself out there more this year. Last year I was super nervous, but this year I was able to enjoy the event a lot more.

A-to-J: 今年はソロの活動に加え、平野友里さんと一緒に「シャオチャイポン」のユニットをやっていたんですけど、そのユニットについて少し教えていただけますか?もう解散したと思いますが。
A-to-J: This year, aside from your solo activities, you also performed in the unit “Xiao Chai Pon” with Hirano Yuri. Could you tell us a bit about the unit? I believe you’ve already broken up but…
佐々木喫茶: あ、解散はしてない?
Sasaki Kissa: Ah, I don’t think they broke up?
KOTO: そう、解散はしてないんですけど、活動休止?お互いソロアイドルとして活動してるんですけど、そのソロ同士だからできる強さというか、そういうのを持ちながらユニットじゃなきゃできないこともあるよねってお互い思ってたこともあって、で、一緒にできたらもっとソロではできないこと、楽しいライブができるんじゃないかってことで去年の九月かな?一緒に組ませてもらって、まあ丸ちゃんはかなりKOTOの先輩にあたるんですけど、一緒にユニットチームとして、相方さんとして活動してもらって。まあ活動はしてないんですけど、今も仲良しなので、はい(笑)お互い今はソロでやってる感じです。
KOTO: No, we didn’t break up, we’re on hiatus? We both work as solo idols, but there a strength to us because of that, and things only we can do as if we were in unit. We both had that same sort of idea and thought if we formed a unit we could perform in a fun, different way that we can’t do as soloist. So in, was it September? We formed a unit. Maru-chan is a pretty big senpai to me, but she formed the unit with me and we worked together as partners. We’re not active together now, but we’re still good friends. (Laughs) At the moment we’re both just working as soloists.

Xiao Chai Pon - URAHARA Romantic MV

A-to-J: 数カ月前に「愛踊祭」というコンテストに参加されましたが、参加された理由は何でしょうか?
A-to-J: A couple months ago you participated in the contest “Idol Matsuri”. Can you tell us a bit about why you entered it?
KOTO: そうですね、「愛踊祭」いろいろあるんですけど、去年までこう、逃げてきたじゃないけど、チャレンジしてこなかった部分に改めてチャレンジしてみようって思ったのと、いろいろ自分から挑戦していかなきゃなと思って、そのイベントを通していろんな方にKOTOの存在とライブといろいろ知ってもらえたらいいなと思って、挑戦しました。まあ挑戦したからにはやっぱり優勝するつもりで頑張ってたので、まあ結果はあれなんですけど、ただそのイベントを通していろんな方にたぶん知ってもらえたし、 KOTOのライブの仕方とか、お客さんとのあったかさとかいろいろ伝わったと思うので、まあ悔いはあんまりないです(笑)
KOTO: That’s right. For “Idol Matsuri”, there were a lot of reasons, but I felt like until last year I had, not run away, but I had never tried challenging myself with it, so I wanted to once again try taking a challenge. I thought I felt like I should try taking on more challengers from myself, and thought it would be nice if through this event a lot of people could get to know about KOTO’s existence and lives and whatnot, and took the challenge. Since I was taking on this challenge, I went in with the goal of winning, and well that turned out how it did, but I feel like through the event I was able to get a lot of people to know me and how I perform and I felt a lot of warmth from the audience. I guess I don’t have any regrets. (Laughs)

A-to-J: ところで全然違う感じの質問なんですが、外国人にオススメしたい食べ物や飲み物はありますか?
A-to-J: By the way, this is a completely different type of question, but do you have any food or drinks you would recommend to people from overseas?
KOTO: えー!なんだろ?食べ物飲み物………何が好きなんですかね?
KOTO: Eh! What would I? Food and drinks… What do I even like?
佐々木喫茶: MONSTERじゃないの?(笑)
Sasaki Kissa: Isn’t it MONSTER? (Laughs)
KOTO: 私?でもそれ外国のじゃないですか?
KOTO: Me? But isn’t that a drink from overseas?
佐々木喫茶: でもあれが違いますよね?濃さが。日本の方がマイルド。
Sasaki Kissa: But isn’t that different? How strong it is. Japan’s is milder.
KOTO: そっか。なんかたぶん日本版の方が好きなんですけど、一日に何本も飲むくらい好きだし。でも外国のを一日に何本も飲んだらやばいと思うんですけど、まあ薄めなので日本は(笑)なんかライブ前とかに飲むと気合が入るし。あとは、あれですかね今流行の甘酒とか飲んでもらったらいいのかなって、まあ体にいいから。
KOTO: I see. I probably like Japan’s version more, to the point where I could drink a ton of them in a day. But you’d probably come into some trouble if you drank a bunch of the overseas version in one day, but Japan’s is lighter so. (Laughs) If I drink one before I perform it really pumps me up. Besides that, maybe you could try amazake, it’s really in right now. It’s supposed to be good for you.
佐々木喫茶: 甘酒知ってますか?
Sasaki Kissa: Have you heard of amazake?
A-to-J: 知ってます(笑)
A-to-J: We’ve heard of it (Laughs)
KOTO: 両方好きなんですよ、体に良いものと悪いものが。なのでバランスとってもらえればと思うんですけど、はい(笑)
KOTO: I like both, things that are good and bad for you. So if you could get a balance of that with the two of those. (Laughs)
A-to-J: 今後の予定を教えて下さい。
A-to-J: Please tell us about your upcoming plans.
KOTO: そうですね、11月の23日から全国ツアー「ことらべりんぐ」が始まります。北海道から始まって、最後関東の渋谷Gladさんでのワンマンで終わるんですけど、初めての全国ツアーなので頑張って成功させたいと思います。全国各地のみなさんも、もし遠征して頂ける外国の方もいらっしゃいましたら是非一緒に楽しんでもらえればなぁと、旅行気分でふらっと着て頂けたら嬉しいです。
KOTO: Ah yes, from November 23rd I’m starting my “Kotoraberingu Tour”. It starts in Hokkaido, and ends in Tokyo with a one man live at Shibuya Glad, but it’s my first national tour so I want to work really hard and make it a success. I’d love it if those around the country, and anyone from overseas who has the chance to come to Japan, could come and enjoy it with me, like we we’re traveling together! 
佐々木喫茶: 海外も行けたらいいんだけどね。
Sasaki Kissa: It’d be nice if we could go overseas too though.
KOTO: そうですね、なんかこの「ことらべりんぐ」ツアーが終わったら海外も目標にしたいなとは思っています。
KOTO: That’s true, I’m thinking once I end the “Kotoraberingu Tour” I want to make my next goal going overseas.

A-to-J: 最後にファンの皆さんにメッセージをいただけますか?
A-to-J: Lastly, can you please give us a message for your fans?
KOTO: いつもKOTOのことを応援してくださってありがとうございます!実は「愛踊祭」のときと通してFacebookのファンクラブサイトの方でたくさんメッセージとか書いていただいているのも見ました。ちょっとまだ英語とかが分からないので、翻訳を使ってじゃないとちゃんと読むことができないんですけど、いつも本当にKOTOのことをチックとか応援してくださっていて本当に嬉しいです。いつか会えるようにKOTOも海外でライブとかできるように頑張りますのでぜひぜひ応援の方をよろしくお願いします。
KOTO: To everyone who is always supporting KOTO, thank you very much! Actually, during the “Idol Matsuri” I received a lot of messages through the Facebook fan page, and I’ve been reading all of them. I don’t know English much yet, so I can’t read them without using a translator, but I’m very happy that you’re always checking on and supporting KOTO! I’ll work my hardest so I can meet you someday and perform overseas, so please, please continue to support me from now on!

For More Information Please Follow KOTO On Social Media!
Twitter: twitter.com/koccyan925
Instagram: instagram.com/koccyan925
Blog: ameblo.jp/hidecyobin
Website: kotora.tokyo
YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCIRroOmDntRlYly3BCj69AA

And Join The KOTO International Fan Club!

The above interview was conducted by Heidi Alford who also provided on-site and post translation. Video and photography by Manuel Figueroa with assistance by Eunice Wang. Post transcription provided by Eri Watanabe.

Interview with KOTO and Sasaki Kissa (Video)

<![CDATA[WHY@DOLL Release New MV for Upcoming Single, "Show Me Your Smile"]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 03:38:39 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/whydoll-release-new-mv-for-upcoming-single-show-me-your-smile
There's a new video from idol duo WHY@DOLL!
Longtime readers of A-to-J Connections might recall that we interviewed the duo earlier this year (That can be found HERE.) and since our meeting they have been VERY active. Besides several lives, including one that saw both Chiharu and Haruna take on the roles of DJs, they also launched a new YouTube Channel devoted to newly recorded dance and image videos and now they released the MV for their upcoming single "Show Me Your Smile"!

This is their first release since their self-titled album in August (a review of which can be found HERE.) and as a follow-up it's quite interesting. Some might remember that A-to-J Connections were huge fans of their first album "GEMINI" which had a very jazzy feel that one doesn't usually find in idol music. Their self-titled album had more pop and dance orientated tracks that moved the group into a somewhat different direction. "Show Me Your Smile", on the other hand, sees a return to that jazzy sound that made us at A-to-J first take note of them and we're hoping that this means a follow up to the style found in "GEMINI" might be coming in future singles, or maybe even an eventual third album. We will keep an eye out and be sure to let you know if that's the case!

Below you'll find the retro-style video the group shot for it and be sure to check out some links to find out more about WHY@DOLL!

"Show Me Your Smile" will be released on January 23 and will feature the coupling track, "Promises Promises" as well as instrumental tracks for both.

-Manuel (alavic_222)

For More Information on WHY@DOLL:
Website: http://www.whydoll.jp/
Chiharu Twitter: https://twitter.com/aokichiharu
Haruna Twitter: https://twitter.com/humhum0401
WHY@DOLL Twitter: https://twitter.com/WHYDOLL2014
SHOWROOM: https://www.showroom-live.com/WHYDOLL
WHY@DOLL YouTube Channel:youtube.com/channel/UC8SujPnReomcixkjaKPFYhg/videos
T-Palette YouTube Channel: youtube.com/TPaletteRecords

Show Me Your Smile MV

<![CDATA[Da-iCE Release Preview MV for "TOKYO MERRY GO ROUND"]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/da-ice-release-preview-mv-for-tokyo-merry-go-round
Five member dance/pop unit, Da-iCE, recently dropped a preview for the MV to their upcoming single, "TOKYO MERRY GO ROUND" and it's just the kind of upbeat song that everyone needs now around the holidays!
Some of our California-based readers might remember that Da-iCE made an appearance at FanimeCon 2016 last May where they held a panel and performed a concert filled with fans from around the world. In that time they have greatly grown in popularity and this latest single has a sound that lends more to straight dance pop with a more upbeat edge than one usually finds in male J-Pop groups. Did we mention that the video is also colorful and fun? Because it is! Unfortunately it's just a short version and while it does include a nice message clip following it, we wish that they would show us the full version as there is no greater disappoint then getting into a song only to have the MV suddenly fade to black.

"TOKYO MERRY GO ROUND" will release on January 17 and will come in three versions containing different tracks with two of the versions also being coupled with DVDs featuring live footage and making of features.

-Manuel (alavic_222)

For More on Da-iCE:
Website: ​http://da-ice.jp/


<![CDATA[Why Kudo Haruka’s Graduation from Morning Musume。 ’17 is So Moving]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:29:54 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/why-kudo-harukas-graduation-from-morning-musume-17-is-so-movingWhile 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of idol group Morning Musume。’s formation, it also marks the end of 10th generation member Kudo Haruka’s six-year tenure in the group. She joined in September 2011 at only 11 years old and formally graduated from the group on December 11, 2017 at the legendary Nippon Budoukan. 
Morning Musume。 is no stranger to graduations and new members. In the past 20 years, Morning Musume。 has had a total of 41 members divided into 14 generations. Generations refer to members who join the group together after an audition and can be composed of any number of girls. For example, the 5th generation consisted of four members, while the 11th generation is only one member. New members can also come from the trainee branche of Hello! Project, Hello! Pro Kenshuusei. While the ever-changing nature of the group is part of its appeal, it doesn’t make the graduations (departures) of the members any less sad for fans and members of the group alike.

The graduation of Kudo Haruka seems to be particularly poignant in the scheme of recent graduations from the group. While Kudo plans to pursue an acting career and will not be disappearing from the entertainment scene, both Japanese and international fans seem particularly moved by this departure. According to fan reports, at 6:00am the day of her graduation there were already hundreds of fans lined up to buy goods at the venue. Additionally, during the graduation concert, fellow 10th generation member Ishida Ayumi broke down during her graduation message to Kudo.
Fans and members are likely so moved by her graduation because of what it represents for the group. Kudo holds the record for joining the group at the youngest age ever, being only 11 years old at the time. Now 18 years old, she has grown from a cute child into a young woman during her time in Morning Musume。 and the fans and members alike have supported her through her growth both as a person and as an idol. Seeing her off into a new stage in life is nostalgic for those who have watched her grow up and flourish. 
Additionally, the 10th generation holds the record for being the longest Morning Musume。 generation to remain whole; for six years, all of the 10th generation members remained in the group and they are the only generation to exceed the six year mark. 

It was also shortly after the 9th and 10th generations joined Morning Musume。 that the group began to see a revival in sales, reaching over 100,000 sales on the 10th generation’s 3rd single (the group’s 50th), “One Two Three/The Matenrou Show.”

With Kudo part of such important events and traditions in the group’s history, her graduation from the group comes with a lot of nostalgia. However, there is a lot to be celebrated for the futures of both Morning Musume。 and Kudo Haruka herself. The group will watch warmly as Kudo begins her journey into the acting world, and I’m sure Kudo will support the group as they go on to break more records and mark new traditions in their 21st year and beyond.
Thank you for being part of Morning Musume。, Kudo Haruka!


<![CDATA[A Shining Beam of Light – Shine Fine Movement]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/a-shining-beam-of-light-shine-fine-movement輝いている光線 – Shine Fine Movement
​(Left-to-Right: Riko Tachibana, Ruu Asahina, Mei Habuka, Saki Tachibana, Nao Tachibana)
The idol world grew even brighter the other day with the release of Shine Fine Movement’s debut single “Hikari Crescendo.” Shine Fine Movement is the third group to debut from Nippon Columbia’s Label the Garden project. This time, the garden isn’t gaining flowers, but light. These five girls are the perfect ones to give it that light it needs.
先日発売のデビューシングル「光クレッシェンド」の発売と共にアイドルの世界に光が増してゆきます。Shine Fine Movementは日本コロムビア株式会社のLabel The Gardenプロジェクトからの第三弾となります。今回庭に入れる物は花ではなく、光です。庭に必要とされる光に相応しい5人です。

From left to right above: Riko Tachibana (19) from Tokyo, Ruu Asahina (17) from Nara, Mei Habuka(18, sub-leader) from Tokyo, Saki Tachibana(18, leader) from Tokyo and Nao Tachibana(15) from Tokyo.
メンバーは左から東京都出身の橘莉子(19), 奈良県出身の朝比奈るう(17), 東京都出身の羽深芽生(18), サブリーダー), 東京都出身の橘咲希(18, リーダー)と東京都出身の橘南桜(15)です。

Shine Fine Movement - Group Introductions

​You may have noticed something as you read through their names.  That’s right.  There are 3 sisters in this group. Having two sisters in one group is not all that rare, but having three is one of the things that makes this group stand out. Of course, it also means that there are some interesting things going on backstage.  According to Ruu and Mei, the three sisters will tell the same story at least three times, and each time the ones not telling the story will act as if it’s their first time hearing it.  However, Ruu and Mei say they don’t feel left out. They just feel like part of the family.

They see their fans as family as well. Riko says she doesn’t want it to be the fans and the idols, she wants the fans to have fun and experience the same happiness as they do. Shine Fine Movement fans are actually called “Sha-in” or “company members” and members of the same company are indeed like a family.
ファンも家族のメンバーになります。橘莉子の考えはファンとアイドルではなく、ファンがメンバーと一緒に楽しんで一緒に幸せになるということです。Shine Fine Movement のファンのあだ名は「社員」。確かに同じ会社に務めている人々は家族みたいな物ですね。

Riko Tachibana (橘莉子)

So, who exactly are these girls who want to become part of your family?  First up, you have Riko Tachibana, the oldest Tachibana sister. She is the only member to have worked previously in the entertainment world as a member of a small underground idol group. She took a break to focus on her studies but then joined her sister Nao as a member of Label the Garden.  She wants to use her experience as an idol to help the other members. If she hadn’t become an idol, she was planning on becoming a police officer.
さて家族のメンバーになりたい彼女たちはだれでしょう。まずは橘家の長女、橘莉子さんを紹介します。唯一芸能経験のある莉子さんはかつてとあるアイドルグループの一員として活動しました。学業専念のため一度辞めてしまいましたが、南桜さんの後に続けてLabel The Gardenに入りました。今までのアイドル経験を使ってメンバーをサポートする予定です。もしアイドルにならなかったら警察官になりたかったです。

Nao Tachibana (橘南桜)

Next up, you have Nao Tachibana, the youngest Tachibana sister.  She has been a member of Label the Garden from the start.  After losing out on making her debut twice, she is finally able to do so.  She is the youngest member of the group as a third grader in junior high school. She says her reason for becoming an idol was wanting to do something to prove herself to a boy who called her ugly in sixth grade. She knows she is often a negative person who doesn’t always have confidence in her dancing or singing ability but enjoys performing and feels blessed to be surrounded by the other members. If she hadn’t become an idol, she wanted to become a voice actress that dubbed movies and TV shows into Japanese.
次は橘家の三女、橘南桜さんを紹介します。南桜さんはLabel The Gardenの1期生として入って2回も選抜を逃してやっとデビューを果たした最年少の中学校三年生です。小学校6年生の時、クラスメイトにブスと呼ばれて「見返してやろう!」という気持ちで芸能界に入ろうとした結果アイドルになりました。歌やダンスにあまり自身がないネガティブな性格はたまに出ますが、他のメンバーに恵まれてアイドル活動を楽しんでいます。もしアイドルにならなかったら、映画の吹き替えなどを担当する声優になりたかったです。

Saki Tachibana (橘咲希)

Saki Tachibana, the middle of the Tachibana sisters, never thought of becoming an idol before she was asked if she wanted to join the company her sisters were a part of.  She just enjoyed watching idols as a fan.  But thinking about her age, she tried it and realized how fun it was. If she hadn’t become an idol, well… she doesn’t really know what she would be doing as she says she “had no dreams.”
莉子さんと南桜さんが入っているLabel The Gardenに誘われる前は橘家の次女、橘咲希さんはアイドルになろうと一切していなかったです。彼女の言葉によると単なるファンでした。でも自分の年齢を考えてやろうとしたらアイドルが楽しい物に気づきました。もしアイドルにならなかったら、何をやっていたかわからないそうです。彼女が言うには「夢がないです。」

Ruu Asahina (朝比奈るう)

Moving away from the Tachibana sisters, allow me to introduce Ruu Asahina. She longed to be an idol since she was very young. After giving up on the idea and deciding she would like to be a voice actress in high school, she discovered former Clef Leaf member Izumi Kamiya.  Seeing someone else from Nara perform as an idol, she decided to audition for Label the Garden herself. Although her anime voice would make her the perfect voice actress, the energy she has as a former volleyball player makes her the perfect idol. If she hadn’t become an idol, she would’ve moved to Tokyo whether her parents liked it or not in hopes of becoming an anime voice actress.
橘姉妹を離れて朝比奈るうさんを紹介させていきます。小さい頃からアイドルにあこがれた朝比奈さんは高校に入った時からその夢を諦めて声優に目標を転換しました。その時、同じ奈良県出身の元Clef Leafのメンバー神谷泉水さんの存在を知ってLabel The Gardenのオーデイションを受けようと思いました。アニメ声のある朝比奈さんは声優に確かに向いています。でもバレーボール経験のあるアクティブな朝比奈さんは完全にアイドルに向いています。もしアイドルにならなかったら、親に反対されても東京に出て声優になりたかった。

Mei Habuka (羽深芽生)

Last up, you have Mei Habuka, a girl who is considered by herself and others to be the perfect JK (joshi kosei – high school girl). Before being scouted by the group’s producer at a general audition, she knew nothing about idols.  Since a young age, she performed in musicals and dreamed of becoming a musical actress. She hopes that her experiences up to now performing a variety of musical styles on stage will help lead the group.
最後に羽深芽生さんを紹介します。メンバーも彼女自身も芽生さんが今どきのJKだと強く思っています。芸能スクールに通っていてLabel The Gardenのプロデューサーにスカウトされる前はアイドルの事を全く知らなかったです。小さい頃からずっとミュージカル女優の夢を持って何回もステージに立ってきました。今までいろんなジャンルのパフォーマンスをやってその経験を使ってグループを引っ張りたいと主張しています。
These five girls, with all their quirks, are the ones who are going to bring a light onto the idol world. Their dreams are big, very big.  They would like to be the main closing act at large idol festivals like Tokyo Idol Festival on a regular basis.  One day, they would even like to take the stage at Tokyo Dome. Now, I’m sure many are thinking to yourself “No way that’ll ever happen!” But remember, so-and-so Z group began their careers as idols performing on street corners. If she hadn’t become an idol, she would have continued acting in musicals.  She wants to do so even now, as an idol.
この5人の女の子は面白い行動を持ち込んでアイドルの世界に光を照らします。夢は大きい、いや巨大です。Tokyo Idol Festivalみたいなアイドルフェスのメインステージで毎年トリとして呼ばれたいです。その上にいつか東京ドームのステージに上がりたいとの声もあります。今「いや無理でしょ」と思っている方が沢山いると思いますが、某アイドルグループのなんとかZは路上アイドルから始まりました。もしアイドルにならなかったら、ミュージカルをやり続けるつもりでいました。今でも、アイドルをやりながらミュージカルをやりたいそうです。

Shine Fine Movement - Hikari Crescendo MV

The group’s debut single fits their concept of being “light and energy” perfectly. Riko says that she wants them to stay like that forever. You’ll see what I mean right away if you watch the music video for “Hikari Crescendo.” Despite the fact that the majority of their outdoor shoots had to be cancelled due to rain, the sun’s light can easily be felt as you watch their energetic performance. What you’ll also notice if you look very closely at 3:20 in the video is that the self-titled airhead Mei had her wristbands on backwards for one take. However, it is things like that which make the group interesting.

Shine Fine Movement - Skill Introductions

Shine Fine Movement breaks away from the pattern set by their predecessors. There are no flowers in their debut single. Perhaps that is because their name has broken away from the flower pattern. Although Leaf Movement or Root Movement would have been unique names, they don’t have the punch that Shine Fine Movement does. They want to do whatever it takes to stand at the top of Label the Garden. They’ll use their member colors and their unashamedly go-getter attitude to make their dreams happen.
Shine Fine Movementは前代のパターンから抜けだして、花抜きのデビューを話しています。そのパターンはグループの名前から始まっています。Leaf MovementやRoot Movement などは面白い名前になりますが、Shine Fine Movementみたいなパンチはないです。彼女たちは何でもやってLabel The Gardenのてっぺんに立ちたいのだそうです。メンバーそれぞれの個性を生かして夢を手に入れたいです。

-Rin Rigoni

For More Info on Shine Fine Movement:
Nippon Columbia Label the Garden Project Page:
Shine Fine Movement Homepage: http://columbia.jp/shinefinemovement/
Flower Notes Homepage: http://columbia.jp/flowernotes
Clef Leaf Homepage: http://columbia.jp/clefleaf/
Label The Garden Homepage: http://columbia.jp/labelthegarden/
Label The Garden Twitter: https://twitter.com/LabelTheGarden
Label The Garden Blog: http://lineblog.me/label_the_garden
Label The Garden YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTVeybqXbXKulcO_zeYGKIw
<![CDATA[Hello Hello Hello: An Interview with WHY@DOLL]]>Fri, 01 Dec 2017 09:59:06 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/hello-hello-hello-an-interview-with-whydoll
A-to-J Connections recently completed one of our many trips to Japan where we conducted several interviews and attended many concerts and events. While there we were lucky enough to catch up with WHY@DOLL both at their oneman live at Shibuya GLAD and we were able to sit down with them for an interview! An interview that was both fun and informative and that we're ecstatic to bring you now! For those that don't know A-to-J Connections have been fans of WHY@DOLL for a while now and we even named their album "Gemini" a very close second as our idol "album of the year". (In an article that can be found HERE.) We all loved the singles that followed the album (Being "Sumire Iolite" and "Kimi wa Steady") and we gave their follow-up self-titled album, which released this past August, a great review as well. (That review can be found HERE.) We were really excited that we were granted this opportunity and we hope that everyone checks out WHY@DOLL from here on and keeps an eye on their future activities! Also, if you've never heard of WHY@DOLL before this, we encourage you to look into them more as we really can't recommend enough!

WHY@DOLL is an idol unit from Sapporo, Hokkaido that formed in May 2011 with five members, two of which would leave the following February. That February also saw the release of their first single "Fight!!". WHY@DOLL held their first oneman live in July 2013 and Zepp Tokyo and that November a third member graduated leaving WHY@DOLL as the duo they are today made up of Haruna Uratani and Chiharu Aoki. This change in lineup also marked the group's move to Tokyo. WHY@DOLL began 2014 with a challenge to make their major debut, an endeavor in which they were eventually successful and saw the release of their first major single, "Magic Motion No.5" released that September. They would release their first mini-album, "NAMARA!!", in 2015 and this would be followed by their first full-length album, "Gemini", the next year. Late 2016 and early 2017 saw the release of the singles "Sumire Iolite" and "Kimi wa Steady" respectively, both of which would lead up to their second full-length self-titled album. WHY@DOLL currently holds regular lives at Shibuya GLAD and is active on various platforms online including SHOWROOM. Links to more info can be found following the interview!
A-to-J: 本日はインタビューありがとうございます。自己紹介をお願いします。
A-to-J: Thank you for the interview can you please introduce yourselves?
Chiharu Aoki: I’m Chiharu Aoki from WHY@DOLL also known as Chiharun. 
Haruna Uratani: I’m Haruna Uratani also known as Ha-chan. 
WHY@DOLL: Nice to meet you.
A-to-J: インタビューを始めるにあたって、ファンの方々に親しみを持っていただけるよう、最初はちょっとした簡単な質問から入らせていただきます。
A-to-J: Before we begin with the interview proper, we’ll start with some simple questions for the fans to get to know you personally.

A-to-J: 好きな動物は何ですか?
A-to-J: What is your favorite animal?
Chiharu Aoki: I like birds. I have a small bird as a pet and I started liking birds because of that. 
Haruna Uratani: I like rabbits and flying squirrels. I’ve never owned any but I used to take care of rabbits when I was in elementary school and I liked them because of that. Flying squirrels are animals that I would like to own when I live on my own one day.

A-to-J: 好きな色は何ですか?
A-to-J: What is your favorite color?
Chiharu Aoki: Sky blue and white. The color I’m in charge of is blue as well. 
Haruna Uratani: I like pink and peppermint green but I also like yellow which is the color that I’m in charge of. 

A-to-J: 好きなアニメやテレビ番組はありますか?
A-to-J: Do you have any favorite anime or television shows?
Chiharu Aoki: This is an older anime but “Sailor Moon”. The show I like is an afternoon show called “Hirunandesu!” and I watch it often.
Haruna Uratani: I actually don’t watch much anime but I watch foreign dramas often. Also out of the Japanese variety shows, I like the show “Getsuyou Kara Yofukashi”. 
A-to-J: 海外ドラマは何を観てますか?
A-to-J: What kind of foreign dramas do you watch? 
Haruna Uratani: The one I watched to the end was “Desperate Housewives”. I liked it a lot, so I watched all of it.

A-to-J: 趣味など、何か最近ハマっていることはありますか?
A-to-J: Is there anything that you’ve been into lately? [Like a hobby]
青木千春: 最近は苦手な料理をするようにしてて、いま二人で住んでるんですけど、最近は一緒に作ってご飯食べたりしてます。
Chiharu Aoki: Recently, I’ve been cooking even though I’m not very good at it. We live together so we’ve been making food and eating it.
Haruna Uratani: I’ve always liked taking photos so I take photos often recently. Also I watch movies at the end of the day, but I like to watch comedy shows also, not just movies. 

A-to-J: 好きな食べ物をいくつか教えて下さい。
A-to-J: What are some of your favorite foods?
Chiharu Aoki: Cheese, curry and barbequed meats. 
Haruna Uratani: I like popcorn, naan that comes with curry, and meat. 

A-to-J: お二人の地元について、何かおもしろいことをいくつか教えていただけますか?
A-to-J: What are some interesting things you can tell us about your hometowns?
Haruna Aoki: We’re from Hokkaido’s Sapporo and when it’s winter time, there is a Snow Festival. At the Snow Festival there are a lot of snow statues and stages made out of snow which we have performed on before. There are many foreigners that come around that time of year as well. I think that it’s an interesting part of Hokkaido. 
Haruna Uratani: My grandmother lives pretty far away and I go to her house in the summer. When people come from overseas they probably travel around with cars, but the view from the trains is really nice. If they were to come on vacation, I would like them to try traveling by train. 

A-to-J: もしお二人がお互いのことを紹介するとしたら、性格についてどんなふうに説明しますか?
A-to-J: How would each of you describe the personality of the other?
Chiharu Aoki: Ha-chan likes to prank and play around. Even when walking, she likes to slap my butt. She also has a mischievous side and when you’re with her, you’ll be cheered up. 
Haruna Uratani: Chiharun is very kind and has a personality that kind of envelops people. She doesn’t get mad even when I act mischievous or poke around. She forgives most things and I think she has a big heart and is very accepting. 

"Kimi wa Steady" MV

A-to-J: では、今からは少し掘り下げた質問に移りたいと思います。
A-to-J: Now we’ll move onto the interview proper with slightly more “serious” questions.

A-to-J: お二人のユニット名、「WHY@DOLL」という名前の背景には、何か特別な意味はありますか?
A-to-J: Is there any special meaning behind the name “WHY@DOLL”?
Chiharu Aoki: In our home prefecture, Hokkaido, it snows a lot so we took “white” (pronounced as “Howaito” in Japanese) and got “WHY”, the “@” mark for at home, and “DOLL” from idol. All that together is “WHY@DOLL”. 

A-to-J: WHY@DOLLの結成について教えてください。
A-to-J: Can you tell us a bit about the formation of WHY@DOLL?
Chiharu Aoki: In 2011, there was an audition for a band idol group and we were formed, but we don’t do the band portion anymore, just the dancing and singing. 

A-to-J: アイドルになりたいと思ったきっかけは何ですか?
A-to-J: What made you decide that you wanted to become idols?
Chiharu Aoki: I adored Morning Musume since I saw them on TV and went to their concerts. I wanted to shine like them so they inspired me to want to be an idol. 
Haruna Uratani: I also adored MiniMoni [A group formed with certain Morning Musume / Hello!Project members] when I was in kindergarten and I would copy their singing or their dances. The strongest influence came from when I saw Perfume on TV when I was in middle school. They made a spectacular stage with their performance and I wanted to also be able to touch people’s hearts (like they did) so I wanted to become an idol. 

A-to-J: もしアイドルになっていなかったら、今ごろは代わりに何をしていると思いますか?
A-to-J: If you weren’t an idol, what do you think you’d be doing right now?
Chiharu Aoki: I’ve always had interest in entertainment so I might have done things behind the scenes as staff. 
Haruna Uratani: I had experience in working part time at cafes and I had a personality which loved being in cafes. I think I would have been a manager at a café. 

A-to-J: WHY@DOLLさんは、数年前に東京へ来て二人組になりましたが、このことで直面した困難なことは何かありましたか?
A-to-J: The group moved to Tokyo and became a duo a couple years ago, were there any difficulties you encountered because of this?
Haruna Uratani: We were in a group that had quite a few people in it before so it was hard filling the stage with just two people. When there were three or four of us, it was possible to show off our power on big stages but when we became a duo the stage felt really big. Also when there were less people, we individually got more singing parts. It was also difficult because we couldn’t do many formations and as a duo we can only form a line horizontally or vertically or diagonally. Since we couldn’t do more complex formations, it was hard to make the stage look good. Also travelling to Tokyo and being away from our close family, our personal lives had changed drastically and we had to do everything ourselves. We had a hard time getting used to at first, so we had a lot of tiring days when we first came here. 

A-to-J: 知らない人のためにWHY@DOLLさんのサウンドやイメージを教えてください。
A-to-J: Can you explain your sound and image for those that aren’t familiar with it?
Haruna Uratani: We were singing mostly songs that had western taste from the 80s or 90s that were arranged to sound more modern but in the newest album, more J-Pop sounds were added and we were able to challenge many genres. 

A-to-J: WHY@DOLLさんの楽曲は多くの異なるスタイルやジャンルを取り入れていますが、これから挑戦したいスタイルやジャンルはありますか?
A-to-J: Your music incorporates a lot of different styles and genres, are there any musical styles and genres you would like to see WHY@DOLL tackle in the future?
Chiharu Aoki: EDM? Which is popular right now. Not fully that though, but a refreshing type of EDM. 
Haruna Uratani: Probably it’s the same for me but she’s probably talking about a tropical type? Of music. It’s kind of western music taste. But we had a theme of “organic music” so we haven’t sang any EDM type songs. If it’s possible, I would like to challenge that type of sound. 

"Sumire Iolite" MV

A-to-J: お二人は最近、ご自身たちでタイトルを付けたアルバムをリリースされましたが、このアルバムについて少し教えていただけますか?
A-to-J: You recently released your self-titled album, can you tell us a bit about it?
浦谷はるな:今回は、いろんなクリエイターさんに楽曲提供をお願いしたアルバムになっていて、それぞれのクリエイターさんでいろんな色が楽しめる楽曲がそろったんですけど、いままでWHY@DOLLは楽曲に成長させてもらう部分が大きかったんですけど、今回もさらに今までとは違うWHY@DOLLを見せることができたアルバムになってるかなって思うのと。やっぱりセルフタイトルだけあって今までのWHY@DOLL、これからの WHY@DOLLも全部これ一枚で表現できてるような、渾身のアルバムになってます。
Haruna Uratani: We asked many creators to provide us songs for this album and there are many songs where you can enjoy each creator’s “colors”. We’ve grown with the WHY@DOLL songs but this time I think we were able to show a different WHY@DOLL with this album. Since this album is titled after our name, it shows the WHY@DOLL up until now and the WHY@DOLL from now on all in this one album. 

A-to-J: このアルバムのレコーディング中に何か困難なことはありましたか?
A-to-J: Did you encounter any difficulties while recording it?
青木千春:お互い一曲ずつソロ曲が入ってるんですけど、私の曲が「Hello Hello Hello」っていってカントリー調なので、初めてカントリー調に挑戦して、歌い方が分からなくて、歌でどう表現すればいいんだろうっていうのがあって。で、それがハプニングっていうか難しくて、一番大変でした。
Chiharu Aoki: There is a solo song in the album for each of us and my song is called “Hello Hello Hello” which is a Country style song. I challenged myself to Country music for the first time and I didn’t know how to sing it and how to express the song well. More than an incident, it was just hard and the most difficult. 
Haruna Uratani: There is a song that was provided by ONIGAWARA called “Koi Nanokana?” and we were supposed to sing it at a low key but when we entered the recording studio we talked about how we might be able to sing it in a higher key. The same day we changed the key for the song. 

A-to-J: 今回のアルバムは、以前のアルバム「Gemini」と比べてどんなところが違いますか?
A-to-J: How does it differ from your previous album, “GEMINI”?
Chiharu Aoki: I think this time there are a lot more songs that people of younger generations can enjoy on this album. 
Haruna Uratani: There are a lot more modern sounding songs on this album and also “Gemini” had a big theme surrounding a girl that is trying to be an adult but this time around thanks to the songs, we were able to grow and join the adults. So we were able to fit what the songs expressed and were able to make things more sophisticated. 

A-to-J: 多くの人が、「キミはSteady」のミュージックビデオやダンスを通してお二人のことを知っているんですが、このビデオ、曲、そしてダンスの収録について少し教えていただけますか?
A-to-J: A lot of people know you via your videos (MV and dance) for “Kimi wa Steady”, can you tell us a bit about the song and recording the MV and dance videos?
Chiharu Aoki: The music video for this song shows a date with a boyfriend that is a bit older and it was our first time filming a music video with acting scenes in it, so it also was our first time trying out acting. Also it was our first time filming a “dance version” video. 
Haruna Uratani: Our music videos often don’t have dance scenes so it’s a rare opportunity to see the dance. We asked to film a dance video since we had the night view of Yokohama behind us. We filmed it so it’s easy to see what kind of dance we’re dancing even for first timers. Because of that we’ve started to film dance movies for this album as well. We don’t dance at all in the “Kimi wa Steady” music video so it’s an “Image V” (image video) but by uploading our dance video, I think people got more interested. 

"Kimi wa Steady" -DANCE VERSION-

A-to-J: WHY@DOLLの曲の中で、お二人がライブで使うのが好きな曲を教えて下さい。
A-to-J: What are some of your favorite songs to perform live?
Chiharu Aoki: I like songs that get the crowd going at lives but I also like songs that you can listen to carefully. From the first album, that song would be “Yoru wo Oyoide”. The first and second part, until the chorus are solo parts so you can hear each of our voices separately, so I like “Yoru wo Oyoide”. 
浦谷はるな:私は、最新のアルバムだと「Tokyo Dancing」っていう曲が、ライブですごい盛り上がる曲なんですけど、一緒にできるポイントが多くて、初めての方も入りやすい曲だなって思うので、盛り上がる曲だとそれで。あと、同じくしっとりした曲はもともと好きなので、私のアルバムの中でも一番好きな「Dreamin’ Night」っていう曲があるんですけど、その曲は今のアイドルさんてけっこう、一緒にできて盛り上がる曲が人気になったりするんですけど、私達の楽曲は他のアイドルさんたちとはちょっと違うので、あえてそういう盛り上がる曲ばっかりのアイドルさんの中で、あえて「夜を泳いで」とか「Dreamin’ Night」とかを入れて、ガラッとそこでWHY@DOLLのステージに持ってくのによく使う曲です。
Haruna Uratani: For me, out of the most recent album I like “Tokyo Dancing”. It’s a song that gets the crowd hyped at lives and there are points where we can do it together (with the audience) and I think it’s an easy song to follow along to even for first timers. Out of the hype songs, I like that one. I also like songs you really listen to, so there’s a song in the album called “Dreamin’ Night”. Popular idol songs are usually the ones that get the crowd going but our songs are a bit different from the typical idol songs so we put in songs like “Yoru wo Oyoide” or “Dreamin’ Night” and we use it to create WHY@DOLL’s stage performances. 

A-to-J: アイドル文化はライブパフォーマンスだけに限られませんが、ライブ以外でファンの方々との交流するにあたって、どんな活動をするのが好きですか?
A-to-J: Idol culture isn’t just about live performances. What are some of your favorite fan activities outside of performing?
Haruna Uratani: We’ve hosted a couple of bus tours so when we do bus tours we get to mingle for the whole day compared to the one minute or a minute and half that’s short. It’s fun for them to see a more private/personal side of us kind of like in an offline meeting at the bus tours. Also we do internet streaming shows. 
Chiharu Aoki: We do it every week and we get to mingle with fans through comments. People from the around the world watch us so it’s a way to get more fans. You can also watch it from Twitter. 
Haruna Uratani: It’s streamed on SHOWROOM and Periscope. People that aren’t able to come to our lives were able to find us through those ways so we use those kinds of contents to communicate. 

A-to-J: 今後、WHY@DOLLさんが海外でライブをする予定はありますか?
A-to-J: Does WHY@DOLL have any plans to perform overseas in the future?
浦谷はるな:えっと、中国と台湾でのライブの予定があったんですけど、延期になっちゃって。もともと中国のライブは10月にある予定だったんですけど、ちょっと中国の国内の問題で延期になっちゃって、いま行けずにいるんですけど。台湾にはいままで二回行ってて、それがまた2月に決まりそうなので。でもアジア圏ばっかりなんで、せっかくだからアメリカの方とか、フランスでもよくJapan Expoやってらっしゃるので、そういういろんなところに足運べたらなって思ってます。
Haruna Uratani: We had plans to perform in China and Taiwan but the date got extended. We were supposed to do the China live in October but because of problems within China, it got delayed and we haven’t been able to go yet. We’ve gone to Taiwan twice already but we’re almost confirmed for February. However this is all Asia so since France has Japan Expo, we want to go there or America and all sorts of other places. 

A-to-J: 海外でのライブをより多く実現するために、海外のファンの方々にしてほしいことは何ですか?
A-to-J: What are some of the things that you’d like your overseas fans do to help make this happen?
Chiharu Aoki: Since social media is accessible worldwide, if WHY@DOLL’s YouTube channel is written across places like Twitter, I think it will spread. We don’t have that many overseas fans yet so I think we need to steadily increase them. 
Haruna Uratani: Also, I said earlier that we’re filming dance videos, so we’re filming dance videos and uploading them little by little on our YouTube channel so if they watch that and like it, maybe they can share it, just like what she said. Also you can watch the streamed shows on SHOWROOM and Periscope, so I would like them to watch that and find our charms outside of live performances. Also, we would be very happy if they recommend us to their friends so we can get an increase in fans. 
A-to-J: 私たちは今回アメリカから日本までやって来たんですが、お二人が個人的に好きな場所の中で、海外から日本へ来た人たちにとって行った方が良い、興味深いと思う場所はどこですか?
A-to-J: We’re travelling here to Japan from America, what are some of your personal favorite places and sites to see in Japan that might interest foreign visitors?
Chiharu Aoki: Probably the same (as Ha-chan), Kyoto. 
浦谷はるな:あ、一緒。私達前に、滋賀でライブやってたんですけど、京都がすぐ隣なので、空き時間に電車に乗って京都に遊びに行ったことがあって、伏見稲荷大社っていう神社に行きました。そこは、鳥居がすごいずーっと並んでいるところで、多分海外の方で鳥居見る機会ってあんまりないと思うので、写真映えもするし、すごくいいところだし。あとは、伏見稲荷大社に行くまでの間に屋台がけっこう出てたりして、美味しいものも食べれるので、すごくお勧めです。あと、北海道ももちろんお薦めです(笑) 無難に札幌は見るところがあってちょっと都会チックなので便利なんですけど、ちょっと遠出したいなって思うんだったら、美瑛とか行くと、ずっと丘が続いてたりとか。あとCMに出てくるような有名な、木が並んでるところがあったりとかするので、景色を楽しみたいのであれば、さっき私が言ったみたいな列車とかに乗って、ちょっと遠出するのもありかなって思ってます。
Haruna Uratani: Ah, it’s the same. We’ve done a live in Saga which is right next to Kyoto so we visited Kyoto by train on our free time. We went to a shrine called “Fushimi Inari-taisha”. [Information on Fushimi Inari-taisha can be found HERE] There are a lot of “Torii gates” [Information on Torii gates can be found HERE] lined up and I don’t think many foreigners get to see “Torii gates” so it would be great for photos and it’s a nice place. There were also a lot of stalls when we were going to Fushimi Inari-taisha and there were delicious food so I really recommend it. Also, I recommend Hokkaido. (Laughs) There are a lot of places to see in Sapporo, but it’s also city-like so it’s convenient. If you want to go further out you can go to Biei, there are hills that continue on there. There are places that have trees lined up kind of like what you see in commercials. So, just like I said earlier, if you want to see the view you can go on trains and go further out. I think it would be nice. 
Chiharu Aoki: In Furano, the lavender fields are really popular. They look best around June. 
Haruna Uratani: It’s really crowded around that time of year so it’s best to find somewhere a bit less crowded. 

A-to-J: 海外の人たちにオススメの食べ物は何かありますか?
A-to-J: Is there any food that you’d recommend foreigners to try?
Haruna Uratani: This is probably the same as well right? Natto. 
Chiharu Aoki: Yes, Natto. 
Haruna Uratani: I think foreigners have resistance at first since the smell is a bit strong and it’s a fermented product. We both love natto and we arrange in it different dishes often so it might be hard to get used to it at first but please try eating it and if you think it tastes good, I would like them to eat it. 
Chiharu Aoki: They say the fish is very delicious but we actually don’t like fish. 
Haruna Uratani: (Chiharun doesn’t like) baked fish and (I don’t like) raw fish. But Hokkaido’s raw fish is known for being fresh and delicious so please try it out. 
A-to-J: 今後のWHY@DOLLの目標は何ですか?
A-to-J: What are some of the goals you want to see WHY@DOLL meet in the future?
Haruna Uratani: Our goal is to do move lives overseas. We’ve been talking about how we want to move onto overseas for about two years and we haven’t had many opportunities. Since we’re very proud of the album we released this time, we want to spread ourselves and increase the opportunities of being more known by things like dance videos, and be able to do lives overseas. 

A-to-J: What are some of your upcoming plans?
A-to-J: WHY@DOLLとしての今後の予定は何ですか?
Haruna Uratani: This album “WHY@DOLL” was decided to be recorded onto a record for the first time. The songs “Sumire Iolite” and the coupling for the single “Kimi wa Steady” are in this album as well. Those two coupling songs have been decided for a 7-inch version and the album will be recorded on a 12-inch record on November 3rd. That day we are having a release event and will be doing a DJ event with the people that composed the songs so please check it out if you’re interested.  

A-to-J: ファンがWHY@DOLLのことをもっとよく知るためにはどこへ行ったらいいですか?
A-to-J: Where can your fans go to learn more about you?
Chiharu Aoki: We do regularly scheduled performances at a livehouse in Shibuya called “GLAD” so please come see us there. We also do internet streaming on a show called “WHY@DOLL ni Koi Nano Saa” which we do Wednesdays at 11PM (Japan Time) so if you watch that, I think you’ll find out more about WHY@DOLL. 

A-to-J: 最後に、ファンの皆さんに向けてメッセージをいただけますか?
A-to-J: Lastly, can you give us a closing message to the fans?
Haruna Uratani: WHY@DOLL will be more energetically active and we want to put more effort into dispatching ourselves overseas. We will put more effort into our lives and work hard towards going overseas so please if you have the chance, check out our music videos on YouTube. If we have an opportunity to go overseas, please come see us! 
Chiharu Aoki: Yes, and if you’re watching this, please invite your friends and come to more WHY@DOLL lives! 
WHY@DOLL: We’ll be waiting!!

For More Information on WHY@DOLL:
Website: http://www.whydoll.jp/
Chiharu Twitter: https://twitter.com/aokichiharu
Haruna Twitter: https://twitter.com/humhum0401
WHY@DOLL Twitter: https://twitter.com/WHYDOLL2014
SHOWROOM: https://www.showroom-live.com/WHYDOLL
WHY@DOLL YouTube Channel: youtube.com/channel/UC8SujPnReomcixkjaKPFYhg/videos
T-Palette YouTube Channel: youtube.com/TPaletteRecords

The above interview was conducted by Heidi Alford with assistance and photography/video by Manuel Figueroa and Eunice Wang. Post transcription provided by Eri Watanabe. Post translation by Tiffany Fujii.

Interview with Idol Group WHY@DOLL

<![CDATA[THE GUERRiLLA BiSH is the Best Alternative Idol Album Yet]]>Tue, 28 Nov 2017 19:30:00 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/the-guerrilla-bish-is-the-best-alternative-idol-album-yet
Alternative idol has been a flourishing subgenre of idol music for the better part of the last decade, coming to a head in recent years with the establishment of the WACK family of groups. What started as a glint in Pour Lui's eye quickly spiraled out of control into the bloated and generic scene we have today - everybody wants a piece of the punk/metal idol pie, no matter what they have to do to get it. Only one group has really managed to stay consistent and relevant throughout the rise of alt-idol, and that one group is BiSH. Junnosuke Watanabe's pet project meant to replace the hole in his heart left by the BiS disbandment has evolved into something much more special. THE GUERRiLLA BiSH is a product of that evolution.
BiSH has had a bit of an odd year up until now. With Aina The End's multiple TeddyLoid collaborations, the WACK "supergroup" SAiNT SEX, and the decidedly underwhelming GiANT KiLLERS EP, BiSH has been rising into a spotlight which they seemed very under-equipped to deal with. There were expectations to be met, and BiSH felt like they may have exhausted the creative well over at SCRAMBLES with their 2016 album KiLLER BiSH. Sure, GiANT KiLLERS is a fantastic song - one of the group's most powerful to date. But the rest of that EP just fell so flat for me that I was beginning to worry. THE GUERRiLLA BiSH ​has thankfully arrived to change my mind.
The lead single My landscape is a pretty ballad in the vein of Orchestra (isn't every BiSH single now, though?) and it was certainly nice to hear, but it wasn't exactly the relief I needed. The album has so much more in store, though. The ear-shattering, heart-pounding, pummeling inferno that is SHARR. A fitting placement for GiANT KiLLERS. The explosive hardcore riffs and thick bass holding up the wildly energetic SMACK baby SMACK. These are the foundations for the fourth BiSH album, an album which takes a slow start out of the gate before exploding with a nuclear energy previously unheard of on even the group's strongest moments. THE GUERRiLLA BiSH sees a new BiSH, a BiSH who aren't afraid to smash the boundaries between pop music and hardcore punk. And the melodies! These songs aren't just heavy, they're catchy as hell. SMACK baby SMACK in particular has such a gloriously infectious chorus.
This album isn't an unwavering show of force, obviously. Whatever else they are, BiSH are an idol group above all. Fortunately though, SCRAMBLES are also at their peak performance here. From the tower of passion that is Promise the Star to the heartfelt Pearl, or the sweetly gentle JAM, BiSH is able to step away from the flames and deliver some genuinely soulful pop songs.
All of this is punctuated by the straight-up punk BiSH has become so comfortable with like BODiES and ALLS, and the ska-influenced pop punk that SCRAMBLES just can't get enough of like on Rock'n'Roll no Kami-sama or Here's looking at you, kid​.
THE GUERRiLLA BiSH is, without a doubt, the best idol album I've heard all year. It's one of my favorite things the WACK/SCRAMBLES team has ever put together, and - in the words of WACK's own Junnosuke Watanabe - a masterpiece. I love this album. It's gone beyond any expectations I ever had, smashed through them like only BiSH can do. It just makes the other WACK groups and countless alt-idol imitators pale in comparison. This album is the grand BiSH statement we've all been waiting for.

THE GUERRiLLA BiSH comes out worldwide tomorrow, November 29th, and I cannot recommend it enough. Pick it up as soon as possible.


<![CDATA[BILLIE IDLE Goes Out (Allegedly) With a Bang on "Last Album"]]>Wed, 22 Nov 2017 20:42:25 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/billie-idle-last-album-review
I don't really consider myself to be an idol fan. The groups I like are few and far between, and don't really fit in with the mainstream criteria of what "idol" music is. If I had to pick a favorite "idol" group, though, I'd be hard-pressed to find a group I appreciate and respect more than BILLIE IDLE. Formed out of the flaming wreckage of BiS a few years back, BILLIE IDLE's whole conceit is that they're "not idols" and "not kawaii". Across their three studio albums thus far, they've punctuated that image with a slew of hyperactive electro-pop and retro throwback punk rock which often stands out as some of the most vibrant music in the scene. All good things must come to an end, though. BILLIE IDLE's fourth album is called Last Album, and is to be supported by the Last Tour. Is this really goodbye for BILLIE IDLE? I sure hope not*.
The largely synth-driven POLYSICS-inspired work of BILLIE IDLE's first couple albums is essentially dead and buried by now. With their previous album bi bi bi bi bi the group began to indulge more in 90s-flavored pop punk and lean a little heavier on their ska influences. Though it admittedly is my least favorite album of theirs, it's not a bad one by any stretch - it's packed with gems, and who could ever forget the lead single Nakisou SundayLast Album continues the stylistic trends from bi bi bi bi bi and takes them in an even more lo-fi direction (and yes, I know lo-fi isn't the proper term and audiophiles everywhere are screaming into oblivion, but everybody knows what you really mean when you say "lo-fi").
Like bi bi bi bi biLast Album isn't an instant click for me. It really took a few listens to begin to appreciate the songwriting present underneath the retro textures and tones. Of course we've got the single MY WAY opening the thing up, and the more recent digital single Sayonara Romantic - both of these are fantastic songs. The stuff we haven't heard yet is where the real fun begins. While the initially nondescript Tokyo Mariru didn't leave much of an impression on me at first, I'd be lying if I wasn't listening to that song exclusively on repeat while writing this. The sparkling but minimal synths set the perfect mood for what grows into an unforgettable chorus. It's very 80s, like something out of a magical girl anime.
The production on this album is probably some of the weakest BILLIE IDLE has had to date, unfortunately. I love the general aesthetic, but the problem lies with the fact that BILLIE IDLE is still an idol group (despite their claims to the contrary). In an industry where the vocalists are the stars and the musicians behind the instrumentation take a back seat, the vocals can get so high in the mix it gives me vertigo. There's some genuinely great instrumental performances here which get buried deep under the otherwise unstoppable force of First Summer Uika's powerful voice. This isn't a BILLIE IDLE problem, it's an idol problem. It isn't always a hindrance though, luckily - the endlessly charming vocals on Lesson Time certainly deserve to be front and center, for example. The lovely late-album cut Ai SUNSUN is one track in particular which doesn't suffer from this, and stands out as a result. The singles, like MY WAY, also manage to dodge this issue for the most part. BILLIE IDLE, of course, is a group that really shines live far more than in the studio.
Last Album is not BILLIE IDLE's best work. It's full of color and character, but it's hard to beat something like IDLE GOSSIP or ROCK'N'ROLL IDLE. With that said, though, it still manages to beat out so many other groups active in the idol scene, or even pop music in general. Even now, at what may very well be the end of this group, they're still branching out into new territory. The power ballad STAY is grittier and clumsier than anything Kenta Matsukuma has put out, and certainly isn't backed by those luscious strings he's so fond of these days, but it has an undeniable sense of emotion the likes of which we've never really heard from BILLIE IDLE. The album's closer, fittingly titled Last Song, is as perfect a swan song as any. These last two tracks showcase the absolute best of the four talented singers which make up BILLIE IDLE. BiS veterans First Summer Uika and Nozomi Hirano are at their peak, and sisters Momose Momo and Akira have finally been given the chance to really prove themselves. Akira in particular hadn't really had her moment yet, being absent for the 4-in-1 EP that saw the girls each take on their own solo(ish) endeavor.
I do so love BILLIE IDLE. None of their albums have been perfect, but they're always packed with passion, joy, and love. They have an insurmountable amount of talent, a driving force unlike any other. We can only hope that Last Album isn't the end of their journey, but if it is? I, for one, think it's a fitting statement for such a special group. Over the coming days and weeks I know Last Album will continue to grow on me, and I feel confident in saying that it will be among my favorite pop albums of 2017.


*From what I've heard (hearsay and rumors, really) this isn't actually BILLIE IDLE's last album. We'll just have to wait and see!