Review: Tegomass – Neko Chuudoku テゴマス「猫中毒」

Neko Chuudoku is Tegomass’s 7th single and it was released on May 22, 2013. This was their 2nd single in 2013 following  their previous single released in March 2013, Sayonara ni Sayonara 「サヨナラにさよなら」. The direct translation of Neko Chuudoku is basically “Cat Obsession”.

Editions

Limited Edition A: CD + DVD

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Limited Edition A comes with the song Neko Chuudoku itself, as well as a テゴ.カラ、which stands for Tegoshi Karaoke. So that means that Only Tegoshi’s voice shows up on this track, rather than a regular Karaoke or both of them singing on the track. It also comes with a DVD of the Music Video and Music Video making.

Limited Edition B: CD + DVD

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Limited Edition B comes with the Neko Chuudoku song, as usual,  and this time マス.カラ、which stands for Massu Karaoke. So this time its just Massu’s voice on the track. The DVD that comes with this edition contains the dance version of the Music video as well as “Tegomass Sensei Catness” video, which is them teaching the fans how to dance the dace of Neko Chuudoku. Fun fact, if you press the cartoon cat on the DVD menu of this edition, it will give the whole dance music video of them facing backwards so that you can follow along dancing with them!

Regular Edition: CD

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The regular edition only comes with a CD but it contains 2 extra songs, plus the real karaoke track for Neko Chuudoku that doesn’t contain any vocals at all. The 2 extra songs are 「シュプレヒコール」”Shipurehicoru” (which means speaking in chorus, or together) and 「花に想いを」”Hana ni Omoi wo” (which means “Expressing feelings with flowers”.

My Thoughts

The Song

Neko Chuudoku is a upbeat “Ska” like song that really leaves you wondering “What the heck just happened in this song?” LOL! I truly love this song, when some others don’t, but I will say that its not my favorite song from Tegomass. Tegomass diverted from their normal type of music a bit and decided to do a dancing (well…. sort of dancing) song this time. Normally they have more mellow-like songs they release as singles, and on their album they have some other upbeat songs, but this is the first time they released a single with a really upbeat feel to it. The only exception to this I can think of is Tanabata Matsuri, but that wasn’t even upbeat as compared to Neko Chuudoku. It’s also really short compared to other Tegomass songs they have released in the past.

The B-Sides

I normally don’t pay too much attention to the B-sides on singles sometimes until they are performed live or they have a significant impact on the fans and this time was no different.  I didn’t listen to the B-sides of this single closely until I heard them during the live performance of their 4th Live Tour, Tegomass no Seishun. After they performed these songs at the concert, I fell in love with both of the songs. シュプレヒコール」”Shipurehicoru” is a very easy listening song  with a violin- like sound in the background and very nice guitar and piano. The vocals and harmony is amazing and the rhythm of the song is amazing as well! 「花に想いを」”Hana ni Omoi wo” is a different type of song that reminds me of the American south and spring and summer with a harmonica, guitar and fiddle- like sound in the background!

The Music Video 

The Music Video is very different from their past videos, as a reflection of the different style of song that they were trying out this time. I like how in the full version of the music video, they start out from being “cool” and then all of a sudden change into the big Cat Costumes and start dancing a cute dance and doing crazy things that they interpret themselves from the lyrics of the song. It’s vibrant and colorful and is a stark contrast to the previous single they released 2 months prior, Sayonara ni Sayonara, which was very mellow and them just singing without much movement. I am looking forward to when they have a concert to see how they will incorporate Neko Chuudoku into the normal way they do their concerts because they normally don’t dance (except for 1 song). I kinda wonder if they will actually wear the big cat costumes during the concert because they wore them in all of their promotions for the single release.

Extras

Another cool thing they did different this time was the “Tegomass Sensei Catness” video. On the LE B Edition, Tegomass teach you the dance to Neko Chuudoku themselves in a cute way that is very Tegomass like. I like that they did this because this IS their first dancing music video and the fans probably would want to learn the dance to it. The making of the Music Video was different this time because they put humor into it by having a competition between Tegoshi and Massu that was based around cat like things. They didn’t do it all at once either, so it made it interesting to do some behind the scenes and then some competition interchangeably, with a punishment game for the looser of the competition at the end.

The last thing that I liked is how they continued to do the TegoKara and the MassuKara thing. They started to do this with Sayonara ni Sayonara and they continued to do so with Neko Chuudoku. I really like this because I can sing the part that I like to sing and not feel awkward just with the regular Karaoke track and I can “pretend” that I am singing a duet with either Massu or Tegoshi. I think a lot of the fans feel the same way about it as I do and it became popular so they continued to do it on this single. I hope they continue to do so in the future because that was a brilliant idea!

Final Thoughts

I think Tegomass did a good job with this song and shook things up a bit by bringing something different to the table. The one thing I will say though is that I don’t know if they should have released it at this time because their previous album Tegomass no Mahou and their single before this Sayonara ni Sayonara were a huge step towards being more “Adult Cute-like”, and then they went straight to something like Neko Chuudoku. If someone wasn’t a Tegomass fan before, they might have been confused at the difference and not liked it. I personally love this song, but I think if they wanted to keep up with their image they should have released it before Sayonara or just not released it at all. All in all, as a decently long time fan of Tegomass, I like how they shook things up and I am looking forward to when they release a new album because I want to see how they want to present themselves after 2 years!

What are your thoughts? Feel free to tell me in the comments below or tweet me!

*DISCLAIMER* I am still learning Japanese and these translations of these song titles, Japanese content, or any other translations from Japanese aren’t perfect. Please bring to my attention if you think I have any errors.

Diary Post: NEWS 10 Year Anniversary おめでとう〜!

NEWS. This group has been consuming me for the past 2 years or so and I don’t regret it at all. I have grown with them in during this time as they have grown and evolved into new NEWS and I couldn’t be prouder of them as I am now. I feel like we have grown together and we have learned together and my bond with them has strengthened. I wasn’t there through the Uchi and Kusano scandal (I didn’t become a fan of Johnnys until Fall 2008 ) but I was there through the period of 2009-2011 where they had limited releases and fans were becoming restless. I sat there thinking that they would come back someday bigger and better and I would be there every step of the way. Then Yamapi and Ryo left the group and I didn’t know what to think. I honestly didn’t know how NEWS would fair being 4 members, but they ended up fulfilling my wishes and more. Now if someone asks me what I feel about Yamapi and Ryo leaving the group, I would say it was sad but NEWS is so much stronger for it and the fans are so much stronger for it as well.

In someways I don’t even know how to put my feelings into words right now. a haha.  I just love each and every member. So I guess I will write a message to each them.

To NEWS: Thank you. I don’t even know what else to say but Thank you. You have given me energy and power that no one else has from your activities and I am a better person for it. You helped me find my dream and I moved half way across the world because of that dream. You have been by my side in all the hard times, cheering me up with your music and your activities and that means so much to me. You also have been the reason I have met some of my good friends and I couldn’t have gotten through the hard times without them either. I have never met you in person, but I truly feel like you are like best friends to me who support me and I support you. I can tell you love your fans so much and because of that, we love you as well. I was so happy for you and I am so grateful to have been there when you stood in Tokyo Dome after 3 years and I was just as happy for you as you guys were. Congratulations on 10 years, NEWS. You deserve it.

To Masuda Takahisa: Massu, you are my favorite person in Johnnys hands down. I love your smile and your energy (and even your awkwardness at times that I love so much) and your passions and through that, I have found mine as well. Please keep working hard and never let that smile and energy fade. It gives me immense joy when I see what you have accomplished and it motivates me to work harder towards my dream.  You are the one that inspires me to do what I want with my fashion and not be afraid to get into things that might seem strange or childish to others.  I have seen you change over the years and you have just grown in passions and become an amazing adult (though I am not one to talk because I just became an adult myself and I am only 23). I hope I can continue to grow with you and see you accomplish even more in the years to come.

To Koyama Keiichiro: Thank you for taking on the difficult task of becoming new NEWS’s leader. They needed someone to bring everyone together and you were the perfect one for the task. You may be bullied by the other members, but they truly cherish you and know that you are like the glue that holds NEWS together. You truly are the one that brings NEWS together for me. You are not perfect and thats why I love you as NEWS’s leader. You are like an older brother to me, encouraging me and gently telling me that everything will be okay and tomorrow will be a better day. You know how to make us fans smile and encourage us and you cherish each and every fan. Someday I want to just hug you and tell you how much that means to me.

To Kato Shigeaki: Shige, you are the one I look up most to in NEWS, despite Massu being my favorite. I feel connected to you somehow because I feel like we have grown in a lot of the same ways over the years (you doing so before me of course).We both lacked that confidence and thought that others were better than us, when we are fine just being ourselves.  In the past few years, I have seen your confidence grow 10 fold, no …. 1000 fold, and I couldn’t be prouder of you. That encouraged me to become more confident in myself and what I love. You also challenged things that you didn’t think that you could do and I am trying to embrace that as well and get outside of my comfort zone and do things I am not used to doing. Thank you for inspiring me to do my best and be a more confident person, Shige.

To Tegoshi Yuya: Tegoshi, you might not be my favorite member of NEWS, but I sure respect your confidence and how you are not afraid to do much. You encourage the fans in more of a straightforward way than the others. I might not agree with the way that you do things sometimes, but you certainly don’t care about other’s and do you own thing, so I really respect that a lot. You give us fans endless smiles and adoration that some of the other members are sometimes too embarrassed to do and that really encourages us fans to know that you guys truly do love us. Continue to be that soccer loving geek and keep on shooting those soccer balls!

I know this isn’t much of an anniversary post, but I wanted to convey my feelings to them somehow. NEWS, congratulations on 10 years. I will always be your fan and I will be with you from years and years to come.

Johnnys Talk: Johnnys and Marriage + Dating

UPDATED 2-17-2017

Most people in the Johnnys fandom have heard about Jin Akanishi’s recent marriage to Kuroki Meisa at the beginning of February and it has been a pretty hot topic since. Why is that? This would seem like just everyday gossip that you would see in the tabloids about celebrities in America, but in the world of Johnnys, and East-Asian idols, it is a big deal. Some people have asked, “Why is it such a big deal?” and the question is hard to answer, unless you are familiar with how the industry works in general. I wanted this Johnnys Talk to be about Johnnys and Marriage because of Jin’s recent marriage and to shine light on a side of the situation that many foreign fans, like me, would not understand.  I will not be talking about Jin’s marriage specifically, but talking about how the marriages of Johnnys (and East-Asian idols) are different than the marriages American/ western celebrities and how I know Johnnys to get married.

Management

Before getting into marriage and dating, I think it’s important to explain the management system of idols in the east. I mentioned this a previous Johnnys Talk post, but most idols (and celebrities) in East Asia are managed by an agency. This agency acts as a mediator between the idol and the people who want the idol for jobs, as well as manage the all around schedule and what they do for their job as an idol. As I know it, western celebrities don’t have an agency, but just a manager or a PR person who interacts with the press and mediates between others who want to do business with them. In East Asia, the idol will have a manager but they only manage the day to day activities of the idol, not actually give the idol work. There is also a whole hierarchy of management for big agencies like Johnnys, and in some cases the talents wont even have their own personal manager, but a group manager instead. It is the agency’s job to assign work to the idols that comes in from outside sources, as well as assign work for the core of what they do, which is being in a singing group.

Rules and Image

Along with management by an agency comes strict regulations, which include rules about dating and marriage. This isn’t just Johnnys, but most idol groups and talent agencies, though each one’s rules are different. AKB48 and the other groups in the “48” also have these types of regulations. If you break these regulations, you can be kicked out of the group or “asked to resign”. Johnnys isn’t too strict about dating in terms of getting kicked out of the agency, but they are asked to keep the dating very private and out of the public eye. If a Johnnys is caught dating, most of the time it will be denied and the agency (on both parties’ part) will release an official statement that they are just friends, regardless if that is true or not. Johnnys will not get kicked out of the agency because of that, but other talent agencies are stricter. The same goes with marriage, but there are more strict regulations about that in Johnnys. Everything has to go through the agency regarding the talent that they manage, from assigning work, to who they are dating, and if they are going to get married. Why are there all of these regulations and why does everything have to go through the agency? It’s all about image.

An idol’s (and celebrity’s) image is everything in Japan, and East Asia. What agency the idol joins is also an indicator on what kind of image that idol is supposed to portray. In the case of Johnnys, they are supposed to be good looking, clean cut men that seem obtainable to all women. The key here is “seem obtainable to all women”. How can a Johnnys seem obtainable to all women when he is dating someone or is married? This is my business student side coming out, but what if this image is tarnished by dating someone or getting married? That idol is no longer marketable for the agency. If an idols isn’t marketable anymore, that makes it harder for the agency to get jobs for the idol, which means they are keeping someone on that will not make them money. So, the idol must abide by these rules and regulations or risk becoming a liability to the agency. It’s harsh, yes, but managing idols is still a business.

It’s a harsh reality, but not all hope is lost

Now, at this point most people from the west would say at this point “That is so wrong! They should be able to marry and date whoever they want!” Its true, but in reality if they want to keep their job, they have to abide by these rules. Even though Johnnys join the agency at a young age, before they debut they mostly know what they are getting into. If they don’t like that, then they can leave the agency. Many Johnnys have done that in the past for various reasons. Some already debuted Johnnys have decided to leave the agency as well, not necessarily for dating and marriage reasons though. Having the image is apart of the job, unfortunately. Other people might say “Oh! Well, they can just change management or quit”. Because Johnnys have been raised to do this from a young age, many of them only have a high school education, though it is becoming normal for Johnnys to go to college, and is actually encouraged by the agency now. Because of that, they don’t have the ability to change jobs freely because being an idol is all they have known. As for management, it’s VERY difficult to change from Johnnys to other management and still have the same level of activities and popularity that they had in the past, as Johnnys has a huge hold of the market in Japan and the “former Johnnys” sticks like glue. It comes down to Johnnys, and other idol agencies, being a business, though a rather harsh reality.

With all of that being said though, not all hope is lost! Johnnys DO date. They just do it out of the public eye. Johnnys have gotten married before, but there are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled and sometimes there are special circumstances that happen that they have to get married (from what know).

What if a Johnnys wants to get Married?

There are a handful of Johnnys that have gotten married in the past, like Kimura Takuya from SMAP, Inohara Yoshihiko from V6, and Tatsuya Yamaguchi from TOKIO (UPDATE: though he got a divorce from his wife in 2016, and TOKIO member Kokubun Taichi got married in 2015). I think there are a few others, but these are the most recent ones, besides Jin. With all of these, I see a trend of the Johnnys dating the same woman for a very long time, sometimes even living with the woman. (Kokubun Taichi has been going out with his now wife for 20 years before he was allowed to get married) They tend to get married in their mid-ish 30’s (or later), and their fans are older as well. This means that the idol getting married becomes less of a liability to the agency as they grow older, as they are already established idols, and their fan base has grown up with them and are most likely married themselves.  Younger groups are still very marketable because they haven’t hit their peak of popularity yet (for the most part) and their fan base is still young and single (meaning not married) so it is more of a liability for the agency for the younger idols to get married, as the fans will more than likely loose interest if their idol gets married at a younger age.

As for the timing of the marriage, they tell the agency months, sometimes years in advance if they intend to marry. This way, the agency knows how to present the marriage. The exception of this was Kimura Takuya, which came as a surprise. His situation was very similar to Jin; his current girlfriend was pregnant and they suddenly got married because of that. The difference between Jin and Kimura Takuya is that Kimura Takuya said that he had been thinking about getting married with his girlfriend for a while, even before finding out about the pregnancy. Despite these circumstances, Kimura Takuya went through Johnnys before going through with the marriage, but Jin did not. (UPDATE: Kokubun Taichi had waited years to marry his current wife before they got married and even sent out a notice card to everyone in the fanclub when the announcement happened.)

Updates since writing this article in 2012

Since Jin’s shotgun marriage, he left the agency when his contract ran out in 2014. Meisa announced herself being pregnant with their second child in November 2016. Kokubun Taichi was the next person to get married in the agency in 2015, and his first child was born in 2016. Yamaguchi announced his divorce in August of 2016. I have also updated some of the information inside the article as well and I will continue to do so as more information comes along.

I hope you all enjoyed this little bit of information about Johnnys! I think that Johnnys and marriage is an interesting topic and if you have any questions about this topic or for the next Johnnys Talk, or if you have any different information, please comment below or send me an email at nihonchique@gmail.com.