Well, we made it. Despite enough tumult to sink even the steadiest of ships, loud idol and the international fan community that supports it have made it to the point where we can close the book on the humdinger that was 2019, take stock of what we just experienced and look ahead to what I think we all pray is a more positively oriented 2020.
Before we get too into the meat, we here at Homicidols Dot Com felt that it was appropriate to share this memorial video to the fallen, as composed by Daemon in an act of true devotion to heartache.
On top of the entire legion of idols who departed/are departing over the course of 2019, we in the idol media had some losses of our own. I was personally saddened quite a bit when I saw this hit Twitter a few months ago, as kame had started up a little bit before I formally birthed Homicidols, and the site had always been a resource and motivation for me.
Announcement regarding kimi.kame https://t.co/tih6cDLugn
— kame (@kame_kimi) August 21, 2019
And, of course, we have the sudden end of the Alt Idol Podcast and the ensuing convulsion among the associated personalities and properties. A loss to be sure, as the most multimedia (and property-integrated) content farm in our niche not only stopped producing, but had its existing content go kaput (though I’m sure Terry has it all backed up somewhere).
But for that, and for fan harassment literally winning the community award for Biggest Letdown, we actually had a really great 2019 among ourselves, to ourselves. We as a community continue to make new projects, build new bridges — note to self: update the site links — and develop the tools that, yes, are sometimes almost masturbatory in how personally indulgent they can be, but nonetheless comprise the framework of discovery we need to keep bringing new folks into our ranks and exposing new audiences to the art we love. We’re also closer to the artists than ever before, either through new online stores or direct interactions between idols, managers and fans, and that I think is as great a development in the past few years as anything.
2019 was a personal struggle largely because of forward-looking choices and ever-developing obligations, and there was a time shortly after my self-imposed hiatus in August when I thought that I might want to close up shop, maybe get as far as this very post and then turn out the lights. I found a way to manage, though, and for as down on idol as I can sometimes be, it’s nonetheless always able to perk my heart back up again. We always speak to the raw power of idol as a positive influence in one’s life, and, as some of the insights below will explore, the changing complexities in the art and how it’s performed open ever more avenues for people to get into idol and share it more widely.
In other words, it was a wild-ass year. And because change is good and necessary and inevitable (and also because Team grew more in the past year than at any time in the past), I thought it would be a good idea to change up the format of this annual post as well and really build this post around my comrades’ thoughts. Take it away, gang!
2019 in Review
DAEMON: There were two big things that struck me about the world of chika idol in 2019. First was the large number of A-list graduations and retirements, and second was the overwhelming volume of music released in the genre. It seemed like every time I logged on Twitter there was another retirement announcement and a new single, EP or album to catch up on. We were being blessed and cursed simultaneously every time we turned around.
Like many of us, some of these departures hit me pretty hard. I had been planning a trip to Japan for cherry blossom season but quickly shifted it to February upon news of Futamaruya Shidare’s emergency retirement from Yukueshirezutsurezure. I’m glad I did. While I was in the country, I also got to see Minna no Kodomochan, Kaqriyo Terror Architect, and ・・・・・・・・・ little knowing it would be my last time seeing Honoka, Yamakomaro and the dot-chans as well. I also caught Dai Dai Dai, Melon Batake a go go, NECROMA, and Burst Girl. The only downside of the spur-of-the-moment trip was that Yanakoto Sotto Mute didn’t have a show scheduled while I was there.
I have written and lamented extensively over Minna no Kodomochan’s summer tragedy that ended with Honoka’s retirement. Kodomochan have long been a favorite of mine and I found it heartbreaking to watch this drama unfold. They put out a call to audition new member(s) in the fall, so perhaps Cinnamon won’t be an only child in 2020.
I attended Saboten Con as summer drew to a close and got the chance to interview Broken By the Scream following their U.S. debut performance. After Saboten I had a chance to speak with the con’s talent booker. It turns out he’s a big fan of hardol and deeply committed to bringing more chika idol acts to America. I’m looking forward to who he and our friends at Chaotic Harmony are able to book for 2020.
Later in the fall, I got the chance to see BABYMETAL for the 13th and 14th time. They are still one of the best live acts on the planet. Period. The Forum show was a face-melter.
For all the traumatic departures this year, chika and alternative idol still brought me more joy than heartache in 2019. Between the continuing opportunities I’m finding to see so many stellar idols, and the amazing people I am befriending along the way, I feel I am currently living a blessed life.
Kerrie: 2019 was the year I started a “___ days without an oshi graduation announcement” counter in my twitter bio. Enough said.
Brian: Initially I was going to write a paragraph or so about 2019, followed by a bit about what I see coming in the next year, but as I was putting it together, I kept finding my anticipation of 2020 directly tied into it in a such a way that I can’t seem to split it into two sections. Basically what I’ve decided is that 2019 is the middle movie in the franchise where everything happens essentially for the purpose of the much bigger movie still to come. Also, I’m always more keen to look forward anyway. So having said that, here’s how I believe the past year’s trends will build into the near future…
Did you enjoy all those graduations, disbandments, and unpredictable reboots? I’m asking because I think you’re getting even more next year. When you consider the arc of chika/unorthodox/offbeat idols that’s been built in the last decade, factored in with the basic law of idol averages, a lot of stuff we love is destined to shift sesmically very shortly. And not just individual idols, but agencies, popularity, trends in musical tastes, and ultimately fandom itself. I think the retrospective look-backs coming in 2020-2021 are going to be pretty big. I also don’t think this is anything to fear, which is something I’ll elaborate on in a future piece I’ve been meaning to write…
Musically and artistically, I think the sky is going to be the limit and I’m quite excited about that. The increasing acceptance of idol as legitimate art is bringing in top-notch songwriters and musical contributors. More artists are going to be stepping up and raising the bar by making truly good music with honest authenticity rather than simply getting by with aping tropes from other genres for novelty effect. Add to that the increased consciousness of idols themselves to push for elevated art, and we’ll continue to see even more truly heartfelt, top-tier projects come about.
Fandom, or Western fandom specifically, I think what we’ve seen in regards to outreach to our shores (the odd tour of the usual suspects and the occasional convention.) is about as good as it’s going to get. But rather than feel dejected, I’d be happy it’s even gotten this far. What we have now is certainly more than I ever expected. Also, legal digital access to music is going to continue to improve, although I’d prefer if it was more satisfying financially to the artists, and new emerging outlets for direct sales of tangible goods are certainly a nice trend to see happening. Save for the live experience, being a Western idol fan will only get easier.
The concept of “idol” will become increasingly nebulous. The question of “What’s an idol?” is already a little convoluted to explain, and it’ll continue to evolve in really cool and interesting ways. We’ll be seeing idols continue to expand on the foundation, utilizing the idol business model into all sorts of enterprises. “Singing and dancing” might not even necessarily be what a Neo-idol will be known for. They’ll be visual artists, writers, fully capable musicians, and much more. Idols will be doing just about anything they want with a fervent fan base supporting them all the while.
Cal: This is the year that I went from being a casual fan that only liked WACK because they decided to ruin a Jun Togawa song and deluged headfirst into everything to do with idols, from major label groups to chika groups to idol/band fusions – everything. You’ll Melt More to Hamidasystem to The Natsu no Mamono, there’s really something for every facet of music I like.
I got my first taste of what it means to want to do everything you can to be able to support that one special performer and… she ended up quitting the group after 3 performances! But, because life is incredibly strange, I got to meet the man who fired her for creative differences and he ended up apologising. No really, that’s me in the middle of the table there:
I met friends!! pic.twitter.com/lMArVdW0DW
— 渡辺”ジュンウンコジュン”ウンコ之介 (@JxSxK) December 2, 2019
Idols are basically my favourite thing in the whole world at this point, and I showed enough enthusiasm that the team here wanted me to contribute so hey I must be doing something right, right? Losing my favourite group and then my favourite idol in that group’s reboot was basically a baptism to make me a real idol fan… and I want to experience more and more! I picked up a Japanese textbook and i’m working twice as hard at work and school to be able to go to Japan next year. Because of idols and that guy some of you don’t like buying me a drink, I have reason to want to try, to overcome apathy. Looks like enough performers tweeting “minna-san, ganbatte” rubbed off on me!
Maybe some of you will see me at a show in 2020? If you’re nice i’ll get you a cheki ticket~ If you’re not i’ll post a rude tweet~ But it’s all apart of the idol experience~
Our 2020 Wish Lists
Cal: The only want I have for 2020 is for everyone on stage to do their best and for their fans to do their best at work and school too. Seriously, if you’re bad at your job or you lose a school scholarship then you wont get paid and you can’t give your favourite performer money! It’d be heartbreaking if they were a dollar short and had to disband.
Are you ready? There’s a Whole Lotta Love coming so Don’t Miss It!! Don’t be STUPiD and remember to always SAY YES.
Kerrie: While I don’t think I’ll be retiring the counter any time soon, I think 2020 will generally be a good year for overseas fans. Now that we’ve got Idol Underworld, more artists joining Bandcamp, and even Watanabe spending a quick UK visit in early December, this has got to be building up to something good, right? Will 2020 be the year we finally get a WACK world tour?
- Since I haven’t seen them live since 2018, my primary goal for 2020 is to see Yanakoto Sotto Mute perform as many times as possible.
- I am also rooting for Kodomochan to regain the momentum lost from the catastrophic summer of ’19.
- I’m hoping Watanabe keeps his promise to bring a WACK group to the West (and I hope it isn’t EMPiRE).
- I hope Burst Girl or Spark Speaker (or BOTH) are booked for Saboten Con.
- And I would love for Hanako-San to release another full blown album. The world isn’t ready for it, but too bad.
Brian: I hope the trend continues with idols seizing their own means of production and having more control over their own careers. Chika-idols keep skirting into this sort-of neo-punk rock spirit, which is great, but it’s now it’s time to get really deeper into self-production, self-releasing, and self-assurance. Say what you will about the toxicity of a few awful fans, there was an unexpected upshot in the way it was countered by an outpouring of positive fan support in favor of the idols. In 2019, idols across the spectrum spoke their opinions, dated actual humans (Some even got married, heck, even had babies!), and lived their own lives with a gradual increase of personal freedom, thanks to the support of their fanbases! That’s not just healthy, it’s right.
Secondly, I want to encourage all of you to do everything you do to play a role in the fandom community. That naturally includes supporting all your favorite idols of course, but what I’m really getting at is to continue supporting each other. If you see some cool fan art, a clever meme, and heartwarming gesture, a nifty fan blog (and not just this one) share it with your friends, and make sure you let the creator know you appreciate it. And if you see a person within the community struggling with tough times and self-doubt, try to lift them up a little bit. We’re truly one of the most diverse fandoms you’ll find anywhere, and that’s something to celebrate every bit as much as the idols themselves. So in 2020, let’s make idol fandom be widely-known as the place where everyone belongs.
Chris: I hope 2020 is the year that my favourite idol, Chiaki Mayumura, breaks out in a big way, culminating in an acclaimed tour of south-east Wales. In fact I think 2020 could see the rise of the idol/songwriter where the tiny handful of idols that write and record their own music, like Chiaki, Emiri Kanou, Kakiki Manami and cyberMINK, become more prominent and are joined by others.
I’m also particularly interested in the fortunes of my favourite idol group, You’ll Melt More!; for the last couple of years I’ve been worried the end is near for them since they’ve just been around for so damn long, and indeed this year we sadly lost Ano. But they now seem to have secured a long term future by recruiting trainee unit Pupil More! and I hope one or two of them will break into the senior team next year. 2020 should also see the group reach their 50th MV (we might have something special prepared for that!) and play a successful set in Italy where they will be meet a tall English part-time Homicidols staffer and think he is so cool and awesome that they spend the evening hanging out with him.
Maniac: I’ve done a great job of being about 40 percent prescient in these posts in the past, so let’s not try too hard to overturn that run. I largely agree with Brian: While there will always be “normal” projects in idol and some of them will even make a significant mark, what we’ve been seeing in the past few years seems increasingly like a permanent movement toward treating idol as state of being rather than a fixed, pre-defined set of boxes to check. I like that vision of “idol” really being “personality,” and how those personalities can do almost anything they want, and how wota will morph along with them and support their oshis like always.
But, as GWAR famously sang, “apocalypse becomes creation,” and while we see these new emerging opportunities, it’s going to mean more heartbreak. In fact, when I look at what’s left of my personal favorites out in the Idolverse, I see a lot of opportunity for more of the people who’ve defined my own fandom to basically flit out of existence. It scares me! I understand that my tastes are largely unconventional (even by Western wota standards), so to get as much greatness out of some biases as I have is a blessing, but I also have no desire to see some of these things go away.
What does 2020 really hold? I have no idea, to be honest. I don’t think I’d have ever imagined real-deal Western-oriented idol shops coming into existence, and yet, here we are; while my vision of regular long tours still hasn’t really been realized, there are more and more short tours and one-off events all the time, and with an increasingly diverse array of talent in them. I’d like for that trajectory to steepen, if you will, and for the rate of change here to accelerate, but I also think that the world economy is finally going to sputter in the next year, so maybe this isn’t the best time.
For Homicidols … considering the losses we’ve taken and the unfortunate redundancy in our competitions, I do want to do the Corenament differently this year, and with that maybe a theme for the year. We’ll see!