Friday, March 28, 2014

Idols On The RIZE!

A few months ago when I was looking at the blogs for Onigokko members I came across mention of the group Candy Zoo.  I also saw some photos of Candy Zoo posing with Onigokko members. This made me curious as to who they were, and I found the Candy Zoo blog and bookmarked it.  I took me a while before I did some digging, but I found a few videos on YouTube, mostly short videos promoting the group or the members doing some kind of challenge.  I also discovered that Candy Zoo were created by a company named RIZE Productions, and they were one of three idol groups from RIZE.  After watching videos for the other two groups, loop and FES☆TIVE, I became a fan of all three RIZE groups.  Now, I’ll be honest: I’m still learning about all the RIZE groups, so I can only give short and basic profiles.  I have the most information about Candy Zoo since they are the first group I took an interest in, and are my favorite of the three.  I received some help from my Japanese friend Yacchan, but I did a lot of the research myself.

Candy Zoo formed on May 18, 2013.  Each girl not only has an official color, but also an official animal, as would be expected from a group with “Zoo” in its name.  Although most of the member’s animals are ones that you would find in a zoo, the leader’s official animal is a sheep.  Speaking of whom, in what may be a first for a Japanese idol group, the leader, Sakamaki Yuuna, is not the oldest, but rather the youngest.  Candy Zoo recently performed a new song titled “GO GO ☆ Dinosaur”.  (I can’t wait to see a fan video of this song.)  The saddest news about Candy Zoo, from my point anyway, since I recently became a fan, is that the oldest member, Ootsuka Minami, is graduating on May 25.

I have found two fan videos for Candy Zoo on YouTube, and both of them have their problems.  You might prefer to watch the HD video which has the best picture and sound, but also has a very rowdy audience, including one guy who jumps up and down in front of the camera way too much. The low quality video has has an extra song not in the HD video, however.  (I can't seem to embed these videos.  Sorry.)


Sakamaki Yuuna, Leader
Born: November 20, 2002 
Nickname: Yuuna
Color: Pink
Animal: Sheep                                          

Ootsuka Minami
Born: June 28, 2001
Nickname: Minarin
Color: Red
Animal: Lion

Chiba Rian
Born: July 14, 2001
Nickname: Rianchan
Color: Yellow
Animal: Giraffe

Hoshi Riara
Born: November 16, 2001
Nickname: Riichan
Color: White
Animal: Zebra

Yamamoto Himiko
Born: April 19, 2002
Nickname: Himichan
Color: Blue
Animal: Penguin

Nishisato Rina
Born: April 28, 2002
Nickname: Rinachan
Color: Orange
Animal: Panda


“Soreike! Candy Zoo Machii” (“Let’s Go! Candy Zoo March”) (December 6, 2013)

Candy Zoo Blog

The first group RIZE created was the military-themed loop, which formed on April 9, 2012 with six members.  During May and June 2013 loop had seven members, but they went back down to six, after the departure of original member of Yamada Ami.  They are the only RIZE group with an official music video, for their song “Susume! Hope!” (“Forward! Hope!”).  While I am thinking about it, happy 18th birthday to loop's leader, Asami Remi!  

Asami Remi, Leader - Born on March 29, 1996
Kawai Rena - Born on November 19, 1998
Itabashi Miu - Born on July 14, 1999
Yoshimura Megumi - Born on October 2, 2000
Katsuki Airi - Born on October 22, 2000
Hosho / Otake Yuria*, Nickname: Yuririn - Born on December 3, 2001

Former Member (2012 to 2013):
Yamada Ami

*Yuria changed her family name to Hosho, although no official reason has been given.

loop Blog

FES☆TIVE formed on May 18, 2013 with seven members.  At one point there were eight members, but currently there are seven again.  However, I think one member may be graduating soon.  

Here's a low quality video for the song “Wonderful Festival”.  

Suzuki Mitsuki, Leader - Born on December 13, 1996
Sakamoto Yuna - Born on October 8, 1994
Hayama Honoka - Born on January 19, 1996
Yokoi Honami - Born on September 2, 1998
Sakai Ami - Born on October 6, 1998
Fujimura Momoka - Born on March 29, 1999
Shiozake Reia - Born on September 7, 1999


The RIZE Productions Idols website has some English on it, but some of the words are misspelled. When you go to the “Members” section and click on one of the misspellings of “animation” you will open a new window to the same “Members” section.  At least one name in the “Members” section is misspelled as well. Obviously this website has a few problems.

RIZE Productions Idols Website
RIZE Productions Website


Monday, March 17, 2014

ORI☆HIMETAI - Sendai's Hardest Working Idols

Michinoku Sendai ORI☆HIMETAI are an indie idol group formed in August 2011 after the devastating earthquake that hit Japan.  The group are comprised of girls who survived that earthquake and are dedicated to raising money in order to rebuild Sendai and volunteering their services to help the homeless, hungry and elderly people.  They perform live concerts as a way of thanking the people who have donated money and services to bring their beloved home town back to as normal as possible.

ORI☆HIMETAI started out with 6 members, but currently have 12, with one of them listed as a trainee on the official website.  How long one stays a trainee before becoming a full member is unclear.  For example, KAREN, the youngest member, was listed as a trainee for over a year before becoming a full member of the group.  The members of ORI☆HIMETAI go by their given names only written with English letters in all capitals. (Defunct idol group PEACEFUL did the same thing.)  The leader of ORI☆HIMETAI is NODOCA, who used to spell her name NODOKA, and she isn't the oldest member of the group.  This is another thing that makes ORI☆HIMETAI a bit different from other idol groups.

While ORI☆HIMETAI are like many idol groups that try to keep a positive, happy attitude, once in a while you will see a blog post such as the one written by ANNE on April 8, 2013.  In this blog article ANNE mentions that ORI☆HIMETAI helped to clean up a school that was still damaged after two years.  She mentions all the broken glass that needed cleaned up as well as the death toll in that area.  This is a real wake up call, a stark contrast to the ultra cute blog posts many idols make.

I watched a few hours of videos on YouTube these past few days looking for some good ORI☆HIMETAI videos to share.  The group has an official YouTube channel called TRACK JASIA (the name of the studio where they perform), but there isn't an official music video for any of their songs, and many of the videos on this channel are low quality, with some that even get cut off suddenly.  The fan videos are sometimes in HD, but they also suffer from a variety of picture and sound problems.  So, I'm going to share a couple videos that aren't perfect, but worth watching if you want to check out the group perform live.  I wanted to find a recent video of the full group, so I'm choosing a song from the TRACK JASIA channel from November 2013 called "Christmas Kiss".

The next video is from March of this year, and it's in HD, but it only has 7 members in it.

NODOCA, formerly NODOKA, Leader - Born on November 24, 1999
ERINA, Sub-Leader - Born on October 6, 1996
HANNA, Sub-Leader - Born on July 29, 1998
RINA - Born on January 23, 1999
YUNA - Born on June 27, 1999
ANNE - Born on April 24, 2000
YURIA - Born on February 15, 2000
ERIN, formerly ERI - Born on September 28, 1999
MARIE - Born on July 30, 2001
SORA - Born on September 24, 2001
KAREN - Born on November 26, 2002
MINAMI - Born on August 22, 1998


"Heart to Heart x 9" (CD + DVD) (June 2, 2012)
"Papa ~Sunaoninarenakute~ Just the way you are" (October 28, 2012)
"ORI☆STAR Love Jet" & "Orange Ole! Ole!" (December 24, 2012)
"Namiuchigiwa no Kataomoi" (February 24, 2013) (HANNA solo CD)
"Don't play hard to get" & "Matta itsuka" ("Someday") (March 31, 2013)
"Sora ga Aoi" ("The Sky is Blue") & "Shanpu PUPUPU" ("Shampoo PUPUPU") by RINA (June 9, 2013)
"Christmas Kiss" & "Onichan to Yoba Sete" by MILKYWAYS* (October 27, 2013)
"Kimi ni Todoku Kaze ni Nare" & "Takara Mono" (March 16, 2014)


"Lyashi.." ("Healing..") (December 8, 2013)

Various Artists Compilation Album:
"Japan Idol File" (April 28, 2013; Disc 1, Track 5, "Sakura no Hana ga Saku Goro"

Official Website
Official Blog
Official Twitter
Official Facebook

Thursday, March 13, 2014

“Sakura Gakuin 2013 ~Kizuna~” Review

A track by track review of the new Sakura Gakuin album.  Ratings are from 1 (awful) to 10 (classic), based on my personal tolerance for each song.

01. “Mezase! Super Lady -2013-” is the fast paced synth-horn heavy start to this exciting album.   Each girl has a short spotlight, apparently saying something representing their personality.  Their teacher Mori-sensei has speaking parts throughout, which is sort of amusing.  I never heard the original, which was released on the Limited B Edition of “My Graduation Toss” with a different lineup (hence the “2013” added to this version), but this is a mistake I will have to correct soon.  I like the chorus, “Jump! (High!) Jump! (High!) Jump, jump, jump! (High!)”  This song is lots of fun!   Rating: 10.
02. “Makeru! Seishun Hizakozou” is a bit slower, but still fast enough to please fans of Sakura Gakuin’s energetic rock.  There’s some pretty good singing and guitar playing on here, but the song is slightly above average.  It’s something I like to hear but it’s not my favorite track on the album.  Rating: 7.

03. “Hana*Hana” is a lot better!  There was a short version of the music video uploaded to YouTube in July 2013, but this is the full length song.  It’s a very cute synth heavy song and has some great vocals from all the girls.  Because the song is about flowers (hana means “flower”) I originally thought the girls were singing “bloom bloom”, but the lyrics page prints “boom boom” in English.   Oops!  Rating: 9.

04. “Ganbare!!” is a high energy rock number that was released as a single with three versions.   The single version began with the sound effect of a coin dropping into a machine (jukebox?), which is inexplicably missing here.  (See “Welcome to My Computer” for more on this.)  I guess this is why you need to buy at least one version of the single.  It’s a fantastic guitar heavy song that fans of hard rock will love.  Rating: 10.
05. “Shanari Hannari Dorayaki Hime” is the Minipati song on this album, and it’s very Japanese sounding, if you’ll pardon the phrase.  When you hear the song I think you’ll understand. It’s very cute with lots of synth, and I have to admit that I like it better than last album’s Minipati contribution “Miracle Pattyful Hamburger”.  Rating: 8.
06. “Welcome to My Computer” is another fun science oriented pop rock song from Sakura Gakuin’s most creative sounding subunit, Kagaku Kyuumei Kikou LOGICA?  The song has parts where the sound fades and gets muffled and then come backs to normal in a matter of seconds.   It’s very catchy and fun, although perhaps not as instantly catchy as “Science Girl Silence Boy”, nor is it the bona fide masterpiece that “Delta” is.  Still, this is my current favorite subunit featuring three of my favorite Sakura Gakuin members, Horiuchi Marina, Sato Hinata and Isono Rinon, and I love every one of their five songs.  My only complaint is that it’s missing the 70 second coda that was on the version on the “Ganbare!!” Limited A Edition single.  This is the music you hear at the beginning and end of LOGICA?’s live performances.  I guess if you want to hear the full version you need to buy the Limited A version of the single.  Rating: 9.
07. “Yosoijo no Smash” (“Smash More Than Expected”) is the Pastel Wind song, originally released as a B-Side on the “Jump Up ~Chiisana Yuki~” Limited B Edition single.  For those who have lost track, Ooga Saki has replaced Horiuchi Marina on this song.  It’s cute and has a nice, soft intro with bells, but overall it’s unexceptional.  I don’t hate this song, but it’s even less interesting than “Makeru! Seishun Hizakozou”.  Rating: 6.

08. “FRIENDS ~Unplugged 2013~” is an acoustic song performed by this year’s graduates, Horiuchi Marina, Iida Raura, Sugisaki Nene and Sato Hinata, and it’s very good!  Not only do the four girls sing on this song, but three of them are playing instruments!  That’s Raura and Hinata on acoustic guitar and Nene playing the tambourine.  I still prefer the more rockin’ original, but this is a great start to what I can only hope will be a new beginning for these girls.  What I mean is, I really, really hope that after they graduate Sakura Gakuin these four girls will form a new group and continue playing instruments on their future songs.  One can hope.  Rating: 9.

09. “I・J・I” starts of with some really heavy guitar chords, which is not typical for Sakura Gakuin.   The great news is the song rocks from start to finish and thankfully there’s no death metal backup growls to ruin things, just the sweet vocals from the Sakura Gakuin girls.  This is the closest thing to an actual metal song I’ve heard from Sakura Gakuin, not counting the songs from that popular subunit BABYMETAL.  Awesome!  Rating: 10.
10. “Mikansei Silhouette” starts off with what sounds like a music box playing before the mid-paced guitar rock kicks in.  It’s another fun and interesting song with parts where everything stops and restarts, and it has some interesting vocal effects, some piano parts and plenty of toe-tapping music.  I can’t find anything bad to say about this.  Rating: 10.
11. “Jump Up ~Chiisana Yuki~” is the other single on this album, also released in three versions.   This one incorporate some classical music in a fun pop rock song.  While primarily a mid-paced rocker, it’s sweet and it has a very relaxing feel to it.  A great group song to end the album….or is it the end?  Rating: 10.

12. “Non-stop ☆ Go Home Club Heave Ho!!” is the final song on the album, a “bonus track” of sorts that remixes the three sleepiece songs, “Suimin Fusoku”, “Hashire Shoujiki Mono” and “Medaka no Kyoudai”.  Although I usually hate remixes, this one is more than tolerable.  Of course, I love sleepiece and their songs, so that probably helps.  Although the song fades at 4:39, wait a few seconds and you’ll hear the three sleepiece members talk, extending the song to 6:15.  A fitting tribute to a great subunit, featuring three of the four 2013 Sakura Gakuin graduates.  Rating: 9.

I only purchased one version of the album, although I really wanted all three of the Limited Editions. I bought the “Ra” Edition with a DVD containing the music video for “Ganbare!!” and “Unplugged Live” with the four graduates performing two songs, The Monkees cover song “Day Dream Believer” (sic) and “FRIENDS ~Unplugged 2013~”, along with some tearful comments from each girl.  The “Unplugged Live” portion of the DVD was my favorite part.