Your Homicidols Guide to TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL 2021

Tokyo Idol Festival 2021 kicks off this Friday (aka “Thursday”, depending on what part of the world you reside in). This year, TIF will take place in front of live audiences again after 2020’s fully online festival. The iconic HOT STAGE, SKY STAGE and SMILE GARDEN are welcoming otaku back, this time with plenty of COVID protocols in place. For those of us who still can’t make it over to Odaiba, livestreaming ticket options are, thankfully, once again available.

The big question then becomes: is it worth shelling out $50 per day (or $130 for all three-days) when even Homicidols’ favorites with major label deals like Yanakoto Sotto Mute or three-time TIF alum BLACKNAZARENE didn’t land an entry on this year’s time table? Even established, alternative standouts like You’ll Melt More!, CYNHN and meme tokyo have been relegated to single 15-minute slots on the Nico Nico IDOL SHOWCASE among regional units and trad newcomers.   

Even with these oversights, TIF 2021 offers a pretty deep line-up including some huge debuts and plenty of stellar units that we like to give attention to around here. WACK fans should also be satisfied with their options (or, at least, as satisfied as fans subject to the whims of Watanabe ever can be). Overall, the festival still promises 200+ idol units and soloists across 5 stages, plus a new streaming stage entirely devoted to virtual idols. 

Below is a breakdown spotlighting the louder, alternative-learning and/or indie idol units that made this years cut, but first:

Tickets

To purchase a livestream ticket to TIF 2021 you must first sign up for a TIF ID which just involves verifying an email address and entering a valid credit card. For me, the test payment tripped the fraud detection on even my least sensitive credit card, which was a pain. Once I confirmed with the bank that it was a valid purchase, I had to back out and re-enter the credit card registry screen for TIF’s system to stop flagging it as a problematic card. While this was annoying, it was about ten times less frustrating than trying to purchase a ticket through Rakuten last year. Overall, the 2021 purchase process is exponentially simpler and a huge improvement.

As mentioned above, there is also the IDOL SHOWCASE stage which will be livestreaming several sets a day on Nico Nico and shouldn’t require a ticket purchase. Check The Calendar for links.

TIF DAY ONE – Friday, October 1st

[UPDATE (9/30/2021): TIF Day One has been CANCELLED due to the approach of a Typhoon.]

TIF 2021 kicks off with lyrical school, chuLa, Maneki Kecak and Task have fun all making this year’s day one Hot Stage. Other notable units with Friday sets include Amefurasshi, nuance, Kolokol, and the very excellent BOLT and Payrin’s. Underbeasty lands an unfortunately short set on the DOLL FACTORY stage while Kerrie’s Favorite, Up Up Girls (provisional) marks their return to TIF on the SKY STAGE.

Friday also sees the TIF debut of two chika units with periods in their names, World’s End. and Parasite.Kiss, as well as the excellent Lila Gray and 2021 nominee for Best/Worst Name for a New Idol Unit: STAiNY

Over on Nico Nico’s IDOL SHOWCASE stage, I recommend catching the TIF debut of THE ORCHESTRA TOKYO, one of the more intriguing groups to emerge in 2021. I haven’t entirely made up my mind about them, but they are definitely worth watching.

TIF DAY TWO – Saturday, October 2nd

If you’ve only got enough saved up for a single-day ticket, there’s really no debate: Saturday is the day to splurge on.

Day two sees the TIF debut of a quartet of the best alternative groups of the past couple of years: melodic idolcore standouts NEMURIORCA, dempa-funk Rirunede, NSFW punks ASP, and the best idol unit on the planet at this moment in time, PIGGS.

Day two also includes performances by Homicidols all-stars Malcolm Mask McLaren and NEO JAPONISM, as well as QUEENS, the highly underrated buGG, Predia, and the incomparable Yufu Terashima.

As has become a  TIF tradition, day two of the festival is also WACK Day. This year’s representatives from The House That Watanabe Built include the aforementioned ASP along with BiS, BiSH, EMPiRE, PARADISES, GO TO THE BEDS, MAMESHiBA NO TAiGUN and trainee unit WaGG.

The highlight of Saturday is liable to be the fourth annual WACK Presents DREAMLIGHTS in TIF. If it’s anything like previous years it will be equal parts earnest solos, dynamic shuffle units and nightmare fuel.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

Over on Nico Nico’s IDOL SHOWCASE livestream you can catch two units that could easily light up the HOT STAGE if given the chance: CYNYN and Meme Tokyo.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Day two also contains sets by some of the more traditional yet musically adventurous idol units including the exemplary Qumari Depart, -caeca- (who gave us one of last year’s TIF highlights with an acapella version of the BiS classic, “nerve”), Sandal telephone (whose signature song, “Calling” is one of the most addictive earworms on the planet), and the cat maids of Wa-Suta who are always entertaining.

And I haven’t even mentioned the IDOL SMILE JAMBOREE ACOUSTIC yet. This year’s showcase features members of NEO JAPONISM, QUEENS, predia, Last Idol, Qumari Depart, -caeca-, Up Up Girls (2) and Yufu Terashima.

If that weren’t enough, Dempagumi.inc headlines the Saturday HOT STAGE. Day 2 for the Win.

TIF DAY THREE – Sunday, October 3rd

Sunday primarily features some nostalgic favorites and admirable trad standouts.

The most interesting moments of the day will most likely come courtesy of whoever decided it would be a good idea to invite Planck Stars to TIF for the first time. The most anticipated day three debut, however, goes to MAPA: a recently announced unit produced by Oomori Seiko and featuring Emi Koshoji (formerly Megumi of Maison book Girl).

In the alternative idol column, the biggest draw to the main festival stages for day three are Devil ANTHEM., Pimms, SOL and ukka.

Meanwhile, the highlight for most Homicidols readers will be happening on Nico Nico’s side-stage IDOL SHOWCASE where they host the incomparable You’ll Melt More! for a short set.

On the more trad side of things, old favorites Osaka☆Syunkasyuto and Task have Fun will perform as well as the respectably funky Philosophy no Dance, Benjamin Jasmine (one of my favorite names in idol), Pure White Canvas (who is liked by a number of people with good taste), LinQ, nuance and another of Kerri’s favorites, Up Up Girls (2).

Lily of the Valley returns who I somehow picked to be 2020’s breakout TIF performer. I can’t even remember why (it’s entirely possible that I confused them with Lil na Valley, who rock). They at least did well enough to score an invite to day three of TIF 2021.

For this year, I predict that either ASP or Planck Stars does something that gets them disinvited to future festivals. We shall see.

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