Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Quick Thought on Auditions

We all know the drill for these big name idol groups nowadays. Need to refresh the group? Tired of the same old faces? Losing a member? That can all be fixed with auditions!

Except I think it goes a little deeper than that.

I'm making this post because very recently, I auditioned for a play. Luckily, I got cast in it after some nail-biting callbacks but at the end of the day happy as I was, there was still some part of me that thought about those that didn't make it. And as I mused upon that, my mind eventually started thinking of the auditions idol groups have. And that was when I realized something about how we view the auditioners. As fans, I think we tend to focus more on the end result and who we want to win. I know that when S/mileage's 2nd Generation all I could think about was how happy I was that Akari got in and slightly annoyed that Kana got in, etc. When the results came out, all the other finalists just flew from my head. And that's perfectly normal for human beings. After all, why should I get attached to some girls I'll probably never hear from again? That's the reason why I can never get really invested in new member auditions because of that tugging regret I know I'll feel if someone I pulled for doesn't make it. Like Karin. I was so certain she'd get in to S/mileage yet here she is: beautiful voice, cute personality, and still lingering in Eggs.

See that? That's all the girls who did not get into Hello! Project. And these are just finalists from the S/mileage auditions and the Morning Musume 8th, 9th, and 10th Generation auditions. I couldn't find any information about finalists for the previous generations but do you know why? Because you never hear from them again. Okay, I take that back. There is a handful of rejects who do end up finding more or less success in the entertainment industry.

But other than that? Have you heard of anyone else outside these girls who's achieved as much success as they would in Momosu? Probably not and that's what got to me. I guess you could say I had a weird kind of epiphany. I think we tend to forget that while yes, these girls are auditioners, they're also people. They have hopes, dreams, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and a lot more behind their pretty faces. And forgetting that is perfectly normal too! Because we never get to see any of that; all we're presented with is the amount of talent, looks, and a hint of a personality that just might be fabricated. So we judge that, deduce who's in and who's not and just forget about the rejects easy as that. But if only it were really that simple. When you add the feelings and thoughts these girls might have, the situation gets much more complicated and sad.

Like I said before, I audition for plays. Acting is something I really love and I've been pursuing it for the past three years now. But it's been hard. When you audition for something, you get butterflies. All sorts of scenarios flash through your mind ranging from the director flat-out handing you the part you want to the same director booting you out the door laughing at how much of a failure you are. And when you're name is finally called to read/do a monologue/dance/sing/whatever, all the tension builds up and is exerted in either a positive or negative way. But the audition itself isn't even the worst part: the waiting is. After the audition, there's a period of time between that and the cast list coming out. That same tension grows even more like a bad tumor and you find yourself thinking "Did I get the part? Did I get the part?" nonstop. It's almost more exhausting than the auditions because you go through your performance nitpicking each detail from the way you moved, the director's reactions, the reception of the audience, even what you were wearing and how you acted offstage.

Honestly, when I auditioned for my first play and didn't get the part, I cried. It hurt. For the past few months I had been picturing myself up on stage, surrounded in lights, and delivering the greatest performance ever. In hindsight, I really wasn't a good actress back then but that's beside the point. I was crushed. And that's pretty much how my first few auditions went. Buildup, letdown, rinse and repeat. But something just... changed. The more experience and training I got, my approach toward auditioning changed. Now when I don't get cast, I just feel empty. It's like I dump everything that could have happened if I'd gotten the part and yes, it still hurts but I've learned to suck it up and move on. But what about these girls? Experience or no experience, auditioning still hurts. Especially if you're idealistic about it.

It probably hurts even more with the high number of auditioners. Take the Momosu auditions. I did some math and statistics and tallied the rounded amount of auditioners to the girls who got in. The results? Only 33 out of 117,738+ girls who auditioned even made it into the group. When you do the math, that makes getting into Momosu roughly a two in ten thousand chance. Think about that. For every two girls, there are ten thousand others just like them that are probably just as hopeful and think they have a chance. And they do! But when it boils down to everything, they just weren't picked. There's nothing we can do about it, no magic time machine to alter the results. But what happens to these girls? What comes after the audition, after they're cut?

The more I thought about it, I realized I could put myself in the shoes of these young auditioners because I've been in the same situation they have. And I've probably felt the same way some of them have. The hope... that's the worst part. I don't know why but at auditions even when I've convinced myself it's highly unlikely I'll get cast the little voice of hope in my head goes "But there's a tiny chance you might!" Said voice also sounds like a fairy on crack but whatever. I think that idealism is what causes a girl to have the motivation to try for Momosu, believe in herself despite the statistics, and keep clinging to that goddamn hope. So when they don't get into the group? Who knows? For all I know, some girls could be completely fine and it could haunt the other rejects for years.  The worst part is this isn't just an audition for some stage play in some obscure theatre, where the most notice anyone will get is your name not being in the cast list. For these groups, when you fail the audition everyone will know even if it's only for a moment. For a brief time, they will know that you didn't make it. When the new, shiny members are paraded and shown off to the world, a pile of rejects are piled in the obscurity never to be heard from again (with a few exceptions). How would that feel? To have your failure broadcast on a national scale, to possibly never live it down, to know that you could have been so close but at the end you just missed your dream? Even when you find a new dream or a new purpose in life, does that failure still stick around like a scar?

Take Kashiwagi Yuki. Cut from the third round of Momosu auditions, now leader of Team B in AKB48 and 3rd place in the last Senbatsu elections. Kikkawa Yuu. Finalist of Momosu auditions, dumped into Eggs, now pursuing a career as a soloist. Koda freaking Kumi. Cut from 3rd Generation auditions, now one of the most influential and controversial singers of the J-pop industry. They all bounced back despite these obstacles and I admire them for that. But I wonder if they've ever thought about the auditions. Do you they see them as failures? Do they linger in the back of their minds even when they've achieved much more success than Momosu? Two years ago, some nasty politics got me cut from a play and I remember how I carried that feeling of betrayal and failure in me for so long. Finally I let it go, but it was hard. I think we as humans tend to hang on to our failures more tightly than our successes. Every time we do something right, there's still a bit of us that sees it as a "take that" to something we failed to accomplish.

Will this ever change? Probably not. These instincts and feelings are only human and no amount of hand-holding can change that. So yes. There will be rejections, there will be tears, there will be girls who fade into obscurity just as quickly as they rose to prominence. But that's how auditions roll. And there's nothing you can really do about it.

But seriously Tsunku, the fans hate you for shafting Karin.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

And This Is the Part Where Shit Hits the Fan...

I haven't been writing a lot lately mainly because of my challenging semester and frankly because not a lot has been going on in the idol world lately. Well... technically that's not true. There are several new PVs I have to review, some Perfume news I can gush about, and now... this.

Maeda Atsuko of AKB48 is graduating.

Okay, let me make one thing clear. Acchan is not my favorite member of AKB48. Then again, it's not that I dislike her. I've stated before that she's one of the front girls I'm okay with. Actually, I should be thrilled she's graduating because Yuko can finally get the center position she deserves so much. So why do I feel so uneasy about this? Acchan is the center of AKB48 and has been ever since the group's formation. It'll be strange not to see her in the center of singles. But how will this affect the group as a whole?

One the pro side, I think graduating now is very beneficial to Acchan. It's a smart move to leave AKB while it's on the top of its game. That way she can still get exposure, jobs, promotion as an individual. She's stated again and again that she's wanted to be an actress and while she's no Meryl Streep I think she could manage. But first she needs to get rid of the dead-eye stare... Anyways, being the former ace of AKB48 will open up a lot of doors in her career for her. But how long will that last? Abe Natsumi and Goto Maki, the faces of Morning Musume, both left the group at the peak of its career. Sales dropped for the group and ever since then Maki's had debatable success as a solo artist but nothing nearly as successful when she was with H!P. Nacchi also had moderate success but was never able to shake off the image as "that girl from Morning Musume". Will the same fate be applied to Acchan?

On the con side, Acchan's graduation is definitely going to have a huge blow on AKB48. The good thing about the group is that they have several popular girls, mainly Yuko, Takamina, Mayuyu, Mariko, Tomochin, and others like Sasshi, Yui, and Yukirin are also rising in popularity. But will that be enough to hold the group? I think so. My theory is that the single before Acchan's graduation will sell ridiculously well. Maybe even more than Flying Get. That's usually how most graduation singles roll (i.e. Takahashi Ai's graduation single) and considering this is the first front girl from AKB to leave, I think Acchan's last single with the group will be huge. However, I think the single after that will drop in sales. For all of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, AKB's has been literally selling millions. Each song debuts at #1 and blows all the other artists (even Johnny's!) out of the water. But with Acchan's graduation, they'll still sell. Just not as well. I'm guessing their sales will be on par with Arashi or Smap or -Insert-Johnny's-Group-Here-. So they'll still be successful; they just have to start worrying when other popular girls start graduating. Do you remember that game where the wooden blocks are stacked on top of each other to make a huge tower? The object of the game was to slide each block away from the stack and try not to knock the whole thing over. The state of AKB is like that game; they can remain standing without a few blocks, but there is a point where the whole structure is going to collapse. And maybe that's what Aki-P planned; after all, he always said he planned to disband AKB48 after ten years. They've been around for what? 6 years now? Almost 7? Maybe this is how the fall of AKB will begin, like a stack of blocks slowly tumbling down.

Acchan's graduation does provide an explanation for another bit of shocking news about AKB...

It was also announced just a bit earlier that Matsui Jurina, the face of SKE48, and Watanabe Miyuki, a popular (but not as popular as Yamamoto Sayaka) member of NMB48 would be joining AKB48 while retaining activities in their other groups. When I first heard this, I was very angry. I didn't see why they had to be "officially" promoted to AKB considering they were pretty much members already, especially Jurina. Speaking of Jurina, the poor thing is 15 and it's very obvious that her busy schedule is getting to her. With the recent seizure, it's apparent that all the stress is taking a toll on her health. Is another group really the best thing she needs right now? I'm seriously worried what this is going to do to Jurina; when she found out she was also going to be in AKB she sounded hesitant. I really want her to take a rest and not just a 2-3 day break. She really needs it before she stretches herself too thin. As for Miyuki... I actually don't know a lot about her. Oh well? I'm sure she was also surprised but it was mainly Jurina I felt for. I hope she's able to manage okay. So how does this tie into Acchan's graduation? It makes perfect sense to me now: Jurina and Miyuki are popular  in their respective groups. Aki-P's probably put them in AKB to make up for the lack of sales Acchan would have brought in if she stayed. It makes sense but don't they already pretty much participate in AKB's singles? I don't know; I just don't see how this is going to help the group.

This is definitely the end of an era. Whether the next era will be good or bad... only time will tell.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Let's Be Genki with Berryz!

I've been a little busy. 

Crazy, right? I feel like one day I just woke up today, ran through everything I had to do next week, and thought "Wait! When did I get a... life!?" I blame it mostly on schoolwork; my load has been much heavier this semester and I even started falling behind a bit. Brings a cruel twist to the term "March madness." Luckily, now that I'm back on track, I need to look at some new releases. I feel like lately the idol world has been a little static but now from the looks of it, things are about to get very, very busy again. And personally, I can't wait!! But for now I'll start with the first order of business: SuperBerryz. 

Honestly, I'm pretty divided on this song. There are some parts I really think work well for the song and parts that just annoy me. Like the verses are probably my least favorite part of the song. I think they sound rather choppy and robotic and not in the good way. Not to mention they're very... grating on the ear? Is that the right way to put it? I couldn't stand the repetitive "NAI NAI! NAI NAI!" but other than that the verses weren't terrible, just not great. On the up side though the transition into the chorus is very nicely done and the best part about the song is the chorus! I can't put my finger on why but chorus is so catchy! After being thoroughly irritated by the verses, I almost didn't stick around to hear the rest of it but now I'm glad I did! Other than that there isn't much to the song that really stuck out to me but I still have that chorus stuck in my head... Something else that really surprised me with this song was that the lead vocals (Risako and Miyabi) were very good! Especially Risako considering she decided to take a break from wailing. Risako's voice is very hit or miss and luckily one of those "hit" songs for her. Miya sounds lovely as usual but I'm a little biased. My only complaint is I wish it hadn't been so Risako/Miya-centric; it's nice to actually hear the other members.

I wonder how I would react if I saw seven girls in superhero costumes walking out of a warehouse...

The TV effect is simple but still pretty neat!

But it would have cooler if they'd done the way it was in Astrogation...

Woo hoo for power walks! Or should I say superpower walks? Get it? Because it's... and the... yeah, you got it.

Scandal likes power walks too!

Fortunately, there is lots of Miyabi to go around in this PV!

And unfortunately there's also a lot of Risako. Your mileage may vary on how good/bad that is.

2+2 is.................. TEN!

Oh Maasa, why don't you get more lines?

Risako has the bigger TV screen yet I'm more focused on Maasa...

UFA, Momoko is twenty years old. Stop styling her to look like she's ten.

And Berryz Koubou is off to save the world from AKB48

What's this!? NO green screen? In an H!P PV!?

The dance is surprisingly awesome; the energy in it matches the song just right and the moves are a lot of fun to watch!

You know, I think Chii is cuter than Momoko...

Miyabi knows she owns the PV.

I could probably take this shot a little more seriously if Momoko wasn't wearing those ridiculous pigtails.

I spy... with my eye...

Chinami being adorable!

Saki too!

I swear, I love this dance more and more!

Here's a little fun fact: Yurina and I are the same height.

Another classy Miya-pose!

And Risako's crappy imitation of it ._.

I love how Maasa pretty much does her own thing in every Berryz PV. It makes her a lot of fun to watch!

I'll bet all the other Berryz members are standing below Yurina the fantastic giantess!

Risako... just stop.

Let the Captain show you how it's done!

And Miyabi! I'm surprised this hasn't turned into a Miyabi pic spam yet...

I should have figured Momoko's fighting pose would be that!

This is what I love about Berryz. Good or bad music, I think the members are really close to each other!


Oh, Berryz. You and your caped shenanigans!

For some reason this move reminds me of something more of a cartoon supervillian would do... Or Batman.

So there's the new Berryz single! I always like to keep my expectations low when it comes to a UFA PV but every once in a while they tend to step a little out of their budget range. This one... I'm actually rather impressed with! Sure, the PV is still cheap but not as cheap! Like they actually went out of the studio to film it! There were also a lot of different locations and sets in this PV which is always a nice change from the standard dance shot/close up usually filmed in the same place. The outdoor shots reminded me of the ones from Buono!'s Our Songs! But, like most of the other Berryz PVs, what really drives it are the members. What Berryz lacks in vocal talent and decent costumes they make up for with their charisma in their PVs. You can really tell the girls are close and they play off each other very nicely with every video they do! Well... Risako's trying too hard to do... something but that's another can of worms I'd rather not open today. I can tell that they're all having a bunch of fun making this PV and they really put their all into it! That's the spirit, Berryz! Whether it be nightgowns or monkey suits, as long as you guys have fun I can probably put up with your PVs! So yeah, the PV's nothing new but overall it's pretty decently shot and Berryz is fun as usual!


It could have been so much better. When I first saw the outfits for this single, I was hoping that the PV would be reminiscent of Sayumi's Crackland aka Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai: fun, trippy, and completely and totally nonsensical. There could have been this whole plotline of Berryz having to save the world from some kind of evil force and do so with the power of love/singing/whatever super-idols use. Wait. Do you know what would have been awesome? If C-ute played the villains! Maimi could be the mastermind and the other four could be her minions! They would be pitted against Berryz and they could have the ultimate idol smackdown of the CENTURY! That would be freaking awesome. There could be lasers and green screens and bad special effects and a totally cheesy truce at the end like in Flying Get! It might be because I grew up watching Batman and Superman cartoons and I just think it could have been really clever to make references to other famous superheroes. They have the costumes; why not go all the way? Something about the PV just made me feel like it was entirely... awesome? Is that the right way to put it? It just fell flat.

Now let's see... what to review next? Momosu's new Dubstep single? C-ute's interpretive dancing? Or Perfume's potential of a concert in the US!?

...I'll sleep on it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Surprise! We're Doing It Again!

Guess what? It's rant time with Nia again!

After my Nogizaka rant I thought I'd be good for the next two months but never mind! In my previous post, I sort of touched on my relationship with K-pop. I said that although I can't stand a lot of it because most of it sounds like the crappy American pop music I've been trying to hard to keep out of my life I didn't bring up the fans. Dear god, the fans. Common knowledge about K-pop fans is that they are bat-shit crazy. They are extremely devoted to the point that their love of the group is almost scary? Ever heard of the term stan?  (stalker+fan=stan) Take that and multiply it times a thousand. Anyways, not only does this portion of K-pop fans have a questionable obsession of a K-pop group, it's to the point that any criticism, be it constructive or just trolling, results in the them brutally coming upon the attacker like a pack of rapid dogs and ripping them apart in order to support that group. In reality, every fandom has that one portion that is like this but in K-pop, this group is a little more prominent. Why? I don't know and personally I don't care because I avoid most K-pop fans/videos like the plague because this is where these crazy fans tend to lurk. And so for the past year as the hallyu wave has been overtaking Japan with a varying amount of success, I've managed to ignore most of it. Sure, two groups did manage to grow on me but with everything else I've done my best to avoid it because at the end of the day J-pop and K-pop were pretty much two separate things. As long as one fandom didn't oh say, hurl  violent and disrespectful comments at one of them using the words "die" and "You're not cute" etc., etc. I could put with K-pop. It's not like I live in Japan or anything. I mean, come on, what are the chances of someone saying something that stupid and insensitive?

Oh wait, except some fans totally did.

If you've read about this in Arama, then you'll know what I'm talking about but here's the short version. K-pop girl group known as T-ara (or my nickname for them, the Autotuned Cats) appeared on a show in Japan called Sakigake! Ongaku Banzuke Eight in which three members from Berryz Koubou appeared: Chinami, Miyabi, and Momoko with her Momo attack. Momoko prances in with her usual "more kawaii than thou" schtick, nothing out of the ordinary. Is it annoying? Always, but that's not the point. The point is the reaction from the T-ara fans present at the show. As Momoko was.. well, Momoko the fans grew angry and began yelling comments at her like "You need to die!" and "You're really annoying!". As the rage grew, they even started insulting Miyabi yelling "You're not cute at all!" to her face. After the incident, she left the show with red eyes. I only found out about this today and I'm sure everyone's already given their opinions about it but I have to say something about this.

I don't think I have ever been truly, sincerely angry at these crazy K-pop fans until now. They've annoyed me but they did their own thing by ruthlessly praising their own groups, believing they can do no wrong and attacking any other fans who say differently. Kind of like the little portion of crazy wotas in J-pop idol fandoms, just not as prominent. I admit, I have come across some crazy Perfume fans I won't name but I have never, ever seen such a prevalent fandom that's such a bad representation of K-pop fans. And it's not just T-ara's fans; I've seen bat-shit crazy all over the Internet with groups like 2NE1, Super Junior, SNSD, Kara, Wonder Girls, Big Bang, and that's just naming the ones that are successful. The sad thing is if these fans were criticizing another K-pop group then I probably wouldn't care because that's normal with each K-pop fandom. But this isn't K-pop; this is Berryz Koubou, the cute little Hello! Project group. And because I actually, you know, care about this group and the feelings of the members, I can't help but get highly pissed off when part of a fandom feels inclined to act this way.

In my opinion, you can bitch about a group all you want. You can hate their songs, their attitude, their look, that one member who always gets pushed, whatever pisses you off about them. I'm okay with that. Does that mean I agree? Probably not, but as long as the criticism is constructive and non-life threatening go ahead. But this isn't just some troll comment writing on their blog that Berryz sucks and Momoko's annoying. This was personal, these were real people with real emotions that some immature, spiteful K-pop fans were insensitive enough to hurt without even considering the consequences. There's a difference between talking about someone behind their back and flat-out saying it to their face in front of everyone. Guess which one hurts more? Miyabi left the show crying. These T-ara fans may have just been trying to get their point across but you know what? This is childish. This is hurtful. This is the kind of shit that middle school kids fling at each other with the hopes that they'll leave their victim crying in the school bathroom. And the worst part? Nothing gets accomplished. I've seen this on Youtube videos, forums, everywhere and for a while I've been able to put up with it. But when you drag a group that I enjoy and respect into it, I will not stay quiet. K-pop? Wanna know why you're so poorly received by J-pop fans when you debut in Japan? My guess it's partially because of these bat-shit crazy fans. Leave the hurtful comments on the Internet, where real people can't get hurt like this. Who knows? For all we know Momoko could be sobbing in her room because someone told her to die. I hope not but this shouldn't have happened and I am very, very disappointed in the tolerance and respect level of these crazy fans. 

To the sane fans of K-pop (and any genre of music): I am so sorry you have to put up this shit and I admire you for sticking with the groups you enjoy. Ganbare.