Story, photos, and videos Copyright © 2013, S.Summers/Selective Hearing.
At this year’s Anime Expo convention in Los Angeles, CA, we idol fans were blessed with not only getting one or two idol groups appearing, but a total of three of them throughout the convention. One of the groups featured at this year’s show was indie idol group Starmarie, and I was able to meet the girls of Starmarie to get some insight on what the group is all about and what they have to offer to idol fans around the world.
Going into the convention, I was familiar with the group and their music, but I wanted to get a little more in depth about what Starmarie offers to us idol fans and why they’re different from the many idol groups we have in the industry today.
Starmarie made their first official appearance at the convention on the second day, with a mini concert during the Anime Expo fashion show which featured some Japanese designer clothing lines like Liz Lisa, and since Starmarie also does some modeling for various clothing lines as well, they packaged both presentations together. I was able to get a front row seat for Starmarie’s performance at this show, and this was my first true experience with the group.
As they took the stage, and the opening to their most recent single, “Mitsuboshi Restaurant Paul Kara No Shoutaijou” started playing, the room was filled with energy as the audience started to clap loudly with the music and Starmarie belted out three songs in a row and danced their hearts out, making a huge connection with the audience through their stage presence.
The intensity of their dance and vocals combined with being close to the stage while they were performing gave a similar feel to some other idol performances I’ve been to in the past, effectively making the audience a part of the performance and making you feel their performance instead of merely observing it. If you think of AKB48’s theater performances or Denpagumi.inc’s Dear Stage shows, this same level of intensity and connection with the audience.
Here’s a video of Starmarie performing their upcoming single “Professor Honda’s Dying Wish” at their US debut concert:[youtube http://youtu.be/lo9gFrAZWpY]
The girls left the stage after three songs and came back later in the show to do three more songs before heading over to another area of the convention for a meet and greet session with fans.
Before the meetings, I was able to meet with the girls and their very kind managers, as well as introduce myself personally to Shiori, Nozomi, and Shino. After chatting with them for a few minutes, they took the stage to perform two more songs in the new location, where they performed with just as much enthusiasm and energy as before, but for a new audience.
Shortly after, they started the meet and greet session, where they sold merchandise ranging from photo sets and CDs to posters and traditional Japanese-style fans which could all be autographed by the girls. Fans also had the opportunity to snap pictures with the group and have a quick handshake, in usual idol fashion. The session lasted for almost an hour and a half, with a steady stream of attendees coming to visit and support the group for the entire length.
After the session died down and all the fans left, I got to sit one-on-one with the girls to ask them some questions. My questions will be in bold print and the summary of their answers will be below in regular text. The girls usually answered in the order they were sitting (Shiori, Nozomi, and Shino, abbreviated as S, N, and SN, respectively)
First, please introduce yourselves individually and give a brief introduction to yourself so we can get to know you.
(S) I’m Aoki Shiori, or Shiorin, 22 years old!
(N) I’m Kishita Nozomi, or Non-chan, and I’m 23 years old!
(SN) I’m Takamori Shino, or Shino-hamu, and I’m 21!
Have you ever been to the US before? How do you feel about being here? Are you enjoying your time?
(S) I have been to New York before, so it wasn’t my first time in the US, but my first time in California. I was a little nervous to come here after hearing so much about it, but I’m very happy to be here and having a good time so far!
(N) I have been to Guam before on a school-related trip, if that counts! But this is also my first time to California, and I’m really enjoying my time so far, everyone is very friendly and welcoming, and the food here is great!
(SN) LA is actually my first trip to the US, and we went to Hollywood yesterday to see the sights. I was amazed with all the bright lights and scenery, and I’ve loved all the food we’ve gotten to eat here so far. We went to the Disney Cafe yesterday and I was super happy since I’m a huge Disney fan!
Now that we’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, I’d like to know a little more about Starmarie and to ask you guys who are your personal favorite idols or artists you enjoy listening to?
(S) I’m actually very into Japanese rock music of all kinds, more than any other music. I listen to artists like Mr. Children, YUI, and many others, and I sing them at karaoke all the time.
(N) My favorite kinds of music is mostly idols! I really like S/mileage, Morning Musume, Perfume, Ayaka, Aiko, etc. and these are mostly what I sing at karaoke!
(SN) I tend to listen to a good amount of Japanese rock and idols, but I also listen to American rock sometimes and it helps me learn some English. I’m also very into K-Pop and one of my favorite artists is IU. She has a very cute image, but can also write very beautiful, mature songs and can have a serious image as well.
I know Starmarie has been doing live shows frequently since 2008 and performed with many other groups and performers, but which idols or artists would you like to perform with in the future?
(S, N, SN) We are all really huge fans and friends of THE Possible and we would absolutely love to perform with them soon. Of all the idol groups we know, they are our favorites right now. Their live stage presence and talent is really powerful, so we would be honored to do some performances with them.
Moving on to Starmarie yourselves, how would you describe Starmarie’s music, and what does the music say to your listeners?
(S) Our music has a very unique dynamic that we give to our listeners that we don’t often find in idol groups. Our music is always meant to tell a story, and often these stories have very dark elements to them and have lots of different emotions of all kinds. In this way, its almost like our music and live performances are a journey of feelings and we want you to have an experience that’s different from your everyday life, which is why we call ourselves a “fantasy idol unit.”
(N) This is very true. While we’d like everyone to smile a lot and be happy, life cannot always be happy, as you’ll even see, some of our songs have stories about people dying and other very dark stories behind them, but the more you analyze and explore the dark sides of life, the more you appreciate the good times in life and you can be happier overall. You can think of it metaphorically as ” the more you face the dark, the more you appreciate the light.”
(SN) We also like to act and get into our performances to reflect the feel and content of the song, so when we perform, we often keep a straight face and don’t smile as much as many other idol groups, so we can convey the message of our songs to the audience more strongly. There’s a strong contrast to this, though, since after our performance, when we’re meeting fans or giving autographs, we’re very cheerful and happy, and this fits into our idea of appreciating the happiness even more, and also serves to strengthen the differentiation between the “fantasy” of the performance and the reality of who we are.
Now that we know what Starmarie is all about, what are your goals for the future? Where would you like the group to be in 5 years?
(S) We’d really like to be doing more live shows with bigger artists and bringing our stories to more audiences along the way. Another big goal for me is to someday perform on the TV show “Music Station.” I grew up knowing that Music Station is one of the most prestigious honors for a musical act in Japan, and it has been a dream of mine since I became a performer.
(N) I also agree about Music Station, it is a very big part of Japanese pop music culture and I would be proud to someday perform there. I really want us to be known by more people everywhere.
(SN) I also agree about Music Station and having people know us everywhere, but I don’t want to stop there, I want to go beyond that. I’d really like to do a world tour one day!
Coming to visit us at Anime Expo is a great way to get exposure to US audiences and take some steps toward your future goals, but do you have any other things planned for overseas fans? Is there any way for overseas fans to keep up on Starmarie’s activities and releases after Anime Expo is over?
(S, N, SN) While we don’t have any plans to come back to the US or do any other overseas appearances yet, you can always follow us through our official website as well as our personal Twitter accounts. Even if you don’t live in Japan or understand Japanese, you can still follow our Facebook page, which often posts in English, and you can always follow us on our official YouTube videos through our record label and buy our releases over the internet. We hope to come back someday!
Finally, do you have a message you’d like to give to US audiences?[youtube http://youtu.be/qUX6MzViaps]
After our interview, the girls were kind enough to take some pictures with me and autograph some of my Starmarie items, and we talked a little more before they had to head off to leave for the day.
Even though I’m a very picky idol fan and have very high standards for my idol groups, Starmarie has already made it high on my list of quality idol groups with their very unique approach to idol performance and music, and their mature storytelling concept.
Everyone should definitely keep an eye on Starmarie in the near future, as I believe they have the power to become a much bigger force in today’s heavily populated idol market, where many fans are looking for idol groups who push the boundaries of what idols are known for and provide an alternate experience from most of the standard idol groups out there. Simply put, if you’re a fan of idols that do things a little differently than your everyday idol group, Starmarie will be just what you’re looking for.