The influence of Japanese-style alternative idol has, undeniably, been spreading further and further across the globe. Over the past couple of yeas, Homicidols has covered overseas idol units from Italy, South Korea, Thailand, Australia and, most recently, the Philippines, all of whom directly channel the style and spirit (and, sometimes, language) of our favorite underground and indie idols in Japan. This activity has become so widespread that Team Homicidols has encountered trouble covering it all. It is why we recently brought FarFromSleep on board specifically to focus on activity in South Korea. It is also why, when Halien reached out to us and offered to put together an overview of the idol scene in Vietnam, our response was an enthusiastic, “Yes, please!”
Other than a piece on POLARIS☆ when they released their highly infectious tune about the Corona virus, we haven’t given units from Vietnam too much attention. So please welcome our guest correspondent, Halien, as they brief us on the idol genre as it exists in Vietnam and share an in-depth conversation with a wota who is quite active in the Vietnamese idol scene.
Please have a seat because, right now, Homicidols will take you on the flight to the next stop on the IDOL map: Viet Nam!
Compared to Thailand where idol culture already has a quite solid foundation, or in South Korea with an explosive live idol community in recent years, the Japanese-style idol community in Vietnam seems to be more quiet.
To know more about the Vietnamese idol community, let’s start with a short introduction to the idol units that helped set the stage for the scene as it exists today.
Not belonging to the underground scene, AKB48’s sister group in Vietnam debuted under the name SGO48 in 2018, marking another remarkable milestone in the development of Vietnamese idol.
In 2019, Fuu, the leader of Niji Universe Inc. took part in the production and founding of Uni☆Dia Check (Uniche).
Unfortunately, during 2021, the Vietnamese idol community went through a hard time, marked with the disbandment of SGO48 and Uniche going on hiatus.
However, at the end of the same year, another idol project was kicked off, END OF IDOL.
In terms of quantity, the Viet idol scene has not had much significant development since 2016. Faced with limitations in terms of audience tastes as well as other problems in the Vietnamese music market, they still haven’t had a chance to really make a splash.
Although the road is still very precarious, perhaps the spirit of enterprising, hard work and perseverance will still exist in “IDOL”, regardless of their nationality. From now on, Niji Universe Inc., POLARIS★, and promising rookie END OF IDOL will continue to fight and to build a stronger idol community in Vietnam.
Or at least, it’s what I believe.
The Vietnamese idol scene might be quite new to Homicidols readers, therefore, I hope to introduce them through this very first article of mine. Since I don’t have first-hand experience in the fan community, I invited Jason, a Vietnamese wota, to share their thoughts on the scene with us.
Homicidols: Hi, thank you for joining this conversation with Homicidols. Firstly, can you tell me which groups you are/were a fan of?
Jason: I’m currently a fan of Niji Universe Inc, I also used to support UniDia Check and SGO48.
I know Niji Universe Inc. (Niji) is a group with a long history. So I wonder, when did you start knowing and learning more about the group?
Jason: I knew them through an event about Japanese culture that I went to in 2016. However, it was not until 2019 that I really started to learn more about them. Back then, they had a show called Nijibus 3rd ONE MAN LIVE SHOW. The show caught my attention with a cool setlist of Japanese idol songs, so I decided to give it a try.
Niji started their activity as a cover group. As a fan, do you think there is any difference between Niij back then and their activities at the moment, as an idol group?
Jason: Do you mean during their dance cover period, or when they cover other idols’ songs?
Oh, I mean to compare the difference before and after their debut.
Jason: I think the only difference is that they can release “self-produce” songs, which can help to promote the group image. For example, by having original songs, they can find their own color, their own identity. This way, it would be easier for people to remember about them.
Compared to the first days after their debut, do you notice any changes or progress from Niji?
Jason: To be frank, I don’t think there’s much difference. As a self-produced group, they still have quite a lot of limitations in the style of working, event organization, etc.
The biggest change must be that Niji has the opportunity to go to Japan, which might help them to have more motivation to learn Japanese, so that they can attract and communicate more easily with Japanese fans.
Niji played an important role in the foundation of Nijigen Vtuber Project. These days, I also notice that a few members have collaborated with these Vtubers during their livestream. Do you think this project marks Niji’s professionalism and determination to develop in the Vietnamese entertainment industry?
Jason: Oh, they quite focus on Nijigen these days. Both have the same staff members. I’m not a fan of Nijigen, so I don’t know much about them. I just hope that both can develop in parallel. My best scenario is that Nijigen can collaborate with Niji Universe Inc.. There are some idol units that have already done this, they organize shows where virtual idols and real idols perform on the same stage. This way, they can promote each other.
Niji is a group that operates after the generation system. Moreover, they’ve been in this idol scene for quite a long time. I feel like change is inevitable. However, I believe the group still retain their own identity and spirit since their debut days, don’t you think?
Jason: Hmm, absolutely.
In general, Niji is very loyal in maintaining their image, mainly working in singing and dancing Jpop music. Niji’s songs also have a very “Japanese idol” vibe, instead of following the outside trend. The group also maintains their activity in doing covers of Jpop Idol / Anisong songs.
I hope they can keep on doing this instead of following other trends. Since groups that follow Japanese idol style are still very rare and not popular in Vietnam, it would be great if the group could continue to maintain and promote this culture.
They’re a self-produced group, it is certain that the group will have a relatively low starting point, compared to groups with full policies, companies, and producers. I also hope that these friends won’t be discouraged because of this but continue to strive. Because there will certainly still be people who support such Niji.
Currently, in Vietnam, there are still no events dedicated to idol groups like Niji. So on what occasions can fans watch the group’s performance?
Jason: The group usually only performs at events related to Japanese culture, festivals related to manga/ anime/ cosplay/. These events usually take place on weekends.
Do you think it’s a good way to promote the group?
Jason: I believe so, I have witnessed that many people know Niji through such Japanese cultural events. Moreover, they’re a Japanese-style idol group, so it is quite appropriate to spread a sub-culture like Japanese idol at such events. Besides, events related to Japanese culture often have a lot of people passing by. It would be easier to be known by more people.
You said that you were also a fan of UniDia Check. Because of the nature of underground idols, these groups probably don’t receive much media support. So how did you know when the group debuted?
Jason: Thanks to the Nijibus 3rd ONE MAN LIVE event, I found out that they are Niji’s new “sister” group..
However, they later become an independent group.
(Yakiniku – SWEAT16 (Thailand). Covered by Niji Universe Inc., UniDia Check, Tokimeki JUMP)
Most Vietnamese idols are active on Facebook. Through facebook, can you easily access information, is the interaction of idols and fans easy?
Jason: For Vietnamese fans, or countries that use facebook as the main social network, then… yes, because Vietnamese people surf Facebook almost every day, it’s like a main communication tool.
But there’s also some “inconvenients”. I noticed that there are some members who don’t often post on facebook fanpage. This is also an inadequacy in maintaining interaction….
As for Japanese fans,… because they mainly use twitter, it’s not easy to interact with them. In my opinion, Vietnamese idols are mainly active on facebook. Currently, only a few idols maintain regular posts on Twitter.
Recently, three members of Niji (Mochi, Shinamon, Yumi) represented the group and participated in TIF Asia Tour 2022. This is a valuable opportunity and experience for the group, and I am sure that thanks to this, they were able to attract the attention of some international fans. So, as a long-time fan, do you have any advice for international fans who are looking to learn more about Niji but encounter a language barrier?
Jason: Hmm, actually, I think they (Niji’s members) all know a bit of Japanese, and can understand English so the language barrier in my opinion is not much for Niji. So I advise you to confidently use English, they will understand.
Thank you to Jason for sharing his thoughts and observations with us.
I hope that you all had a nice experience in getting to know more about Vietnamese idols today. Please look forward to more articles on the talented idols of Vietnam.