In a case of spontaneity me and my sister decided to book ourselves tickets for the Japan Expo in Paris. At first I didn’t want to go, as the big idol group present was Denpagumi Inc., a group I really like, don’t get me wrong, I would see them at TIF anyway and I had no confidence to get signs or chekis with them, as they went there for the second time after 2013 and therefore would be in popular demand. Until there was the addition of Luce Twinkle Wink, one of the Arc Jewel groups. Although I liked there performances in the past, they never impressed me as much as Lovely Doll or Stella Beats did, hence I never took part in any events by them in the past. Still their addition was the deciding factor in our booking.
The rest of the festival was rather unimportant to me. The only other idol I knew (by name) was Hiiragi Rio, but I tell you beforehand that her schedule always interfered with something else. The other musical guest were of no importance to me, as well as anything that has to do with Anime, Cosplay, Manga, Games,… in general. I hoped to kill the time between shows and events of Denpagumi and Luce with food and stands about Japan, like fashion, accessories, magazines. Then there was also the weather to be considered, with temperatures reaching easily 35 degrees. Not the best thing to engage in a lot of activities if you want to attend lives and events with idols.
I therefore will keep my review of the general aspects of the festival pretty short: What I really enjoyed was the calm atmosphere, completely different to the regular impression, big events in Europe usually give me. All people there were nice, calm and obviously enjoying being there, without the need to bother others (like at concerts). The venue was held in several big halls, so I needed the first day to get accustomed to the surroundings and the location of the stages. The most popular costumes for Cosplay were by far Pikachu, Sailor Moon and One Piece. The others I didn’t recognize. Some outfits were impressive though, especially those of robots. Annoying were all the people with ‘Free Hug’ signs – why is that? The food there was expensive, at least the triple price of the usual value, and only half in size. Luckily the hot weather kept my appetite low. We also saw some PASSPO fans. One middle-aged french guy wearing a Morishi fan shirt, one Japanese guy with the New Years Flight shirt and of course Adrien, also a blue passenger, who I met there for the first time. He will also go to TIF and the Ebisu Flights end of July. Will be great to meet him again, as during the Expo we only managed to meet once – our schedules were too different.
But now to the important part, the idols. I will dismiss chronology here, as I find it easier to make this post topic related. Let me start with Luce Twinkle Wink then. We arrived early on Friday, the second day of the festival. The first was impossible, as my sister couldn’t get off work. That is why we missed out on the cheki session (here named photocall) with Luce Twinkle Wink. But the day of our arrival a signing session was scheduled, via lottery, and it was our intent to test our luck there. Result: We both won!!!
Sounds better than it actually was, because now to the disadvantages of this procedure:
1. Lottery at the Japan Expo meant, that you were not enabled to try again, neither for this session nor for a later signing session. This hit us bad the fourth day of the festival, when their next signing session then featured all members, whereas on the second day only Saori, Saki and Yukino were present. No interaction with Memetan for my sister therefore.
2. As the demand for Luce was not that high, many fans who wanted to attend the signing session were not able to, as they didn’t win. This lead to a small queue with the result that the staff was asking people waiting around, if they want to access the session anyway. This made our lottery luck completely worthless. Applause Japan Expo. Then this is absolutely their fault, installing lotteries for every participant, despite the low demand.
Whatever the case, we were glad to participate in the event and were happy to get our signs and were also able to take our time when talking to them. In anticipation of this event I wore my Yuririn Fan Shirt that day, as Lovely Doll is a sister group of Luce Twinkle Wink. This was the absolute right decision, not just for this event. But I will get to that later. Before I went for the sign, I took a look at the merchandise and was immediately spoken to by the female staff member, pointing at my shirt and exclaiming “Oh, Yuririn.” Good start. I gave myself a quick overview of the goods I could buy later and then soon proceeded for the signing.
The first being Saori (I-chan). She as well recognized my shirt, so we started with talking about Lovely Doll, how and when I met them. I used this opportunity to tell her about me knowing Luce Twinkle Wink as well because of visiting a few Lovely Doll shows in the past. Saori reacted surprised and inquired immediately when and where I saw Luce and I told her about FiveStars Festival last winter.
Saki (Saki-chan)was already greeting me with a smile. With her I also talked about Lovely Doll, as well as Stella Beats. She asked, that if I knew them, if I have already been to Japan and I could tell her I go there again for TIF. This prompted her to get a promise out of me to go see them as well. Saki then praised my Japanese – which really went very fluently as the topics were easy – and of course I humbly declined.
Yukino (Usami) is my favourite member of the group. She was the one responsible for writing the name on top of the signing sheet, but misunderstood the first time, so that is why it is not really readable. Of course my shirt was a topic as well and she inquired about me buying a shirt of Luce as well. I agreed that I would buy one after the signing session. When telling her as well about liking Stella Beats and Lovely Doll, she laughingly asked, if I also like Luce. I exaggerated a bit and told her, that Luce is my number one. White lies are allowed.
In summary the signing session went really well. The conversation went fluent and the girls were very nice. I then proceeded as planned for the merchandise and bought myself their two singles Setsuna Halation and You are a Star, also their live DVD and a fan shirt, which for Yukino is pink. Yea, you have heard right. I probably will only find the courage to wear it at idol events but nothing else.
Me and my sister, who bought herself a yellow shirt by Memetan, continued watching the session, every now and then being smiled and waved at by them. I used one of this opportunities to hold up my purchased shirt, with the result of Saki seeing it first, making a highly surprised face and pointed at Yukino next to her. This led the letter to form a heart sign at me. Yes, these girls learned their idol basics!
The two lives of Luce Twinkle Wink were a totally different experience, as both stages turned out unlike the other. Whereas the Karasu Stage left a gap of at least ten meters between stage and audience, it was all standing. Demand for Luce was sadly not that high, but this allowed me to secure me a place in the centre, third row, in the middle of Japanese idol fans. A good choice, as with them came an idol live atmosphere, complete with all the chants, light sticks, towels and what not.
The Ichigo Stage on the other hand was only-seating, so much that the attempt of some mostly French fans was supressed by the staff. It was kind of funny, as at first I didn’t realize staff being in the crowd of the chanting fans. I only wondered about Saki having a lot of fans present, as there have been so many red light sticks around. But then I saw that most of those belonged to the staff members and they were waving the fans to go away. Nevertheless the audiences in both occasions enjoyed the shows a lot and every song received loud applause. My personal favourite became You are a Star, with its call and response part near the end.
On the fourth day we also went to Luce’s signing session, though not being able to attend it this time, as I told you before. My sister was able to see Memetan up close and as it happened to be her birthday, a couple of Japanese fans sang for her. We supported them with clapping in rhythm. Saki and Yukino some time smiled or waved at us, whereas Saori was mostly occupied, as she was the first in the signing order. Sadly we couldn’t stay until the end to say them goodbye, as we had to rush for the event of Denpagumi Inc.
Which leads me directly to the next idols: Denpagumi Inc. !! As they became big in Japan in recent years and, as a result, refrain from any type of events there, my goal was certain: Either get autographs or, if possible, a cheki shot with them. Actually because of the late scheduling for the latter I had to re-book my flight without the possibility to cancel my other one. So it should better work out, unless I have thrown 150 Euros away. The event system at the Expo made a successful result of my plans pretty difficult. On our first day there, the second of the Expo, Denpa held their first signing session, but again it was executed as a lottery. Both me and my sister lost… We went there anyway, to at least see the girls up close and to take a look at the merchandise.
Here I bought myself a shirt. Its design is even worse than PASSPO’s shirts. There is only the light blue version with pink lightning strikes, the name of the group is hidden in the left down corner, the back omits every notion of the group and is kept empty. At least I can wear this shirt on casual basis, without feeling embarrassed. My sister by the way bought a shirt as well.
Additionally I participated in the cheki box lottery, with one draw. It is a small box filled with 1shot Polaroids, which are pre-signed by the respective member. As my favourite is Risa, I was hoping to draw her and – got the cheki!!! I couldn’t surpress a shout of joy, which made the staff laugh.
My sister also participated, hoping for Eitaso, and – she as well was lucky!
Now both of us had no compelling need in going to a sign event anymore. This was perfect, than for the last day of the festival, both a signing session as well as a group shot session was scheduled, this time on ‘first come, first served’ basis. The signing session would start 9.30, just half an hour after opening time. For getting admission to the session it was therefore obligatory to apply for the participation ticket as early as possible. This led my sister and me to make our way to the venue nearly 2 hours before opening time, so that we were able to wait at the front, being one of the first to enter. All went as planned, and when arriving at the subscription zone, we saw both Denpagumi Inc. sessions already open for application. As you were only allowed to choose one, we secured ourselves tickets for the cheki session. Another queuing up for the signing session was needless, as the demand for Denpa was much too high. It would have been better, like the other days, if both application times for the different sessions would have been set apart from each other. That way we would have been able to camp before the booth, but as I said above, we had our most important autographs, there was no need to talk and get acquainted with them, as it will be probably the first, last and only time we would meet the girls in person. So a group cheki was the best alternative.
The cheki session was directly after the Luce Twinkle Wink signing session, which made it impossible for me to wave good-bye to Luce, as I had to hurry for the Denpa cheki to secure an early place in the queue, as our flight back home was scheduled only two hours after the sessions start. Of course the whole thing got delayed and began 15 minutes later. The organization was pretty simple and comparable to my group cheki with PASSPO: The placed a chair in the middle were you had to sit. kneeling to the sides were Ayane and Mirin, and in the back Nemu, Risa, Moga and Ei would stand. Photos were done with your camera or mobile. No time for talks was given. The only girls I shared a direct glance with were Ayane and Mirin for being right beside me. But when leaving, I found the time to thank them and mentioned I will see them again at TIF, which led to a commonly exclaim ‘Ooooh!’ To my disappointment though the staff who made the photos couldn’t handle my phone and made a terribly blurred photo. But when I think of it, some of my Polaroid group chekis are much worse in terms of quality and recognizability. So yea, if you ask me, it was all worth it, taking this rare chance of meeting Denpagumi Inc.
But the best idol present I have still left out. While watching the first Luce Twinkle Wink signing session on Friday (second day of the Expo), I came in contact with four Japanese fans of the group. My Yuririn fan shirt I wore that day helped to break the ice here. Three of them were fans of Luce and one other favoured an idol named “couldn’t understand the name” Kana. I told him that I don’t know her. He then added, that Kana was an ex-member of Lovely Doll! Still no reaction from me. Must have been a member before my time, though apart from Yuriko and Yuki I never cared much for the other girls, knowing Maya only because of my sister favouring her. Later that day, I went by a small stage and saw some idol perform named “Tzuduki Kana” (note the spelling), who wanted to be called ‘Kana-chan’. She did two songs, the one called “Ohayo, Oyasumi” was average, but the second song was pretty decent. A small crowd was there, even the Japanese fans from before, providing a good atmosphere in the middle of French people, who were either amazed or amused by their wota antics. Of course I joined the group of fans, not caring about the onlookers. Anyway, the idol was kind of cute but not really my type, and in my perception a loli of only 13 or 14 years. So no further interest in taking part of her events right after the show.
The next day we saw her again performing and this time, in lack of something to do, we wanted to observe her event, to see how that works here in France, without the restrictions of participation tickets. The Japanese fans where there as well and were happily paying for chekis, merchandise and signs with her. Especially the one fan who told me about that Kana girl. Obviously it was her he meant. He again mentioned Lovely Doll and then I made the connection: This girl was Tsuzuki Kana, the graduated member of Lovely Doll, that I have seen several times as well last year. I checked on my phone and looked up the Bargain Girl CD cover and showed the fan the image and he affirmed it being THAT Kana. Damn, I felt so bad for not recognizing her at that moment, in front of a hardcore fan. But he didn’t seem to mind and accepted my (honest) explanation of me only caring for Yuriko and Yuki. In fact, when I asked him about the new joined members in Lovely Doll, he told me that they were not worth knowing of. I also have to blame my sister who also had seen Kana back then. Never mind. Now the table has turned and Kana not being a loli anymore, we both couldn’t let go of the chance to come in contact with her. As Kana was performing thrice a day, we tried to catch as much shows as possible, often afterwards engaging in talking with her (my sister even met her on the toilet) and taking chekis, always in company of the Japanese fans. I was even able to convince Adrien of participating.
The first time I went for a cheki with Kana, while paying for it, I could overhear the Japanese fan talking with Kana about me, telling her about me liking Yuriko (it was the day after I wore the shirt). Great, I got introduced. When it was my turn, the first thing Kana therefore asked me about Yuririn and that she also had seen me yesterday wearing the shirt. I have made the right decision with the choice of my outfit, no doubt! When deciding on a pose I refused her proposal of forming a heart with our hands. She and the female staff started laughing about my reaction, hopefully not out of shame. Amongst other topics in our several conversations were Japan, France, the French fans, if she has a CD released (not yet), of course Lovely Doll and about her voice, which got worse with every following day. During our conversations I could confirm my perception about Kana, about her not being really my type. She has that kind of sad facial expression and her way of speaking fits accordingly to it. Still don’t get me wrong: Kana is a nice girl and great idol and it will be interesting to follow her further career. She also inquired me about TIF. I asked back if she will be there as well. She denied, but told me about handing out flyers there. I told her I would look for her when she does that and it seemed to me she was happy about it.
There was one other idol group present of which I saw some presentations, Stand-Up Hearts. Although I liked their songs in general and some members were really cute, they all appeared very young to me. No idea if I made the wrong assumption here, wouldn’t be the first time. Right, Kana-chan?
*PS: I will try to upload some pictures of the Expo itself soon. So far I haven’t found the time to copy them to my hard drive.
As you can see from my post, there are now only more groups that got on my watch list for TIF. Denpagumi Inc. and Luce Twinkle Wink will perform there, Kana hands out flyers, and Lovely Doll and Stella Beats are close enough acquaintances of both. So far only Ange Reve is the only group I am not concerned with.
A good thing though is the release of the map and stages TIF will have this year. They stay the same as last year (bad), but at least added another big stage with Zepp DiverCity, which is air-conditioned. If all goes well, I will probably spend most of my time there, as it is close to the Greeting Square as well. But I don’t have my hopes up.
PiiiiiiiN by the way successfully finished their second One Man on July 4th and announced a big One Man in Akasaka Blitz on January 3rd. As Predia already announced a similar live for Decembre 29th it is close to certainty, that my next trip will be around New Years. Probably booking right after the forthcoming trip. My hope is that I can already buy tickets for PiiiiiiiN’s show directly at their buppan. The reaction to that, a foreigner buying a ticket six months prior, should be epic.
If you haven’t checked out Bellring Girls Heart 13 Weeks later EP, do it quick. It is great! My ticket vendor actually still tries to get tickets for me for Bellring’s show on July 26th, but I quote: “It’s a very special ticket purchase system they have in place…” Yes, it is a very unusual group in many ways!