The Babymetal Problem

I am a Babymetal fan. I have been since I first heard them back in 2015. I love the music, the visual aspect, and, perhaps most importantly considering recent events, the girls. Babymetal has seen enormous success not just for an idol group, but as an international metal band over the past few years, selling out arenas and festival dates with every tour. Fans of the group have had the pleasure of watching Su, Moa and Yui grow and develop as musicians, and thus have built a strong connection to them. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the absence of one of the three figureheads of Babymetal, Yui-Metal, would spark outcry from fans.

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Before I get into anything, yes, I know that Japanese idol groups work differently than western metal bands. I know that idols are only really idols when they are still young, so replacing them isn’t anything new. But it’s the way in which Koba and the other minds behind the group have gone about current events that is making fans so angry. It started in December of 2017 when it was announced rather abruptly that Yui would not be performing in the band’s shows in Hiroshima due to health issues. This in itself isn’t anything to get worked up over. Fans wished Yui a quick recovery and that was that. Questions starting rising after the death of guitarist Mikio Fujioka in January as to who would replace him and how it would affect the group.

But then the group’s marketing team went silent, only announcing new merchandise or tour dates. Not once did they address Mikio’s passing or the state of Yui’s health. Then a few days ago the band released a music video for their new song, which didn’t show the girls at all, and lacked Yui and Moa’s backing vocals, which got fans speculating even further. So, naturally, when the band played the first show of their 2018 world tour in Kansas without Yui and with two unnamed backup dancers, the fanbase collectively lost their shit.

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I’m not going to speculate as to whether or not Yui is out of the band or if she’s simply still sick, which, judging by the band’s relentless shcedule over the past few years and her apparent loss of weight may very well be the case, but I want to address the complete lack of understanding of western media and music that Babymetal’s team has been displaying. It would have saved the team a lot of trouble to simply announce at some point over the past FIVE MONTHS that a change was being made, or that Yui is still in poor health. If Yui isn’t performing for personal reasons, simply let the fans know that she won’t be performing. I don’t follow idol culture that closely, but I know that groups change over time, swapping out old members for new ones, and that’s perfectly fine if that’s what Babymetal is doing. But this band isn’t just an idol group. They are a full-fledged metal band, like it or not, with a massive western following. A following who cares about these girls, and many of whom don’t follow idol culture outside of this group. Of course they are going to get upset when a change is made without them knowing.

This stems into the backlash that the group’s team has been receiving from fans in Kansas who bought their tickets to see the three-piece that they know and love; not two members with two backup dancers (and from what I’ve read, Moa-Metal didn’t sing in the show at all). This isn’t to shit on the backup dancers, who from what I saw did a good job, but if I payed money to see a once-in-a-lifetime performance put on my one of my favorite bands, I would want to get what I payed for. This once again falls on the lack of communication from the team.

Not a word has been said yet about what has been going on with the group. All across social media the group has been silent, which is only ading fuel to the fire. Amuse’s stocks have been dropping rapidly because of this, and the whole fanbase is in a frenzy. I think this whole thing is the result of a simple lack of communication. Western fans like to know when major changes are made, especially a change as drastic as this. And, as I said before, if it simply comes down to Yui still being ill, it is Babymetal’s team’s responsibility to let the fans know.

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We will all see what the hell is going on with the group when they have their next show on May 10th in Austin. Hopefully, Babymetal’s team will release some sort of statement before then, but with the way things have been going over the course of 2018, that seems very unlikely.

If Yui is sick, I wish her a fast recovery. If she’s left the group, I wish her a bright and successful future. Either way, the fans deserve to know.

-Daniam

 

Hinamatsuri’s Take On Family

I said in my previous blog on Megalo Box that Hinamatsuri is one of my favorite new anime this season. Aside from the beautiful animation and great central cast, the show is fucking HILARIOUS. That’s not a term I use lightly when referring to anime, as a show needs to be really truly funny to make me laugh, but Hinamatsuri has already wrangled up more than a few bouts of heavy laughter from me. The show’s sense of humor is so dry and tight-lipped, but almost every scene has put a big, dumb smile on my face, and I love it. If you haven’t seen Hinamatsuri yet, I implore you to do so. Episode 3 just aired earlier today, and it may have been my favorite yet. And it should be said that I don’t typically read manga, as is the case here, so my analysis is based strictly on what we’ve seen so far in the anime.

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Hinamatsuri places its central focus on the character of Nitta, a Yakuza who lives alone in his penthouse apartment where he spends his time collecting rare, expensive vases. One night, for no reason at all, a metal capsule appears in his apartment containing a young girl, Hina, who is revealed to be an incredibly gifted psychic. After she threatens to break all of his prized vases, Nitta reluctantly allows Hina to stay with him in his home. He soon finds out that she may be of surprising use to him. It’s the relationship between these two characters that the show has been spending the bulk of its time on, and we’ve been able to see the beginning of a familial relationship take shape. Nitta has become a father figure to Hina, though he chooses to ditch her in the second episode to try his best to get lucky. Hina, though spoiled at first, begins to try her best to be a good daughter to Nitta in the third episode, though we’ll have to wait to see if she actually succeds.

This father/daughter relationship is fun to watch as it grows and develops, but there is another character that I have yet to talk about who acts as Hina’s foil in the show; this being the character of Anzu. Anzu, like Hina, is a psychic who appears in the city in a silver canister, though she seems more cocky and sure of herself than the stoic Hina. When we first meet Anzu, she is trying desperately to hunt Hina down and bring her back to wherever they came from, which culminates in a brilliant psychic showdown that had me rolling. It’s in the third episode, however, that we really get a feel for Anzu’s character.

After failing to retrieve Hina and finding herself unable to return home, Anzu resorts to theft to take care of herself. After she pisses off one too many store owners, she’s taken in by a community of homeless men. At first, the men are apprehensive and look down on Anzu, but after she sings (kinda) a song for them, they realize that she’s just like some kids they know in their own lives. The relationship between Anzu and these homeless men is downright precious, and really solidified this show as one of my favorites of the season. But the reason I’m writing this right now is to discuss the differences between Hina’s home life and Anzu’s new life, as they couldn’t be much more different.

Nitta spoils Hina in every way imaginable. She gets whatever she wants to eat, goes wherever she wants to go, and can essentially do whatever she wants to do, so long as she doesn’t blow up Nitta’s apartment or break his vases. And until the end of episode 3, she acts very much like the spoiled brat you would expect the daughter of a wealthy Yakuza to be. Anzu, on the other hand, and in spite of the fact that she was cocky and self-centered upon introduction, is adopted into essentially nothing when compared to Hina. She has to work all day picking up cans just to make enough to eat, and she spends all of her first-day earnings on booze for the guys in the camp. However, she quickly builds a strong relationship with her adopted homeless family and learns that she can earn what she needs to survive through hard work.

Neither of these characters are living their lives “wrong”, per-say, but it becomes clear how a difference in one’s surroundings and those who raise them can have a profound impact on said individual’s life. I haven’t even mentioned the hilarity that is Hitomi’s character arc so far, but you’ll have to watch the show to enjoy that to its fullest extent.

This was just a short rant about some of the reasons why I’m so in love with this show. It wasn’t necessarily as in-depth as my previous blogs, but eh, who cares? Hinamatsuri is a fantastic anime, and one that you definitely shouldn’t miss.

-Daniam