Chikadols

The True Meaning of Idol Hell

This was my fifth trip to Japan and I can honestly say it was the most life-affirming trip I’ve ever taken: it was the first time I felt a genuine sense of regret having to leave once all was said and done because I so dearly missed being able to indulge in the chikadol lifestyle day in and day out.  Over the course of eight days, I went to nine chikadol events, ranging anywhere from to two to eight hours each day and experienced somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 chikadol groups, which is just patently absurd.

This article is more of a 10,000-foot, breadth-over-depth summary as my exposure to the majority of these groups has been just 3-4 songs in 15-20 minutes.  Additionally, I’ve managed to do only a bit of peripheral digging into my favorite groups over the past week.  Perhaps as I delve deeper into the rabbit hole in the future, I will have juicier details to share on individual groups.

Dear L mana

Dear L mana songs have this quaint, softer, soothing cadence than most idol songs; almost a somber melody at times, but still distinctly idol-y music.  ‘Love you’, is by far my favorite track of theirs and probably my favorite song from any group.  I was so blessed and fortunate enough to be able to see them 3 times in 3 consecutive days.

But what really made them stick out was when, during the buppan setup period on the first show of theirs I caught, Coco tapped me on the shoulder and thanked me for coming to the show.  I was standing off to the side on my phone (not even anywhere near the line for their buppan), and, appearance-wise, I never stand out as a foreigner, but she still singled me out specifically to say ‘thank you’, which was a nice gesture that has stuck with me very memorably.  Looking back on it, I’m about 99.9% sure it’s because she didn’t recognize me as a regular and wanted to be very open and welcoming to a potential new fan, but it made for a very memorable moment, regardless.

 

アリエルプロジェクト

I first discovered アリエルプロジェクト  at @JAM The Field where they were the main opening act for the show.  They don’t have many originals, but they tend to cover songs that are softer and quieter much like Dear L mana.  I enjoyed them so much that when I caught them live a second time at a subsequent chikadol event, I made the decision to skip out on the remainder of  said event and follow them to another chikadol event at a venue 30 minutes away that they were performing at just so I could see them twice in one day.

Fun fact: they are based out of Hong Kong, so not only do they make only occasional appearances in Japan, but they speak perfectly fluent Cantonese and English (in addition to other languages!), which I didn’t discover until I chatted with them during the buppan.  They just so happened to have a larger-than-usual presence in Japan during my trip because they had their 1st single release event on March 3, 2018, which I unfortunately had to miss out on because of Animax Osaka.

AIBECK

An all-around solid idol rock group with fantastic energy and stage presence; they really know how to work a crowd.  Their stuff is mostly traditional J-Rock, but dips into gentler rock ballad territory a lot more often than you’d expect, so there’s a good amount of range to be had across their discography.

あそびダンジョン

あそびダンジョン’s style super high-octane, off-kilter, dempa-ish music style that’s contagiously energizing and makes for a great crowd atmosphere (and naturally attracts a boatload of more yakkai fans).  Specifically, at the event I attended, it was whack as hell to watch the fans re-enact the leapfrog furi that kicks off the following song.

まじばんch

Similar to あそびダンジョン, まじばんch tends to sport very energetic and quirky choreography and boasts a similarly devoted and hardcore (see ‘yakkai’) fanbase.  They were originally 100% self-produced, handling all aspects of their operations, from costume design, to choreography, to booking venues, to inventory, storage, and distribution of their buppan.  Even though they recently signed with an agency, it’s more of a formality and they still retain overwhelming control of and responsibility for the group.

But, let’s be real here, all of the preceding qualifiers are more or less completely overshadowed by the fact that they have a song that ends with 15 iettaigas.

神使轟く、激情の如く

Another J-Rock group like AIBECK, however, they’ve got one killer song: 宣戦布告 which easily wins the award for best and most memorable audience participation as all the members dart gracefully into the crowd one by one and start dragging people to form a giant circle at the song’s ‘woahohooooooh’ climax.  It’s absolutely wild and must be experienced in person.

平成琴姫

平成琴姫’s striking style immediately stood out as contemporary idol lightly infused with classic enka, giving them a unique, traditional flair.  Coco and Kurumin from Dear L mana were former members of this group, which is a huge plus for me.

はっぴっぴ

Similar to 平成琴姫, はっぴっぴ is a mix of traditional Japanese music and idol music, but with a distinctly more modern, exaggerated, and festival-y slant, resulting in a much more cheery and upbeat tone.  Their outfits are really sweet to boot.

椎名ぴかりん

Of all the absurd things I was grateful to be able to bear witness to this this trip, watching this 20,000 year old “devil idol” literally sink her teeth into the arm of an wota who was kecha’ing right in front of her during the C melody of her final song definitively took the cake.  Just plain wild.

ぴかりん’s music is, as one would expect, death metal mixed with traditional J-Pop but occasionally in a way that is highly incongruous, like oil-and-water leading to some bizarre, macabre setpieces in an otherwise straightforward Babymetal-ish track.  She’s also got a footprint in the fashion world and a sizable following there as well.

松山あおい

松山あおい was the first opening act of @JAM The Field, making her one of the first chikadol performances of the entire trip.  But the real reason she gets a shout-out is because I ran into her again near the tail end of the trip outside the train station of the Animax Osaka venue singing a cover of START:DASH!! and performing for the crowds exiting the event. It felt incredibly fitting that I was able to encounter her once at the beginning of and end of the trip that was lined with chikadol lives.  Musubi.

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こんぺいとー

This group seems to be a fairly new (around 2 or so months old as of early 2018), so it’s hard to expect much from them, but their outfits remind me of Osomatsu-san and they introduced themselves during their MC by relaying their favorite Disney character, which was undeniably adorable.

Summary

Other groups I liked include Littlemore, Dreaming monster, SAY-LA, KAMOがネギをしょってくるッ!!!, 玉響-たまゆら-, KOTO, and きゃわふるTORNADO.  After looking a bit more into the chikadol scene, I had the opportunity to see FES☆TIVE, but missed out because I was too busy running to catch アリエルプロジェクト at their second performance of the day across town.

Oh well, there’s always next time: I foresee subsequent Japan trips being just as absurd as this in terms of pure chikadol over-saturation.  Additionally, after only picking up only 3 chekis this trip, I’m faced with serious regret and have therefore decided that I’m all-in on the cheki life from here on out, so future buppans will inevitably end up consuming most of my trip’s budget.