After having an interesting start as an indie rock band with some pop influences, LoVendoЯ has finally had their major debut with the double A-side single ‘Iin ja nai? / Futsuu no Watashi Ganbare!’ This release is actually quite unique in comparison with their previous efforts. To begin with, there are instrumental tracks included, which are non-existent in all of their other releases. Now that their skills have improved immensely since they started, the guitarists were actually able to provide compositions this time around. While this is not unheard of in most rock bands, LoVendoЯ has a deep-rooted basis in pop due to one of their members being a prominent ex-idol from Morning Musume. That being said, let’s jump right into the review of the music.
First off is what I believe is the strongest point of the whole release: Iin ja nai? The song has a very strong rock feel with some very nice tunes. One thing I really like about it is that there are no real breaks in the sounds. We continuously get a barrage of either guitar, bass or drums at all times, excluding the occasional transition. Throughout the song you will also hear some very solid (though admittedly relatively simplistic) solos from each guitarist in order to add the kind of individual personality needed to help each band member stand out in her own way. Also, Reina’s vocals, while still carrying that slight idol feel from her past, are actually much improved and appropriate in this song. Marina also provides strong vocals here as well. Unfortunately, I feel like their two vocal styles differ enough to offer a sometimes sharp contrast. While I personally like Marina’s singing better than Reina’s, they both do their parts beautifully in this song. That being said, I do like how the stark contrast is actually played as a positive quality in this song, where it oddly works out quite nicely. This song is going to provide a nice barrage of sounds to your ears in a nonstop aural pleasure-fest. The strong quality is no surprise though, considering the fact that this song’s lyrics, composition and chorus were all written by the acclaimed Takui Nakajima, who has not only composed songs for LoVendoЯ, but has also done so for ANGERME, C-ute and other big acts associated with Up-Front.
Moving on to the other A-side: Futsuu no Watashi Ganbare! This song actually has a bit of pop and jazz feel to it, rather than a strictly rock style like Iin ja nai? This offers a nice contrast to the other A-side, thus providing some nice variety to the release. In this song, the two vocalist actually work to try and match each other’s style in order to provide a more harmonious experience to couple with the slightly more chaotic style of the instrumentals. The mix of styles within the instruments actually really play out quite nicely due to the talent of the band as a whole (including the uncredited bass and drums). One thing of particular note that I noticed is the way that it sounds like Marin and Yuki actually have a conversation with each other through the use of their guitars throughout various parts of the song (a style with an origin in jazz). This adds a sort of interaction to the song that you don’t see in the average rock band these days, which is very welcome. Overall, this song also helps push LoVendoЯ forward with a much stronger sound than their previous (and slightly more conservative) past.
Desert of a moonlight night ~Tsukiyo no Sabaku~, composed by Yuki Uozumi (one of the guitarists), is an instrumental track that actually reminds me of the sort of strong battle music I’m used to hearing out of a Japanese style RPG game. It’s a very fast paced instrumental track that really helps show off Yuki’s skills of being able to change notes quite quickly and adeptly. Princess of lone castle ~ Koujou no Himegimi ~, composed by Marin Miyazawa (the other guitarist), sounds like something straight out of an anime. It has a more adventurist feel that makes you feel like you’re being taken on a journey rather than through a tough challenge or fight like Yuki’s song. Being composed by Marin, this one plays on Marin’s skills of a more heavy handed style of guitar playing. While it isn’t really fast-paced (in comparison to Desert of a moonlight night), it is plays more on the ability to mend together sounds to create a pleasant melody without the need to be overly complex or intense. Both of the instrumentals are a very welcome change to their normal releases and I hope they keep up with these in the future.
Iin ja nai? / Futsuu no Watashi Ganbare! released on July 1, 2015 with 3 editions and won 7th place on the Weekly Oricon Charts. All editions include the double A-sides and their instrumental versions as well. Additionally, Regular Edition A contains Desert of a moonlight night ~Tsukiyo no Sabaku~ (Yuki’s song) while Regular Edition B contains Princess of lone castle ~ Koujou no Himegimi ~ (Marin’s song). The Limited Edition, while only including the double A-side and their instrumentals, does also include a DVD with both music videos and three performances of Sennou, Soushi Souai and Hontou no Kimochi from their final performance from their Steal Your Heart tour (Performed in Shinjuku BLAZE, which I had the pleasure of attending and I can tell you was one of the best concerts I’ve seen.). The single can be purchased from iTunes or from cdjapan.co.jp.
◆Reina Tanaka – Vocals
◆Marina Okada – Vocals
◆Yuki Uozumi – Guitar
◆Marin Miyazawa – Guitar
◆Tabasa Hayashi – Bass
◆Kiyoshi – Bass
◆Jirou Miyanaga – Bass
◆Kaori Kobayashi – Drums
◆Yu Yamauchi - Drums
Videos for all four songs can be viewed below:
A very special treat to people in the Los Angeles area, MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON FESTIVAL 2015 is coming to LA on August 1st and 2nd! Inspired by the popular TV program and website, MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON is created for fans of Japanese fashion, anime, cosplay, art and design. Two days of Harajuku-inspired shopping, activities, panels, music and more!
This is the first MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON FESTIVAL in Los Angeles and it will feature lots of fun activities to keep you occupied! LIVE DAM Karaoke will have a booth where attendees can try singing the latest J-Pop hits and the first day of the festival will also feature a karaoke contest! Japanese pop culture website, Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi will be hosting the auditions for the karaoke contest and all the audition performances will be judged by producers from ASOBISYSTEM, former Japanese record label executives, etc. The auditions can be submitted beforehand via the KKS website and the contest itself will take place August 1st. The lucky first prize winner of the auditions will receive a free flight from the US to Japan! Be sure to visit www.kawaiikakkoiisugoi.com for more information!
MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON will also have several popular Japanese fashion brands in attendance. These will include Pure, Aymmy in the batty girls, jouetie, as well as many others. Besides booths, these brands will also be featured in a fashion show that is scheduled to take place the first day of the festival, August 1st at 5:30 PM. This one of a kind fashion show will feature AMIAYA, Ayumi Seto, YuRi, RinRin and Hiko Achiha who will be modeling some of the latest Harajuku fashions. Hiyoko Nishimura will also be in attendance DJing the event. Rounding out the clothing presence at MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON, Japanese cosplay vendors will also be in attendance.
If you're in need of something unique to take home with you, Moshi Moshi will have you covered! The aforementioned fashion brands will be in attendance as will a special Don Quijote booth! Besides these there will a Moshi Moshi Nippon booth that will be offering products from MOSHI MOSHI BOX in Harajuku, including MOSHI MOSHI original products as well a selection of the most popular goods, including the popular, quirky “sushi socks”. If you're looking for that perfect gift, even if it's something for yourself, then there will most assuredly be something there for you!
Lots of events will take place besides what has been mentioned. Sunday, August 2nd, will also feature a special WORLD COSPLAY SUMMIT that is sure to attract some awesome cosplayers to the event. As if all this weren't enough, there will also be DJ events, concerts and lots of other fun to be had! If you are free August 1st and/or 2nd be sure to stop by THE REEF "Magic Box" located on 1933 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA for one of the best events to come to the Los Angeles area. You won't regret it!
Tickets can be purchased at moshimoshi-nippon-la.com and are just $10 for one day or $18 for both if purchased in advance. This will be an event like no other and you don't want to miss it! Hope to see you all there!
Country Girls return to a familiar retro Hello! Project feel with their new song and PV, "Tamerai Summer Time". While many of their songs up to this point have had a standard idol feel to them, not taking away from their greatness of course, it is this song that finally makes one remember that they are in fact successors to classic Hello! Project group, Country Musume. Harkening back to a very different time in idol history, this song does more than simply make me appreciate Country Girls, it also makes me appreciate the Hello! Project/Tsunku legacy as well as the genre itself. This song is one of two A-Sides from their upcoming single "Wakatte Iru no ni Gomen ne / Tamerai Summertime". A look at the first song can be found here.
First off one has to talk about the song itself. I mention the retro feel and yes there is something akin to the Golden Age here in both its simplicity and its style. In short it's a beautiful song that does away with much of the modern frills, but still manages to draw the listener in. The song is penned by Miura Yoshiko who has a long pedigree with Mano Erina and Buono! amongst many others. She most recently penned Juice=Juice's "Ca va Ca va" and is quickly becoming a strong creative voice in the new Hello! Project. Nostalgia reigns supreme here and one cannot help but feel they are being pulled into the song itself courtesy of the five girls lovely performances both vocally and in the video itself. Vocal-wise while the song is top notch, I still have been struggling to find that one special vocalist in the lot that draws my attention more than the others, they all do an admirable job here. I must say however that this type of songs are usually the ones that I love upon initial listens and think are a treat when performed live, but I rarely find myself listening to them on a regular basis. This of course is a matter of opinion, but it's that type of ballad that I don't think actually lives up to continuous play. Maybe it's the tinge of nostalgia in the song that makes it hard to hear regularly for myself, but this is something best left to each individual listener to decide on.
Onto the video itself. Now it does follow a very standard formula when it comes to content. Dance, close-ups, short drama sequences, call it a day. What makes this one truly unique is the location. Lovely Hokkaido is featured in all its glory. This is fitting of course as Country Musume was originally envisioned as a group made up of Hokkaido natives. Beautiful locations aside the video has a unique balance of colors that seems to put one instantly at peace. The girls look good here, no comments on the outfits and the dance is what is to be expected in a song like this. That selfie stick sequence though? I know it's referenced in the song as well, but I'm a sucker for selfies and this was a nice touch that made me like the song just a little more. While I personally still prefer "Wakatte Iru no ni Gomen ne" in this set, this one does well in holding its own. The true test for this song's longevity will of course be when the song becomes part of their live set.
With that we have heard and watched both new Country Girls songs! We remind everyone that the single drops on August 5th. While that's nearly a month away from now, I'm sure that to all the fans the time will fly by! Make sure to get those pre-orders in! Watch and enjoy!
Country Girls Are:
◆Tsugunaga Momoko (嗣永桃子) (Play Manager)
◆Yamaki Risa (山木梨沙)
◆Inaba Manaka (稲場愛香)
◆Morito Chisaki (森戸知沙希)
◆Ozeki Mai (小関舞)
Fans waited for the mysterious 10th anniversary countdown to finish and it finally finished to reveal a documentary detailing their successful World Tour 3rd. A tour in which they visited countries such as Asia,The United Kingdom, and The United States. I was in attendance at one of their US tour dates and it really was an amazing experience. The documentary is also going to show their a live of one of their newest songs, “STORY”, taken from their incredible performance at SXSW. The documentary is going to be shown in theaters across Japan starting October 31st. No further info has been revealed about a home video release or screenings elsewhere. You can preview the trailer for it below.
Here is a link to the Facebook page created for it as well: https://www.facebook.com/WE.ARE.Perfume?fref=ts
If you didn’t know already, Miyawaki Sakura, of HKT48 and AKB48, released a photobook this month. The self-titled Sakura photobook was so good that it sold over 60,000 copies, which means it’s sold out in Japan. Fortunately, the local Kinokuniya Bookstore in Los Angeles managed to have two copies for sale, so of course I did not hesitate to pick one up.
But how good is it? Is the first Miyawaki Sakura photobook worth the price (1,500 yen in Japan and about $23 at Kinokuniya before tax)? Let’s take a look.
Some photobooks can come with either a photo you can trade with others or even a two-sided poster. This one comes with different posters depending on which one you buy. You won’t know which poster you get until you take off the plastic wrapping. The one I have is of Sakura in a bikini in the forest. Yeah, I’m not taping that poster in my room mind you.
As soon as you open the photobook, it’s a photo of Sakura sitting on a cherry blossom tree. Throughout the book, you see Sakura in normal casual clothes (or sometimes a seifuku) in various settings: sleeping inside a bus, relaxing on a boat, fishing in a harbor, running in a park, and playing at a playground. Of course, you get your fair share of bikini gravure shots, which are commonplace in 48G-related photobooks. Honestly, you see more bikini gravure in standard issues of Young Animal or Weekly Playboy, so if you expected a book filled with Sakura bikini shots, that’s not the case here. She’s still cute regardless, and you have an entire book filled with the cuteness that is Miyawaki Sakura! Who needs bikini shots anyway?
One thing that bothers me about the photobook is just how much it skips from setting to setting. The pacing goes like this: two pages with Sakura in a Japanese metropolitan bus, then two pages with Sakura next to a cherry tree. Some photobooks, such Kizaki Yuria’s Peace and Shiraishi Mai’s Seijun na Otona, keep it consistent with the photo settings. For example, you get ten or so pages of Shiraishi Mai at the beach but they aren’t scattered throughout the photobook. Rather, they are all in one section. Miyawaki Sakura’s photobook doesn’t do that. All the photos seem to be shuffled around, so you get a new setting once you turn the page. This takes away from the experience the photobook is giving you.
Other things you see in this photobook include a few shots of Miyawaki Sakura during concerts (such as the Young Member Zenkoku Tour), Sakura backstage, and Sakura in rehearsal with other HKT48 members. You also get a few pages that talk about Sakura’s life story, including pictures of her when she was younger. It’s a nice thing to read at the end of a photo collection. That is if you can read Japanese.
There is also one part of the photobook that puts it in the “risqué” category, more so than anything in Weekly Playboy or Young Animal. There are some five or six shots in this photobook that consist of Sakura in a bed. The only problem with this is that Sakura is possibly not wearing any clothes and is covered with a white blanket. I say possibly because there are photos where Sakura’s back is exposed and it does not look like she is wearing a bra. To some this would be all fine and dandy, but the issue that arises here is that Miyawaki Sakura is only 17 years old. This issue was addressed on CDJapan (a popular import website) with Sakura’s photobook was pulled from the site. How you look at the photos is based on your own moral judgments as to whether or not it’s okay for Miyawaki Sakura to have photos like that. I will not post the photos on this review since that will spoil the “surprise”. But in my opinion, I can understand why CDJapan pulled the photobook. I can also understand why some people may find the photos too risqué for a 17-year-old. I wish Sakura waited until possibly April of 2016 to take photos like this so it would be a non-issue, but the photos are there. If you buy the photobook, all you have to do is just skip over those few pages.
Overall, Sakura is a pretty decent photobook. This is not the best photobook released this year (so far I have to give that title to Yamamoto Sayaka’s SY), but this is still a good photobook for all you Miyawaki Sakura fans. I would put this photobook higher than Nishino Nanase’s Fudangi, but not higher than Kizaki Yuria’s Peace. Obviously for the Miyawaki Sakura oshi, it’s a must buy. For the individual who put Sakura in their Top 5 or maybe Top 10, it’s still worth a buy if you can find one. But for everyone else out there, your best bet would be to sit this photobook out and possibly purchase Mizugi Surprise 2015 once that comes out.
I have a very strong feeling this is not going to be the last Miyawaki Sakura photobook. Give it at least five years and she’ll have a new one ready.
Just weeks after the departure of member Shimamura Uta, Country Girls have released the PV for "Wakatte Iru no ni Gomen ne", one half of the new double A-Side single "Wakatte Iru no ni Gomen ne / Tamerai Summertime". Not a group to be overlooked, Country Girls does not skip a beat and they succeed in delivering a song that is sure to keep even the most diehard Uta fans interested despite the loss of the well-loved member. For more on Shimamura's departure, check here.
In terms of sound, the song is a refreshing one that bears a style that is both familiar and unique to what one normally hears in Hello! Project. Lyrics come courtesy of Kodama Ameko who is quickly becoming one of my favorite Hello! Project song writers. (The first being Takui Nakajima) So this new style is probably becoming the new standard for the Tsunku-less H!P. Lyrically the song is great and the production and arrangement are spot on. One quickly remembers that unlike most idol groups, Country Girls did not have to enter the scene via the indies. The drama parts are entertaining and the girls' vocal abilities all shine throughout here. While I personally find it hard to pick a new favorite vocalist, I'm sure most fans won't be too hard pressed to find a favorite here if theirs was formally Shimamura Uta, as is the case with myself. While much has been said of the "new" Hello! Project, I think that it's fair to say that Country Girls are leading this new era in both their skill and the management's push with giving them good songs and PVs.
Now onto the PV itself. While only a few things separate this from the typical Hello! Project-type video, with a central dance shot only broken up occasionally by close-ups, the locations are great and the girls do a good job in the in-between drama sequences. Seriously though, that kabe-don anyone? Acting in the aforementioned drama scenes is spot on as is the dance. Speaking of the dance, the choreography is a welcome step-up from what is usually seen outside the main H!P groups. Then again, I guess in this new era Country Girls is a main H!P group. The costumes run along the usual here, there are two and we can easily guess which one will be the one most featured live in concert, but what else can be said about Momoko's outfit and make-up? I will once again stop here and reiterate that I am still not totally sure what her continued presence will be in the group, but I am glad for it nonetheless! The wrap-around story sequences also do a good job breaking up the typical Hello! Project PV monotony.
There you have it! We have an awesome new Hello! Project PV to enjoy and a short wait until the second one is released. Be sure to check it out and pick up the single itself when it drops August 5th. Enjoy!
Country Girls Are:
◆Tsugunaga Momoko (嗣永桃子) (Play Manager)
◆Yamaki Risa (山木梨沙)
◆Inaba Manaka (稲場愛香)
◆Morito Chisaki (森戸知沙希)
◆Ozeki Mai (小関舞)
Fantasy Idul Unit, Starmarie recently released their second PV with the current five member line-up. The PV is for the song "Mekurumeku Yuuki!" and it's somewhat of a departure of the group's recent outings, especially their most recent single "Circus wo Koroshitano wa Dareda" ("Who Killed Circus"). The video also features a more light-hearted feel that matches the song and will be a pleasant treat to fans and newcomers alike.
The five member line-up of Starmarie has been around for a while now, but it seems that the group is finally starting to hit their stride. Originally formed as a five member unit, the group was more popularized as a trio. Since their formation the group has gone through many forms and have finally returned to one that is familiar to what fans saw on their debut release. Being an indie idol group, Starmarie has the typical troubles of an idol group trying to stay relevant in a scene that is constantly changing and creating, forming and reforming other groups at a somewhat alarming rate. Besides this, the group has had something of an image identity crisis probably owing to the fact that the line-up is only now truly beginning to stabilize and that they have been around a long time with a very diverse back catalog of music that only the most hardcore of fans is familiar with. One way to stay relevant in the current Japanese music scene is to take part in the many cross-over opportunities that are open to music artists both for television and film. Starmarie are lucky in that their latest single does just that. "Mekurumeku Yuuki" isn't just their latest single, it is also the new closing song for the anime "Card Fight!! Vanguard G”. This anime will air in a prime slot on Japanese TV and fans can hope that this level of exposure will finally bring Starmarie the type of exposure they deserve.
Onto the video itself. The video itself is fairly simple with a generic setting and only the most basic of cuts, but it serves its purpose well. While, the location and shots are simple, the sepia tones and the placement of the girls themselves are nice touches. The girls look good here and the style of the song warrants repeat listens. My only true complaint about the video is that it is only a short preview. While I cannot speak of the rest of the PV, I'm sure that while it won't be able to rival the amazing storyline found in "Circus wo Koroshitano wa Dareda", it'll have a charm all of its own.
If you're a fan of Starmarie and haven't checked this one out yet, do yourself a favor and do so now! Everyone else, please give them a shot! Be sure to pick this single up and keep an eye out for future updates from our favorite Fantasy Idol Unit!
●Nozomi Kishita / 木下望
●Shino Takamori / 高森紫乃
●Matsuzaki Hiroka / 松崎博香
●Nakane Motoko / 中根礎子
●Watanabe Kaede / 渡辺楓
BAND-MAID are back with a new look and PV for the song "REAL EXISTENCE"! While still sporting their trademark maid motif, the band has taken a slightly darker approach to the usually-cute black/white maid style. This departure can especially be seen in Saiki (Vocals) and MISA's (bass) outfits which are both maid-inspired, but all black. MISA's outfit itself is unique as well in that it can be argued that the maid style is minimal if all but non-existent. Sound-wise the song is not necessarily a departure from their previous works, but is a welcome dose of hard-rock that one would probably not expect from the group had they not been familiar with them before.
The video itself is beautifully shot with some amazing location choices and a level of style one usually doesn't see in independent releases. All the girls get ample screen time and look great here. While this quintet has proven that they have the musical chops to match their rivals, they are in rare form in this track. Akane's drumming is spot on and keeps the band perfectly in time. MISA's bass fills in the second verse are notable as is her playing in general throughout. Do I even have to point out the blistering guitar solo from Kanami? This is a band that shouldn't be taken lightly! The twin vocals of Saiki and Miku are executed perfectly and the whole package becomes something that this writer feels goes far beyond their gimmick of being a band made up of musicians dressed up as maids. I give it until the release of their next album till they are fully recognized for the amazing musicians they are.
BAND-MAID is a five-member all-girl rock band that are managed by Platinum Production and are on the Gump Records label. They formed in July 2013 and had their first live on July 24, 2013 at SHIBUYA-AX. January 8, 2014 saw the release of their first album, titled "MAID IN JAPAN", and they released their first single, "Ai to Jounetsu no Matadore" on August 13, 2014. Be sure to keep an eye out for the band's future releases as they are one of the hot new band's to watch! Here's to their next release!
◆ Saiki - Vocals
◆ Kobato Miku - Guitar & Vocals
◆ Tono Kanami - Guitar
◆ Hirose Akane - Drums (Leader)
◆ MISA - Bass
◆ Rin Rigoni