[Blog] Fourth Quarter Comeback

by Garry

I’m not sure how but we made it another year.

Well then, what do we have here? I don’t normally post anything on Monday but today is a pretty special day so I’m making an exception to that “rule” if you like. You see, believe it or not today is the day that my humble little website turns 4 years old. Yeah I know, I can’t really believe it either. I’ve had actual real life relationships that haven’t even made it this long but I guess if you enjoy something enough it’s not too tough to stick with it, most of the time anyway.

If it’s your first time reading one of these blogs then welcome. Thank you for taking a minute or two out of your day to take a look at what I have to say here, I know people have really busy lives so the fact anyone chooses to give me some their time is not something that is ever lost on me. Neither are all of the likes, retweets, contributions to my Patreon or any of that other stuff. The fact people are actually interested in what I’m doing here is pretty crazy to me and I hope that feeling never goes away.

How these posts usually work is I’ll give a bit of a rundown of how the past 12 months went. That’s as far as the site, the good stuff, the bad, things from my personal life, the fandom at large and things of that nature go. At the end I’ll probably share some ideas for the coming 12 months as well because yeah, I’m not going anywhere in case anyone was wondering. Chances are I’ll say some stuff I probably shouldn’t along the way, I might get a bit mushy too and all that fun stuff. I’ll try to keep it light though, I’ve been doing a good job of keeping myself out of trouble lately so let’s try not to ruin that.

I know this isn’t the usual content that you’re probably expecting so if you’d rather not scroll through my trip down memory lane I totally get it. Come back probably tomorrow for something a bit more on topic and hopefully relevant to your interests. I don’t really do this sort of thing much though so I think it’ll be good to get some thoughts out there into the world. So let’s do just that I suppose, if you’re coming with me that’s great and if you’re clicking off now no worries. Just know I value all your time and interest greatly and thank you for your continued support of both myself and the site here.

Crunching the Numbers

I’m not really a big numbers guy to be honest, because thankfully this site doesn’t live or die based on how much traffic it gets on any given day/week/month/etc. Still, I thought it would be kinda interesting to compare where we are at the end of the past year with where we were the year before. Probably not super interesting to a lot of people but I think some of the stuff I’m going to say here will be pretty relevant and help put into context some of things I’m thinking about bringing up later in this blog.

So last year the site did roughly 45k hits in total. Not exactly setting the internet ablaze with my traffic stats but considering I’m covering a niche sub-genre of a still fairly niche branch of Pop music I don’t think it’s too bad of a number. You also have to consider I mainly post reviews of music releases and I’m not rushing out to cover breaking news stories that probably would garner a lot more eyes on the site. I could probably put myself and the site out there a lot more in terms of promotion and what have you too but it kind of annoys me when other people do that in Facebook groups, on Twitter, etc so I don’t know if it’s really something I’ll be actively pursuing in the near future.

In terms of raw content, in the past year I wrote a total of 106 articles which combined for a total of roughly 183k words. That’s pretty crazy to me and probably most of you too. I guess I must really enjoy writing about this stuff or something. This is up 20 articles on the same time period the year previous and also about 60k more words too. Site traffic for 2018-2019 was also 45k hits so more work for the same result on the face of it but considering the general decline in interest in this stuff in the past 12 months I can’t be too unhappy that I only needed 20 extra articles to keep the graph level. You know, if I actually cared about that sort of thing in the first place.

The most popular article on the site in the last year was by far and away my guide on how to get tickets for shows in Japan. I’m pretty proud of that honestly as I think it’s useful information and clearly a lot of other people do too. I wish there was more of that sort of thing out there for people but I’m only one person and I’ve got other stuff going on ya know? There is definitely room for more informative articles like that one though so if anyone reading this is feeling motivated enough then give it a shot and try and help demistify this stuff for some more folks. I’m sure they’d be very grateful for it, the people who have DM’d me over the last year or so sure have been at least.

As far reviews as go it’s probably not going to surprise you too much to hear that it’s the usual suspects getting the bulk of the views. By that I mean CY8ER, BiSH, Broken By The Scream, PassCode, the codomomental collective and groups of that nature. Makes sense to me as they’re the most hyped groups in the west currently. Interestingly though, way less well known groups like nuance and caeca are also up there and that’s mainly due to their Japanese fans and management showing the site quite a bit of unexpected love. I guess if you’re not getting a ton of exposure in your home country it’s pretty cool/unexpected when some random dumb gaijin writes an article about your group’s latest release. Seriously though, it’s always super cool when that sort of thing happens…even if it is a little bit embarrassing for me personally. I’m shy, what can I say.

To expand on demographics a bit more, it’s not too surprising that 24% of the site’s traffic came from America last year. There’s a lot of you guys so of course you’re going to be up there. Japan coming in in second place at about 18% was honestly surprising though, but I guess it does make sense given what I said in the previous paragraph. Still, it’s way more people than I would ever expect given language barrier and all that. The UK comes in third with about 5% then Indonesia and Australia of all places round out the top 5 on about 4% each. Guess you guys love your idols down under huh? From there it tails off a bit with various European and South American countries contributing a percentage point or two to the cause. The site very much seem to be enjoyed on a global scale and that really makes me happy. I just wish I knew who more of you were.

I guess I just want end this part by expressing my gratitude to everyone who has remained engaged with the site in the past year and also thank all of the people who might only have just found out about it too. The amount of my peers who called it a day in the past year was pretty depressing on a personal level, though they all had good reason to and I wish them to be well and happy with whatever it is they’re doing in life now. Websites like this are a bit of a dying breed though and several of the ones still around are very much on a reduced posting schedule or shadows of their former selves for one reason or another. I know I’m probably not what the fandom wants or needs most of the time but I’m going to be for a quite a while yet so don’t worry about me going anywhere folks.

The Good Stuff

2019 was honestly a pretty good year for me on a personal level. Certainly one of the better ones I’ve had in recent years at the very least. Kinda weird to say that when everyone else seems to think the world is going to shit and their lives suck but I guess it’s a matter of perspective or something like that. As far as myself and the people around me I care about are concerned it was a fairly solid 12 months. I suppose part of that is me trying not to let other stuff I can’t really affect or do anything about myself really play on my mind too much. Selfish? Possibly but in the grand scheme of things I matter very little so I’d rather focus on things closer to home that I can maybe help with in some way. No idea where I’m going with this so let’s move on.

Another thing I’m pretty happy about is a much more recent development. I’ve finally sucked it up and got my diet and weight under control for the first time in…probably my entire adult life honestly. If you’ve met me I wasn’t exactly a hefty fella in the first place but being an out of shape 200lbs at a couple inches shy of 6 feet wasn’t exactly ideal. I’ve dropped like…30 to 35lbs since October I think? which is crazy to me but the scales don’t lie even if I don’t really see a huge change in how I look. The stupid thing is I did this all by just eating the same but a little less in terms of portion sizes. I’m too fucking lazy to hit the gym so I can’t say I’m complaining that it was this “easy” but yeah, my joints feel a bit better and I don’t have too much of a gut anymore so it’s positives on that front.

I’m also doing pretty good mentally these days too, though that hasn’t been too much of an issue in the past couple of years admittedly. I wouldn’t say I’m “happy” exactly but I’m managing my depression and other hangups without the need of medication or other vices so I’m in a pretty decent head space most days. It’s not something I really talk about much because (I’m a man and we bottle everything up) who honestly gives a fuck about my problems on the internet and you know, people got their own worries without me adding mine onto them too. I found that vastly reducing my use of Twitter, Facebook, etc and not watching the news/YouTube commentary channels as much vastly improved my overall mood and outlook on life. Maybe other people could benefit from taking a similar approach? I don’t know, just an idea. Am I blinkering myself to the “horrors” of the real world? Maybe, but again I suppose all of that is relative and I’m looking out for my health first.

Work has been steady and I’ve got a good routine going there too. I got a nice increase in hours about 8 months ago which means a bit more money in my pocket each week. I’m not going to make out I have the most back breaking job in the world but I put in an honest day’s work I think and the money I earn pays my bills, lets me put a little away each week towards a nice vacation once a year and allows me a few luxuries here and there. I’m probably fucked as far as a retirement plan goes but if you believe the hype then none of us are going to end up living that long anyway. Joking aside I guess I’m pretty fortunate by some peoples’ standards but I don’t really think so personally. I’m just good at saving money for things I want and don’t mind setting and waiting for some long term goals to be achieved.

Speaking of vacations and such, 2019 was a pretty good year for getting out of my backyard and going to see some stuff. Indie Idol and Infamous in London was a really good time and it’s always nice to meet up with some people I normally only get to talk to online. Thanks to Orion for putting that together by the way. Then in July Necronomidol actually came to see me instead by playing a show at my local of all places. Crazy stuff and everyone involved was mental for thinking it was a good idea in the first place but hey, I’m not going to complain about the first and definitely last time I won’t have to travel for one of these things. Then of course it was several weeks in Tokyo in the fall, something of a yearly tradition at this point (yeah, I’m “fortunate” I know). I love grabbing a cheap apartment and just disappearing for a few weeks to go to a bunch Idol and wrestling shows. I don’t really have much of a social life outside of my job so I pretty much pack it all into 3 or 4 weeks of the year. I wouldn’t change it for the world though as some of my best memories are in Japan and memories are what it’s all about for me.

Of course I also discovered a bunch of new music and Idol groups to follow in 2019. That was in part due to me just deciding to write as much as possible and give as many different things a chance as I reasonably could. I would never have checked out groups like nuance, caeca and more otherwise so I would encourage everyone reading this to just take some more chances on stuff, even if you think you might not like it on face value. This is probably a somewhat weird thing to shoehorn into the end of this section of the blog but I genuinely love music so much and it’s important to me as sappy as that sounds as I type it out. I don’t have a ton of stuff that I’m passionate about in life (thanks lingering effects of depression/social anxiety/etc) but if you had to ask me for one thing then music would be it. Follow your passions as they say and I think I did a good job of that last year.

So yeah, pretty good year as far as I’m concerned personally. Maybe I come off like a selfish prick with some of the stuff I said but whatever gets you through right? This is the most healthy I’ve been both mentally and physically in a long time and I don’t really want to give that up if I can help it. Turns out to fix my shit I had to be a little more selfish and hold myself accountable and well, the results speak for themselves. Man, I have no idea where this blog is going at this point. Hopefully everyone already clicked off by now because I have no idea how to transition into the next part.

The Not So Good Stuff

You know, in years past this might have been a pretty big section but I really don’t have too much to complain about from the past 12 months or so. Maybe I’ve forgotten a lot of it but I guess if I have then it probably wasn’t that big of a deal anyway right? I’m getting better at not dwelling on stuff too much and just moving past it to the best of my abilities. Still, there’s a couple of things that I probably could have done a bit better with in the past year as well as going forward into the future. I got my health and stuff in order though so trade-offs and all of that.

Anyway, I lost touch with quite a few people last year for various reasons. Some of them maybe for good reasons but I’m just really bad at putting myself out there sometimes or like I’ll get a message from someone and just forget to reply for a long time. It’s something I need to work on because let’s be honest I’m 28 and I should be able to at least keep in touch with people on a more regular basis. There is this sort of awkwardness that gets attached when its been a while though and in my head it feels weird to just strike up conversation out of the blue but maybe I should just do that sometimes. Yay leftover effects of having fairly bad social anxiety when I was younger and all of that fun stuff. Not really an excuse though so I’ll try better this year.

I suppose in a broader sense it sorta feels like I don’t have much of a life outside of going to Japan once a year or a gig every couple of months or so. My job doesn’t have the greatest hours, mainly being evenings and weekends and it goes late so by the time I’m out everyone has usually made plans or it’s just too late for most normal people to be doing anything. That’s probably part of the reason why I’m such a night owl honestly. But yeah, between my real job and the site there have been times in the past year where I’ve felt like it’s like working two jobs. It’s not too difficult to get out of that mindset thankfully because I really do like writing and if I wasn’t doing this site I’d in all likelihood be doing something else anyway. But yeah, it kinda sucks I don’t really get much of a social life outside of work most days. Not much I can do to change that though because the money is pretty good as far as wages go in this area.

There was some other minor stuff that kinda sucked in the last year but it’s more along the lines of idol groups I like breaking up, WACK being kinda weak musically and things of that nature. There’s a few broader points I want to touch on but I’ll cover them as part of the next section coming up. Like I said, there was a time where this part would be way longer but I kinda don’t have that much to complain about these days. Sure I’ve got worries about the future like everyone else but the present is going pretty for me right now so I’d much rather focus on that and try to enjoy being mostly healthy and content for the first time in a long time. Sorry I got old and boring but hopefully a few of you out there can be happy for me if that’s not too much to ask.

The Western Idol Community

So I kinda went back and forth on if I should include a segment like this in this blog. There’s stuff I want to say that I think is pretty reasonable but from past experience it seems like whenever I talk about anything related to the western fandom it ends up being more of a headache than it’s worth. That said, I am one of what is now very few content creators still putting stuff out there for people to consume so maybe people are actually interested to hear what I think about where the community is at in 2020. If not just skip ahead to the next section and I’ll tell you all about my plans for the next year instead.

The community, is there really an obvious one anymore is my first question I suppose? I guess in a general sense there is but everything seems a lot more…subdued than it was around this time last year. The usual places I check in on most days like Facebook groups, Twitter, etc are still kinda active but it seems to be the same handful of people sharing information and what have you. Most of the time the interaction with these posts/tweets consists of maybe a half dozen to a dozen likes/RTs/etc. There just seems to be a lack of enthusiasm from where I’m sitting or perhaps the discussions are taking place in other spaces that I’m not aware of. Discord is a pretty popular thing these days but it seems to very much be an “if you know a guy who knows a guy” sort of thing. Maybe someone can reach out to me later and fill me in on the happening spots for discussion if there are any. I honestly don’t even know more than a handful of the people who read this site these days which is pretty nuts to me.

I think a big part of the problem is there aren’t really any “community leaders” anymore. It’s not something I ever really considered myself to be nor do I want to be one in the first place. That said, there were a lot of people not so long ago who were really making an effort to try to promote this stuff to new people. I think for some it just became too much trouble than it was worth which I totally get and for some others they kinda got more interested in entertaining themselves and making their friends laugh. I’m not advocating for some kind of high council type thing or whatever but things could be a lot less fractured than they are. It’d be tough to get there but I think if there are people out there who wanted it to happen then we could probably do it in time. Probably too many egos and hurt feelings at this point for a lot of people though.

For me personally I’m not really interested in having an active role in “leading” the fandom or whatever. Been burned a few too many times in the past year couple of years and a lot of people seem to have a fairly low opinion of me anyway. As a result, in the past year I really scaled back my participation in discussions online and didn’t offer help or advice as often as I might have in the past. There’s only so many times you can read stuff like people saying you’re “fortunate” or “privileged” to go to Japan once a year after saving 12 months for it or the smartass replies when you’re genuinely trying to explain how some aspect of this Idol thing works to someone. I can’t even try to offer constructive writing advice to the folks over at Homicidols without a bunch of catty remarks. Then there’s “Maniac” himself (who is like 40 years old) taking thinly veiled shots at me in articles still, over a year after I dared to question some opinions that he posted in a public forum for anyone to read and respond to. I don’t really get much positive stimulation out of interacting with the fandom at large so I just don’t do it anymore I guess.

In the past year the community also saw quite a few people come in and try to set up businesses in an attempt to monetize whatever it is that we still have here. My opinions on this are kinda complex because while I definitely appreciate that people now have easier access to merchandise and such than they used to and a few more groups are venturing overseas…I just don’t think some of it being gone about in the best way it could. Feel free to call me jealous and whatever else because I don’t really care. I’m also likely not the target audience for all of this stuff because of my aforementioned “fortune” and “privilege” so maybe I’m looking at things from the completely wrong perspective. These are my opinions though so make of them what you will.

So take Idol Underworld for example. Great idea, saw a huge hole in the market and actually went out there and got something done. A valuable resource for many, that is undeniable. My only real issues with the whole thing are the constant upselling and how spammy the advertising gets sometimes and especially in some of the Facebook groups I’m in. It’d be one thing if Derek was actively participating in the groups otherwise but all he really posts are ads for his latest acquisitions. He also doesn’t seem to take criticism that well, even when it’s legit like when a few peoples’ orders got chewed up because he packed them like shit. I try my best to give the guy the benefit of the doubt but when he gives interviews like this one and shits on people who are/could potentially be his customers it gets tough man. You always have the option not to say something but I guess he’s the type to overshare instead.

In Europe (still consider myself European, you ain’t taking it from me either) we’ve been pretty blessed with promoters who at least kinda get the appeal of Japanese music enough to brings some groups over. People like Orion, Monster of Dolls and some smaller promoters all do really great work and should be applauded for it. I do kinda wish there was a bit more variety in who they bring over though. Like I get it; 2&, Necronomidol and the like are all tried and tested draws but there’s so much more stuff out there man. Easy money, lack of interest, not wanting to work with groups you don’t have a predisposed liking to, whatever the reasons it just kinda sucks. We’ll see how things go this year though because Monster of Dolls sure came out swinging with the line-up for their show in May. Hopefully the other promoters see that and step up their game too because I know for a fact there are a lot of groups who would be interested.

Like I said, I’m probably not the target audience for most of this stuff and that’s fine. I get that a lot of people are happy to take what they can get. I would encourage you though to reach out to whoever does book Idol shows in your country, be it Orion, Monster of Dolls, the smaller promoters, etc and just let them know who you really want to see…within reason of course. Also, if you’re someone who has never been to Japan before but spends quite a large chunk of change on stuff like random cheki, etc then maybe consider saving up a bit and try and make that trip happen. Having a bunch of cheki is cool but it’s way better if you’re also in them with the idol and the experiences attached to them will all last longer anyway too.

I probably haven’t made some people happy with what I’ve said here but that’s fine. It’s just my opinion as a Japan going idiot who probably spends too much of his time making content instead of doing something actually productive with his evenings. I just find it to be really depressing that I get more interaction with Japanese fans than the ones that speak my native language these days. It is what it is I suppose but at least there’s a fairly large but very silent number of people who read the content I put out on a regular basis. I have no idea who most of you are or if/where you chat about all of this stuff but at least you’re out there somewhere I guess.

The Year Ahead

With all of that out of the way I suppose now would be a good time to talk about the year ahead. In case you didn’t figure it out already (or forgot after I mentioned it several times) I’m not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. If I was trying to make a bunch of money out of this thing or was only in it for the clout then I’d have probably fucked off long before now. I kinda just enjoy writing about music and I’m pretty into this Japanese stuff so it’s a good fit for me. It also gives me a creative outlet that my braindead menial labor day job doesn’t provide me with so it gives me a healthier balance in that regard too. I suppose you could say I’m doing this for selfish reasons these days but hey, I’m being way less selfish about it than some people out there right?

Anyway, the goal for 2020 with regards to the site is pretty similar to the one I had for 2019. I’m going to try to write as many reviews as possible about as many different groups as possible. Most of the stuff I write about doesn’t do huge views clearly but I appreciate the time any of you take to read something I write and from what I’ve seen in the past year quite a few idols and Japanese fans get a kick out of some weird foreigner actually knowing who their group is too. Basically if I can get my hands on a release and I think it’s interesting or I have something I want to say about it then you can probably expect it to be reviewed here this year. I’m also open to suggestions so hit me up through your medium of choice if you have any.

Outside of that I’m not really sure what else I want to do right now really. The idea of a podcast rears its head every so often in my brain but I don’t know. It takes a lot of effort to put something like that together and I’m pretty busy most days between my job, other real life commitments and the writing I’m already doing. It’s a shame that podcasts have really died off in this fandom in the past year but it’s understandable. I can’t even really think of any that are still on the go right now actually so I guess me saying “I don’t really have time to do one myself but would be open to guesting on someone else’s if time allowed” is kind of like an empty promise at this point. I am open to “collabing” or whatever the kids call it but given the lack of content creation going on these days those opportunities never really present themselves.

I suppose I find myself in somewhat of a predicament as despite everything I’ve said earlier in this post I honestly wouldn’t mind talking to more people about this Idol stuff. My aversion to heavy social media use and my…I don’t know even know, “bad reputation” I guess?, kinda make me feel like I’m not particularly welcome in the fandom anymore. How true this is I don’t know because no one really talks to me outside of a small handful of folk. I’m not great at putting myself out there in the first place but I manage fine with the Japanese fans so I dunno, maybe it’s me or maybe it’s something else that makes people seemingly adverse to talking to me about this stuff. We’ll see how it goes I guess and of course I do appreciate all of you who like, retweet, comment, etc on social media but I can’t help but feel like I should be trying to get more out of this hobby somehow.

On a personal level, there’s a few things I’d like to achieve in the next 12 months. Keeping my weight down and being generally healthy is a fairly big focus currently and I’m doing good so far. I also want to keep improving with my Japanese because despite being able to understand a decent amount it’s still really terrible from a conversational standpoint. I’m working through N4 vocabulary right now but I really need to focus more heavily on my grammar and I’m going to try to do that this year. Outside of those things I suppose just keeping healthy mentally and trying to focus on things that actually matter to me and those around me and ignoring all of the bullshit. I’m in a good groove right now and I would really like to remain this…not unhappy with life for as long as is reasonably possible. Things could be a lot worse and sometimes you lose sight of that and let things that aren’t important weigh on you. I don’t want that anymore.

Of course I’m going to be doing a bit more traveling this year too. I have to cash in some of that “fortune” and “privilege” before it expires after all. In May I’m heading over to Italy for Monster of Dolls so if you see me and don’t hate my guts for some reason then come say hello. I don’t bite unless it’s requested. I’m mainly going to support Melon Batake but it should be a fun weekend away with some cool music. I’ll also be heading back out to Japan at the end of October for a month and that’s some pretty good motivation to stick with a lot of things as it’s always good to have a goal to work towards. I probably won’t blog the trip since I didn’t do it last year either and honestly why risk upsetting people who want to project their jealousy and inability to set long term goals onto me right? It’s also the only real vacation I get each year and it’s nice not to have to do a bunch of writing during it ya know?

At this point I’m not really sure what, if anything you guys might see me at in the UK this year. That’s more because nothing has really been announced officially yet so I can’t really plan for the unknown. I know Saki from 2& is coming over for Hyper Japan and maybe a couple of other dates but I’ll probably give that a miss if it’s just her. Nothing against her but she’s been over a few times and I only have so many vacation days I can take from work. Similar story with whatever NECRONOMIDOL might be doing, outside of maybe a Scottish date or whatever. My interest in them fell off hard in the past year after Sari left and then they fired Kunogi for what appeared to be trying to pay her rent (it worked out well for them clearly, given how much the group has stagnated in the past 6 months). Of course if GARUDA becomes a factor in any of these tours then you’ll probably see me at a show or two. Yuffie has been really good to me and if she’s playing shows in the UK/Europe I’m definitely going to show up to support her.

I guess that’s pretty much it right now as far as the next 12 months go. Nothing too extraordinary I don’t think but hey you never know what’s going to happen over the course of a year. Whether it’s mostly good or bad I hope I get to make some new memories because despite all of this website, fandom, clout, cheki, spatty bullshit that’s the sort of stuff that stays with you. I could lose everything I own, this website, my health, whatever tomorrow but as far as I know they haven’t yet invented a way to steal memories from peoples’ brains. Hopefully if any of you got this far you get where I’m coming from with that but it’s cool if you don’t. It’s all a matter of perspective, like pretty much everything in life.

Before you all rush away to get back on with your day I’d just like to take a moment to thank you all again for giving even the smallest shred of a fuck about me or this website. Whether you’ve backed me financially on Patreon now, previously or in the future, shared an article with a friend, hit like or retweet on Twitter, left a comment or anything like that over the years just know that I appreciate it and it still blows my mind that anyone cares enough to even read my opinion on this stuff. I’m far from perfect but who is right? Here’s to another year of joy, tears, elation and frustrations because that’s the sort of stuff that makes us human and at the end of the day shows that despite our differences we all care about things in our way. Thank you.