18 February 2013

Johnny's Countdown 2012-2013 review

I have been honestly looking forward to this review as I love Johnny's Countdown. It is a real treat for Johnny's fans to watch, IMHO.

Johnny's Countdown is an annual concert held in the Tokyo Dome. A good portion of it is aired live on Fuji TV. (Because of commercials some parts cannot be aired.) JCD brings together most of the Johnny's acts for this concert and they not only get to perform their own songs on the same stage but also perform with the other Johnny's in shuffle units and generally get to interact with other groups in a way they normally do not get the chance to for fans.

Being a countdown concert JCD begins shortly before midnight on New Year's eve. Kinki Kids are the hosts so they start things off, but with Kondo Masahiko as he has seniority.

Unlike the past couple of years the live portion of the concert is all at the Tokyo Dome. As with tradition the dome is used by a Johnny's group for concerts on New Year's eve as well as New Year's day with Kinki Kids being that group the vast majority of the time, this year is no exception. The stage of course is the same as Kinki's so the big 15 it is shaped in is for celebrating Kinki's 15th anniversary. And they are also stuck using the other parts of the stage from their concert, like this multilevel tower that all the participating groups at the Tokyo Dome start off on.

As the groups perform the opening number, Midnight Shuffle, we get an introduction of each group with an onscreen title for each one. Nakayama Yuma though seems to be unofficially adopted into Hey! Say! JUMP for this as he does not get his name shown on screen.

We get each group singing a short version of one of their songs and start seeing some of the fun interactions that make this a fun special to watch as some of the members of groups play around to back dance for others. Also whoever decided to place Tackey & Tsubasa with Yamashita Tomohisa deserves a good pat on the back as they are a fun combination with the long history the three have going back to their Junior days.

Of course not all Johnny's can participate in JCD because of labor laws in Japan, so only those 18 and over can perform. So there usually are not many Juniors there to back dance and this year if leaves Nakajima Kento all on his own being the only member of Sexy Zone to be old enough to participate. But Nakaken proved that he still has what it takes to shine like a star by bringing a lot of energy to his performance at least.

Plus he got to be the one that ran over to where the underage Johnny's were watching the concert to show them. Interestingly enough they had a mix of Sexy Zone, Bakaleya6 and Kansai Juniors there instead of just SZ.

Of course I was really happy anytime NEWS was being featured. A part of me cannot believe it has already been a year since they performed as a four member unit the first time at the last JCD.

Daisempai Higashiyama Noriyuki is present this year and sung a Shounentai song with Kinki backing him up. I remember watching my first couple of JCDs and being rather lost who the daisempai were, but I do not think I would have trouble with that now.

Also to note is that on the lower right hand corner the countdown for midnight has begun.

After that they gather everyone on stage and do a MC as they wait for the countdown to start hitting the final seconds so they can do the proper countdown for New Year's.

With midnight not only is it the start of a new year but it is also Domoto Koichi's birthday so he gets to celebrate it here first.

Now that we are on the other side of midnight we get the shuffle units as the guys do a medley of Johnny's songs. And I get to be a happy fangirl as two of my favorite Johnny's, Takaki Yuya and Kato Shigeaki get to be next to each other during a performance.

And we get two of the Dance Kings of Johnny's, Higashiyama and Koichi, performing together.

Of course not all the Johnny's groups can make it to JCD, SMAP is famous for not being a part of the concert, partly because Nakai Masahiro is the host of CDTV Countdown so the group participates in that countdown instead. Arashi has been unable to make it in the past couple of years, partly due to them hosting Kohaku Uta Gassen so they cannot leave early to try to make it to Tokyo Dome. This year is no exception to that. What is different is that fellow Kohaku performers, TOKIO and Kanjani8 also are not at a dome for this but join Arashi by having VTR instead. And if you notice the LIVE label on the Tokyo Dome footage is missing on theirs, and coupled with the fact Arashi was spotted filming at the location they are shown at earlier that month it is safe to say that they did decide to forgo a live feed this year and just went with pre-recorded footage for the Kohaku groups.

I do appreciate the fact that the Juniors that are old enough get to participate in JCD, if usually just to back dance. And I will not complain about Kochi Yugo getting a bit more time in front of a camera.

As mentioned earlier TOKIO's performances are via pre-recorded VTR. It is a real pity they did not shuttle across from NHK Hall to Toky Dome as they have done in the past as they are a group close to the other groups of their era and bring a lot of fun and energy to the concert usually.

Thankfully Hideaki Takizawa was full of energy for this concert and all his performances were a blast to watch. It probably helps that he has a strong history with a lot of the younger groups with being one of the Johnny's to make it a point to use the Juniors in projects and support them.

And while we do not have Kanjani8 there live at least the visiting Kansai Juniors got to perform a song together. I really hope the fact that they got to perform at JCD means there is a debut planned for the Kansai Juniors, as the last time a group of Juniors performed, that I can remember, was Kis-My-Ft2 for the 2010-2011 JCD, and of course they ended up debuting later that year.

I can understand why K8 could not do a live performance this year, as they had a concert scheduled for January 1st in Osaka and they needed to grab the next bullet train post-Kohaku to get there in time to rest up a bit before getting ready for it. But as they had been one of the groups that had a satellite feed in previous years it does not seem to make too big of a difference outside of the fact they could not have their own countdown concert this year like they have had for the past couple.

Since he is there on his own Nakaken gets to introduce groups and songs for the next part of JCD, which has the acts perform their latest songs from the past year.

I guess someone forgot to tell the one in charge of putting the lyrics on the screen that Yamapi was going to address the audience during the middle of his song instead of sing, as they kept showing up as he talked. I doubt it was an impromptu thing as Kisumai join him in saying "aishiteruse" at the end.

Still happy to see NEWS performing together. What is probably most interesting about it this year was in the previous year Yamapi was not at JCD while they were. So to have them both there this year means Johnny's must think that things have calmed down enough with the fans that they will not make trouble about the split.

Also I would like to know who at Johnny's has decided that large fake flowers is the new thing that needs to be added to outfits. Kisumai has them and now NEWS does. I would not be surprised to see this with other groups though it looks so much worse than the fake feathers and fake fur they usually use.

To celebrate Kinki's 15th anniversary they have a special Kinki Kids medley. This includes Yamada Ryosuke singing Ai no Katamari with the duo, and I have the feeling this was his highlight of the evening as Koichi has always been his admired sempai.

And JCD would not be complete without the groups getting on these to be pushed around the dome floor. And yes, there are people actually pushing these things and do so for all of these for all the Johnny's concerts.

They close out the singing portion of the concert with everyone singing along to Kinki's Family ~Hitotsu ni Narukoto~ as everyone gets back on the main stages.

Now at the end we get all the commercials with short talk parts from everyone. This even includes the VTR groups.

It is basically just the group, with typically one member being the spokesperson talking about things coming up for the group as well as the usual thanks for the past year.

It is one of the best times to see everyone in a group well, or at least better than other times in the concert.

And whoever picked the outfits for Kisumai and Kinki should have had one of the groups change into something else as the two blend together a bit next to each other with all the gold.

There is a miscellaneous group this year, with Uchi Hiroki, Nakayama Yuma and Nakaken. So they get lumped together to say something really quick at the end.

Then the hosts of the program say their final words for the concert and it is over until next New Year's eve.

Even though we did get prerecorded footage for the concert I am actually somewhat fine with it. I would have preferred to have them be actually live but I know scheduling was an issue. Plus the years they did live satellite feeds for other locations the concert came off disjointed with very little decent flow between all the performances. So I am okay with the VTR this year, though I hope that if they got that way again if they have more than one group doing it they schedule them so they can all be seen together at least, as one of the main draws for JCD is seeing the acts interact.

I do miss that they did not have those born in the year of the snake dress up and have their own short focus. Not sure why they cut that this year as I always found it interesting to see which Johnny's had that in common.

Overall it was a fun watch. There have been more fun JCD's in the past but this was one of the smoother ones in the past couple of years though and it had its moments. So if you only know a couple of Johnny's groups or know them all it would be a good watch. Probably not so much if you are not familiar with Johnny's at all, as there are a lot of acts and little in the way to telling the viewer who they are outside of their name or group's name.

With this covered all that is left is the CDTV Countdown to review, which I will make sure to get out on time next Sunday.

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