Just a few months ago, Homicidols published a profile of fans-turned-promoters bringing alternative idols to the Western World. Looking back now, the article is a bit embarrassingly anglo-centric. Unbeknownst to us at the time, a group of Italian-speaking fans were putting the finishing touches on their own considerable efforts to launch an alt-idol festival in Italy. When the final lineup for the event was revealed in mid-February, it was clear that there was a new and significant player in the business of importing underground Japanese idol to the West.
Seemingly overnight, the hardol diaspora had grown another tendril.
On May 11th in Bologna, Italy, Monster of Dolls will play host to alt-idol A-listers LADYBABY, the Western debut of JyuJyu, and an appearance by the legendary Sari of NECRONOMIDOL fame. The event’s biggest coup, however, is scoring the first ever overseas live for perhaps the hottest chika idol act in Tokyo: Melon Batake a go go.
The appearance of this top-tier alt-idol festival, seemingly out of nowhere, was the most pleasant of surprises. Our curiosity was piqued, not just about the cost of plane tickets to Italy, but also about the festival itself, the brains behind it, and about the Italian-speaking fandom whose presence we had been totally ignorant of until now. So we reached out to our new Italian allies in the quest to bring alt-idol to the West in the hopes that we could learn all we could.
We think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Carpe diem!!! You don’t know if you’ll ever get another occasion like this in your life, it would be absurd to have it run away!
Homicidols: Please tell us about the team that is putting this event together. Introduce us to the key members and tells us about their role in the Monster of Dolls project.
Many of the people who are part of the team knew each other before the project, at least on the web, because we hung out in the same Facebook groups about Japanese idols. The Facebook page was Riki and his father’s idea. From the beginning, their dream was to bring idols to Italy, but it seemed impossible. Then, with the right contacts and a year of hard work the dream has come true!
Eriko Kawasaki, our Artistic Director, was fundamental in the role of intermediary with the idol groups. Other people of the team are Fudosama, Berry, Princess JellyBiSH, Ilenya and Rei. They mainly deal with social media and promote the event.
Homicidols: Is this the first event your team has worked on together? What other events has the group worked on either together or individually?
In the past we held an event with Italian idols and a DJ set with Japanese music. It was simply a night of fun, but now we’re in the business!
Homicidols: What inspired you to create the Monster of Dolls event?
We are all Japanese idols fans, especially of the alternative ones, but as Italians the possibility for us to take part to an idol show without selling a kidney was less than zero. So we thought it necessary to jump into this challenge for our compatriots and for all the idol fans in Europe and create something similar to the Japanese idol festivals.
Homicidols: What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in organizing the event?
The logistics was one thing, but the most difficult one was the fact that many idol groups don’t have a clear vision about the potential of the Western musical markets. They think of their kind of music as something strictly Japanese and they don’t understand why Western people would be interested in promoting them.
Homicidols: We at Homicidols are mostly familiar with the English-speaking alternative-idol fandom. What is the Italian-speaking alternative-idol fandom like?
We have the impression that the English-speaking fandom is more united. When someone learns something about the idol world, the news spreads in a little while and everybody knows it. Instead here in Italy Japanese music is still seen like something strange, so people that listen to it don’t really talk with others about their passion. For this reason I find difficult to talk about a real Italian fandom. We are more like a group of people who don’t know each other and who Monster of Dolls is trying to unite.
Homicidols: Monster of Dolls is also going to include performances by Italian idol units. Are there many idol units in Italy? Do they tend to be more “traditional” or “alternative”?
There are actually various Italian idol groups. Most of them are part of an agency called Idol Stage, but there are also others which aren’t part of it. They are more traditional idol, but with the international success of Babymetal we have also here some idols that are embracing the dark side! Unfortunately, I think it is difficult for this kind of show to take root in the West, so our Idols perform only in Japanese themed events, such as comics festivals. One of our groups, however, has just performed in Italia’s Got Talent getting an excellent response. Their name is COS-MIX and I have the impression that you’ll know them soon!
Homicidols: What was the reaction of idol units in Japan when you began contacting them about the possibility of performing in Italy at Monster of Dolls? Were they eager to come?
Idol groups really like the idea to come to Europe, but they are really careful who contacts them. They don’t trust easily and, rightly, they want a lot of guarantees.
Homicidols: In the end, why did you select these particular idol units to perform at Monster of Dolls?
In contacting idol groups we thought about what could be the tastes of the Italian and European audience, but to be honest, we have also followed our tastes! We really wanted to invite Ladybaby because they’re really loved by Italian idol fans and we know that they’ll make a bang! On the other side, we think that Melon Batake a go go is attracting the international fandom, but the tastes of us admins were decisive too. We really wanted to see them live so much and we can’t wait to meet them! JyuJyu was the final gift we wanted to give to the fans because we really believe they’re the kind of group that can make the European audience fall in love.
Homicidols: This will be the first overseas show for Melon Batake a Go Go and the first show outside of Southeast Asia for JyuJyu. How did you convince these groups that Monster of Dolls was the right event for their Western debuts?
Actually the real challenge was to convince Ladybaby. From that point on everything else was pretty much downhill. I think that underground groups like Melon and JyuJyu have been reassured by the fact that a more famous group will participate, so they thought, “If Ladybaby trusts them, why shouldn’t we?” Plus, I guess they think it’s a good chance for them to take part in an overseas festival with Ladybaby. Another essential thing was the mediation of our artistic director, Eriko. Japanese can be wary of gaijin, but if it is a Japanese person to contact them and intercede it become much more easier to communicate and understand each other.
Homicidols: Ladybaby has gone through many changes over the years, but continue to generate hype. As the Monster of Dolls headliner, is there something special that you believe they can show the audience?
We just want them to have fun and feel welcomed… So they can simply be themselves, which is the most beautiful gift they can make us! Like we said before, Italian fans love Ladybaby very much, so we have no doubt that their presence will make this event unique and special.
Homicidols: What is the purpose of your special guest? Since this is Sari’s first appearance since her graduation from NECRONOMIDOL, what can fans expect from her presence at the festival?
Another idol group that is really loved by Italian fans is Necronomidol. Being able to host Sari is an honor for us, and we know that her presence is making the fans happy. Although she will not perform, fans are excited to be able to meet her, take a picture with her or have her autograph. I think because Sari is really friendly everyone feels very close to her and take her to heart.
Homicidols: One of the unique VIP benefits is dinner with the idols. That sounds very interesting. Who is selecting the menu?
The funny thing about it is that we will offer pizza to the Japanese idols, while for the fans there will be a ramen menu. I would say that it is what is called a cultural exchange!
Homicidols: What would you say to someone who is not quite sure about attending Monster of Dolls to convince them to come?
Carpe diem! You don’t know if you’ll ever get another occasion like this in your life, it would be absurd to have it run away!
Homicidols: Are you hoping that this event will make more idols in Japan think of Italy when they make plans to go overseas? Are you hoping to host similar events in the future?
Absolutely YES! This is only the beginning, and this event will be decisive for the future, so this is another reason why you cannot miss it.
Please help us to make this event a success and we promise that great things will happen in the future!
LADYBABY – MELONBATAKE A GO GO – JYUJYU – SARI – ERIKO…
— Monster Of Dolls (@monster_dolls) February 19, 2019