29 November 2011

Kis-My-Ft2 - We never give up! PV review

Was thinking of waiting to do this near the end of the week but my rage will not wait that long.

I was okay with the 3/4 break down of the group for their debut single as I figured as a newly debuted group they needed to make sure people could at least recognize one member of the group and with the Ikemen Desu ka tie-in it made a lot of sense to have Fujigaya Taisuke and Tamamori Yuta as centers, and of course Kitayama Hirosuke has always been one of the lead vocalists with Fujigaya so he had to be in front as well. I wasn't too happy about how much the other four blended in the the back dancers when they had them but decided to just suck it up as this was just the start. Now that we're on the second single I would still would be okay with things at the Everybody Go level of things but if this PV is any indication of what it will be like then my tolerance of this is at its end.

It seems someone in management or perhaps just the director for the PV thinks that the group is Ki-Ft featuring s-My2 and not Kis-My-Ft2. Senga Kento, Miyata Toshiya, Yokoo Wataru and Nikaido Takashi all don't have a single close up shot in the entire PV which is 5 minutes and 34 seconds long. I mean heaven forbid they use four of those seconds to give these members a head shot when they could of course be giving Ki-Ft a minute long scene of just about nothing but that.

I still don't mind Ki-Ft being the centers of the group. Kisumai is one of those groups that I can honestly say that I like all the members just about equally. And I can't blame them for doing what management or a director has asked them to as that's pretty much part of their job but I'm a fan of a group called Kis-My-Ft2 not this Ki-Ft featuring s-My2 that they're pushing too hard for. And it's even more frustrating for me personally because I've been a fan of big groups with favorites that aren't the popular members and when I can watch any of the early Hey! Say! JUMP PVs and still get the feeling Okamoto Keito is a member of the group and then turn around and question if s-My2 are supposed to be a part of their group then I find that beyond depressing.

I ended up skipping on pre-ordering anything more than the RE version of this single because of budget reasons but I'm glad I did as I just might have cancelled my order to re-do it without that LE version. I don't want to own this PV on DVD. And until Kisumai starts getting PVs that don't treat s-My2 as glorified back dancers I refuse to buy anything but the RE versions of their releases, as with Avex that tends to be the only version with bonus B-sides anyway. I mean if I wanted a group where only a few members sing and the rest back dance I would be an EXILE fan, and hell even there the back dancers get solo shots and they have fourteen members. SMFH.

That all aside there are a few things I liked about the PV and I'll touch upon those with the screen caps.

Somebody took a wrong turn somewhere.
So PV begins in a someplace in the snow. One wonders by the buildings are meant to be Greek, but the landscape looks more Arctic and then you have the building the group is in that doesn't really fit the image all that much. I guess if anything the PV starts as confused as people might be about how many members Kisumai has from watching it.

Bowties are cool.
Kitayama kicks the song off with his solo lines and we see the group in a grey building/set, wearing grey. Subtle, is it not? And hello s-My2, I see they don't even bother to ever have in focus during this.

Even Tama doesn't look happy being in this PV.
And honestly I find Tamamori's scene here a little creepy. Since he does not have a strong singing voice, I believe the only solo line he has in the song is with his voice distorted, he's singing with Fujigaya and Kitayama but he's the sole focus for those lines so it looks really off, as if all the voices are meant to be coming from him or something.

Let the sunshine in!
And finally we get some color. And the color they picked for s-My2 to be wearing is kinda ugly. Except somehow Yokoo got away with a purple shirt instead of maroon and it's not as bad. Of course why they could be at least looking like they're wearing street clothes as well as Ki-Ft baffles me as it wouldn't have taken much and the divide wouldn't seem so jarring as it does.

Shh, he's thinking.
Then we're dragged back to grey, snow and more Ki-Ft featuring s-My2. I do like Fujigaya's hair like this and hope he keeps it for a bit more, just hope he doesn't keep this style as long as he did his old one. I also hope he stops trying so hard to be sexy. It comes off more comical to me than anything else and he's definitely one of those guys that don't need to try that hard.

I don't know why you keep getting shafted either.
While we don't get s-My2 solo shots we do get some group shots of them. I wonder if they thought that since they had these scenes they didn't need solo shots of them. I guess they forgot to run this past anyone who's a fan of the group, because really they don't.

Trying to balance the weight of his head with his hair like that.
And Kitayama just can't pull off sexy to me. I blame the nose as when I see guys with noses like that I just think cute as it makes them look much younger than they are. Which I guess why in his mid-twenties he's still playing high school student characters. But this scene of trying to look fierce and sexy made me laugh as he looked neither to me.

If it were the next finger over they would expressing my feelings
about this Ki-Ft featuring s-My2 formation.
The choreography for the song does stick out to me as it really seems like they made sure to match the moves with the lyrics which leads to some interesting looking hand gestures, and pointing. Lots of pointing.

Fujigaya has the perfect expression for this PV here.
And then we have about a minute of Ki-Ft walking in the snow without any of s-My2 anywhere in the scenes. As you can see with this screen cap they do a split screen and seeing how they do it even when the others have lines to sing they could have easily added the other four into it and finally given them close up shots at least.

How many people walk in snow with their sleeves rolled up?
See, instead of a solo shot we could be seeing Fujigaya in the center with two of the other members looking serious on either side. It's such a simply thing but would have made me like this PV so much more with it.

Burn this PV! Burn it with FIRE!
Okay, and one of the things I do like about the PV are the transitions using the flare. It's a little thing but it gives the viewer a good idea that there's going to be a scene change and with the eventually melting of the snow it even works if you see it as a ray of sun that Kisumai bring with their song and dance.

These are our war faces.
And this scene I like as it's one of the few that makes me feel like they are one group. Even though Ki-Ft are still in the front s-My2 still manage to look like they are with them and not just there to solely support them.

Johnny's chiropractors. 
This is one of the more interesting dance moves I've seen in a while. I do like how its another thing that shows that they are one group by having Fujigaya be the odd man out. And I'm interested to see if they do this on any of the lives they do for the song.

Somehow I'm not surprised we don't see them land...
And we get the roller skates, because it can't be a Kisumai PV without them. I don't mind the roller skates personally as I've had about four years to get used to them and I find that the moves they can do in them usually has them changing up the formation to let those in the back get more chances to move up if just for a short while before moving to the back.

Senga looking cool for the second you can really see him.
And this is my great highlight of the PV as Senga actually gets a somewhat decent shot as he isn't behind anyone. There needed to be more of this in the PV as well and again it would have been a quick and simple to do so.

Kis-My-Ft2, bringers of Spring.
And with the roller skates comes color, sunshine and flowers. Because this is a Johnny's PV and it needs something corny like that.

Who needs global warming when you have Kisumai?
The CG looks to be rather cheap, which is probably a really good thing that it isn't used much. Of course one still has no idea where in the world they are supposed to be as we still get random Roman ruins but oh well. I long gave up on Johnny's PVs making sense.

It's honestly an okay PV if I look at it without my fan rage. But with my fan rage I find it hard to watch even with the few things I like about it. If Johnny's and Avex want more of my money they need to fix the Ki-Ft featuring s-My2 thing. I don't mind the 3/4 split but they need to just lessen the gap between them or I'm not going to be a happy Kis-My-Ft2 fan.

28 November 2011

Q&A Month: Question 6

Well it definitely looks like I'll be answering these questions well into next month. I don't think I expected to write so much about Sexy Zone or for there to be so many announcements this month. I'm thinking of trying to get through a few of them in the next couple of days because it has been a while since I answered the last, but we'll just see how that goes. If you want to get a question in there is still time as I will stop taking them once December begins, just leave them in this post.

Today's question come from Ani2, and it's a bit of long one but honestly one I've been wondering about myself as well: I heard that next year in May , JE will have their 50th anniversary.
I wonder if there will be some big event or party to celebrate it?
I don´t know if there was something like that for the 40th anniversary, but since 50 years is quite a number , I wonder if JE is planning something? Maybe concerts or so??

I can't say I know for sure but I would be surprised if Johnny's does nothing. If anything this year's Countdown concert will most likely have a special medley to celebrate it, because fifty is a big number to hit. Whether or not they do anything more than that, outside of maybe special medleys for the Juniors to perform on Shounen Club, I have no clue.

That's one of those things that I'm sure only Johnny's management knows but I have the feeling that if A.B.C-Z debut this year as planned it may get played up with their debut announcement for being the group debuting fifty years after Johnny's first group or something.

27 November 2011

Sato Shori begins his conquest of Japan

It has been announced that Sato Shori will be making his drama debut this winter season by having a supporting role in the drama Hungry! This drama has Japanese actor Mukai Osamu and has SMAP member Inagaki Goro also in a supporting role.

If I'm reading the information right in the article he will have the role of the younger brother of the heroine of the drama.

Sanspo article. (Japanese)

Can't say I'm surprised at the news as I'm sure Johnny's has been planning this for some time so they can make the rest of Japan see what a star in the making he is. This should also be helpful for Sexy Zone in general as his popularity grows, especially considering Johnny's is insisting he's the center of the group. Of course this probably won't make a huge impact but it's a start and if the drama is a popular one it could be a really good start for him. So I wish the kid luck and if I have the time I may check this drama out myself as it sounds like it'll be a fun one.

26 November 2011

The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa

Members: Takizawa Hideaki & Imai Tsubasa 

(left to right) Imai Tsubasa & Takizawa Hideaki

To understand how Tackey & Tsubasa came about it helps to understand their place in Junior history. They were a part of what is known as the Golden Age of Juniors and Takizawa Hideaki was considered the leader of the Juniors, a title that pretty ended with his debut as no other Junior had the kind of unifying presence he did. Tackey and Tsubasa as well as the members of Arashi and the older members of Kanjani8 were a part of this era. And a lot of what Junior fans take for granted, like Junior concerts, were started during this time.

Both Tackey and Imai Tsubasa joined the agency at the same audition in 1995 but while Tsubasa went off to do the usual Junior activities of the time Tackey got a drama role which helped lead to his early popularity. The two were often placed together for performances though and while they initially did not get along well eventually they became friends.

After noting their popularity, especially after it rose after Arashi debuted, Johnny Kitagawa commented that he wanted them to debut when they turned twenty, but it was not clear if he meant together as a duo or as two soloists. They were actually originally meant to debut as two solo artists but Tackey was able to get permission to ask their fans to organize a letter campaign to ask Johnny’s to let the two debut as a duo instead. This was the only time such a campaign has worked and considering how the two have such a poor sales record it will most likely be the last. But in any case it stands as testament at just how popular Tackey was as a Junior. 

Instead of debuting with a single the duo had an album debut, titled Hatachi (the Japanese word for 20 years old) in 2002. They have had a spotty record when it comes to producing hit singles and tend to be one of Johnny’s lowest selling artists but now and then produce a hit like their popular song, Venus. Around 2009 each released solo material, which lead to fans fearing they would break up, but after about a year or so of that came back to releasing music as a duo again.

Tackey & Tsubasa are one of the rare Johnny’s groups that do not have their own variety show to host as a group. But they are both very active with musicals. Tackey nowadays has two musicals that he does, usually with many of the Juniors, one for the New Year in January Takizawa Kakumei and usually  then another one he does later in the year Takizawa Kabuki. In the past couple of years Tsubasa has taken over being the lead in the annual PLAYZONE musical which runs during the summer.

Hideaki Takizawa is usually known by his nickname, Tackey. Because of his drama work when he was a Junior he quickly became popular but it was more his natural charisma that earned him his title of leader of the Juniors. Unfortunately the popularity did not seem to cross over after his debut though he still stars in dramas from time to time. He does still remain active with the Juniors, his recent project with them being TakiCHANnel, an online website that updates new videos of the Juniors weekly and sometimes also feature Tackey with them. He also dabbles in directing from time to time for mainly music videos.

Imai Tsubasa may not have the same star quality as Tackey but still manages to shine with what he loves, dancing. He is considered to be one of the Dancing Kings of Johnny’s. He also loves Spain and even hosts a program about learning Spanish and takes trips to visit the country when he has the time, saying that he goes to study dance there. He used to co-star in Domoto Koichi’s annual musical SHOCK but in recent has moved on to star in his own musicals, the most recent of course being PLAYZONE.

(from left to right) Takizawa Hideaki & Imai Tsubasa

TRIVIA: Yamashita Tomohisa used to call the two mom and dad.

During his time as a Junior he and Kanjani8’s Shibutani Subaru were considered rivals and were nicknamed Tackey of the East and Subaru of the West.

Tackey was actually very active with the Shounen Club program when it first began in 1999, and even directed an introduction clip that was aired with it for a couple of years.

Next Entry > North, East, West, South ... It's big NEWS

Directory >
Johnny’s Juniors, full of rising stars and heartbreak
The Early and Rocky Path to Fame
Kondo Masahiko: Singer, Dancer, Actor, Professional Race Car Driver
Giving a New Meaning to Playzone, Shounentai
Hikaru Genji, Shining the Brightest and Crashing the Hardest
Otokogumi, Rocking It Old School
The Living Legend of SMAP
TOKIO, From Spaceships to the Over 30s World
Victory, Volleyball, Vegetable, Vicylce? V6
KinKi Kids, It's Not What You Think
Arashi, Storming to the Top
The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa
North, East, West, South ... It's big NEWS
Kansai Underdogs,  Kanjani∞
Cartoon? KAT-TUN!
Jumping to Their Dreams, Hey! Say! JUMP
Johnny's Black Sheep, Akanishi Jin
How to Debut Without Even Trying, Ikuta Toma
Kis-My-Ft2, Everybody Go (Roller Skating)!
Yamashita Tomohisa, Johnny’s Golden Boy
Entering the Sexy Zone
The 5Stars A.B.C-Z
International Ventures
Johnny's and Charity 
Odds & Ends

24 November 2011

Yamada stars in a new drama with a mother-complex

I guess I made my post for the day too early as I missed being able to include this news in it.

The rumored drama that Yamada Ryosuke has been attached to has now been confirmed. He will be in a drama on NTV called Risou no Musuko. His co-star Suzuki Kyoka will play the mother of his character who is a single mother that has raised him, Yamada's character, Daichi, has a bit of a mother-complex and keeps rejecting any potential suitors for her and when she gets a job at a all boys-school, with a reputation for having troublemakers,  transfers to that school to protect her.

Fujigaya Taisuke and Nakajima Yuto will also be in the drama as students at the school.

Tokyo Graph article. (English)

I'm so excited for this drama. I like all the Johnny's in it and being a high school comedy series it sounds like the kind of drama that I will enjoy. And this means almost half of HSJ will now have a drama role in the winter season, and that's assuming that the rest of the dramas that haven't been announced or had their casts fully announced won't have a member in it.

What also has me excited is that with that kind of cast I think there's a good chance for HSJ to be doing the theme song for it. Though with the NYC single releasing in the first week of January it will probably be released last week of January or sometime in February but I think that's perfectly okay as long as it exists. But as Nakayama Yuma seems to be carrying most of the promotion for the new NYC single and HSJ have such a short winter concert tour I don't think it would be too hard to fit in a new HSJ single so soon. And now I can't help but wonder if they will if it will be announced at the winter concerts.

I'm also glad to see a Kis-My-Ft2 member get a drama role this season as well. I've been wondering how much longer after Ikemen Desu Ne a member would get a new drama role and this answers that question. And while it's not a lead role it will hopefully be prominent for Fujigaya and perhaps he can eventually soon move on to be the lead in a drama series.

Two Johnny's, Two Dramas & Two Supporting Roles

As we get closer to the start of the new drama season there have been some new announcements for the supporting cast of a couple of dramas that have already had their official announcement to confirm them.

First off SMAP's Inagaki Goro will be joining the cast of the drama Hungry!, a drama starring popular Japanese actor Mukai Osamu that will be airing on Fuji TV. He will be playing a villain character named Tokio, who owns a restaurant.

Tokyo Graph article. (English)

Then Hey! Say! JUMP's Chinen Yuri will be joining the supporting cast of Yamashita Tomohisa's upcoming drama in the role of the younger brother of Yamapi's character. The drama will air on  TBS starting on January 12th and is called Saikou no Jinsei no Owarikata ~Ending Planner~.

Tokyo Graph article. (English)

I have to confess I'm excited about Chinen getting a drama role. Honestly his acting has never impressed me, but I am glad to see that HSJ seems to be more active in general than they usually are with both him and Daiki in dramas this winter season. Hopefully this is a sign that members will be getting pushed when it comes to dramas from now on as I think the group is finally really hitting their stride and getting drama roles that get them out in the public eye will help them make the most of that.

23 November 2011

Kanjuu rising?

Two new pieces of news for the Kansai Juniors, first off they will be having New Year's concerts in Osaka as well as the Christmas ones. The concerts are scheduled for January 2nd and 3rd at Osaka-Jo Hall. No mention of which Kanjuu will be participating but I'm sure it'll be a general Kanjuu concert so it should be the usual groups.

Next up, and probably the more interesting bit of news, is that for the second round of the FIVB tournament the current special supporters, Sato Shori, Nakajima Kento and Kikuchi Fuma will be joined by some Kanjuu. The ones listed to be there as special supporters are Kiriyama Akito, Nakama Junta, Shigeoka Daiki & Kamiyama Tomohiro. They will join the members of Sexy Zone on November 25th.

I'm personally really happy about both bits of news. I've been noticing that recently Kanjuu have been more and more active, especially in regards to coming to Tokyo for activities or at least leaving Osaka. The only reason I can think of is that Johnny's just might be preparing for a new Kansai group debut, though that is my speculation. But without a doubt in the past year alone there has been more of of a Kanjuu presence outside of Osaka and the Kansai region.

You can see this starting with the Tozai Uta Gassen concerts/TV special from last year where members of B.A.D. and 7WEST were brought to Tokyo to be a part of it. Then in the spring they had a semi-national tour that took them to cities such as, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Nagoya, among others. Then instead of having Kansai and Tokyo Juniors do their own productions of Shounentachi like last year some of the Kansai Juniors were brought to Tokyo for that run of the musical to star alongside A.B.C-Z. Also they had a Shounen Club special request episode this year, something only the recently debuted Kis-My-Ft2 also had. And now there are going to be Kanjuu on national TV with members of SZ. This is a big step for Kanjuu, especially the ones a part of this, though if you look at it they are also mainly the usual Kanjuu that have been a part of all these activities outside of Osaka. Which is another reason I think this could be Johnny's preparing for a Kansai group debut.

Another reason is simply because Kanjani8 will be leaving the idol magazines very soon. The older members have hit 30 this year which signals this should be the last year they will be featured as a group in these magazines in keeping with the usual tradition. And when they go there will no longer be a Kansai based group, outside of the Kanjuu, in the magazines. I think this is significant because if you remember last year Arashi stopped being featured in the magazines and now we have a new debuted group with the same amount of members and getting a lot of comparisons to them with SZ. So I would not be surprised that in about a year, I would guess sometime in 2013 if Johnny's will be debuting A.B.C-Z in 2012, we get a new Kansai group to be fashioned in the same way as K8 as their current success has proven that it's a good formula and Johnny's may want to see if they can get it to work again. Especially if this time around they won't have the issue of shared members like K8 did.

Plus it would probably help keep Kanjuu from quitting if they believe there is a chance to actually debut as outside of Nakayama Yuma there hasn't been a lot of hope as Tokyo Junior group after Tokyo Junior group has debuted, and even then despite his debuts Yuma is still considered a Junior.

I can only hope I'm right, because if the Kanjuu being promoted now will be the ones debuting I know that it will be a group that I will support 100%.

22 November 2011

Nakayama Yuma and the other two release a new single

If there's any doubt that NYC is anything but a vehicle to promote Nakayama Yuma than this new single just announced can help dispell that. The single is a double A-side, the first A-side being a new NYC song, Wonderful Cupid, and the second being a solo song for Nakayama Yuma, Garasu no Mahou. For Yuma fans the song should be familiar as it's his solo song from PLAYZONE'11 and was even released digitally prior to this. The song though is getting a new arrangement for this single release though.

Like the previous NYC releases there will be two versions of the release, an LE that will come with a CD jacket sized calendar and an RE that will come with a bonus track, an NYC song titled Jungle Life. Both versions come with a ticket for a handshake event. They are also up for pre-order at the usual places and more information can be found at Johnny's net, though in Japanese only.

I think this release tips things in NYC's favor for having another Kohaku performance this year as anyone familiar with the release pattern of releases over the New Year holidays knows that CDs usually get put out for sale much earlier than their street date so it will be great promotion for the single for them to perform the song on the program. Especially with Hey! Say! JUMP having concerts starting from January 2nd so they wouldn't really have time to do the usual TV promotions for the single.

As a Yuma fan I'm really happy that he's getting promoted like this. I think it's a sign that Johnny's has not given up on him yet and we can expect him to eventually go somewhere in the future, whether it's to yet another group debut or perhaps even as a soloist. I would personally would love it if he got to debut with 7WEST as he gets along with the group so well and there needs to be more Kansai Juniors debuting.

I also find it interesting that Johnny's plans to do more handshake events. I guess it may be because the week they're releasing tends to have sales combined from the previous week as Oricon takes a break for the holidays so they want to make sure NYC still does well as they don't sell as high other Johnny's groups, though I'm not sure if they expect them to do well enough to compete with Akanishi Jin's second solo single being released in that previous week but we shall see.

I do hope that now that the NYC single will be done for 2012 so early on it means we can get a late winter/early spring release from HSJ. They will be hitting their 5th anniversary in 2012 so it would be nice for the to release steadily in the coming year.


Thanks to a comment left by tam, I have discovered that Nakayama Yuma has his own page on the Johnny's Entertainment website. This I find quite interesting as I can't really think of a case where a Junior gets something like that. Of course I don't think it changes his status as a Junior though as the NYC single is still listed as a Junior release and he would be the only reason for it to be there. But I think Yuma still has an interesting future ahead of him and I can't wait to see where he goes next.

21 November 2011

Let's Speculate ... SZ's rocky start

Even though the numbers are out for the week, the Oricon chart starts on Mondays and ends on Sundays so most new releases only have six days of sales, and Sexy Zone has managed to debut with about 173K copies of their self titled debut single sold it was still a narrow victory. Their main competition, AKB48 sub-unit Not Yet, is reported to have sold about 172K with their single so it was still a close call between the two. And while I am happy that the single was #1 I think it's more a victory for Johnny's & Associates and their marketing department than for Sexy Zone.

It's hard to argue that the only reason SZ got their #1 was largely in part because of the handshake events on Saturday and Sunday which several Juniors, and for Sunday's members of the recently debuted Kis-My-Ft2, participated in. Without them backing the group up I don't think they would have gotten the numbers that they needed to beat Not Yet.

I am glad they got the #1 as it would be miserable for the boys to be the first Johnny's group in about a decade not to debut with a #1 single. But at the same time they did not get the #1 because they were able to attract new fans of their group, but instead had to rely on the fans of other groups, some not even debuted, to get it. So while this battle is over and won for them they still have a long way to go until they can stand on their own as a group.

I know there have been a lot of people worried about SZ's debut getting in the way of Kisumai's promotion or building popularity but in my opinion Kisumai's debut was one of the factors to why SZ's debut was rather weak. The two debuts are only a few months apart and Kisumai was a debut that grabbed a lot of attention as the group was already popular from their Junior activities and they had dramas to help them attract new fans. With all the fanfare and attention given to them and the fact that they did not slow things down much after their debut with getting added to variety programs and already lined up for another single with two tie-ins there's little doubt that they will be able to continue on with their success. How this affects SZ is that simply people probably weren't ready to switch attention to another new Johnny's group so soon. I think if Kisumai debuted when they were supposed to it may not have been such an issue but while the delay was understandable without being able to delay the SZ debut hurt the group gain attention, IMHO.

But as I said the debut timings is only one factor. Another is which Juniors were selected. I personally have nothing against any of the SZ members that debuted and think they work well together as a group so far but there are some things that they can't help that probably contributed to their debut being a bit rough. I think the older two though make a lot of sense for debuting and were good choices as they are two of the more popular Juniors coming from one of the most popular Junior groups. The younger three though have the weakness that they just weren't well known at all. Even though Sato Shori has been around for about a year he really didn't start standing out and grabbing attention until a few months ago. And the other two are both newer than him, even though Yo Marius joined about a year ago but until four months ago was in Germany from what he said in an interview, so they didn't have much time to attract much attention before the debut announcement. The reason groups like Kisumai do so well with sales and can have big debuts like they did was because they are Juniors that have been around a long time and have had time and opportunities to gain fans that of course are more than willing to support them when they debut. SZ's younger members lacked that so while there are plenty of people gaining interest in them now it may not be enough to support them by buying their CD yet.

I do think the fact they have not had an announcement for a debut concert yet is also a sign that Johnny's knows SZ isn't doing so well. I can't help but shake the feeling that the New Year concerts for Hey! Say! JUMP very well could have originally been planned to be SZ's debut concerts but Johnny's decided to give them to HSJ instead in case SZ would not be able to sell out the venues. Of course that's just complete speculation on my part but the complete lack of debut concerts makes me more nervous for this group than anything else as concerts are a big thing for any music artist and it really shows if a group has attained a certain level of popularity by what kind of venues they are given to perform in. It's part of why dome concerts are such big deals because you can't get much larger than that. It will be interesting to see where the debut concerts will be for SZ, though because all members are in school they will have to be planned around the school holidays much like HSJ's have been.

Of course I do have faith that eventually this group will begin to turn things around. The talent is there, it's just they need to get the right chances to show it off. Unfortunately wit how young the members are it will probably be some years for most of those opportunities to come to them for most of them. Having Nakajima Kento being part of the group can be a big plus if they make sure he keeps getting roles. While they may be pushing Sato Shori to be the center for the group Nakaken is more likely to be the more popular member as he's the one more likely to get drama roles, which are usually big factors on what members are more popular with the general public. At least they have a couple of variety programs to get them seen more and hopefully keep building the fan base that has been growing since their debut announcement.

I have also been of the opinion that not starting at the top isn't a terrible thing. Some of Johnny's top groups had rough starts but over time and with hard work were able to climb to the top, with SMAP and Arashi being two such groups. So hopefully SZ like them will fill driven to work hard and do their best with what they are given as they go and hopefully success will find them eventually.

But I can see that Johnny's may very well be quite serious about A.B.C-Z's debut next year. With the success of their solo concerts and the fact that Junior groups that debut do tend to be rather successful as they already have a good sized fan base prior to debut it would make sense they would want another safe bet like Kisumai to debut next. Though personally I'd rather have a Kansai Junior debut, like 7WEST, but unfortunately I'm not running Johnny's & Associates.

Jin makes a pit stop in Japan

After being away for so long Akanishi Jin is making a return to Japan to release a new Japanese single and host a fan event. The single is called Seasons and will be released on December 28th. It will come in two versions, a RE that comes with a photo book and a LE that comes with a DVD with the PV and making of as well as four different covers, each one for each season.

With the single release he will be hosting a fan event for his Japanese fans at Yokohama Arena on January 7th. The fan event will include a listen to some of the tracks off his upcoming U.S. album, Q&A, live performance and a special surprise from Jin. There are plans to broadcast the event live in L.A.

Tokyohive article. (English)

I think this is a pretty good idea for Jin to do. He's been gone for long in Japan this will help make his Japanese fans not feel forgotten. Especially with a proper Japanese single attached to it. Of course it would be more helpful to his U.S. career to stay and promote his single before the album release but seeing as he's still much more popular in Japan than the U.S. this return also makes a lot of sense as well.

19 November 2011

Arashi, Storming to the Top

Members: Ohno Satoshi, Ninomiya Kazunari, Sakurai Sho, Aiba Misaki & Matsumoto Jun

Top row (left to right) Sakurai Sho & Ohno Satoshi
Bottom row (left to right) Ninomiya Kazunari, Matsumoto Jun & Aiba Misaki

Arashi was the second group to debut with the FIVB tournament and are easily the most successful as of now. Their name is simply the Japanese word for 'storm'. They debuted in 1999 and set the standard of being surprised with a debut announcement. The five were sent to Hawaii together and while there on a boat cruise told they were debuting as a group together and then had to hold a press conference about it.

Their debut single A. Ra. Shi debuted at number 1 and had good sales but following sales lacked in comparison for years, as they don't have an unbroken string of #1 singles since debut. In the years right before their tenth anniversary this began to change until they reached their peak during their tenth anniversary. Even though they have most likely peaked they still retain much of the popularity and good sales from their tenth anniversary year and are likely to keep that for years to come.

Since 2007 they have been breaking sales records with their singles and albums and in 2009 had the top selling single, album and DVD on the Oricon chart for the year. They still remain the top selling Johnny's group and one of the highest selling Japanese artists in Japan.

They have three variety programs all of them host together, VS Arashi, Himitsu no Arashi-chan and Arashi ni Shiyagare.

Ohno Satoshi is the oldest member of the group and gained the position of leader after a game of janken with the other group members for it. Of the group he is known for being the best vocalist and is usually the lead singer for their songs. He loves to fish and drawing, painting and sculpting and even held his own exhibition for his artwork.

Sakurai Sho is the only member to have gone and completed university and it was at the prestigious Keio University with a degree in Economics. His graduation has spurred other Johnny’s to also go to university so with most of the newer groups there’s at least one university student/graduate. He also does and writes all the raps in Arashi songs. While other groups have incorporated rap and raps into their songs Sho really popularized it and is often given as an inspiration for his kouhai to trying rap themselves. But while he excels with his brains his weakness is the physical and fails a lot on variety programs that have physical challenges or involve drawing. He is also the first Johnny’s to become a newscaster.

Aiba Masaki is the one in the group that almost always has a smile on his face. He is known for one of the variety programs he’s on, Tensai! Shimura Dobutsen, where he interacts with various animals. In 2002 he had to be hospitalized because of a collapsed lung but fully recovered though in 2011 he had a relapse and was hospitalized again but only for a short time as it was not as bad as the first time.

Ninomiya Kazunari is known for having been in a Hollywood film directed by famous actor/director Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima. He’s known for being stingy and playing video games in any free time that he has. He also likes to play pranks on people, especially his fellow group members.

Matsumoto Jun is one of the few Johnny’s that did not have to be called in to audition to be accepted into the agency, he was selected from his application alone. He starred in the Hana Yori Dango drama series and is probably best known for his role as Domyoji for it. He’s not a strong singer or dancer but he is in charge of planning the group’s concerts.

(from left to right) Matsumoto Jun, Ohno Satoshi, Aiba Misaki,
Ninomiya Kazunari & Sakurai Sho

TRIVIA: They were originally signed on the Pony Canyon music label but in 2001 were moved over to the agency owned music label J-Storm, which was created for them.

Next Entry > The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa  

Directory >
Johnny’s Juniors, full of rising stars and heartbreak
The Early and Rocky Path to Fame
Kondo Masahiko: Singer, Dancer, Actor, Professional Race Car Driver
Giving a New Meaning to Playzone, Shounentai
Hikaru Genji, Shining the Brightest and Crashing the Hardest
Otokogumi, Rocking It Old School
The Living Legend of SMAP
TOKIO, From Spaceships to the Over 30s World
Victory, Volleyball, Vegetable, Vicylce? V6
KinKi Kids, It's Not What You Think
Arashi, Storming to the Top
The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa
North, East, West, South ... It's big NEWS
Kansai Underdogs,  Kanjani∞
Cartoon? KAT-TUN!
Jumping to Their Dreams, Hey! Say! JUMP
Johnny's Black Sheep, Akanishi Jin
How to Debut Without Even Trying, Ikuta Toma
Kis-My-Ft2, Everybody Go (Roller Skating)!
Yamashita Tomohisa, Johnny’s Golden Boy
Entering the Sexy Zone
The 5Stars A.B.C-Z
International Ventures
Johnny's and Charity 
Odds & Ends

18 November 2011

Some quick updates & some thoughts

First off a couple of December releases have been announced. SMAP will be releasing a new single on December 21st, titled Boku no Hanbun. It will come in two editions with the LE coming with a DVD. The next is the first release for Yamashita Tomohisa since going solo, the concert DVD/BD for his Super Good, Super Bad tour. The DVDs will have two versions an LE with a bonus booklet and an RE. Like Johnny's other BD releases the BD will have everything the RE DVD has. This will also be released on December 21st.

Then the B-sides for Kis-My-Ft2's 2nd single have been announced. The first is Kis-My-Venus (Knowing how the word 'Venus' sounds in Japanese, as they have no 'v' and instead use a 'b' or 'p' sound, this song will bring a lot of unintentional humor. Just say the title out loud and replace the 'v' with a 'p' to see what I mean.) which will be used as the theme song for the variety program Moshimo Tours. The other B-side that is only on the RE version of the single is titled Love is you.

My hunch was right about Sexy Zone having another hand shake event this week, as one has been announced for this Saturday in Tokyo.

And it looks like I'm going to be wrong about my predictions for the first week sales numbers for SZ's debut single. It looks like it'll be more around the 150K mark but now they are only about 10K away from being able to surpass Not Yet for the number one, which they can do as Not Yet has been having larger sales drops and SZ should get a boost from the MSte performance this week and the hand shake event on Saturday. Hopefully that will be enough for them to get that #1 if just barely as then there are the numbers added on at the end of the week from the stores Oricon counts but only send their sales information in once a week instead of daily.

One thing that's crossed my mind about this debut is how it seems like it's a bit like the Junior Hey! Say! 7's one shot debut. While they are releasing a single with completely different tie-ins and SZ is set up to continue after this single unlike that version of HS7 I can't help but see some similarities between the two. One obvious one is the size, as both are five member groups. The other is that they both have two older members and three younger and both broke the record for youngest Johnny's group, though of course HS7 was for any group and SZ seems to be more for permanent groups.

Both groups had a member that was a chance the general public might recognize from drama work, Nakajima Yuto (HS7) and Nakajima Kento (SZ), as well as members only recently being pushed, Yamada Ryosuke and Chinen Yuri (HS7) and Sato Shori, Matsushima Sou and Yo Marius (SZ). With the other members being Juniors that were around for a while and were at least popular with Junior fans, Takaki Yuya and Arioka Daiki (HS7) and Kikuchi Fuma (SZ).

Another interesting this to note that the two releases have in common is that both ended up being against strong competition on the week of release. SZ has Not Yet while the original HS7 had Tohoshinki who were just finally hitting it off in Japan. HS7 was able to beat Tohoshinki in the end, in part because of hand shake events they did so I hope SZ will manage to do the same.

Seeing how the members of Junior HS7 have done in the past four years gives me a lot of hope for SZ. Let's just hope they don't run into the same troubles Hey! Say! JUMP did and release on a regular schedule without a thirteen month gap between singles and of course to remain major scandal free.

Speaking of HSJ, it looks like I was wrong about them not having a winter concert. Though considering they are doing so few shows and only performing in Tokyo and Osaka during the first week of January I think it can be taken as a sign that they won't be doing so much touring from now on. And this really just stems from the fact that there are only so many venues that they can perform at and those venues need to be used by other artists and in some cases sports teams so if SZ is to start touring it only makes sense to cut back a bit with HSJ to free those venues for them.

Though since there hasn't been a concert announcement made for SZ yet I'm thinking Johnny's wants to make sure the group can fill venues before setting them out to tour. So they'll either be performing in halls or only a couple of arena concerts first when they do and Johnny's is probably already hard at work lining up promotions and chances to get drama roles to work on expanding their fan base so they can move up to do bigger tours.

17 November 2011

Sexy Zone - Sexy Zone PV review

I guess taking up reading blogs for other idol groups has rubbed off on me as I've decided I'll give doing a PV review myself. And since Sexy Zone just happens to be the first group I actively follow to release one they get to be the first as I do a quick review of their PV. Of course I've already covered my thoughts about the song itself in several other posts about the group so I'll be skipping that and just focusing on the visuals.

So here goes my first PV review with Sexy Zone's debut PV for their debut song, Sexy Zone.

He's here for your soul.
Johnny's really is making no attempt to hide who they will be promoting most with this group.

Shori watch out! The pedos are coming for you!
This scene just creeps me out. I know it's probably just Sato Shori's hand/arm superimposed over his close up shot and is supposed to show them reaching for the sky and all that but it just comes off as creepy to me. Maybe because they did this so cheaply.

Screen Shot from Final Fantasy ∞
So we've gone from outer space (NEWS), to the futuristic cities with glass elevators (Hey! Say! JUMP) to random floating crystal island with giant disco ball in the sky now with Sexy Zone. I think the 2015 group should totally be riding dragons or have wings or something for their PV.

How epic would it be if the roses were the fire flowers from the Mario games?
One thing that needs to be dropped fast for this group, but probably won't, is singing into the roses as if they were mics. It just looks so awkward and the roses tend to cover the boys' faces, which is probably the bigger crime as they are pretty adorable.

Sitting on a cheap set like a boss.
And it's Nakajima Kento, my favorite of the group as it stands right now. I do like he has lead vocals between the older two as his tone is pleasant to me.

Mighty Morphin' Time!
And the costume change, which looks more like they decided to throw colored jackets over what they were wearing before. Heaven forbid Johnny's actually give a decent budget for any of these debut PVs. Though they seem to have messed up the colors for all the members outside of Shori and Kikuchi Fuma going from what colors they had associated with them from their debut performance costumes.

Roses, as tasty you would think.
As silly as the flower holding was the rose in the mouth does manage to top that. And this scene shows another thing I don't like about this PV, the white on white, or off-white. Everything just blends together and is a pain to look at. Color contrast is your friend.

Shori wants you! To buy this  CD.
There's this glass room they are also in for the PV. I really have no idea what's going on with that. But I do kinda like this scene with it when they are all pointing in different directions, even though it's yet another way to show that Shori is the group's center as he's the one pointing straight at the viewer.

Yo Marius and Matsushima Sou, cuter than you.
I did find this part pretty cute with the two youngest getting their moment with their spoken line in the song.

A star on the rise.
And another Nakaken screenshot just because.

So glad he dropped trying to look "sexy" in this.
And Fuma, who may not get as much attention as leader Nakaken or center Shori but still manages to stand out if for the fact he's the only other member that sounds like he's gone through puberty. And it helps that his and Nakaken's voices sound pretty good together, which is probably partly because of singing together as the lead members of B.I. Shadow.

I wonder if they will have to give his lines to someone
else when his voice is breaking.
One of the nice things about this PV was that I was finally able to figure out which of the younger members had the solo lines and I was surprised to see that it was Matsushima Sou. I know that it was mentioned somewhere his skill was his voice but since I hadn't been able to tell he had those lines I wasn't sure how accurate it was. But it does look like the kid can sing and it'll be interesting to see if puberty will be kind to him and he'll sound as good after his voice drops.

Is it just me or does he kinda look like a mix of Matsumoto Jun and Imai Tsubasa?
Of course the real star of the PV is Shori. I would like to see more from him in the future but he just has the kind of appeal that makes you notice him even if he isn't shoved in your face like he is with this PV.

Marius, pedobait for many years to come.
I rather like these close up shots they all have at this part of the video. Though it doesn't save it from being rather boring as it mainly just switches back from close ups, dance shot and the glass cage, which is mainly dance shots.

Seriously, what were they thinking with the head spinning here?
The interlude is where we can see some of the back dancing Juniors bust out some moves but I really feel it should be SZ showing off their dance skills instead. And the break dancing/head spinning kid seems so out of place and he ends up blocking the view of SZ.

Yay for Nakaken/Fuma double center!
As my bias is towards the older two in this group I really liked it when they go to this group formation. Would like to see more of this in the future, though it will be interesting to see how the formation changes as they all grow as by the look of things Marius may end up being the tallest of the group seeing as he's about Sou's height even though he's two years younger.

So how are they supposed to get down from there? In fact
how did they all get up there in the first place?
And the final shot is really nothing great. It's just a better view of the floating island. I think I would have preferred it if they did another standard end shot of a group close up but honestly with how lackluster the video is I don't think it would matter too much.

To sum up, it's not the kind of video I want to watch a lot. Even though there are some things I like they aren't enough to counter the things I don't like or how boring it is. Perhaps I've gotten used to PVs with some plot that these kinds of PVs that are just scenes slapped together don't do much for me. But I don't think it's much worse than the other Volleyball debut PVs I'm familiar with, NEWS and HSJ's that have a lot of the same issues as this one does. If anything this should make their next PV easy to be a step above this so I'll be looking forward to that.

Then in some news for the group today the got the #1 spot on the Oricon charts if by a few hundred copies. But that does bode well for them. Also they will be doing two hand shaking events now in December, the original Christmas day one in Tokyo and now one on December 23rd in Osaka.

16 November 2011

A surprise in the mail.

Well it looks like I was wrong about how long it would take my CDJapan order to reach me as it came in today. So I can say I got my order on the day of release. I took a couple quick pictures with my phone, so they aren't the best quality but everything should be clear enough.

Sexy Zone poster, CDs (LE D & RE) and Kanjani8 Fight album RE

I only took a closer photo of the RE version of the single as it was easy to get most of it in one photo. I got the special tickets for the handshake event in December in both CDs, but alas, I won't be able to go as I just can't afford to travel to Japan right now. And I got the card for Yo Marius, which I scanned for the Marius fans out there.
Sexy Zone - Sexy Zone RE 1st press goodies

Yo Marius card front

Here's a quick run down about my impressions of the tracks:
Sexy Zone - Still not a fan of the song, it's okay but I really wish they had something more fun sounding for their debut track.
With You - I liked the song since they began performing it on Shounen Club months ago and still enjoy it. I love the beat that drives it and the change ups in the track.
I see the light ~Bokutachi no Suteejii~ - A nice slow song with a gospel choir singing back up in parts. It sounds pleasant overall and the English sung sounds like English and not Engrish. It has a winter ballad feel to it and a bit of a retro sound like NYC's ballads.
Knock! Knock!! Knock!!! - This is my favorite song of the whole single. It's really fun and catchy. I'm really curious who has the English speaking bits in this song as it's very good English. In fact outside of the group's name the pronunciation of English in this song is good.

Yo Marius card back

Overall I think the singles are worth it for the B-sides, they are all songs I'll be listening to for a good while to come. And even though the first day sales are a bit lower than expected I still believe it possible for the single to at least do about 200K for the first week as there is still a lot of week left for promotions so it's going to depend on the sales numbers for the rest of the week if they'll manage to get that #1 single with their debut. I think it'll really depend on how much Johnny's wants them to get that #1.

And even if they miss it personally I would not feel too bad. The current most popular groups, SMAP, Arashi and Kanjani8 all went through a period of lackluster sales before they hit it off and I think it's partly because not always being on top really made them feel like they needed to work harder which allowed them to approve and eventually get that hard work noticed and rewarded.

And then the other part of my order, Kanjani8's new album FIGHT, which I got the RE for because it comes with more songs than the LEs. I love the pack of "baseball" trading cards included. As someone who used to collect trading cards when I was younger it was rather nostalgic opening the pack up. I do have to wonder what the person was thinking when they chose clothes for them for the booklet photos as it looks like they're all dressed like Yasuda Shota dresses like normally.

Kanjani8 - FIGHT album RE w/baseball cards

A quick run down for the tracks for this:
Monjyai Beat - Such a fun and energetic opening track. It's the kind of song that makes you forget that this group is made up of men from 30-26 as it could easily be a song given to any of the much younger Johnny's groups.
Uchuu ni Itta Lion - From the moment the song started I just knew I was going to love this track and I did. One of the stand out tracks for me on the album.
Fight for the Eight - Another fun track and I will say that I just love the current rockish sound this group has moved to. And I love how it sounds a bit like a surfer rock song right before it kicks off a more big band sound.
T.W.L. - Okay I admit I didn't really bother to listen to the singles for this album but honestly I'm kinda glad I didn't as this song fits so well with the rest
Fly High - Love how it starts off with an electronic beat before joining then giving way to the instruments in this song. And then the kick back to that beat is a nice switch back to make the song sound really fun and fresh. I think I kinda wanna marry this song.
365 Nichi Kazoku - And we get the first ballad of the album, which seems oddly placed after Fly High. But honestly I don't care, I love this song and how after bouncy around to the songs before it it's nice to relax to.
Dye D? - They change things up with this song and go more pop and it's dance-ish but with a nice driving beat. Like how they distort some of the lines, it really helps give the creepy feeling it has going with it. The instrumental break is very much horror ride inspired. I think it's interesting that they go for this kind of thriller sound for a song with lyrics like "I just can not tell how to love you. /But I know that I need you now. So trust me." Looking at the booklet Yasuda Shota wrote the song and I think I now understand why my K8 fan friend was so excited for this song, it's good.
Water Drop - This sounds like a song any Johnny's group could do, especially KAT-TUN or NEWS, so I'm not so impressed with it. It's not a bad song but pretty forgettable and doesn't really have the kind of sound I would associate with K8.
Tsubasa ni Koi - Another slower song but not as slow as 365 Nichi Kazoku. I love the chorus and the build up to it. I'm really glad to have it here on the album as it raises my hopes for the rest of it after the lackluster Water Drop.
Yellow Pansy Street - I love big band music so the start of this song is wonderful to me. I also love the slight jazzy-ness of the song as well. It's a good mid-tempo song.
Freedom Riron - Another mid-tempo song and is a good solid pop song. Doesn't have as much as a signature K8 sound but isn't too different than songs they've done in the past so I don't feel disappointed with it like I did with Water Drop.
Kagayakeru Butai e - Now we get another faster paced song and I'm in complete love again. It's fun and bouncy and I'm love the 'woah, woah's at the end.
My Home - Another slow song  but like the other two very enjoyable to listen to and has a good build up like Tsubasa ni Koi. And it has a guitar solo, one of my great loves, especially when nicely done like in this song, though I do kinda wish it was a bit longer.
wander - Another song the moment it began I fell completely in love with. A slower song which has a drum beat going through it that I am so in love with. It just makes it sound so epic to me. I'm in love and it just comes off as so emotional which just might be more me than the song but I don't care.
Scarecrow (Nishikido Ryo solo) - From listening to his solos on both K8 and NEWS albums this song is very in line with what he's done before. I do like the violins used and the pace changes in it. It's nice, but not very stand out, especially if you're familiar with his other solo songs.
Yona Yona Yo NIGHT (Murakami Shingo, Yasuda Shota & Ohkura Tadayoshi unit song) - The moment it started with the wedding march tune I knew I was in for something special. It's a good return to the crack!song that I instantly connect with K8. It has some interesting switch ups but it sounds like the guys had a blast recording it and it's a fun song to be goofy to.
Pan Panda (Yokoyama You & Maruyama Ryuhei unit song) - So cute. So very, very cute. It's the kind of song you expect to hear on a children's program and I really want to see this performed to see if it will as cute visually as it is audibly.
A (Shibutani Subaru solo) - When I saw the title of this song my mind went directly to Superfly's song Aa, which was released earlier this year and I simply adore even though it has no lyrics. I was worried that this song would just completely pale in comparison. Thankfully the songs sound different so I was able to push Aa out of mind. It's a "thank you" song so it sounds like something that will be great to see live so you can have audience participation. It also has a reggae-ish beat going on with it which I enjoyed as it helps make the track memorable.

So in short this album is already my favorite K8 album and one of my favorite Johnny's albums. It's fun and energetic with some really nice ballads mixed in. The only stinker on the album for me is Water Drop, and like I mentioned it's not that it's a bad song just nothing special and nothing about it really makes me think of K8. The album really makes me wish I was in Japan as I would love to go to the concerts for this album as I can imagine some of these songs being a blast live. Perhaps if I hear the concerts meet my expectations I may finally purchase my first K8 concert DVD.

Overall I'm in a great mood because of these releases and hope others are enjoying them as much as I am.