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?


  1. They only had six songs over their whole career, but everything from KOR=GIRL was really fantastic, to the extent that I ended up buying one of the KORG Wavedrums they use on their album. I spoke with one of the members on Twitter (about... two weeks before she deactivated her account and disappeared again?) and she said she was considering returning to music as a solo artist, but so far I've not heard anything come of that. I think Puzzle Girls just recently changed their name to "Question" and released a free download song, but as far as I remember it's not really on the same level as "?", and so I have already forgotten all about it, hmm.

    I was going to end this comment with a warning about how incompetent university administration is in Scotland, but since I started studying in France I will never complain about Scotland again, so it's actually not that bad.

    1. I know, I really wish KOR=GIRL had lasted longer. Their mini album was my jam. It's a shame that both members are inactive now and there's no way of contacting them. Maybe they'll pull what Saori@destiny did and re-emerge with a new name! Thanks for the update about Puzzle Girls or Question as I should say. I found the music video for their latest song on Youtube. The music video's kind of low budget, but it's cute. Same goes for the song. You're right, this new song isn't really up to par with ?. I think it's a nice song though!

      University administration isn't stellar in the U.S. either. I figure I can deal with it though. Most of the application process is through my university to the Scotland university, so hopefully I won't have to deal with the Scotland university administration as much.

  2. Ah Nia, it's been a while! I'm so glad you got to see Perfume before your eyes. I heard the NYC concert was a bit crowded though, was it? Nevertheless I think you made a good list, some I agree on and some I feel I should venture to know about especially new and current groups. My love for Hello Project has stopped these days if you read here:

    But I must agree that some of the songs for morning Musume and C-ute were interesting. I hope to be honest there are more scandals, something interesting but not hurtful to any idols.

    Your study abroad in Scotland sounds interesting! ^^ what are you studying in university? Are you graduating soon? Also I wonder if you'd like to do a collaboration post one day ^^

    Hope you had a good start to the year and I'll continue to check out your blog more.

    1. I know! Life is crazy! I wouldn't say the NYC concert was super crowded, but there were a ton of people there. The venue was able to hold everyone though, and I never felt like I was being squished.

      Honestly, I've got one foot out the door already for H!P. I agree with you, I feel very out of touch with most of the groups, especially the newer ones like Juice=Juice and Angerme or the group formerly known as S/mileage. That and getting more interested in J-pop artists over idols, I don't really have that much invested in H!P. I think they have a few decent songs, but nothing impressive.

      Frankly, I would love a scandal. Not an AKB48 one, and preferably not a dating scandal, but something interesting.

      Currently I intend to double major in Psychology and possibly Creative Writing or Criminology. I may minor in Criminology or minor in Journalism. I've got three and half years left, so I have plenty of time to get my degree.

      I'd love to do a collaboration post! I just need to find the time to do one; I barely have time to write as things are now. My email's on my Where to Find Me page, so if you have any ideas, just shoot them by me!

      Good luck in the new year to you too! Hope your blog's going well!