Johnny’s will always be a part of my life. I may not be the biggest Johnny’s fan but I’ve loved both ARASHI (嵐) and Kanjani8 (関ジャニ∞) for over 14 years now. Of course, one of them is on hiatus — with little to no sign of coming back — and the other is merely just an upsetting ghost of what they used to be. And, personally, I thought that my days of loving these groups were long behind me. However, since ARASHI (嵐) first announced their hiatus in 2019 and I began to look at other J&A groups, I realised that there was still a lot that I loved about these personalities.
For example, I’ve finally grown to love Hey! Say! JUMP over the years; not just Chinen Yuri. I really love Shigeoka Daiki from Johnny’s WEST (ジャニーズWEST). And I still enjoy listening to songs by SMAP, Kis-My-Ft2, KAT-TUN, and NEWS. I’m still not entirely on board with some of the newer groups — perhaps I’m simply too old to enjoy their youthfulness — but there are still a number of their songs that have piqued my interest. For example, Navigator by SixTONES completely won me over when it was featured as the opening song for The Millionaire Detective Balance: UNLIMITED.
While I could discuss my experience and thoughts on Johnny’s & Associates for a very long time, that’s not what I shall be writing about today. For now, I’d simply like to disclose that I’ve been a fan of several Johnny’s acts for over a decade and I finally ‘attended’ a J&A’s year-end concert.
I’ve always wanted to purchase a ticket to see an actual Johnny’s concert, specifically, ARASHI (嵐)’s or Kanjani8 (関ジャニ∞)’s. And I was actually seriously considering attending ARASHI (嵐)’s final concert at the end of 2020. Which, of course, didn’t end up happening due to the global pandemic.
And, while Matsumoto Jun‘s online concert for Johnny’s Festival 2021 – 2022 was more akin to watching a concert DVD, I actually appreciated and enjoyed purchasing my ticket for it and watching the entire concert just days after it took place.
While there was no ARASHI (嵐), the remaining Johnny’s groups still did a fantastic job delivering a wonderful concert. Of course, with that being said, these groups are still incredibly massive. And it would have been absolutely ridiculous to even entertain the fleeting thought that Johnny’s Festival would have been anything less than a success. Especially with Matsumoto Jun producing, directing, and editing the entire concert.
All of the groups that performed on December 30th, 2021 are listed as follows:
Hey! Say! JUMP
King & Prince
The concert opened with one of the newer groups, Snow Man, and they performed one of their most popular songs — D.D. And here was how the rest of the setlist went:
D.D. — Snow Man
NAVIGATOR — SixTONES
恋降る月夜に君想ふ — King & Prince
Big Shot!! — ジャニーズWEST
Za ABC～5stars～ — A.B.C-Z
Sexy Zone — Sexy Zone
SHE! HER! HER! — Kis-My-Ft2
ファンファーレ! — Hey!Say!JUMP
Keep the faith — KAT-TUN
無責任ヒーロー — 関ジャニ∞
weeek — NEWS
初心LOVE — なにわ男子
頑張れ、友よ! — A.B.C-Z
Luv Bias — Kis-My-Ft2
Kiss魂 — A.B.C-Z・Kis-My-Ft2（エビキス）(Collab)
Black Sugar — エビキス (Collab)
マスカラ — SixTONES
Imitation Rain — KAT-TUN・SixTONES（カツスト）(Collab)
Roar — KAT-TUN
ハルカナ約束 — カツスト (Collab)
狼青年 — Hey!Say!JUMP
RUN — Sexy Zone
未来へ — NEWS
BURN — NEWS・JUMP・セクゾ (Collab)
夏のハイドレンジア — NEWS・JUMP・セクゾ (Collab)
White Love — NEWS・JUMP・セクゾ (Collab)
シンデレラガール — キンプリ・スノ (Collab)
Magic Touch — King & Prince
君の彼氏になりたい。— キンプリ・スノ (Collab)
Grandeur — Snow Man
ダイヤモンドスマイル — エイト・WEST・なにわ (Collab)
ええじゃないか — エイト・WEST・なにわ (Collab)
前向きスクリーム — エイト・WEST・なにわ (Collab)
証拠 ジャニーズWEST — エイトがバンド演奏
NOROSHI — 関ジャニ∞
硝子の少年 — Kinki Kids
スワンソング — Kinki Kids トラジャバック
愛のかたまり — Kinki Kids
フラワー V6 — All Groups
SHAKE SMAP — All Groups
リリック TOKIO — All Groups
夢物語 V6 — All Groups・トラジャ
Happiness 嵐 — All Groups
愛なんだ V6 — All Groups
smile Twenty☆Twenty — All Groups
I’m actually incredibly happy that I watched Johnny’s Festival ~ Thank You 2021 Hello 2022 because I now truly have a better opinion of the newer groups.
For example, I learned that A.B.C-Z is absolutely mental. They don’t have that ‘sparkly’ or polished look that Johnny’s are typically known for and I feel like they’re significantly overlooked for a group that’s been around for 10 years. To be honest, I didn’t even know what they looked like until Johnny’s Countdown (2021-2022).
Truth be told, I always thought that they were a fairly new group and I simply didn’t really care for them. But after watching their performance of 頑張れ、友よ! at the festival, I can safely say that they’re definitely keeping the Shonentai (少年隊) spirit alive. I’m not even kidding, I just about had a heart attack when I saw Ryôichi Tsukada backflip off the stage like that.
At the time, I had no idea that their “A.B.C” stood for “Acrobat Boys Club” so their stunts and gymnastics completely took me by surprise!
And, while I was aware of SixTONES because of their song Navigator, I had no idea that they were the original artist group for Mascara (マスカラ). I’d heard this song before this concert. But to see them perform it live for the first time, especially with the dance? It was really very good and the chorus accompanied by the guitar strumming was honestly too addictive. There is simply no way that you could ever listen to it and not feel like vibing along with the song.
Plus, can we talk about how ridiculously lucky SixTONES was to be able to perform and collaborate with KAT-TUN?
While seeing groups perform songs by other groups is completely normal, witnessing the groups actually collaborate on stage like this? Personally, I think that it’s a complete rarity. However, I also believe that it is absolutely necessary to carry out these collaborations in order to ensure that Johnny’s older fans and newer fans gain an appreciation for all of their acts. It’s a smart tactic that honestly worked.
It was so surreal to watch because it felt like all these different worlds were just colliding before my eyes.
It’s true that I haven’t seen them since they released their debut single — Cinderella Girl — but I was astounded to see how much they’d changed when they performed Magic Touch on the 30th. Their hip hop performance left me so completely shocked and I really couldn’t believe my eyes.
They really proved that they could pull off both the flowery prince image as well as the masculine “I’m gon’na look like a beguiling gangster pirate with my poofy white dress shirt” look. Plus, I really felt like my heart stopped beating for a bit when they just dropped down into the holes that open up on the stage floor.
And with that unbelievable and seamless exit, Snow Man performed their second solo performance for the night. I really can’t call myself a fan of that group, since I’m only able to recognise Meguro Ren and Raul, but their live performance of Grandeur was downright exhilarating.
I’d seen their dance practice video as well as their music video for the song prior to this, but at that time I could only find myself questioning why their stylist decided to have them wear such tight black leather pants.
However, their JF performance was so explosive. It was truly brimming with energy and their dance (especially the gun-to-the-sky move) combined with the incredible lighting was so awe-inspiring. It really makes you want to join in on the dance. (Good luck on learning the moves.)
But enough about the dancing, Let’s talk about Kanjani8 (関ジャニ∞)’s performance!
My 2011 self celebrated as soon as they came out to sing 無責任ヒーロー, but I couldn’t help but bereave the fact that Nishikido Ryo and Shibutani Subaru’s voices and energy weren’t present during the song.
With that being said, I felt nothing but pride as soon as I saw Yoko with a guitar in his hands while they acted as the supporting band for Johnny’s WEST (ジャニーズWEST)’s 証拠.
The man actually learnt how to play the guitar to make up for the loss of their two lead guitarists. Plus, he still knows how to play the trumpet. So, within the span of five minutes, Yoko actually handled the percussions, a guitar riff, and even several trumpet solos.
While I’m still disappointed that he was one of the main members who pushed for Yasuda Shota to continue playing, despite his deteriorating health, seeing him step up like this had me welling up with pride.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I found it incredibly inspiring.
But since we’re still discussing the older groups, NEWS’s weeeek really transported me back in time. And I was surprised at how well I could remember the lyrics for that song. I’m glad they chose that as their first solo of the night because it’s one of two of their songs that I used to listen to all the time when I was younger.
Moving onto Johnny’s latest group — Naniwa Danshi (なにわ男子) …
I was personally a little shocked when all of the groups gathered together and began the talking segment straight after they wholeheartedly sang weeeek with NEWS. Thankfully, the Seven Stars video began playing as soon as the lights went out and Naniwa Danshi (なにわ男子) literally rose up to perform their debut single — 初心LOVE.
And it was a wonderful performance! However, I couldn’t help but laugh at the animations that Matsumoto Jun (most likely) added in while he was working on the video. Sure, I appreciate the novelty of it, but it was honestly incredibly unnecessary and it’s slightly upsetting that Naniwa Danshi (なにわ男子) had post-event animations in place, when Hey! Say! JUMP got absolutely nothing during their performance of 狼青年.
Seriously, what warrants animations for 初心LOVE and not the dance which elevates to an unimaginable level of awesome when combined with animations? That’s the reason why animated graphics were included in the PV for 狼青年 right?
However, even without any fancy after effects, Hey! Say! JUMP absolutely killed their second performance.
The red flames, stage, and lighting were so completely simplistic yet overstimulating in the best way possible. Everything about it combined with the perfectly executed dance was just so incredibly satisfying to watch. And we can’t forget about the howl because that was just the cherry on top.
Also, as always, I loved their 狼青年 outfits so much.
Anyway, despite Naniwa Danshi (なにわ男子)’s massive entrance, fans of the group might have been left a little disappointed if they solely attended the concert to see them. Because, unlike the others, these seven members were only able to deliver one solo group performance.
While they donned a never-before-seen hot pink costume with the most enchanting blue top beneath it all, their second wardrobe change was a little disappointing. While I definitely can’t pinpoint which previous performance they wore that outfit for, I’m absolutely certain I saw them in those white and gold ensembles before they made their debut.
The reveal of their second costume during their entrance with Johnny’s WEST (ジャニーズWEST) and Kanjani8 (関ジャニ∞) felt like such a let-down. It would’ve actually looked a lot better if they’d just ditched their hot pink jackets from their first appearance offstage before they came in on the moving stage cars.
It almost felt like their yellow and orange sparkly suits completely concealed their stage presence and it really made them look like a bunch of Johnny Juniors running around the stage trying to keep up with the senior members.
And it really shouldn’t be that way since they’re no longer a Johnny’s Jr. unit.
I’d also like to point out that every single group was able to perform twice, plus collaborate and perform another group’s song — one on one. All except for Naniwa Danshi (なにわ男子). This is purely an afterthought, but wouldn’t it have been fantastic to witness Naniwa Danshi (なにわ男子) perform Everybody GO! by Kis-My-Ft2? Just imagine it.
On the topic of Kis-My-Ft2, I’m so glad that they performed their first song on roller skates in true Kis-My-Ft2 fashion. And their second concert outfit was beautiful. It was classy, age-appropriate, and just perfectly charming.
However, upon further inspection, I’ve noticed that the flower designs feature actual 3D petals. And I personally think that there’s no shame if the designers would have just printed on the patterns instead. But their suits weren’t the only elements that made their performance of Luv Bias so enchanting. It was so impressive to see those stage lights and lasers combined with the bubbles. Talk about a dreamy performance.
I personally didn’t think that I would end up loving this concert as much as I did. But I’m so glad that I did and do love it because it was really very good.
And for Johnny’s & Associates’s final concert in 2021, I’d pin it down as a huge success.
So with that, I’d also like to say ‘Thank you’, 2021. And ‘Hello’, 2022.
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Even though the reason behind my revisit of the anime, ToraDora!, still remains unknown, it’s definitely safe to say that this anime is timeless, beautiful, and will forever remain as a truly pure example of how moving and immersive shoujo animes were in the 2000s.
ToraDora is a legendary anime series that is grossly underrated, and if you haven’t already immersed yourself in this wonderful tale of adolescence, the series centers around our two main characters — Taiga Aisaka and Ryuji Takasu. Both teenagers come with their own set of issues, ranging from innocent high school crushes to deeply dysfunctional families, and it’s almost impossible to not get swept up in their daily shenanigans.
While both Taiga and Ryuji are as different as night and day, impossible as it may seem, they have two things in common. Both juveniles are constantly judged for their physical appearance and often have negative assumptions made about them.
For example, Ryuji constantly finds himself cursed with his father’s fierce facial features, as he’s often perceived as a delinquent, despite the fact that his housewife-ish tendencies are unbeatable — not to mention that he’s more caring than you could ever fathom. On the other hand, Taiga’s perpetually tired of other’s drawing conclusions about her based on her tiny physique.
Our female protagonist is petite and packs a mean punch. Thanks to this, she’s been labelled as the ‘Palm-top Tiger’ — a tiger so small, it could fit on top of your palm, yet is still a tiger nonetheless. Due to people often being frightened of her, Taiga only truly has one friend — Minori Kushieda. Much like Taiga, Ryuji also deals with the difficulties of forming friendships, when everybody is constantly avoiding him based on their preconceived notions about him. However, thankfully, there’s one classmate who sees past his physical appearance — the class president, Yusaku Kitamura.
It may be common for shoujo animes to have their very own ‘tsundere’ character, and it’s safe to say that Taiga would immediately be categorised as such. It may also be said that some viewers simply can’t stand ‘tsundere’ characters, which is completely understandable, everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinions. Personally, I don’t gravitate towards such characters, mostly because they do often rub people the wrong way. After awhile, their behaviour and harsh treatment towards the other characters can get exhausting. However, I didn’t develop any negative feelings towards Taiga’s character, at all.
As I took some time to search for the reasoning behind this, I realised that it’s due to the fact that Taiga’s treatment towards others are completely justifiable. She isn’t exceptionally mean to anyone, and when she is, it all boils down to the fact that she’s aware of something that the other characters aren’t. While viewers aren’t exactly in the know of her difficult family background, as everything is mainly revealed in the second half of the season, her behavior and the way in which she carries herself all makes perfect sense as the anime progresses on. In the end, Taiga is a good person and there’s absolutely no reason why viewers should dislike her, when deep down all Taiga wants is the best for those around her.
On the other hand, there’s simply no way that any viewer could harbour any negative feelings towards Ryuji. He’s compassionate, trusting, and an all-around good person. In fact, I’m shocked that he’s not included as one of the top anime guys; on any list. He’s able to fight when he needs to, and he’s an excellent cook to boot! You’re sure to be in good hands when you’re around him. Some might argue that he’s not the stereotypically attractive male anime character, but I personally love his character design and I wouldn’t change a single thing about him. He’s perfect the way he is, and judging him based on his looks would just further highlight the reason as to why he’s treated like a delinquent.
The most charming thing about this series is that viewers don’t only end up falling in love with the main characters. The creators made sure that they equipped each one of their characters with a significant personality. Not every character is as they seem, Kushieda may be cheerful and optimistic, but there’s more to her. Kitamura may be the go-getter class president, but there’s more to him. What I truly appreciate about this series is that the characters don’t exactly feel like ‘supporting characters’ because we’re provided with the opportunity to truly get to know them. Through that, ToraDora truly provides its viewers with an immersive world for their coming-of-age story.
Watch it for the first time, or simply pay it a little revisit
I first watched this anime while I was still in primary school, and I loved it. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it was just so good. But how can we all trust the opinion of such a young individual?
In order to confirm my previous thoughts about the anime, I recently revisited the series. Just for your reference, and my despair as to how many years have gone by, I shall inform you that I graduated university at the beginning of this year. Which ultimately means that since my last viewing of this anime, I’ve entered high school, graduated high school, entered university, and have since graduated from it. Also, while I have absolutely no desire of returning back to my high school years, I’d like to think that I at least possess the years of experience to accurately determine whether or not this series is worth your time. Be it whether you should watch it for the first time, or simply pay it a little revisit.
It’s unique, it’s different
While I can easily see how individuals may quickly write this anime off as your run-of-the-mill shoujo anime, especially compared to the plethora of shoujo animes which currently exists, ToraDora is innately in an entirely different league of its own. We’re all familiar with the boy-meets-girl trope. But you would be hard-pressed to find a rom-com anime as immersive and personal as ToraDora. Even though the main theme of the series can been be simplified and summed up as ‘love’, the story is comfortably complex. It hits you with a storm of emotions, but ultimately leaves you with a feel-good feeling.
Another notable aspect of this anime series that I must point out, is that unlike many shoujo animes — which were adapted from a manga series — this one is complete. It’s nothing amazing for a shoujo series to run for 25 or 26 episodes, however, many of them were solely created to attract more fans to check out their manga counterpart. Which is ultimately unfortunate for those who fell for the anime; and are left to hopelessly pine for a continuation that will never be made. ToraDora is, thankfully, one of the few that successfully leaves viewers satisfied and blessed with its conclusion.
One of the best OSTs
Not only is ToraDora’s dialogue, story and visuals so thoroughly effective at inspiring laughter, and oh-so-many emotions, but what truly triggers one’s feelings is this series’s official soundtrack. While there are certainly many animes out there who can be proud for their outstanding soundtracks, there aren’t as many shoujo animes who can confidently claim that their music has been effective at pulling their viewers’ heartstrings.
While it can’t be said that the music featured in ToraDora is indefinitely the best of all time, it is one of the few that has effectively captured the essence of its most important scenes. We can all admit that nothing hits quite as hard as ToraDora‘s ‘Lost My Pieces’, but the series also contains happy and moving musical gems, such as: ‘Start Up’, ‘Happy Monday’, and ‘READY STEADY GO’.
In my opinion, this shoujo anime literally achieved the perfect ratio when it comes to being lighthearted and heart-wrenching. And if you’re thinking that that aforementioned statement is literally impossible because it appears to be one of the most unbelievable oxymorons ever stated, I’d like to inform you that ToraDora’s unique enough to have perfectly captured both elements — which makes it one of the best shoujo animes from the 2000s.
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