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Idols. Everywhere I go.
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21st-Mar-2014 11:03 pm - Once in a lifetime
Maybe my trip to SUMMARY in 2011 really was a once in a lifetime experience. As of yesterday, Jticket International has ceased operations.

I used to get regular emails from Johnny's offering international fans tickets to various concerts. These disappeared months ago, and lately I've been wondering if the service was ever going to offer more tickets. Tonight I got my answer when I Googled Jticket International and found that announcement.

It was such a good idea. It could have been done better. I'll never forget the concert where I saw so many of my favorite idols up close and live. Before I went in, I saw a Rolls Royce limo parked outside the venue. Maybe Johnny himself was there that night. Who knows, maybe it was the night that the final lineup of Sexy Zone was chosen once and for all. I'll never forget it.

I'll also never forget the scary moment when the friend I was going to meet there almost didn't show up. According to the rules, they would have denied my ticket even though I'd flown halfway around the world to be there. It cost over $1000 to be there and I know other fans would gladly spend the money and take the time. If you asked me if it was worth it, I'd say definitely, go. But in their desire to protect the shows from scalpers, I think Johnny's rules for international fans were too tough. For me, it all worked out. I'm so glad it did.

Now, it looks like the door is closed for international fans. Maybe in time there will be another way to buy tickets. As of tonight, there doesn't seem to be one. Back in 2011, I remember thinking, I'd better do this while I have the chance. I'll never forget that night.
9th-Nov-2013 11:54 am - Keito's tribute
Did you notice Keito Okamoto's tribute to Lou Reed on the November 6 Shonen Club? Keito-Velvet
Velvet Underground was the 1960's rock band where Lou Reed first found fame. He was well known in Japan through concert appearances and music releases, and headlined the 2011 12 hour concert in New York that raised almost $1 million for earthquake victims. Keito is the most rock & roll oriented member of Hey!Say! JUMP and it's fitting, and touching, that he'd honor Lou Reed by wearing a Velvet Underground t-shirt after Lou's death on October 27.

I wonder when the show was recorded? Whenever I've seen messages about SC tapings, they're usually 3-4 weeks before airing. If that's the case, Keito's wardrobe choice would be an incredible coincidence, but I'd rather think it was indeed a silent tribute to a rock & roll legend.
7th-Nov-2013 01:27 pm - Bye Bye Dubai, hello Shori
I finally got my Sexy Zone single this week. Yes, I gave in and bought the CD without So and Marius on the cover. How long did that boycott last? I believe it was through exactly zero releases. I guess I will accept that Sexy Zone will be, at least for now, the Top 3 plus the two other guys, and I hope they will become more prominent as the other ones get a little older and maybe less idol-y.

I really love the concept of the DVD: teaching fans how to do the circle dance, the "step step step" and "clap your hands" that's so much a part of this song. Maybe someday there will be a huge circle dance all around the stage of a Sexy Zone concert including fans who win a contest, or something like that.

The other songs on the CD are good, too. As always the packaging is great: a nice glossy card of Shori, and a high quality booklet with lyrics and pictures of everyone in the group, together and solo. Really nice pictures of Marius who seems to have learned how to smile un-awkwardly. Shori has a solo song, he's front and center in all the group pictures, he leads the dance instruction. He's always been pushed most of all the members, and now it looks like he's ready to take on the real leadership of the group.

So dances enthusiastically and well, it looks like he's been practicing. Marius does pretty well too, he's looking happy at doing the complicated steps. In one of the lesson videos it looks like he keeps brushing a bug away from his face. Try to wait til the camera's off if possible, Marius, those flies will now go down on your permanent record! On the other hand, I really like the casual, one-take atmosphere of the videos, the opposite of most of the highly produced, 40 camera extravaganzas we usually see.

You can, as usual, see big differences in the skills and attitudes of the other Juniors in the circle. Some are auditioning for bigger and better things - that's always a good idea when Johnny's cameras are on. I think Jinguji gets a little too carried away with himself, he's good but he knows it and he probably shouldn't show that off quite so much. A few are going through the motions and that's not so great.

But this is a very nice addition to the Sexy Zone discography. I saw that it sold well too, another number one, and deservedly so.
14th-Jul-2013 05:36 pm - Johnny's World still rules
Almost 4 months since I last wrote. That was about the calendars, and it's sort of interesting that this year is the first time in a couple of years that I've been actually keeping up to date with one of the calendars, changing pages once (or more) a month. It's the Sexy Zone calendar in the plastic holder, which has nice pictures and looks good on my coffee table. Even though you can't really see what day it is, it's a calendar success!

I've been a little depressed about recent developments in Johnny's World. While nothing looks official, Marius and So have been disappearing like that friend who borrowed $100 last summer. First they wore new costumes that made them stand out only slightly from the backdancers, then they vanished from some of the new CD covers, then they completely dropped out of sight from their own group's performances on Shonen Club. I know we don't always see every member of every group: Hikaru was not at the concert I saw in 2011, and various members of Hey! Say! JUMP are often missing from Shonen Club. But this is different: an entire hit song was arranged for a 3-member Sexy Zone, and now it's all Shori, Kento, and Fuma all the time.

It was looking hopeful last week when Marius and So did a talk segment on Shonen Club, but I don't think they did anything in the performances, and I know they didn't appear in the 2nd July episode at all. So they were in the studio, but not invited onstage? What's up with that? I don't have a good feeling about this at all.

I have a few theories: maybe Johnny is disappointed with the two youngest members. They aren't as good at dancing as some of the other Juniors their age, and they've never been called on to sing much. As they get older, taller, and lose some of their baby cuteness, maybe Johnny sees less potential. Plus Marius has always had something of a language barrier. I'm sure that living in Japan has helped him to overcome that, but he still squirms sometimes, which makes me think he's trying to figure out the answer to a question he may not completely understand. Not speaking Japanese myself, I can't be totally sure of this but something is definitely making him squirm in those interviews.

So I've been lukewarm about Sexy Zone product lately. I've bought everything they do on first-day pre-order until Bad Boys. Then I never bought that and never missed it. I only bought one Myojo all year. I feel like, while Johnny seems to be trying to make up his mind about Marius and So, I'm trying to make up my mind about Johnny.

But then came the announcement about the new DVD/Blu Ray release of Johnny's World, and I got excited all over again. I'm not sure why - it's definitely not because of A.B.C-Z, and my fan appreciation of Hey! Say! JUMP has been waning a little too. But I remembered thinking that I'd almost want to go to Tokyo to see Johnny's World (not quite, but almost), and I'm sure we'll see all 5 members of SZ, the original Sexy Boyz combination, and a huge collection of Juniors on the Wall, or in the Mansion as it seems to be known. So now, at least temporarily, the excitement is back, and I'm counting the days til the mail gets here. Johnny, you've got a reprieve, but don't waste it with more 3-member performances from Sexy Zone.
I’m sorry to say I’m a little disappointed with this year’s Junior’s calendars. As always, I was excited when the big package arrived and first impressions were great: it all comes in a hard plastic carrying case which slides out of a slick colorful paperboard wrap. But the carrying case holds a lot of air: unnecessary cardboard inserts to hold 4 calendars.

They’re all about 4 by 6 inches, about the size of a DVD case. I would like this if they had a page a week, but no. Three of the calendars only have a page a month, so if I’m going to use it as an actual calendar I’m going to display the same picture for a whole month. They do have some extra pages but you wouldn’t use them like a calendar. If I just want pinup pictures, I could get nice and bigger pictures in any Myojo. And “bigger” is the key word here. Most of these pictures are very small: group shots or collages with the result that each member’s head shot is about an inch big.

Sexy Zone’s calendar consists of 16 cards, printed on both sides, and a nice clear plastic frame/stand to hold them. I’m a little perturbed by the lack of togetherness. Only 5 of the 32 pictures show the group together. The rest are solo shots or random pairings. Coming after some Shonen Clubs where we hardly saw Sexy Zone together, these calendar pictures continue that trend. Again, how do I display these? One picture for a month? Am I going to put a page of interview Q&A’s in the frame for a couple of weeks? It’s too much like a magazine photo shoot for my taste, and I’ve seen a lot better magazine shoots. Some of these pictures are below-average quality in poses, originality, hairstyles, and variety.

Johnny’s Jr. Calendar has a spiral binding and (yay) more pages. Each month is broken into two halves so it’s better for displaying as a changing calendar. But there’s no stand, no pinup punch-hole, not really any way to display it except to open it up on a table. I thought this calendar had the best variety of nice pictures, some relatively big head shots, interesting group shots, mostly with a school theme, and the feature I like the most at the back of the calendar where you see birthdays, Kanji-character names, and other vital stats next to small pictures of each important Junior. There are 40 of them this year and I remember when they had many more Juniors and bigger pictures so this feature is a little bit of a let-down, too. There are quite a few Sexy Boyz pictures, and I wish there were more Bakaleya6 pictures but there are some good ones. I wish more were identified because many Jr’s are not household names and the calendar should help them become better known. I would gladly trade pages from the upcoming calendars for more pages in this book!

A.B.C-Z has a spiral binding calendar too but this has a folding cardboard stand that I’ll never figure out. It’s very similar to the Sexy Zone calendar with 16 heavy-stock pages, one-month calendar views, and a lot of solo and duo shots. Each member gets a profile page complete with some complex “capability” graph, whatever that means. And if you get tired of the one-month calendars, there are other pages with two-month calendars to choose from.

Yuma Nakayama’s calendar is the most useful as an actual calendar. I like the pictures better than any of the other calendars, with a lot of bigger head shots and a real variety of themes. Plus, the calendar pages actually give you some room to write something on important dates, only one page for a month but still, something. There’s a page of Q&A’s - I’d really like to know the translation of the Q&A where his answer was “Sexy Zone”.

So, when it’s all been checked out, what would I do differently? At least one of the calendars would have pages as big as a magazine. They’re all too tiny. At least one calendar would have a 52 week display. How about the Jr’s calendar - they certainly have enough members to spread their pictures throughout 52+ pages. I’d go back to having about 100 Jr’s profiled, and use head-shots, not tiny full-body shots for their profile pictures. And I’d sell them differently: how about bundling Yuma with Hey! Say! JUMP and A.B.C-Z with Kis-My-Ft2? Neither artist has much in common with Sexy Zone/Boyz and Bakaleya6. I’d make sure the pictures had a lot of variety, not just a lazy couple of sessions. And finally I’d take that exquisite elaborate packaging and make it more useful. I’m sorry to say that after about 8 years of collecting Johnny’s calendars, the fancy plastic carrying case is likely to be the first element that will end up in the recycling bin.

By the way, anybody want to buy my A.B.C-Z or Yuma calendars? I’ll sell ‘em, $5US each plus shipping.
23rd-Nov-2012 01:03 am - Shonen Club, November week 2, 2012
I missed writing about a couple of shows...I'll try to catch up, but sometimes life gets busy. Anyway, this was a show that had me cheering most of the way through. Good one!

I was a little annoyed at the start. It was nice to see Travis Japan getting a unit credit, but how come Sexy Boyz didn't? Is that significant? I'm always trying to figure out what everything means. Daiki's hair gets weirder every week, but it's growing on me - and obviously growing on Daiki. Sexy Zone did a nice job on Sexy Summer. It sounded much more normal now that we're almost into the Christmas season for real. They honored the season by leaving the Santa Claus uniforms on for the whole show. It must be hot in there.

Next was the Jr Medley and you can see that Sexy Boyz have been studying and working hard. They're not only dancing better, they are performing better, always on when the camera's there. Jinguji is getting Shori-like treatment with special lines and Kaoru is now bursting with enthusiasm. They're not the only ones, the whole group is stepping up.

But that wasn't the week's only highlight. Yuma was back! Without a lot of TV time, he's grown a lot and now seems like a debuted star. I'd like to know what led to the forehead tweaking in his talk time.^^ He sang a powerful song called "Missing Piece."

As for the Jr. Fight, I think Taiga pretty much won this round, where they drew elephants. His fire-breathing cartoon was as lively as Taiga's personality while talking about it. But the actual prize went to A.B.C-Z's Tsukada Ryochi in a desperate attempt to get me to say his name. They work hard but I still want to skip their stuff, even though I do like "5 Stars" as a song.

Thankfully, Jr. ni Q brought me back to attention. Genki Iwahashi looked adorably shy, Kishi Yuta looked adorably gangly, Rei Nakamura looked adorably adorable, and Hokuto Matsumura looked like he's been working out at Shintaro's gym. Once again, one of my favorite segments.

The weeks three hosts, Chinen, Daiki, and Hikaru performed a JUMP medley. The stage was full of backdancers but the medley was not full of sound. I missed hearing more JUMP members on these songs.

Everyone got together for the goodbye song, "Days." Except for So and Marius who I guess had to go to bed. I think I will too, but this was a good show!
8th-Oct-2012 01:57 pm - Shonen Club, October week 1, 2012
It's kind of funny, this week Sexy Boyz and other younger Juniors got a much bigger turn in the spotlight at the show's beginning with big-name introductions and acrobatics, although Sexy Boyz weren't actually called out as a unit in their second week of existence. Travis Japan did get that. Sexy Zone sang the first song, in the Santa Claus costumes but they never did get to "Sexy Summer" which I thought the costumes were designed for. A little confusing! Once again, Marius and So had bigger, more mature roles and I thought Matsushima So was especially energetic this week.

Yuto, Takaki, and Daiki were hosts and Daiki is the latest visitor to the hair-in-a-blender salon that Hikaru and Yamada have been going to lately. I'd say he looks ridiculous but Daiki can never really look bad. Kento did a powerful solo song, "Teleportation". With his great voice, smile, and stage presence he will be a star for years to come. Jesse did the get-to-know segment. He still seems kind of shy but his drama talents are pushing him up front.

I loved the JUMP song Perfect Life - who knew Yamada could play the sax? Keito's hair is longer than ever and looking good. Keep him away from the hair blender! There were several songs from SB and other groupings of the younger and middle Jrs, making me think this show is setting up nicely for a new generation of stars. Jr. ni Q was back with Reia, Taiga, Ryo, and Jinguji. They could do every week and I'd be happy.

This might not have been the best show of the year but it was a good one. I liked at least parts of nearly every segment. Even noon boyz looked better to me than usual. An interesting goodbye song paired members of A.B.C-Z with Sexy Zone members. Hopefully we are back on a normal schedule and we'll get the second October episode in just a week.
8th-Oct-2012 01:37 pm - Shonen Club, September week 2, 2012
This long-delayed episode taught me once again to expect the unexpected. I thought the Sexy Boyz announcement would be a bigger deal but all that happened was they trotted out on stage during a talk segment to receive their new status. Marius and So did all the talking, then the Boyz went back to back-dancing. They did get more time in the spotlight, but actually never even got their names credited on-screen as in other weeks. The major effect seems to be that So and Marius now have a more grown-up role as leaders of the new unit, which carried over to the Sexy Zone performance where they got more performance time and importance. I liked the way SZ's first song started with a Shori solo, then Marius and So together, then Kento and Fuma doing solos, followed by the whole group together. Nice!

This episode also featured a handful of the better-known Kansai Jr's, singing "Let's Go West" to remind me that it must be almost time for the month-long salute to Team Osaka.

Shintaro was featured in the get-to-know segment. He acts like such a seasoned pro, he makes me think of one of the veteran ex-Juniors coming back to Shokura for a guest shot, although the bio card clearly shows he is only a couple of months past his 15th birthday.

I ended up doing a lot of skipping through lengthy sets from Kis-My-Ft2, A.B.C-Z, and some more Kansai's. At the end, hosts Daiki, Chinen, and Hikaru did a great job on the final song, "Say Goodbye." I read somewhere that the younger Jr's sometimes hit curfew and can't perform in the last song, which is what it looked like here. Sexy Zone came out at the very end of the song to wave but they didn't perform. Are you allowed to wave publicly after curfew?
9th-Sep-2012 03:58 pm - Shonen Club, September week 1, 2012
Shonen Clubs are coming fast with this being the third week in a row. But it looks like a fourth straight week is not on the schedule, with at least a delay for September's second episode. This week's hosts were Chinen, Hikaru, and Daiki.

I was So happy to see So Matsushima back with Sexy Zone this week, making up for lost time with the opening talk segment, also featuring Marius and Shori. So made Chinen grin sheepishly when he named Chi as his admired senpai. All 5 SZ'ers sang the upcoming single, "Sexy Summer" with all of its bizarre Christmas in July lyrics. No Santa Claus costumes but there was snow falling all over the place. I love the 5 separate spoken lines near the end of the song. Compare this week's dancing with SZ's first concerts on their new DVD - they are so much better now with crisp moves and bright smiles all the time.

Later we could see how Shori conveniently acts as the middle man for the younger two and the older two as well, when he went on to talk with Kento (needing a haircut) and Fuma. No matter what happens with Sexy Zone, Shori is always front and center.

I thought this would be the week when we found out about Sexy Boyz, but the rumored group of spotlighted backdancers didn't emerge. The opening Junior Medley gave us two spotlighted groups of Juniors. Jinguji led the first 6, and I love his little wave at the camera near the end. Reia knows how to smile effortlessly all the way through, I wish he could teach that art to Kaoru who looks so cute when he grins and so serious the rest of the time. Fu, Kishi, and Amu were the others, making up the same top 6 as last month. Not the same for the second group: Iwahashi Genki and Matsukura Kaito were in, along with about 5 others who I only know in passing from earlier backdancing.

This week also brought a lot of A.B.C-Z, promoting a new single, and Kis-My-Ft2, now featuring Kento Senga stealing Hikaru's bizarro hairstyle. That means lots of skipping around for me, stopping to notice one fanboy in the audience, then on to Jr. ni Q with a very grown-up Anderson, Takahashi Fu and Genki (together!), Juri, Kaoru, and Amu.

Bakaleya6 wrapped it up with an energetic medley that was worth the wait, and the episode ended with the hosts singing Memories, which makes a great goodbye song. This was a good week for Sexy Zone, Jinguji Yuta, and Iwahashi Genki, but I was disappointed by too much A.B.C/Kisumai and the lack of any announcement on the new unit.
3rd-Sep-2012 04:44 pm - Who's in the new unit?
Any moment on Shonen Club, we'll be seeing the new unit of special backdancers and performers called Sexy Boyz. But it doesn't look like we'll know exactly who is in this group.

It's a sure thing that So Matsushima (松島 聡) and Marius Yo (マリウス 葉) of Sexy Zone will lead the unit. And these four Juniors are always named as members: Jinguji Yuta (神宮寺 勇太), Rei Nakamura (中村 嶺亜), Kaoru Kuramoto (倉本 郁), and Haniuda Amu (羽生田 挙武).

There's a third song on the forthcoming Sexy Zone single performed by Sexy Boyz, and Pony Canyon's website lists the members as the above 6, plus Kansai Jr's Nishihata Daigo (西畑 大吾), and Ren Nagase (永瀬 廉).

This post (as well as many others, I'm not sure who is the original source) adds more members to the September appearance of Sexy Boyz on Shonen Club: Inoue Mizuki (井上 瑞樹), Matsukura Kaito (松倉海斗), Motodaka Katsuki, Muramoto Ryota, and Matsuda Genta (松田元太). But it doesn't list the two Kansai's, making a grand total of 11 members.

I'll also be keeping eyes open for the possibility of Kishi Yuta (岸 優太) and Takahashi Fu (高 橋颯) who have been performing with other likely SB members in August.

If this post serves no other purpose - other than to promote rumors and speculation! - it will give you a Kanji database to check out the names as they appear for Sexy Boyz credits in the coming weeks. I can't wait!

(BTW if you're reading this and you can supply the Kanji names of Motodaka Katsuki and Muramoto Ryota, please leave a comment. Thanks!)
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