Japanese Pop Culture
Last Dec. 4, 2016, the Embassy of Japan and Hallo Hallo Entertainment reached out to the future generations through a medium that transcends language and culture – music. Music has a special way of resonating with people, not only through lyrics, but also through melody, rhythm, and cadence. To celebrate this momentous occasion, they brought to the Philippines a unique part of Japanese pop culture, the J-Pop Idols. Two of the most popular all-girl idol groups, AKB48 and Starmarie, grace, the stage of the Market! Market! Activity Center. Many of their most devoted fans lined up early in the morning to get a front row seat for all the action.
Before the festivities began, audiences were treated to a sneak peek at another Japanese pastime that’s an absolute hit with Filipino youth. Hero TV, the premiere multi-genre Filipino language anime channel, presented several upcoming anime slated for 2017. The anime line-up included popular recent releases like Heroic Legend of Arslan, Love Live! Sunshine!!, and Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 3rei!!, as well as vintage classics like Mazinger Z, Samurai X, and Daimos. Lastly, they showed trailers for two much awaited Japanese movies: Your Lie in April (Shigatsu No Kimi wo Uso) released on Dec. 7 and Your Name (Kimi No Na wa) releasing on Dec. 14. People were already tearing up with the trailers alone.
Movie Stars Cafe, run and operated by Hallo Hallo Entertainment, wet visitors’ appetite with a sample of some of the shows they perform in their restaurant at SM Mall of Asia. The gentlemen executed a well choreographed ninja battle montage, complete with creative interaction with the projector. The ladies donned their Love Live costumes and did dance covers of popular franchise songs like Start:Dash! and Kaguya no Shiro de Odoritai.
Starmarie was the first idol group to take the stage. No stranger to the Philippines, Starmarie members Hiroka Matsuzaki, Monya Naname, Nozomi Kishita, Shino Takamori, and Kaede Watanabe have visited here several times for conventions and solo concerts, also known as one-man concerts in Japan. They set themselves apart from other idol groups with their distinct Gothic Lolita style.
Many of their songs revolved around fantasy and fairy-tale themes. The music itself often combined pop sounds with EDM and even Metal-influenced beats. Starmarie performed classic hits from their Fantasy Novel album as well as their anime theme songs from Cardfight!!! Vanguard G and Onigiri.
Their unique setlist included Hime wa Rankiryuu Goikkou-sama, Portrait Of a Beautiful Reona, Spell of the Book, Mitsuboshi Restaurant Paul kara no Shoutaijou, Galaxies visible from the rooftop, Mekurumeku Yuuki!, and My home in the nameless star.
When AKB48’s Team 8 finally appeared on stage, the crowd exploded with electrifying energy. It was a moment that many fans longed for, especially those who were unable to attend their visit last year. Many fans cheered with their lightsticks. A few, particularly excitable fans couldn’t help themselves from jumping up and down.
AKB48 opened their segment with 47 no Suteki na Machi e, one of the songs unique to Team 8 that introduces the Japanese prefectures each girl is from. The momentum would continue for the rest of the show. Hardcore fans supported their idols with cheers and chants familiar to every AKB48 fan.
Popular hits rocked the Activity Center like Heavy Rotation, Koisuru Fortune Cookie, Kibouteki Refrain, and Ogooe Diamond. A particular highlight was High Tension, AKB48’s latest music video featuring Haruka Shimazaki who will be graduating soon from the group.
Short interludes between musical numbers featured a few Q&A sessions and self-introductions. It was absolutely adorable to see each girl send her own short message in either Tagalog or English. One could almost hear the hearts of fans melt whenever someone said “I love you!” or “Mahal Kita!” A cacophony of laughter rose when Nanase shouted, “Gusto ko ng Halo-halo!”
The celebrations didn’t end when Team 8 bid their final goodbyes. Starmarie returned with a surprise, an impromptu meet and greet with fans. With the facilitation of fan-group Starmarie Philippines, anyone who purchased merchandise can get them signed by Starmarie. They could also get pictures with them. Later on, Starmarie judged the awesome cosplayers who watched the show with everyone, from an armored Monster Hunter to a dashing Kaitou Kid.
Finally, the much awaited local sister group of AKB48, MNL48, officially launched their recruitment process. Initially announced the day before during AKB48’s fan meeting, MNL48’s audition process was open to all Filipino girls, aged 15-20.
Idol hopefuls can register through the newly launched official MNL48 PLUS app on Android. Fans can also register on the app to follow MNL48 aspirants on their journey to their dreams. The app will also disseminate the latest news, updates, and announcements about the group. The chosen members will undergo the AKB48 system, which includes intensive trainings and various performances in their very own MNL48 theater. Find out more at MNL48.ph.