Korg Miku Stomp Effect is a Hatsune Miku-inspired effects unit for guitar duets

Written by: Japan Trends on September 17, 2014 at 8:34 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Korg, although respected as a premier electronic musical instrument and accessories maker, still likes to have fun every now and then.

That’s why in the past it has released such items as Hello Kitty Guitar Tuner in collaboration with Sanrio.

And now it has created the Korg Miku Stomp Effect for Hatsune Miku, the virtual character originally created for the Yamaha Vocaoloid system that has since become a mini industry in its own right.

korg hatsune miku stomp effects unit evocaloid idol japanese music

Hatsune Miku has inspired an opera, Blythe fashion dolls, racing bikes and more. She also recently became the Otona no Kagaku Pocket Miku Singing Keyboard for gadget kit makers Gakken.

Korg’s contribution is the rather snazzy-looking Korg Miku Stomp Effect. Korg is obviously at home with Hatsune Miku, who was born out of electronic music. This new Korg Miku Stomp Effect, to be released in October in Japan, allows you to have a guitar duet with Miku, singing in her unique Yamaha eVocaloid style.

Here’s a trailer hinting at the kinds of sounds you can create.

Korg says the aluminum diecast body on the effects unit is decorated with a specially commissioned original illustration.

korg hatsune miku stomp effects unit evocaloid idol japanese music

There are 11 different lyric patterns and you can also input and customize your own lyrics. Korg are being a bit coy about how this will work. Apparently there is going to be a dedicated iPhone app but complete details are not yet available, plus they do not promise it can work with “English” but do say it can work with up to 6,000 characters in either Hiragana, Katakana or Romaji — but the latter is essentially writing Japanese in the Roman alphabet so it should in theory be possible to program Hatsune Miku to sing what you want to the tune of “Senbonzakura”.

This will have to confirmed in late October when the Miku Stomp Effect goes on release here. We can’t wait to see what Hatsune Miku fans create with their new musical toy.

Check out further details and specs on JapanTrendShop.

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Former Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School Japanese idol group members (and fans) sued by management for dating

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 10:38 am | In CULTURE | 2 Comments

In a possibly unprecedented move, the management of a Japanese idol group is suing two former members, their parental guardians, and the fans they had relationships with for damages.

MovingFactory, the management and label behind the seven-girl idol group Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School has named both the two members, the fans and the parents in the lawsuit, which was made public yesterday.

Formed in 2012, Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School is not as famous as other idol groups like Perfume, AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z, but still has a reasonable fan base. Its single “STARTING OVER”, released in March, got to No.7 on the Oricon weekly singles chart.

In April this year it was suddenly announced that one of the members was leaving due to “health issues” and then in July another member was said to be taking a “break” from event appearances. New members were announced (the group now has eight members).

However, it was not until August that the reasons for the departure of Miho Yuuki (19) and Sena Miura (22) were made clear when a producer explained at an event that the two had been dating fans, which breached their contracts with MovingFactory. They were fired and the management even went so far as to reveal the names of the fans, which led to people tracking down their social media accounts and photos.

Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School japanese idol group sued lawsuit relationship with fan

And now it has emerged a lawsuit has been filed for over ¥8.2 million (in excess of $75,000) for damages as a result of the girls’ actions. The two members are named in the suit, as are the men who had relationships with the girls.

“The parental guardians signed contracts that said the members would not have relationships with fans and would not neglect their work,” the management was quoted. “They have betrayed the members of the group and all their fans. We cannot forgive this.”

It was not until yesterday that the lawsuit was confirmed, though rumors about it had been circulating since mid-August when MovingFactory explained why the two members had left. One of the men in question wrote a blog post claiming that as an ordinary citizen he was free to have a relationship with someone and that he had received notice of a lawsuit. The other man went so far as to make a public apology via a YouTube video (since taken down).

There is a recent similar case. Last month the management company for idol group N Zero announced a lawsuit against a member and a fan for having “private contact”.

While there have been some scandals of this nature before, what usually happens is the “shamed” member is fired or punished. AKB48 member Minami Minegishi was demoted and even shaved her head in a bizarre act of public self-humiliation, while fellow member Rino Sashihara was exiled to a Kyushu “sister group” for a similar romantic episode, though her fan base has since exonerated her and turned her into one of the most popular members in the AKB sphere.

Some have criticized the management of idol groups for moral hypocrisy, demanding that female members be all pure and innocent while actually selling them as sex objects and profiting from the sexualization of young girls. In fact, as is alleged with former AKB48 member Tomomi Kasai, there are cases where relationships with the idols are condoned but only when it is with the (older) male management themselves.

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New Hatsune Miku Meets Blythe: Eclectic Super Idol doll is a sell-out

Written by: William on September 9, 2014 at 9:47 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Was this inevitable? The fashion doll series Blythe and otaku idol character Hatsune Miku have got together.

While Blythe is now licensed by Hasbro and originally American, the dolls with oversized heads are popular in Japan. The doll starred in a TV commercial for the department store Parco in 2000 and Takara made new editions of the dolls in 2001.

The new Hatsune Miku Meets Blythe: Eclectic Super Idol doll was put on pre-order on Junie Moon, a shop on the Rakuten platform, from 12pm on September 5th and immediately sold out. They then went on pre-order on the Takara Tomy online store yesterday and not surprisingly also sold out.

hatsune miku blythe doll meets eclectic super idol limited edition japanese vocaloid otaku

The limited edition doll is priced ¥20,000 (nearly $200) plus tax and if you are lucky enough to get your hands on one, expect it to shop in early February 2015.

Hatsune Miku, the virtual idol first created for the Vocaloid system, has since become a veritable industry in its (her?) own right, responsible for racing bikes, an opera, and more.

hatsune miku blythe doll meets eclectic super idol limited edition japanese vocaloid otaku

The Hatsune Miku Meets Blythe: Eclectic Super Idol doll features a tie, ribbons, a skirt and boots, and Miku’s trademark turquoise hair.

What do you think? Cute? Weird? Or both?

hatsune miku blythe doll meets eclectic super idol limited edition japanese vocaloid otaku

It’s far from the first time that the idol has become a physical doll, though. Pullip Dolls previously created a 12-inch doll of the Vocaloid star.

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Japan Twin Tail Association’s drop pigtail idol group launches official online shop

Written by: William on August 13, 2014 at 11:30 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Remember the intriguing Japan Twin Tail Association that we reported on back in May? That was when the organization launched its own pigtail hair idol group called drop.

While this may all sound very esoteric (and very Japanese), apparently drop and other “twin tail” merchandise are so popular that they have launched their own official online shop now. If you’re surprised, bear in mind that Twin Tail Japan has almost 40,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 16,000 likes on Facebook (a LOT more than JapanTrends!).

japan pigtail idol group drop twin tail otaku music

Using the free Japanese EC platform Base, you can now get yourself drop goodies like iPhone covers, towels, bags and clothes.

So do you want your own drop t-shirts? By the way, they costs $100 each!

japan pigtail idol group drop twin tail otaku music

japan pigtail idol group drop twin tail otaku music

japan pigtail idol group drop twin tail otaku music

We’ve not sure how drop’s actual idol music career is padding out — the trio made their live concert debut in July — but they seem to have a busy calendar, with more events coming in August in Shibuya and elsewhere. What do you think of the girls’ talents?

But if the drop apparel and other merchandise doesn’t take your fancy, how about a book of photos with pigtail cuties armed with machine guns? Yes, it really does exist.

japan pigtail idol group drop twin tail otaku music

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As Shinzo Abe’s government seeks to change Constitution, AKB48′s Haruka Shimazaki fronts Self-Defense Forces recruitment video

Written by: William on July 8, 2014 at 8:18 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | 3 Comments

A recruitment campaign ad fronted by a sweet-looking, innocent pop music idol? Only in Japan.

haruka shimazaki akb48 sdf recruitment ad commercial

“You and Peace” declares Haruka Shimazaki, the 20-year-old pop singer and member of idol group AKB48, who is the face of a new Self-Defense Forces recruitment commercial.

The SDF has a long history now of using moe motifs and Gravure idols in its recruitment campaigns and other promotional materials. It continues to do this because it increases applications among young men, no doubt charmed by the faux innocence of the visuals.

While this may cause a mixture of amusement, embarrassment or even mild shock to outsiders, this time the stakes are higher. The government is ramming through a change to the law to allow for so-called collective self-defense which lets Japan help defend its allies abroad (as opposed to strictly self-defense of Japan only). It is widely seen as the first step towards changing Japan’s much-lauded pacifist Constitution and has met with mass protests around Japan for weeks now, and even a shocking self-immolation in Shinjuku that was inexplicable ignored by much of the mainstream Japanese media.

Though its budget is larger than many nations with very active militaries and spending was boosted in 2013, Japan’s armed forces are still officially only for “self-defense”. As per the controversial Anpo security treaty, the USA promises to step in help defend Japan in the worst case scenario — hence the continued presence of American bases, especially in Japan. As thanks for hosting the US military, Japan benefits from American protection. Ostensibly its own forces, then, are for wasting money on purchasing equipment and arms it won’t need and to be used in major disasters — the SDF proved itself indispensable during the Tohoku crisis in spring 2011.

The new AKB48 Haruka Shimazaki commercial comes at a Rubicon moment. As the scholar Dexter Thomas lucidly points out in a recent column for Al Jazeera:

We might wonder if a male spokesperson might be a better choice: for example, a member of Exile, a J-pop supergroup of 19 men. They are one of the most successful and recognisable pop groups in Japan, with their own magazine, TV show, and over a dozen chart-topping albums. They regularly appear half-clothed on advertisements and billboards, and represent the pinnacle of mass-market masculinity. Also, Abe clearly has access to them: He invited them to perform at an ASEAN banquet only a few months ago. Wouldn’t an Exile member in fatigues be a great encouragement to get young men to rush to the nearest recruitment centre?

In short: no, because it would be too realistic. If one of these popular young men appeared in a military advertisement, it would be too easy to imagine that young man being killed in a war – and, by extension, for a young man watching the commercial to imagine themselves dying. Or, for anyone with a son or brother to imagine that person dying.

Instead, the aim behind using AKB 48 seems to be an attempt to appeal to a specific male desire to protect “their” women, all while cleverly sidestepping the possibility of danger.

Most countries’ military commercials give a glorified version of military service – bravery, sacrifice, adventure. We see images of men and women holding guns, sitting in tanks, and actually preparing for combat. This commercial does none of that.

Instead, the SDF commercial spends more time on close ups of the pretty girl’s face than anything else. The rest of the shots are mainly dedicated to pictures of young men standing at attention or running with tote bags. The last shot of a uniformed soldier is a smiling man hugging a young girl, with the caption “Disaster Relief”.

In other words, there is no mention of armed combat. The cutesy voiceover tells the viewer that the military is a place that is “like the sky, full of unlimited dreams”. This is no longer a military recruitment spot, this is an invitation to Tokyo Disneyland.

“War without actual war”? Yes, a fantasy for sure but no one is talking about this particular elephant in the room.

Japan’s forces have been participating in United Nations peace-keeping operations abroad for years now and SDF personnel were eventually sent to Iraq to assist the American mission (collective self-defense in all but name). However, essentially the SDF is untested in combat and whatever the saccharine appeal of Haruka Shimazaki, the reality of war is very far removed from the artificial world of idols. Any new recruits may one day soon find themselves having signed up for more than they expected…

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Goodsmile Racing’s new Hatsune Miku GT racing bikes are awesome

Written by: William on June 25, 2014 at 9:19 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Following the 2013 bikes and other merchandise, HRM Goodsmile Racing Bike Project has created three new snazzy Hatsune Miku racing bikes.

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

The Racing Miku Hatsune Miku GT comes in three models: HRM-Extreme (for racing), HMR-9 (high performance model for hills and slopes), and HRM-x (the fashionista’s choice).

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

The bikes are only made to order and come with eye-watering price tags. The HRM-Extreme comes in at ¥580,000 ($5,700) plus tax, while the HRM-9 and HRM-x are more reasonable ¥198,000 ($2,000) and ¥138,000 ($1,300) plus tax respectively.

Made using super lightweight esrMagnesia metal alloy, the bikes also include many components produced by top bike parts maker Shimano.

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

Goodsmile Racing has been competing in Japan’s famous Super GT car race in Vocaloid idol-themed vehicles for several years now.

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

Now they are holding the GSR Cup Cycle Race on September 6th at the New Tokyo Circuit. Look out for Hatsune Miku bikes galore!

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

And if Hatsune Miku isn’t quite to your taste or if you can’t get enough of cute anime girls, you can also get Love Plus cycling jerseys and water bottles, based on the popular SIM dating game.

love plus bike water bottle

love-plus-bike-jersey

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Glico Papico White Sour ice cream re-design goes cute for summer with updated female moe mascot

Written by: William on June 16, 2014 at 9:16 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Glico’s Papico ice cream has upped the marketing for its summer campaign and this apparently means appealing to the inner moe in every Japanese consumer.

The frozen snack has relaunched with new packaging featuring an updated slinky female mascot in three designs, though we wonder if the results are little too much for non-otaku.

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

As the summer heats up, it’s the peak season for beer companies and ice cream bands.

It seems that otaku motifs are seeping into all walks of life now. The question is whether skimpily-dressed schoolgirls on the wrapping of a ice cream would make you buy it.

glico papico white sour ice cream

Papico is a tube containing ice cream that can usually be seen being sucked furiously on by school kids in the hotter months. One pack contains two tubes and there are multiple flavors.

The packaging for the “white sour” version has traditionally featured the Papico character Howaitosawa/Whitesawa (a joke on “white sour”), a sweet young girl — a sort of Japanese Milky Bar Kid — who has appeared on the wrapping in various forms since 1975. Glico found that without the girl, sales actually dropped.

This is how the packaging has changed over the years.

glico papico white sour ice cream design packaging history

Out with the old, as the adage says. Glico launched a contest in April and May to have people re-design the packaging and the girl by submitting illustrations via pixiv. The winners were then picked from these and have made their way onto the final product, which went on sale on June 9th.

Here are the three winners.

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

And here are some of the unsuccessful entries.

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

In some ways we shouldn’t be surprised as Papico is the same Glico product that is currently running a campaign with idol group AKB48, including recruiting a new thirty-something temporary housewife idol into the band. We guess they really were intent on changing the image of the product!

Don’t worry. If you’re a fan of the original retro Papico White Sour design, it’s not going away for good. Once the moe-packaged Papico products are sold out, Glico says they won’t be making any more.

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Japan Twin Tail Association launches drop, the world’s first pigtail hair idol group

Written by: William on May 28, 2014 at 9:24 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Move over AKB48. There’s a new idol group in town and they’ve got pigtails. In fact, that’s their main asset.

The “Japan Twin Tail Association” has been around for a little while, promoting their love of all things pig tail (called “twin tail” in Japanese). Back in 2012 the association declared February 2nd “Twin Tail Day” (put it in your diary) and has launched numerous photo books and other merchandise to push its tastes on the rest of the world. One of the most esoteric of these must be the series it produced earlier this year of pigtail girls posing with guns.

japan twin tail pigtail idol girl otaku machine gun

Now they have made a plunge into the big time with the launch of the first pigtails specialist idol group, drop.

drop japan twin tail pigtail idol group girl otaku

Misato Misaki, Hikari Takiguchi and Shizuka Sugino were all born in 1994 and are veterans of various TV ads and other “twin tail” projects. Together they form drop, who will perform their first live performance on July 6th at the Idol Yokocho Summer Festival 2014.

drop japan twin tail pigtail idol girl otaku

We’re a little confused that the girls don’t have pigtails in the traditional sense but I guess there is some room for interpretation in the twin tails universe.

drop japan twin tail pigtail idol girl otaku

Idol groups are a dime a dozen these days and you have to stand out somehow to make a difference. Will drop have what it takes? Only time will tell.

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Takashi Murakami directs Hatsune Miku video “Last Night, Good Night (Re:Dialed)”, re-mixed by Pharrell Williams

Written by: William on May 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Artist Takashi Murakami has directed the music video for virtual idol Hatsune Miku’s song, “Last Night, Good Night (Re:Dialed)”. It has also been re-mixed by Pharrell Williams, whose “Happy” has inspired some neat Tokyo videos recently.

last night good night re-dialed takashi murakami hatsune miku pharrell williams

Not surprisingly, then, Murakami has put Williams into the video. He’s the black guy with the hat.

The song is actually not new, dating from last year. But this new collaboration is a promo for Murakami’s feature-length film debut “Jellyfish Eyes”, currently screening in America until early June, on a tour organized by Blum & Poe, Murakami’s American gallery.

Billed as “a big screen tale of poignant memories and wondrous dreams,” it was, however, not a success in Murakami’s native Japan. The film had a troubled production, with Murakami frequently rejecting his animators’ efforts to make the characters he had created move in the way he wanted. The financial losses — Murakami and his company apparently poured in some $7 million — and the unhappy scenes behind-the-scenes have likely scuppered Murakami’s vision of two sequels.

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