ANGERME's second A-side "Otome no Gyakushuu" Promotion Edit PV is out now! ANGERME won me over completely on "Taikibansei" and this song just blew me away even though I thought nothing was going to top their debut effort. It is definitely the best Hello! Project song I've heard over the past year and is front runner for idol song of the year so far. Any other song that comes out down the road will be hard pressed to top this one as far as I'm concerned!
Those who have read my previous blog posts, both here and on other sites, know that I am not a big fan of S/mileage. I never was and I always thought that at best I'd be a casual fan of a particular song/single/etc. I didn't think anything of the ANGERME name change either. In fact I thought it was a mark that the end was near for them. They were going through a complete identity change and Tsunku was no longer going to write for them. I predicted they'd last a year or two at most. Well, I was right in that they were getting an identity change, but completely wrong in thinking that this was the beginning of the end! If anything this is clearly a new start for them and Hello! Project is making sure that they make the best of it! This image change was definitely needed and I'm sure I'm not the only fan who is completely accepting of it!
This song has a somewhat dark, playful feel in its melody and is something that you would never really hear in a S/mileage song. That being said, it stays completely catchy throughout and I defy anyone to not be humming along by the end. The beat drives the track forward and it becomes readily apparent that ANGERME is shaping up to be one of the better dance-friendly H!P units. Speaking of the dance, I rarely point them out, but this one is great. There is the usual borrowing from past dances from other groups (I can only imagine this because they share the same choreographer) but all the girls show off their dancing skill in good form, even the new arrivals. About those new arrivals, I have to say that I think I prefer them over the second generation of S/mileage. They just seemed to smoothly integrate better than the Second Generation did. It also helps that the song is more evenly split up in terms of solos and screen time than one usually sees in a Hello! Project video. Also, I'm not big on picking favorites in idol groups (I know that this is a huge part of the fandom, but rarely am I able to pick a favorite) but I think that Rikako is slowly becoming a favorite of mine both in the group and amongst the new additions. I also can't forget to mention Meimi in this context either since she stated in the recent Hello! Pro Station that she's a fellow Takarazuka fan!
Onto the video itself. It's clear that this video has the bigger share of production values over "Taikibansei". The location is beautiful and the video does a great job playing on the contrast of light and dark throughout. I am unsure if this location is a set or an actual existing building, but it's a nice setting for this video nonetheless. To complement the great location, the videography is perfect, complete with timely cuts, sweeping angles and clever shots/focus pulls/etc. What this means in non-technical terms is that the video is gorgeous! The playful dance break also is something that was all-but nonexistent in H!P before and is yet another breath of fresh air in the somewhat aging collective. Returning to the darkness that seeps through the song, at points it's strong in the PV as well both literally and figuratively. That said, dark or not, it never hurts the songs appeal nor detracts from the overall enjoyment. Did I mention how great everything looks at the end when the set lights up? Well, it does!
The single "Taikibansei/Otome no Gyakushuu" drops on February 4th and I suggest everyone go out and buy it like I will! It'll be available through the usual online outlets and import shops. Be sure to watch the video and check out ANGERME if you haven't already as they are shaping up to be the future face of Hello! Project!
◆ Wada Ayaka
◆ Fukuda Kanon
◆ Nakanishi Kana
◆ Takeuchi Akari
◆ Katsuta Rina
◆ Tamura Meimi
◆ Murota Mizuki
◆ Aikawa Maho
◆ Sasaki Rikako
Hello! Pro Station Episode #100 Contents
MC: Tamura Meimi & Miyamoto Karin
◆ ANGERME - Taikibansei PV
◆ ANGERME Name Choosing
◆ 4-Kanji Phrase : 水魚の交
◆ New Hello! Project Unit Announcement Part 2
◆ Q&A Corner
◆ Murota Mizuki Hair Arrangement
The 100th episode of Hello! Pro Station went up last week and it was full of all the new Hello! Project groups that we're going to see lots of this year! The episode starts with a clip of the ANGERME's new PV "Taikibansei". The song and video are amazing. I had heard this song previously in previews/rips/etc, but hearing it in its proper form allows one to hear just what a great song this is! It's catchy with a nice beat and melody and the girls, new and old, shine here! This single is coming out soon and the full version of the PV (and it's other A-side) are actually already out at the time of this writing. Check them out whether you were a fan of S/mileage or not!
We move to our hosts who for this episode are Tamura Meimi of ANGERME and Miyamoto Karin of Juice=Juice. Meimi just might become a favorite of mine since she mentions that she loves Takarazuka! This was something I never knew about her. Has she stated this before? If anyone can pinpoint clips that refer to her love of Takarazuka I'd love to see them. Drop me a comment or message if you can. Anyhow, we have some fun banter with our hosts and then move into a clip that shows how the name "ANGERME" was decided upon.
There were some good name choices there. I can't remember what mine was, but I submitted one too and I was hoping that they'd mention it here. They didn't. Did anyone's submission get mentioned? Anyhow, they clearly decide on ANGERME and I still think it's a little unfair since it came from a member's idea and makes the whole contest thing moot. Moving on, after this clip we move into what I'm sure is everyone's favorite segment (sarcasm present) the 4-Kanji Phrase!
Ikubo Haruna (Morning Musume '15 sub-leader) introduces this one to Inaba Manaka from Country Girls. This week's phrase is "水魚の交" which refers to close friendship. I am not sure as to the point of this segment or if anyone truly enjoys these, but they are here and I watch them! I guess it helps with some of the quirks of the Japanese language if one is a student. It's a bit too esoteric though for the casual student/learner though I think. Inaba Manaka surely didn't know this week's phrase... After this we move into the second half of the new Hello! Project Unit's announcement.
Expect more tears from the former Kenshuusei as they are told about their new status in Hello! Project. After this little bit we get Maimi's assessment of the girls. She wishes them the best in the future career as do we all!
This week's Q&A corner is dominated by Meimi's thumb! I can't get over what her thumb can do and I don't think Karin could either! Check it out. Our hosts do a good job keeping everyone interested which I was actually surprised by since neither of them are anywhere on my favorite member lists. I still can't get over Meimi's new hair by the way though I'm sure in a couple weeks I won't notice anymore.
The episode closes with a hair arrange by Murota Mizuki of ANGERME. Another segment that I don't really care for though I can see its appeal to others. That said, I don't think I've seen her hair arranged like this in any clips/segments.
All in all this was a really good episode of the usual format and if you haven't watched it yet, watch it now! Be sure to check out all of ANGERME's new PVs too!
The 2015 Request Hour has finally come to a close. With all sorts of guest appearances from some of your favorite former AKB48 members (like seeing former ace Maeda Atsuko) and emotional moments (did you cry when you saw Takamina break down before she performed her “Jane Doe” solo, especially when her no3b buddies Miichan and Kojiharu comforted her at her time of need?), this was a request hour for the ages. At the end of the day, “Suzukake” takes the #1 spot. Congratulations to Matsui Jurina for her janken single to reach the top! But, at the end of the request hour came new reveals for new sister groups and senbatsu lineups.
Niigata Prefecture gets their very own sister group. NGT48 will have auditions and announcements in March, with their theater open in October. Announcements will include possible kennin members or even transfers. There’s no idea who might get sent up to Niigata. Maybe Sato Shiori from AKB48’s Team 8 lineup could lead the new squad? She is from the area, so that’s someone to keep in consideration.
But other than new sister groups, here comes a new senbatsu lineup! The new AKB48 single, “Green Flash”, will do something that has never been done before, and that is have Kashiwagi Yuki at center. She will center alongside Kojima Haruna, who hasn’t been seen at center since “Heart Ereki”. Also gone are the massive senbatsu lineups, seen on “Kibouteki Refrain” or “Labrador Retriever”, in favor of a traditional 16-member senbatsu. The lineup is nearly identical to “Kokoro no Placard”, with only Kojima Mako, Kizaki Yuria and Iriyama Anna replacing Miyazawa Sae, Shibata Aya and Suda Akari. No real surprises here. The only surprise is who got booted out. So to all the Miichan, Milky, Tano, Rie, Naanya, Mocchi, or “insert-your-oshimen-who-didn’t-make-senbatsu” fans, I’m sorry. My oshimen in Minegishi Minami didn’t make senbatsu either, but hey there’s always sousenkyo!
But I digress, even though Aki-P hasn’t revealed any sort of news on new Stages for some of the teams, there’s still plenty to get excited about for the upcoming few months. Do you like the idea of a new sister group to north of Japan? Do you like having Yukirin and Kojiharu to bolster the new single? Did you like Jurina’s janken single making the Top 2 for 2 years straight?
Let us know what you thought.
It’s that time again: it’s time to shuffle the senbatsu for Nogizaka’s next single!
As you may have known, the last single, “Nandome no Aozora Ka?” has had the longest run at single since it was in the middle of promoting the album. The Ikuta Erika-centered single was well received for being in line with “Kimi no na wa Kibou” or “Kidzuitara Kataomoi”. Even Sashihara Rino covered it during AKB48’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen. But it’s time to move on to the next one. Who makes senbatsu this time around?
This is an 18-member senbatsu, which is the biggest lineup since “Natsu no Free and Easy”. Speaking of said song, Nishino Nanase has been chosen as center once again. Joining her in the front row include some of the Nogizaka46 fan favorites, such as Shiraishi Mai, Hashimoto Nanami and Ikuta Erika. But joining Naachan in the front row is SKE48’s very own Matsui Rena. Quite possibly the most surprising reveal of the senbatsu, but not the only surprising reveal.
How this senbatsu was revealed was that the second row was revealed first. The second row seems the easiest to predict, so that’s not where the suspense lies. We’re at that point where it’s near impossible to see Ikoma Rina, Fukagawa Mai or Sakurai Reika out of senbatsu, unless something happens to them (such as taking time off for schoolwork, etc.). Thus, the second row includes, Reika, Ikomachan, Maimai, Wakatsuki Yumi, and everyone’s favorite Nogizaka fisher, Akimoto Manatsu.
The first and second rows are called the Jyuu Fukujin, who will get the most screen time out of the main single, much like the Kami-7 of AKB48. This leaves 8 members awaiting their name called for the last remaining spots of senbatsu.
This is where some surprises took place. One thing to notice is that someone will get shuffled out of senbatsu in place of someone new. For “Nandome no Aozora Ka?”, that lucky member was Saito Chiharu. Now someone succeeds in her place, but whom? Here comes Sagara Iori, the late 2nd generation member who makes it to senbatsu; the third 2nd gen member to do so. Joining her as a 2nd gen member is Hori Miona, the only 2nd gen member to center a Nogizaka single, and the longest running senbatsu member of the 2nd gen. Other members of senbatsu have been regulars for for months, and show no signs of slowing down: Eto Misa, Takayama Kazumi and Hoshino Minami.
Albeit a predictable surprise, one of the senbatsu members who fell out of Jyuu Fukujin is Matsumura Sayuri. While her scandal may have affected her status in the higher parts of senbatsu, she still made it. Some could argue that she could have dropped to undergirls, but she’s worked to erase some of the wrongdoings of that scandal. She’ll be back to a higher spot next time.
The final two spots of the 3rd row were the last members to be called, and they are Ito Marika and Saito Asuka. Arguably the aces of the Nogizaka undergirls rotation since they’ve both centered undergirls songs, seeing them both shoot to senbatsu was the most surprising reveal of all. One could argue that one of them could make senbatsu while the other spot could have gone to another 2nd gen member, such as Shinuchi Mai or Terada Ranze. But Bebitan and Ash made it, leaving plenty of options for an undergirls center. Sasaki Kotoko? Inoue Sayuri? Nakamoto Himeka? The list can go on and on. But me personally, I’d like my oshimen, Wada Maaya, to center an undergirls song. That’d be pretty awesome.
There seems to be pressure riding on this single since this is the way Nogizaka46 can respond to being snubbed out of NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen due to unfortunate circumstances. But all Nogizaka46 has to do is keep doing what they were doing a year ago, since 2014 was so successful. They’ll get in this year.
What do you expect to see from this upcoming 11th single? Do you expect a powerful ballad that brings you to tears like “Kidzuitara Kataomoi”, or do you expect an upbeat, pop/rock-esque song like “Natsu no Free and Easy”? Only time will tell.
But big ups to Nishino Nanase for being selected as the 11th single center! You go girl!
-Written By L4verra [Nathan]
The first PV from ANGERME dropped a couple days ago and it is one of the best Hello! Project songs in recent memory!
This is the first single to be released under the new name (For those that don't know, they were formerly known as "S/mileage") and the first to feature the new members Murota Mizuki, Aikawa Maho, and Sasaki Rikako. I honestly didn't know what to expect from their new sound, but I wasn't expecting too much. Basically I was figuring this name change was going to be the beginning of the end for S/mileage as they're sales were steadily dropping the past few years. I am glad to say that I was wrong to think that the changes in Hello! Project (name changes, group disbandment, new group formations, Tsunku's sickness) were going to make every aspect, from music to promotion, take a turn for the worse.
The song "Taikibansei", which is the first A-side from the single "Taikibansei/Otome no Gyakushuu" is a departure from the material that S/mileage has released before. That isn't necessarily a bad thing as there are some songs in their earlier catalog that I simply can not stand. For years there seemed to be an identity crisis at the Up-Front offices when it came to how to promote S/mileage. They were either super cutesy and upbeat ("Dot Bikini" and "Yattaruchan") or they were mature, both in sound and content ("Mystery Night!" and "Aa Susukino"). This song is the perfect mix of the two ideas. It is upbeat and catchy but does not have that unspecified quality that might turn off certain listeners with too much over-the-top antics and cutesy-ness. The video isn't going to win any awards, but it's well-edited and put together and the girls all look great here. That being said am I the only one who still can't get used to Meimi's new haircut? It seems to have gotten shorter.
The song is where everything really shines though. The arrangement is amazing with one of the best mixes I've ever heard from Hello! Project. The song drives forward with a powerful beat and catchy chorus. I guarantee you that it will be stuck in your head long after you're done listening to it! The lyrical content is typical idol fare I will admit, but nothing too distracting. I'm looking your way, "Mystery Night!".... Everyone gets a chance to show off their vocal talent here too and this is refreshing as some of the bigger groups heavily favor only certain members. Have I mentioned that I have always thought that S/mileage/ANGERME has the best vocal talent in Hello! Project? I'll admit that I am not a fan of Wada Ayaka, but Takeuchi Akari, Fukuda Kanon and Tamura Meimei have amazing voices and the new girls seem to be living up well to the legacy. I am glad to see that their talents are not being squandered in this new single. All this said, I can't wait for the single to come out on February 4, and I encourage all you to check out the video and to mark your calendars for the eventual release date!
◆ Wada Ayaka
◆ Fukuda Kanon
◆ Nakanishi Kana
◆ Takeuchi Akari
◆ Katsuta Rina
◆ Tamura Meimi
◆ Murota Mizuki
◆ Aikawa Maho
◆ Sasaki Rikako
For today's Throwback Thursday post, we are going back to the Golden Age where solo idols ruled the stage and they more often performed with live instruments over backing tracks! This will prove relevant later, I promise!
The video I am sharing now is from Sakai Noriko, better known to her fans as "Nori-P". The song is her mega-hit "Norenai Teen-age". I am not only a fan of this song, but also of Sakai Noriko in herself and I like spreading the word of idols sometimes forgotten. While not one of the "big three" of the eighties, she had one of the biggest followings of the day and remained strongly supported into the nineties when many early idols saw their careers end. Her sound was unique in that it was at once both accessible and catchy but also came with just a hint of a rebellious edge. She started her career very young, even by idol standards of the time, at the age of fifteen and began both acting and singing. Young or not, she was winning awards and performing on huge stages within a few short months.
Her debut single was "Otoko no ko ni Naritai" (I want to be a boy) but she really hit it big with the song "Nagisa no Fantasy". Many of her next singles would be hits such as "Nori-P Ondo" "GUANBARE" and "Diamond Blue" . Despite this huge early success and rise to stardom, her biggest hit wasn't from the eighties. It actually came about in the nineties with the song "Aoi Usagi". This was on the eve of her attempts to break into the mainland Asian market and as such it would be translated and performed in Chinese. Not one to rest idle, she would continue to perform throughout the nineties and early 2000s and perhaps might be still performing today if she didn't have the pesky problem of a drug-related conviction in 2009 that has pretty much put her career on an indefinite hiatus that it may not recover from.
The video chosen here is a live performance of the song from her 1988 Tour. At this point the song had been part of her repertoire for over a year and the arrangement is a bit different than the studio version, but is probably even more enjoyable in its present state. Enjoy!
Hello! Pro Station Episode #99 Contents
MC: Yajima Maimi, Fujii Rio and Hirose Ayaka
◆ New Hello! Project Unit Message
◆ New Hello! Project Unit - "Onna no Sono"
◆ Country Girls Message
◆ Country Girls - "Itoshikutte Gomenne"
◆ Juice=Juice Message
◆ Juice=Juice - "Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne"
◆ ANGERME Message
◆ ANGERME - "Taiki Bansei"
◆ Juice=Juice - "J=J School For Girls"
◆ Morning Musume '15 New Year Resolutions
◆ Morning Musume '15 - "Tiki Bun"
◆ C-ute New Year's Resolutions
◆ C-ute - "I miss you"
◆ Berryz Koubou Message
◆ Berryz Koubou - "Love Together!"
◆ Maimi Yajima Announces New Unit
This is a big episode as we get to see and hear the new Hello! Project units/members in action! The episode starts with member introductions of the as-yet-unnamed group performing the new song "Onna no Sono". This song is a nice upbeat track that is somewhat reminiscent of the early S/mileage songs. I can't wait to hear more from this group as they have a great sound and I'm sure they'll evolve into a cornerstone of Hello! Project. Especially with the upcoming departure of Berryz Koubou.
Next up we get a message from Country Girls. This whole segment confused me as there is Momoko introducing them and acting like a member, but when they perform she's no where to be seen. I am seriously confused as to what her role really is in the group and whether she is actually needed if she isn't going o be performing with them. That being said the song "Itoshikutte Gomenne" is a good song and rather catchy, but I don't think it's going to fly off the shelves. It does have an classic feel to it reminiscent of Country Musume's "Shining Itoshiki Anata" and while it doesn't have the same exciting feel of the new unit's song, it does have me wondering what Country Girls' sound will eventually be.
Moving on to Juice=Juice, we get a performance of "Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne". This is somewhat standard so there isn't too much to say except that they're spot on in their performance as they should be since this is a staple song for them. Watch for Karin's solo in the final chorus and perhaps you'll laugh as much as I did with her over-the-top delivery.
Next we get ANGERME (Still trying to get used to calling them that) with a message and performing their new song "Taiki Bansei". This is the best new song of the bunch. I was worried when I found out the song wasn't going to be a Tsunku composition, but that was unfounded as the song is amazing. It has a lively feel and dance and the new girls do an amazing job continuing the S/mileage legacy. I hope this is an indicator that good music will continue to come from them.
Next up is Moring Musume '15. We get some New Year resolutions from the girls. Ikuta wants a show, Kudo wants to be cute and Nonaka wants a world tour. Their performance of "Tiki Bun" isn't too exciting except that it contains the 12th Gen members. It's a good performance, but I was hoping for a better track that showcased their post-Sayumi strengths. Not necessarily a new song, but a better choice of song to display the new line-up.
Next we get C-ute's New Year resolutions. Maimi notes that it's the group's 10th Anniversary this year and hopes for a Yokohama Arena concert to mark this event. I second this, but I don't know how likely it is. Their performance of "I miss you" is as good as any other. Once again nothing ground-breaking here, but I really like this song so I'll allow a bit of rehashing in their case. That's not fair of course as I'll never tire of this song so it'll always seem fresh to me. Nice editing throughout some of the harmony segments adds a nice flair too.
We get a message from Berryz Koubou and a performance of "Love Together!" to close out the series of performances. I love this song too and I am glad that they gave Berryz such a good song to graduate with. The lyrics are completely fitting and are the right hint of nostalgia that will stand the test of time rather than becoming stale. I hope we get to see lots of Berryz Koubou before their graduation.
The show closes with Maimi announcing to the then-Kenshuusei that they are to be part of a new Hello! Project unit (the very same one we saw at the top of the episode. Tears flow and we get to see a small number of the Kenshuusei move forward in their Idol careers.
That concludes the episode, but there was a lot to see here. From great performances to new songs, this was an episode that was filled to the brim. I should not here that this episode was hosted by Yajima Maimi (C-ute), Fujii Rio and Hirose Ayaka (Both New Hello! Project Unit) who do a good job with this extra long episode. Watch and enjoy!
Osaka-based rock band SCANDAL announced their plans to tour the world recently and the tour dates and locations are finally starting to shape up! The tour is titled "SCANDAL WORLD TOUR 2015 'HELLO WORLD'" and is their first all-inclusive world tour.
Fresh off their recent album "HELLO WORLD" and their single "Image" they are set to take the world by storm this spring. The tour kicks off in Europe with stops in France, London and Essen in April. The quartet then continues on to Asia with an undisclosed show in Singapore and a show in Taiwan. They then head off to North America for an appearance at Anime Central and three concerts.
Now it is the US shows that interest this author, and all of us at A-To-J Connections, most of all. They have a show in Chicago on May 15th followed the next week by two in the Southern California area (With a show in Mexico in between). One in the House of Blues Anaheim on May 22nd and one at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip on May 23rd. While these shows are in great locations and in amazing venues, some might see some problems with timing. These dates sadly conflict with Fanime Con in San Jose which A-To-J Connections has committed to attend, but they are sure to be amazing shows that no one should miss out on! The tour continues, and wraps up, in Hong Kong on May 29th. The group then returns to Japan.
The official site for the tour can be found below along with links to purchase tickets for most of the announced shows.
SCANDAL is a four-piece all-girl Pop/Rock band that formed in 2006. They debuted in 2008 with the single "DOLL" and would go onto major success when their debut album "BEST SCANDAL" took the #5 spot on the Oricon charts, the first time since ZONE that a girl band debuted in the top five. They have released twenty-three singles and six albums since their debut and have performed all around the world including the US, Europe and Asia. Their contributions musically to anime by way of theme songs and their constant touring has ensured that their worldwide fan base has remained consistently large. Their most recent single "Image" was released on November 11, 2014.
Official SCANDAL WORLD TOUR 2015 webpage: http://www.sonymusic.co.jp/Music/Info/scandal/worldtour2015/
● Lead Vocals/Guitar - Haruna Ono
● Lead Guitar/Vocals - Mami Sasazaki
● Bass/Lead Vocals - Tomomi Ogawa
● Drums/Keyboards/Vocals - Rina Suzuki
It's the first Friday of the month at the Hello! Idol Blog Project and that means "Featured Idol Friday"! This month's featured idol is Union Music Japan's very own Dance Idol Unit, "Carat".
A five-member group (six members at formation) this unique Idol unit takes the typical Idol Pop formula and mixes in a club-friendly EDM sound. What we end up with is a high-energy group that can turn out some very danceable songs, but with an accessible feel. This take on the Idol genre was a deliberate move on the part of UMJ and is seen by the fact that one of the group's members is a full-fledged DJ in her own right. Of course I speak of DJ Mona, both DJ of the group and an active participant in the singing and dancing. One can argue she is the heart of the group or at the very least an element that helps set them apart from the plethora of Idols that Japan has been turning out with regularity. To further fill in the club atmosphere, practically all Carat live shows begin with a solo DJ performance by Mona featuring some of her amazing mixes. This of course is aided by the fact that several of their shows take place in clubs almost as often as they take place in traditional live house venues. And returning one last time to Mona as a DJ, it should be noted that while she is a full-time member of Carat she is also a standalone DJ who's schedule is as filled with casual club gigs as it is with Carat performances.
Moving on to the focus of this post, the song that I'm going to showcase today is "Shekina! (Shake It Up!)", their second single and the first that featured the slightly smaller line-up. The song is catchy and has all the hallmarks of Carat's style. Good vocals with some pleasing effects, amazing dance skills and some great spinning and mixing from Mona. The video might not be a big-budget affair, but it delivers and the group looks amazing in it whether dancing outdoors or inside the as-yet-empty dance floor. I must admit that I have a special fondness for this song as this was the single the group was supporting when they made their US concert debut at Anime Expo 2013 alongside Aya Ikeda. They performed this and virtually all their then-current discography live. This was followed by appearances, signings and other events. One of the highlights of that particular convention for this author. Since then they have released a full-length album titled "1ct" and two more videos to support it, "C.A.R.A.T." and "Dramatic Love". They are very active both in Japan and recently into mainland Asia with plans to expand further. Their recent activity includes a joint appearance with other Union Music Japan artists ("Hysteric Lolita" and "Verge" to name two) at the "Japan Kawaii Night" event that will take place in both Seoul, Korea and Bangkok, Thailand. Here's hoping their activities this year bring them back to the US!
Official Website: http://www.carat-ue.jp