This trip turned out the be much more about Bellring Shoujo Heart than I anticipated. I would even dare to say, that their lives and personalities made a huge impact on me, even excelling my preference for PASSPO. I caught three lives by them, even spent the money to travel to Sendai for one of their One Man Live’s (my first of the group by the way). My main incentive being the pending graduation by two of their members, Juri and my oshi in the group, Yuka. I wanted to see Bellring Shoujo Heart still performing in the line-up I got to know them. Additionally I wanted to start interacting with my subsequent new oshi. I already decided who it would be: Ayano, the long-haired, hyperactive, bright smiling happy girl, who sings as good as Kai is dancing. If you follow the group you know what I mean by that.
The first time I saw Bellring Shoujo Heart this trip happened at the Idol Koushien on the 29th Decembre. The short live was great fun as always, but I couldn’t participate much with the choreography as they did mostly new songs from their just released second album Undo the Union. Shaun said he liked their performance as well, though them not being his usual style. A bit late I made my way to Bellring‘s event, as PiiiiiiiN was performing right after, a group I couldn’t miss as well. Due to this I arrived when there was already a long queue. Unexpectedly long, as I never saw such demand before. So first I went to the goods table, bought me the shirt with the anime style motive plus their new album and latest single. This got rewarded by handing me a free DVD copy of their performance from 23.12.2014. Then I began the long way to the end of the queue. Well, at least I was able to kill some time with talking to Ayano from PiiiiiiiN and finally my turn came. I was still fourth or fifth in line, when Kai began asking the fans, of whom they want to meet; this in her usual mixture of shy- and craziness. The first fans named members still occupied. When it came to me, she was asking me the same question. I couldn’t really understand it but guessing it was easy. Still I made a joke and acted like I didn’t know what she was inquiring. She then repeated the question – with the same words. Why do idols do this? What makes them think I could understand them better the second time? Anyway, I answered her now seriously: Kai. She first thought it being a joke again and acted surprised, but I repeated which prompted her to crazily run around in circles until she found a suitable place for the cheki and then waved at me to follow suit. She immediately settled for the joking pose you can see in the picture below. I was trying to counterpart it by taking a regular pose, kind of a caricature. Turned out not so well. Have to do better next time. Then we started to chat only to realize – We couldn’t understand each other in the least. Never experienced this to such extent. I tried telling her how we first met, as she started to take attention of my glasses, like at the first time. Don’t know if she actually understood but it seems she knew what I meant. As I asked for her sign, Kai started scribbling on the photo which turned out as weird as her behaviour herself, even writing the wrong year. Or didn’t she? Too bad about the language barrier as most of the meanings escapes me.
The reason I chose Kai here: I remembered her pretty shy – which she is – and I like that part of her. I also assumed that it would be possible to do chekis with other members right afterwards. This became a misconception on my part though. As I mentioned, the queue this time was extremely long. So when I went back to the end of the line I had to make the experience, for the first time ever, that queuing up was stopped, the event had reached time-out. So no Yuka or Ayano this day. A bit disappointed I went back inside the venue to follow the further program and wait for the event by PiiiiiiiN. When I went out in the aisle again for the latter, I nearly ran into the members of Bellring Shoujo Heart who were walking by to leave the Koushien. I recognized Moechi right away and could stop just in time to not overrun her. But the girl didn’t mind and just kept on walking, with her trolley behind her. On the contrary the slight commotion caused Yuka to turn her head and, recognizing me from last time, waved and even greeted me. This on the other hand amazed Mizuho now, who kept on looking and smiling at me the until she passed me by completely. Idol meetings how they should be. It happened that Bellring Shoujo Heart performed later on the same evening as I found a video of the whole performance on Youtube. This should give you a good impression of their new songs (Attention to the drum beat in the first song, ‘inspired’ by Led Zeppelin‘s Immigrant Song). Also Ayano is displayed in the preview image. Isn’t that something?
On the evening of the 2nd January me and my sister attended a Three Man at Akasaka Blitz with Bellring Shojo Heart as the headliner, preceded by Rhymeberry and Moso Calibration. Maison Book Girl (with a ex-member of BiS) appeared as opening act. All the groups are very different in style: Rhymeberry makes early HipHop, Moso Calibration idol-like Electro Pop, similar to Denpagumi Inc., Bellring Shoujo Heart psychedelic Retro-Rock, whereas Maison Book Girl reminded me a bit of Especia, though less annoying and quite enjoyable. Members were cute also. But the real treat with them was the sales girl later at their buppan: She was a real beauty! Anyway there are no videos of them online, otherwise I would have posted it. Despite the differences in style the show was fantastic! The various fan groups were evenly numbered, causing no trouble, each of them showing a different style in support as well. With Rhymeberry a lot of HipHop hand waving (don’t ask me how this is called), during Moso Calibration a lot of running around in circles and with Bellring Shoujo Heart mosh pits, crowd surfing and the like.
Rhymeberry were really impressing. Although I dislike rapping in general, they were great fun. I would like to follow them more but sadly just a few days ago two of the three members graduated, one of them being the girl I liked the most, Hime aka MC#2. On Youtube is a high quality live recording by them. In the video Hime is the twin-tailed rapper. The DJ Hikaru is the other graduating member.
Moso Calibration as a group are decent, but nothing extraordinary. As I said they often remind me of Dempagumi Inc. which isn’t a bad thing. The blonde coloured member is the one who stands out most to me. In the video you can see the circle running.
Bellring Shoujo Heart had the longest set and even an encore. For the first time they performed Ice Cream when I was in the audience, my favourite song by them. The rest of the set list displayed a good variation of older and newer titles, with some exceptions all of them high quality. The events for all groups took part in the venue itself, after some short waiting for the audience outside in the aisle. I only took part in the Bellring Shoujo Heart event as it became obvious that the number of fans would soon cause another time out soon. This time I wanted to start with my oshi and used the confusion for building queues to get me a good place. When the event started and the first lines for each member were recognizable I was a bit stunned: For Yuka only four people queued up. I used this chance and lined up. As I saw later, the short queue was caused by the still continuing organisation of the event.
My time with Yuka arrived soon. She greeted me in cool manner, telling me something about ‘eigo’, I didn’t understand. Maybe she was saying that she still can’t speak it. Anyway I told her about me purchasing a ticket for their One Man Live in Sendai already to which she replied with a ‘Very good-o’. Past that I remember
1. it was quite difficult to reach a flowing conversation,
2. that I forgot to ask who the seventh girl is on her shirt and
3. that she forgot to ask me to pay her for the cheki and sign.
The same thing also happened with Ayano the first time I met her. And it shouldn’t be the last time. Good thing for being a foreigner – makes idols inattentive. I would have paid Yuka anyway, but I only realized it too late that I still had the money.
Next was Ayano – if I would be able to find her line. I followed two that could have been hers (I wasn’t sure as one of the name boards was in Kanji. The other wasn’t viewable.) Both queues were so long that their ends had to extent into the aisle. Turned out I was on the wrong track, as one board was clearly for Moechi. After I asked a female fan, the second queue was for Juri. But she pointed me to Ayano‘s. Her queue even exceeded the length of the others – instead of leading to the aisle it was completely in the venue, but looping a few times. When I lined up and hold her board I could see her name written in hiragana. But its view was blocked before. I was also in time, then a few fans later ‘time out’ was called, so no one could queue up anymore. After a waiting time of perceived thirty minutes that I tried to bear with observing the other events around, it finally was my turn. Ayano, despite the amount of fans (Yuka and Kai already left) was still brightly smiling, showing no signs of fatigue. The chat with her was great. After the photo was taken I was discouraged by my last attempts in conversation with members from Bellring and just said to Ayano that it is alright if we don’t talk. This made her take a step back and asking me ‘Nande?’. I was telling her that my Japanese is bad, but she refused to be convinced in a tone that allowed no disagreeing. So I succumbed, willingly. I adore the aura, that girl has on me. Ayano asked if she knew me, so I told her from the last time I met her for a cheki. I couldn’t make out if she remembered me now, but she began to show even more care for me. We continued chatting while I asked her for a sign, as the last one I got from her was unreadable. But Ayano told me she had no pen anymore. It probably became out of ink already. I told her I didn’t mind. We then were told to stop by the photographer who announced to Ayano the next fan waiting for her. I then gave her a thousand Yen note but she had trouble finding the 500 Yen change money in her purse. This lead to some delay, as my telling her that I was alright without change was declined by Ayano right away. Soon she found a coin and I could depart, not without her shaking my hand and waving me a ‘See you again’. I hope you get it now why I chose Ayano as my new oshi in the group!
At the exit a guy with a big box full of DVDs was handing out one to each fan leaving, on it the full recording of Bellring Shoujo Heart‘s New Years Eve show at Shinjuku Loft from two days ago, in a surprising well quality. Such a great treat!
The final encounter with Bellring Shoujo Heart should become the most enjoyable one, being my first One Man Live, with events afterwards as well. But for that I had to travel to Sendai. To my luck Caio wanted to go there some time too, so he took the chance to accompany me and bought the tickets. His reason being not Bellring (he actually despises them) but a group called Wake Up Girls. They either are an idol group that came to existence by an anime, or anime characters resulting from an idol group. I never got the specifics. Anyway, they had an anime which was located in Sendai and Caio, otaku as he is, bought a book about it which depicts the real live places featured in the anime and wanted to visit them. As his favourite group, Up Up Girls, had connections to Sendai as well (Sengoku Minami being born there), several locations the group has visited were also on his list. For me it was similar in the way, that it is Party Rockets home town. But I had no interest in stalking places. Sendai is a nice town, a lot smaller than Nagoya but therefore more convenient. It must look beautiful in spring, with all the trees in full bloom. In winter it was as grey as every other city. I save myself a further review and take the easy way out for linking Caio‘s report about our Sendai trip (Part 1 – Part 2). I couldn’t do it better than him. (Not true. I am just lazy.)
Time skip to the show of Bellring Shoujo Heart. It was scheduled in MaCaNa, a small venue in the town centre. When inside later I even had the impression it was smaller than Astro Hall in Tokyo – a good thing as you have an exceptional view at the stage even from last row. Entry was no problem, a queue was already present. It is important to know, that the ticket numbers weren’t considered – attendance followed the first-come-first-served principle. Before the show began I took my time to cash in my drink ticket and study the laid-out merchandize which had a more diverse quantity than at their Mini Lives. This made me buy another shirt as well as the tour hoodie. Good times!
The show turned out as expected: A highly devoted fan base, with many recurring fans I recognized from Tokyo festivals, and a group in high spirits. They performed for well over two hours, basically all their recorded songs, with my personal classics being D.S.P. and Ice Cream – as well as two new favourites of mine – UNDO and Starlight Sorrow, the latter featuring a repeating hand gesture, that I find enjoyable to participate in. They basically made no MCs. just a small Jiko Shokai and a short talk during the encore. Instead at one time they made Yuka held a long knife in her hands and threw fruits at her – which she had to spike. With the melon it was successful but with the apple it failed. Oh well… Otherwise the show was pleasantly ‘tame’, if you compare it with the video which I posted at the start of this post: No crowd surfing by the members this time, only rare mosh pits, a lot of shouting and crowd surfing by the audience instead.
At the end of the performance, after a short break, the events began, with the members placing themselves before the stage and the fans lining up before them in the associated queues. It was interesting, that the hardcore fans of the group were officially involved in the organisation process. My first option for a cheki was again Yuka, this time I wanted to say goodbye to her and wish her the best for her future. The queue for her this time was longer, so was my waiting time as well. Yuka was cheerful and this time I handed her a 1,000 Yen note after we took the cheki right away. As I only wanted the photo and no sign, she searched for change money in her purse and gave me a 500 Yen coin while at the same time started to put away the photo and my banknote, which were still in her other hand. Realizing her mistake Yuka handed me the photo with an embarrassed smile, which I then took and pretended to slap her on the head with it. This turned out to be the start of a pleasant chat with her as it made her laugh and feel more comfortable. I then conveyed my best wishes to her, struggling with my Japanese. If I remember right I said something like: “Yuka Beruha … itterashai?” She understood as she nodded her head. I continued with “Anata no mirai … genki … gakkou ganbatte!” Yuka smiled, I guess more about my lame language attempt but thanked me and also added that she will return to music business as she wants to perform in musicals. Then a small pause was occurring which she then broke by telling me about her love for Sailor Moon. She was positively surprised when I replied with having watched the Live Action adaption and favoured Komatsu Ayaka in it, who played Sailor Venus. Yuka excitingly told me that Sailor Venus was her favourite Senshi as well, Sailor Neptune her favourite Outer Senshi. (Excuse the otaku talk.) Time was up then and I had to leave, wishing her again the best for her future.
Now I needed to find Ayano‘s line. She was located at the opposite side of the crowd and as Moechi was next to her, another popular member, both their queues looped and interfered each other. As no name boards were displayed I had to ask again for directions. Turned out I was initially wrong again as I found myself in Moechi‘s queue. Figured. After a long wait again, I approached Ayano who identified me immediately. She asked me where I am from and after I told her she was inquiring further about it, but I couldn’t understand. I assume she asked if I was the one, who gave the group a present in Septembre, but that is just a wild guess. Whatever the reason behind her thoughts, she then proposed as pose the imitation of a cow’s nose ring. That we did. I then asked her if this time I could get her sign. To my delight she had a pen now, a good one even, that was visible even on dark-coloured areas. While signing Ayano must have held the photo in a wrong way, as her face is partially covered by her fingerprint. It never turns out perfect when I ask her to sign. We chatted along easily then as always I felt very comfortable around her despite the language barrier. I praised the performance and that it was my first One Man by Bellring Shoujo Heart. As expected from an idol she told me to come again soon and smiled brightly, as she always does. Lovely anyway. I then left only to turn back to her after a few steps – Ayano forgot to take money from me. I handed her the prepared 1,000 Yen note which she, glad and thankful, accepted to put it in her purse. It is incredible how the group handles money, at least with me.
I was shortly contemplating about talking to other members, as it seems a time out wasn’t at work that day, but I refrained to avoid being regarded as a DD. On the next day Bellring Shoujo Heart would have a Tower Records Mini Live in Sendai, but as my schedule had a festival in Tokyo on the list, I couldn’t make it. Instead I returned to the hotel to get some sleep. TheShinkansen would go the next day in the early morning.
On a different matter: I booked my flight now! I chose to reduce my time in Japan, now staying until the 30th March. This way I can save some money for my scheduled trip in summer. I opened a new page where I post all the shows in this time frame that found my interest. You can find it above when under the ‘Schedule’ tab or just click here. I can tell right away: The weekends are full of overlapping shows. Still unsure how to decide. Only thing I am certain of is the Two Man of PPP!PiXiON / PiiiiiiiN, my initial reason for the trip. as I kind of promised Ayano.