Team Homicidols Best of the Year, 2023

It’s the start of a new year! What does this mean for Team? Certainly more idols. 2023 was a busy year, hence why we are posting the Best of 2023 this late. Sometimes, life gets in the way of idol. Damn life.

Despite life’s complications, we are also working feverishly to get nominations finalized and the ballot ready for distribution for the REAL Homicidols Best for the Year recognitions: the ones chosen by YOU, our dear readers and community. Look for that to drop early next week.

In the meantime, here are the questionable opinions of the Team responsible for running this site.

Surprise of the Year

Daemon: With travel restrictions finally fully lifted, idols hit the road. It’s hard to pick which was more surprising: CHICKEN BLOW THE IDOL appearing at a ramen festival in California, NEO JAPONISM spending a full month Stateside, or WACK finally making the leap Westward, so lets just say:  the sheer number of idols making  their Western debuts.

Kerrie: WACK in the UK!? I thought my (admittedly idiotic looking back) Watanabe bullying of ’17 would have deterred them from ever visiting, but now that fucker is living here and inviting girls en-masse!

Papermaiden:  WACK in the UK was definitely a surprise. At last! I’m glad everyone had a blast and that there is a even plans of a second one in March! I was also definitely surprised that Pataco Pataco emerged back for limited Koutei Camera Gal revivals. I didn’t manage to make it to any of the shows, but I’m damn glad they happened.

Cal: I guess KAQRIYO has 18 members now? And it’s just all of Codomomental? Where they all perform in smaller units???? Fuck if I know man. Oh also Atarashii Gakko no Leaders being one of the most popular artists on the planet right now.

Letdown of the Year

Daemon: One of the brightest new units in pop punk was SIPP until Ui, their spiritual and creative center, began to experience stress-related deafness, bringing an early end to her idol career and the unit.

Cal: I really thought BOYSGROUP would make it but they lasted… 5 months? It came as a letdown because it was the first time I really got into a male idol group, as somebody that only really likes some Arashi and Junretsu songs. Unfortunately being apart of a famous agency isn’t always a ticket to success, but they really took that dog out back and shot it the second the chart ranking dropped for “SUPERHERO” huh.

Kerrie: Uh, whatever is happening with Codomomental. Tefutefu seem to be doing alright though.

Papermaiden: Yeah, Kerrie, what IS up with Codomomental? After the Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da Budokan show and the disbandment of a stellar lineup of KAQRIYOTERROR, I largely fell off following the company. When Komari Yuu decided to leave the company, that was the nail in the coffin for me. Love is dead. However, if you are looking for Codomomental regular news in English, NucleARtyom is doing just that on his Codomomental fan site! So you don’t have to let my disdain keep you from being informed!

Saddest Disbandment of the Year

Daemon: For me, it was the tragic end to the ill-fated Minna no Kodomochan. The unit is no stranger to misfortune, having lost key member, Honoka,  to injury years prior. Cinnamon struggled on, carrying the Kodomochan banner valiantly forward.  Unfortunately, having failed to sell out a modest one-man in August, the writing was on the literal and figurative Wall, although it has not stopped them from releasing new music and an MV.

Cal: As the “still talking about ‘down’ by HAMIDASYSTEM 4 years later” guy, losing CROSSNOESIS and RILISREVERSE in the same year felt like losing both of my parents. Continuing the trend of getting two successor groups though, Tonalia have some cute pop-rock songs and next year, there’ll be a group produced by trance musician Lv.4, who contributed some of RILISREVERSE’s best songs. But, like CROSSNOESIS said on their last ever song, “The end that comes is something that never changes.

Kerrie: While there were certainly debates on the quality of some of their later discography, there’s no denying that BiSH were a legendary unit, and their departure leaves an enormous hole in not only the alt-idol circle, but the Japanese music circle as a whole.

Papermaiden:  The disbanding of Daremo Shiranai in February was absolutely gut-wrenching. Their entire discography was great and the girls get along really well with each other. They have since restarted something of their own as Ketulo, but it’s just not the same.

Farfromsleep: As the sole remaining connection to my beloved HIBANA who had developed into a great group in their own right, even though they ended on such a high it was a little heartbreaking to wave goodbye to the wonderful IROPIRO.

Saddest Graduation of the Year

Cal: Zappa Madeline (Grateful a MogAAAz) for sure. She’s really incredible though. Imagine deciding “I’m going to go to Japan and become and idol” and then just… doing exactly that. It’s like something out of a movie! With tenacity like that, she has a bright future ahead.

Kerrie: Kakizaki Risaki having two separate graduations in the span of a year hurt, man.

Farfromsleep: This year we finally waved farewell to a true alt-idol icon, the unstoppable force that was Mimimiyu from MIGMA SHELTER. It’s simply impossible to imagine the group becoming what it is today without her leading the way.

Daemon: It is Cinnamon from Minna no Kodomochan for reasons cited above.

Debut of the Year (Soloists and Members)

Farfromsleep: Going solo turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to KILLERMACHINE, who proceeded to drop an absolute belter of an EP which in a shocking plot twist sounded exactly like you’d expect from an idol called KILLERMACHINE and I am absolutely here for that.

Cal: Shion Epic from BiS. I’m constantly thinking about her debut interview in Ototoy. It was like:

What did your parents say when you passed?
Were there any problems moving from Shiga to Tokyo?
“No not really”
How would you describe your personality?
“I’m a dark person who was born under a dark star.”
What did you think of your debut live with BiS?
“It was fun.”

I would die for her. I WILL die for her.

Papermaiden:  Aguri Pico and Shibuya Ryuka are two very charming additions to Leiwan. I would be also neglectful if I didn’t mention Hisui Daria from Misolade Edison, as she captured both my heart and my wallet. Aside from them, I think Haibara Heidi joining Merkmal Mermal is really cool. I would keep an eye out for her if I was you!

Daemon: Jumping agencies from abiraise to O-Key as a founding member of NOW DRAMATiC and then quickly getting promoted to her new agency’s flagship unit, POPPiNG EMO, wasn’t enough for King Yuria (aka Yuria Naruse). She also launched a sub-unit (YURIKU) with 193R and revived her former side project, KANARiA.

Debut of the Year (Group)

Daemon: My favorite new unit has been OMG (Outrage Music Girls) who have debuted, gone on hiatus, and rebooted all during their inaugural year, basically encapsulating the spirit of idol in 2023.

Kerrie: I’ll never stop singing the praises of downerprism.

Papermaiden:  I was afraid my heart would not recover from losing the groups I liked so much, and despite looking high and low, I just couldn’t find something that would ignite my heart like that. And then, Natsume from Gretel wa Otona ni Naranai announced she was joining a new group and… it was love at first sight. Beyond the excellent concept (Not Gothic, but Grotesque & Cute. Part of the world is bleak and godforsaken.) and the stunning visual, the music IS REALLY GOOD. It just has the perfect injection of chaos and sentimentality and the group is YA’ABURNEE.
I mean, look at this:
Picture with a yellow and black background, with the name of the group in white in a language unknown to me. The members are, from left to right: Nuie (in white and blue, with black hair in buns, wearing a headdress), Zarame (red hair in a ponytail, wearing dark red and orange), TehTeh Pomea (wearing a fluffy and furry light yellow costume) and Natsume (wearing dark green and wielding a staff)

10/10, would die for them. Probably will die in a mosh pit or a lift, to be honest.

Farfromsleep: The Korean live idol scene continues to serve up exciting new music, and this year’s vote goes to the excellent synth-heavy surprise from Tachyon Z.

Cal: LiVS, that’s “Life is Very Short“. I love the concept of this being everyone’s last chance to become an idol because they had to sign a contract saying that they wont try and debut somewhere else if they failed the audition, really makes the true thirst for artistry shine through. Also the album is one of the best this year if you’re into music that sounds like having your brain microwaved.

Reboot of the Year

Daemon: Rebooting as a solo act for Akubi Kanjosen has somehow made the already excellent MAD JAMIE even better.

Kerrie: Rebooting a legendary but long-disbanded group with a completely new line-up can be hard to do right; not only is there pressure to capture the spirit of the original, but also to keep it fresh enough to attract new fans. But when Bellring Girls Heart rebooted fully this time, it succeeded in both regards.

Farfromsleep: It’s hard to argue with that choice. Classic BELLRING had a distinctive chaotic charm that I thought would have been almost impossible to replicate, but they only went and did it.

Papermaiden:  Since I want to add something beyond just backing BELLRING, I think Seireki13ya‘s lineup is pretty balanced and they seem to be doing well!

Cal: For whom the bell rings, it rings for BELLRING.

Best Friend of Homicidols

Cal: Maybe Swancry. The music is just too beautiful.

Papermaiden:  Definitely Swancry. Ano might have made the switch to “artist” this year, but it was definitely her year, so I think she deserves a mention!

Daemon: My top pick got stolen by Cal and Papermaiden, so I will take this moment to ensure that you are aware of the second-most beautiful solo/band  project headed by a former idol: UTERO.

Kerrie: I’m taking advantage of this corner to highlight WONT, because when my favourite Hello! Project Kenshuusei who got unfairly shafted re-emerges years later as the vocalist of a metal band, I kind of have to push that on everyone else.

Collaboration of the Year

Daemon: Aina the End + Aoi Yamada turned out to be a perfectly complementary match as AiNATOAOI.

Cal: The RAY, DAIDAIDAI and CROSSNOESIS’ split single “ATMOSPHERE.” To me it’s just so… fun! Maybe it’s an overtly simple reason, but, three different songs developed around the same concept of what “atmosphere” would mean to each group is just fun. Maybe that project was cursed though given the um… state of things now.

Overseas Act of the Year

Cal: There’s too many to choose from! NEKIRU and Shimmer Shrimpmer continue to knock it out of the park and i’m excited for Frontier Sensation‘s new lineup, but I think i’d have to go for Kyunchi! Their verse on Manon’s “LMSN” was the perfect mantra for all girls, gays and theys everywhere who just can’t stop being a huge bitch.

Farfromsleep: After a bit of a shaky start to the year, NEKIRU powered through in their own inimitable style, releasing a couple of great new tracks and rounding things out on a high with a triumphant birthday live. The devil works hard but Soha works harder.

Daemon: It’s very close for me this year. The Italian Goddesses of ERISU had a breakout year, spreading their wings around Europe and performing with the likes of Rukatama and SARI, but our favorite Thai shoegaze unit may have sealed the nod with their Halloween MV for “Surprise Motherfucker.”

Performance of the Year

Daemon: I saw some amazing shows this year and it is almost impossible to pick. WACK in the UK was an amazing evening, but CHICKEN BLOW THE IDOL put on a great show, as did Isiliel. I also had a great time following NEO JAPONISM around LA and Vegas, not to mention watching Tokyo Psychopath blowing the roof off of Saboten Con. Looking back years from now though, the most indelible memory out all of these shows will probably be AiNATOAOI at WACK in the UK.

Cal: This year I went to my first idol shows, and they both happened to be in my home city! Plasta’s Butterdog Summit in London was incredible because it was just so much fun, their energy is out of this world. Also Mori told me to transition at the offkai, so I might have to start ordering bootleg estrogen online for oshikatsu purposes. Second was WACK in the UK, but specifically ASP. So raw and edgy and they know how to get a crowd jumping too.

Farfromsleep: Painful as it was to see them go, BiSH really sent things off in style with a Bye Bye Show for the ages.

EP of the Year

Daemon: We know all about concept albums, but how about a concept EP? Cotonograph(AM) by pupa!! is an extortionary musical exploration of the time between 1:00 and 6:00 am in which each hour gets it’s own expressive track.

Cal: Gonna have to go with “TALES” by RILISREVERSE. The culmination of their journey as a group and gradual shift in genres feels authentic, feels sentimental.

Farfromsleep: My vote has to go to X!DENT for really raising their game and expanding their range this year with their strongest release yet. If you like it loud, you’ll probably find something to enjoy quite a lot here.

Single of the Year

Daemon: This category is always extraordinarily deep and this year was no different. It didn’t help matters that both RAY and Odoro each released a series of amazing singles, but then compiled them into albums which took off some pressure to try to pick just one. At the end of the internal debate though, I’m going with the rebooted Shihatsu-Machi Underground who put out several stellar singles, my favorite being, “Rock and roll and Tiger lily.”

Cal: I really liked SEXFRIEND LOVE by Planck Stars because the lyrics were so personal! Representation matters ♡

Farfromsleep: I can get emotional around graduations at the best of times, but YURASAI member YUMEMI‘s farewell ode to her bandmates and idol life itself in “Candy Shark In My Dream” is so genuinely touching I’m choking up a little just finishing this sentence.

Papermaiden:  YA’ABURNEE‘s INORI really has me in a grip.

Best B-Side of the Year

Cal:Blueberry Gum” by ASP continues the trend of WACK b-sides being a little too good, even with their change in producers. There’s just something so satisfying about Yumeka’s “You ARE lazy boy!” Also I broke up with my boyfriend and translated that song with a friend, so it holds a special place in my angsty teenage (pushing 30) heart.

Daemon: Again, Cal stole my top pick as “Blueberry Gum” is an absolutely addictive masterclass in pop reggae that I have been bingeing for the last couple of months, so I will take this opportunity to post the only B-side I may have played more often:  “Rokudenashi,” the B-Side to “Jun6” by  pupa!!

Farfromsleep: Who doesn’t love some idol shoegaze, and IROPIRO‘s “Lilith” is easily one of my favourite examples of the form so far. What a transcendent note to end on.

Papermaiden:  Have you considered “NARAK” by YA’ABURNEE? I thought the “NARAK” was full of discordance and it was great. I would also be hard-pressed not to mention my most looped song of the year, “☆Sake kuzu fuuuck☆” by MoemoeDestruction

Best Art of the Year

Daemon: The cover art for INICHIJYOU, the debut album from anew is equal parts brilliant and disturbing.

Farfromsleep: AQBIRec’s design team have given us some absolute bangers over the years, and they proved that isn’t changing any time soon with the wonderfully striking design on Finger Runs’ “Escape!!“. The exclamation points aren’t mine but they might as well be.

Cal: Fun story about “DELiCiOUS ViSCiOUS” by ASP, once while getting the tube to class, because I only follow freaks, some art of a half naked anime man popped up on my Twitter timeline. Not wanting to expose the people next to me to that sort of filth, I quickly tabbed to Spotify. Unfortunately, I was listening to that EP, so instead the old lady next to me got an eyeful of psychedelic cock hellhound.

Funniest Moment of the Year

Daemon: There was the time PLANCK STARS somehow felt compelled to release a new song with the temporary title, “I’m really sorry that the members were joking around and trying to make customers drink detergent at the off-party. Please don’t imitate it.”

But I really can’t get enough of the Halloween transformation of MELON BATAKE A GO GO’s  Run, Soze, and Usako into MELON METAL.

Farfromsleep: In a career that isn’t exactly shy of a few shockers, PLANCK STARS’ surprise JAV cameo was one for the books, proving once again that their predilection for the truly outrageous is matched only by their innate sense of comic timing.

Music Video of the Year

Farfromsleep: It’s two in a row for me for PLANCK STARS, but “Manko Chinko“‘s collision of Plasta’s explosive charisma with added sukeban style feels like a combination so precision-engineered for me I’m not entirely sure I didn’t just dream it and someone is about to shake me awake any minute now to remind me life just isn’t that fair.

Daemon: Both Airattic and Melancholic Cinderalla Story put out several incredible MV’s this year, and the weekly PVs from RAY helped keep me sane the last few months, but the best thing I saw all 2023 was Hinano Takizawa (NEO JAPONISM) cover Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”.

Cal: BiSH’s “Bye-Bye Show” really did feel like the true closing to the end of an era. Also it’s funny whenever they get shit on.

Papermaiden: It’s important to be the change you want to see in the world, so I’m nominating a kinopo. MV. They’re always good and “Living Dead” is no exception. Stylish as all get out, you are sure to have a fantastic time watching it.

Album of the Year

Daemon: This was a tight category for most of the year, highlighted by an incredibly solid record in Decision by BLACKNAZARENE and Airattic’s extraordinary debut. But when the most compelling unit in idol announced that they would be releasing their third full album in October, the competition parted like the petals of a budding flower in sudden boom. Camelia by RAY is everything we need right now.

Kerrie: It might be a predictable pick from me, but there’s no denying that Isiliel’s Moonbow Genesis is incredible. Himari opens up to the fans with deeply personal lyrics, backed up by Fredrik Nordström’s dynamic production, making Moonbow Genesis a highly intense and emotional listening experience.

Farfromsleep: Hopes were high after the initial promise of the first few tracks, and Moonbow Genesis absolutely delivered. A real progression and evolution in so many ways.

Papermaiden:  There’s only one proper new album I listened to this year, and that’s Kinopo‘s Living Dead. When I pull it up, I’m listening to the full album, not just individual songs. It’s been a recurring staple throughout the year. Plus, it was the soundtrack to their amazing stage play! What more to ask for?

Cal: Even when it rains, it’s a parade! OUR PARADE by GANG PARADE was the kind of chaotic mishmash you’d expect from them, and probably has some of my favourite songs by them on it. It’s also the last bastion of WACK and SCRAMBLES’ partnership, so savour it!

Song of the Year

Daemon: There was one song that I came back to again and again this year unlike any other and that was “E.A.T.”, the pop punk ballad by Kaishin no Ichigeki with heartfelt lyrics in both English and Japanese by Airi Machinyuki. It has been in my regular rotation since it’s release back in March and it’s still sounds as fresh as if I’m hearing it for the first time. It’s an amazing tune.

Cal: For me it has to be “SEXUAL CONVERSATiON” by ASP. I like music that sounds like chainsaws fighting but also the opening line is “I’m hungry for love. Shuriken.” I had the pleasure of asking the author, JW Undersex (totally not Watanabe), what that means and he said “nothing, I just liked how shuriken sounds.”

Farfromsleep: It felt like we were waiting an absolute age for NEKIRU‘s “Take My Way” to finally drop as a single after the initial video promo, but it was worth it.

Idol of the Year

Kerrie: Let’s just say Isiliel has had one hell of a year, and Himari Tsukishiro is stronger than any shonen anime protagonist.

Cal: I don’t go here but I’ll second Isiliel. Himari really has a raw authenticity to her and the amount of work she puts in is insane.

Daemon: From my perspective, the unit who produced the most consistently superb music, demonstrated peak artistry, and performed closer to perfection than any other group is, RAY.

Most Expected to Break Through in 2024

Farfromsleep: With increasingly strong songs and consistently great live shows (not to mention the amazing but slightly too-late-for-this-list collab with Utsu-P), for my money LuciDreaM are the ones to watch in 2024.

Cal: On my knees begging Dae not to pick a group I like this year. Also LiVS.

Papermaiden:  What if BiTE A SHOCK lived up to their predecessor’s potential? What then? Also, I think KINGSARI should make it big next year. For reasons.

Daemon: Since my annual mentions for Break Through invariably go on to break UP instead (my sincere apologies to ZOMBIE POWDER, NELN, SIPP, and BOYSGROUP), I’m going to pick Melancholic Cinderella Story since they already announced that they are disbanding in a couple of weeks.