Friday, March 1, 2013

How I Got into Idols

Well, while everyone's talking about how they became wotas, why don't I join this little blogger campfire and pitch in my own story of how I got into idols?

I swear I won't talk about Perfume as much as I normally do.

Okay, Perfume really doesn't have as much to do with my story as I would like them to be but still! I'll take any excuse to add a lovely Perfume picture into a post! Relax, the story of how I got into idols won't be anywhere near as long and melodramatic as how I got into Perfume. But Perfume does play a key element in my story: something to keep in mind about Nia and Japanese music is that Perfume was the first taste of Japanese music I'd ever experienced and for a long time they were the only Japanese music I listened to. For about two years, I mainly focused on Perfume when it came to J-pop mainly because they were pretty much the only techno group I could find that held my interest. I didn't want to look at any other J-pop artists because I thought I wouldn't like them because they didn't do technopop. Sure, I looked at a little bit of Capsule and the trippiness that is Kyarypamyupamyu had yet to surface in the J-pop industry. But mostly, it was Perfume I listened to when it came to J-pop and I was completely okay with that.

However, there was one little problem when it came to Perfume... their releases. Oh no, the musical content was amazing but the time spaced in-between releases was incredibly sporadic. Hell, in 2009 the only single Perfume released was One Room Disco and after the release of their ⊿ album in July, for the rest of that year there were no Perfume releases. If any of you reading this constantly follow my blog, you know how I start acting when Perfume goes a long time without releasing anything. Perfume didn't release Mirai no Museum until six months after Spending all my time and by the time we started getting information about their next single, I was a giddy, anxious wreck. You should have seen me between the release of ⊿ and Fushizen na Girl/Natural ni Koishite! Anyways, I've always had a problem with the long dates between Perfume releasing music due to their other activities simply because of the wait. At least now I have other J-pop groups/artists I follow that help to fill that waiting gap but back in 2008/2009/2010? Nothing.

What's always struck me about how I got into idols (and Perfume) is just how randomly it happened. I'd never really had much of an interest in Japanese media, especially not the music. The only taste of Japanese media I really got during my childhood was from English-dubbed episodes of Pokemon on WB and the small handful of Sailor Moon episodes I could catch. I swear, I could never find Sailor Moon episodes on television when I was younger which is a shame because I was really drawn to the series because it combined action with girly weapons and kickass costumes. Other than that, I never really watched anime, I didn't read a lot of manga, I never cosplayed, and the only Japanese movie I ever watched was Spirited Away. I tried to read a few mangas in middle school but the only one I could get through was Fruits Basket and that's only because all my friends wouldn't stop talking about it and I wanted to know what the hell they were talking about.

But from the very small amount of Japanese animes I did watch, I remember one distinctive thing about them: the music. I loved the theme songs of Pokemon and Sailor Moon, especially Pokemon. I thought they were the coolest songs in the world and listening to them made me feel like I could go out and save the world or train Pokemon! But even then, I can't really connect that to how I got into idol music, especially considering the song that triggered my interest and intrigue with idols. The year was late 2010 and I was just starting to gather anticipation for Perfume's latest single, Nee. Since I was still in the phase of being a Perfume fan where I didn't know shit about how to keep up with the group's releases and events, I would just search for Nee on Youtube and hope that something popped up! Well, a few weeks before Nee's PV came out, there I was searching for a full rip of Nee, when another music video by another J-pop trio came out in my Related Videos section. To this day, I'm not sure what made me click on them. Was it the bright, happy colors I saw in the PV? The appealing name of the group?

I don't know, but on that day in October 2010, I discovered my first idol group that I really liked.

Yes, like so many other bloggers out there, Buono! was the first idol group that I really liked. Let me put it this way: if Perfume was the door that opened my interest in J-pop, then Buono! was the boot that pushed me through it. The first idol song I ever listened to was Rottara Rottara and it's a good thing I fell in love with that song. I'm serious, you have no idea how much I owe to Rottara Rottara; if I hadn't liked that song, I probably never would have looked into idol groups and furthermore never would have started this blog. Rottara Rottara was my gateway into idol music and it's an insanely happy and catchy song that sounds so pleasing to my ears. It's always been one of my favorite idol songs for simply how likable it sounds and the fact that it's pretty much the reason I got into idols. And from what I've read, a lot of other people got into idols via Buono! too, even if it wasn't via Rottara Rottara.

I'm actually really surprised at reading about how many people got into Hello! Project and/or idols in general thanks to Buono! I mean, I guess I could see why since their music is (or was depending on who you ask) effing awesome and they have a pretty unique sound compared to other H!P groups. If you go way back to 2011 on the Wonderland, a time when I was just starting out my paragraphs were less thick, the first PV I ever reviewed was even Hatsukoi Cider by Buono! I actually get kind of wistful when I talk about Buono! because I don't follow them anywhere near as much as I used to. I wouldn't say the group's musical output is bad or anything, just not as unique as it was way back in 2010 and Buono! isn't quite as active as they used to be ever since Shugo Chara! ended. Speaking of that show, sometimes I forget that most of Buono!'s songs were made for an anime. And ironically, I think their better songs were for Shugo Chara! with a few exceptions. For the rest of 2010, I was pretty much listening to Buono! and Perfume but mostly Buono! because I was in the "binge stage" of their music.

I think what made me like Buono!'s music so much was the style; it wasn't the cutesy diabetically sweet J-pop idol music that I'd seen bits of at that point in time. Buono! was a cool, pop-rock idol group that had an edge that I had yet to see from other J-pop artists. Of course, these were the days when I didn't know of Scandal, BiS, Tokyo Girls' Style and Baby Metal but we'll get to them later. I think the fact that Buono!'s discography consisted mostly of pop-rock music was why I became a fan of them so quickly. I've said this on a few other posts, but I am a huge alternative music fan. And rock fan. And alternative rock fan! The Cure, Mazzy Star, The Church, Arcade Fire, Garbage, Gorillaz, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, R.E.M., The Smiths, Metric, The Ramones, if you took a look at my iPod, you'd probably think I was a hipster or something. Hell, I still listen to and look out for new alternative music; recently, I just started really getting into Florence + The Machine! But I digress.

I think my love of alt-rock stems mainly from my parents, especially my mom. She listens to a ton of alternative music both new and old and we jam to a lot of stuff together. But with that musical background in mind, the fact that I enjoy so much fluffy Japanese pop music in contrast to all the other music I listen to seems incredibly dissonant. When I mention to friends that I listen to J-pop, usually they're very surprised since on the outside, I don't really seem like the type of person to enjoy that genre of music. If you'd said to me when I was twelve years old, that in three years I'd be jamming out to Japanese pop music, I'd have laughed and then called 9-11 because I wouldn't know who you were! Even today, sometimes I think back and wonder just how in the hell I got into J-pop so much and didn't stop at Perfume.

I think the reason I gravitated toward Buono! was that it wasn't 100% pop music but it was a hell of a lot pop-ier than most of the other music I was listening to around 2010. Around the time I found Buono!, I really wasn't listening to pop music and I didn't even like it that much. But Buono! was a nice balance of pop and rock and I liked the way the girls looked in the Rottara Rottara music video. They looked cleaner and happier than a lot of the girl groups I'd experienced; I remember Miyabi especially sticking out to me in the Rottara Rottara video. But at the time, I had no idea who the hell these girls were, I just knew they were in some group called Buono! Well, the group name sounded cool so I looked them up on Wikipedia. Unlike Perfume, whose Wikipedia page was shit when I first looked them up, I was actually able to find a lot of good information about this happy little pop-rock J-pop group I'd stumbled upon.

It probably helped that by 2010 Buono! had been around for a few years now and I was able to browse through their discography and find some really good songs like My Boy, Honto no Jibun, Bravo Bravo, and the We Are Buono! album in its entirety. Seriously, that album's got to be one of my favorite J-pop albums. Ironically, I think I got into Buono! at one of the most inconvenient times because they had just switched labels and stopped making music for Shugo Chara! I hate to say this, but none of their post-Shugo Chara! music has really grabbed me which again, is a shame because they're one of my favorite H!P groups. Speaking of Hello! Project, Buono! was pretty much my gateway into H!P. When I figured out who was who, I went back to the Wikipedia page and found out that not only were these girls in Buono! but they were also in other groups called C-ute and Berryz Koubou! Well, being the pixelated person I was at that moment, I clicked on those pages thinking "Wow! There must be more awesometacular pop-rock music in these groups!!!"

Right? Because we all know that Berryz and C-ute are just like Buono!

The resemblance is uncanny

But 2010-Nia didn't know what she was getting into. So I looked them up on Youtube and lo and behold, found stuff by them! A lot of stuff actually... But Berryz and C-ute didn't catch on quite quickly to me as Buono! did. I think the biggest problem I had with those two groups, especially C-ute, was the line distribution. Boy golly gee, big surprise, huh? I remember being really miffed that only two people ever got to sing in C-ute and that Berryz wasn't much better. I was also very 50/50 on the music of each group. I liked more of C-ute's music than Berryz but even then, I was hesitant to become a fan because why should I when I can only hear two of five girls singing? Don't get me wrong, there were songs I liked such as Tokaikko Junjou, Otakebi Boy WAO!, Namida no Iro, and Dakishimete Dakishimete but even then I felt kind of weirded out looking at their PVs, especially the older ones.

There was something about how young the girls looked in PVs like Ookina Ai de Motenashite and Special Generation that really put me off. Maybe it was because the society I'd been brought up in was so cautious when it comes to how kids are presented (you should see all the shit child beauty pageants get) and the way these groups looked felt... wrong in my eyes. And then I found out about just what an idol was and what they did and who their demographic was. When I found out that the main demographic of idols were mostly older men, I was really appalled yet fascinated at the same time. The concept of a Japanese idol was completely alien and just the weirdest thing for me to read about because of the way these girls were marketed and what their image was supposed to be. It was such a contrast from American media and although at first, I didn't really want to look into these idol groups because I wasn't the demographic (and I was creeped out by the demographic most groups appealed to).

But... they grew on me. Over the months of October and November, Berryz Koubou and C-ute grew on me. As much as I wanted to stick with Buono! and Perfume, I found myself going back to these idol music videos and songs. I didn't want to but there was something about the innocence of the music and image that I hadn't seen a long time in music. And you know what? That's probably why I gravitated toward idol music so quickly. For the past few years, I had been surrounding myself with so much darker and more mature music that the whiplash to such a lighthearted and innocent style of music was such a contrast that I enjoyed it. I began to really like C-ute and Berryz and through those two groups, I began to look further into Hello! Project. I found out about the other groups like S/mileage and Mano Erina and Tsunku and how long this agency of idols had been around. It was impressive to me and the music I found was fun and catchy. Ironically, the last H!P group I looked into was its flagship group, Morning Musume. I don't know why I took so long to take a look at them when I was eating up C-ute/Berryz/S/mileage music... maybe because I didn't feel the need to? I was having lots of fun looking at the current H!P groups and didn't want to look at Morning Musume yet.

But around December, I finally gave Momusu a chance though my encounter with them was mostly coincidental. I saw a related video in C-ute's Aitai Lonely Christmas PV and it turned out to be Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game. I like the song so I thought since I was busy looking at all the other H!P acts, why not Morning Musume as well? So for the rest of November and December, I dug through Momusu's old stuff and then surprise! Three members were graduating! I was kind of surprised since I'd literally just gotten into Morning Musume but I was excited that new members would be coming in. And so the first auditions I experienced with Morning Musume were the 9th Generation auditions. For the first four months of 2011, I pretty much just focused on Hello! Project's music and news. But in April, it finally happened.

I opened up my heart and let the AKB48 in.

Oh believe me, getting into AKB48 was a process. Not only because I came across so many H!P fans who wanted to bash them over the head with a spiked baseball bat but also because my first encounter with AKB48 was the Heavy Rotation PV. I think you all know what I'm talking about when I refer to that music video but you can read more about that little incident in my own review of the Heavy Rotation PV. Anyways, it wasn't until Sakura no Ki ni Narou that I started to think that hey, maybe this group isn't as bad as I thought they were! So then I really started putting effort into finding more music by AKB48 and I even started to look into their sisters groups SKE48, SDN48 and the newly-formed NMB48! I remember really liking Banzai Venus by SKE48 just because of how explosively energetic and happy that song sounded. But I found great songs like Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou, Beginner, 10nen Zakura and by the time Everyday, Katyusha was released, I had pretty much been won over by AKB48 and all its craziness.

Halfway through 2011, I'd even managed to sort a few names and faces within the group! And then I developed favorites like Akimoto Sayaka, Minegishi Minami and Takahashi Minami! I actually think that one of the reasons why I started liking AKB48 so quickly despite becoming a fan of H!P first was that I started liking AKB48 around the time that I was starting to see the cracks in Hello! Project such as bad line distribution, cheap PVs and hit-or-miss music, especially for Morning Musume. I remember I loathed Only You but then I loved Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai... So as I started seeing those problems within H!P, naturally I gravitated toward AKB48 because they were different from H!P and didn't have those same problems. Of course, they have a slew of other problems too (bland songs, scandals left and right, underexposure for half the girls in the group, etc.) and both AKB48 and H!P made me realize that no idol group would be perfect and they all have their own flaws.

But in 2011, AKB48 and Hello! Project weren't the only idol groups I started getting into. Whenever I would look up news to see what either group was up to, I'd usually see other links about news from other idol groups. Becoming curiouser and curiouser in finding more idol groups, I'd click on those links, especially if they were links to music videos. Typically, not a lot of the related idol groups I saw really grabbed me but there were several exceptions. In fact, I'd say 2011 was really the year I got into idols (but 2012 was a year where I found even more). With idols, I started with the pretty mainstream groups (H!P, AKS) and from their narrowed my tastes and preferences down to idol groups independent of those agencies. I remember when I first started actively looking for more idol groups, I always had a tendency to gravitate towards the more serious/mature sounding groups, particularly Tokyo Girls' Style. In fact, TGS was probably the first group outside of H!P and AKS that really impressed me by their mature image and surprisingly good music.

I also think that's why I like Brand-new Idol Society so much; I've always said I follow BiS for their music. Ever since I saw My Ixxx, I've been less focused on their controversial PVs and more on the awesomeness of their songs. BiS has a more grunge/alternative musical style which again, draws back to my own alt-rock musical roots. But even though I do enjoy a lot of idol rock (like Baby Metal's becoming a favorite of mine), I also enjoy the more pop-oriented sounding idol songs. Which is a good thing, because that's pretty much what most idol music is! Of course, you all know I can't stand bland-styled idol music... but I could spend a whole editorial on that topic of idol music. I've always thought of idol music as like that balance to all the other music I listen to; the sweet to balance out the bitter, if that makes sense. I feel like as each month passes by, I'm more opening to new groups; hell, I'm even starting to get into Momoiro Clover Z!

However, I think one of the biggest components of my idol expansion was my decision to become an idol blogger. I remember back in 2011 when I read idol blogs like the morning paper, actively reading reviews and mentally pitching my own two cents in. Through idol blogs, not only did I read about some new groups but I also got to read reviews of some idols I already knew about. I noticed that H!P and AKB48 were the big two groups that got blogged about and that some other idol groups I'd started getting into like BiS and Tokyo Girls' Style were rarely talked about. And of course, my beloved Perfume hardly ever got reviewed on any of these idol blogs. But like I said I'm not focusing on Perfume for this story! Of the many reasons, I started idol blogging, one of them was so that I could take it upon myself to write about some groups that many idol blogs overlooked. So when I first made the decision to actively start idol blogging, one of the first things I tried to do was make a list of what groups I wanted to review. Obviously, Perfume was on that list and so was Hello! Project, AKB48 and its sister groups, Tokyo Girls' Style... and that was pretty much it.

I decided to just go with the flow and see what other idol groups popped up that interested me. I figured that since now I would be looking for news of idol releases more frequently, I'd have a better chance of discovering more idol groups that I'd want to write about. And find some I did! Over 2012, other than those main groups I listed, I reviewed BiS, Bump.y, Kara, Kyarypamyupamyu, Momoiro Clover Z, Naaboudoufu@nana, Passpo, Scandal, and Weather Girls! And those are all idol groups that I intend to follow in 2013, if everything runs smoothly in my life outside of idol blogging. Being surrounded by so many different reviews and opinions was what really helped me discover not only my love for idol music but also my love of the idol fandom. Sure, I know we bitch and moan about things, but overall, this is the first fandom that I've really had fun in.

I actually think me getting into idols helped me look at other aspects of Japanese media such as anime and even Japanese film. Like I said, before I starting getting into idol groups, I rarely watched anime, especially as I got older. But when I found out Buono!'s music was used for this anime called Shugo Chara! I thought why not? I'll watch that! However, Shugo Chara! did not keep me interested. I'm sure it's a decent anime and has a lot of fans but the show was just too girly for me. After that, there were a couple other animes I tried to get through but I stopped watching most of them after a few episodes. However, there were a few exceptions such as Revolutionary Girl Utena, as you can tell by the picture used above! I finished that anime a month or so ago and I really enjoyed the themes. I loved the exploration of gender roles, shoujo character archetypes, sexuality, adolescence, it's just a really thought-provoking anime. I'm also watching AKB0048 which proved to be a surprisingly engaging anime but maybe that's just because I'm a fan of AKB48 and I think it's awesome seeing the concept of that group in fictional form. I think it allows for an interpretation of idol life in a different setting that you could never really see with real-life idols.

Other those, the only other two animes I've watched all the way through are Cowboy Bebop and Puealla Magi Madoka Magica (which both are very good, especially Cowboy Bebop!). But I'm finding other anime that I want to start watching like Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion! But before you ask, no, I do not plan on watching Kirarin Revolution any time soon. I wouldn't say I'm a huge anime fan but I have found shows that I enjoyed watching! And along with a few animes, I've started watching more Japanese film, especially Hayao Miyzaki. Okay, when I was little I did watch Spirited Away but now I appreciate that movie along with a lot of other Studio Ghibli films I've seen now. And I've even watched several J-horror films ranging from totally disturbing (Audition) to unintentionally hilarious (Tokyo Gore Police).

Well damn. Here I said "Oh yeah! This post won't be as long as that post on how I got into Perfume!" and here I am eleven paragraphs later typing my conclusion! Back in 2010, I thought my interest in idols was just a phase; if so, it's been one effing long phase, hasn't it? In hindsight, me getting into idols and idol music seems rather unusual but overall, I've really enjoyed it. I've enjoyed following the news, blogging about idols, talking with other fans about idols, and the entire experience as a whole. Are there parts that can be a little dismaying about the idol fandom sometimes? Sure, but that's the case with just about every fandom you get into. I love idol music and I hope that for many years into the future, that love for idols will still be strong.


  1. So, over the past month or so I've managed to read your entire blog but this is the first time I've commented. I know you've probably heard every "oh my gosh Nia you're amazing" but I never thought I could find a blog worth following and I'm happy to say that you proved me wrong. I scrolled down to the bottom of this post waiting to click the "Older Post" button and was really shocked when there wasn't one. However, I feel really happy that I can follow your posts in real time from now on. Wow. I sound like a creep, hahaha. Happy blogging! I can't wait for your next post.

    1. Really!? You read it all!? Even my really early posts!? That's amazing! I'm so happy you decided to comment! Well, I don't get -that- many praise comments... but the ones I do get just make me all warm and fuzzy inside! The best part is knowing that there are people who enjoy what I write as much as I enjoy doing it! Now that I'm off break, I'm going to get back in the swing of blogging and pick up reviewing some new stuff! Thank you -so much- for commenting, it really meant a lot to me!

    2. Yep, even the early stuff, hahaha. I stumbled across it after seeing the Spending All My Time PV on PopAsia and totally fell in love. I've found some seriously amazing music through your blog and I really want to say thank you! It's especially good to watch something and then find it on your blog. You've introduced me to the amazing world of Perfume and just, ahh, I don't know how to thank you properly! Just keep being amazing, please :D

  2. I wonder why you don't mention anything about NMB48's single "Kitagawa Kenji", it's my favorite song and single from them and Yui is in there!!!! Would you please do a review for the song? Or just talk about your feelings on it? Please!

    1. Funny story about Kitagawa Kenji... back in October, I had it on my review list and even started writing the review in my draft notebook but I got preoccupied with some other idol news and releases. Buuuuut if you really want me to review it, I can totally grab the draft from my notebook and start up a very, very late review!