At the end of every year since I joined the Selective Hearing writing team, the aim for the New Year is generally the same: get better with posts and updates, become a more reliable staff writer, and of course improve myself as a content creator both here and on my own site. The intent is still there for the on-coming year of 2019, but for 2018 I am quite happy with all that I have done for the website, despite not matching the levels of Toz or Greg in terms of post count. Still, when it comes to my attitude towards the site, what I would like to create and the content I have produced, 2018 has been a fairly promising year and I am once again proud to be a member of this incredible site and its writing team.

Of course there has been more to 2018 than simply writing for Selective Hearing, and I want to touch upon as much of it as I can here. So, with all that has happened this year when it comes to the fandom, the music and the writing, it is time to delegate you all to my Year End Report, a conclusion of 2018. Shall we begin?

In Writing

As stated above, I feel happy with the content displayed on Selective Hearing from the year gone by. Though I have some post regrets – neglected concert reports, single reviews in limbo – I feel that the publications I have released are a good indicator of the sort of year I have had, as well as a display of my own growth as a writer, reviewer and interviewer. This goes for both Selective Hearing and Okay! Musume Time, the latter of which is my own personal site, though that site has had significantly less focus this year, and I believe that my focus on it will continue at a snail-like pace come the new year, but for good reason.

In regards to Selective Hearing itself, I have had a lot of fun taking on e-mail and in-person interviews, reviews and promotional posts, and it is the interviews that have been a highlight for me as a writer in 2018. Though I still have a ways to go in terms of creating fun, necessary questions, I feel that I have improved considerably within this field through the various interviews undertaken this year, from LONDON BLUE to NECRONOMIDOL. These opportunities that Selective Hearing have presented to me have resulted in some fun communications between idol and interviewer, and it is something I would like to continue into 2019 for both the sake of improvement, and to also bring forth new idol groups for our readers to find and enjoy.

On the personal blog / site side, things have obviously moved a lot slower. I was inactive for almost three months before deciding to slow things even further at a point where I thought about either closing or keeping Okay! Musume Time open, before coming to the conclusion that I would continue writing there, but at a pace that is a lot more leisurely, and very much infrequent compared to my previous streak of posts. Though I am unhappy with the idea of doing less, I am more than excited to create content which I feel is a lot more fitting for the style I would like to portray on my own space, with the hope that I will bring forward fuller, better content that showcases my love for idols, music and cinematography appropriately. Of course, the odd light-hearted post will pop up occasionally, because it’s good to showcase a more less-serious side every once in a while.

In short: Though I was able to do more for Selective Hearing this year, I am aware that there have also been a few low points in my year as a writer, more or less on the personal site than here. Regardless, I am happy with the progress and content I have made this year thus far, and I look forward to furthering my focus with Selective Hearing. Hopefully 2019 will see me creating even more content for the site, and perhaps a new series as well.

In Music

LONDON BLUE Hyper Japan

When it comes to the music of 2018, I feel quite content with what I have heard. Though I have paid less attention to a variety of groups compared to last year, the songs I have heard were enjoyable, and I was even able to rekindle my love with a group I had since abandoned thanks to attending Hyper Japan this July. That, and I was able to broaden my horizons ever so slightly thanks to live performances I was able to attend during the summer and winter months. With that said, I also learned something about myself and my music tastes later on in the year as well, a change which surprised me, but allowed me to understand how much I have changed as a listener, too.

In terms of enjoying music for the sake of reviewing itself, this year alone I was able to introduce myself to a few artists / groups I probably wouldn’t have listened to before now. From JaME – another site I write for – I came to know NECRONOMIDOL and Tentenko’s flavour of sound, two styles I would not have taken to without a slight shove in that direction. Though NECRONOMIDOL itself came a lot more quickly to me as a sound I enjoyed than Tentenko, I can not help but like what both of these artists brings to the table. It’s a unique style of sounds each one delivers, but nonetheless it as an enjoyable palette that I would like to delve into once again.

With NECRONOMIDOL especially, I was able to fully immerse myself in the atmosphere of their music thanks to their live UK performance that ran for three days in June this year. I was also able to enjoy a brand-new live atmosphere, too, despite the small crowd and pub setting, and found myself a new group and even a new singer to adore thanks to this live. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, and feel so grateful that I could be a part of the crowd during NECRONOMIDOL’s opening performance for their second UK tour.

Another awakening I found myself having this year in terms of what I enjoy music and group wise was with LONDON BLUE, the Japanese girl group who style themselves around the UK music scene in sound and fashion. Though I was aware of the group before I met them in-person this year at HYPER JAPAN, I was a casual listener and barely a fan, but upon watching them live, meeting them in-person and even interviewing them at the event itself, I have found myself a lot more dedicated to LONDON BLUE than I was before, and even consider them as my second favourite group. I was truly moved by the girls themselves and their performance, so it is safe to say that I like them a lot, and I can not wait to see what they bring us in 2019.

Another group that left a great impression on me this year was BANZAI JAPAN, a group I had no prior knowledge of until they attended HYPER JAPAN. With a dedicated following, the group itself aims to promote various places within Japan, with each member representing their own prefecture. With upbeat, energetic songs and some wonderful singers, the 7 representatives who could attend the convention left a great impression on fans not only with their performance, but their dedication to everyone who had watched them. Going out of their way to give an interview in their own time, as well as an extra fan meet and greet when their allotted time had ended on the second day, and also a ‘fan walk’ on their day off from performing in London, BANZAI JAPAN did all they could to impress people and showcase their dedication to the fans and their career.

It was unique experience, but a memorable one, and it earned the girls a few new fans during the three days they were present in London, and for that I have to acknowledge that this year, BANZAI JAPAN left a great impression on me not only in their sound, but also in their dedication to the fans and those who watched them perform.

There was so much more I experienced this year in terms of music, from the likes of DEADLIFT LOLITA, 2&, MUTANT MONSTER and more, but I feel like these groups, though wonderful in their own way, could not have left a bigger impression on me compared to LONDON BLUE or BANZAI JAPAN or even NECRONOMIDOL themselves. Truly, I have enjoyed everything about these groups and their performances, and the live experiences have been unforgettable. I feel very blessed that I could see them and have interactions with everyone, but for me, LONDON BLUE and BANZAI JAPAN have truly taken the cake in 2018.

And then I have to acknowledge the music that I didn’t enjoy in 2018, or at least, not as much as I would have liked to.

Though I have enjoyed a lot this year and discovered some new groups, I do want to add that it was not all as promising as I would have hoped. For my first concert this year – a day before NECRONOMIDOL’s live performance, in fact – I had flown to France to embark on my third Hello! Project concert experience, this time for ANGERME’s debut in Europe. As always, the fan-experience was incredible and enjoyable. I talked to multiple fans, met up with friends I either had never met before then or those I would see a second time, and I exchanged CD’s and good with everyone else. It was incredible, it was fun and it set the mood. And then the concert itself happened.

Though it was nothing to write home about – hence no concert recap, my apologies – there were some merits to the concert itself. First, the opening act, Amaitsuki, were delightful to watch and fully immersed in their performance. Second, ANGERME themselves were great to see live. Their choreography, singing and personalities were delightful. Third, the crowd was in absolute awe and the energy was high. Sadly, this is about as much as I can say for it, because other than these factors, I found everything else rather dull or unbearable.

The setlist was bland, the members were not as engaging as I had hoped they would be, and the whole affair just seemed rather dull. Of course, this could easily be down to the fact I was suffering from the heat in France that day. With no air-con, a hot concert hall and a horrible headache / stomach ache combo, I really was not at my best. Still, I was not overly engaged this time around, but for what it’s worth, it was an okay concert. If anything, I at least had fun meeting the members in person – Murota Mizuki and Funaki Musubu especially.

Aside from that, another downside to the year 2018 in music would have to be my realisation that I no longer care for Hello! Project, or at least, the company itself and the music they seem to be producing. Though the videos are better than ever and the members working harder than ever, I really can not find the energy to care so much for the groups outside of one or two songs, and very few members. Granted, Kobushi Factory have released incredible music this year, Tsubaki Factory are on top of their game, and ANGERME seem to be leading the company with consistently decent content, but it has to be said that aside from what Kobushi and Tsubaki Factory have put out, I can not remember any other songs Hello! Project have produced this year.

The videos, yes, I remember those well, but the music is key for this category, and sad to say, I just do not care any more. Still, I will keep my ear out for their future releases because, after all, I do hold some hope for them after being a fan for so many years.

So, a fun year for music in my opinion, with very few drawbacks. With live performances galore and a change in heart for a company I dedicated a lot of my early fanship to, 2018 has showcased a great change in my tastes and allowed me to realise a few things about what I like, and what I no longer care for. 2018 has definitely been an eye-opener, that’s for sure.

And for the sake of consistency, here are some of my favourite singles and albums from 2018, in no particular order:

Singles:

Kore Kara da! / Ashita Tenki ni Naare – Kobushi Factory
LONDON CALLING – LONDON BLUE
Glass wo Ware! – Keyakizaka46
Kaguya ni Negai wo – Houkago Princess

Albums:

TENTENKO – Tentenko
The Theory of 2& – 2&
Enjoy – Ohara Sakurako