Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nia's Best (and Worst) of 2014! ~A Year End Megapost~

Guys, we made it. The year 2014 is almost at an end.

And with the end of the year comes a year-end megapost!

It's taken me months, but in this post is a compilation of idol singles released throughout the entire year. The good songs, the bad songs, the great songs, the weird songs, everything. Not to mention music videos. Familiars on the Wonderland know how the year-end megapost. It's simply my own personal reflection on all the idol music of 2014. So to reiterate, these are my opinions on the best and worst releases of 2014. You might disagree with some, or you might agree. But as long as you respect my opinion as well as others, hopefully we can agree to disagree!

2014's year-end megapost is a little different from last year's. Most of last year's categories are still here, but the way I've formatted everything is different. The graphics are different (and better I hope), and the descriptions are shorter. This was mainly due to time constraints. Due to college, I didn't have quite as much time to work on my year-end megapost. So I tried to shorten everything up. That way you don't have to read as much and I don't have to write as much. So without any further preparation let's dive right into my best and worst of 2014!

Those singles of 2014 that hit the mark in everything: songs, visuals, everything.
  • ? - Puzzle Girls: Brought to you by the former BiS producer, ? has two great songs on it that make me want to hear more from this mystery-solving idol group.
  • 17 - Curumi Chronicle: Why just throw a 17th birthday party when you can be like Curumi Chronicle and release a single with five amazing techno songs?
  • Cling Cling - Perfume: For only one single this year, Perfume did pretty well with Cling Cling. Three out of four good songs and one okay song!
  • Juujika - Tokyo Girls’ Style: The A-side is great, but what really makes this a great single are the five different solo covers of famous horror songs, such as Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
  • Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni - Faint Star: After months of teasing, Faint Star's debut single has four light, breezy, and thoroughly enjoyable songs.
  • Kyuru Kyuru - Oomori Seiko: Seiko's debut on a major label, and Kyuru Kyuru is a memorable one. The B-sides have just as much zaniness as Kyuru Kyuru!
  • Neko ni Naritai! - Terashima Yufu: With an adorable A-side and two fun B-sides, I think Neko ni Naritai! Can encourage anyone to become a cat.
  • Plastic 2 Mercy - Pla2me: When Saki and Izukoneko team up, they bring an addictively catchy dance song and a just-as-memorable B-side.
  • Touch Me - Curumi Chronicle: Why just release one single filled with five amazing techno songs, when you can release another single filled with five more amazing techno songs?

The best of the best A-sides of 2014! Or at least my best A-sides.
  • Final Dance - BiS: Final Dance may be a little more tame compared to some of BiS' other A-sides, but Final Dance packs emotion and energy into a perfect farewell song.
  • Harukanata - Himekyun Fruit Can: I absolutely love the chorus of Harukanata, and the rest of the song isn't far behind. I really should review more of Himekyun Fruit Can next year...
  • I miss you - C-ute: The many different vocals overlapping in I miss you work well for C-ute, making I miss you a refreshingly different but still mature song for them.
  • Kizuitara Kataomoi - Nogizaka46: Just a perfect song all around. Kizuitara Kataomoi has a beautiful instrumental, beautiful lyrics, and beautiful vocals.
  • Partition Love - Tokyo Girls’ Style: When TGS defaults to their 90s sound, the end result is typically a hot, funky song. Partition Love even sounds a tad sensual.
  • Rainy dance - Bellring Shoujo Heart: Bellring Shoujo Heart steps back from their more psychedelic sound to deliver a rock song. Rainy dance is a darn good rock song at that!
  • Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe - Morning Musume: Borrowing from the melancholic, brooding sound of the Platinum Era, Toki no Koe Sora no Koe is a perfect balance of old and new.
  • Unforgettable Days - Tsubasa Fly: A song from a group I wish I could hear more of, Unforgettable Days is an unforgettable song. Mainly because it's an idol rock song.
  • YA・ME・TE! - Especia: I still don't get the appeal of vaporwave, but YA・ME・TE! is my jam. I love the retro eighties sound the song has, along with some surprisingly good vocals.

The flip side for every great A-side is a terrible A-side.
  • Bling Bling My Love - Fairies: This song is a nightmare. Fairies are usually pretty tame, but Bling Bling My Love sounds disturbingly soulless.
  • Crush - Itano Tomomi: Tomomi never had the most amazing singing voice, but I would take that over her rapping any day.
  • Family Party - Kyarypamyupamyu: Annoyingly cute, annoyingly repetitive, Family Party is all of Kyary's weakest traits collected into a song.
  • Hello Kitty - Avril Lavigne: J-pop, Canadian pop, whatever label you want to give this song, listening to Hello Kitty is hell regardless.
  • Koisuru Kisetsu - Death Rabbits: I once explored idol metal! I found Death Rabbits. Remind me never to explore idol metal again.
  • Labrador Retriever - AKB48: There are many bland AKB48 songs I've loathed in the past. But this bland AKB48 song that finally broke me.
  • Naitemo Iin da yo - Momoiro Clover Z: Never in all my blogging years would I have pegged Momoiro Clover Z to get such an aimless-sounding song.
  • Sakura Apparition - I'm trying. I really am. But listening to Sakura Apparition is like listening to little kids at a birthday party.
  • The Power - C-ute: All the bad dance songs I've heard this year have this collective... emptiness to them. Even Tsunku's grunts can't give power to The Power.

Sometimes B-sides steal the show.
  • Ambulance - AKB48: I don't know what happened to lead to such a good song, but whatever AKS did, I wish they'd do it more.
  • Casino Royale ni Youkoso - Puzzle Girls: An amazingly jazzy B-side that stands out for having such a weird, yet appealing arrangement.
  • Ijiwaru na Hello - Perfume: With three different B-sides on Cling Cling, Ijiwaru na Hello swooped in and became my favorite. It's catchy and quintessentially Perfume.
  • Kitty - Curumi Chronicle: Upbeat EDM songs, steal my heart! Second Spring EP had some good B-sides, but Kitty is hands down my favorite of them.
  • kUMA GOQLI - Bellring Shoujo Heart: kUMA GOQLI sounds just as weird and nonsensical as the title indicates, but the B-side also has a chill quality.
  • Odd Future - BiS: Another upbeat ballad along the lines of Hide out cut, Odd Future is an emotional song, and I'm sad it didn't make it to Who Killed Idol?
  • Phantom of the truth - Yes, you saw a song in a positive category. I'm just as surprised I like Phantom of the truth as you are.
  • Sleeping in Your Car - Faint Star: I still say Sleeping in Your Car should have been the A-side. It's cute, it's light, it's breezy, and catchy! Like a lot of Vanilla Beans' music!
  • Talk Talk Talk - Weather Girls: A sassy little song, Talk Talk Talk is a weird song for Weather Girls, but I don't mind hearing them do something a little more K-pop sounding.

And sometimes B-sides drag down the single and only serve as filler.
  • Dareka ga Nageta Ball - AKB48: At least Dareka ga Nageta Ball proves that even the Undergirls aren't safe from bland songs that sound like a gazillion other AKB48 songs!
  • Grow Up - Nakae Yuri: I'm not a huge fan of the original Hysteric Blue version either. Yuri's voice just doesn't work for a song like this, and the arrangement doesn't help.
  • Otokonoko, Onnanoko - Bellring Shoujo Heart: I do not get Otokonoko, Onnanoko. I don't like the chanting or the weird melodies. Even the singing sounds whiny.
  • Pokemon Ieru Kana? - Scandal: Even if I could name all the Pokemon, I wouldn't like this song. Did we not learn from the rapping mess that was Scandal in the House?
  • Sailor Zombie - Milk Planet: This song has about as much life in it as a zombie. Does Watanabe Mayu have some sort of curse where she can only center bland songs?
  • Shiny Road - Passpo: I can't even remember how this song sounds. Just that feeling of desolate emptiness whenever I think of Shiny Road and how Passpo's degenerated.

Bland music is song version of bran flakes. Sure, it exists, but what's the point?
  • Aa Susukino - S/mileage: Oh boy, S/mileage got another serious electropop song! That's exactly what I wanted to hear from them!
  • Departure - Scandal: Passpo could have sung this song, and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.
  • Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa - Morning Musume: Has some interesting parts, but the rest of the song sounds like an electropop Seishun Collection.
  • Labrador Retriever - AKB48: Bland. Boring. Read my review of Labrador Retriever/Sayonara Crawl/So long!/Eien Pressure to get the gist.
  • Perfect Sky - Passpo: For Passpo turning into a band, the payoff was extremely forgettable.
  • Say long goodbye - Tokyo Girls' Style: TGS has very hit-or-miss ballads, and Say long goodbye defaults to their 90s ballad sound.
  • Summer Kaijuu - Cupitron: This could have been a really cool technopop song, but after several months, I've forgotten how Summer Kaijuu even sounds.
  • Takane no Ringo - NMB48: Maybe bland music is a contagious disease in AKS, and that's why Takane no Ringo sounds so generic.
  • With You/With Me - 9nine: Bland does not equate to bad, and while With You/With Me is a decent song, it's very much a generic anisong.

I love having songs stuck in my head at the worst times possible!
  • 1-oku 3-senman Sou Diet Oukoku - Berryz Koubou: If you constantly repeat lyrics, chances are those lyrics will get stuck in your listeners head. Forever. Don't do that.
  • Cling Cling - Perfume: Taking cues from Kyarypamyupamyu, Cling Cling has one hell of a catchy chorus and one sensual hook (I will cling to your chest, anyone?).
  • Denpari Night -, you may not be able to sing on pitch, but you do know how to make a damn catchy song. Even if I'd rather you not.
  • Gimme Choko!! - Babymetal: Technically not an A-side, but Gimme Choko!! wouldn't get out of my head unless I put it in this category.
  • Kira Kira Killer - Kyarypamyupamyu: Writing catchy hooks is practically all Nakata does with Kyary's music. Still, that doesn't stop Kira Kira Killer from getting stuck in my head.
  • Password is 0 - Morning Musume: What's the password again? I think they need to repeat it twenty more times so I can really know it.
  • Plastic 2 Mercy - Pla2me: I blame that melody. That loud techno melody. I can tap the melody out with my fingers and know exactly how to hit each note.
  • Run With U - Fairies: A Fairies song I actually enjoy a little bit? Can it be? Maybe because the chorus to Run With U is extremely catchy and upbeat. 
  • Unicorn Parade - Cupitron: Cupitron's producers may not know how to produce a good technopop song, but they know how to produce a catchy technopop song...

We all go a little mad sometimes, even idol producers!
  • 1-oku 3-senman Sou Diet Oukoku - Berryz Koubou: If dieting makes people sound this robotic and weird, then I will gladly enjoy more pizza.
  • c.a.n.d.y. - Bellring Shoujo Heart: For a short little song, c.a.n.d.y. leaves an impact. This song sounds like something you'd hear right of of 90s grunge.
  • Candy Pop Galaxy Bomb!! - Cheeky Parade: For an eight minute song, Candy Pop Galaxy Bomb is like a song with multiple acts, some of them not quite matching up...
  • Kyuru Kyuru - Oomori Seiko: Seiko spend Kyuru Kyuru descending into madness, bouncing back and forth between singing, speaking, and screaming. 
  • StupiG - BiS: Need I say anything else? Anytime BiS goes hardcore, they make to go all the way. StupiG is loud and abrasive to a nearly unnerving point. 
  • Vulture - Necronomidal: I get shivers every time I listen to anything by Necronomidol, like if I play their songs too much, I'll summon Satan.

If these songs were candy, we'd all have cavities.

12gatsu no Kangaroo - SKE48: Well, SKE48 is SKE48 and 12gatsu no Kangaroo plays up the groups normally energetically adorable sound to the max.
Kira Kira Killer - Kyarypamyupamyu: As usual, Kyarypamyupamyu releases an adorable technopop song. Kira Kira Killer also benefits from being catchy as hell.
Koi Moyou - Kus Kus: On the other end of the technopop spectrum, Kus Kus' one release was a sweet little technopop song that was a little more lowkey but just as cute.
Like You Anyway - Weather Girls: I didn't follow Weather Girls as closely as last year, but Like You Anyway was a pretty endearingly adorable song.
Unicorn Parade - Cupitron: After the electropop mess that was Summer Kaijuu, Unicorn Parade was a much more conventional and cuter idol pop song.
White Sweet Cake - Curumi Chronicle: Continuing the technopop trend is the adorably winter-themed White Sweet Cake! This is a great song to put you in the Christmas spirit too!

Why should A-sides and B-sides have all the fun?
  • Algorithm+Love (Magi9 Playland) - 9nine: Algorithm+Love is a perfectly paced song. Growing faster and higher, Algorithm+Love is one hell of an adrenaline rush.
  • Chim Chim Cheree (Killing Me Softly) - Tokyo Girls' Style: Chim Chim Cheree is one of a handful of saving graces on the frustratingly mediocre Killing Me Softly.
  • Graduation (Hello World) - Scandal: Hello World had quite a few surprises for me, and Graduation felt like a mature throwback to Scandal's old sound.
  • Imitation Girl (Sennou) - Oomori Seiko: Probably my favorite song of the year, Imitation Girl does electropop right with catchy hooks and a bubbly instrumental.
  • Mirror Mirror (The Divine Move) - BiS: Technically, BiS was only a featured artist, but Mirror Mirror is chillingly emotional. I had to include it in here.
  • MMGK (Who Killed Idol?) - BiS: And I also had to include one more BiS song. MMGK is loud and abrasive, and the instrumental is to die for.
  • OO (Love) (Unforgettable Final Odyssey) - You'll Melt More!: Six minutes of dreamy weirdness, OO (Love) is the ethereal wistfulness I wish the rest of the album had.
  • Ukiyo Shigure (Dengeki Princess) - Himekyun Fruit Can: Himekyun Fruit Can thrives with their more energetic songs, and Ukiyo Shigure is one awesomely energetic electro punk song.
  • Undo (Undo the Union) - Bellring Shoujo Heart: One of the more happier songs on Undo the Union, Undo stands out on the mostly gloomy album.

I'll be skipping these tracks when I play these albums.
  • Cronos no Kana (Undo the Union) - Bellring Shoujo Heart: Bellring Shoujo Heart rarely does well with lowkey songs, and Cronos no Kana is slow and grinding.
  • Koibito ni wa Zettai ni Shiraretakunai Shinjitsu (14 Shou ~The message~) - Morning Musume: Any song with Sayumi in it tends to be an iffy one, and this song was a hot mess.
  • Ii ne! (Babymetal) - Babymetal: Ever heard of too much of a good thing? How about too much of a bad thing? I think Ii ne! is a haphazard combination of both.
  • Ring a Bell (Pikapika Fantajin) - Kyarypamyupamyu: Will someone please tell Kyary where her damn microphone is? That way I can stop hearing this song.
  • To be continued... (Magi9 Playland) - 9nine: Thankfully, To be continued... is a short song, that way I don't have to listen to that annoying, chipper instrumental for long.
  • Zutto Wasurenai (Killing Me Softly) - Tokyo Girls' Style: I do not listen to TGS to hear light, dry melodies like Zutto Wasurenai. The length of this song doesn't help.

There are good music videos, but these are great music videos.
  • Akikaze no Answer - Flower: Truly a PV based around visuals, Akikaze no Answer has beautiful set after beautiful set along with amazing dancing. 
  • Chururi Chururi ra - Battling monsters and foes video-game style, has a music video that even I can't deny is awesome.
  • Cling Cling - Perfume: With a ridiculously elaborate set used to its full potential, Cling Cling is a mysterious, but beautiful, music video for Perfume.
  • Final Dance - BiS: Sending themselves out on a summer single may seem a little odd, but Final Dance also shows BiS' other music videos in a truly heartwarming sendoff.
  • Juujika - Tokyo Girls’ Style: Monsters, doppelgängers, and religious imagery galore, Juujika has a lot to look at it and a lot that doesn't quite make sense.
  • Kizuitara Kataomoi - Nogizaka46: I couldn't have asked for a better music video. Kizuitara Kataomoi has the perfect amount of story and emotion.
  • Kyuru Kyuru - Oomori Seiko: Watching a random Japanese woman go crazy in a truck is just as weird as it sounds, but Oomori Seiko makes it strangely charming.
  • Yume no Hajima Ring Ring - Kyarypamyupamyu: While she may not have a huge career to look back on, Kyary's journey through her career is still fun to watch.
  • Zettai Zetsubou Zekkouchou - Oomori Seiko: This PV consists of Oomori Seiko interacting with multiple Oomori Seikos, and yes, that is as fun as it sounds.

Someone erase these PVs from my memory, please?
  • Kokoro no Placard - AKB48: Of all the PVs AKS could duplicate, why oh why oh why would they go with Koisuru Fortune Cookie? Kokoro no Placard is formulaic enough.
  • Miniskirt - AOA: Did something happen to AOA between the time I discovered Get Out? This is such a... hollow music video. And what up with all the butts?
  • Moon Pride - Momoiro Clover Z: Stardust, you can do better. You can do so much better than slapping stock footage over a music video and calling it a day.
  • Mystery Night! - S/mileage: At least the members of AOA look like they know what they're doing in Miniskirt. S/mileage look like a bunch of middle schoolers. It's weird and uncomfortable.
  • Partition Love - Tokyo Girls’ Style: Speaking of uncomfortable, here's underage romance! The drama in Partition Love is weak, and the storyline borders on disgusting.
  • Urahara Temptation - Kikkawa Yuu: Using really shitty special effects to cover up the cheapness of your music is not the way to make it look better.

I don't need these PVs erased from my memory. I've forgotten them already!
  • Himawari - Passpo: Oh, look. A dance shot. And close ups. And a few miscellaneous shots. Veeeeery innovative. Someone give this music video an award.
  • Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni - Faint Star: Nothing happens in this music video. Literally nothing. Even the hourglass looks bored.
  • Omoidasenai Hana - French Kiss: While Omoidasenai Hana is a nice-looking music video, there are so many pleasant-looking nature music videos in this world.
  • Sky Traveler - Dorothy Little Happy: What is it about white backgrounds that make music videos look so bland? Well, I suppose a bland music video fits Dorothy Little Happy.
  • The Future - C-ute: All the empty blank space in the music video for The Future is really symbolism. Yes, the blank space symbolizes my emptiness toward this music video!
  • Tiki Bun - Morning Musume: Morning Musume's latest PVs have at least had something eye-grabbing going for them, which makes Tiki Bun fade even more to the background.

True art is incomprehensible.
  • Akikaze no Answer - Flower: This PV's definitely artsier from a production standpoint. The many sets used in Akikaze no Answer make me think of the people who put them together.
  • Day by Day - Nakae Yuri: Why were there so many sheep in this video? Was Yuri trying to join with their flock? And what was with the balloons? Oh well... that's art.
  • Display - Perfume: Made to show the beauty of high definition, Display plays a lot with colors and editing, making for a very fluid (and sadly, very short) music video.
  • Nettaigyo no Namida - Flower: Nettaigyo no Namida does really well with colors. I love all the different color palettes in this PV, along with the beautiful set decoration.
  • Re Mi La - Faint Star: Like with Nettaigyo no Namida, lighting is what makes the PV for Re Mi La so artsy. I love all the different light designs projected onto Faint Star.
  • Seventeen - Curumi Chronicle: A lot of editing turns a video that would have been just Curumi singing into a music video rife with trippy but mesmerizing special effects.

"All J-pop music videos are weird!" is a stereotype... but these J-pop videos are really weird...
  • Atai no Tsumeato - Necronomidol: For four girls walking around a forest, this music video is a lot creepier than it sounds on paper... I blame the spider on that girl's cheek.
  • Bari 3 Kyowakoku - merges with their anime selves and fights giant robots in a music video that's weird even for them.
  • Bucchake Rock'n Hacchake Roll - Babyraids: For such a low-budget PV, the inclusion of a camera crew wearing zoo animal masks and evil doubles put this PV into absurdity.
  • c.a.n.d.y. - Bellring Shoujo Heart: Bellring Shoujo invades and office and...? Promotes themselves? Wreaks havoc? Revolutionizes the world? Who knows!
  • Circus wo Koroshitano wa Dareda - Starmarie: Sometimes the weirdest PVs come from their simplicity, and Circus wo Koroshitano wa Dareda is a simple, but creepy, PV.
  • No1 Sweeper - Especia: This has got to be a vaporwave thing. Please tell me all the random food popping up in this PV is a vaporwave thing.
  • Umbrella - Yamabe Miyu: I think the entire Maltine Girls Wave album was a competition to see who could make the weirdest music video. Umbrella won by a landslide.
  • Unicorn Parade - Cupitron: Definitely the most normal PV in this category, Unicorn Parade still has some trippy kaleidoscopic imagery.
  • Zettai Zetsubou Zekkouchou - Oomori Seiko: I don't know why Seiko is roaming around an empty mall with duplicates of herself, but I'm not sure I need to know...

Cuter than kittens. Although idols and kittens doubles the cuteness.
  • 12gatsu no Kangaroo - SKE48: I'm pretty chill toward idol Christmas PVs, but all the bright lights and adorable locations in 12gatsu no Kangaroo are melt-worthy.
  • Family Party - Kyarypamyupamyu: The song is still terrible, but the Wii-style game between Kyary and a robot is quirky and entertaining.
  • Ii jan - Kikkawa Yuu: Thank goodness Kikka can draw, otherwise this could have been a much worse PV. Kikka herself is half of what makes this PV so cute.
  • Kawaii Wave - Shouji Mei: Equal parts weird and cute, Kawaii Wave lives up to its title with Mei wandering around a plethora of adorably decorated sets and locations.
  • Koi Moyou - Kus Kus: Koi Moyou is a simple little PV, but the dance with the umbrellas is very cute, along with the shots showing the girls predicting the weather.
  • Kyuru Kyuru - Oomori Seiko: Filling a truck with pink decorations makes for an extremely cute PV. Also a crazy one when you throw Seiko into said truck.
  • Neko ni Naritai - Terashima Yufu: Cats are nature's most adorably apathetic creatures, so Yufu spending time in a cat cafe earns this PV 50 cuteness points by default.
  • Sakura Apparition - I may hate the song, but watching Sakura Apparition on mute gives me a great appreciation for the cuteness of the music video!
  • Shabadabadoo~ - Michishige Sayumi: Sayumi lives up to her self-enforced reputation as the cutest idol in the world. Shabadabadoo~ is tailored toward her cuteness.

If only real life looked as cool as these music videos make it to be.
  • Cling Cling - Perfume: The sheer work put into making this elaborate set makes Cling Cling a cool enough PV. Add in a mysterious telescope and a cult and you've got a pretty cool PV!
  • Good bye, Good girl - Tentenko: Tentenko walks the streets of Japan in this music video, and thanks to the camerawork, this looks (and sounds) like something straight out of the eighties.
  • Juujika - Tokyo Girls' Style: What else would you expect in a PV full of paranormal and religious imagery? Juujika is an elegant, Gothic music video.
  • Mae Shika Mukanee - AKB48: Not the official PV. The postapocalyptic drama PV with the magical tree of keys and Oshima Yuko ascending to a higher plane of existence.
  • Toki no Koe Sora no Koe - Morning Musume: What can I say? Space is cool. If you don't think so, watch Toki no Koe Sora no Koe and you might think so too.
  • YA・ME・TE! - Especia: Most of this PV is in the dark, but that's only because Especia's coolness would be blinding if recorded in normal lighting.

Not every production company has the money (or the willingness) to spend on music videos.
  • Black Butterfly - Juice=Juice: Take the fence from Jiriri Kiteru, the flowers from Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game, and you get the PV for Black Butterfly!
  • Departure - Scandal: There are lots of bands who record themselves playing in a studio-style setting then use that as the promotional video, but does Scandal have to look so bored?
  • Ikiro!! - You'll Melt More!: The heart is there and the girls do their best, but the dance shot/close-ups combo cuts corners about as closely as you can.
  • Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni - Faint Star: Is that blank white background artsy or did they just have no money? It could be either, but the end result is this PV looks cheap.
  • Mamma Mia! - Kara: I didn't find Mamma Mia! cheap until I watched the Korean PV and found out that 90% of the Japanese PV was the Korean PV.
  • Moon Pride - Momoiro Clover Z: Okay, I know Stardust has money. Using stock footage from Sailor Moon Crystal is cutting corners in a way that makes no sense.
  • Perfect Sky - Passpo: There was going to be a band playing with Passpo, but other than that, the PV for Perfect Sky doesn't have much else to it.
  • Unforgettable Days - Tsubasa Fly: Like with You'll Melt More!, Tsubasa Fly does have a valid excuse. Like with You'll Melt More!, Unforgettable Days is still cheap.
  • Urahara Temptation - Kikkawa Yuu: Just because you have visual effects does not mean you have to use every single one.

Nothing like a good summer PV to get me pumped about the season!
  • Campanula no Yuuutsu - Terashima Yufu: With abundant weirdness for such a tame PV, Campanula no Yuuutsu has Yufu's charisma and a strangely awesome backing band.
  • Final Dance - BiS: Final Dance is equal part parody and homage to the traditional idol summer PV, along with a wonderful look at how much BiS has changed these past four years.
  • Natsu no Free&Easy - Nogizaka46: At a first glance, Natsu no Free&Easy may not seem like a summer PV, but the colors are bright and the urban location is a nice change.
  • Nettaigyo no Namida - Flower: Nettaigyo no Namida approaches summer from a more tropical standpoint, with vibrant colors and locations (and the titular tropical fish!).

These summer PVs make me appreciate winter.
  • Himawari - Passpo: Even if the small scene on the beach was half-assed, Himawari's closed off sets and low budget don't give me much of a summery vibe either.
  • Labrador Retriever - AKB48: Their summer PVs have never been works of art, but Labrador Retriever is downright stupid. And I'm a dog person.

The art of dance is a tricky one, which makes me appreciate these dances even more.
  • Akikaze no Answer - Flower: This entire dance is amazing, but the best part is no doubt when they all dance together while connected by a giant ribbon.
  • Cling Cling - Perfume: Cling Cling has Perfume's precision along with a lot of bouncing and swaying. For the record, Cling Cling is even funner and bouncier in concert. 
  • Gimme Choko!! - Babymetal: Is it true Mikiko choreographed this song? Believe me, watching this music video, I was amazed at how energetic and creative this dance was.
  • Hadaka no Hadaka no Hadaka no Kiss - Juice=Juice: Hadaka no Hadaka no Hadaka no Kiss was a more sensual dance for Juice=Juice, but they pulled it off.
  • Nettaigyo no Namida - Flower: Akikaze no Answer wasn't the only amazing choreography from Flower this year. Nettaigyo no Namida's was just as fluid and graceful.
  • What is Love? - Morning Musume: I will admit, although that live music video was an absolute sham, the one positive was seeing that sharp choreography.

I'm not a judge of choreography, but even these dances look bad to me.
  • c.a.n.d.y. - Bellring Shoujo Heart: I'll add this to my list of "Dances So Easy That I, A Graceless Tangle of Limbs, Could Do It." You'd be surprised at how big that list is.
  • Futsuu 10nen Yatterannai Idol Desho!? - Berryz Koubou: Why so many horse moves? I don't care if Gangnam Style made it cool for a bit, horse moves are weird and awkward.
  • Himawari - Passpo: Just adding to my lack of interest in Passpo, is one predictable, uninteresting dance. Seriously, I've seen all these moves before.
  • Koboreteshimattamizunoyouni - Faint Star: This choreography is like Vogue in slow motion. Really slow, simplified Vogue. 
  • Miniskirt - AOA: I hope the members of AOA get paid. A lot. Doing choreography this awkward and degrading surely warrants some vacation days, right?
  • Unforgettable Days - Tsubasa Fly: Most of Unforgettable Days is the members of Tsubasa Fly standing around, sometimes holding their arms up or changing positions.

Costumes like the ones here showcase how innovative designers can get!
  • Ai wa Itsumo Kimi no Naka ni - Berryz Koubou: For once, the costumes designers get Berryz Koubou's outfits right! Ai wa Itsumo Kimi no Naka ni has stylishly military-like outfits.
  • Cling Cling - Perfume: Like with everything else about Cling Cling, I love the detail put into these costumes. The Oriental design is a nice change for Perfume too.
  • Juujika - Tokyo Girls' Style: I love all the different outfits for this single, from the innocent white Lolita dresses to the lacy black dresses with the titular cross on the back.
  • Kyuru Kyuru - Oomori Seiko: Can I just have Seiko's wardrobe? I love overly girlish outfits, and I would totally wear the dress Seiko wears for Kyuru Kyuru.
  • Nettaigyo no Namida - Flower: Flower's costumes are almost as wonderful as their dancing. I love how flowy and summery the outfits for Nettaigyo no Namida are.
  • Plastic 2 Mercy - Pla2me: These are pretty minimalistic costumes, but I like the different designs for Saki and Mari, along with the bright colors.
  • Sakura Apparition - Once again,'s styling team is on point to where even I can't deny the girls all look great for this single.
  • Takane no Ringo - NMB48: Objectively, I know they're kind of tacky. But space. I love all the little planets and twinkling stars embellished on these outfits...

Most clothes will look dated in ten years. These costumes look dated already.
  • Amai Melody - Kikkawa Yuu: Did Kikkawa Yuu's costume designer go insane between 2013 and 2014? Because she looks like a Vegas showgirl.
  • Black Butterfly - Juice=Juice: The sad thing is these outfits could have been beautiful. Instead, they look like and arts and crafts project by 3rd graders.
  • Kokoro no Placard - AKB48: As much as I rag on AKB48 for their music, their costumes have always been nicely styled. Until Kokoro no Placard.
  • Love take it all - C-ute: The outfits for The Future are also pretty bad, but
  • Say long goodbye - Tokyo Girls' Style: I think the costumes for Say long goodbye look worse in the music video. Either way, it looks like someone stapled tulle to a dress.
  • Summer Kaijuu - Cupitron: I don't know if Cupitron's producers were intentionally trying to rip-off Perfume's Spring of Life costumes, but couldn't they at least design good rip-off costumes?
  • Urahara Temptation - Kikkawa Yuu: Compared to Amai Melody, Urahara Temptation got the better costume, but that's like saying Labrador Retriever is better than Sayonara Crawl.
  • Yoake no Ryuuseigun - Scandal: Do you ever look at an outfit and think, "That's going to look extremely dated in five years."
Best Overall Improvement as an Artist: Oomori Seiko

I hesitate to say improvement because that implies that Oomori Seiko was a poor artist to begin with. That is far from true. Mahou ga Tsukaenai Nara Shinitai and Zettai Shoujo are amazing albums, and Seiko's work as an indie artist is extremely interesting. Her voice and style are polarizing, but nonetheless, Seiko's music is consistently interesting. However, what separates a good artist from a great artist is growth. An artist needs to evolve, experiment with new sounds and styles. With her major label debut under Avex, Seiko definitely experimented. Her first single and album under a major label show a clear shift towards a more heavily produced pop sound. But instead of "selling out" Seiko instead keeps all the passion and emotion from her first two albums and fuses it with a myriad of new sounds and styles. Listening to Mahou ga Tsukaenai Nara Shinitai and Sennou is day and night. Oomori Seiko has come a long way in the past two years, and I think she still has a lot ahead for her. I don't know what she intends to do next, but I'll be watching intently.

Best Debut: Pla2me

A small consolation with the disbandment of BiS was that nearly every member immediately started working on new projects. Kamiya Saki teamed up with former soloist Izukoneko to form a duo. Pla2me stood out the most of these post-BiS projects, mainly because their formation came so quickly after BiS' disbandment. And then they started releasing music just as quickly. Hell, Pla2me already has another single scheduled for 2015! Their debut single, Plastic 2 Mercy was awesome. The A-side was catchy and energetic, and Too misery was a pretty good song too. What Plastic 2 Mercy did best was introduce Pla2me with a clear sound and concept. I love the way Saki and Izukoneko play off each other in promotional material and choreography. That 2015 single I mentioned has them hiking in a forest chained together. Talk about teamwork... Pla2me has a distinct image, great music, and Saki from BiS is working with Izukoneko. I can't wait to see where they go next year.

Most Lackluster Debut: Cupitron

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but not the best way to make a first impression. When the promo for Cupitron came up in the middle of the year, I was bemused. Who were these five girls with the same hairstyles and formations as Perfume. Why was this promo video so much like Perfume's projection mapping. Was Cupitron trying to be a technopop group? An idol group? It seemed like their producers were just as unsure as I was. Their first single, Summer Kaijuu, was an aimless electropop song that would have used a good deal of fine tuning. The girls seemed to sing well, but underneath all those overly processed vocals, who knows? Luckily, their first physical single, Unicorn Parade seems to be a push for the better. Unicorn Parade as a whole has a more defined sound than Summer Kaijuu. It seems that Cupitron doesn't intend to stay totally in Perfume's shadow. So while Summer Kaijuu was a shaky debut for them, I think they have a bright, technopop future ahead for them. Just don't name your first album "Tryangle."

Poised to Go Places:

I don't know why. Actually, I do. is one of the most interesting idol groups on the market right now. While I personally cannot stand their music, I still think that they were one of the few idol groups this year really trying to do different things. They put out incredible music videos, their songs were memorable (even if I don't want to remember them), and they have such a distinct image. They appeal to wotas because the girls themselves are former otakus. If I were going to pick a group that I think could succeed to AKB48's (or at least Momoiro Clover Z's) level, I'd pick I would want Curumi Chronicle to succeed to that level, but seems more likely. They have the niche, the music, the music videos, and the concept. And it seems like this year, they did get a little more buzz. Sakura Apparition sold pretty well. I feel like I've read about them more in the news. If were to blow up in 2015, I wouldn't mind. Sure, none of them can sing, but they're the most consistently interesting idol group right now.

Saddest Graduation: BiS

Forget Oshima Yuko, Brand-new Idol Society was the most heartbreaking graduation this year.

I knew BiS' disbandment was coming. They made that intention very clear last year. Still, part of me hoped that maybe it was all a farce. That one the day of their disbandment concert, they would all come up on the stage and say, "Just kidding! We aren't going anywhere!" BiS was one of my favorite groups to blog about. I didn't always like their releases, but I could always guarantee that they would pull something weird and crazy. BiS was a fresh face among conventional idol groups, and they were always trying to do something different. Idol is Dead is one of my favorite albums. For only four years of activity, BiS left the idol industry with so many different songs. I only wish they'd been able to disband at Budokan like they wanted. I also wish they'd gotten more recognition. Who knows? Maybe many years later, when people look back at J-pop in the 2010s, BiS will be remembered. I'd like to think so. Nonetheless, I wish all the best to every member of BiS from Koshoji Megumi to Yokoyama Rina. BiS came a long way.

Best Concert: Perfume World Tour 3rd in NYC

Being at a concert does wonders on your judgement. Perfume World Tour 3rd in NYC was definitely not Perfume's best concert ever. There were things that probably could have been improved.

But I got to see it with my own eyes.

I can't emphasize enough how much I thought I would never see Perfume in concert. I was hopeful when I first go into them. But as I got older, I realized unless Perfume came to the US, very likely I would never be able to see them in concert. This was before Perfume started doing their World Tours or reaching out internationally, so the possibility of them even releasing their music on iTunes seemed like a vague, distant dream. Flash-forward to this year, and Perfume on their third World Tour comes to New York City. And then I get to see them. Seeing Perfume's concerts on a computer does no justice for their live performances. The lighting effects, the dancing, the costumes, and even just hearing those songs I've listened to so many times through headphones is a incredible experience. I know to Perfume, I'm just a face in the crowd. But to see them reaching out to us, a relatively small international fanbase made my year.

Best Album: Sennou by Oomori Seiko

After nearly a year of lackluster albums, Oomori Seiko came crashing through with one of the best albums of 2014. And believe me, we needed an album like Sennou. Sennou is J-pop at its craziest. Every song on this album is brimming with Seiko's personality, from the EDM Imitation Girl to the acoustic Date ha Yameyou. Sennou is a different, but welcomed, direction for Oomori Seiko. This is a quintessential J-pop album, both poking fun and lauding every facet of J-pop today. Songs like Nostalgic J-pop and Kodomo Ja Naimon 17 are clear pokes at the idol industry, but it never feels mean-spirited. Seiko has an obvious zeal for idols, and Sennou is Seiko's own take on idol music. And compared to everything actually released by idols this year, Sennou might as well be an idol album. It would be the only idol album to have any heart or personality put into it. Well, BiS had a pretty good album. But for me, Sennou stands as the best J-pop album of 2014. If you haven't listened to this pop spectacle yet, I can't recommend Sennou enough.

Worst Album: Killing Me Softly by Tokyo Girls' Style

In hindsight, I should have given this album two apples. Two, two and half, I suppose there's not much of a difference. Either way, Killing Me Softly was a huge step down from the cohesive, polished Yakusoku. I just can't figure out why. TGS had good singles for Killing Me Softly. Get the Star and Last Forever were amazing, so why would you give them two shitty Royal Mirrorball remixes? Why do all the album songs sound lengthy and underwhelming. Even the title song, Killing Me Softly, wasn't anywhere near as awesome as I'd anticipated. The best song on Killing Me Softly was pain, but even then, that was nothing special. There was no clear direction on Killing Me Softly. Was TGS trying to go to a softer, more pop sound than their last album? Songs like Zutto Wasurenai, Renai Etude, and Chiisana Kiseki indicate that. Even the incredible Juujika from their single was turned into a watered down generic TGS song. Tokyo Girls' Style usually delivers tight, funky songs, but Killing Me Softly killed any of hopes for an album like that.

Most Underused Member of a Group: Young Ji

Oh, Kara. It's been a rough year for you. First the loss of Nicole and Jiyoung and then the addition of a new girl. Maybe Young Ji gets used in more promotional material, but in Kara's Japanese release of Mamma Mia! I barely heard her. That might not be a huge problem if Kara had more members. But as of now, they're only a four-member group. They've got to utilize everyone. Besides, I think Young Ji fits well into Kara. I don't see why DSP wouldn't use her more... Oh, wait. Does Young Ji speak Japanese? Well shoot. Now I feel like an idiot. Still, I do hope to see more of Young Ji in Kara. She seems to fit in well with the group, and the little I heard of her, she seems to have a nice voice too. And... I guess she's a good dancer? Kara had a pretty shitty year, so hopefully next year DSP figures out what to do with them. And hopefully next year, Young Ji will be fully integrated into Kara!

Fastest Ascension to the Front: Hashimoto Kanna

How fast did this happen? I had never heard of Rev. from DVL and I heard of Hashimoto Kanna. Then all-the-sudden she was all over the blogsphere. Apparently, Hashimoto Kanna is a "Once-in-a-lifetime" idol, which I suppose is the equivalent of Idol Jesus. I don't know if Hashimoto Kanna has the power to heal the sick and raise the dead, but her adoration did at least give Rev. from DVL some exposure. Sure, I still don't listen to Rev. from DVL, but now at least I've heard of them! Hashimoto Kanna seems like a decent idol. I wouldn't call her a "Once-in-a-lifetime" idol, but she seems charming and charismatic. She's front and center in all of Rev. from DVL's PVs I've seen, and I think she flaunts the position well. I don't know how other Rev. from DVL fans feel about her, but if I were to remake my Front Girls I am Okay With post again, Hashimoto Kanna would probably make the list. Maybe she can bring some the stagnant idol industry back to life!

Biggest Scandal: Hello Kitty

Ever feel secondhand embarrassment for a singer? Hello Kitty wasn't so much of a scandal in Japan as it was everywhere else. Editorials about cultural appropriation popped up left and right. Everyone was in an uproar over Avril Lavigne's Hello Kitty. I thought a lot of writers brought up interesting points, arguing for and against why Hello Kitty was offensive. And where did I stand in all this? Most of all, I thought Hello Kitty was just terrible. Not even taking into how offensive it may or may not be, Hello Kitty is an embarrassing, awful song. The Avril Lavigne that sang Complicated would have balked at Hello Kitty. This song has juvenile lyrics, a grating chorus, and the random Japanese phrases sound about as smooth as random Japanese phrases can sound. Is Hello Kitty cultural appropriation? Maybe it is. I can see if being cultural appropriation. But I am not one to make a case for that. I am one to cram Hello Kitty into the back of my mind, because I never want to hear this song again. Also forgetting the awkward music would help too.

Thing That Needs to Go Away: AKB48

I'm still slowly ascending to that higher plane of ignorance where I no longer care about what AKB48 is up to. I'm about halfway there. That process would go a lot more quickly if AKB48 would just go away. Five years now and AKB48 is just as prominent as they were back in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, when they were actually trying to release good songs and music videos, I was okay with all the AKB48 exposure. I know a good deal of H!P fans reacted negatively to all the AKB48 flooding the idol industry, but I was okay with both existing harmoniously. Oh, how the times have changed. If AKB48 wasn't releasing the same songs every single, I'd be a little more okay with their constant exposure. But now I think they're overhyped, overexposed, and using way too many gimmicks to cling to their million-sales streak. I keep thinking they're on the road to decline, but then they release a new single and surprise! They're not going anywhere! I swear, if AKB48's still around when I'm forty... I don't know what I'll do but it'll be an act of rage and frustration.

Idol of the Year: Curumi Chronicle

2013 was just the start for Curumi Chronicle. 2014 was the year she really kicked into high gear. With three singles, and a bonus Christmas single, 2014 was a great year for Curumi Chronicle. Her music was consistently amazing, and she seemed to be getting more comfortable doing lives. Not to mention she balanced high school and a music career. I know a lot of idols do that, but Curumi Chronicle is solo. She doesn't have other members to back her up. It's her, with some music, alone on a stage performing for dozens of fans. That's got to be nerve-wracking to start with. And it was for Curumi Chronicle. But over 2014, she's slowly blossomed and gained confidence onstage. Releasing three amazing singles helps too. Of course, in November, she announced a temporary hiatus until the spring so she could work on entrance exams. Even in hiatus though, she released another single, even if it was a single with older reworked songs! I love the sheer output Curumi Chronicle had this year. She's one of my favorite technopop idols active right now! Maybe now that Saori@destiny's returned as Saoriiiii, the two of them can collaborate!

Group of the Year: BiS

Oh, BiS. I miss blogging about you. I miss screencapping your crazy music videos and waiting excitedly to see what crazy stunt you would pull next. Well, BiS went out with a bang this year. Apart from releasing two singles, an album, and a compilation album, they seemed to be everywhere. They released another movie, they collaborated with Vampillia, and they did a Nerve dance video event. I do like that BiS took disbandment into their own hands, instead of sticking around for years and years and fading into obscurity. Four years is a decent shelf life for an idol group, and BiS made the best of those four years. By 2014, their lineup had changed substantially, along with their music, but BiS was still the same trend-shirking idol group they were in 2010. Maybe even more so than in 2010. I didn't love everything BiS put out this year, but everything they did grabbed my attention. One last time, I wish all the best to Pour Lui, Hirano Nozomi, Kamiya Saki, Tentenko, First Summer Uika, Koshoji Megumi, Michibayashi Rio, Terashima Yufu, Wakisaki Yurika, Nakayama Yukiko, and Yokoyama Rina.

And that's a wrap to 2014! Personally, I'm excited for 2015 to start. 2014 had its ups and downs (well, more downs that ups it seems...). So what were your favorite releases of 2014? Your least favorites?

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: A Year of Change

A lot changed.

God, where do I even start? There wasn't just a lot of change in the J-pop industry, but also on the Wonderland and in my own life. And since J-pop affects what I blog about on the Wonderland and my life affects how much I blog on the Wonderland, those three components are more-or-less connected.

But let's start this recap with the most important component of this trio: the groups I blog about! As per tradition, let's start with Perfume.

Perfume was fairly off the radar the first half of 2014 in terms of music. The amount of music they did release this year was pretty scant. The only new material Perfume released in 2014 was Cling Cling. On the up side, that single had four new songs as opposed to normally two! And Cling Cling was a pretty good single! I loved the cover art and the outfits for it, and the four songs on it all offered some level of quality. I think Perfume did a good job promoting Cling Cling too. Like using the Hold Your Hand video contest to make a fan video, that was a great way to promote Hold Your Hand! And then Display got a short video used for Panasonic. The only song off Cling Cling not to have an promotional tie-ins was the best song off the single, Ijiwaru na Hello. I do wish Perfume had squeezed in one more single for 2014, but I can see why they didn't.

And why is that? Because they came to the United States!!!

I am still in a state of dreaming every time I think about Perfume's concert in New York City. Perfume kicked off their third world tour this year. The great thing about this year's world tour though was Perfume performed in the United States for the first time! With so many American Perfume fans, I know I wasn't the only fan dancing for joy when I first heard this news. And going to the New York City concert was amazing. Just as amazing was seeing so many people at the concert supporting Perfume. I really do hope they come back to the United States. Along with the United States, Perfume also performed in Taiwan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. So American fans weren't the only happy international fans this year!

Before World Tour 3rd, Perfume also held a nationwide tour, 5th Tour Gurungurun, along with Perfume FES!! 2014. 5th Tour Gurungurun lasted a bit, and I didn't follow it very closely. The highlight of Perfume FES!! this year was a wider roster of artists Perfume performed with. Nine different groups, including 9nine. I'd always wondered what happens when two Nishiwakis are on stage, and there's just as much crying as I expected! Seeing Perfume perform with 9nine was definitely a surreal experience, especially when A-chan and Sayaka switched places. 9nine was the only idol group at Perfume FES!! 2014 but the other eight artists Perfume performed with were a pretty diverse group. Overall, a pretty cool lineup for Perfume FES!! 2014.

For me, the highlight of Perfume in 2014 was no doubt their concert in the United States. Being there helped a lot. Other than that, this was a pretty good year for Perfume. Not quite as exciting as 2013 but still with just enough surprises (again, that World Tour 3rd in New York City).

At least Perfume didn't disband this year. After four years of activity, BiS disbanded in July at Yokohama Arena. Had I lived in Japan, I would have totally been there. I wasn't shocked at the announcement of BiS' disbandment, but that doesn't mean I wanted it to happen. BiS had been intending to disband a good year in advance, with the intention of not becoming idol group that grows stagnant due to being around too long. The disbandment happened with good intent... but I still wish it hadn't happened. BiS spent their final year as a group keeping up all the crazy antics of the past three years. And their buildup toward disbandment was done really well. My favorite thing they did was the Nerve dance event, where other idol groups and fans danced to part of Nerve to commemorate BiS. Even I decided to to record a Nerve dance video! But that's nothing to be concerned about, so let's talk about something a little bit happier than BiS' disbandment!

And that's the boatload of music they released this year! BiS released two singles, a third original album, a best-of album, and they contributed on Vampillia's The Divine Move. Not all of the material BiS released this year was amazing, but a good deal of it was enjoyably weird. StupiG and Final Dance/nerve were both pretty good BiS singles. StupiG was a little abrasive, but Final Dance/nerve was a heartwarming final single. Who Killed Idol? isn't my favorite BiS album but still had some great songs. And Uryaoi!! was a wonderful compilation of BiS' discography. I love having all their covers on one single. I really am going to miss reviewing BiS' music next year. They were one of my favorite groups to review; I don't know what I'll do now that they're gone.

Oh, that's right. I can review all the groups the members started after disbandment!

There were several post-BiS projects. Pour Lui, Saki, Tentenko, and Megumi have all gone on to join other groups or create their own projects. Pour Lui had already formed Lui Frontic Matsukuma Japan before BiS' disbandment, so she just released more music with the band. Saki teamed up with former soloist Izukoneko to form Pla2me. Tentenko did some DJ work then released a retro music video for a song called Good bye, Good girl. Megumi's joined a four-member idol group called Maison book girl, along with two Miss ID finalists. Also, Terashima Yufu went solo earlier in 2014, but that was before BiS' disbandment. Now Nozomi and Uika need to do something, and everyone in BiS will be on their merry way doing things! Obviously, none of these new groups will ever replicate BiS, but seeing all the former BiS members get work after disbandment is great to see. I do hope they all go places in the future.

Perfume wasn't the only group to travel to the United States this year. In July, Tokyo Girls' Style traveled to J-pop Summit in San Francisco! Shame it was over on the west coast. There's no way I could have seen them perform. I saw footage from the live though! I don't think there were as many TGS fans at J-pop Summit as there were Perfume fans at Hammerstein Ballroom. Still, it's nice to see international fans coming out and supporting TGS. I didn't ever take TGS as a group to reach out overseas, so hearing about them traveling to the United States was a pleasant surprise! I wonder if they'll ever come back...

Musically, Tokyo Girls' Style had a pretty packed year. They released three singles, one album, and a collaboration album called Maltine Girls Wave. Between that and the San Francisco concert, TGS must be exhausted after 2014. Of the three singles from this year, Juujika stood out the most. Themed around horror, the single had the girls sing solo covers of popular horror songs. I loved that idea, and it was a fresh approach for Tokyo Girls' Style. Partition Love and Say long goodbye/Himawari to Hoshizuku -English Version- were more standard releases. However, they did do some cool visual stuff, like everything with Hardboiled Night. For Maltine Girls Wave the girls also recorded solo music videos. And they appeared in a horror movie! Their music videos (other than Partition Love which I still detest) were the level of quality and artsiness I've come to expect from TGS. Wow, summing up everything TGS did, I'm realizing they did a ton of stuff this year...

Curumi Chronicle had a banner year. She released four singles all while balancing concerts and school. I wasn't all that surprised when she announced a temporary hiatus toward the end of 2014. I got a little nervous at the hiatus announcement, but then I read that Curumi would return in the spring. Besides, she has a perfectly understandable reason for hiatus; she's preparing for entrance exams to get into a university. As someone who went through the same stress-inducing process of getting into a college, I wish Curumi all the best in the exam process. I know Japan's university admission can be extremely difficult. Even in her hiatus though, Curumi still released another single, White Sweet Cake! Technically, it was released digitally last year, but the single version of White Sweet Cake got a great remix and an Usagi Disco mash up. With Second Spring EP, 17, Touch Me, and White Sweet Cake all full of great technopop, I'd say this was a great year for Curumi Chronicle. Oh, and did I mention she got her first music video? Curumi's going places!

Oomori Seiko has gone above and beyond impressing me this year. I know she's not really the type of artist I review on the Wonderland, but I had to review Sennou. I would have gone to... Blogging Jail had I not reviewed that masterpiece of an album. Sennou capped off a pretty good year for Oomori Seiko. After two years on an independent label, Seiko switched to Avex trax. I was a little worried about the switch to a major label, but Seiko's just as consistently vibrant and crazy as she was on her indie label. Sennou really is a great album, and Seiko clearly has a lot of ideas. I'm hoping now that being under a major label will give Seiko more recognition. I could see Seiko paralleling Shiina Ringo in terms of fame. So who knows?

I know the Hello! Project groups did things. A lot of things actually... Berryz announced hiatus, Morning Musume got a real 12th Generation, S/mileage got a 3rd generation, S/mileage is no longer S/mileage, Country Musume got brought back to life, did I get everything? I think the only groups not to experience any sort of shocking change were C-ute and Juice=Juice. While I know H!P went through a lot of changes with lineup, I didn't feel that invested in any of it. Especially S/mileage. Do you know how little I cared about S/mileage? I didn't find out they'd changed their name until a few days ago. For the record, "Angerme" is a completely ridiculous name.

I followed Morning Musume the closest, mainly their musical releases. And they had hit-or-miss music this year. I think their electropop style is finally starting to grow old with more than a handful of fans. Songs like Toki no Koe Sora no Koe were great but songs like Tiki Bun and Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa make me want Momusu to go a different direction. And maybe in 2015 they will. With the graduation of Michishige Sayumi and the addition of four new members, I'm curious to see how this will affect Morning Musume. Will the 12th Generation affect the music? The image? The vocals? I don't know, but with everyone below Generation 9 out, Morning Musume is now a 100% fresh-faced group. It's kind of weird looking at everything below Maji Desu ka ska! and seeing nobody from the current lineup in the music videos. Is this how older fans felt when the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Generations started graduating?

The only AKS group I have remote interest in is Nogizaka46. Which is hilarious ironic since that was the reverse two years ago. I have been unashamedly vocal about my disappointment in AKB48, maybe a little too vocal. I've only had one person get truly pissed off about me bashing AKB48, but that's still one person. Was I being too harsh on AKB48? Looking back... I don't think so. I never put the girls at fault for the music AKB48's released nor the music videos. They're just doing their jobs. Same for everyone in SKE48, NMB48, HKT48, all the other groups. But I have started getting sick of the entire franchise. They've been dominating the market for five years now.

I feel like now should be a turning point. These past five years have fruitful for idol groups. But remember the 1980s? When idols were everywhere? When the 1990s came, idols slowly phased out and there was more emphasis on solo artists. By the late 1990s, and especially the early to mid 2000s, solo artists like Utada Hikaru, Amuro Namie, and Hamasaki Ayumi dominated the market. I can see history repeating itself. I don't know if the exact same trend will happen, but I do feel like Japan's music industry is on the tip of change. However, as long as AKB48 keeps whipping out new gimmicks, I don't think that change can happen yet. There needs to be something new, something fresh and rightly promoted, to overtake the industry and set a new precedent. Bottom line is, I am sick of AKB48. I'd love to ignore them, but seeing as they're the most popular female idol group in J-pop right now, that's a lot harder to put into practice.

There were a few big graduations this year. Oshima Yuko and Michishige Sayumi were probably the biggest. I wasn't surprised about either, especially Michishige Sayumi's. She'd been in Morning Musume for over a decade, and after a few years leading the group, she's left Momusu in a good place. I have good faith that Mizuki will make a fine leader. Oshima Yuko had also been with AKB48 for awhile. With the wave of older generation girls leaving AKB48, Yuko graduating seemed natural. Once Maeda Atsuko graduated AKB48, there wasn't much left for Yuko anyway. I didn't shed many tears over the graduation.

In the world of K-pop were also some shocking lineup changes. Kara lost two members then held a reality show to get more. That was probably as awkward as it sounded, but to make up for the loss of Nicole and Jiyoung, Young Ji was added to the group. I haven't seen much of her in Kara, but she seems to fit in. I actually didn't think DSP did a good job of showcasing her in Kara's comeback Japanese single. Maybe she was promoted more in their Korean single. Either way, my interest in Kara is waning, but I may see what they do next year.

My interesting in Girls' Generation was increasing when news dropped that one of the members had been kicked out. I wasn't that familiar with Girls' Generation to get too invested in that debacle, but I always thought Girls' Generation as a very stable group. I don't know much about Jessica other than she's American, but I also thought the reasons SM stated for kicking her out seemed kind of flimsy? I doubt Girls' Generation will suffer much from the loss of Jessica, seeing how popular they are, but I was reviewing one of their music videos for October's Time Capsule Review when the news broke literally a day before I published the review. Talk about bad timing. Also, is it just me or does SM seem like a really shitty company? Every time I hear about them, they're kicking someone out of a group or fans online are complaining about them.

Instead of going out in a blaze of glory like BiS, Berryz Koubou opted to go on "hiatus." The news was met by international fans with sadness but not surprise. Berryz Koubou has been around for ten years; that's a long time for an idol group. The girls looked more than ready to move on, and some of them already have. Momoko's planning to help out with another idol group once Berryz embarks on hiatus. I still don't understand why Berryz doesn't up and disband, but maybe because nobody (management included) wants to admit to wanting that kind of closure. I think the girls of Berryz deserve to pursue new opportunities, whether they're in or out of the entertainment industry. I probably won't follow any of them after hiatus (I barely follow Berryz now), but I do wish them all the best after the hiatus comes into effect.

I found a lot more miscellaneous idol groups this year than in 2013. Groups like Cupitron, Puzzle Girls, Himekyun Fruit Can, Especia, and Starmarie. You know, groups that aren't extremely popular but still have a niche fanbase. I didn't get into all these groups, but I did at least listen to some of their music. And because these groups don't have devoted fanbases that release their material online, reviewing their music was even harder. But I liked branching out and finding idol groups that actually seemed interesting. I think the groups I'd like to more from are Puzzle Girls, Himekyun Fruit Can, and Especia. Oh, and Flower! They're more popular than the other groups I mentioned, but I've just recently started getting into Flower. Mainly thanks to their music videos. I found out they're releasing another single in January, so I'll probably review the music video! The other groups, who knows? Puzzle Girls is an indie idol group, so I'll probably never hear from them again. Himekyun Fruit Can released an album recently, which I'd like to review. While I still don't completely understand Especia's appeal, they are slowly growing on me.

For the handful of groups I did get interested in, I have started losing interest in a lot more groups. And not just one-or-two-time reviewed groups, I'm talking about some of my regulars.

Passpo in particular has bored me this year. I was hoping after the pretty good Jejejejet!! they would make a turn for the better. However, the material they've released this year is downright dull. Okay, Himawari was decent, but not enough to rekindle my interest in the group. They seem to be stuck releasing the same style of pop rock music and doing the same music videos with different color schemes. What happened to all the creativity from their earlier singles? With the departure of Okunaka Makoto, I doubt I'll be keeping close tabs on Passpo for much longer. I don't think they're a terrible group, and I won't put them on the Blacklist or anything crazy like that. I'll probably just stop reviewing them. Would anyone be terribly distraught over that?

Kara, Scandal, Weather Girls, Momoiro Clover Z, and Kyarypamyupamyu have also started to lose my interest. Kara mainly due to lack of activity. After the release of Hello World, Scandal's not completely off my radar. Maybe from now on I'll just review their albums since I always find more I like in their album songs. Weather Girls didn't release anything bad per say, but none of their music stood out to me save for one song. And I get the feeling they're not sticking around much longer. This year Momoiro Clover Z disappointed me. What happened to the zaniness? The creativity? Naitemo Iin da yo was awful, and Moon Pride wasn't anywhere near as awesome as it could have been. They're doing a collaboration with Kiss next year, so that should be an entertaining train wreck at least. Kyary is constantly on my love-it-or-hate-it list, but I do feel like she's getting a little oversaturated as of 2014. Luckily, she still releases interesting music videos, so that will probably keep me reviewing her material.

I also feel like I've started losing interest in idol music in general. I've found a few new groups I like, but most of the older groups I like are losing members or they've changed too much from what made me like them in the first place. What I'm lacking in idol music, I'm finding in just... J-pop music. I found a lot of J-pop artists this year that I really like. So many I need to make a list for all of them:

The brilliant green
Goto Mariko
Judy and Mary
Kinoco Hotel
Shishido Kavka
Suzuki Ami
Tarte Tatin

And none of those artists are idols. So while I've been discovering all this really cool J-pop music, a lot of idol music's been kind of pushed to the side. I still follow groups like Bellring Shoujo Heart and Tokyo Girls' Style, and I followed BiS until the end. And of course, I'll never grow tired of Perfume. But when I listen to all this awesome music then go back to groups like Passpo and MomoClo that are releasing mediocre music, my desire to write about those groups is a lot less enthusiastic. I haven't quite figured out what to do about this problem yet. I may start cutting down the groups I review next year. Sort of an out with the old, in with the new change. It's not fair to you readers that I'm half-assing reviews of songs I don't really want to review.

So what about the Wonderland itself? Compared to 2013, I didn't feel as active. Weirdly enough, I wrote a lot this year. I just didn't write on the Wonderland as much as I would have liked. Toward the end of the year, I had a huge backlog of reviews that I never finished. I do wish I could have finished some of those reviews, but I simply didn't have the time. I still love blogging, and I love all the feedback my readers give me. I don't want to let you guys down. I really appreciate people sticking around even when the Wonderland got a little less active.

And stick around you guys did! This year, I got more views on the Wonderland than my past three years blogging, which is insane. At the end of 2013, the Wonderland had 112,000 hits. At the end of 2014, the Wonderland has 230,000 hits. That's 118,000 views in just this past year.

1. 10 Idol Songs I Adore
2. Berryz Koubou to Disband- I Mean Go on "Hiatus"
3. Bagels and Cupcakes: Perfume World Tour 3rd in NYC
4. The Surprisingly Sad Story of a Dandelion
5. The Last of AKB48
6. Nope.
7. Blooming into Second Spring
8. Let's Talk about Babymetal
9. My Top 10 Perfume Music Videos
10. The Conventions of Unconventional Idols

So five reviews and five miscellaneous posts. A nice mix! As to be expected, the most read posts were either news or reviews of AKS groups. Actually, there weren't too many AKS posts in the top ten, only three. And the most read post was one of my favorites I've written! I'm also extremely happy that my Perfume write-up got so many views. That bump from 2chan helped a lot. And I think someone on Twitter posted my review of Second Spring EP. I am really happy that my unconventional idols got a lot of views. I'd wanted to write about Togawa Jun, and I spent weeks writing and re-writing this editorial. I wish I'd been able to write a little more this year, but I am happy to see positive feedback from the posts I did write!

And that's all on you guys. I just sit at the keyboard and make words. You guys are the ones kind enough to read my writing. So thank you for that!

And then... there was college.

A college student at a college library.

College is the big reason why I didn't get to blog as much as I wanted to. Being out of school for break has given me the most free time I've had in months. While college did give me less time to write, college was exactly what I needed. Look, I lived in a small town my whole life. I needed a change of location. I needed to be somewhere with people my age, in a city that actually had things to do. And honestly, this first semester has been, for the most part, amazing. I've loved the atmosphere, my classes, the campus, the people, everything. After two years at a really small high school with not many friends and a lot of free time, college was the first time I found myself truly busy. I stayed out late a lot, watching movies, hanging out with friends, going downtown, I even volunteered for a film festival! I never thought I'd be able to do something so cool. I also got to act in three student films, adding to the list of things I never thought I'd do. I couldn't have asked for a better first semester.

Well... not getting strep throat would have been nice.

I made a sign for my dorm.

I got sick quite a bit my first semester. I think because I was living in a very old, very crowded dorm. I had really bad allergies at the beginning of the year, I got strep in October, and then I got an upset stomach at least twice during the semester. The worst was strep. I actually had to go to the doctor's and get a note to miss class. The worst was I had strep on Halloween. I was so excited for my first Halloween in college. Figures I'd get strep throat!

I'm expecting next semester to be just as, if not busier than last semester. My first two months at school, I had a little more free time. Now though, I have a lot going on. I have friends, I have a boyfriend, I have classes, and I have clubs and other commitments. Also, I'm filling out applications to study abroad. I intend to study abroad for two months this summer in Scotland. I have never left the United States before, so I'm a little nervous about the entire process. There's a lot of paperwork to fill out when studying abroad. I have to fill out a passport application, my university's application, the Scotland university's application, and a scholarships/grants applications. So yeah. A lot of paperwork. And as usual, classes will give me plenty to do. I'll do my best to write more next semester, but I don't know how much time I'll have.

A day before the first day of 2014, before I knew how much my life was going to change and how that would affect the Wonderland, I had a traditional list of hope and dreams for 2014. Some of these dreams came true, others remained very much dreams.

Shall we see how Nia's Hopes and Dreams for 2014 actually panned out?

AKB48 Stops Sucking - Did not happen. They sucked so much I had to put them on my Idol Blacklist. Blogging has been much better since then.

Bellring Shoujo Heart Releases More Stuff - Definitely happened! Three singles and an album, Bellring Shoujo Heart released a boatload of material.

Berryz Koubou Stops Sucking - Kind of happened? Berryz had some decent songs this year, but that was overshadowed by their announced hiatus.

BiS Doesn't Disband - Sadly, BiS disbanded July 8. In the wake of disbandment though, the members embarked on new projects!

BiS Releases Another Album - Happened. BiS released their third original album, Who Killed Idol?, along with compilation album, Uryaoi!!!

C-ute Sells as Well as Morning Musume - I'm gonna say this didn't happen. C-ute sold about half of what Morning Musume sold, singles wise.

H!P Lays Off the Double A-sides - Did not happen. Not by a long shot. Although Tsunku released triple A-sides. I guess technically that fulfills this one.

Kus Kus Continues Releasing Technopop Music

No Big Scandals - ...happened? I think there was one dating scandal in an AKS group, but not enough to make a dent. The biggest scandal was ironically from Canada.

Perfume Comes to America - Miraculously this one happened! Perfume went to not only Los Angeles but New York City where a very happy Nia saw them live.

Tokyo Girls' Styles Gets the Sales they Deserve - Didn't happen. Oh well, that's why they're called dreams.

Wotas Stop Bitching about Suzuki Kanon's Weight - I guess this happened? I didn't keep up closely enough with Morning Musume to tell.

I'm Still Able to Blog in College - Happened. College took a toll on how much I blogged, but I still managed to blog at least a little bit.

I Learn to Tolerate - HA! 2013 Nia, you had such hope. I still love's music videos, but I still cannot stand their music.

And that was 2014 in a nutshell. Who's ready for 2015?