I am back from Japan again!!! Wait, no use for cheering. Now the tough work begins, writing this blog… Anyway, trip became great, mostly because of the idols involved, as I realized that I have become a common face to most them – at least those who I care about – which really makes me happy, happy, happy. Also I got to know new people there, respectively deepened my friendship with some. My prior to this trip created schedule turned out basically as planned, but with some huge changes on some days and missed opportunities because of interfering timeframes – some really tight choices occasionally. For the 22.03. I skipped THREE shows to which I already purchased tickets to instead attend another show. I get to the details about it later.
PiiiiiiiN held their regular live, which normally takes place on Thursdays, on Tuesday, as on the usual date the venue was occupied. The problem here: They did announce it only one day prior on Twitter and I already had another appointment there with Bellring Shoujo Heart (I will refer to them as Bellring Girls Heart from now on, as this is their official English name). Chu-Z had some appearances on festivals but I only could make one, again some late announcement, but the only chance I could see them. Party Rockets I was totally unable to see, for time conflict reasons – with PASSPO and with a festival, that had a great line-up. But the worst happened on the 29.03. As you know, I wanted to attend the JyuJyu and PiiiiiiiN One-Man’s. But for the same day Bellring Girls Heart held a 10 hour(!) event for the purpose of introducing the three new members! This one was the hardest to skip, as Bellring is on par with PASSPO in my regard of idols. But as this kind of event would be tough for a foreigner not acquainted with the language and I basically promised Shirai from JyuJyu and Ayano from PiiiiiiiN my appearance, it made my choice a little easier – and I didn’t regret it. Okay, a bit I did, I admit. Basically at what happened, when I saw Bellring on the 24.03. NOW I got you excited, didn’t I? But the resolution will be featured in another post. As my schedule was so filled up this time, I also had no opportunity to see the ‘new’ Alice Project or could take part in an event by Lovely Doll. At least I saw a performance of the latter and Yuriko is still in the group. You heard about the graduation announcements of Maya and Kana, shortly after Yuki made hers, didn’t you? This for the introduction. Now I will begin my reports.
As the title suggests, my first days in Japan this time were completely – and I mean COMPLETELY – occupied by PASSPO. I arrived in the early morning at Narita, after a terrible long flight. But it could have been worse, as for this day Lufthansa pilots had announced a strike for long-term-flights, but luckily mine wasn’t affected by it. I hate strikes and the way it always fought out on the shoulders of customers. If I could I would have fired all current pilots participating in it. And if I am already on it, firing those train drivers as well, with their stupidly high demands. Anyway, my arrival on time made it possible for me to go to Shibuya for the purchase of the Live DVDs of Babyraids and Chu-Z, as well as to the event I was hoping for – the PASSPO Good Luck!! Stream – recorded in Shibuya PARCO. For this Caio promised to accompany me and surprisingly he kept his word. The show had with Yukimi and Natsumi both of our oshimen and also featured the from both of us equally adored Sako and my second favourite member Naomi, who took the lead in MCs, a job much suited by her. The show was very simple in its approach and the venue itself. Read Caio‘s blog on a more detailed desription of it. What was great it that we sat really near to the stage, but none of the members made a gesture of recognition to us. Only slightly surprised looks of seeing us foreigners there. But I am sure Natsumi was remembering Caio (maybe Sako too?) and Yukimi as well as Naomi remembered me. I would learn that the next days. The show, despite my lack of comprehension, turned out quite funny and interesting, the foreigner in the Skype chat turned out to be a guy from Hong Kong who actually lives in Tokyo (lame!) but spoke quite a bit Japanese, which allowed a proper conversation between the girls and him. His general appearance on the program although was quite boring. The graduation ceremonies with the punishment game connected to it was enjoyable in most parts (seeing pictures of Sako as a child was cute) and Natsumi‘s song performance at the end was in my opinion nicely done, with some funny acting and voice adjusting by her. Here I regretted not having my light stick with me. Adorable, Nachu!
Sadly no events took place after it, not even a short conversation with them during a handshake. After the show they just left through the back entrance. But while waiting for the elevator to bring us down – the mall and its stairways were already closed – we got in contact with a guy from Korea, Hyon Su, with whom we chatted for quite a while. He also is a PASSPO passenger, his oshimen being Sako, who visits Japan frequently for shows of them. Him I would see again the next day, being the day of the PASSPO Flight in Yokohama, held in two parts, as usual.
Tripping there was not that difficult, just taking a train line to Yokohama itself and then change to the subway for Shin-Yokohama station. After taking a wrong direction at first, I soon arrived at the venue, which was situated next to Yokohama Arena. Good to know for an eventually future visit there for @JAM or something. I have been there earlier as needed to get myself some lunch and then got in line. After some time three female fans of PASSPO were collecting money for Yukimi‘s birthday two weeks later. I hadn’t realized it at first but when they caught on my curious look they told me about it. Imagine their surprise when I not only donated money but told them that Yukimi is my favourite member. When showing them my blue light stick, joyful cries of surprise followed, they themselves telling me about being ‘blue passengers’. We then struggled a bit through the conversation but it was fun. Meanwhile I had to write down my name in one of their paper notebooks for the birthday card or something.
Hyon Su arrived later as well and we both took part in the merchandise sale. Today would be a limitation of five tickets for each person, but the event that was announced happened to be signs – Something I didn’t dare to hope as I assumed PASSPO only does this on special fan club events nowadays. So lucky! Now my chance in getting an autograph from Yukimi herself was possible. For the sign I needed three event tickets. I wasn’t sure, what goods would provide me with it, so I bought three old photo sets and the new tour shirt, the latter being a terrible design, I must admit, but I am a sucker for fan shirts, as most of you should have already guessed. I talk more about it later on. As expected I got three tickets, for the photo sets. Well, enough for me as I had nothing to talk about this time. Okay, I could have mentioned the Good Luck Stream but… I was just not in the mood for struggling through conversation that day. I need some time to adjust.
The show for Part 1 started soon and with it a new era of PASSPO. Not only are they now a 8-members group, but they also try to slightly reinvent themselves: The uniforms now not resembling stewardesses but waitresses in a diner, the focus on more of their older songs in the set list (Go on a highway, GPP,….) and new elements in their stage show, like acting (Airin!!!) and props (teddy bears, fans). Let’s get in detail here. The show started with:
4)Go On A Highway
Not my most liked songs here. As I wrote some time ago, I am not really much a fan of their older, more idolish songs. I prefer the punk/hardrock-style with individual singing lines, they incorporated on the albums One World and JeJeJeJet. But as it has been months after I saw them live, I didn’t mind that much. They wouldn’t throw their songs out of the window, would they?
The next segment had the before mentioned acting part, which connects several songs with a story line. The speaking voices are pre-recorded and allows the girls to intentionally overact, some really funny. In the story a girl named Airin (played of course by Ai), member of a group called Strawberry Girls, is in love with some guy. This gets revealed to her friends during a pyjama party (GPP), where someone finds her diary (Love Diary). As Airin is reluctant of a possible relationship, her friends encourage her (Let it go). She then gets a phone call from the guy she loves, which results in either of two endings: The happy end, with a scheduled date (Kucha Love) or the bad end, where the guy cancels the date (Sakura Komachi). The idea is well executed and funny to watch. But when you visit several shows, it gets kind of repetitive. I also have a huge issue, with how they handled Love Diary here, voice-overing important parts of the song which kills the energy of it. This is something to reconsider. The set list in that part therefore was as followed:
7)Let it go (remix)
Now two random songs were performed, after it the sub units Hachake Tai and Shang Shang made their appearances.
After an MC finally the moment I was waiting for: The performance of more recent and heavier songs, beginning with one of my absolute favourite songs by them.
Another MC followed, another favourite of mine was performed with Wanted and finally their new song Honey Dish. I must admit that I didn’t like it that much after the first listen, but as I had the opportunity to hear it more often in subsequent shows, it really grew on me. It reminds me a lot of their early output, but it is really fun live (chu-chu-chu, kyu-kyu-kyu). It will be interesting how the forthcoming album will turn out, accordingly the songs there being recorded in a similar style.
The encore held nothing special.
For being sold out, the venue still left enough room for people, so it was relatively comfortable in the crowd. It is important to note that Anna plays a huge part during all the MCs nowadays, often leading the troop. Her interaction with fans are also hilarious. For example when she made fun of a guy in the audience who played it cool: He didn’t participate in choreographies and wore sunglasses – the whole time. And he got it bad! Don’t get on a bad foot with Tamai, or you will regret it! Good job, Annya!
In summary I enjoyed the show, but to give a concrete evaluation I have to listen to the new album and the most likely new tour that follows it. If the turn back towards a more idolish sound gets to excessive I will need some time of adjustment. Anyway after the show the next highlight awaited me: Finally some proper events again, mostly neglected during their Count Up Tour last year. As I mentioned quite a few times here in the blog already, I find it very important that an idol group behaves as idols in a way that they held frequent and easy accessible events. That is why I can enjoy groups like Babyraids for example, but as they neglect proper events completely, they will never get my full support in a way Bellring Girls Heart or PiiiiiiiN does, for example. As PASSPO had this phase last year and at the beginning of 2015 I was slowly losing faith in them, but I can reassure you: They recuperated completely and kept their throne as my number one idol group!
For events they announced signs this time, something I never dared to dream for being part of, as I mentioned above already. I didn’t know how things will be handled – do they sign only photosets or other things as well? By observing I saw that the latter was the case: People let them sign shirts or, like Hyon Su, their light sticks. Some even got autographs by several members (How is that with ticket limitations?). After contemplating the idea of letting Yukimi sign my bag, which I still consider a tempting option if it wouldn’t look bad when attending shows of other groups, I decided on a sign on my purchased tour shirt. This way the design wouldn’t trouble me as much, then let us be honest: The only thing that connects the shirt with the idol group related to it is the name of the current tour – More Attention – and the title of the forthcoming album Beef or Chicken?, both pretty much insiders to PASSPO passengers only. Nothing else is stated on the shirt, no group name or tour dates and the chicken serving a plate of chicken wings has no connection to music at all. So yes, letting the shirt sign by Yukimi was the best way to make this purchase a useful one and turn it into my most precious idol memorabilia in my collection! Of course I can never wear this shirt anytime of fear the sign washes out, though I would love to. It is now put on my wall at home.
The signing process itself was pretty funny. I was very pleased to notice Yukimi remembering me, greeting me with something in the lines of “Nice to see you again”. When showing her the shirt for the sign, she sat down behind the small table, asking me first in which colour I wanted it: Blue or Black. To tease her I chose black. Yukimi immediately started protesting, then changed to beg me for the blue pen. When agreeing to her plead she thanked me, obviously now in contend with herself again. After convincing her about the place where I wanted the sign to be, she began the sign process, slowly and carefully, continuously talking to herself while at it – like “Aaah!” when the pen wasn’t writing, spelling each letter of “Passpo” and her name in hiragana, or “Damn, today is the 21., not the 22.” when correcting the date. By the time she wrote “YOKO” for “Yokohama”, the staff approached her and showed her his mobile phone with the timer on it. Apparently Yukimi had exceeded the time limit for signs. This was the start of an apologizing marathon: First to the manager – “Look, I am not finished yet.” – then me – “I am so sorry (for not finishing).” – then pleading to the staff – “Please give me more time.” – and again an apology directed at me. I became convinced that I really had to leave with a half-signed shirt. During all this the staff said no word, just displaying his mobile. Yukimi, either in an act of rebellion or quiet agreement with the staff, nevertheless continued to write the rest – “HAMA”. (If both of them hadn’t ‘quarreled’ we would have been already finished.) After having written “YOKOHAMA”, Yukimi again looked at me and told me that she will, as a sort of apology, adding three hearts to it, immediately beginning the task with renewed vigour, again talking to herself while at it. Finished and with a smile on her face she then stood up, handed me the shirt, apologized again and bid me farewell with a handshake. What a nice girl! Now I just hope she didn’t get reprimanded for it. But why would she? It is not Ai or Mio we are talking about, with endless queues for them.
After I got my sign I stayed in the venue to watch other passengers doing the events, with them the girls I have met earlier before the show. They approached me again, interested to see my sign by Yukimi. (They themselves only used their tickets for talking with her.) We talked some more and I was frequently introduced to other fans around which they were acquainted to. I felt a bit embarrassed here, being put into the limelight like that. But admittedly it was fun to talk to passengers once again, as much as our knowledge of each others language allowed. They have also been the reason why I then contemplated on attending the two PASSPO flights the next day in Saitama. I told them at first that I wouldn’t go there as I got no tickets for it, but as the shows were not sold out they tried to convince me of going there anyway and buy door tickets. My parents tought me on never disappointing a woman’s wishes, so my schedule for the next day was inwardly already adjusting. This also meant it wouldn’t be the last time I ran into them. An important fact I learned through our conversation was about the event ticket limitation: If you queue up again at the goods stand, you are enabled for further tickets and it is not restricted on how often you line up. THAT is some good news!
As time between the two parts allowed enough space, me and Hyon Su were eating and drinking something at a nearby café, much needed by me. Here Hyon Su also handed me his Part 2 Flight ticket for the show in Saitama tomorrow – for free. His flight back to Korea interfered with the show schedule tomorrow so he had no use for it anyway. The only condition being supporting Sako more during the show – which I declined. I can not suddenly cheer for another member after I frequently declared myself a Yukimi supporter. He gave me the ticket anyway and I promised to at least give ‘more attention’ to Sako then during the show. It is the motto of the tour anyway.
The structure for the show in Part 2 was basically the same:
3)BEAST IN YOU
5)Wish On A Star
(GPP, Love Diary, Let it go)
14)Dear My Friends
Only now the bad ending occurred to the storyline. The set list was a bit more evenly adjusted regarding older and newer songs, which suited my tastes much more. But otherwise nothing noteworthy happened for the purpose of this blog.