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.
Moving on, when did King & Prince change their image?
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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