Monday, December 1, 2014

Arashi on Bullying - News Zero 2006.12.11

Everybody remember Kazoku Game and its shocking depiction of the malicious extents to which young teenagers (I'm talking like middle schoolers) can go to inflict pain and humiliation upon their peers? Perhaps the scenes in the drama were representative of the more extreme and violent forms of bullying, but there is no doubt that even if the bullying that occurs in most schools is not half as dramatic as Kazoku Game, it still leaves a powerful and lasting psychological wound on its victims, subjecting them to the torment of low self-esteem, social ostracization, depression, and in worst cases, suicidal tendencies.

Sho and Nino reading thank you letters from victims of bullying.
On the 2006.12.11 episode of News Zero, of which our beloved Sakurai Sho is a newscaster for, the program talked about how they had received lots of letters from victims of bullying on their homepage (I think they were doing some sort of special discussion about this topic at the time). Many of these letters were addressed to Arashi and talked about how Arashi's songs had given the writers strength to face life. One girl who was so afraid of her bullies that she developed a fear of going to school said that the lyrics "Dareka ga dareka wo sasaete ikite irun da" from Arashi's song Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi really gave her the courage to step into her classroom again. Other letters which were handed out personally to the five Arashi members spoke of how Arashi's music and their example encouraged victims of bullying to face their tormentors and some even said that Arashi saved them from suicide.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ramblings on Arashi's Leader

If you've been reading this blog, or blogs/websites like this, it's probably not news to you that Arashi is the male idol group that is currently dominating the Japanese entertainment scene. These five guys comprise a cultural phenomenon you're bound to hear of or come across, even if you're just a clueless tourist walking the streets of Tokyo. Arashi is everywhere. In my whole life, I've only been in Japan for a total of 7 days, and I've seen numerous billboards of Arashi members endorsing various products, I've overheard schoolgirls talking about a drama starring an Arashi member, and I've even picked out the melody of Arashi's Beautiful Days from a music box rendition that was playing as the background music to a Harajuku ramen bar. Make no mistake about it, Arashi is big, and it's a besparkling five-colored rainbow that has simultaneously bewitched generations of men and women (and all genders in between) alike.

Now let's zoom in and focus on Ohno Satoshi, the one true leader of this merry band of five, and one of the characters I find most fascinating in the industry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Digitalian - Album Review

The Vegetarian Digitalian is finally here, throbbing through our poor fangirl bodies in the form of an inexplicably irresistible mass of geometrically arranged... leaves and fruit.

It's probably a testament to Arashi's staying selling power that this album can still sell well despite the LE cover looking like this:

The Arashi members, just so you know, were all perfectly aware of how similar sounding "Vegetarian" is with "Digitalian" in Japanglish. You can say that this graphic is no accident. No ho... Hah. But all vegetable jokes aside, this album is actually coming at a very special time. Not only is this their 15th anniversary, but The Digitalian is also the successor to what is perhaps the most phenomenally polished and musically riveting Arashi album ever: LOVE. There's certainly a lot to live up to, and after producing something as amazing as LOVE, the standard for their music has certainly been raised, and I think fans will probably be less forgiving of sloppy music from now on.

And yes, I am a huge fan of LOVE, but I am aware that not all people might share my enthusiasm for it, so consider yourselves warned that this post will contain some LOVE/Digitalian comparisons and that everything written here is my own personal opinion, which has no musical or professional authority whatsoever.

Arashi is certainly trying their hardest with this new album. They're going for a "digital" theme, which manifests in a few heavily techno tracks, and a techno elements mixed into other genres here and there. They're doing something pretty new, and very very dynamic. In fact, if I had to describe this album in one word, it'd be dynamic. Movement and action just permeate The Digitalian, which makes it pretty different from LOVE, because LOVE was sleek, mature and had quite a smattering of weighty tracks like "Ai Wo Utaou" and "Yozora e no Tegami." It also showed off some beautifully tender Arashi sounds in tracks like "sugar and salt," "Sayounara no Ato de," "Tears." The Digitalian brings us something decidedly less ponderous. I'd say of the 17 tracks on this new album, only the 3rd and 16th ones, "Tell Me Why" and "Hope in the Darkness" qualifies as having the same subdued/weighty tones as the LOVE tracks mentioned above. The rest of the album is all about action, from the shake-your-shake-your-body "Zero-G" to the five-times exclamatory "Take Off!!!!!"

So without further ado, let's get into the specific songs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Arashi CM's - Gifspam!

I just binge-watched about three hours worth of Arashi CM's, from pre-debut to their 15th anniversary. And the amazing part is that I'm pretty sure there's still loads of stuff out there that I haven't even seen or heard of. I really, really enjoy CM's as a fan. They're so gorgeous they're practically like animated magazine shoots, full of glossiness and hilarity and positive energy.

Anyways, enjoy this gifspam into the shiny, plastic world of commercials!

*And yes, this is going to be a pure gifspam. Unadulterated by my rambling comments. It's loooong, so please allow a few minutes for your browser to load.

Aiba for Tongari Corn

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Random Soubusen Moments ❤

These are in no particular order. Just random notes I jotted down over the last few months of little moments that caught my interest =D

1. Nino's answer to "If you were a girl, which Arashi member would you date?"

From the 2009.04.25 episode of Ousama no Brunch.
If you watched this episode, you might recall that before announcing his answer, Nino indicated that the gap between the fourth and fifth places was huge, pulling the chair for the fifth place far out to the end of the stage. Then, he names poor Aiba as the member he would least want to date.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mukae ni Iku yo (むかえに行くよ) - Arashi Song Review

人混みのなか步く 疲れる街のノイズ
なぜだろう 淚がこぼれた
Through the crowds I walk / the noise of the weary city
And without knowing why / the tears spill out.

Oh Nino, you vulnerable, puppy-eyed ball of melancholy! That shiver in your voice, that little dip as you sing of spilling tears, that brittle tremor, oh, oh! 

This song had me at its first chorus. But it had me in tears at Nino's solo verse.

It's just so delicate, so lilting, so expressive and emotional. Arashi may not have composed the melody or written the lyrics, but their voices are the direct vehicles to our hearts, and it's on these beautifully laid bare voices that the full yearning in this song is delivered, from Aiba's muted velvet tones in the beginning to the wistful cooings of "Uuu, uuu..." that melt softly into the hum of strings at the end. 

Mukae ni Iku yo is one of the more pensive numbers in Arashi's 2010 Boku no Miteiru Fuukei album, and was sung in concert against a background video of two battered robots walking through deserted landscapes to finally find each other in a tender embrace. It is one of my favorite Arashi songs, and the lack of performance videos of it is one of my most often lamented Arashi things.

Monday, September 22, 2014

2014/09/20 Hawaii Blast concert review

A concert staff member greeting guests with
complimentary leis that have an Arashi charm on them!

How do I begin. 

I feel like something in the way I approach Arashi has changed, like I'm not the same kind of fan I was before, like there's this new dimension to my idolization of these five men that has been born of simply seeing them with my own two eyes. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jackets to the floor, babes, we're gonna give you some LOVE - Concert DVD Review

Throw'em to the floor, Arashics!

I swear, Intergalactic has just gained at least 80 plays since I watched the LOVE DVD. Yes, this moment has finally come. Some of you who have followed this blog since its early days may know that I am a huuuuge fan of Intergalactic. I wrote a song review on it, in which I flailed so hard I nearly dislocated my ovaries to outer space, because this song is just. that. good. And I think I mentioned even back then (what was it again, November? of last year) that I was expecting some fabulicious costumes and sexy space choreography to party to when this finally got performed in concert.


Oh wait, was that not a good enough view? Here, have a close-up!

Dance in the starship, babies! God Riida, your hair! I could not stop sighing over your hair (especially since my previous Prince of Perfect Hair MatsuJun decided to go with the sleazeball slick in this concert, poo~).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Arashi CM's - When Corporate Giants Take Note of (and Capitalize) Arashi Personalities

It's the year of Arashi's 15th debut anniversary, and our five lovely men are going to be in Hawaii this September to celebrate it in style. With 30,000 fans there to celebrate with them, of course. But the fans aren't the only ones eager to show their appreciation of the wonderful social phenomenon that is Arashi. Several of Japan's biggest corporations are also publicly throwing their weight behind the Arashi Hawaii Blast 2014 with special deals and interactive quizzes/raffles that offer consumers the chance to win the highly coveted tickets to the concert. I'm talking about international industry giants like Hitachi and Nissan, both of which are offering concert tour packages to a few lucky winners, and other prominent companies like Salonpas (also offering concert tour packages to participants who complete a quiz and then enter a raffle) and JAL (Japan Airlines), who is collaborating directly with J&A to provide the air transportation in the aforementioned concert tour packages.

From top to bottom: Hitachi, Nissan, Salonpas, all
offering chances to win Awashi Blast tour packages!
(via @st0rmluuuuuv on Twitter)
And what do these four companies all have in common? That's right, an Arashi endorsement! Nino is currently the face of Salonpas, while all five members appear in ads for the other three.

Which brings us to the vibrant topic of Arashi CM's. I'll admit it, I obsess over Arashi CM's. I download them, I watch every second of the precious 15 or 30 seconds of running time, and I even delight myself with the short little "making of" segments that pop up on ZIP! or Asa Days or whatever other news digest program it is that reports them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Do You Wanna Feel Like Dancing," anybody? - Chibi Aimiya Bromance

This is truly a blast from the past. I'm talking about the pre-debut 1990's here. And it's Aimiya, who are my current obsession. There's just something about this combi that gets me right in the heart; it's something that goes beyond happy bromance; it's a really deep kizuna. These two have known each other and gotten along since their tender teens. They've worked off of each other's personalities since their very first days on air, when they were still young, inexperienced and with undeveloped TV images. Here, remember this little clip?

*note: Japanese parts are all done by ear, and my Japanese sucks, so I may have transcribed or translated incorrectly. Please point out any mistake you see and I shall fix it.

Aiba (loudly): HELLO!!! This is Aiba Masaki! (どうも! 相葉雅紀です!)
Nino: Hello, good afternoon, this is Ninomiya Kazunari! (どうも,こんにちわ。二宮和也です。)
Aiba: Together, the two of us are... (二人合わせて...)
Nino (in cheesy voice): ...Masaki & Kazunari!!! (...マサキand カズナリです!)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Aiba-chan - Every Girl Needs a Friend Like Him

Unnecessary newsflash: I'm in love with Aiba.

A sign of Aiba-chan getting comfy: when his socks are half-off ^-^

Heh, tell me something I don't already know, right? 

Well, anyways, after watching two nights of 24時J家が生で悩み解決できるの (2014.04.02 and 2014.04.09, if you're curious), I have come to the conclusion that there is really no part of Aiba I don't like. 

And I promise this post won't be just about me flailing over Aiba. I promise. Really. I will restrain myself, hard as it might be to do so.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pikanchi 2.5 - Back to the slummin' days when nothing mattered but their friendship

It all started back in 2002. In some movie theater in some corner of Tokyo, a group of the strangest five delinquents were brought to life on the silver screen. It was done without much fanfare, this curiously titled coming-of-age movie: ピカ☆ンチLIFE IS HARD だけど HAPPY (Pik☆nchi Life is Hard Dakedo Happy in English). Just an unremarkable indie film at the time, some castaway project handed down to some floundering Johnny's group, something I would probably have just shrugged at and glanced past if I had known of its existence back then. I'll admit that I'm the kind of person who usually likes the big flashy blockbusters; I'm easily lured by awesome effects and slick cinematography and all those other things in a movie that typically requires deep pockets on the part of the producer. So yes, if I hadn't become a fan of Arashi, I would probably never have looked twice at a movie like Pikanchi.

And my my, how deprived I would have been if that had been the case.

Put your hands up if you want more slummy Arashi acting nothing like the idols they
are today! Wink at me twice if you remember what they're watching in this scene (¬‿¬)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Seal of Approval Given to the Powered Up Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ)

Guys, remember when I said that I had hope for the powered-up Shiyagare, despite its faults? Well, hmm... let's think, what has it delivered so far?

There was that funny Yowakutemo SP (aired 2014.04.05) where Arashi had a friendly competition on how who could take the ever-kawaii Arimura Kasumi on the best date and then spent the night trying on leather jackets, roasting meat, and singing (badly) in a smoky BBQ mise with three of the ikemen cast. 

And then, there were the two episodes (2014.04.12 and 2014.04.19 eps) where Arashi once again (seriously, they're never going to outgrow this) donned the good old high school uniforms and attended lectures from Miura Asami and Suzuki Nana, who both showed an exceptional talent at bringing out the cute, the droll and the awkward in our five boys. Not the mention that the Suzuki Nana episode had another segment which featured some sorely missed Arashi Engrish as some, um, Hollywood 'sturrs' came to visit? *hint hint, Jamie Foxx, Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield*

Monday, May 5, 2014

Correction about Nino's Family Background in the Ninomiya Member Post

So you were probably redirected here from the note in the Ninomiya Member Post regarding my error about his family background. I had previously written that Nino came from a single parent family, growing up with his mother and older sister "on the wrong side of the tracks," implying that he was from a less wealthy background. Someone kindly commented and brought to my attention that there is no definitive proof out there to suggest any of these things.

So I am extremely sorry about any false rumors I have been helping to spread around the internet. I know that the Nino post is one of the most-viewed posts on my blog, so I can only hope that everyone who was misinformed will click back here and read this correction.

To set all your minds at ease, I will assure you that when I write anecdotes or facts about our five boys, I generally know or have a memory of obtaining such information from a first-hand source like an interview or a show where the information comes from either the members themselves or other celebrities who know them. In this case, I remembered reading a magazine translation where Arashi reminisced on what their first days as a Johnny's Jr were like and that's where I got the tidbit about Nino feeling uncomfortable about being poor. But because of my sloppiness (of course), I now cannot find this translation again. Which really teaches me a lesson. So I have resolved to be more principled about internet misinformation, especially in the English J-pop fandom where first hand sources are not always readily available.

So if there is a fact or something that you read in this blog and are curious or dubious about, please feel free to leave a comment (you can comment anonymously even if you don't have a blogger account so anyone can comment!) to ask me about it and I will gladly provide whatever sources I used to get at that fact. And if I can't come up with a first-hand source, I will remove the offending fact and post a correction. Fair enough?

Now onto the details about Nino's family background... (honestly, I don't even care that much for probing into his family background, but I feel like I owe it to you all to do my research extra-properly since I misled you all before).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Love Wonderland - Arashi Song Review

I have only been listening to this song for less than a day, and yes, I already know that I want to write a review on it. The inner boost I'm feeling from this stylishly funky little number is really 半端じゃない, and absolutely warrants a few hours of sleep sacrificed (yeah, yeah, I know I just finished an exam and I have a fic that needs writing, as well as a gazillion Arashi blog posts I should have written months ago, but as of this moment, Love Wonderland takes precedence over everything).

So love truly, love truly, love truly, lo-oh-ohh!

If you're reading this now, you probably already know that "Love Wonderland" is one of the three coupling tracks to Arashi's newest single GUTS! (set to be officially released on April 30, 2014 but leaks are already out, of course. Ah, fangirl problems, sigh). The A-side, "GUTS!" is a cheerful track built squarely on the theme of "genkiness" and also serves as the theme song to Nino's drama Yowakutemo Katemasu, which I told myself I would watch, but am now probably just going to save for later since I find Riida's to be way more entertaining (because there aren't enough hours in a day to fangirl and keep up with all their activities, too). "Love Wonderland" is the third coupling track, and I personally think it's the best. It's instantly catchy, with an artful retro feel (I can't place a finger on the era, but it sounds like the kind of song you'd dance to in greased-up hairdos and wacky sunglasses), and the boys's voices sound so distinctly like them in all their imperfect glory. I'm also really loving the way the instrumentals crazily twist all over the place but still somehow remain just chic enough to give the song a smooth, polished feel.

So, without further ado...

"Oh baby what's. your. name?"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hidamari no Kanojo (陽だまりの彼女) - Wouldn't it be nice?

Cats! Sun! Sea! Cute-but-totally-not-legal middle school versions of Jun and Juri! Lovey-dovey bike rides in the sun! Mysterious cat lady! Hilarious drunkard brother, and hilariously pathetic boss! And cats! Did I mention cats? I love cats. (As a tangent: I'm completely convinced Riida was a cat in his former life; any aye's in the crowd?)

Warning in case you couldn't tell already: this will be a post of shameless flailing in a sea of tears. I will not even attempt to sound coherent. 

MILD SPOILER ALERT for the content below!

Monday, April 21, 2014

When Arashi Watches Others Dance to Arashi Songs

So I've finally discovered the joys of making gifs! Yeah, yeah, I know I'm late to the party, but I think for a post like this, mere screencaps won't do it justice. So please enjoy!

Warning: this will be GIF heavy, so it might take a while to load for slow internet connections!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~NUMBER ONE~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
First off, we have the 2008.09.24 episode of はねるのトびらSP 短缩铁道の夜, which is some variety show that all five members guested on to promote VS Arashi back in the day when VSA still needed promoting. One of the regular hosts of this show decided to welcome these five super idols by showing off some of his dance moves:

Of course, this comedian gets the due smacks on his wigged head from his team mates, and Arashi's reaction is one of polite amusement. Domyouji himself seems quite taken with the creative license this guy has exercised to help promote their new game show. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

スーパーフレッシュ (Super Fresh) - Arashi Song Review

Ah, it's been a while since I reviewed Arashi's music and while I have fallen in love with the new songs (Bittersweet, Sync, and Motto, Ima Yori), it's curiously their 2009 track スーパーフレッシュ (Super Fresh) that I find myself humming absentmindedly around the house. So keep your seats, ladies and gentlemen, because I'll be taking you all for a spin back to the past with this post.

My Girl is one of those singles I bought out of loyalty. I didn't think (and still don't think) that the A-side マイガール is anything all that special, but this is one of those instances when loyalty pays off, because both the B-sides (which I had not heard prior to purchasing) blew the socks off my feet and to this day still remain among the top-played on my iTunes tally. Tokei Jikake no Umbrella (時計じかけのアンブレラ)  is one of those impassioned songs that do everything you could ever want a song to do: it punches, it seduces, it sways, it lifts, and as a bonus it has some tough-ass Sakurap tossed in, too. But since my friend nekobot01 has already written her very professional review on it (linked above in text), I will now divert your attentions to the other no less sensational B-side: Super Fresh!

What can one say about Super Fresh after four years of loving it?

It never gets old. Believe me. Some songs come and go, and you can only tolerate them for a set amount of plays before they lose their flavor, and you have to forget them before you can enjoy them again. BUT such a song, Super Fresh is not. I could set it as my morning alarm clock and I'm pretty sure I'd find myself bopping along happily to its beat at whatever ungodly hour I get up at 365 days a year no fail. No lie.

Super Fresh just has this quality to it, a carefree sway in its melody, a playful riff on the steady drumbeat, an unprocessed innocence in Arashi's voices, that all make it such a relatable song. In one word, I'd probably call it "youthful" because it's just abounding with the sort of simple positivity that is so characteristic of those wide-eyed teenagers stepping out into the real world (with Arashi at their backs cheering them on, of course).

So let's countdown 3-2-1!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Kyo no Hi wa Sayonara (今日の日はさようなら) - Drama SP Review

I had been looking forward to this drama SP quite a lot. The promotional CM's showing Ohno in the beanie, looking helpless and frail as he lies on a bed or slides into an MRI machine really caught my eye because a) I'm a sucker for 24-Hour TV Specials, and b) I've always thought that Ohno had just the perfect look to star in one of these. He's not an actor with a particularly wide range of facial expressions, but it's something about the weariness in his "default" face, the lazily hooded eyes, the slight melancholy pout, and the tendency to look down at his feet that makes him so suitable to play a quiet boy-next-door character who suddenly finds himself having to deal with the arduous process of dying. Ohno has a good victimized look, which is not to say he's bad at playing villains because he did so beautifully in Maou, but the moments in which he really shines dramatically are the moments where he shows his vulnerability. Even in Maou, the best scenes were when you could see his self-loathing and the hopelessness in his eyes as he tells himself that there is no other way. (shivers). Being a fan of Ohno, I think that people like him not only for his talent, but also for his aura of innocent vulnerability; I know my maternal instincts (yeah yeah I'm only like 23 years old, but I can still have maternal instincts, okay?) tend to crush my ovaries together at the mere sight that dazed little Fishing Riida.

But back to Kyo no Hi wa Sayonara. 

I set aside some time one night to watch it. I locked my doors to ensure absolute solitude, turned off the lights, grabbed a box of tissues and pressed "play." Because hey, no one should ever interrupt the sacred viewing of an Ohno drama.