This year Japan’s cutest/most wtf idols came to London. Ladybaby were at Hyper Japan’s Xmas market for three days. I couldn’t attend the first day but I made it for the other two. Okay the first of those two (the Saturday) they only did two songs, their first single Nippon Manju and their upcoming single Age Age Money ~Ochingin Daisakusen~ (which is being released January). But they were great. Unfortunately Rie had to cancel at the last minute due to family circumstances (I’m sure everyone is hoping everything is okay for her) so there was only Ladybeard and Rei Kuromiya attending but they were awesome. Rei has such funny expressions and is really unique and nobody could argue Ladybeard isn’t unique as well. He’s the most Aussie cross-dressing bearded twin-tailed ex-wrestler dude you could imagine (and if you’ve ever imagined such a thing then what the heck were you on?) The one big difference between Ladybaby and other idol groups is that one member speaks English as a first language. I think that…sorry go back a sentence. Okay that’s not the one big difference. I mean I can think of at least one other. Probably more. But I digress. Ladybeard speaking English means he’s a sort of cultural meeting point between British fans and Japanese pop culture. He can sure get the crowd pumped up. He’s really positive, high energy and has a lot of stage presence (as you’d expect). So much so that despite the presence of a really cute and likeable young girl next to him he is the big central point here. Their songs are a mix of cute vocals and GROWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLLLLINGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. Sort of like if Babymetal had…a bearded Aussie guy in their group. Yeah Ladybaby are the next logical step along.
After the performance was a meet and greet. You could buy two photosets and get two photos signed (there had also been t-shirts but they had sold out). On top of that you could have your photo taken with them for free as long as you’d purchased something for them to sign.
The meeting session was great. Ladybeard was again really high energy. Really positive and really a great entertainer. And apparently I’m not to take it personally but I look like some guy from Linkin Park. Err…okay. >.> , Really though he was so great with everyone. There were some great photos being taken, some great poses being made and just a lot of fun being had by both Ladybaby and the fans.
Saturday at Hyper Japan was also good for meeting up with some bloggers of old (Ptom from Hello! Blog and Wotakunow – it was a bit like some film where a bunch of old criminals get together again for one last heist) and various other people including Lizzie from the Ladybaby UK fanclub. With two trips to the maid cafe plus some beer too it was a damn fine day. I’d never been to a maid cafe before. They are so entertaining. Like most things in idol culture they are so much fun. A lot of humour and cuteness. And cat ears.
Sunday was when I got to see Ladybaby perform all four of their songs (and Nippon Manju twice). Queueing up an hour beforehand meant I was in what could loosely be described as the second row (queueing and rows going together are two things a bit alien to Hyper Japan based on my two days experiences. They aren’t usually mutually exclusive). This set, though small, was superb. Ladybaby have to be seen live. They put so much into it. It’s a full on performance. It was also Rei’s 15th birthday and one of the highlights of the show was when members of the Ladybaby UK fan club appeared on stage to hand her a special book. It was full of messages and drawings from fans attending the events that weekend and others who had sent in messages online. Rei was so surprised she was crying. I know one member of the fan club, Lizzie, had worked really hard putting the book together and collecting signatures. For the two days I was there if she saw anyone who looked even vaguely like they could be into Ladybaby she’d ask them if they wanted to sign the book. It was great then to see her up on stage next to Rei as the whole crowd sang happy birthday. And it was a big crowd. They’d had to shut the doors in the end as the room was full.
After the concert ended there was another meet and greet so I got the second photoset signed and another picture taken with them. There was some mix-up with the signing so Ladybeard’s photo is also signed by Rei.
Hey I got an extra signature for free! Again Ladybeard was really full of energy and so welcoming and it was great to see the buzz in the crowd. Rei was really cute and it was nice to be able to wish her a happy birthday. It must have been a long three days for her. She seems very close to Rie and whatever family circumstances prevented her from coming must have meant a lot of work reworking the live performances. Plus I’d imagine being close in a group with someone and then them not being there when you are in a foreign country must be difficult. We don’t know what the family circumstances are (and it’s none of our business anyway) but it must have led to some stresses. Also this was a rare fan meeting event where most people were not speaking to the cute young girl that much. She was surrounded by English language as people spoke to Ladybeard. But for a young idol of 14/15 she coped really well. Watching the signings she was full of fun/weird facial expressions and poses and was just really endearing. I feel that Ladybaby is a great opportunity for her to take her career in new directions (should she wish) and become, in idol circles, a more mainstream idol. She has a lot about her that’s eye-catching. She gets the Morningtime seal of approval (basically that’s just me clapping my hands together and making seal noises but don’t tell anyone). I really hope Ladybaby can come back next year when they have a few more songs to perform as a longer performance would be great. And seeing Rie performing would be good too.
Hyper Japan itself was a bit of a maze with a variety of things to do and I did manage to grab a few sweets plus buy an idol CD.
Okay it was Demapgumi.inc and they had performed there in the summer so I guess that’s why their CD was on sale. There wasn’t much else idol related and it seems a missed opportunity that Ladybaby’s CD wasn’t being sold. But for £10 I thought it was worth giving Dempagumi a chance. I’ve not seen too much of their work except a fantastically weird but enjoyable collaboration with Shokotan but what I have seen makes me think they are worth a shot.
So ultimately it was a great two days. Ladybaby were so enertaining and it was great to meet up with people, some again after far too long, and others for the first time (I’m terrible with names though). These kind of events are so good because everyone is having so much fun. The air is buzzing with excitement and positivity. The cosplayers put so much into their costumes and everyone is so upbeat. I hope I get the chance to go again sometime. Which gets me thinking. The UK fans are crying out for more idols at such events. The summer Hyper Japan is close to the excellent Japan Expo in Paris. When bands come from Japan it’s a rare chance to see them. Many people would go to both places and that includes the hardcore Japanese fans that travel to see their favourite groups. Hyper Japan’s organisers should use the timing to try and lure more groups. They did it when they got Dempagumi in the summer so hopefully they’ll grab more Japan Expo guests next year.