We Interview Idols: Niji Universe Inc., POLARIS★ and MIKO-DOLL®

It was just a normal week when Nippon Ơi!, a Cosplay – Anime convention in Da Nang, Viet Nam, announced the lineup of idol units who would appear in the event.

They started with a surprise: four ex-members of SGO48 (AKB48‘s sister group in Viet Nam) would appear as LuvLike (@LuvLikeOfficial) and have their first official stage together.

LuvLike

Next were two veteran groups in the scene: our North Star idols, POLARIS★ (@Polaris_idolVN); and the colorful rainbow from the South, Niji Universe Inc. (@Nijiuniverseinc).

polaris niji

POLARIS★ (left), Niji Universe Inc. (right)

This was also the debut stage of rookie group MIKO-DOLL®. The group is a collaborative project between JAPO – Japan Portal and BEYOULIFE, a company of their chef producer, Ms. Mayu Tomita.

MIKO-DOLL®

And lastly, we were glad to welcome our Thai friends, Siam☆Dream (@siamdream_idol).

Siam☆Dream

Nippon Ơi! was a unique event in Viet Nam:  it is rare to have this many idols  participate in one event, and it was also the first time we have seen four Viet idol units appear on the same stage! Because of this rather special aspect of the convention, it was not surprising that Vietnamese wotas were extremely eager for the opening day.

Idols celebrating  Anna (LuvLike)’s birthday

So, what happened at Nippon Ơi!?

Late afternoon of the first two days, fans could see all five idol groups doing Bon Odori, a fun Japanese traditional dance.

After that, Idol Live Concert would last for two hours. In addition to Da Nang fans, there were those who did not hesitate to travel the long-distance from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh to attend the show. We also had some Thai and Japanese wotas in the audience. Even when some of them arrived at the event in the morning, they were willing to stay until the end to fully support their favorite idols.

Our artists also had their time to enjoy the stage!

For example, here we have Nagi (Niji Universe Inc.) who suddenly became a Fanny (Siam☆Dream) wota and posted a whole fancam of her on Twitter.

Around 0:05, you can see POLARIS★ going full energy to cheer for their friends in Niji Universe Inc..

And finally, on the third day, everything wrapped up with the Idol Water Battle Game where every group won something, and put a successful cap on the event.

Seeing all these interesting fan reports and photos on social media, I thought to myself “Why don’t I bring this joy to Homicidols readers?” So, thank you for patiently going through the long introduction to set the stage. Now, we come to the main part of this article: a collective interview with three of the four Vietnamese idol groups who participated in Nippon Ơi!. Through this not-so-short interview, Niji Universe Inc., POLARIS★, and MIKO-DOLL® along with their chief producer, Ms. Mayu Tomita will share their experiences and memories during the convention. After that, they will go further to discuss a bit about Vietnamese idol scene and its future development direction!

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Homicidols: Hello, thank you for agreeing to join us! Let’s start with a question about Nippon Ơi!, shall we: It seems like this convention is the first time you’ve met and interacted with so many idol groups. I wonder if everyone feels shy when you first met?

Rin/Hikari (POLARIS★): In 2017 we had a performance with Niji Universe Inc. in Ho Chi Minh City, but that event was quite a long time ago, so it can be considered that this was the first time we met and stood on the stage all together. However, POLARIS★ also had the opportunity to perform on the same stage with many artists in Vietnam as well as other Japanese idol groups, so we were not too shy. On the contrary, we even felt a great friendliness from other groups, especially from Siam Dream, a Thai idol group,  despite the cultural difference. We think that because the members of idol groups all have some kind of positive energy, it seems that there was no strangeness or shyness  among us. Therefore, we could create a successful stage that was enjoyed by the audience at Nippon Ơi!.

Mochi (Niji): In the past, Niji has performed at a number of shows overseas with the participation of many idol groups, so to a certain extent, we have also gotten used to meeting new people. Secondly, all three of us also really like idols and are such simps for girls (laughs), so when we met other friends, we were really happy. We wanted to get to know and to talk with them. Although we were a little shy, but because we wanted to, we just came and talked to these friends.

Fuka (MIKO-DOLL®): Actually, I wasn’t feeling too shy. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved watching idols perform, but at that time, I could only watch it through YouTube videos or fancam clips recorded by other people. So when I was able to directly watch an idol group’s performance, I was extremely excited, which overwhelmed my shyness.

Homicidols: Can you share a memorable moment while participating in Nippon Ơi!?

Yumi (Niji): The most memorable moment is probably watching the live performance of other idol groups!

Mochi (Niji): I think so too. Because this was the first time in Vietnam that we had an idol live like this. If people were paying attention, they would see that for both days, after Niji‘s performance, we would immediately step down to the front of the stage to cheer for all other idol groups (laughs).

Misa (MIKO-DOLL®): The thing that I remember the most probably won’t be too special to others. It’s the moments when I was able to work with the team, the staff and the company. Although there were times when everyone was stressed with each other because of work, but at the end of the day, we could still talk comfortably. After the show, we got to know each other better. I think it was a great time.

Fuka (MIKO-DOLL®): I think the members will all cherish the moments of working together. Another memorable thing is that we would cheer for other groups on stage. Then when it’s MIKO-DOLL®‘s turn to perform, they cheered for us too. I feel that at that moment, the distance between the groups was erased, everyone supported each other and loved each other. We all wanted to grow and to improve more. Although we were strangers, at that time it was like we knew each other from before.

Rin (POLARIS): The most memorable moment when participating in Nippon Ơi! is probably the Idol Water Battle Game. It was an interesting program of the event, everyone involved in the game acknowledged that there were a lot of fans who came to see us. So in addition to having fun, the game needed a bit of tension. That was why we felt that not only PO (POLARIS★) but other groups have great determination, and that was really what happened. Especially in the 3rd battle, when Hikari was about to fall, Shiki and Rei in the back quickly grabbed her, then Rin pushed Hikari on her shoulder. At that time, in our heads, we all heard PO‘s fans shouting for us from afar, many of them flew from Hanoi and supported PO, so we thought we had to try our best in the end to respond. With a bit of luck at the end, we won, even though the other groups were as determined as us. We just burst into happiness at that moment.

Hikari (POLARIS★): To me, the most memorable memory is the Bon Odori dance. In the three days of the event, I think this was the brightest highlight. The song that Mikazuki Hotel chose for the dance was catchy. Everyone in PO loved it. In addition, the ring stage also allowed us as well as everyone who came to the event to enjoy the dance more. Although we did Bon Odori every days, it was still fun every times and there were a lot of people participating until the last day.

Homicidols: You all had explosive stages on September 23rd and 24th. I heard that for this show, POLARIS★ prepared a rap performance to introduce yourselves. I wonder whose idea this was and why did you choose this way to express?

Rin/Hikari (POLARIS★): The rap was like a kind of self-challenge to PO. We’ve never rapped before so we wanted to try to do it. The person who came up with this idea was PO‘s leader, Shiki. Normally we would have a short introduction about the group, but for Nippon Ơi!, we wanted to be remembered by the audience more so we decided to do something new. Although our rap was not the best, we still received an unexpected positive response from the audience.

Homicidols: On the evening of the second day of the event, Mochi (Niji) had a special collaboration stage with Siam☆Dream’s member, Ice. However, the two of you seemed to have less than a day to prepare, was this a challenge for you?

Mochi (Niji): Actually, we had a similar collaboration stage at an event in Thailand, it was also with Siam Dream.

During Nippon Ơi!, the organizers suggested that we perform this stage again. Even though we’ve done it before, it has been 2 years, so we almost forgot everything. It was like having to start all over again. To prepare, we divided the lyrics, agreed on when to dance, when to sing, and then we practiced the choreography ourselves at home. When we met, we would agree on where to stand on stage, when to go back and forth. Then finally, we would try to practice together at the same time. Compared to the last time, the collaboration stage this time was much more difficult. Last time, we had some time to practice together, but at Nippon Ơi! there was absolutely no time to rehearse, because both groups’ schedules at the event were very busy. So, the only time we could talk was during the opening rehearsal. At that time, Ice stood in front of me, so the two of us listened to the organizers guide the opening process while discussed what to do when we went on stage later. Which means, we have to think and to pay attention to two things in our head at the same time. Even when it was Niji‘s turn to perform, and POLARIS★ was performing their last song, Ice and I were still rehearsing Renai Circulation. In general, it was a happy memory, but I did not find it too difficult. Moreover, this is also a familiar song, so we already know the song by heart already.

Homicidols: Speaking of Siam Dream, I see that Nagi (Niji) was very happy to be followed on Twitter by Siam Dream members. Can you share a few words when you are noticed and recognized by other foreign idol friends?

Nagi (Niji): I’m probably the one who felt this the most after the event, because a few years ago, Mochi and Yumi already had a chance to meet Siam Dream and were followed by them before. I’m the newest person that they followed here. After participating in Nippon Ơi!, I followed Siam Dream on Twiteer, and then when they followed back, I felt like “Oh my god!! This is what they call ‘being an idol to meet your idol’!” It felt great, like I’ve finally reached the goals of my life. For the first time, I felt the success of my idol fan journey. Extremely happy!

Homicidols: MIKO-DOLL® had your debut at Nippon Ơi!, how do you feel on this first stage?

Misa (MIKO-DOLL®): Although I have performed at school, in small stages as well as in other amateur environments, when I stepped on the stage at Nippon Ơi!, I still felt very shaky. I was afraid that I would do something wrong. But when I started to perform, I felt very confident and happy. It could be said that the feeling of excitement at that time made me more confident.

Although it was the first live stage, MIKO-DOLL® was very confident and completed their performance well.

Homicidols: You guys (MIKO-DOLL®) performed the song Nagori Yuki for this show, is there any special reason for this choice?

Fuka (MIKO-DOLL®): In the last audition, this song was the final evaluation to select 5 members in the group, and it was also chosen by producer Mayu Tomita. Moreover, Nagori Yuki is a gentle, pure song that matches the image that MIKO-DOLL® wants to convey.

Misa (MIKO-DOLL®): I feel that the song helped us to somehow create a highlight in the show, as well as made the audience to find a temporarily calm moment in the vibrant atmosphere of the night.

Homicidols: Before this live event, MIKO-DOLL® also had the opportunity to participate in the online event UN77 Celebration Music Festival. Do you feel any difference between performing online and performing live in person?

Misa (MIKO-DOLL®): Personally, I feel that performing online and performing live is not too different. Because during the preparation process, no matter for what stage, we work very methodically, carefully and in detail. I remember that for the online event at 7 pm, our group had to prepare since 4 pm. I really admire this preparation spirit of my group and the staff. At Nippon Ơi!, although this was the first time we performed as MIKO-DOLL®, it was not too difficult. I think we still had a few small mistakes, but overall everything was still very smooth.

Homicidols: Before Nippon Ơi!, I also noticed that recently, Niji has participated in many events, both in Vietnam and internationally. So for you, what is the most important thing when performing?

Yumi (Niji): I think the most important thing when performing is to convey energy to the audience. When I go on stage, then see fans supporting, cheering and chanting along, I feel very happy. So I also want to give back positive energy to the audience when performing.

Nagi (Niji): For me, the most important thing is the expression on stage. I often get stressed and make some mistake in facial expression during the performance. At first, when I wasn’t too familiar with the stage, I always felt that my face was a bit “blank”. But later, when I got used to the song, I started to show more emotions.

Mochi (Niji): I think the most important thing when performing is a common message that the group want to bring to the audience. When we step on the stage, it’s not just one person performing, but a coordination of the whole group. For me, a good performance is when each member of the group can do well and interact with each other. We have to have a connection, not the whole group going on stage but each of us looking at a different spot.

Niji Universe Inc. always try their best to bring the most vibrant performances.

Homicidols: POLARIS★ also had two busy months with two one-man lives as well as participating in other local events. Can you share a few words about this schedule?

Rin/Hikari (POLARIS★):  There are many events occur continuously,  each event is very important to POLARIS★. We feel that it is a pleasure to meet and perform to inspire people, so no matter how busy we are, we look forward to it and try our best to prepare well for each event. In addition to events to promote in front of the general public, we also participate in events of corporate enterprises as well as individual projects of the group, so the actual schedule is somewhat dense. However, everyone can keep their comfortable and wholehearted attitude.

One thing about POLARIS is that at any event, you can find photos that show their enthusiasm that go beyond their idol image.

Homicidols: As a rookie group, what experience did MIKO-DOLL® gain after Nippon Ơi!?

Misa (MIKO-DOLL®): After this event, I have learned the working style of other idol groups. Because it was our first time performing, perhaps everyone would find that there were momnets when MIKO-DOLL® was a bit shy and awkward. When I looked at other groups, I saw that they were very professional, but somehow still maintained a relaxed attitude. That’s what we’ve learned for ourselves.

Fuka (MIKO-DOLL®): I feel that after this occasion, I have more experience in teamwork. Once you have entered a group, you have to do everything together. We helped each other put on Miko clothes, also called each other up every morning. I mean, we need to work as a group, not everyone doing their own thing. These are very valuable experiences, and I hope we can continue to bond like this in the future.

Homicidols: Today, we are also honored to have the producer of MIKO-DOLL®, Ms. Mayu Tomita, to attend this interview. Can you share the reason why you decided to form MIKO-DOLL®?

Mayu Tomita: After visiting and living in many places around the world, I realize that Japanese culture has a certain influence on these countries, as well as there are many people who love Japanese culture. In addition, JAPO is a media company who works with the desire to convey Japanese cultural information to the world. So, when I collaborated with them, I thought, why don’t I form a group, or some project to contribute to further conveying this culture.

I also noticed that Japan has cultural elements that are famous in the world, but unfortunately many people still do not have the opportunity to properly understand those. For example, everyone knows about kimono and yukata, but they wear it the wrong way. Therefore, with my existing experiences, as well as in association with JAPO, I want to convey the best cultural traditions from Japan, Shinto to be specific, to the world. That’s why I decided to form MIKO-DOLL®.

Homicidols: Can you share more about the concept of MIKO-DOLL®?

Mayu Tomita: I want to guide the group towards a calm and a bit “cool” image. “Cool” here does not mean that the outfit must be “edgy” or anything, but rather expresses the unique gentleness of MIKO-DOLL®. To be more detailed, we wanted to follow the concept of Japanese groups in the 80s. At that time, they didn’t have as difficult choreography as they do now, but because of the way they performed and conveyed emotions in the song, they could still be very successful.

Homicidols: MIKO-DOLL® is a  group that operate according to the generation system and you are currently in the process of selecting the 2nd generation for the group. So why did Ms. Tomita decide to direct the group’s activities after this model?

Mayu Tomita: The age for selecting members for MIKO-DOLL® is from 18 to 30 years old. There are two main reasons why I think working with this model will help the group’s growth. Firstly, at the present time, I have arranged quite a lot of activities for MIKO-DOLL®. If there are only 5 members, I’m afraid that it will be difficult for them to attend all performance events in the schedule. Moreover, there are members in the group who are still studying and working. As more members of new generations are recruited, the amount of work can be distributed more evenly. The second reason is, I think having the following generations will motivate the previous generation to work harder. In addition, this system can also create a space for fair competition among the members, help them to have more efforts to develop the group.

Homicidols: Niji is also a group that operates after the generation model and you guys are currently in the process of selecting the 8th generation for the group. Here, we have Mochi, Yumi and Nagi all from different generations. I wonder if you guys have ever felt apart from each other?

Yumi (Niji): When I joined the group, there were only two people in my generation, so it was true that I felt a bit distant from the others. At that time, the members had to attend a lot of shows, so there was only two of us that practiced together, while the others continued to attend different events. But gradually, we had the opportunity to perform together, practice together, talk and joke around, after the shows, we also go to eat together. The distance gradually narrows and the members can become closer to each other.

Nagi (Niji): When I joined the group, everyone was preparing for the Re:Start//4.4 show. We, as 3 members from the 7th generation, have had to practice separately, and we didn’t talk much with the members from previous generations. So I also feel a bit distant. But after performing together, we also became closer.

Niji Universe Inc. – Re:Start//4.4

Mochi (Niji): Partly because we joined the group at different times, it was a bit difficult for us to get along at first. But when we go to shows together, practice together, and then see each other almost every day, we have common things to talk about, like discussing homework, or talking when encountering a problem. That’s how the members get closer to each other. Actually, at first, all three of us  didn’t know if we could become closer or could talk to each other. I think there are times when people think like “Oh crap, now I have to go with this person, I don’t know if I can talk or would just stay quiet all day.” But now, when three of us are together, we will talk all the time, from morning to night. When we participated in Nippon Ơi!, I saw that other groups were very calm, while we were just laughing all the time.

Homicidols: It can be said that Niji is a self-produced idol group, therefore, being proactive is a very important factor when working in the group. Can you share a few words about this?

Mochi (Niji): Formerly, Fuu was the leader of Niji. But now that she’s quite busy, as well as no longer doing idol activities, her role in the group is more of a producer. In the group, there is still a need for someone to lead the members, so gradually, somehow, I am the one to take that place of Fuu. I’ll plan the schedule, practice, and so on. I feel that I have a responsibility to lead people. I think that’s the best demonstration of our efforts to lead the group to step forward day by day. If we weren’t proactive to practice ourself, to plan the schedule together, sometimes even remind Fuu to do this and that, we wouldn’t been a group like now.

Yumi (Niji): Before, I was quite passive: I didn’t post much on social media, I only did what was told by others. But after participating in many shows, I feel that my role is starting to become more important to the group. So I told myself to be more proactive, post more on social media, as well as think about what I can do so that the group can go further.

Nagi (Niji): (Out of all three) I was the last to join the group. I already knew that Niji is a group that is proactive in everything: from designing the clothes, writing the lyrics, making choreography, to scheduling practice, everything is done and discussed between the members themselves. I feel like that’s what Niji did really well. I haven’t contributed much myself, so I’ll try harder to chase after the members in this regard.

Homicidols: As mentioned above, MIKO-DOLL® wants to pursue a mature and gentle image. But I see that your group has quite young members. So, do you guys ever have trouble balancing your personality and the image that the group wants to pursue?

Misa (MIKO-DOLL®): It’s true that expressing each member’s personality will be a bit difficult, but I feel that, every time we put on Miko clothes, everyone will play the role of a real Miko. . But when we change that outfit, we can return to our own personalities. The most obvious example is when the group participated in Idol Water Battle Game. At that time, the members were all being ourselves and enjoying the game.

Fuka (MIKO-DOLL®): I think the members embodied this concept very well. Although each person has their own personality, we always think for our group. In addition, in the process of becoming a member of MIKO-DOLL®, we have all been well trained, as well as learned about culture and etiquette, from the smallest details. Thanks to that, we can control and balance it very well. Up to now, none of the 5 members have encountered difficulties in this regard.

Homicidols: POLARIS★ and Niji are two groups with experience in organizing events and live performances. What do you think about holding shows similar to Idol Live Concert at Nippon Ơi!, or even idol shows that are independent from Anime – Cosplay  convention?

Rin/ Hikari (POLARIS★): Although it’s quite difficult to hold a live idol at the moment, especially for group in Hanoi like us. But if more people are interested in idols, I believe in the future we can definitely hold more shows like Idol Live Concert.

Since the group’s founding until now, POLARIS★‘s goal is to bring joy to everyone, as well as become a bridge between Vietnam and Japan, and I think idol culture is also a part of Japanese culture. Besides, although the Japanese-style idol market in Vietnam is still small, in the future we can still organize live shows for idol fans, to help them find joy after hours of studying or hard working. We hope everyone will continue to support and our community will grow even stronger.

Mochi (Niji): I’ve always had this wish, and after performing at Nippon Ơi!, the more I hope that in Vietnam, there will be many, many idol groups as well as special events for idols. Actually, most of our shows are at cosplay festivals. We felt like we were performing in a foreign country, people might not really understand the idol culture, they wouldn’t fully understand what we were doing or why we were performing or acting like that. Thanks to Nippon Ơi!, I see more clearly that, when there is a concert for all idol groups, this culture can also be strengthened in the viewer’s perception, making them understand more about it. I really hope there will be more events like Idol Live Concert in the future. I think that although the idol scene has not been developed much in Vietnam, this is a very potential industry. There are many people who are passionate about becoming an idol, and there are also many people who need someone as an idol in their life. So, let’s all meet again and hold another Idol Live Concert together (laughs)~!

Homicidols: Having more events for idols is our goal, but the path may not be so easy. Can you share some difficulties in organizing such events?

Nagi (Niji): I think it will be difficult for groups to find and agree on a time to perform together. The idol industry in Vietnam is not developed to the point where people can consider it as a job or a main source of income. So we also have to have other jobs to be able to maintain our idol activities.

Mochi (Niji): Another difficulty is about the organizers. In order to have an Idol Live Concert that invites all idol groups and is truly grandiose and perfect in every details, it also needs a qualified and capable organizer. I think this is quite difficult, because as everyone can see, idol as a profession in Vietnam has not been developed much. So it will not be easy to earn a certain investment.

Yumi (Niji): I think finding the venue is another difficulty. In Vietnam, it will be difficult to find a proper stage for live idols. It takes a big investment to have a good sound system, lighting, and many other aspects to have a quality live.

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Once again, thank to Niji Universe Inc., POLARIS★, and MIKO-DOLL® and producer Mayu Tomita for agreeing to participate in this interview, as well as for their sincere sharing. We wish you all the best for your path and future plans.